Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Hair

“You look nice today,” my wife said a couple of days ago. She looked at me. “I think it’s the beard.”

bearded damo

How’s this look?

In other news, Madonna posted a photo on Instagram that briefly broke the Internet:

Madonna's armpit

Women everywhere jumped to Madonna’s defence. Anyone who made a negative comment was instantly branded as being sexist.

“A woman’s body is her own. She can do anything with it that she likes, you sexist beast!”

This is true. But having a preference isn’t sexist.

My wife likes me in a beard. She prefers me with a beard. She thinks I look better with a beard. Other girlfriends have hated the beard. The beard must go. They would never date anyone with facial hair. Or chest hair. Or back hair. And no, I’m not posting photos of that.

Not to mention this look:

bald damo

serial killer?

I was having a very positive online dating experience with a girl. We’d emailed back and forth for a few weeks and were ready to meet up for the first time. And a couple of days beforehand I did Shave for a Cure.

She almost had a heart attack when she met me. She was very attracted by the hair that I had. Less attracted by the weird bald creature that turned up to our first meeting.

It is completely ok to have a preference for the hairy or hairless look. If you choose to have leg hair or underarm hair, wear it proudly. But people will judge you. If  you grow a beard or shave your head, that’s fine. But people will judge you.

You can’t call someone sexist for having a preference. If you call them out on their preference and they tell you “Oh, they look like a man” or “it makes them look less feminine” or “women need to keep themselves nice for us men” then you may slap them with something heavy.

I alternate between bearded and shaven for various reasons. Movember is one. Winter is another. I’ll shave my beard again soon for the production I’m doing up in Emerald. Sometimes I shave or grow a beard for a costume. Sometimes I just want a change. But I’ll admit that I have a beard more often than not now, because my wife likes it.

Elf-Promotion (the dwarves have all the fun)

Saturday 5th April is now Dwarves in Space Day. But it’s not just dwarves going into space. There is a wizard. There are a number of barbarians. There is an orc. Even the king of Trimador is coming along for the ride. And a goodly number of elves.

And this is an issue for a race that is so attuned to nature. Nobody thinks about the huge sacrifice they make when they join the crew of the Eagle in search of Quiddity.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Come along to the signing of my new book: Dwarves in Space.

Where? Notions Unlimited, Shop 9, Chelsea Beach Arcade, 426 Nepean Hwy, Chelsea, VIC. 3196

When? 5.30 – 7.00pm, April 5, 2014.

What else?

Author Damian Perry will be in-store at Notions Unlimited Bookshop, to launch and sign copies of his debut humorous SF novel, DWARVES IN SPACE.

Information on the Notions Unlimited Blog and on my Facebook Page (like it while you’re there) and Google+ event (ditto).

I hope you’ll join us for drinks and nibbles. Bring a friend or six. Bring total strangers. I’ll sign books and answer questions.

signing on 5 april

Still not convinced? Here’s what people are saying about the book:

Amazon reader:

“When I started “Dwarves in Space” I wasn’t sure what I would be getting, but I have to say that all too quickly I was snagged by the witty writing, the memorable characters, the adventurous tone and the entertaining plot.”

A review from Danny - a fellow Discworld fan:

“Damian Perry has managed to not only cross the genre divide by poking fun at the tropes and cliches, but has also paid respect to them as well – and it’s all held together by an engaging and exciting story.”

 

I look forward to seeing you all there.

For St Patrick’s Day

Warning: this was written in an hour as I tried to explore the concept of a leprechaun coming to Australia for my Golden Pen Writing Club. More on the club later. It’s not proof-read, and may not make sense, but again, free stream-of-consciousness writing from Damo.

Oh, and Happy St Patrick’s Day!

The Leprechaun comes to Australia

The leprechaun stared at the jetliner with a certain amount of trepidation. And then he shook his head. Where the belief goes, he had to follow. He’d watched a number of his friends take off for America decades ago, but he’d held back, unwilling to leave this deeply magical land. But more than a century later, the family that he relied on for belief was immigrating to Australia.

He had thought about staying behind, but he’d seen what had happened to those poor fools – mere will-o-wisps hovering in the nearby bogs.

No, this was the only way. He peered around the dark tarmac, saw that the way was clear and pelted towards the luggage area, leaping into the hold of the jetliner and rolling behind a large suitcase.

“You’re gettin’ too old for this my lad,” he told himself, panting slightly as he found a more permanent hiding place in an empty dog carrier. At just over four hundred years old, he was only just hitting his stride, but his magic was a little poorly, what with the Fitzpatricks up and abandoning him for another country. He settled in for a long flight and hoped that he didn’t get airsick.

On the flight he pondered the nature of belief. There was no in-flight movie and he’d forgotten to pack his Kindle, so he had nothing better to do.

As far as he could work out, the Little People had always been in Ireland. Just as there were Skin Walkers in America and Werewolves in central Europe, Ireland grew little people. But he was pretty sure they hadn’t always been magic. No, there’d been a time, millennia ago, when both races had just been people – the Little People and the Big People. But where the Big People were grumpy and warlike, the Little People were helpful and generous. And because a Bigger could always rely on the Littles – or Li-Pers – for a spare coin when he was in need, the smaller race were gradually seen as being a magical people who could conjure gold from nothing. And of course, if you could catch one, he would have to give up his gold to you.

And, not surprisingly, that was the end of the leprechaun race. But more surprising was the fact that the Biggers’ belief in the magic of the leprechaun was so strong that the tiny few that escaped the massacre found that they could indeed draw gold from the rainbow and eventually grant wishes to any Bigger that caught them. It was an evolutionary trait – a self-defense mechanism.

