Finding Damo

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

Archive for the category “Death”

The wolf is coming!

200px-Askalti_Darksteel_TCGI have a love for coincidence. Seeing similarities in different parts of my life makes it seem like there is a plan to the universe. It allows my imagination to posit a (usually incredibly unlikely) future based on what I’m seeing. The universe cares about me and is sending me hints so that I can guess what happens next.

That makes this current case of Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon somewhat disturbing.

Everywhere I look, I’m seeing Ragnarok. That can’t be a good thing.

12307402_865473633570486_1958686601694734196_oIt started when I began planning the second Thropes book. I’m planning the second book so that I can put the appropriate foreshadowing into the first book, so stop judging me for being a procrastinator. Lycanthropes came about as a result of a curse by a Greek goddess. So gods are real. And how would that change society? Having a pantheon of hands-on Greek gods would change a few things.

Not to mention that if the Greek gods are real, then wouldn’t that indicate that the others are as well?

So World War I is now a battle between the legions aligned with the Greek gods and those who worship the gods of Asgard. A couple of the days of the week have changed. As have a couple of months. I’ve ditched Roman gods altogether. And then left it as “time manages to push things back to what we know and love”.

But there’s Norse gods version one. And the wolves of Fenris.

magnus-chase-1And then I picked up Magnus Chase book one by Rick Riordan. He’s a very funny man and he really knows his mythologies. The writing isn’t phenomenal, but the stories have heart and the voice of Magnus is highly amusing. Oh, and he’s the son of a Norse god. Trying to stop Ragnarok.

Then my character in World of Warcraft levelled high enough to hit Northrend, and suddenly I have all of the Norse mythology I can handle, with Loken and Thorim and Jotunheim and Freya amongst other places and deities. They even have valkyr.

Following on from this, with the new WOW: Legion, they are opening up new Norse areas, including Helheim, as dungeons. It all looks very impressive.

Finally, I’m reading Morning Star by Pierce Brown. Third in the Red Rising series, it’s an engrossing work of war in space and the segregation of peoples based on colour rather than skill. Well worth a read.

The mighty Obsidian warriors live in the icy Antarctic wastes of Mars. They follow a Norse mythology and answer to Asgardian “gods” who keep them subjugated.

This is happening people. The time of the wolf is upon us! Sharpen your axes and drag out your horned helms. Let’s get the end of the world happening.

 

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Dark Half

Sometimes you really need to think through what you type into Google.

I was talking to my wife about a guy who failed a paternity test because his baby was actually born to his twin brother – who was still inside him. Searching for that article now, I found this:

Be careful what you search for.

Be careful what you search for.

What I was actually looking for was this article entitled: Guy fails paternity test because his unborn twin is the father.

This reminded me of Stephen King’s Dark Half – Tad Beaumont has an evil twin and…

OK, wait. This story is going to require me to be a bit spoilery. If you don’t want to have the story ruined, go and read it, and then come back and read this. Otherwise, read on.

dark half

So, when he was younger he started having visions of sparrows and heard them. It turned out he had a tumour in his head, which they removed. That tumour became his evil twin and tried to kill him when he brought it to life by creating an alter ego so he could write crime fiction.

Wow. That was MASSIVELY spoilery.

Shereen looked at me and said “Wow. That really would scare you, having an evil twin brought to life from being a writer.”

My response, in my best Arnie:

not a tumor“It’s NOT a tumah! It’s my evil twin.”

Which led to:

“Ah! Twins! I have Danny De Vito in my head!”

twins2

Sometimes my mind works in mysterious ways.

I want to publish Finding Damo. I can’t publish it while I’m teaching. I can’t really write under a pseudonym, as everyone already associated me with Finding Damo (especially you, reading this  blog).

So I’m safe for now, until I write something I have to publish under a different name.

Can you hear sparrows?

Sparrow_Silhouette.svg

The coincidence thing…

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

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

And speaking of which:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Amazon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the premise. Now for the spoilers.

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

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

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

Lock ’em up.

Before I begin I need to reiterate to any new Damo Finders that I very rarely do research before I rant. This blog does not contain scholarly rigour and I freely admit that pretty much anything I write here could be completely untrue.

You have been warned.

teenager in prisonOnce again, I’ve returned from coaching a debating evening filled with the half-formed thoughts of Year 9 students. This time, they were asked to argue “That children should not be incarcerated”. From what I could gather, they were arguing that children (legally, those under the age of 18) should not be held in detention, put in prison, taken to juvie, or the like. It was a challenging topic, especially for our side, who were trying to convince the audience that even a murderer would benefit more from a kind word and some therapy than a stint in the pokie.

Their arguments were that children’s minds are not fully formed before the age of 18 and that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong, and therefore cannot be held accountable for their actions and should not be punished for them. That placing children into institutions puts them in contact with other criminal types, increasing the risk that they will become hardened criminals through association.

The negative team’s best argument was that if the Victorian Police are willing to give a 12 year old a gun license, they must be pretty damn sure that the child knows the difference between right and wrong. They also felt that the greater good of society needed to be taken into account and that a murdering child needed to be removed from society for the good of society.

Good arguments. What do I think?

