Finding Damo

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

Archive for the category “family”

Pokemon Go.

me in a PokeballI wanted to look at this issue from two perspectives – me the blogger and me the teacher (who is also a blogger). So I’ll put something up here and then do something similar but slightly different over on the PerryPerrySource.net – and then link the two.

Pokemon Go was an incredible effort by Niantic. A year ago, it exploded into the public consciousness. We took over Lilydale Lake chasing Dratini. We scared the penguins down at the St Kilda pier and got shot at by the owner of the Glen Waverley Golf Club while chasing Charmander.

Finding Damo and his buddyLooking at my buddy stats, with one of my Pokemon buddies, I walked over 300km, and that’s just one of many Pokemon companions I have had over the year.

It has been really exciting to see the evolution of the game from a buggy, crashing mess to a completely different buggy, crashing mess.

I kid. The stability of the game has improved out of sight.

I understand that Niantic completely underestimated the impact that PoGo would have on the world. They couldn’t deal with the influx of customers. And then they couldn’t deal with the tracker they had implemented. And then they couldn’t deal with the spoofers and hackers and cheaters who flooding the game with fake names and hugely inflated Pokemon.

When Niantic decided to do a huge event to celebrate the first year of PoGo, I predicted that it wouldn’t go well. I hoped that it would, but I assumed that it wouldn’t. Sure enough, the phone towers couldn’t handle the traffic, people who had flown in from all over the world were left high and dry and the lawsuits have begun.

I want to say “It’s just a game, get over it.” But it seems like more than that. Niantic wanted to create a phenomenon. They created a phenomenon. And they let it loose on the world without any way to control it.

I’m still playing a year later. I take my family on raiding parties to catch legendary Pokemon. We go on long walks to hatch eggs and incidentally explore and discover new places. It’s like playing a board game or participating in a family activity. We’re spending time together, being active and having fun.

I really want to see what comes next. The Harry Potter AR (PottAR?) game seems to be on the cards. There’s a fantastic-looking horror game that uses your phone, although it seems to have been lost in development hell. And there are a HEAP of other AR games that were already well established before PoGo reared up out of nowhere, including Niantic’s own Ingress. There’s a market for augmented reality. With Trump running a country, we need to insert a bit of fantasy over the top of the weirdness that is real life.

TrumPokemon

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To the future…

I used StumbleUpon and hit upon this site.

The idea that you send a message to your distant descendants in the future. All of the messages will be whooshed off into space, or into a time capsule, or buried in mud, or something. I didn’t read that bit very closely.

Here’s what I wrote:

a drawing of meI really hope that you know the name Damian Perry as having done something great. Or at least recognisable. Or at least not infamous.

leaving earth angryI hope that you left the planet of your own choice and not because we ruined it for you. If not, I am truly sorry for my generation’s actions.

this is a horseFinish this sentence: a horse walked into a bar and the bartender said: _________________________

Look up the lumberjack song. If you don’t know Monty Python, you should.

Read Terry Pratchett.

Read Shakespeare.

If you’ve invented time travel, come back and say hello.

cats and dogs are coolWe do some stupid things to the planet, but one that I don’t regret is having pets. We have dogs and cats and they make your life so much more bearable. I know they aren’t great for the carbon footprint, but they are good for the soul. Goldfish, not so much.

Does Apple still exist? What number iPhone are they up to?

Do they still talk about 2016 as one of the worst years ever?

Watch Star Wars.

Watch Casablanca.

Watch them as movies, and not as holograms or dreams or whatever they’re using for entertainment these days. I’m pretty sure Empire Strikes Back is still the best of the series, no matter what Disney does to the franchise.

I don’t care how plugged in to technology you are, it is absolutely vital that you get out and play. Being bored is essential for creativity. Paint something, draw something. Use your hands instead of a machine. Sing. Dance. Let your imagination take you somewhere you can’t get using a computer.

come back and visit in your time machineIs Doctor Who still around? Who is your favourite Doctor?