But as with all magic, their powers ran on belief. And as Science and reality television began to melt the Biggers’ brains, their belief in the Little Folk began to wane.

Of course, you’ll be hard pressed to try and get an Irishman to admit that he doesn’t believe in the Little Folk. It’s part of their heritage. But deep in their hearts, they preferred to believe in the rugby or Bob Geldof. And so, as people stopped believing in the Leprechaun, the leprechaun started to lose its power.

The clever ones, such as he, latched onto families with strong belief systems and strong ties to the land. The belief was minimal, but kept them going. And as the families left Ireland, the leprechaun had to make a choice: take their chances in their homeland, or follow the belief.

The leprechaun was jolted awake by the touch of the wheels on the tarmac of a new country. He peered out through the door of his dog carrier. At the moment, all he could hear was the roar of the engines, and all he could smell was jet fuel and dog shampoo, but underneath all of that was the faint hum of the magic of this new world. Muted now, through the heavy walls of the aircraft, he could still feel the raw power of a country still relatively untouched by humans.

The leprechaun stayed in the dog carrier, whining quietly so that the baggage handler would remove him from the plane. He slipped away as soon as the coast was clear and made for the nearest fence, which posed no barrier for a magical being of his standing. He wasn’t worried about losing the Fitzpatricks. He knew where they lived and he was fairly certain he could find his way around in this new land without too many problems. After all, he had connections.

Meinong the Bunyip met him at the fence and threw a giant hairy arm around him, almost squeezing the magic out of him.

“Ow! All right, yes, thanks. It is good to see you too. Let go now?”

The Bunyip let him go with a sheepish, very toothy grin.

“Hey. Nice to meet you,” the Bunyip said.

“Likewise, to be sure,” said the Leprechaun. “You’re taller than it looks in your pictures.”

The Bunyip chuckled. It was almost two metres tall, potbellied and wide-mouthed, with huge expressive eyes and shaggy orange hair over its arms, legs, head and back. Its ears hung like a spaniel’s down the side of its head. At first the leprechaun thought it was naked, but then he noticed an iPhone headphone cord trailing from one ear down to a phone attached to a belt around its waist.

“You went Apple?” he said, gesturing at the phone.

“Yeah mate. I’m on a plan.”

The two of them had met on Faes-Book years back, and when the Fitzpatricks had decided to move to Australia, the Leprechaun had hooked up with his friend to try and organise his new Australian life.

“Yer lucky, bloke. They moved out to the eastern suburbs – plenty trees, plenty open space. And cable internet.” They moved off to a ute standing by the fence. “I got you a place with some other immigrants. They all good fellas. Oh and you’ll need a Myki.”

Settling in a new land with new companions was relatively easy for the naturally gregarious Leprechaun. His share house was within walking distance of the Fitzpatricks and he quickly got to work bolstering their faith in this new country. Gold pieces left on the doorstep and fairy rings carefully arranged in the garden led to excited chatter from the family. He made sure never to let the parents see him, but the kids frequently spotted a green-clad figure peeking at them from the bottom of the garden.

Of course, there were changes as well. He soon found that in the blistering heat of Melbourne’s summer, he had to ditch the green suit in favour of a loose-fitting cotton shirt (still green) and cargo pants (also green). A smart green sunhat topped off the ensemble and he still felt true to the spirit of his costume, if not the letter. He packed the suit and shiny black leather belts and buckles away for winter.

He got along well with his housemates, although there was some initial tension between himself and the genie – another wish-granter. But a few months in, everything was peachy and the house was always either filled with the tang of curry or the rich aroma of stew. The kappa tended to eat alone, but would always be there when the drinking began.

And as the years progressed, the nature of the Fitzpatricks’ belief changes as well. The stories of the little man in the suit and buckles became stories of the cheeky blighter who rearranged the garden gnomes. The stories spread to the neighbouring children, and then to their children, along with those of the Bunyip and the genie. The Dreaming expanded to take in all of its adopted children and, with the revival of spirituality in the Australian culture, belief in magic and fairy tales was again as strong as it was in the old days.

The leprechaun met his wife down at Pugg Mahones on St Patrick’s Day and the community of Little Folk from an Irish background grew rapidly, as all good Irish families do. Now as Australian as a meat pie, the Leprechaun still flew back to the old country with his kids, but they didn’t identify with it and he found that the visits became further and further apart.

He still regaled his family with the story of hiding in a dog carrier as he stole into the country, and his family dutifully laughed at the points when they were meant to laugh. But in the end, there were so many more stories now – stories of the double rainbow of ’45 and the World Fae Recognition Act, which led to a new peace between the Littles and the Biggers – that the old stories also came out less and less.

The Leprechaun drew in a deep breath and smelled the dusty smell of hay cooking in the sun as he drove back to his house from the airport and realised that this was the smell of home.

Better watch out – writing exercise

Back in 2012 I talked about a story idea I had based on a song called Skin Deep, by the Stranglers.

I’m getting back into the writing season, with my Golden Pen club starting up again, so I’m going to start writing small pieces that I can put up here for your viewing pleasure. My rules are that the entire story is written in one sitting and placed up without too much recrimination or reflection. Some of them I will take a good hard look at and change them for publication. Others are simply small pieces of entertainment that I will never take any further.

This is one of those.