It is completely possible for a child to be a psychopath. A child doesn’t turn eighteen and then lose the ability to empathise with others. As far as I know, psychopaths are born, not made. There are children that are, if not evil, then at least completely amoral. They either can’t tell the difference between right and wrong, or they know and don’t believe that such distinctions apply to them.

If a child kills or assaults someone, not through an accident or loss of control, but through careful planning and forethought, that child can’t be allowed to continue to exist in society. Who knows? Maybe they can be “cured” or “rehabilitated” through intensive therapy. Maybe not. But until they are judged fit to coexist in society, they are requested to leave the pool. Play time’s over.

James BulgerThose are the extreme cases. Remember James Bulger? Jon Venables and Robert

Thompson – both ten – stole the two year old from a shopping centre. They walked him around town, beat him and kicked him, and then killed him and left him on the train tracks.

Did you know they moved them to Australia? Gave them new identities and gave them to us.

One of the important concepts highlighted in this case is that of “Doli incapax”. Legally there is a stage that a child can be held responsible for their actions. That they understand the concepts of right and wrong, and that death is a permanent state. Back in the early nineties, once it had been judged that the boys understood that death was permanent, they could be tried as adults. I’m pretty sure that’s no longer the case.

Either way, the argument is for or against putting children into detention. I say yes, for murderers and insane evil little Chucky clones (ever see The Good Son?) but no to those who commit crimes against property.

Sticking a child in detention that has been done for shoplifting or similar is like creating a master class for junior thieves. You can find out all sorts of nifty tricks when you hang out with other people with a similar mind frame.

“I’ll swap you some breaking and entering skills for some tips on pickpocketing.”

More to the point, incarceration creates an institutionalised child. It’s not a natural society. The pecking order is similar to prison. The concepts of helping out a fellow inmate or being kind are beaten or terrified out of the child and they learn that being stronger than the next person is the way to be. How is that going to help them in the real world?

Some would say it’s a perfect lesson. I say it’s the top of a slippery slope to hell.

I deal with teenagers every day. Only once in a blue moon do I have to deal with a child around whom I am genuinely uneasy. There is good in almost every child. But there is always the exception to the rule.

I’ve seen a student who was the most surly, angry boy in the school smile with genuine appreciation when I told him his work was good. I can’t say that his attitude changed that much, but his mother told me during parent/teacher interviews that he really liked my class and talked about it a lot at home.

lord of the fliesChildhood in general is like Lord of the Flies. The power plays and shifting alliances are complex and endless. Teenagers are in constant fear of being embarrassed, of breaking an unwritten rule, of being ostracised or excluded. The rules are many and you often only find out you’ve broken one after it’s too late. And everything is done under the shadow of the authority figures in their lives.

We can only be the best role models we can be. We can listen and give advice. We can point them in the right direction and hope that something sticks. And we can fire up their imaginations so that they have more productive ways to exhaust their energies.

But if they’re out there killing people, then hell yeah, lock ’em up.

Rant over. Lighter topics next week.

The Bucket

This last weekend was my first wedding anniversary. This has nothing to do with this entry. However…

We went to a French restaurant. I didn’t remember ever going to a French restaurant until my sister reminded me that in Canada my parents had to stop my brother from ordering the snails. This restaurant didn’t offer snails. It did offer steak tartare. So that was my order of choice, knowing that I wouldn’t eat it normally. And then the waiter (cool French accent tinged with Canadian) told me the specials, which included…

banquetasterixWILD BOAR!

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to dine on the same food as Asterix and Obelix, so steak tartare would have to wait for another day.

During the course of the evening I brought up the concept of a Bucket List. It seems that everyone has one. A list of things you have to do before you kick the bucket. I have previously brought up the idea of a post-bucket list – a list of things that I want to achieve after I have kicked the bucket.

But I haven’t really discussed the things that I want to achieve beforehand.

In a blog that deals (in theory) with the concept of success, this seems very remiss. And so, I present to you: THE FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST.

Some of the things on this list are a tad outrageous. Some are completely normal and there’s no real reason why I haven’t done them yet. I want to have a number of items on the list that are achievable. Otherwise, why have a list at all?

A very funny man by the name of Michael Workman (FBTW) made the point that our lives would be a hell of a lot more fulfilling if we swapped our bucket list with our list of daily chores. And so, if we had a bit of spare time left after learning Swahili, we might manage to get some washing done.

I want to do all of the stuff on this list. If I get something done, I’ll let you know. I won’t make it the main focus of the blog. There are hundreds of Bucket List blogs out there. But I thought it was worth a once off. The list will be maintained as a separate page on Finding Damo, and I’ll update my achievements there (for the one or two people that are interested). Until then, however, a look inside the strange wants of Damo, in his search for success in all forms.

finding damo bucket list FINDING DAMO BUCKET LIST

 Fashion

  • Own a purple suit.
  • Make a penguin costume for each member of the family.
  • Make a troll costume.
  • Replace an eye with a computerised copy – an iBall, so to speak.

 Food

  • Snails
  • Witchetty Grubs

 Travel

  • Scotland
  • Ireland
  • England (the rest)
  • France (the rest)

 bucket picturesCreativity

  • Publish a comic strip.
  • Write an app.
  • Make a short film.
  • Make a feature film.
  • Have an amateur play produced (outside of school) – 1 act or full length.

