Finding Damo

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

Archive for the category “conspiracy theories”

Terms and Conditions

TERMS-AND-CONDITIONS-MAY-APPLY-APPLEShereen just upgraded her IOS version. Every time we do that, it comes up with the “I have read the Terms and Conditions” button. We click that, we state that we are using the software as long as we agree to follow whatever mandatory rules the company put forward for us to follow.

And we lie.

We lie because only a tiny percentage of people actually read the terms and conditions. For anything. Rented a house? Sure, I’ve read the terms and conditions. Bought a new car? Sure I’ve read the terms and conditions. Adopted a child? Sure I’ve read the … wait, did that say Son of Satan?

Here are a couple of the things you are signing away when you click the button/sign along the dotted line/dip your quill in the bloody ink.

IMG_5162From my car insurance:

“We will not cover any loss, damage or liability as a result of:

  • War or warlike activity:
    • War does not have to be declared
  • Hostilities, rebellion, insurrection or revolution
  • Contamination by chemical and/or biological agents, which results from an act of terrorism
  • Anything nuclear or radioactive

From Apple:

  • You can only belong to one Family at a time, and may join any Family no more than twice per year.
  • Consult a doctor before using the products offered through the iTunes Service
  • APPLE DOES NOT REPRESENT OR GUARANTEE THAT THE APP AND BOOK SERVICES WILL BE FREE FROM LOSS, CORRUPTION, ATTACK, VIRUSES, INTERFERENCE, HACKING, OR OTHER SECURITY INTRUSION, AND APPLE DISCLAIMS ANY LIABILITY RELATING THERETO.
  • Apple reserves the right to take steps Apple believes are reasonably necessary or appropriate to enforce and/or verify compliance with any part of this Agreement.

This is what you’re signing when you click “I agree”. No changing families. Buy the virus-filled apps and ibooks. And if Apple decides that they should murder your first-born to enforce and/or verify compliance with their agreement, well, you just agreed that that is ok as well.

futurama-devil2Did you hear about the company that had a clause in their T&Cs that gave them ownership of the user’s immortal soul? It was an April Fool’s joke, but it made a very clear point: people don’t read the terms and conditions. Any self-respecting evil overlord would take advantage of this.

So, I’m going to create an app. It will be marvellous. Everybody will want it. And I’ll have all of the basic terms and conditions. But, just for those people who don’t read the terms and conditions, I’ll add in a few of my own.

So as a warning, here they are. Read them carefully. And choose whether you want my cool app, or whether it’s just not worth it.

CoolApp Terms and Conditions

  1. The developer takes no responsibility for any damage this app might cause to the machines or devices the app invades.
  2. There is a good chance that this app will never be updated again. The developer makes no apologies for this, so get over it.
  3. The developer will remove access to any user who scores the app less than five stars on the app store.
  4. The developer might make certain demands of users. By accepting these terms and conditions, you are accepting that these demands are fair and reasonable and that you will abide by these demands in a timely manner. These demands may include (but are not limited to):
    1. The user will provide safe haven for the developer and any associates that may need sanctuary.
    2. The user is expected, with fair notice, to contribute to a standing army to defend the holdings and lands of the developer in times of war.
    3. The developer may, on occasion and again with fair warning, visit the user’s home and at that time, should be provided with food and lodging. Moreover, a ball should be held in the developer’s honour, at the full expense of the user.
  5. The app has been extensively tested, but the developer will not be held liable for damages caused by effects outside of the standard test cases. For example, portal rifts leading to alien invasion shall not be deemed the fault of the developer.
  6. In the case that the developer requires a liver, spleen, brain, heart or other vital organ, the user will go to any length to provide the developer with said organ (no questions asked). The developer will endeavour to return the organ in a timely manner but cannot assure the quality of the returned item.
  7. Your genetic code, facial likeness and other personal information may be used by the developer for various purposes set out in the privacy document. The user accepts any liability for actions taken by the resulting robotic clone.

Did I miss anything? You have been warned.