Definitely come back and say hi. I’m sure they’ll have time travel by your time.

Don’t use transporters, because there’s no guarantee that your soul will be transported along with your body. Seriously. Think about it.

transporters steal your soul

The real you is turned into computer information. A dead-inside clone appears on the other side. YOU ARE NOW DEAD.

Have fun. See you soon,

Damian.

Swear Jar

Captain Haddock swearingWhen I was in primary school, we had a pretty good idea what would get us in trouble, language wise. Bum wasn’t ok. Bloody was out of the question. I didn’t even know about the big three until about grade five or six.

I didn’t swear in front of my parents until I started driving. That did it, no problems. When you have the whole family in the car and you’re driving through Bendigo and you aren’t particularly confident and then someone cuts you off- well, the F bomb made an appearance.

My parents never swore in front of us either. Justin and Elise might have different memories, but I can’t remember them ever losing control and firing off one of the big ones. It might be because they were both teachers. I know it’s good for my self-control.

Nowadays swearing seems to be a lot more prevalent, especially among children.

Warning: this post will probably contain a LOT more swearing than is usual. I swear (haha) that it is in the context of the discussion. Sometimes I’ll bleep it out. Sometimes I’ll let it go. You have been warned.

A good introduction to modern speech patterns in today’s children is this:

I was doing bus duty at the end of the day, early in my teaching career when a Prep kid came screaming up the pathway after another kid, screaming “YOU F***ING C***!”

Jaw dropped, I jumped in and stopped this lovely five-year-old.

“Whoa! That’s not ok language! What’s wrong?”

“She called my mother a slut!” the girl sobbed, “and she’s not a slut. She’s a stripper!”

Well, what do you say to that? We’ve gone up a notch from not being able to say bum in Prep to this.

The swearing was so bad in my homeroom (of year 9 and 10 students) that I implemented a swear jar. You swear, you put money in the Project Compassion box. I’m pretty sure we won the charity competition that year.

Smurf YouThe follow up was to try and get them to use something else instead of the swear words. I had some pretty good success with smurfs. Smurfs use it to great effect, so I figured my homeroom could be equally as vague. Swearing dropped dramatically. Smurfing was as frequent as ever. I had to talk to them about intent after hearing “What the smurf do you want you smurfing smurfer? I will smurf you right up!”

When it comes to my own family we’re pretty good. I am a bit of an ogre over swearing. I believe that childhood should be a time of innocence, where things like swearing aren’t part of a child’s vocabulary. I am offended by kids swearing. I’m sure I’m not the only one. Given that, I’d prefer that a child finds a better way of expressing themselves. There’s plenty of time for swearing later.

That’s the background for this:

We were sitting at the table for dinner. My wife said that something was pretty shitty.

“Swear jar,” I said.

“Shitty isn’t a swear word!”

“Yes it bloody is!”

“OK then, put in a dollar for bloody!”

“Bloody isn’t a swear word!”

And so, like all good debates, I took it to Facebook. And WOW did it ever go mad from there. Ten pages in Word when I copied and pasted it to write this. Swearing is an issue wrapped up in political correctness and seasoned with the censorship debate.

Here’s what I posted:

What started it all

“Give me a list of words that would cause a donation to the swear jar. Put each word in its own comment. Like the words you agree with.

“Also point out ones you think are flat out OK in today’s society (OK for ten year olds)”

The first cab off the rank was the c bomb, followed up with “probably literally any racial slur”

“And now I wait gleefully for status comments that are just people swearing.”

And swear they did.

The first list of inappropriate swear words

  • The f bomb
  • Bugger (they need to understand what the word means)
  • Bastard
  • Bugger
  • Slut
  • Bitch
  • N*gger
  • Poofter
  • Faggot
  • Dickhead
  • Tony Abbott

Most of these from a wonderful person I had as a student teacher a few years ago. Teachers know ALL the bad words.