 Fame

  • Get paid to act
  • Achieve, or at least be nominated for, Teacher of the Year.
  • Be an extra
  • Get a novel published (I already have short stories published – thanks to Alfie Dog)
  • Have a YouTube clip go viral
  • Have a play produced professionally

 Learning/Reading/Watching

  • Pull a car apart and put it back together.
  • Learn to play the guitar
  • Learn to play the harmonica
  • Get back up to speed on the piano
  • Read War and Peace
  • Read Gone with the Wind
  • Read Les Miserables

Family

  • Be involved in the creation of biological offspring

Obviously, I am a man of simple needs. Let me know if you can help me achieve any of the above!

Dream a Little Dream of Me. Or badgers. Or Superman.

dreams are strangeCorey Feldman had it good. His character in Dream a Little Dream ran all over his dreamscape, giving out good advice and saying “Heh” a lot. He didn’t have to worry about the streets changing from moment to moment, or giant rats staring at him until he woke up screaming.

Some people are already thinking “dammit. I blog about dreaming. I’m outa here.” And that’s fine. The blog is called Finding Damo, not “Keep everybody entertained all the time”. And one of the things that has consumed my life and fed my imagination since I was a young boy has been my dreams.

Luke, I am your father!

Luke, I am your father!

I have sleep apnoea. I can’t spell it but I have it. I’m not sure when it started, but by the time I was living in Rosebud, it was getting out of control. I was only getting one or two hours of sleep a night, as I would stop breathing when I fell deeply enough asleep which, luckily, woke me up again. It was terrible. I was always tired. I fell asleep in meetings, and when driving.

And I dreamed. A lot.

dream diary lock

If you can open it, you can read it.

Two of my favourite presents ever were given to me by girlfriends. The first was when I was in Japan. Kallie gave me a dream diary. She’d decorated  the inside front cover. The book had a lock and was just awe-inspiring. It wasn’t just a Spellbox book or anything. I’m not sure where she found it, but the book, and the lovely inscription on the inside blew me away. A couple of months later, in an argument, she ripped out the lovely front page and took the book back. Which is why I’m not dating her any more. That amongst other things. But at the time, WOW.

The second was a box to keep my (new) dream diary in. I’d replaced the original with a Spellbox dream diary. Not as impressive as the original, but still, with a nice locking mechanism and decent paper for writing. Melanie made the box for me from scratch. Varnished it, and burnt a design into the top. Now the diary had a home. It was an exceptional achievement and I still love it.

dream diary box

Long before the dream diary, I still wrote down my dreams. I had a yellow notepad that I wrote a lot of dreams into. I even wrote a program in Perl when I was working at Racing Victoria, to catalog the dreams by theme and add more in as I had them. And yes, I had them. Every night was a plethora of images, whizzing through my head. I started writing them down as my conviction that what I dreamed was coming true. So many times I would experience a conversation and say “Wow. I dreamed that!” So, to prove it to myself, I started writing them down, so that I could come back to them when I had that experience again.

I’ve never experienced a moment that I have written down in my dream diary. Bummer.

One that could come true, after my last post:

werewolf dreamBut I’m getting ahead of myself. And the rest of this post is pretty much just an explanation of the dreams I’ve had, how they fit into my life, and what meaning I feel that they had/have. So I’m serious. If you hate being told dreams by your friends, even if they have pictures attached, you probably don’t need to read any further. I’m not going to get overly philosophical. I just want some of this out of my head and out onto a blog. Call it selfish and indulgent, I can handle that. I promise I’ll be more interesting next week.

Here’s the first page (all images clickable for better views):

front page

As it says here, the greatest part of my dreamscape was a place I dubbed Alternate Kyabram. I grew up in Kyabram. I lived in Heathcote, Redesdale, even Canada during my formative years, but from 1983 until 1992 I was in Kyabram. I delivered papers, I explored the back streets with my friends. I imprinted the town onto my brain like a mental brand. And as much as I tried to get away from the place, when I slept, I was back there.

There were a few changes. And streets didn’t always go to the same places. I also dragged in my grandparents’ places from Castlemaine and Kyneton, although sometimes they were the same place. And as I spent more time in Melbourne, there were roads to the city from my little country town.

Here’s the map, and a legend:

dreamscapelegend to dreamscape

here be dinosAs my dreaming was so vivid, I did a lot of reading about it. I tried to convince myself that dreaming was something special. I dream in colour, which is supposedly a sign that you are creative. I have attempted lucid dreaming and astral projection, all after reading about them in books (with no luck, sorry to say). I’ve looked at the meanings of different symbols in dreams. For example, shops and shopping centres are supposed to be a reflection of your subconscious. Next time you dream about being in a shop, take a look at what’s on the shelves. On second thoughts, for some of us, it’s better not to look too closely.

My shop’s shelves are usually filled with books, magazines and toys. What does that say about me?

I really don’t want to go on and on about this. I just wanted to whack up a few fragments. The dreams in the diary start from 2001. There are some transcribed from long before then. The last one is in 2009. When I started using the CPAP machine, my sleep was completely dreamless. I slept solidly from the time my head hit the pillow until I was woken by the alarm clock. By the time my body started to even out and my subconscious started forcing dreams upon me again, I was out of the habit of writing them down. I dream a lot more now, and probably should write them down in the marvelous dream diary once more. But I think that phase of my life is passed now.