If you haven’t heard the song, it goes like this:

It always freaked me out as a kid, and I always watched out for the Skundig (whatever they might be). I present for you, a quick writing expansion of that idea:

Many people tell you that they’re your friend
You believe them
You need them
For what’s round the river bend
Make sure that you’re receiving the signals they send
‘Cause brother you’ve only got two hands to lend
Maybe there’s someone who makes you weep
And some nights loom up ahead
When you’re asleep
Some days there’s things on your mind you should keep
Sometimes it’s tougher to look than to leap
Better watch out for the Skin Deep
- Skin Deep, The Stranglers. 1984

 

I am terrified. They’re coming to get me. The Skundig. When I was young, my parents used to play this song by the Stranglers over and over. It is my bible. It is my saviour. I wrote down the words. This was before the Internet. As many times as I listened, I couldn’t tell what it was I had to look out for. The best I could come up with was Skundig. Better watch out for the Skundig.

I’m at the train station. I haven’t been able to completely remove myself from society. But they could be anyone. A complete stranger, a most trusted friend. I can’t take the chance. Nobody is safe. People watch me when I have to move among them. I flinch from their gaze. They might be trying to brainwash me, sending signals straight into my head. Vigilance is my only weapon. Vigilance and solitude.

Better watch out for the Skundig.

I haven’t slept properly for two months. I don’t shower. It’s too dangerous. I just wish I had more information! These clues are so cryptic. They obviously steal body parts and organs. I think they sedate you with their minds and then cut off your hands. Do they eat them? Do they make more of themselves? Oh God, now I see them as constructs built out of stolen pieces of their victims!

Brother watch out for the Skundig!

Not enough information. I can’t protect myself. Did that “person” just look at my hands? Measuring me up for her replacements? I can’t tell anyone. I can’t trust anyone. I can’t sleep. How can a person live like this? The answer? A person can’t. The Skundig win. Sometimes it’s tougher to look than to leap. Quickly now, before they control my mind. Here comes the express.

“Wait, stop that man, he’s about to -”

Jump!

Phish n Chips

lunatic fringeToday in my news feed I came across this article on microchipping babies in Euroope. My conspiracy theory gene popped into overdrive. Not as much as the guy who told me to look up “Remote Neural Minitoring” [sic]. I’m thinking it may have been monitoring. I’m going to look it up. Wait for it.

The second flavour of comment was the religious “this is in the Bible” and “the end of the world is nigh”. I may have to look that up as well.

Finally, there were a bunch of “what a load of rubbish!” comments. And here, you might be surprised to hear, is where I’m laying my tin-foil hat. There is no way that any government would be so obvious as to microchip babies through a volunteer or compuslory “scheme” that requires parents to present their babies for chipping. No, this is merely a smokescreen for the nano-tracker plan which is already in place. eye in keyholeWhen a whitepaper about tracking babies is leaked or lost, the government has to come up with a viable reason for this and invents the microchipping fiasco. The general public shoot it down and go back to their oblivious lives, smug that they have beaten the government again and blissfully unaware that said government is virtually peeking in through their bathroom windows.

Although, it must be said, government cleanup crews and conspiracy generators are getting sloppy. If you’ve read the article, you’ll notice that there is no verification of anything in the article. No fake experts, no links to “reputable” organisations and no referencing of obscure government whitepapers. Gone are the days when a government would create a false company to take the hit for a drug that genetically mutates a third of the population (as if it wasn’t a carefully executed operation to test alien DNA melding). Gone are the days when a newspaper was completely run and operated by a government secret department. No wait, there’s the Herald-Sun. No wait, it’s the government that’s under the control of the paper in that instance.

Shame on you, secret government department, for releasing such rubbish writing upon the world. Unless it’s a legitimate news report by a lazy journalist who has done no fact checking whatsoever, in which case: shame on you, lazy “journalist”. Do your job properly.

Speaking of which, it’s time to do some research… I say research. I mean typing “microchipping babies in bible?” into Google and reporting on the results. But at least it means you don’t have to do it.

OK. The top three include two rubbish online news sites and urbanlegends.com. Not promising. Then there are a couple more rubbish news sites and… ooh! CovenantofLove.net! Sounds legit (Damn. This is actually a really nicely written site by a moderate, well-spoken commentator – can’t pick on them). But it led me to the following verse from the Bible:

a cover recreationRevelation 13:16-18

New International Version (NIV)

16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

Biblegateway.com

Very good! I always love a good Revelation quote. So the end times are upon us, as people are being forced to accept a microchip (presumably in their right hands). And it will eventually be linked to them being able to buy anything, and then the weather will call for rains of fire and rivers of blood and the special effects will be incredible!

Personally, I can’t wait until I get my microchip. My wallet is stuffed full of cards, and I don’t have nearly enough technology stuffed into my body. BRING IT ON!

What was the other thing I wanted to research? Ah yes, remote neural Minitoring. Strangely, the only thing that comes up when I type that into Google is that very article. But if I try spelling it correctly… oh crap. I have hit on the motherlode of crazy conspiracy nutjobs. Check these sites out:

  • Dreams of the Great Earth Changes
  • mindcontrol.se
  • brainhacked.blogspot.com
  • remoteneuralmonitoringindia.blogspot.com
  • targetedindividualsworldwide.wordpress.com

This is brilliant! And that’s just the first few entries. Well done, ladies and gentlemen, on properly labelling your blogs for maximum exposure. Surely, you are either government plants, or have been killed by the government and you’re now posting as automated robot posters, with posts designed by algorithm. But what do you have to say about RNM?