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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.

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?”

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 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.”

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.

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.

Blog. No, Frog. No, blog.

I got married on the weekend. I might even talk about it. But not yet. The reason I mention it is because I had the Monday off to celebrate and came back to work to Parent-Teacher interviews, which lasted until nine at night. Welcome back.

I mention THAT because while we were having dinner during the break, I was sitting with one of the teachers – a Master Storyteller.

‘So my dad was in Borneo and was responsible for getting the Japs out of the country, re-settlement and all that. And there was this one village where they’d killed all of the villagers except for this one guy. And he was a cannibal.
‘No, really.
‘So he was in charge of guiding the Japanese prisoners to their work detail. And every day he’d take out four of them and every day he’d only come back with three.
‘ “Run off in the bush,” he’d tell my father. And seriously, he was Changi thin to start off with, but by the end of the occupation he was quite fat! And Dad always said “We’d get in so much trouble – put up for war crimes – if we let on we knew, so I chose to believe that these guys were running off.’

It was absolutely hilarious. Not so much now that I’m writing it down for an audience who doesn’t know him, but at the time…

Anyway, I got married on the weekend. A gesture of extreme optimism. Because of course, the bees are disappearing and the frogs – well, don’t get me started on the frogs.

There is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that Einstein once said: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. No more bees, no more pollination … no more men!”

But that’s never stopped anyone. And we don’t care that Einstein wasn’t a botanist or a bee-keeper, because he had cool hair and was photographed with his tongue sticking out. But it makes sense. If the bees disappear, nothing pollinates the flowers. No pollination, no fruit or vegies. Animals die. We die. Cockroaches take over the world. And everyone’s happy.

20120505-132803.jpgEspecially the frogs. Cos right now, the frogs aren’t very happy at all! Frogs respirate through their skin. They lay their eggs unprotected in fresh water. They really suck at dealing with pollution. I was walking through a swamp the other day and this frog stuck his tongue out at me. It almost took my eye out. They’re not impressed with our management of the planet.

Conspiracy: the bees are disappearing because of mobile phones. Apparently, all of the signals flying through the air are disrupting their navigational signals. They get lost, like me when there’s no reception. Hence the problem: I can’t find my way around without a phone. They can’t find their way with one.

And yes, this is scattered. I’m not entirely sure I want to talk about my wedding. Finding Damo isn’t about a guy who’s married. It’s about a single guy looking for love. It would be like giving away the ending really, except that this Damo character is fictional.

I can tell you about our wedding night – No! don’t stop reading, I’m not telling you about THAT part of it! I’m just going to have a little conversation about expectation and reality. And before I do that, let me tell you: I love my wife. I loved my wedding weekend. It was pure bliss all the way through and nothing that happened was going to ruin my happiness.

Even so…

We stayed at Carrington House in Daylesford . We stayed there last Feb and had a wonderful time so we thought we’d give them some repeat business. After the wedding we drove up and wandered in, tired and happy and looking forward to our Steam Room.

“Steven?” they asked as we came in.
“Um, no.” we said. “It’s under Shereen. It’s our wedding night.”
You should have seen her face fall.

I know two Shereens. Only two. Ever. But apparently there’s a third one, and she’d turned up 20 minutes before us and the woman had given her our room.

So Carrington House gets the award for being the first hotel in history to DOWNGRADE a couple on their wedding night.

“Of course, we’ll refund you your room and swap you across in the morning.”
Nope. They went off to talk. The guy came back and gave us $50 “The difference in price in the rooms is $20” and he felt like he was being generous. So we stayed in our smaller, boring room, went to the hassle of moving again the next day and lived with it because on our wedding weekend the last thing we wanted was a hassle.

To top it off, they are no longer a bed and breakfast. They don’t do breakfast. The only reason we’d come back to this place. It’s absolutely not worth the money any more, but more importantly, they had the opportunity to do the right thing a number of times that weekend to the wedding couple they’d screwed over, and failed to do so.

So I bag them online. Whee!