This is its eulogy:

click for more.

 

part onepart twopart three

random nightmare

IMG_1119

IMG_1123

It is self-indulgent. I’m not seeing anything that would be interesting to anyone else. I’m going to stop now. Dreaming is an incredible invention of the human race. The number of stories I’ve sucked out of a dream… and then thrown away because basically dreams make absolutely no sense! I have, however, had a couple of dreams that have turned into quite interesting stories. And of course, there is the old stand-by for story creation:

what if…?

And I get a goodly number of “what-if” stories out of my dreams.

Sweet dreams!

Child logic

Cute werewolf. Not scary.

Cute werewolf. Not scary.

NB: Thought I’d try drawing my own pictures instead of taking stuff from the Internet. Don’t know how long it will last, but here goes.

My 8yo step-daughter Ophelia is now completely terrified by werewolves. We were over at her friend’s place and they were watching Michael Jackson video clips (damn you Michael, stop messing with our children, even from beyond the grave). When Thriller came on, she was transfixed by Michael’s yellow eyes and ‘cat ears’. It was clear proof that werewolves existed.

That night (P is for parent. The irresponsible responses were probably me. The thoughtful ones were more likely my wife):
O: I’m not going upstairs alone. The werewolf will get me.
P: There’s no such thing. Go to bed.

(I am a caring step-parent)

O: I can’t. Walk me up.
P: No. Turn on the lights on the way up. You’ll be fine.
O: I can’t. If I reach into the room to turn on the lights, the werewolf will get me.

(Aargh)

P: Monsters are scared of you. Just yell “Shoo monsters!” as you climb the stairs. I’ll watch you.
O: Shoo monsters.
P: Louder!
O: Shoo Monsters!

If it were me, I’d be less than reassured that my mother could see me as I was devoured by monsters.

O: There’s something in the spare room.
P: Then don’t go in there.
O: Duh! I have to go past it to get to my room!

Michael's a dick.

Michael’s a dick.

Of course. With a lot of shoo monstering she was in bed. I say don’t give in to fears like this. But when we came up to tuck her in, shortly afterwards, we quizzed her on the werewolf thing.

P: You know werewolves are made up, don’t you? You’re not worried by zombies.

(By this stage, I’m feeling your judgement. Stop it)

O: Zombies are silly.

(Hooray for Plants vs Zombies)

P: And werewolves?

O: Michael Jackson had those yellow cat eyes. I hate Michael Jackson. Why would he do that?

We explained about contact lenses and makeup. We agreed that Michael Jackson was an idiot.

P: You weren’t scared by the ogres or the spiders in Harry Potter, why are they different?

(Again, stop judging)

O: They were, like, sooo not real.

Seriously? She’s 8. She really says this. No more Winx Club for her. Another point: kudos to Michael, whose 80s werewolf effect was more “real” than state-of-the-art CGI.

This conversation lasted all this week. Every now and then:
O: Are werewolves ambushers or scavengers?
P: Neither. They just run about killing people. Plus, they’re not real.

O: In stories, (clever change of tack) when do werewolves come out?
P: During the full moon. Depending on the story, usually the night before, the night of, the night after. But they’re not real.

O: Is it a full moon tonight?
P: Er, yes, but it doesn’t matter, because werewolves aren’t real.

Good parenting.

Good parenting.

O: How do you become a werewolf?
P: It depends. If you are bitten or scratched by one, you become a werewolf. Otherwise they just eat you.
O: So,  (ignoring the eating bit, thank the gods) how did the first werewolf get made?
P: A curse, usually. Someone annoyed a witch or a god.
O: Oh. Do they live in the city? Cos there’s lots of places here for them to hide.
P: Not really. They prefer forests and open spaces.
O: And they’re people, except for the full moon?
P: Yup. But they’re not real.

O: If I was a werewolf, I’d lock myself up during a full moon so I didn’t kill anyone.
P: That’s what Oz did in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (No, she hasn’t seen Buffy)

P: Ok. Seriously. They aren’t real. What evidence do you have to suggest that they are?
O: We-ell, if they were real, I suppose they’d be on the news.
P: Exactly. Have you seen them on the news?
O: No-o.
P: There you go then.

Of course, there is so much wrong with using that argument to make a point that I can’t even begin. But at this point, I’m not trying to have a discussion about belief or the reliability of the media. I just want her to sleep without all of the lights in the house on.

Werewolves don't do doors.

Werewolves don’t do doors.

O: So, werewolves won’t come into the house?
P: Nope. It’s too much of a hassle. There’s always someone wandering about in the bush or down a deserted road. By the way, could you take the dogs out into the backyard so they can go to the toilet?

My wife, working through the issue, got Ophelia to acknowledge that what she’s afraid of, with werewolves, is that she might die. So the issue is death, not a monthly curse and a diet high in raw meat. And that sounds about right for her age.

Not Me: There you do then. There are lots of other ways to die than by werewolf!

(I had to make sure I wasn’t blamed for that comment)

I’m pretty sure I was that age when I realised I might die and started freaking out at night time, much to the consternation of my parents, I would assume. I don’t remember ever abstracting my fear of death through ghosts or werewolves or anything. I went straight for the hardcore stuff. I mentioned that in an earlier blog.

