Finding Damo

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

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

Post-Bucket List

So, as I’ve mentioned before, I was hunting down life insurance. Well, I’m now insured. Take all the pot-shots you want, my family is covered.

Oh, unless I get bowel cancer. Apparently one person in my entire family getting it means that I’m too much of a risk to get it as well, so I’m not covered for that.

Never mind, I’ll just have to make sure any critical illnesses I get aren’t that.

I wonder whether becoming a zombie counts as a “critical illness”. I’m sure I couldn’t effectively do my job. What would zombies teach? Biology? Physical  Education? I’d be unemployed and almost unemployable. Maybe McDonald’s. “Would you like brains with that?”

Dead, but still poking around. That reminds me. Awhile ago I posted on Twitter a “post-bucket list”. A list of things I want to do once I’ve kicked the bucket. Everyone has a list of things they want to do before they die. I thought I’d be a little more ambitious.

This list came out of noticing that a number of dead friends and relatives were still popping up on Facebook. “You haven’t chatted to this person for awhile!”

Yes. They’re dead, you insensitive multi-national corporation!

But anyway, the list:

  1. Delete my Facebook account. Although, I might post a couple of status updates first.
    1. “Man it’s hot down here!”
    2. “Oh look, Elvis!”
    3. Damian has poked you… with a chilly, ghostly finger.
    4. Make a clay pot with Demi Moore
    5. Haunt someone. Kevin Smith was talking about a friend who saw her brother on the wing of a plane, saying that he was at peace. I think I would have something more interesting to say. “You know, there are all these tiny lights. So pretty. And they’re getting closer… Oh, oh no. Stop! Get off me! AAARGH!”
    6. Brainssssss
    7. Participate in a séance – from the other side.
    8. Melvin Death…
    9. … and then Fear the Reaper.

Hmm. It’s not a long list. Oh wait, one more:

  1. Go to my own funeral.

I know it’ll be good. I’m pretty sure anyone who would bitch about me at my funeral is pretty much happy to bitch about me in front of my face. But I am very aware that I haven’t written a will. Or an obituary. Or my epitaph. Or prepared my Death Press Kit.

“My what?” you ask. My Death Press Kit, I answer. “Yes, but I think that needs clarification,” you say. Well, yes. Fair enough. Let me see if I can find an example…

Schoolgirl Sheniz Erkan farewelled as friend urges bullying victims to speak out

Hmm. Microsoft Dictionary doesn’t recognise the word “farewelled”. Ah well, it is the Herald-Sun. Here’s the picture:

See? Pretty. Obviously a phone picture, so it fits the Social Media aspect. She did a good job. Or her parents, or whoever sent the papers her photo. Or whichever reporter hacked into her Facebook account.

On the other hand:

Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60

You look at this guy and you think “yup, sleazy, obviously a killer. Hope he rots in Hell.” Or maybe that’s just me.

See? You need a Death Press Kit to ensure the papers know how to deal with you after your death. So, to make things easier, I have some photos for various occasions:

Traveler and philanthropist Perry dies after decades of community work

Perry, shamed teacher, dies alone after extended scandal

Conspiracy nut Perry dies in accidental piano incident

I don’t really want to write my obituary yet. I think that’s a blog in itself. I’ll leave you with the Death Press Kit and try to relax after the earthquake that’s scaring Melbournians to death. Gods. I remember Japan. These things happened every week. Still, I better make my sacrifices to the Ancient Ones.

Oh, that reminds me, and speaking of terrible Death Press Kits:

Suspected Maryland cannibal ranted about ‘human sacrifices’ on Facebook

This guy didn’t pick his Death Photo.

This guy killed and ate a guy who was living with him, including his heart and brain. The response from the on-campus co-ordinators:

“He noted the university has a zero-tolerance policy toward violence and a student in such a situation would likely be suspended or expelled.”

