Finding Damo

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

Cosplay Hate

This all started with a conversation on Facebook:

Names Feegled out to protect the innocent.

Names Feegled out to protect the innocent.

The conversation started at around 10pm and my brain wasn’t up to the challenge of mounting a suitable defense. So I left it. Away on holidays in the Grampians, I finally got the strength together to write this. I know I’m not holding a popular position (or at least, not one that people are happy to state out loud), but I do believe I’m write. So here goes.

A couple of years ago, I took the family to Supanova. They hadn’t been to a convention before. I was catching up with my Discworld convention committee.

We marveled at the costumes. My favourites were a pair of Doctor Whos (Four and Seven), a wookie in a hockey jersey, some steampunk Ghostbusters and a lovely pair of Poison Ivys. And that was only a smattering.

supanova

When we stopped for lunch, I started people watching in earnest.

And now I’m going to join in on an Internet controversy with the statement I made to my wife on that day:

People need to wear costumes based on their body type.

Wait! Don’t run off! There are caveats. There are reasons. There are exemptions. There are excuses. But yeah, I’m coming down on the Dark Side (with cookies).

When you are dedicated to worlds other than this one, and show your dedication by letting your imagination run wild and your inner child free, the mainstream is going to stop and, not getting it, judge. So we find ourselves making excuses:

“I get so little time to relax. This is a way for me to be myself.”

“Getting into costume is a way to further immerse myself in a world I love. It’s almost like getting into the book.”

We don’t need to make excuses. Most of the people I know have no fear of what the “real world” things of us.

And even that’s ok. It’s fine. To paraphrase: Wear what you wanna wear, be what you wanna be yeah-eh-eh.

“I love Buffy, so I’m going to the con dressed as Buffy.” So what if he is a 200kg body builder with more hair on his body than Sarah Michelle Gellar has on her head?

And I swear, I Truly believe that statement, no matter how much flak I’m going to get over this post. If he wants to wear a Buffy cheerleader skirt and carry a stake, that’s fine.

As long as he knows that he is a 200kg, hairy-backed body builder; that dressing as Buffy is a patently ridiculous act and that he’s making a statement, or simply having fun with the character, fine. Joss has done worse to Buffy himself. Be Buffy. I salute you. I will laugh alongside you and be happy. But if I’m laughing at you, you’re wearing the wrong costume.

me as supermanI wouldn’t dress as superman. Or rather, I would dress as Superman, but I would be a Superman who has really let himself go. I’d have vindaloo stains on my S and a doughnut in one hand with little Kryptonite sprinkles.

And that would be OK.

If, on the other hand, I decided to be Superman, and dressed as Superman, in the tights and stretchy suit, because I LOVE Superman and want to show the world my love for Superman -

- Then I have failed. You don’t honour Superman by being a poor imitation of Superman. You can honour Superman by parodying him, by being playful with a beloved character. But I don’t believe you can love Superman by being him when you’re clearly not him.

Rant. Rave. Get it over with. Now read on. I’m giddy with the power of free speech. I feel like Andrew Bolt. Without the racism.

There is a movement on various Social Networks to call out cosplayers who dress inappropriately and make fun of them. They search for photos of cosplayers that they judge to be ridiculous and post the photos so that people can laugh at them.

This is reprehensible. These people should be dressed as My Little Ponies and dropped off at a biker bar.

I don’t believe that anyone should be attacked for their body shape, age, gender or colour. And I’m not going to attack anyone. I celebrate and truly enjoy diversity in cosplay. There is an infinite universe that can be realized through our imaginations. The key word here is

IMAGINATION

I’m blessed in that all of my cosplaying companions have overactive imaginations. I’ve never seen anyone I know dress in anything less than a marvelous outfit. And these costumes range from a certain combination of regular clothing to an orangutan suit and beyond. Money isn’t a factor. Size or shape isn’t an issue. The success or failure of a costume comes from the amount of imagination and dedication that goes into a project (and many many energy drinks the night before).

The people who don’t have any imagination shouldn’t be ridiculed either. And I’m sure they don’t want my pity. Or to know that I’m aiming my pity at them. And, to be honest, I’m probably not pitying them. So that’s OK.

But they need friends who, before they choose a costume, can suggest:

“Hey, I’m pretty sure we can paint you up like a Binar. That would suit you perfectly.” Or “You’d make a brilliant Doctor. Let’s get you a sonic screwdriver.” Or “If I stick a shiny H on your head, you could be a Hologram on Red Dwarf.”