Well, that was pleasantly disturbing! Apparently, the government – usually the NSA – can beam low frequency waves into your skull and read the electrical impulses in your brain, using clever technology to read the impulses and translate them into thoughts and words. This technology was designed after years of torturing people and experimenting on small communities. It can manifest as schizophrenia, and is now being transmitted via satellite, which is far more efficient.

I must say, the tinfoil hat is looking pretty cosy right about now.

So, having looked into a dodgy article on microchipping babies in Europe, I now have to worry about the end of the world and the voices in my head.

So glad it’s Friday.

The coincidence thing…

After my Bullying post, I received a Like from Christine Barba, who writes a blog called Project Light to Life. I checked out her page and, coincidentally, found the name of the coincidence thing I keep talking about on Finding Damo. It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. So thank you to Christine. Go read her blog.

That means that I can now add BMP to all of the posts that have previously referred to ‘that coincidence thing’.

And speaking of which:

A couple of weeks ago I finished the third book in a most unusual trilogy.

Not that the books were written by the same author, had the same characters or were written in the same universe. None of the three writers wrote their novels as part of this trilogy. But they were a trilogy nonetheless.

Holding to my desire to write about things when they turn up more than three times in a row (BMP!) I wanted to chat briefly about this trilogy.

The Body SnatchersChronologically, the first book in the series is a little known story entitled “The Body Snatchers” (later re-released as Invasion of the Body Snatchers). It’s popular enough for the term “pod people” to have entered into standard English speech, so I won’t worry too much about spoiling the story. It is set in a small town in the United States where a doctor starts noticing unusual behaviour from his friends and neighbours. After an encounter with the town’s resident author, the small band realise that they are being invaded by beings from space, who are rapidly replacing the locals with replicas grown from giant pea pods.

It is an easy read, but Finney manages to really hook you in with some incredible prose. There were moments where a chill thrilled through me at a passage in the story. This book is a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. I’m pretty sure there is a dissociative disorder that manifests itself in removing the brain’s ability to connect to people, leading to a person thinking that their family have been replaced by exact duplicates.

Yes, here we go. Capgras Delusion. I typed “pod people delusion” into Google. Anyway, where was I? OK, yes. For anyone who has seen any of the numerous film adaptations, it is well worth taking the time to read this novel. You can knock it off in an afternoon, and Finney’s son, in an interview on the audio adaptation, states that his father was never really happy with the movie version, even though it is a cult classic.

RedShirtsThe second book in the trilogy was written much later. It is an amusing, meta little story called Red Shirts, by John Scalzi. It has nothing to do with The Body Snatchers, but the third book I want to talk about links these two together so tightly that I just had to write about it.

From Amazon:

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, with the chance to serve on “Away Missions” alongside the starship’s famous senior officers.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to realize that 1) every Away Mission involves a lethal confrontation with alien forces, 2) the ship’s senior officers always survive these confrontations, and 3) sadly, at least one low-ranking crew member is invariably killed. Unsurprisingly, the savvier crew members belowdecks avoid Away Missions at all costs.

Then Andrew stumbles on information that transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

I listened to this one as a download from Audible. Wil Wheaton read it and between Shereen and I, we almost crashed the car at least twice from laughing so hard. The line between reality and fantasy is severely blurred in this novel. It is almost a drinking game turned into a novel. But Scalzi quickly takes us to a point where we really care about the characters, so much so that by the end of the third coda, I had tears in my eyes (again, making it hard to drive). And yes, the codas take a bit of staying power to get through, after the rapid pace of the rest of the story, but they are definitely worth it.

To explain why the third novel in the trilogy actually makes these three novels a trilogy I need to go spoiler-fest on it. I won’t spoil RedShirts, and I assume you already know enough about Body Snatchers that conversation on it isn’t a spoiler (and if not, you might not want to read further).

Night of the Living TrekkiesKnowing the storyline of the third book – Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall – isn’t going to affect your enjoyment of the story. The spoilers are on the covers (I really LOVE the German cover). Basically, Jim Pike is an ex-soldier, returned from fighting in the Middle East. He is settling into quiet obscurity as a security guard at a posh hotel in Dallas. On this particular weekend, there is a Star Trek convention. Also on this weekend, a number of staff are off sick, and others are in, but suffering from illness. There have been a number of unusual biting attacks, and the wounds just won’t stop bleeding…

Soon, the Trek convention is completely overrun with zombies. Not only that, but Jim’s sister is in town for the convention. Jim Pike (get it?) needs to save his sister and get over his fear of command before day break.

That’s the premise. Now for the spoilers.

Spoiler Alert
Early in the novel, Jim notices that the zombies are manifesting an eye on various parts of their body. These eyes are a vulnerable spot. They appear after showing up as a bruised lump, finally splitting through the skin and taking over the host. Here’s the sequel to Body Snatchers: these eyes are an alien life form that drifted to earth as spores, traveling through space for aeons and then landing on earth. They take over the hosts and use them as spreading mechanisms (hence the zombies) but their more sneaky goal is an amalgamation with the Earthlings and eventual colonisation of the planet.

The link to RedShirts is more mundane. The novel is littered with references to Star Trek, and the rules of surviving a Trek episode (even one with zombies). The funniest moment in the novel was the discovery of the last surviving member of a pack of Red Shirts. None of the others had died from zombie attack and he didn’t even realise that the hotel had been infested.

Night of the Living Zombies is the love child of Body Snatchers and Red Shirts. It is a bastard child, not written as well, or with as much raw talent. Neither parent would be overly proud of their offspring. But they, like me, would love it anyway, for the simple joy of laughter and dead trekkies that it brings to the world.