Ummm…

However, where I really think they were stretching for evidence:

“In February, Kinyua posted a question on Facebook, asking fellow students at historically black colleges and universities if they were “strong enough to endure ritual HBCU mass human sacrifices around the country and still be able to function as human beings?””

OK. The man was a looney. He killed and ate someone. But if I was indicted for every call to human sacrifice I placed in a Facebook status, I would never again see the light of day!

Let’s see what I can find.

  • “Today, I invade England!”
  • “Happy Invasion Day!”
  • “So birds are dying all over the globe and now there is a cow that’s given birth to a two headed calf. Is anyone else worried?”
  • “OK. Got an hour to finish the Multimedia class. That’s 3 minutes per student!”
  • “Sorry Paul, I have a social group on Wednesdays. Knock em dead!”
  • “is apparently NOT the killer, but is incompetent.”

See? I’m stuffed. Ok. Back into hiding. See you next week.

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Vampires and zombies and werewolves, oh my!

From a conspiracy theorists point of view, the past couple of weeks have been phenomenal.

Do you ever get the idea that the world is trying to tell you something? No, really, this fits with my opening statement. Let’s see. I need some concrete examples. Ummm.

Right. TED talks. I listen to them in the car on the way to and from work – when my Audible credits have run out. There are some amazing speeches on this site and I’ve gotten a lot out of them. I also listen to the Smodcast with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. I’ve been playing them out of order, and sometimes they’ll be years old. But on one drive into work, I had a TED talk about pacifying crowds using heat rays, and then Kevin Smith talked about the same thing on his podcast, and then Dr. Karl mentioned it on HIS podcast, then I saw it on TV on a completely random bit of news footage, and finally, I read it in the book I was reading at the time.

All of these were disassociated from each other. None of them, bar the news footage, was current. I just happened to come across them all in a single 24-hour period. And this happens to me on a regular basis. Really, conspiracy theories are a doddle compared to some of the things I have to deal with in my head.

Is this a Final Destination type event? Should I be watching out for stray death rays? And Rocky Mountain High, by John Denver?

Which leads me to zombies. No, seriously. I read in the news about a naked guy who was shot multiple times to stop him from eating a guy’s face. Kevin Smith was talking about it as well . That’s not freaky at all. It was all over the Twitter-sphere. What is freaky is that THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US!! It was the go-to position of every conspiracy nut on the planet. Finally, the superbug has gotten loose and Florida is ground zero. All of the movies we’ve watched and The Walking Dead tv show have given us some good grounding for how to survive the coming onslaught.

First up: don’t live in America.

Check. I have a feeling getting zombies through airport security could be a bit tough.

“Anything to declare?”

“Braaaaaaains….”

“Sorry sir, but you can’t bring foodstuffs into the country, so could I ask you to ARGH! STOP IT! Nooooo….”

To add fuel to the fire, the Centre for Disease Control has come out with an official statement denying that there is a zombie outbreak. What more do we need??? And then a fascinating biologist – Nathan Wolfe on TED tells me that when they do swaps of the inside of the noses of volunteers, they find that 30% of the material they collect is unclassifiable. Viruses and bacteria that they cannot identify. And even in the blood, something like 1% of what is running through our bloodstream is unidentifiable. He was making the point that there are still undiscovered territories for our young people to explore when they leave school.

I took it to mean that it is totally conceivable that there is a zombie virus out there that has already infected most of the population and is only awaiting the anomalous solar flare to reach us from the sun. Maybe we’re both right. Zombies are a bit passé. They’ve been done to death. Ha ha. I like zombie movies. They’re fatalism at a grass-roots level. The world is stuffed. Let’s eat some brains. They feed on our fears of the coming environmental apocalypse and the knowledge that our governments are so stupid that it is totally conceivable that someone has requisitioned a killer virus and all we can do is wait for the “oops!”

This zombie has no hope.