No. Actually, there was an episode of Greatest American Hero. Our hero was lured into a cave or a dark room and then attacked by vampires. He wash!t invulnerable to them and the attacks in the dark freaked me out completely.

My brother-in-law, when we talked about it yesterday, suggested that “an ogre is always an ogre” but that a werewolf can be anybody. Taking that further, the werewolf has always been a metaphor for the beast in all of us. The ability (and even desire) to lash out and be destructive without being responsible for the actions. The werewolf did it, it wasn’t me.

I was going to use O as an intro to something bigger on fear in general, but this looks like a post in itself. Excellent. Fodder for the next one.

Night night. Don’t let the werewolves bite!

Death Watch – short story interlude.

NB: This is based on a podcast involving Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington. Karl invented a watch that would tell you when you would die (the how of this was never really explored). I loved the idea. This isn’t for publication, but I’m hoping you’ll enjoy this.

2nd NB: I promised that I would start writing a word count for Finding Damo – the novel. I am currently on 8,827 words. Next blog should take me over 9k!

The story:

It was with a certain understandable resignation that Gordon pulled himself out of bed on the morning of his death. It was, he decided, not a good day to die. His head throbbed (aneurism?), his teeth felt as though he’d brushed his teeth with a hamster (poisoning?) and his stomach was roiling uncomfortably (oh gods no, not botulism!). He swung his legs off the bed and sat with his elbows on his knees and his hands over his face, trying to raise the willpower to stand up.

Just under ten hours. He stared blearily at the Pilkington on his wrist. Numbers counted down merrily, mocking him with every cheerful flicker.

9:45.56
9:45.55
9:45.54… 53… 52…

‘Rmph,’ Gordon said. Just under ten hours, and he was wasting time feeling sorry for himself. He had places to be.

After showering and brushing his teeth, Gordon felt better about the day. Not good, but better. His Pilkington Deathwatch had been warning him for weeks that today was the day, so he’d had plenty of time to prepare. His affairs were in order. His lawyer had his will. He’d told everybody he loved that he loved them (it was a depressingly short list). He’d sold his house and with the proceeds, bought himself a first class flight to Sydney to spend the last hours of his life with a girl whose online dating profile said she ‘wanted to hold a man while he died in her arms’. It seemed as good a way to go as any, unless he really did have botulism. But it was unlikely. He felt fine.

Actually, physically, he felt fantastic. There was no dizziness. No more headache. No unexplained aches or twitches. His pulse was within normal parameters. He left his hotel room for the last time in fine form, hopped into the waiting taxi and stared at his life ticking away as the vehicle whipped through the traffic to the airport (horrible car crash? No, too early).

8:23.23… 22… 21…

The taxi driver glanced at him and grunted sympathetically.

‘Last day?’ he asked. Gordon nodded. ‘I always wanted one of those. You know, way I drive? They just too damn expensive. Have you got long? I slow down?’

‘Eight hours and change,’ Gordon said. ‘I assume that means we’re safe.’

‘True. Of course, you maybe only badly hurt, and die later on of complications.’ Gordon heartily wished the driver hadn’t brought up that possibility.

‘Maybe you should slow down a bit then,’ he said. The driver obliged, but soon was back up to his regular breakneck speed, dodging into gaps that really weren’t big enough to fit a cab.

They reached the airport in record time, arriving at the drop off area just as the Pilkington hit eight hours. Gordon’s pulse was definitely over the recommended limits by now and the tip he gave the driver was more thanks for getting him there alive than for the quality of the service.

He had two hours until his flight. With one hour in the air and one hour in the taxi at the other end, that left him four hours with which to spend with the compassionate Carol and her loving arms. He took his time going through security and was escorted to the First Class lounge where he was given a glass of wine and a bowl of peanuts (late onset anaphylaxis?). He picked up a magazine from the pile in front of him and settled back to wait.

Forty-five minutes later (7:02.43… 42…) there was a ping from the departures board and all of the numbers shuffled around. Gordon lowered his magazine and watched with growing dismay as large red letters appeared on the screen next to his flight number.

DELAYED.

No need to stress, he thought. Delayed could be just half an hour. Maybe an hour. Even two would be ok, if Carol was less than worried about the niceties. There was no modified time of departure. He tried to get interested in the article in front of him – something about salt-mining – but his eye was repeatedly drawn to the departures board and that crimson statement:

DELAYED.

Finally, realising he wasn’t going to be able to relax, he stood up and went over to an obliging host.

‘Do you have any idea what’s happening with the plane to Sydney?’ Gordon asked. The host smiled broadly, for no apparent reason.

‘Let me see what I can find out for you, sir!’ He tapped at a computer. His smile faltered somewhat. He picked up a radio, turned his back on me and mumbled into the receiver. I could see the tension forming in his neck as he talked. I almost sympathised. Airline passengers are a cranky lot at the best of times. Having to deal with First Class airline passengers when something goes wrong would be a challenging job in anyone’s view.

And then the Pilkington caught his eye.

6:46.34… 33… 32…

and all sympathy evaporated. He watched the host take a deep breath and turn around, smile fixed firmly on his face.

‘Well, sir…’ he began, but Gordon was having none of it. He shoved his watch in the host’s face.