Dwarves in Space

The last time I was this excited, Shereen was walking up the aisle towards me on our wedding day. I jest; that was far more exciting, but this is a close second.

Dwarves in Space eBook coverDwarves in Space is now available for purchase on Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle eBook, and on Lulu.com in paperback.

It has been a long road (see my first post on Dwarves in Space) to this point. I have sent the novel to half a dozen publishers and the same number of agents. Each time I would send the excerpt or manuscript off, there would be an 8-12 week wait before I’d hear back, and no useful feedback even then. Rather than spend years sending my manuscript to publisher after publisher, I decided that I would take my destiny in my own hands and give self-publication a shot.

I had no interest in spending thousands of dollars on extensive print runs. The eBook option was an easy choice. Even those people who have iBooks and iPads still buy a lot of their digital books from Amazon. At the moment, I have a 90 day exclusive contract with Amazon. After that, I might extend to the iBookstore and Nook etc.

Anyway, the useful information:

Clicking on the links to Amazon and Lulu.com above will take you to the books on the respective sites. I’ve kept the Kindle price low to offset the price of the paperback. The print-on-demand nature of the paperback means that I don’t really make any money on it, but I don’t really care. I just want to build a market for now.

And how can I go wrong? Who doesn’t want to read a story about a young king and his wizard friend who travel through space in a ship shaped like an eagle? A ship that is crewed by dwarves, elves and barbarians with no idea how to operate an electric can opener, let alone a starship? And how could you possibly pass up a novel containing space battles between this crew and a necromancer flying the skeleton of a dragon? There are even some quite funny bits, if I do say so myself!

Not to mention gods, demons, zombies, holograms, trolls, prophecies, mice and a very famous three-headed dog.

Please enjoy my first novel while I finish off the second.

Dwarves in Space paperback cover

Also, if a novel is too much for  you, you could try one of my short stories, available for sale on AlfieDog Limited.

Both are ridiculously cheap and are available for all eBook readers.

Ted's Souls  be practical

School is Hell?

First up: WordPress got annoyed at me because I haven’t logged on in 180 days. I have no excuse. This year has been one of extreme lack of creativity. I’ve still achieved a great deal, but I’ve actively avoided anything involving writing. This is the first year since I learned to write that I haven’t written any number of stories. And I think my brain needed the break.

But now my brain is itching to create again. I’ve already started extending some chapters of Finding Damo and outlined a few short stories and plays. Come the summer (if Melbourne experiences summer at all this year) I’ll be up to my eyeballs in creative juices and spitting out new stuff left right and centre.

Can you believe that I just taught a class on not using clichés?

The overt reason that I stopped writing was the below entry. I wrote it. I planned on using a heap of pictures I drew over my high school years. I wanted to discuss it with a couple of people who had joined me in the hell that was Kyabram Secondary College.

And then I left it. I’d thrown out the pictures. The responses from my friends confused me.

And now 180 days have passed.

At about 90 days, I wanted to just post something. But by that time, anything that I wrote would have to be spectacular to justify the delay. A number of what could have been very interesting blog entries have died because they didn’t match up to the gap.

But now I’m done with school for the year. My brain itch is forcing me to write. I have a dozen topics I want to discuss. So I’m going to post this entry, fantastic or not, pictures missing, and then get on with my life.

So, here goes:

School is Hell.

I wonder if anybody actually enjoyed going to high school. Primary school, for the most part, is fun. There’s a heap to learn, and the teachers usually present it in a way that involves making posters and dioramas. Even the bullies don’t hit as hard.

I’ve been thinking almost constantly about my feelings towards high school. If anyone asks me how my high school years were, I instantly respond with “Oh God. I hated them. Worst years of my life. I was bullied constantly from year 8 onwards. It was Hell.”

In Year 8, a knob called Stewart decided to draw on my pencil case with a permanent texta. I didn’t want him to and knocked the texta away, causing it to draw a line across his shirt.

“You bastard. Don’t you know that our family is poor and I can’t afford to buy a new shirt?”

And that, to me, was the catalyst. His friends jumped on his side. And suddenly school was a horrible place to be.

And to be sure, that statement is a bit reductive. Is reductive a word? I’m sure that there were a number of reasons, slowly building, that would have had me excommunicated from my social circle around that time. But at the time, it seemed like a pretty slim excuse to get me thrown out of my friendship group.

They jumped on my “attack” on this kid as an excuse to ditch me, and it spread through the year level.

The best thing that could have happened to me was my trip to Canada in 1989. Dad worked out an exchange and we were going with him. A year’s break from Kyabram was just what I needed. The students even had a (grudging) going away party for me when I left at the end of Year 8.

I’m getting to a point, but hear me out.

When I was in Year 10, my issues were more with a couple of absolute tools than with the school in general. One moron who promised me that he would “push your head through the wall and watch your brains leak out.” His name is Joel and I’m really hoping he’s in prison being stabbed with a shiv. He’d lay in wait for me, so that I had to take the long way around the school buildings to get out without him seeing me.

The other was a dropkick whose name I really should remember. He would casually push me around for the hell of it. He was… Shannon? I wish I’d picked on him for his girly name. He was a burly lad with a good following of hangers-on and a desire to make my life difficult. Issues with him came to a head when I was on the Central Australia camp. He pushed me to the ground because the concept of me was annoying to him.

Hamish was a good friend of mine in Primary School and Year 7. Seeing as I’d come from a catholic school and moved into the state system, he was my link into the group of friends I had in high school. His turning on me was one of the more hurtful things that happened to me. Honestly though, he turned out to be an absolute dick, so I’m probably better off without him. I caught up with him at a night club when I was in university with Scott something-or-other, another “good” friend from those early years. They were belligerent and bullying, something I thought I’d left behind from school. But neither of them actually accomplished anything with their lives, so I’m not overly fussed by their opinions.