And it’s good to see a genre so friendly to kids. My step-daughter loves zombies. Many’s the morning I wake up with a small child chewing on my head. No, actually I mean, when I first met her mother, I was right into Plants V. Zombies. That meant that within a few weeks, young miss O was into it as well. She has written a song about the sunflowers and their quest to save us from the zombies. She drew a picture for school showing a very good defensive layout for an early level of the game. And still there’s been no call from Child Services.

I like zombie movies, but there’s not a lot of romance in a zombie. There are very few “I love you, and can’t live without you, so eat my brains and we’ll be undead ever after” moments in zombie movies. Romance is the domain of the vampire.

Man with perfect skin, loves the nightlife, seeks vulnerable beauty for passionate necking. Must love bats.

I’m a bit over vampires. I used to devour anything involving sharp pointy teeth, from Anne Rice to Count Duckula. I read the Twilight series, to my ever lasting shame. I enjoyed it, which I truly believe makes me a bad person beyond redemption. But I can’t fathom a race of shiny almost invincible people who don’t say: “You know what, these squishy humans can’t do anything to stop us. They can’t stake us. The sun doesn’t hurt us, we can throw century-long disco beach parties. Let’s take over the world!”

What I am enjoying is Kim Newman’s Bloody Red Baron. The first novel, Anno Dracula, was an incredible read. The sequel just goes from strength to strength. Famous characters from history and popular fiction dive in and out of the novels, set in a world where Dracula was not beaten by Van Helsing and his band, and instead marries the Queen of England and ushers in a Vampire England. Alternate Reality novels always fascinate me. A novel where Jack the Ripper hunts vampire prostitutes through the streets of Victorian London was always going to get me in. But still, the graphic descriptions of feeding – sweet coppery blood trickling over the tongue and down her parched throat – no longer have the same appeal that they did when I was wearing black and dangly ankh earrings.

Werewolves on the other hand. . . Like Jekyll and Hyde, the werewolf is the freedom to let your inner beast free, to act without worrying about the consequences. And they’re alive. Hyper-alive. Depending on the mythos, they’re untethered from their human shells once a month at the full moon to frolic in amongst all the lovely food.

I need help.

I’ll finish with some recommendations. They might not fit anybody else, but, I love:

Zombies:

  • Shaun of the Dead
  • 28 Days Later/weeks later
  • The Walking Dead
  • Plants v. Zombies

Vampires

  • Anno Dracula
  • Anne Rice – the early years
  • Being Human (and -gasp- Being Human US)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Fray (comic)

Werewolves

  • The Twilight Series (Team Jacob)
  • The Wolf’s Hour – Robert R. McCammon
  • Being Human (this one, more the UK than the US version)

 Feel free to add your own.

A quick sidenote

New blog tomorrow. I’m sure it will be quite riveting. But first:

My Golden Pen club (the school’s creative writing group) are participating in Write a Book in a Day on the 22nd June. They will do it no matter what, but can’t be recognised for their efforts unless they raise $250 per team for their hospital. Anybody with kids or nothing better to spend their money on, please feel free to help out 🙂

  1. Click here
  2. Click on Sponsor a team on the left hand side.
  3. Choose Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation (VIC/TAS)
  4. Choose Golden Pen 1 or 2
  5. Pay by credit card.
  6. Let me know.

$500 here we come!

PS. I wrote the Every Sparrow story because of this club. That’s got to be worth something!

PPS. There were some problems with accessing the credit card payments. This has been fixed. So if you’re still looking to help, please feel free!

Every Sparrow that Falls: the Final Chapter.

The voice in his head sounded desperate. But.

‘Who are you?’ Chuck asked. ‘What are you doing in my head?’ His mind was trying to convince him that everything was fine. But it wasn’t fine. He’d been shot at. His head was killing him. So was the radiation. And now he had voices in his head. And nobody ever thought that was a good sign.

Friend, his head told him. Here to help. Dying. Stop. Stop radiation.