This is my point. Not “You can’t be Superman” (although I’m pretty much saying that, in the case of Superman) but that, with a little imagination, anyone can create a costume that suits them, is clever, worthy of praise and raises the bar of cosplay.

When did cosplay become a word? Dressing up. Fancy dress. Anyway.

  • Be a wookie in a hockey jersey.
  • Be a steampunk Ghostbuster
  • Be the Doctor.

But maybe rethink the Robin Hood outfit.

Damian as Robin Hood

I don’t always follow my own advice.

The Conspiracy Train

lunatic fringeA woman came up to me on the platform while I was waiting for a train into the city. I was reading Mr Mercedes by Stephen King and she started asking questions about it. She seemed a bit needy for conversation but not raving. We went from books to the media and how popular culture messes with our brains.

“You know,” she said, “I thought Fargo was a real story. That’s how manipulative the media is.” I really should have paid more attention to that statement. “And the music,” she continues. “You know, I took my husband to see the Thomas Crowne Affair, when we first met. The music in that movie manipulated me. I think I fell in love with my husband because the music in the film made me.” The marriage, she says, was a terrible idea.

I absolutely agreed with her contention that music in popular culture was manipulative. After all, I’m a Media teacher. I was putting together a verbal thesis in my head to hold court, when the train arrived and we headed into the same carriage (I couldn’t think of a reason not to).

On the train, she showed me News in Two Minutes, a YouTube daily presenting important news stories in two minutes. I had been deciding whether to move to a different carriage with some flimsy excuse (there’s a blog in itself) until she mentioned this. At this point, I figured it was interesting enough to check it out. I thought I might be able to use it on my radio show when the news program crashed (which it does on a very regular basis).

The big story was an outbreak of Ebola in Africa and she was worried because refugees from Africa were seen in Italy with blood coming out of their eyes. They were taken to hospital, released into the public and later the hospital was locked down.

While she talked, I googled. Here’s a link to the Ebola scare on the WHO website. I wasn’t really reading what I found, but I was finding it all quite compelling. I hadn’t quite put everything together yet, although I was looking at the pictures accompanying the news and wondering whether the sources had been verified.

Anyway, apparently the outbreak has been blacked out of the media “because of the World Cup”. I nodded sagely, although I have no idea why this would be the case. “Nothing has been printed in the papers. Obama has denied everything.”

I was shocked. Ebola! An outbreak! I added to my collection of bookmarked sites so that I could check it out later (which is now). She noticed me bookmarking and googling and luckily didn’t find it rude of me.

“You have to check out HAARP,” she said, pointing to the phone. “I was talking to my friend overseas for ages and in the morning they had painted a chemtrail cross over my house to mark me for later.”

Ah, I thought, and was instantly less worried about the Ebola outbreak. My conspiratorial fellow traveller had predicted an earthquake in Lilydale the day before it happened. She didn’t explain how that fitted into the conspiracy network, but I think it’s to do with HAARP.

I was relieved when she left the train three stops later. Sooner or later she would have realised that I didn’t share the crazy and then Bob knows what would have happened.

But now I have a stack of new conspiracy resources to look at. Let’s take a look at some of the sites I scribbled down as she chatted to me.

HAARP

chemtrailI thought I’d already mentioned this in Finding Damo, but I couldn’t find it. Project HAARP = High-frequency Active Auroral Research. It allows the government (yeah, as if it’s really run by the government) to control the weather. It is a technology that allows the user to control people’s minds. It could very well destroy the ozone layer. And it can radiate people to death.

Here is the chemtrail thing. Apparently there is a trend to seed clouds with heavy particulates. Which would make sense if you were about to zap them with ELF waves. So every time you see an unusual cloud, you’re probably looking at a HAARP transmission.

Alex Jones

alex jonesIf you want some good hearty conspiracy for breakfast, Alex Jones is your man. He’s a radio presenter in the States, and he has his finger on the pulse of everything conspiracy. He has a podcast, which is well worth checking out. INFOWARS! The latest episode starts with the upcoming revolution coming July 4th. “Will it be a peaceful or a violent revolution?” Only you can tell. Listen now!

More info from Forbes, where I got the accompanying picture.

Club of Rome and the Georgia Guidestones

I lumped these two in together, because apparently they both deal with population limitation. Let’s have a look.