From here the list stopped and the discussion began. The argument was broken into these ideas:

  • Words have no specific “wrongness”. The context is what’s important.
  • Different cultures have different concepts of what is ok.
  • Swearing isn’t as bad as “inappropriate use of language”
  • Making it illegal makes it attractive.

In general, we agreed that the use of racial slurs and words that denigrate women should be out straight off the bat. They are over used in society but don’t add to society.

Insulting someone by calling them a female body part does nothing to advance the status of women in society. And still Australians complain about Muslim women wanting to wear head coverings in our country because it’s denigrating to women (yeah, that’s why you want them to stop wearing them). When you stop calling someone a whiny little bitch, I’ll listen to your argument.

Alternatives to swearing came up. My smurf idea was one. Words like ‘numpty’ and Sugar Honey Ice Tea, pickles or cheesesndwhiskers, muppet or donkey, and of course the really good ones like smeg and frack – to show that you’ve raised your child to be a proper sci-fi nerd.

Here are some of the more poignant remarks, names cut out to protect the swearmongers (some are colour linked – those who consistently got involved):

“Any word is a swear word in the right context. I think kids need to learn appropriate use not that language is bad. Shakespeare used c***. I find it less offensive than the word Muslim in some people’s mouths. Teach her respect and let her have a word for when she stubs her toe. The rest is out of your hands.”

“I love this perspective a lot! Still, I don’t think “Shakespeare used the word c***” is going to fly in front of her principle at school so it’s that odd balance of societal expectations and developing a good respectful kid.”

“Truly, swearing is about context and culture. The utterance of a culture’s deity in one geography wouldn’t raise an eyelid, yet would condemn you to death in others.”

“Is a list of words really what you need here? At 10 she is most likely smart enough to know when she’s offending someone, which should probably be all the criteria she needs. A simple ‘inappropriate use of language’ jar should suffice, with you being the judge of what is inappropriate in the given context. I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if one of my kids dropped an f bomb after a big fright or something, but have definitely pulled them up for referring to a sibling as a bitch.”

“And with that criteria you can handle all those violations of the Queen’s English too.”

“Take each instance on merit. Stubbed toe and swear, we all do. Walking around peppering her speech with cussing to get a reaction, explain why it’s not really the done thing and leave her choose. Don’t demonize words though. As soon as you make anything naughty it has appeal. Making swearing taboo could also limit her feeling she can come to you with issues surrounding language… like body shaming or slut shaming as it’s not swearing but the language is really more inappropriate than a good ‘Oh shit’. If adults have an issue with the use of a word, that’s about them. Take the power away from the word, give the power [to your child] and back yourselves in, because we’re all human, we all pick our nose, fart, chew with our mouth open and swear.”

Me: “No we bloody don’t! There are plenty of ways to express ourselves that don’t involve swearing. She has the rest of her life to swear. For now, she can make an effort and find better ways to respond to situations. It’s about control. If you have enough control over a situation that you can choose a response, that’s a step in the right direction.”

“I completely agree with you Daimo on this one. It is all about self-control and also respect. [We as parents] could swear til the cows come home but we choose not to and I expect the kids to learn the same self-control and respect. That’s not to say I don’t utter certain words under my breath out of earshot at times.”

“Any word can be a swear word. Learning where, rather than what, is what I’d aim for.”

“When followed by a snigger, any of the following might be inappropriate: moist, 69, erection, hard, hump… gotta love the english language”

“Oooh ‘language, #snigger”

Do you allow exceptions for extenuating circumstances:

Warning: Explicit content

Warning: Explicit content

This you’d get a timeout from game. It’s gratuitous swearing and bad sportsmanship. This can be controlled. Damian this is where the respect comes in, not the inevitable slip up we all make at times.

Me: There are slip ups, which is why we have the swear jar. That’s “oops, put a dollar in the jar”. Then there are blatant uses like above, which require a more specific consequence.