‘Are you a min-min?’ he asked. He still didn’t quite trust the energy blobs. His only response was a sense of puzzlement. He felt puzzled. ‘I mean, one of the energy balls.’ And comprehension dawned on him.

Yes. Min-min. Dying!

Chuck felt a sense of urgency during that last statement. He realised with shock that Caitlin was right: the radiation was dispersing the energy balls. And the energy balls were alive. They were killing his guides. Had killed them, for all he knew.

Yes! Stop it!

‘Cait!’

‘Is it working? I can-’

‘Turn it off! Quickly! We made a mistake!’

‘You made a mistake!’ Caitlin retorted. ‘No, no, never mind,’ she continued as he tried to repeat his plea, ‘I am a professional. I turned it off as soon as you told me. Your skin won’t stop burning until we get you treated. And that should be soon. Get back to the ship.’

‘I’m coming,’ Chuck said. ‘You won’t believe this. I’m hearing voices.’

‘What won’t I believe?’ Cait asked.

‘Ha, ha. I’m on my way.’ Chuck signed out and prepared to run.

Go now, the voice said. Plenty of time.

The laser beam burned a hole in the back of his left boot as he hit the stairs running.

 

Back in the sunlight, Chuck slowed.

‘Who are you?’ he asked. There was a long pause. ‘Well?’

Wait, came the voice. Difficult. Looking for speech. Ah, there it is.

The change in his passenger’s language was immediate and obvious.

We are human, said the voice. It was female, from its cadence. It was like a voice remembered, one that had spoken only moments before, but it bypassed his ears. When your ancestors left the planet I am assuming you are from Earth originally?

Chuck went to nod, realised that might be completely useless, and said ‘Yes.’

When your ancestors left, she continued, many stayed behind. Some were mad. Most were useless. A very few were brilliant. We fought the machines and subjugated them. We concentrated on restoring the planet. The main obstacle to that was humanity itself. And then we realised that we could live forever without our bodies. It seemed like a fair trade. Immortality and a planet restored for the simple price of our flesh.

‘I don’t know,’ Chuck said. ‘I kind of enjoy my flesh.’ He looked back over his shoulder, remembering. ‘Wait! Your friends, the min-min. Did they survive?’

The moment these words formed in his mind to be spoken, a great wave of sadness hit him. Tears welled up in his eyes.

No, she said. They were dispersed.

‘You were close to them?’ he asked.

No. But emotions are always experienced strongly within the host. I cannot help it. I am sorry. The loss of the team is unfortunate. We rarely reproduce, especially with the machines being so belligerent. But no, I was not close to them. There is your ship!

Chuck’s eyes were drawn to the ship. It was a lot further away than he should have been able to recognise it. A pleasant side effect. Pleasant.

‘You’re female?’ he asked.

Yes, she said. Apologies. My name is Flip. Philipa Nias. I grew up in Melbourne the city you are in now and was lucky enough to be involved in the last conversions. I dont honestly know why we bothered to keep our gender-alignments. I think it is just a part of who I am. And you can stop thinking whatever youre thinking. I can feel your hormone levels rising.

Chuck blushed.

‘We’re almost there,’ he said. ‘What are you going to do? I need to go back to the ship for radiation treatment. I’ll need to make a proper report about my experiences since arriving, including the existence of a new life form or three. Are you coming with?’

Flip considered this. Off the planet? The radiation would disperse me.

‘I’ll ask Cait, but I think that we are shielded enough for you to come aboard safely.’

Something new to ride, Flip mused. Chuck felt himself being persuaded, which was an unusual sensation. They arrived at the ship. I think I should. Yes, that would indeed be an experience.

Feeling unusually happy, Chuck whistled as he ran through the pre-launch activities that would get him and his invisible passenger off the planet. As he was packing away the last of the supplies he had removed from the ship, his eye caught the corpse of a small bird. He tried to look away, but his gaze was fixed.

Wait, Flip said. Please. We need to bury him.