‘Do you see this? This is my life, slowly ticking away. I have spent an absolute fortune to ensure that I am in the lap of luxury in well under three hours. Her name is Carol. What’s going on?’

‘I am sorry, sir. Honestly I am. There is a fault with the plane. There is no way we will be able to get you to Sydney before. Well, you know.’

‘Are there any other flights? This isn’t an optional experience here. I have been planning this for weeks!’

‘I’m afraid not, sir. The football finals mean that all flights from Melbourne to Sydney are completely booked out. However,’ he added, rustling beneath the desk, ‘given the timely nature of your, er, imminent passing, this might interest you.’ He handed Gordon a brochure, blushing slightly as he did so. Gordon took the brochure, curious in spite of himself.

Join the MILE HIGH club.

‘Die up High,’ Gordon read. ‘This better have something to do with drugs, because if you’re suggesting I spend the last moments of my life in a damn aeroplane, I shall slap you with this brochure.’

‘Some people think it’s a novel experience,’ protested the host, backing away from the counter slightly.

‘You certainly can only do it once,’ Gordon said. ‘So you’re telling me, there’s absolutely no way that I can get to Sydney this afternoon?’

‘I’m afraid not,’ said the host.

‘And I don’t suppose you’ll refund my ticket?’

‘I, ah, well, it says quite specifically in the Terms and Conditions…’ The man was perspiring now. He was dealing with a man with nothing to lose, and Gordon was sure he was cursing whoever added the ‘foreknowledge of death’ clause to the standard terms of the flight booking.

‘Of course it does. Oh settle down. I have no intention of leaping the counter and making you eat this brochure,’ Gordon snapped.

6:43.12… 11… 10…

Yet, he thought.

What to do, he wondered, going back to his seat. He looked up at the host, who was now dealing with another irate would-be-flyer. He could, he supposed, go on a rampage and take as many people with him as he could (death by police shooting while force-feeding pamphlets to a sweating airport worker? Implausible at best). He could take up the airline on their Mile High experience, dying above the clouds in first class. Or he could just go home and die alone, to be found – oh no, wait. He had no home. He didn’t even have a hotel room any more. He looked at the watch with sudden fury.

‘It’s all your fault!’ he hissed at the inanimate object. ‘I didn’t need to know when I would die! Without you, I would be at work, massaging random strangers, and I’d just drop dead of – well, whatever, when the time came. Face-plant into a warm nest of sweaty, pliant, naked rich person. What a way to go.’ Given that alternative, he was happier to be in a First Class lounge at a top notch airport, even if he was going to miss out on Carol. He turned to pick up his glass of wine and almost eskimo-kissed the red-faced man whose face was only millimetres away from his own and who was now staring into his eyes with an expression that could best be described as ‘frantic’.

‘Are you dying today?’ asked the man. His breath was more alcohol than carbon dioxide, and Gordon placed a hand firmly on his chest and pushed him away. Unfortunately, this was Gordon’s watch arm, and the man grabbed his wrist and squinted at the Pilkington. ‘Aha!’

‘What? Why? Let go!’ Gordon said, pulling his hand back. ‘Everybody is more than unusually interested in my death today!’

‘Ah, but it’s not jusht yourrr death, y’see?’ the man said in a drunken slur. ‘Look’t this.’ He held out his arm, displaying his own Pilkington. Gordon read the screen on the device, somewhat unwillingly.

6:42.33… 32… 31.

Surprised, he brought his own Pilkington up beside his accoster’s.

His:

6:42.38…37…36

The drunken man’s:

6:42.25…24…23

‘Well, that’s a coincidence!’ Gordon said with forced brightness. To be honest, the whole concept of dying was starting to be more trouble than it was worth.

‘Co-IN-shidensh?’ the man shouted, drawing looks from around the lounge. ‘Thish is no co-IN-shidensh!’ He was waving his arms around and overbalanced, falling into Gordon and knocking both of their glasses onto the ground. Gordon jumped to his feet.

‘Right. I’m getting out of here!’ he said, and walked up to the counter. ‘If I can’t die in the arms of poor sweet Carol, I may as well try and find someone closer to home.’ A hand clutched his arm. Not again, he thought. The woman next to him was deathly pale, her breathing shallow.

‘Did you say die?’ she said in a high, frightened voice. Sighing, Gordon held up his Pilkington. The woman glanced at it, looked back at his face, and then shrieked and grabbed his wrist. She held up her own. Another Pilkington, of course.

Hers:

6:40.58

His:

6:40.55

Gordon frowned. He gestured at the by now very flustered host.

‘Exactly when are we expected to fly into Sydney?’ Gordon asked, pretty sure he knew the answer.

‘Um,’ said the man, looking at the big company-logo clock on the wall. ‘I would say, if the new schedule is correct, you would land in just under seven hours.’ (fiery explosion due to malfunctioning plane. Ding!) The woman who would share his fate slumped to the floor, her eyes rolled back. The drunk man, listening in from behind, vomited into his wine glass. Gordon sighed once more and turned to the people waiting in the airport lounge.

‘Apparently,’ he said, ‘the flight to Sydney will be met by some calamity involving the death of myself, this gentlemen behind me and the reclining woman below.’ He held up his Pilkington. ‘I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I fully intend to find another way to spend my last hours. I recommend you do the same.’