I think it should be less a “swear jar than an “unimaginative words jar” – there are much better words you can use to express yourself than these, these are nasty and no one should use them. I like the idea of having a list of other more useful words. In science at school I always make my students write out the lab safety rules, but they have to write them out without using negative language – they can’t use the words don’t, no, prohibited, etc. So the rules become things they can choose to do, safe choices to make, rather than just things not to do.

Research into the hypoalgesic effect of swearing has shown that the use of profanity can help reduce the sensation of pain. This phenomenon is particularly strong in people who do not use such words on a regular basis.

I swear like a trooper as you know Damo but the kids still know not to, at least in front of adults, teachers etc, I’m not sure if they swear to their friends.

P.S My parents never swore, I’m calling it a social experiment to see how the kids end up but at 8 and 10 no probs yet.

I’m against f**king censorship ??

Me: Then don’t f**k it

At this point in the conversation my wife wanted me to explain that our daughter is wonderful and doesn’t swear at all and this is more about us parents. More specifically, she thinks shitty is ok and I think bloody is ok and we both think the other person’s word should go in the swear jar.

Can I add “gay” and “retard” – those four words (including the two in the comments above) are the words that I find most offensive (and I have a fondness for the expletive).

Gay is a perfectly reasonable word to use, even when describing a person’s sexuality, unless it’s done in a negative way.

Unfortunately, “gay” is more likely used in an offensive manner these days, than in its correct form. As per above – it isn’t the word, it is the way in which it is used.

Damian Perry: Seriously, what you just said was totally gay.

Damian Perry: By which I mean totally spot on and fantastic.

Damian Perry: …I’m taking it back.

LOL

Yes, the word gay is misused but if you stomp on its usage completely then I think you have made a mistake. My kids sometimes pull me up when I use the word black to identify a person with dark skin. I ask them “why? Is it bad to be black or something?”. Same with the word gay – are you banning its usage because it is bad to be gay? I would simply stick to objecting to when the word is used in a negative way, and embrace it when used correctly.

I like that idea on principle however, I have lost track of the number of times I have heard kids referring to everything they don’t like or agree with as “that’s so gay” (cue eyeroll)

I’m not into swearing but refuse to make it attractive by making it naughty to the kids. It’s hard enough getting them to clean their rooms without having to clean their mouths too. (My giving them permission has worked well but I still try to lead by example.)

F**kin' Swear JarIt was a fantastic discussion. Most importantly, in the end, I’m pretty sure that the consensus was that, if we were allowed to have a swear jar at all, bloody would be ok and shitty would be a dollar in the jar.

So that’s bloody brilliant.

2015

Everybody has to write one of these, don’t they?

Let’s see. What happened in 2015? It might be just writing at this time of the year, but in my head, the year was categorised by stress. Which is weird, because in 2014 I:

  • wrote two plays,
  • performed in two productions,
  • published and launched my first novel,
  • completed a certificate III in Game Design,
  • holidayed in Halls Gap,
  • turned 40 and was painted into the TARDIS,
  • created a CGI opening for the school production which almost killed me,
  • saw my daughter perform at the Melbourne Arts Centre,
  • had our first cancer scare with our dog Amy and then
  • lost my grandfather to cancer (which doesn’t seem that long ago).

2015They were huge things, and very draining. And still, I finished this year completely shattered and I’m just getting out of it now, after a good few days down at Dromana soaking in the ocean (my calm down place). My 2015 list on the face of it is much longer. This year I:

  • Wrote a book starring my daughter as a werewolf
  • Saw They Might Be Giants (again)
  • Watched my lovely wife graduate from university
  • Ran the school radio show and podcast for a year
  • Spent a week in Sydney
  • Ramped up the school 3D printing program
  • Started learning to program in Python
  • Got my debating team into the finals
  • Had a number of articles published in educational journals
  • Had a reunion of the Five
  • Fixed the shower head
  • Ran the sound for Macbeth
  • Wrote half a dozen stories for a sequel to Dwarves in Space and found them mostly awful
  • Discovered Netflix and Stan and Presto
  • Had a Marvel Universe movie marathon
  • Went to a number of art galleries
  • Attended a few Guides functions
  • Started an educational blog
  • Read the Harper Lee sequel nobody thought would ever happen
  • Flew in a very old bi-plane
  • Finished my wedding video – three years on
  • Celebrated Grandma’s 90th

And that’s just the ones that come to mind going back through my photo gallery. Of those, they were all incredibly positive, life affirming and creative pursuits, which didn’t bring me down in the slightest. So why am I so mentally exhausted?