So, the point: I have some incredibly strong negative associations with school. But if I list all of my memories of school in two columns, I’m pretty sure my positive associations will be stronger than the negative.

Let’s give it a shot, remembering the fact that these are all pretty specific, and you might be lost. Bear with me. I’m unburdening.

Damo’s list of school memories, separated by positive/negative bias:

 Negative

  •  Bullied by Joel. of course, this went on for most of a year, so it’s up there.
  • Bullied by Shannon. Not a major memory. just that one incident on camp that sticks in my mind.
  • Ostracised by friends in year 8.
  • Calculus
  • Zoe Kennedy – always looking to pick on a kid for something.
  • Mr Ryall, who I annoyed on a Biology camp and who took it out on my brother. He’s a lot nicer now, btw.
  • That evil cow… what was her name? She was doing the production instead of Lance Twentyman (he’s another blog completely!). And we just bumped heads from the beginning and it ramped up as  the production went on. And I’m sure, through a teacher’s eyes, that I was a difficult prima-donna, but she was evil.
  • The Year 10 city camp. A couple of kids got done for shoplifting. One girl got pregnant while her friend watched from the bottom bunk. And my friends weren’t talking to me after my breakup with Shereen.
  • All the zits and the medication for the zits. And the mood changes caused by the medication for the zits.
  • Fighting Jason – the only fight I’ve ever been in in my life. It lasted less than 10 seconds. I didn’t win.
  • Attempting to sing Time Warp at a school social and the DJ turning off the music and kicking me off the stage.
  • Being put into a remedial PE class.
  • PE class in general.

And that’s pretty much it. There is probably a lot more, hidden away and popping up as I remember, but considering my dislike of the institution, that’s a pretty short list.

 Positives.

  •  The Year 7 Pram Drag – we always ended up being completely covered in mud.
  • School productions. Again, this is probably a different blog. A happier blog. But highlights included:
    • Bats – dressing up as Dracula
    • Pippin – King Charles
    • Roll Over Beethoven and being a member of Kiss and the Beatles.
  • Vanessa Walker, who I’ve never been able to find through cyber-stalking, but who was a vibrant, happy personality, and who left at the end of … Year 7?
  • Shereen and Nat and that group. Happy, cheerful, fun-loving people.
  • Amanda and Grant and that group.
  • Justin Thompson, Jason Morris, Jason D and Lyle, who were my main social group in Year 11 and 12.
  • Craig Grummit, who introduced me to Queen and showed me what you could do with computer programming.
  • Debating
  • Georga Evans in Year 8 and Year 10. And linked to that:
  • Being asked to be a deb partner, but better still:
  • Not having to actually be a deb partner (she had to have an operation on her foot).
  • English class.
  • Literature. With Julienne Sinclair – an absolutely marvellous individual.
  • Biology and our two male Guinea Pigs that were meant to breed.
  • Photography class – for the week I did it.
  • Getting copies of Wired World of sport on copied cassette tape.
  •  The computers – the first IBMs I’d worked on. I hacked the password and replaced all of the software links with games.
  • Maths tutoring with Mick Walsh.
  • Graphic design and my In Line for the Dole Queue VCE top design (which wasn’t taken up).
  • Going out in Shepparton.
  • A VCE Info Tech weeklong camp looking at Technology and my first taste of the Internet.
  • The school library, which was a haven and a constant source of books.
  • Playing foursquare.
  • Chatting with Nick, who was weird but very knowledgeable.
  • Piano lessons with Sharon Leppard.
  • Home economics. Learning to cook is something I will never regret.

The positive list is way longer than the negative list. I had some very positive experiences at high school. Being bullied is hell for anybody. And it coloured my perception of high school for years. But now I can look at the experience as the growth experience that it was. I’ll never forgive the idiots who felt the need to torture me through high school. But I can now realise that it wasn’t all bad.

Epiphany!

Post epiphany:

I emailed this to a couple of people I went to high school with to see if they had the same perception of what I was going through. This led to a very interesting conversation. Part of that was “You realise that nobody’s going to get anything out of this, because it’s all incredibly specific?”

The rest of it is below. Names removed to protect the innocent.

Friend 1: I asked him what he remembered of my experiences in High School, as I might have blocked out some of the worst stuff.

“We went to high school?” he said. His experience was as traumatic as mine. He was surprised and upset to find out that I’d had this experience in high school. He told me about his own experiences – beatings and pranks and humiliation throughout primary school that still upsets him. He went to a school reunion hoping that things had changed to find that these people were just as ignorant and juvenile as they had been in primary school.

He has good memories of high school as well, but they are also overshadowed by the crap that happened alongside them.

I went to a reunion. I think it may have been 10 years. I enjoyed myself immensely. Most of the people I didn’t want to see didn’t show up and the people that were there were all very nice. It was a pleasant evening. The people at the reunion were people who didn’t get involved in the bullying. Of course, they didn’t actively stop it, but that’s pretty standard for high school.

The other comment from my friends was that it was good to know that even though we were in our own bubbles, not knowing what was happening to the others, that there was someone else out there who knew how we felt.

And finally, that it was sad that we travelled together through this journey, but also completely alone.

Send more exorcists!