Chuck thought: ?

I owe him, Flip said. As I owe you. Please.

Nodding, Chuck dug a small hole in the soft earth and placed the sparrow gently into it. He covered the bird with soil and replaced the grass divot.

Do you still have religion? Flip asked him. The Bible? God?

‘Well,’ Chuck said. ‘Gods. There are a good number of them. But there is The One God. Not that anybody believes He’s the only one any more. He had a Bible.’

Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing, it says. Thats what makes a Rider. Take care of the individuals and the world will be fine.

‘That sounds like a plan,’ Chuck said. ‘Who knows what will come from this meeting of two individuals?’

All thanks to that little guy, said Flip. Oh dear. Im starting to sound like you now. Before we go, I think theres one person that should come with us. She established a link and gave her friend the invitation. Chuck caught the gist of it through their shared thoughts.

 

‘Hang on, Captain who?’

 

Space: The final frontier.

Every Sparrow that Falls – Chapter Nine

Flip was not very far from the computer repository. It only took a second to propel herself through the air, exciting molecules and bouncing off them, traveling just under the speed of sound. She reached the basement area just as the second shot scorched the ground where the human had just been lying. The communication team were all speaking rapidly to the computers.

‘Stop firing! This human is a friend.’

‘This contravenes the non-violence treaty which dates back to-’

‘Speak to us. I command you. Respond. We are your superiors.’

‘-and the sub-paragraph, which states-’

‘We need you to translate, not destroy!’

‘-you, being the party in question-’

‘Be quiet!’ Flip said, transmitting over the public frequency with an override signature. The team were silent. There was a loud THUNK, a whine, and a third beam that missed the human by virtue of his random motion. Flip sent a quick query to the computer system. The communication was refused. The computers were obviously going to plead ignorance until they’d killed the visitor. The animosity between human and machine went far back, but the non-corporeal beings did not make for good targets. She’d been a fool to think the machines were ever under their control.

‘This is ridiculous,’ she said. ‘If the machines kill the visitor, there will be reprisals from the orbiting ship.’ The computer powered up its weapon for a fourth shot, but the human had managed to get out of the line of fire. He was safe for now, but Flip knew the laser was only the first of the computer’s deadly tools. Somewhere, deep in storage, two glowing red eyes would be winking into life.

‘Suggestions?’ she asked, not really expecting anything useful. She was not proved wrong.

‘We should start negotiations with the computer. Using logic, it will surely listen to reason.’

‘Shut them all down. The computers are obsolete. We do not need them.’

‘Let them have him? It is an unnecessary conflict in which we involve ourselves.’

Flip ignored them. The human was talking into a communicator, asking for help. She needed to get in contact with him. The computers weren’t going to help. With time, the communication team could probably decipher the correct frequencies to be heard at the human’s audible range, but that would take too long.

‘Rider?’ one of them prompted, looking for a response. She dismissed him with an impatient signal. And then her focus was drawn back to him.

‘What was that?’ she asked.

‘I simply asked, Rider, what we should do,’ he said.

Rider!

Behind her, the man stood up, slowly. She examined him. Complex minds were harder to Ride. Even the apes had a natural shielding caused by their sense of self.

‘It might be possible,’ she mused, ‘He has sustained a severe injury. That will take his focus away.’

‘What was that,’ asked the inquisitive team member.

‘I am a Rider. I will Ride,’ Flip said.

And then the air around them was filled with radiation and her consciousness began to disintegrate under the onslaught. To save herself, she dived straight into the mind of the visitor. There was no time for finesse, no gentle invasion. She slammed through his natural defences and hid within an unused portion of his brain.

Temporarily safe from the radiation (although with time, even his mass would not be enough to shield her) she rapidly spread out to establish contact with the speech centres of his brain. This was an instinctual act. It also required a great deal of empathy, which is why it was not possible for just anybody to do it. Flip knew what he should be thinking and looked for those patterns. When she recognised them, she could start to manipulate them. It wasn’t always immediate. This time she was lucky.