I think all that I can say is: don’t get involved in politics in the workplace. Just do your own job as well as you can and let what’s up top run itself.

I just wish I believed that was a good idea. Anyway, as always, I promise I will write more in 2016. And I have actual things in place to make that happen. AND I did actually write a lot in 2015 – just not on FindingDamo.

Friends

I’ve got the theme song going through my head right now. And now you do too. Ha! Ear worm.

friends logoMy lovely wife and I went to a wedding on the weekend. As I get older and more introverted, I find myself dreading weddings. You know the deal: turn up, hang about near the church making small talk, sit through a ceremony, hang around for ages until the reception and hope to God that you’ve been placed on a table with either someone you know or someone interesting.

This wedding was an absolute delight. The bride and bride were lovely, the rain miraculously held off for the outdoor ceremony. And we were there with a bunch of people who were incredibly easy and fun to chat with. These were friends of Shereen’s, through our daughter’s last school, so she doesn’t see them as often as she used to, and I rarely see them at all. But the conversation was easy and stimulating. We laughed a lot and chatted over a number of different topics.

Which is lovely, but not my point (when is my opening ramble ever on topic?).

Shereen met these people because her daughter went to the same school as their kids.

Now, there’s a bit of a cultural crossover here, in that they lived in a similar area and sent their kids to the same school, so they would have some common interests and values. And of course, Shereen isn’t friends with all of the parents at the school, so that limits it even further. But I found it interesting that they became and remained friends through that limited commonality.

And that probably says more about me than anything else.

I don’t make friends easily. I have lots of people that I like and hang out with. Lots of people that I call friends, and if you want to go by Facebook, hundreds of friends that I don’t even hang out with. But the people that really matter to me – those that are an extension of my family in a lot of ways – are few.

I have those that I met through family as a child. A few from high school. A few more from my first university degree. Some from my second stint at Latrobe. A small select group that I met through other friends. A tiny smidge of people that I am friends with because of my jobs. Oh, and some Pratchett people.

That’s actually not a bad number, once I go through it in my head.

I think I have eight people who would help me bury a body. One of those is my wife, and she’s only up for it under certain circumstances. One isn’t as good a friend but would just be up for burying a body. That leaves six friends in the body burying category. Of those, two wouldn’t judge and the other six might need a bit more explanation.

friends2

I’m not counting family here, because being family means being willing to drive out into the forest and bury a body. You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your psychopathic relatives.

Why are we friends? What happened that meant that we got to a point where I could show up in the middle of the night with a canvas wrap and a shovel? It’s not just because they like Red Dwarf and Star Trek. It can’t be just that we’ve spent x amount of time stuck in the same place together. I’m pretty sure it’s not just teachers and computer programmers.

I think that there are certain shared experiences that just cement a friendship.

chuckyBurning a Chucky doll is one of those. I have an event on Facebook at the moment for a reunion of The Five. 20 years ago, we sacrificed a Chucky to relieve exam stress and to save one of the Five from nightmares. This is a post in its own right. I can’t believe I haven’t done that one yet. Stay tuned. Anyway, we were all close friends before that point, but even if we hadn’t been, I’m pretty sure we would have cemented the friendship with that experience.

My friend Melanie is such a good friend because we were born within months of each other and then spent the next 20 years with our parents getting together regularly. Somewhere along the line we found a friendship that I didn’t maintain with the other two in our little ’74 babies club. We played tennis at New Years and Easter for decades. Her sister almost drowned me in their pool.