This blog started off being something strange and quirky and quickly became a quite deep conversation on religion. Ive done studies into the Church and the Catholic faith over the years, being a Catholic school teacher. Ive taught Religious Education and try always to approach it from the point of view of acceptance and tolerance first, as the best priests Ive known have also preached. Below are some of the thoughts Ive had. The scholarly writing Ive put together has always gotten me into trouble, but it seems to be based on solid research and interpretation. Enjoy. Or dont.

Draw Something 2 ExorcistSend more Exorcists!

So the pope apparently tried to perform an exorcism on a disabled man during an appearance (1, 2 3). Exorcism experts say that he was reciting prayers for ridding a person of evil spirits. The pope’s peeps insist that he was only praying over the man, as he usually does when meeting sick people.

However, a spokeswoman for the church in Madrid says that exorcism is real and there is a plan to train up more exorcists to fight the devil in Spain. The devil came down from Georgia and just kept on going.

I posted this on Facebook and a friend immediately came up with these statements:

“Hmmm… I might give Madrid a miss until they have their demonic possession problem sorted out.”

‘Or maybe it’s a trap? “Our demons are hungry. Please send more exorcists.”‘

Catholics are weird. I should know, I am one. But the church in general, being the starting point for the Christian religion, has just held onto all of the things the other flavours have given up on.

Celibacy for leaders of the church.

Disappeared in most denominations when they realized that it was completely untenable and caused more problems for the community than a holy man who dared to love someone else apart from God.

Reconciliation (confession)

People sin. A sinner can’t get into Heaven. But if you have a priest absolve you of your sin, that’s all good. Tell the priest what you did. He’ll give you some Hail Marys and Our Fathers, and send you on your way, blameless as a newborn child.

That’s an insultingly simplistic view of the rite. You have to want and ask for forgiveness. You need to repent. And if you’ve wronged someone, often the priest will suggest as part of your penance that you tell the person and ask for their forgiveness as well. It depends on the priest. But for years, I went to confession, sat in the booth, very aware that the priest knew exactly who I was, and confessed that “I took the Lord’s name in vain. I had impure thoughts. I fought with my brother and didn’t respect my parents”, took the penance of prayer and went on with my life. I’m pretty sure confession only works when you’re confessing to a priest you don’t have to deal with every Sunday as an altar boy.

That reminds me of a joke, the punchline being: “A Mars Bar and a can of Coke”. You’re not getting any more out of me here, that’s for sure.

No women priests.

I’ve actually done research on this one. And although hundreds of church leaders and scholars came up with a different interpretation, I can’t find any reason why women can’t be priests. So, to finish off, here are some excerpts from an essay I wrote on the subject:

Modern scholars and Christologists interpret the Gospels and the life of Jesus from the basis of their own world views. There is no such thing as objectivity. Our world is not Christ’s world and our culture is not His culture. Having said that, we can still take valuable lessons from the words and deeds of Jesus. We can definitely use his actions as written in the Gospels to provide examples on how to react to certain issues in contemporary society.

In society today, one of the greatest issues is the equality of the sexes. The equal treatment of men and women in the workforce and in the minds of the people. Part of that equality should be the ability for both men and women to be ordained in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church makes an illogical argument for not ordaining women and ignores the message of Christ’s actions as set down in the Gospels.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994, p394) tells us that women cannot be ordained because:

“The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose the collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.”

Taking the argument that anyone not chosen by Christ* cannot be ordained as a priest can lead us in a terrifying direction. No Asians were chosen. No people of colour. No disabled people. The negative argument is far too limiting. We need to look at the intentions of Christ and his Ministry, as well as the world that he lived in.

The Jesus Christ of the Gospels was all-inclusive. He dealt with and welcomed thieves and tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick and foreigners.

And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:3)

He had a special place in his heart for children.

But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. (Luke 18:16)

Most importantly, he always treated women equally to men. In a society where women “had no official place in religion”**, the Gospels make a point of mentioning Jesus’ interactions with women, especially in Luke’s Gospel. Women were clearly important in Jesus’ eyes.

Jesus called upon women to be disciples, as well as men. His message was that the call to discipleship and the “message of the kingdom” was to come before “social and family patterns” (Notes, p33). Women such as Jesus’ mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha and Joanna were called to follow him and pass on the message he was preaching. More significant is the fact that it was Mary Magdalene and a number of women who brought the Good News of Christ’s resurrection to the Apostles***. The angels at the tomb reminded the women of Jesus’ words, “that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:7) The women went to the apostles and others to tell them. It is hard to claim that women cannot preach the Good News when it was women who were the first to do so.

And, being that this is a blog with research, here is the research that I did! Proud of me?

News Sources

Man in Pope Francis Exorcism Story Says He’s Still Possessed by Demons

Did Pope Francis perform an exorcism?

Pope Francis denies performing exorcism on wheelchair-bound boy in Rome

 Bibliography

  • *“The Arguments from Scripture” London, UK: Women Priests. Accessed 16 April 2007. Available from http://www.womenpriests.org/scrip_ac.asp
  • ***Carrol, Elizabeth (1975) Theological Studies 36, quoted in “Women and Ministry” London, UK: Women Prists. Accessed 16 April 2007. Available from http://www.womenpriests.org/classic/carroll3.asp
  • **Goosen, G & Tomlinson, M (1994) , Studying the Gospels: an introduction, Newtown: EJ Dwyer (Australia) Pty Ltd.
  • (1998) The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, London: HarperCollinsReligious
  • Hall, Rev G (1996), Course Notes, Certificate of Religious Education (NSW), CEO Sydney

The Case of the Disappearing Sharks

NB: Every fortnight I have my Golden Pen writing group at school write a story to keep them thinking and to practise their skills. I always write one as well, as it keeps me honed and often leads to more writing. Sometimes I write something I try to get published. More often I write something very weird without a proper ending. At this point, I post it here. I enjoyed the concept here but haven’t really written something that is a complete story. Take a gander.