She found him. He was about to make a run for the door. Without the limited shielding provided by their underground shelter, Flip would be lost. She increased the sensitivity of his pain receptors, to stop him from rejecting her as soon as she made her presence known, stopped his legs from taking that first, fatal step and made contact.

‘Wait!’ she told him. ‘You must stop! Make it stop!’

Every Sparrow – Chapter 8

The glow of the energy balls gave off very little light as Chuck descended into the depths of the building. There was a low hum that he associated with machinery. Maybe the min-min, not able to communicate with him directly, had brought him to a computer of some kind, to attempt a link that way.

There was a sudden whine, the blobs scattered and a beam of red light lanced through the darkness and burned a line across his scalp.

Or, he thought, dropping to the ground, they couldnt kill me using their microwaves so they decided to try a more direct approach.

The stench of burning hair filled his nostrils and he slapped at his head. The whine repeated and he rolled desperately to one side, narrowly avoiding a second deadly beam.

‘Stop shooting at me!’ he yelled, crawling to his feet and diving to safety in the darkness. Unfortunately, between his current location and safety was a steel cabinet, which he struck hard with his forehead. The third shot missed him because of the erratic movement of a semi-concussed man.

As the whine rose in tempo for the fourth time, he found the edge of the cabinet and crawled around the side. He had no idea where the beam was coming from, or whether he was still a target from this new vantage point, but his head felt exactly as if he had just dived headlong into a metal cabinet, and his thoughts were scattered.

The whine of the beam remained at a mosquito-buzz pitch for a moment and then the weapon powered down.

Chuck slumped against the cool metal of the cabinet and waited for the world to stop spinning. His brain seemed to be still rattling inside his head and to make matters worse, his skin was itching again.

All around him was the high-pitched meaningless chatter of the coloured blobs. They must be telling the shooter where he was hiding. He had to get back upstairs, to the relative safety of a world he never thought he’d call ‘alien’.

‘Scout to ship. Cait, come in. I’m in trouble!’

‘How did you manage that?’ Cait asked.

‘Ambushed. Trapped. Something shooting at me,’ Chuck said, trying to focus his thoughts. ‘My hair is on fire. The min-min sent me into a trap. I’ve got to get out!’

‘Holy hells. You’re not kidding, are you?’

‘Why would you think that I was?’ Chuck asked, incredulous.

‘Oh, I don’t know. Does “Aargh!’ ring a bell?’ Cait asked.

‘Fair enough. Look, I’m going to make a break for it. Can you do anything from up there?’

‘I don’t think so, but- wait. If I narrow the scanner beam onto your location, I think I can flood the very immediate area with radiation.’

Chuck tried to get his rattled head to process that statement.

‘You’re going to irradiate me?’ he asked. ‘And that’s what you call “helping”?’

‘It’s a slim chance, but there’s a possibility that it could disrupt those “min-mins”, which will mean you can get back to the ship without being followed.’

‘And if it gets dark, I won’t need a torch, because I will glow in the dark!’

‘Don’t be a baby. We have anti-rad treatments up here,’ Caitlin said. ‘I think – yes. There it is. Say when.’

Chuck could see the faint glow coming down from the top of the stairs. It was only a few long strides away to the first step. He was well into the room before his attacker fired the first time. He should be fine.

‘OK, go,’ he said. He pulled himself into a crouch. His skin was prickling, and then-

‘Right. Done it,’ came the voice from the ship. The prickle turned into a burn. At the edge of his range of hearing, the high-pitched chatter had turned into a squeal.

Got em, he thought. He stood. The whine of the laser started up again. Chuck spun but as he readied to run, his legs buckled, and the pain in his skull doubled.

Wait, said a voice in his head. You must stop! Make it stop!

‘That’s not me!’ Chuck muttered.Cait to the rescue

 

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