I think the intensity of university was the catalyst for a lot of friendships. You’re over 18, living out of home, pressured by the new life and all of the work you have to do. You have no idea what you want to do once you’re done, or you know exactly what you want to do and you’re not sure you’re going to manage it with the marks you’re getting. You’re trying all the new things and all of these people are trying them with you.

And 20 years later, most of them are still around and close friends and checking the Crimestoppers website for new information and hopefully not looking too hard at the reward section.

Who would help you bury a body? Hold on to them. It’s not as common a friendship trait as you might think.

Just Right

A quick writing exercise that I did this fortnight with my Golden Pen group: update a fairy tale for a modern audience. As always, these stories are whipped up and posted here without too much editing. It’s all about the process, not the end result.

And, for those who are completely out of touch: a Bear in today’s society is a big, hairy, gay man.

Now read on.

Goldy slid the crowbar into the slim gap in the old windowsill and lifted it with a small grunt, hearing the snap of the window latch breaking free. She cast a furtive glance around to make sure nobody was watching and then quickly slid the window open and slithered with a practiced grace through the entry and into the darkened house. Once inside, she stood up and pushed her dirty blonde hair back under her navy hoody. She’d heard that these three were rolling in dosh. There should be enough in here that she could palm off easily. She stood completely still, listening for the sounds of someone inside the two-story house. Nothing.

She’d been casing the place for weeks. Living at the prestigious Armadale address were three men – all apparently single, all very well off. She checked her notes.

Victim 1: “Papa” (likes Hemingway, pretensions to writing) Out Tues, Thur mornings – gym.

Victim 2: “Mama” (cross-dresses on weekends, professional singer) – Works nights. Comes home late Thur. morning.

Victim 3: “Baby” (younger than the other two. At least half a metre taller than the others) – No idea what he does for a living. Early riser – out all day weekdays.

So Thursday morning was the best time. She’d watched Baby leave the house wearing running shorts and a singlet, showing off his massively hairy back and shoulders, and then, knowing the place was empty, had made her way to the window at the side of the house.

Goldy crept to the upstairs study, where she knew there would be a trove of electrical equipment. If she could hack their passwords, she might even be able to sell some of the songs and stories for cash. Inside, she found three computers on three desks. The first was a highly-customised, bright pink desktop, covered in bling.

“Too hot,” she muttered. “I’d never be able to sell that one without it being traced back to me.”

The second was an ancient clunker that didn’t even look like it connected to the Internet.

“Too cold,” she grumbled. “How can they have all this money and still own such a piece of junk!” And then the motherlode.

“Just right!” she gasped. On the third desk was a superb laptop, whirring away with incredible power. It was light enough to fit into her pocket and would sell for top dollar down at the markets. To top all this off, a yellow post-it had the words P: P0rr1dG3. She clicked the mouse, tapped the password into the login screen, and sure enough, was admitted right into Baby’s digital sanctum.

“Brilliant,” she said, shutting the lid and stuffing the laptop into her backpack.

The next stop was the living room. As she tiptoed down the stairs, she smiled at the pictures on the walls. It was definitely a strange living arrangement, between these three gentlemen of leisure. All three were in most of the pictures – scenes by a park, dancing at Mardi Gras, waving at the camera in fancy restaurants. If she wasn’t living on the streets, she’d probably have a good idea of who they were, but she was a bit behind on her popular culture, strangely enough.

In the lounge, she nabbed some more electronics – a couple of iPads, the Playstation, a couple of different screencasters. And once more, she was faced with a decision. Three watches lay neatly on the coffee table. The first was an incredibly beautiful gold watch, intricate and had Hemingway’s face engraved into the band. She hesitated, and then sighed.

“Too hot,” she whispered, sadly. She could probably get some good money for this, but the idea of today was to get easy money, not good money. Again, it was too easy to trace back to her. The second watch she almost immediately dismissed. A simple, digital piece, worn and boring. “Too cold, for sure,” she said. But the third was a treasure. An elegant looking Gucci; worth well over seven thousand dollars, although she’d be lucky to get a grand for it.