20120505-133646.jpgSo we got married on the weekend. I have never felt happier in my life than at the moment that my bride to be came through the chapel doors towards me up the aisle. This is backed up by the photos of me grinning like an absolute idiot.

Hang on, I’ll find my vows:

Shereen, From this day on
I choose you to be my beloved soul mate and wife.

I vow:
to trust and value your opinions, and stand by your actions.
to work for a happy life for both of us;
to listen when you need to talk;
to cherish and encourage you;
to live with you and laugh with you;
to stand by your side and sleep in your arms;
to be joy to your heart and food to your soul;
to bring out the best in you always;
to be the best I can be, just for you;
to celebrate with you in the good times;
to struggle with you in the bad;
to take you in my arms when you need to be held;
to ask for help when I need it, and offer help when necessary;
to be true and faithful;
as we journey together through the rest of our lives.

Of course, I spent the entire time in my head going I’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarried “I do” I’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarried “I will!”
I’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarriedI’mgettingmarried– Oh it’s over!

But as I said, I don’t want to talk about the wedding for ages. I will, but it requires fixing my thoughts and trying to get it as perfect as the day itself was.

I will make the comment that it is imperative to prepare your thank you speech before the day. Here’s mine:
20120505-131819.jpg

Hate to love you and leave you, but there’s a bee at the front door asking for a Melway.

Are you curious about yourself?

Are you curious about yourself?

Why, yes! I am!

On Saturday I found a Scientology stand in the Mall off Puckle St. They had a guy doing stress tests, a number of L. Ron Hubbard books, an explanatory DVD, and a lovely pink pamphlet that asks: Are you curious about yourself?

I found that I was curious about myself, so I picked up the pamphlet, which contained a Free Personality Test. It consisted of a number of questions that you answer as + (definitely yes), m (maybe or uncertain) or – (definitely no or mostly no).

I was still curious about myself, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Here are some of the questions:

3. Do you browse through railway timetables, directories or dictionaries just for pleasure?

A simple enough beginning. No. No, I don’t browse through timetables for pleasure. Easy. I feel good.

7. Would you prefer to be in a position where you did not have the responsibilities of making decisions?

Slightly more ominous. If I say yes, does that make me fodder for a cult where I am under your control? And I will like it, because of my answer here?

14. Would the idea of inflicting pain on game, small animals or fish prevent you from hunting or fishing?

Now I’m worried. What is it that we Scientologists will have to do in the new world? And if I want to get in, do they want pacifists? Or people who are willing to torture small animals for sport?

19. Are you normally considerate in your demands on your employees, relatives or pupils?

Ok, now I’m freaking out. How do they know that I’m a teacher? And how did they know I’d be on Puckle St at that time? I think my tin foil hat might be playing up. Or that I spend too much time on Foursquare.

26. Is your life a constant struggle for survival?

No. Should it be? Is it going to be soon? Will I be safe if I join Tom Cruise?

31. Could you agree to “strict discipline”?

Oh right. You have got to be kidding me. This is a question? Are they grooming me for the church or for a good spanking? But in all honesty, yes. I suppose I must answer yes.

45. Do you often feel that people are looking at you or talking about you behind your back?

WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD? Was it that bastard Dave? What did he say? Why did I make him best man? GET OUT OF MY HEAD!

Or, to be more honest, no. They might be suspicious and ramp up the surveillance if I said yes.

55. When hearing a lecturer, do you sometimes experience the idea that the speaker is referring entirely to you?

Isn’t it always about me? You just have to know how to read the codes. It was quite difficult getting Packed to the Rafters to be about me. It involved some seriously meta interpretation of camera angles.

61. Do you ever get a “dreamlike” feeling toward life when it all seems unreal?

No. Yes. Is that a walrus?

72. Are you perturbed at the idea of loss of dignity?

This is really a question. I am beginning to think that this might not be from the Church of Scientology at all, but rather a clever plot by the government to get us to answer questions they’re scared to ask outright in Herald-Sun polls.