The first class lounge host was on the phone, yelling into the receiver for security. Gordon picked up his bag and left the first class lounge, dodging panicked rich people as they stampeded for the exit. He looked at his Pilkington. It now read:

21y, 2m, 21d 18:23.12… 11… 10…

(heart attack? Oh, who cares?)

‘Interesting,’ he mused, as the security guards rushed past him and into the lounge. ‘Very interesting.’ He slipped the watch off his wrist and into his pocket and then pulled out his mobile phone. He texted Carol, letting her know he wouldn’t make their date this afternoon, but that if she ever made it to Melbourne, he’d love to catch up. He really didn’t expect a response.

Darkest Knight

20120723-141703.jpg

Every now and then something happens that just typifies the fears of humanity. The shooting in the last week during Dark Knight Rises contains all of the elements necessary to live forever in the public consciousness. But if James Holmes thinks he’ll be famous forever, he’s in for a rude shock. I had to look up his name to write this, and in a month from now, he’ll only be recognised by trivia buffs and criminology students.

As for the massacre, you couldn’t script it better, and from the sounds of it, this madman may just have done that.

1. Set the scene –

Just shy of the location of the Columbine massacres, this just further fuels the fire of the gun debate.

2. Reference and using the mass media –

“I am the Joker” he says. Choosing Batman as his target allows for decades of quotes and sinister gadgets. And firing on a movie theatre – Going to the movies is a hyper-real situation at the best of times. You give up on reality for a couple of hours and experience extremes in emotion in a safe environment. IN A SAFE ENVIRONMENT. Interviews with people in the cinema said that at the beginning, patrons thought the whole thing was a publicity stunt.

3. The careful planning of premeditation –

This guy had spent weeks in the preparation of the movie event of the year. He had legally acquired the guns and ammunition that he used. He had a gun license. He rigged his house with bombs so that anybody coming to investigate would be killed as well. He rigged a music system to start blaring at about the same time he hit the cinema, hoping that someone would open the door to turn off the music. He had tear gas bombs to stop people from escaping. It was a comic book plan created in real life.

4. The condemnation of his mother –

“I knew it was him.” His mother was waiting for the phone call saying that he was the murderer when she heard about the event. Nobody was surprised that he had done this.

The horror just came out, episode after episode, comic issue after issue, every time we looked at the newspaper or on the web. The condemnation was universal and Nolan and co. were the first to put out official statements. Nolan would be nervous as hell! When I type Dark Knight into Google, the first entry is show times for Melbourne. The second is a list of articles on the shooting. A link to the first article I picked.

20120723-141108.jpgJames Holmes – dark hair dyed flame-red – will live on in the memories of bad movies, sick jokes and documentaries on gun control. But who will remember him outside “that guy who shot up a cinema”? And apparently, everyone with the name James Holmes – they are being victimised on Facebook and Twitter.

What disturbed me was the number of kids in the audience. And that’s not because they got killed. Nolan’s Batman is not for kids!

Oh, and the other reports attached to the first article:

20120723-140706.jpg

I wouldn’t have added it, but for the McDonalds article.

WoooOOOOOOoooooo!

This little titbit is another one of those “I keep hearing this in completely unrelated forums, so I feel like I should make mention of it” news items. In this case, it is the Loch Ness Monster. It started with Dave showing me photos from his trip to Scotland, and his trip to Loch Ness. Unfortunately, he didn’t get a shot of the famous Nessie, but it put the creature in my head. Then my step-daughter was telling me how the Loch Ness monster is actually a dinosaur. My gentle assertion that the correct phrasing was more along the lines of “could be a plesiosaur if it actually existed” were met with the scorn it deserved. Finally, from two different sources, the final being Kevin Smith’s Smodcast, I hear that in America, the education department is funding a text book for schools that states that the Loch Ness Monster is real, is probably a plesiosaur (dammit, foiled by a 7 year old again), and its existence proves that evolution is false.

Socrates would have a field day with the logic involved in that one!

From here, I have a real Sliding Doors blog moment. Or a Trousers of Time scenario. Or a Community dice roll.

Depending on where I go from here could mean the difference between being picked up by a major newspaper or wallowing forever in obscurity. Or ending up evil, or with only one arm. Here are the options:

  •  Trouser leg one: from here, I go on to talk about education and the teacher stereotypes that are prevalent in the media, compared to those that are prevalent in my ten years of teaching.
  • Trouser leg two: from here, I go on to talk about all of the weird and wonderful things in this world, which ones I believe in and which ones are absolute rubbish.
  • Trouser leg three (I’m Jake the Peg, diddle-iddle-iddle um) – there is NO leg three. Although I’m going to do a blog soon on being a sudden parent, in order to stay within the realms of the Finding Damo universe.

Shooting myself in the foot – career-wise – I’m going to go with spooks and the unexplained.

We love Ghost Kitty

Girls With Slingshots – another great web comic

The other night, I had a dream that my brother was only a child – say about ten years old. He had a red parka on with the hood up and I couldn’t see his face. He was autistic. He was playing in the playground and fell over. I ran over to help him up and to hug him better and he pushed me away because he didn’t like being touched. It broke my heart. I woke up sobbing and it took me a good five minutes before I could wake up enough to realise it was just a dream, calm down and go back to sleep. I’m not sure what Shereen thought. She was very sympathetic. When we were talking about it the next morning, I said that if we found out she was pregnant any time soon I’d be highly nervous following that dream.