“Just right,” she said, grinning and pocketing the piece. As she did, she saw the time and gasped. Eleven o’clock! Mama was due home any time now.

Panicking, she ran back up the stairs. She couldn’t go out the window she came in, it was too obvious. She already knew there wasn’t a back door leading anywhere. Her final option was the upstairs bedroom window. From her reconnaissance of the place, she knew there was a tree within jumping distance that would take her into a neighbouring yard and to safety. You know, if she didn’t plummet to her death first.

She’d just hit the top of the stairs when she heard conversation at the front door. Not just Mama then. Crap. The door to the bedroom was open. She ducked in – and came to a complete stop, stunned.

There were three beds in the room.

“What is it with these guys?” she mused. Downstairs, there was a muted yell. They’d noticed the window. She wouldn’t get out now. Goldy crept quickly to the first bed. It was covered in iron railings and decorated with leather belts and chains. She looked to see whether she could get under the bed, and then stood up quickly, eyes wide.

“Too hard,” she said, shaking her head. The noises downstairs were louder now. They’d found the watch, and there was some loud snarling and a high-pitched sob. Goldy broke into a sweat.

The second bed was a four-poster. Immaculate and covered in lace. She could tell that if she went anywhere near it she would leave clear indentations, giving the game away.

“Too soft.”

The third bed was “Just right!” and Goldy slipped beneath the bed, pulling the already unmade doona cover down to cover her as she cowered and hoped that they would go outside for long enough for her to make her escape.

The three burly men tumbled into the room.

“Someone’s been fiddling around with my watch!” said Papa.

“They nicked my iPad!” cried Mama.

“And my laptop,” growled Baby. “Whoever they are, they’re going to regret stealing from an international wrestling star.”

From beneath the bed, Goldy gave a little squeak of terror. She knew she recognized that one. It was that guy off the TV – world championship wrestler and all-around bad boy.

“I heard something,” said Papa.

“Surround the bed, we’ll tear ‘em apart,” rumbled Baby. Goldy squealed and scrambled out from under the bed, making for the window. Mama grabbed at her, getting the back and a handful of hoody. Utilising years of getting out of bad situations, Goldy squirmed out of her hoody and dashed for the window, which was luckily open.

“Ooh, it’s a girl!” cried Mama.

“Wait, no!” yelled Papa, as the thief leapt up to the sill and dived out. The three of them ran to the window and tussled until they all had a view. Goldy was dangling from a branch, quite a decent leap away from the window. She struggled upwards and then clambered lithely across the branch and down the trunk. She threw one more panicked glance back at them before she disappeared from view.

“Well,” said Papa. “That was exciting.”

“Poor girl,” said Mama. “She should have known Baby was just kidding. We always look out for the homeless kids in the area.”

“Speak for yourself,” Baby said, but his face was sad as he watched the space where Goldy had disappeared. “Ah well, if we see her tomorrow, we’ll give her that hoody back and some money for food, yes?”

“Exactly,” said Papa. “Now, all that excitement has made me hungry. Anyone for breakfast? I’ve made porridge.”

The End.

38-porridge-ala

Finding Damo

this is inside my skull

My wife and I were having a lazy Sunday, lying in bed and chatting with each other, when she took my hand and concentrated.

“I just had a vision of what’s inside your mind,” she said. “I saw a huge volcano and surrounding it was the entire galaxy.”

This is my mindscape. No compartments, no little boxes, just the entire galaxy and the huge fiery volcano at the centre.

One of my goals has been to try and still my mind a little. Let the waters stop churning and the ripples cease. But when I sit still, thousands of ideas run through my brain; a new story idea, a snippet of a play that would look fantastic on stage, 3D models I want to bring to life and marketing ideas for Dwarves in Space. My mind doesn’t slow to that still point that apparently exists in some people.