76. Do you sometimes give away articles which strictly speaking do not belong to you?

Let’s forget about the fact that the Word grammar checker is having a spack attack over that sentence. This question was written on a very VERY old version of this survey and was intended to try and capture Robin Hood.

This, though, reminds me of a story that doesn’t necessarily put me in a good light. It may make it into the novel. I may have to change it a LOT.

I was living with a girl I’d met on RSVP. I keep wanting to call her Emma, but I’m pretty sure that’s not her name. I wasn’t dating her. We went out on a date, realised we had absolutely no chemistry, but she called me in a couple of days asking if I had a spare room. She moved in. But on the night she was going to move in, she called me and asked if I could be involved in a rescue mission for the new girl that had come down from Queensland.

I think I need some back story on the need for a rescue mission.

“Emma” (I don’t usually change names to save the innocent etc. but I really can’t remember her name) was moving in with me because the guy she was living was an absolute lunatic – scratch that, it’s judgemental. He tutored girls and told them that they had to do what he told them. He used spanking as a method of instruction. He made his tenants sign a document saying that he could spank them if they didn’t follow house rules.

And we’re back on track.

When this new girl moved in, on the first night, the man crawled into bed with her in the middle of the night. Hence the need for a rescue. Fair enough? I thought so.

So, we took my car and Emma’s and drove to his place on a night when we were pretty sure he wasn’t going to be there. We quickly packed everything we could into the car. Emma went through a room filled with books.

“Look at these books. There are so many first editions here! Want anything?” she asked, grabbing a signed Somebody Famous.

“God no. I’ve never even met this guy – is that the Egyptian book of the Dead?”

So, maybe I can’t give you a solid No on that one. But I didn’t give it away!

On with the questions.

88. If we were invading another country, would you feel sympathetic towards conscientious objectors in this country?

“…and if you say yes to this one, you will mysteriously disappear on the eve of our invasion, along with your objecting friends.”

More evidence that this is a government conspiracy.

92. Are you a slow eater?

This survey needs a fourth box: WHY?

98. Would you use corporal punishment on a child aged ten if it refused to obey you?

I laughed at this one. There are a number of questions that ask whether you hate kids, or are uncomfortable around kids. And now: will you give a child a good belting for the good of the group?

101. Does the youth of today have more opportunity than that of a generation ago?

Yes. Why did I put this question in? Oh yes, because this really deserves its own blog. Remind me.

110. Is your facial expression varied rather than set?

They really ask this. Are you already one of the pod people? Or should we send your free Quick-grow Audrey III by express post?

113. Would it take a definite effort on your part to consider the subject of suicide?

Well, it did. And then I read this question. Now I’m obsessing.

Pinocchio130. Are you aware of any habitual physical mannerisms such as pulling your hair, nose, ears or such like?

I’m always pulling my nose. Pulling my nose? Who pulls their nose? Are they asking me this so that the clones can imitate me without being caught? Who pulls their nose? I’m trying it now. It doesn’t seem like a nervous habit. It feels like a misguided attempt to pick it.

136. Do children irritate you?

They do. But I have a cream that clears it right up.

138. Do you usually carry out assignments promptly and systematically?

I mean, really. Yes sir! Mr Cruise, sir!

163. Would you take the necessary actions to kill an animal in order to put it out of pain?

This really should follow directly after 138.

170. Are you opposed to the “probations system” for criminals?

And this should follow directly after 163. “animal” yes indeedy.

181. Do you often ponder over your own inferiority?

I often ponder over other people’s inferiority. Does that count?

194. If you lose an article, do you get the idea that “someone must have stolen or mislaid it”?

Yeah. Blame the other guy.

195. If you thought that someone was suspicious of you and your actions, would you tackle them on the subject rather than leaving them to work it out?

If I thought that someone was suspicious of me and my actions, I think I’d have to make sure that they never told anybody else about it. . .