The_Club_of_RomeFrom the website: “The aims of the Club of Rome are: to identify the most crucial problems which will determine the future of humanity through integrated and forward-looking analysis; to evaluate alternative scenarios for the future and to assess risks, choices and opportunities; to develop and propose practical solutions to the challenges identified; to communicate the new insights and knowledge derived from this analysis to decision-makers in the public and private sectors and also to the general public and to stimulate public debate and effective action to improve the prospects for the future.”

From their website and most reputable websites, they seem like a think tank, a theoretical group coming up with ideas to make the globe sustainable. It is only when you scratch beneath the surface (i.e. check out the conspiracy websites) that you find the sinister underpinnings to their organisation.

According to excerpts from the Modern History Project, one of the stated goals of the Club of Rome is to radically reduce Earth’s population, by strategic wars, manufactured diseases, famines in third world countries and genocide. The US branch of the Club of Rome was apparently responsible for the last three wars, and the MHP attribute the AIDS epidemic to the Club of Rome as well. NATO is basically run by the Club of Rome, as is the United Nations, according to these sites. I tell you, if any of these conspiracies are actually true, we are in some serious trouble.

In a similar vein are the Georgia Guidestones.

Guidesontes1The Guidestones are a series of granite monoliths in Georgia, US. They list 10 precepts in 12 languages. On the capstone, in different languages, reads the phrase: “Let these be guidestones to an Age of Reason”. They appear to be designed as a post-apocalyptic guide to rebuilding society. They work as a guide and also as a modern day Rosetta Stone. They were funded by a secret society and anonymously, so as not to take away from the message. There is no indication that anything sinister was meant by the raising of the stones, but a series of conspiracy theories surround the precepts, especially the one that reads: “Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.”

If the guidestones are actually meant to be for a post-apocalyptic society, then this precept isn’t such a big deal. It becomes an issue when current groups try to figure out how to get the planet’s population from 6 billion down to 500 million. What happens when someone figures out the answer and acts upon it?

A scary world

There are a lot of nutters out there. Mostly Harmless, as the HitchHiker’s Guide states, but all it takes is one evil genius looking at the wrong website and we’re in a pile of poo. Keep an ear to the ground, people. Look for the signs. Wear the tinfoil hat to protect yourself from mind-control and hope against hope that with all these conspiracies, we don’t end up adding alien civilisations into the mix.

May Challenge on WEBook

May Challenge on WEBook

I try to get involved in the WEBook challenge every month. Last month I was runner up. This month I’m going for the iPad :)

Let’s Kill Hitler

rory punches hitlerEvery time someone brings up time travel, someone mentions killing Hitler.

“If you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, would you?”

It’s either kill him as a baby or kill him as an adult. As a baby he hasn’t done anything wrong yet. Plus, killing babies is less than savoury for most people (whereas killing adults seems to be totally fine). As an adult, he may have already done too much damage to stop by just removing him from the equation.

EDIT: After being linked this by three different people on three different social networks, I thought I’d better add this in:

To properly answer the question, you first need a Year 9 Humanities class brief history of Adolf. Here are some excerpts from one of my students from last  year:

“Adolf Hitler was born from Klara Polzl and Alois Hitler on the 20th of April, 1889 in a small town in Austria named Braunau, and is most commonly known for being Germany’s leader during World War 2. Hitler was the fourth child Klara had given birth to, as the three before had died. Hitler had a younger sister named Paula. “

“Alois was a strict senior customs official who took beatings upon his wife and even his son. After Hitler read that the brave man gives no sign of being in pain, Hitler told his mother: “father hit me thirty-two times… and I did not cry”. Klara, Adolf’s mother, was a very kind woman who only wanted Adolf to succeed and do well in life, as she did not want to lose another child.”

“While Hitler disliked most of his teachers, he had one which he paid respect to, which was Leopold Potsch, his history teacher. Potsch, being a German Nationalist, taught Hitler and his pupils about Germany’s victory over France. Hitler was inspired by Potsch in the long run to be a Nationalist.”

“Throughout his life, he had consistent bad grades with the exception of his skill in art. When his entry to an art school was declined, he was shattered, and lived in Vienna pretending to be an art student trying to make his mother proud. While he lived in Vienna, he mostly walked parks, observed buildings, and visited libraries. In the summer of 1909, Hitler lived on the streets.”

Caught up? Good. By 1925 it was pretty much too late. He’d written Mein Kampf, been to prison and had a following of people that would probably have continued with the reich even if Hitler was out of the picture.