We are still largely ignorant of the universe we live in. There are thousands of strange and unsettling occurrences that – well, that occur – every day. Some people say that they can explain it, WITH SCIENCE! but they often just ignore the element that isn’t explained.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if Shereen had been pregnant and a doctor had told me that the baby would be born autistic. Because I’d dreamt it. I might have been surprised if they doctor had told me that the baby was made out of strawberry icecream, and I’ve dreamt that as well. But I’m quite happy to believe that I had a prescient dream.

I mean seriously, who wouldn’t be? It means that I’m a super hero! I can see the future! The day that I stop dreaming is the day I can tell the Prime Minister that the world is about to end! If I ever dreamed of tattslotto numbers I’d be set for life!
Of course, that’s rubbish. I seem to get déjà vu more than the average person. I remember dreaming it and then it comes true. Or I just live an incredibly boring life where I do the same thing over and over again, and have shocking short term memory. But I’m not dreaming true dreams, and don’t place a lot of credence in the words of other people who say that they do.

But I believe it’s possible. I just haven’t done it yet.

True dreaming. Out of body experiences. Aliens, ghosts and poltergeists, clairvoyants, past lives, the yeti and the panther living in the Rushworth forest. I’m quite happy to believe in all of these things. They aren’t outside the realm of possibility. They’re as plausible as God, heaven, guardian angels and the like, and some people get quite upset when you laugh at those beliefs.

OK, ghosts. That I can give a little more personal experience about. I have two personal ghost stories and one that I’m going to butcher because I can’t remember it properly. I think it comes from one of Shay’s friends, so Shay, if you remember the conversation, feel free to weigh in via the comments.

Ghost story no. 1:

I was living at the Terraces in Bendigo. Every Tuesday, I’d walk over the hill in the dark to where Mark lived to watch Star Trek: TNG. And then I’d walk back much later at night over the same hill. At the top of the hill one night I noticed a pure white cat sitting in front of a car wheel. As Death says: CATS. I LIKE CATS. So I watched it. It watched me. As I walked past the car, it should have passed beyond my line of sight behind the wheel – it was just sitting there looking at me. To my shock, I realised that I could still see the cat, through the wheel of the car. Now it was slightly transparent, but it was still there.

I kept walking. I never saw it again. It could have been a trick of the eyes, but that’s my story.

Ghost story no. 2:

I’d just broken up with Cath, back when she was still Cath. We were civil, outwardly friendly, but there was still a bit of stress there in the relationship. She was flatting with Dave in Middleborough Road, a brilliant house that we almost destroyed in the time we lived there. Those two stayed in the same place for another… year? after I left. I was back for a visit and stayed out in the lounge. During the night I woke up and stared into the face and torso of an old man staring back at me out of the roof. I felt the thrill of fear but he wasn’t threatening. He seemed more evaluative. He was trying to get a measure of me. When I sat up, he faded.

I told Cath about him the next day and she said “Mmm. I know him. He looks after me at night. He’s very protective.” To top that off, I emailed a clairvoyant who dealt with ghosts and spirits. She emailed back saying “Oh yes, that’s the man who used to own the place. He’s looking after Cath and he has always been a little bit curious about you. He never quite trusted you in your relationship with her. He isn’t threatening, just curious. He watches you on the loo, cos he liked to read there too.”

Quite apart from being freaked out by the fact that a ghost is watching me on the loo, I hadn’t told her most of that information, so it was an impressive feat of either ghost whispering or making stuff up.

Ghost story no. 3:

This one is absolutely freaky. But it was ages ago, and I’m not sure if I can tell it properly. It happened to a friend of a friend of mine… But the friend experienced a number of the ghostly symptoms, so I give it a lot more credence. OK, let’s see what I can get out.

This girl’s boyfriend lived in a flat. He experienced a number of elements of a haunting – The lights would turn on and off by themselves. The taps would turn on when he left the room. There was a cold patch in the lounge, directly under the fan. He loved it. A haunted flat. And then, somehow, he found out what had happened. The guy who’d been there beforehand had committed suicide after his girlfriend had died (I’m making up the reason, but he committed suicide). After he found out, the spirit started to get angry. Objects would move around the room. My friend’s friend (the girlfriend) was hit with a glass one day when she visited. And then the guy had a dream where he died, hanging from the fan like the man who’d died in the flat. It wasn’t fun any more.

He started to look for a new place. He started to get angry very quickly. He withdrew, argued with his girlfriend. One morning, his girlfriend came over and he didn’t answer the door or his phone. You know where this is going. He was hanging from the fan, attached by his belt around his neck.

I can’t explain that one. I have another friend whose ghostly companion follows her from house to house. There are hundreds of stories out there. You can’t explain them all. Oh, you could say they’re lying, deluded, psychotic or mad. There are atmospheric anomalies and magnetic disturbances and the like.

But for now, I’ll keep an open mind.

Remember Alfie Dog and my stories. Apparently they’re selling well. Thank you to everybody who as supported me.

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