Battlefield Earth

yuk

OK… So I am no longer that curious about myself, but I’m hella curious about Scientology! How is it that a science fiction writer writes a book, calls it real and suddenly some idiot makes Battlefield Earth into a movie??? And don’t tell me you liked it. I’ve said that myself. You just like the memory of it, now that it’s no longer tearing away at the walls of your intellect.

Why is it that I’m allowed to write Scientologist on my census form, but not Jedi? Or wizard? Maybe I can write wizard. I haven’t checked. But I know they don’t count Jedi. At least I can write Pastafarian, and they told everyone they just made it up.

Damn. The paranoia is kicking in. I should change some of these answers. You won’t take me alive! I sleep with a can of plant killer under my bed! Ha. Just read question 199: Do you tend to hide your feelings?

I feel kind of bad about picking on Scientology. I read the website, which is probably all they wanted me to do in the first place. It sounds quite mellow. I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but it sounds quite mellow.

Made up by a science fiction author. But mellow.

Next week: I’ll be married. I could write about that. Or I could write about bees. Let’s see, shall we?

The Darkness

Last night, my fiancé crawled up next to me.

“I had a nightmare,” she said, and told me what it was. It was detailed, it had dialogue, examined a number of themes and basically demonstrated a healthy subconscious dealing with the stress of everyday life.

About two weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and crawled up next to my fiancé.

“I had a nightmare,” I said. She commiserated.

“What was it all about?”

“Ghosts,” I said. And promptly fell back asleep.

And I’m the writer.

No, really, the dream was just as complex, with lots of themes and allowed me to recognise a fear of mortality that ended up being a blog post from a couple of weeks ago. But having voiced the fact of a nightmare, I put it out of my head and that was enough.

Last night I dreamed that I broke the neck of a rat because it was crawling around inside my shirt and I didn’t want it to bite me. Later in the dream I pushed a man (a bad man) down the stairs and snapped his neck with my boot because he was threatening to turn me in for something that I had done earlier in the dream.

My sister said to me today: “Your nephew is going to be a fantastic storyteller. He loves telling stories – of course they’re incredibly dark and gruesome, but a good read nonetheless. Just like yours.”

I have no idea why I so often go to the dark places in my writing. I write lots of funny, nice and friendly fantasy and science fiction. But the two pieces that have made it closest to being published are the story about the guy who cuts people’s “souls” out of their body to trade with the devil, and the wife who is sick of her overbearing husband and so feeds him to a zombie.

Lots of people laugh at death. Some people even laugh at Death. Maybe not twice. My conclusion is: if you can laugh at it, it’s no longer scary. I think I did the right thing by letting my stepdaughter play Plants Vs. Zombies. Zombies are no longer something that she is scared about. She knows the sunflowers and peashooters are out there to protect her. And a zombie with a bucket on his head just seems less of a threat.

So there’s that. Write funny stories about bad things and don’t fear the bad things.

But I also write pure darkness, with very little humour in it. And Shereen believes that I can write that because nothing truly evil has happened to me. I am living vicariously through my mind to try and experience evil from the safety of the page. I know that I love reading Stephen King and Clive Barker, revelling in every gory death. But I’m still rooting for the good guys. I still want to read the happy ending. And the happy ending means more when they’ve gone through so much more to achieve it.

Of course, sometimes I write horror because that’s where my mind goes when the story pops into my head. That guy just walked into an alley and didn’t come out again. Logically, he walked to the other end and left by another exit. But what if. . . hell, maybe the alley eats people. Maybe another man sends people there as sacrifices to the person-munching alley, to – oh I don’t know, to gain its favour and the power that goes along with that? And what in Bob’s name is a man-eating alley doing in the centre of Melbourne anyway? And then things get convoluted.

I want to read that story now. I should go and write it. And I need to start getting some things published. Or my twisted little four-year-old nephew might beat me to the punch.

PS. Oh, I haven’t put this one down on paper. You wanna see dark? Sometimes, for a good costume, things have to die. For those who are really squeamish and love their teddy bears, you should stop reading now and go and read Penny Arcade instead.

We're going on a bear hunt.

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