So any killing of Hitler needs to be done before then, probably around 1909 when he was living on the streets.

Right?

Bloodthirsty bastards! Why do we have to kill Hitler? Why bloody our own souls? Here’s an alternative that doesn’t come up very often: Be nice to Hitler.

Let me present you with a scenario: Someone is coming back to kill you from the future. In about five years’ time you will do something that will cause the death of billions of people. With the invention of time travel, all of this death can be avoided simply by killing you. Are you ok with that? Or would you like to see someone try an alternative option first?

SARAH CONNOR HITLERWow. Hitler is sort of like Sarah Connor.

Anyway.

Hitler hated his teachers. He was bored at school. He was excluded from art college, he was beaten by his father. He was lazy but intelligent. He only had one testicle.

I can’t do anything about the last one, but as a time traveller, especially if we can travel about willy-nilly to do what we want, we could negate a number of bad influences in his life, making him, if not a good person, at least one who is politically ambivalent, not disposed to prejudices towards certain races and safe out of the way in an artist’s colony somewhere.

Here’s the plan:

  • Ditching Alois – the father, were you not paying attention? – by causing a bar fight between him and a burly psychopath in a pub somewhere. The man drank a lot. He also looked after bees. Strange.
  • Work at his high school, being a mentor to the young Hitler and giving him challenging books about being nice to people. Let’s get this Potsch teacher fired as well.
  • Bribe someone at the arts school to get him accepted. A Hitler making a living at art is not a Hitler trying to take over the country.
  • Finally, get someone to hire him, somewhere well out of Berlin.
  • Oh, and every time he tries to grow a moustache, shave it in his sleep.

Voila! No more evil dictator.

If I wanted to go further, I’d be talking to the leaders of France and England and suggesting that if they don’t want a second world war, they should go a bit easier on the country they just defeated. If they hadn’t been so heavy-handed in their sanctions, German Nationalism wouldn’t have received so much support from the general populous.

Of course, maybe people have been trying this for decades. Changing time and each time getting someone worse, until last time, when the time traveller stopped the evil dictator Gordon Champott, who had destroyed most of the civilised world from his seat in England, and when he got back, found that Hitler had risen to power in his stead.

And maybe a world war at this point in time, before the rise of nuclear weapons, was better for the planet as a whole.

But seriously, if someone gives you a time machine, just think about your actions before you go and murder someone, just to see what happens.

I would be incredibly irresponsible in this.

I would be incredibly irresponsible in this.

Small Talk

weatherEvery morning I greet the crossing guard with a wave and some sort of comment on the weather.

“Nice weather to be out in the fine morning sunshine!” or

“You’re earning your pay this morning!” or

“You’re still here? Thought you’d have blown away the way that wind’s going!”

And yes, Pippa, I put the exclamation marks in on purpose.

Small talk. In this situation, it’s perfectly ok. I don’t want to engage her further than that, because then I’d be the idiot standing in the middle of the road while the school traffic is passing through. A comment that lets me acknowledge that I appreciate the job she is doing for us, without getting into a conversation that causes road rage.

I was listening to Tell ‘Em Steve Dave – a podcast by some of the guys on Comic Book Men, and –

kevin smithOK. The Comic Book Men is a TV show – I don’t think we get it in Australia – set in the Secret Stash. The Secret Stash is associated with Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith did Mallrats, Clerks, Chasing Amy…

Caught up yet? Then there’s your homework.

I was listening to this podcast and (insert research here)

Some people hate small talk. And fair enough, if people are just going to look up at the sky and nod thoughtfully before going off on a diatribe about the weather. But small talk doesn’t have to be boring, it just has to be small. What we need is a list of topics that can be knocked off in about a minute without a huge amount of prior knowledge, that make you seem slightly more accessible to strangers and that won’t cause people to actively avoid you in the future.

growthSome topics just should never be brought up at all:

“Hey, did I miss something? When did they allow women to vote?”

“That Pope guy, he’s something else isn’t he?”

“You really have to see this growth that came up on my lower back!”

“I just got a new cat. I have a photo album here on my phone with 250 pictures. Wanna see?”