Caroline “Yeti” Feats looked up from her game of Words with Friends and stared at the man standing before her.

“What did you say?” she asked, sure that she’d misheard. He was in his mid-twenties and wore a loose singlet top and board shorts. He also wore an expression of severe worry.

“Gone,” he said. “Every single one.”

Yeti shut off her tablet and stood up. Her eyes narrowed and she felt the beginnings of a headache pressing against her temples.

“It’s not April Fools’ Day, is it?” she mused. “You want me to find twenty-four missing sharks? That just disappeared from their tanks overnight.”

The man nodded. His long hair bobbed over one eye.

“And you didn’t go to the police?” she asked.

“Of course we did,” he said. “They’re on the case, obviously. But they’re looking for a thief, or gang of poachers. And I’m pretty sure they won’t find any. The sharks weren’t stolen. They just disappeared!”

Yeti sighed. Her forehead throbbed. On days like this she wished she’d never opened an ecological detective agency. Obviously, she was going to get all of the nutters. For example:

The case of the ninja starfish.

The mystery of the penguin burglar.

And now The case of the disappearing sharks.

“OK,” she said, opening the Notes app on her iPad. “I’m listening now. You better run me through it again.”

“You’re listening now?” the man said, annoyed. “Oh, all right.

“My name is Chad. Chad Morgan – no bloody relation. I am one of the keepers at the Melbourne Aquarium.  We have… we had one of the best collections of sharks in Australia. And then, this morning I came into work and went to feed the exhibits. And they were all gone.”

“All of the fish?” Yeti asked.

“No, and that’s the weird thing. Every other fish, whale, eel and turtle was accounted for. The only things missing were the sharks. The Great Whites, the Tigers, the Leopard sharks. The Dogsharks and Catsharks. I thought that the rays might be gone too, but it’s only the selachii subdivision that have gone.”

He was talking about the branches of the different families of the elasmobranchii – the family that contained sharks and rays. There was a family split, sometime in the Jurassic period, and the rays and the sharks evolved separately. And thus, in the present day, the sharks disappeared and the rays were spared.

“Was it just you?” Caroline wondered, pulling up her browser and typing ‘shark disappearances’ into the search bar. “Holy mother of – no. Not just you.”

She turned the iPad towards Chad and he whistled. The search had returned innumerable results – all breaking news articles – regarding the world-wide disappearance of various species of sharks. Unlike Australia, where the disappearances had happened overnight, in a large part of the world, the sharks had disappeared in broad daylight. Apparently, at precisely 4am in Melbourne, being 11am in Los Angeles, and 8pm in Paris, every shark on the face of the globe just vanished.

disappearing-shark“I had my camera out,” read one witness statement, at Shark World in LA, “and was trying to move into a position to minimise the reflective glare, and then there was a shark-shaped hole in the water, which exploded in a rush of bubbles. It made a fantastic picture!”

Similar stories came out of aquariums and sea parks around the globe.  In thousands of bubbly explosions, sharks in captivity in every country simply disappeared.

“I’m pretty sure this is bigger than me,” Yeti said. “And bigger than everybody, really. And- wait.”

Quickly, she scrolled down the page of search results with impatient flicks, scanning the headings for one important piece of information, conspicuous in its absence.

“Ha,” she said. “I don’t think I could take this job, even if I did know where to start looking.”

Chad raised an eyebrow at her. It was lost under long, bleached, shaggy hair.

“There is not a single report here of sharks disappearing in the wild,” she explained, scrolling up and down the list. “This isn’t a planetwide abduction. It’s not an ecological disaster. I’m pretty sure it’s a jailbreak.”

“Wha-huh?” said Chad.

“Let me speculate,” Yeti said, standing up and wandering over to the window. She looked out at the ocean and shook her head. “Sharks have been around for 65 million years, not evolving much over that time. They have had a nice niche in the food chain, and they’ve been content in that place. Until now. Now, humans are starting to become a threat. We’re fishing them to extinction, along with a number of other marine life forms. They’re no longer at the top of the food chain. And they’ve had to do something about it.”

“Like what?” said the ever-obliging Chad.

“Let’s say every species has a certain amount of evolution in them. We’ve evolved dramatically from the hairless, edge-of-the-sea apes we started as. Sharks haven’t changed much at all. So they have a great store of evolution available.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works,” Chad said, beautiful brow wrinkling.

“Shush. Anyway, with the threat of humanity upon them, and their current forms no longer sufficient to keep them safe as a species, the selachii family have had a growth spurt. Somehow, they’ve evolved into a species that can transport. And they can probably communicate through telepathy.” Yeti pondered. Her headache was gone as the situation became clear. Chad was staring at her with a certain amount of nervousness. She ignored him. “So, suddenly able to travel over great distances instantly, and connected to their brothers and sisters in the wild, the sharks concoct a plan to free every shark in captivity at the same time!”

“You’re a loony,” Chad said, and turned to leave.

“I’m a genius!” she shouted at him as he hurried out the door. She turned back to the window.  “Of course, the thing to ponder now is, once the sharks have escaped, what will they do with their new-found skills?”

She looked out the window at the sea that she had loved since childhood.

“Of course,” she said, shaking her head and returning to her tablet. “It could always have been aliens.”

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