Others are perfectly acceptable, if taken in the right context, but are still considered borderline. These are the ones that I tend to use when starting a conversation because you are much more likely to achieve an interesting conversation:

smurf“Hey, if you had to be a smurf, which smurf would you be?” (I’ve used this on dates. It doesn’t work)

“You have a minute. Plan the perfect murder.” (This is worse if you keep saying “Nope, that didn’t work” whenever they suggest something)

“What does it have in its pocketsess?” (I say borderline, because this could work really well with certain literary types – or just anyone who watches movies now. *sigh*)

There are also some conversation starters that might seem innocent enough but are so full of potential mayhem that you should probably leave them off the list until you know someone better:

“Where’d you get that bruise?” (no, not really)

“Tell me about your family.”

“Such-and-such is an idiot aren’t they?” (Such-and-such will always be related to whoever you’re talking to)

But in general, there are a few topics you can bring up in public that will knock off a minute or two in a long elevator ride, at a bus stop or in the hairdresser’s chair. Try one of these:

“So, where’d that plane end up?” (or anything that is based on a headline from the most popular tabloid newspaper that week)

“Have you seen the size of that line? What’s going on?”

“Hey, sports are great, aren’t they?” (or something more specific if you know anything about sports)

“Been here long?”

“Did you know the moon landing was faked?” (actually, maybe that’s just me)

And of course, the old standby:

“How’s that weather?”

He said, She said…

Last night I was exploring first person POV, the unreliable narrator and differing perspectives on the same situation with a student I tutor. To illustrate the situation I presented the following YouTube clip:

I then asked her to write the piece from the boy’s perspective in first person, followed by the girl’s perspective. While she wrote, I did the same. It was an interesting exercise. Here ‘tis.

She

My stomach turned over as I saw him. This was not going to be a pleasant conversation. It was either the nerves. Or the baby.

Oh yeah, I’m pregnant.

How would he react? In these situations, I tend to get defensive. My back was up as we met and I’m sure I was sulking as I matched his step.

Finally, he stopped and confronted me.

He looked tired. Tired and annoyed.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

Already he’d annoyed me. He knew, but he wouldn’t be the one to say it.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked. His expression was part of the reason I was glad the baby wasn’t his. God, how could I have been with him?

“Well,” he said, his voice flat, “clearly you’re acting like this for some reason -”

Like this? Like my life had been thrown into turmoil? Like my future had just become that of the single mother?

“- so what’s up?” he asked. He was pretending to be Caring Guy. I was having none of it.

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

You really want to know? I thought. “I’m pregnant.”

His surprise was genuine. Hell, maybe he hadn’t known, after all.

“Really?”

“Yeah.” And then he said the words I’d been dreading:

“Is it mine?”

I didn’t want to have this conversation. I didn’t want him to be a part of my life. My baby’s life.

“I dunno, maybe.”

“Maybe?” Oops. No guy wants to hear that. But, looking at his stupid face, I figured I was better off without him. I sighed.

“Probably not.”

The look of pure relief on his face said it all.

“Thank God!” he said, and he almost sprinted from the room. I left in the opposite direction.

Good riddance.

He

She was bugging me. She’d been moody for days. When she called me and said we needed to talk, I gigured that the inevitable break up talk was imminent. And frankly, that was fine by me.

But now that we were together, she wasn’t saying anything. I decided to make the first move.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?”

“What do you want me to say?”

I hate you? I’m sick of this? It’s over?

“Well clearly you’re acting like this for some reason, so what’s up?”

“I don’t know.” This was harder than I thought. She was withdrawn. Maybe it wasn’t the breakup conversation. I looked at her more closely.

“Come on, what’s wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Whoa. That was not one of the possible options.

“Really?” No, not really, I’m just fooling. What a stupid question. I saw contempt in her eyes.

“Yeah.” Ok, next stupid question. I was on a roll.

“Is it mine?” I mean, really, who wants to know the answer to that, one way or another? I didn’t love her, didn’t even like her much. I definitely didn’t want to have a kid with her. But although I was pretty sure she’d been cheating on me, I had no desire to know for sure.

“I dunno, maybe.” My stomach lurched. Maybe was a confirmation of the cheating. I’d almost have preferred a “How could you ask that?” blowup, not this sulky quiet. My heart grew cold.

“Maybe?”

“Probably not.”

I was furious. I was ecstatic. I mourned the loss of my brief, ten-second child. I celebrated my freedom.

“Thank God,” I snapped.

And then I sped out of the room so she wouldn’t see the tears.

On a lighter note:

This YouTube clip was obviously part of an exercise for a film school or something. These two did a pretty good job. But I found another one which you might find amusing, although they would fail the sound check:

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!

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