The volcano in my mind is a deep rage that I try to keep in check. It is also the fire of creation, adding to the galaxy outside.

I wanted to try something.

“You held my right hand,” I said. “That’s not my dominant hand. That’s not the centre of me.” So she took my left hand in mine and I concentrated with all my mind on a forest – tall trees, peaceful and still. At the centre of that forest was a writing desk, where I could write in peace and quiet.

a peaceful forest

“Ok,” she said. “It’s spreading now. The volcano is still there, but now I can see more. There is mist and a giant forest at the base of the volcano.”

Mind. Blown.

The transfer of energies is a concept that I can quite easily get on board with. There is a heat that you feel when someone touches you. Energy transfer is simple science. I am fully willing to stretch that transfer to a type of mental energy, or spiritual energy that transfers as well. You can tell when you touch someone that doesn’t like you or doesn’t want to be touched, if you are in any way tuned in.

I find it hard to say “I don’t believe in that” about anything. You can’t just dismiss something because your world view doesn’t fit the ideas that someone else takes on board. Well, you can, but you shouldn’t. I wouldn’t stay home from work because my horoscope said that I was going to have a bad day, but I didn’t get my motorcycle license because a psychic told me the day before my test that if I got on a motorcycle I would die.

I have that tape somewhere. I’ll upload it when I’ve got a spare hour or two to cut it together.

Shereen told me more about my inner world.

glowy-me“I wandered in the forest and found a glowing figure standing there. Not scary, not mean, just suggesting that I shouldn’t be there and could I please leave. I could tell by its features that it was you, or an aspect of you. And then I was pulled backwards, lifted out of that space.”

“And finally, I found a room. A room made of clay, and inside it were a group of figures – the Mystics from the Dark Crystal. They were trapped inside the room, talking quietly to each other, but not allowed out. And when I saw them, they started to fade into the walls, disappearing into the clay. One of them had piercing blue eyes, which is how I knew that they were aspects of you as well. They were elements that weren’t ready to come out now.”

mystics

I know there’s a lot going on inside my head. It’s good in some ways, as it means that I’m never short of a creative outlet. But sometimes I miss the stillness that I know other people can find. I am also deathly afraid of what I might find if I let the Mystics out of the box, the glowing figure out of the forest. Even the thought of being that still makes my heart seize up. I don’t want to be self-reflective. I DO want to be self-reflective.

But how do you reflect on the whole galaxy at once?

Birthday fun.

the message

When my daughter came home from school today she found this stuck to the front door.

This is Fia:

Fia the Dog.

Looking very smug.

O and her friend had to use all of their detective skills to find the toys and return them to the bed before… well, before Fia got some probably much deserved rest and quiet.

The girls looked at the first clue.

“24. That could be an advent calendar!” they exclaimed after a bit of postulating, and off they went. I sighed in relief. Not too difficult then. Behind the Advent Calendar, the second clue awaited them.

The kitchenThe clue

Some of the pedants out there might notice that this is not actually a Beanie Boo. I had more clues than I had Beanie Boos, so the panda kindly stepped in. The Rainbow Bears were less accommodating. I had to bribe them.

This clue reads:

It’s been a hard day’s night
And I’ve been working like a dog.
So it’s time to unwind with a good back rub

“To the massage table!” O cried.

Time for a massage. The note

This is where I should have thought through the clues. Our next bear was downstairs. Luckily, some verbal clues from helpful parents sent them in the right direction. I need to workshop clues in the future. “Ahem, flowers,” I said. “What do you do with them?”

“Cut them up and put them in a vase?” said O’s friend, who was turning out to be a very competent detective.

“To the vase!” yelled O.

I’d alternated the clues, sending the girls up the stairs and down the stairs, to make it seem like a longer and more involved treasure hunt. This proved very effective.

In the kitchen In the vase.

Easy. There’s only one window looking over next doors’ fence. Back upstairs.

IMG_5082

This really should have referenced a computer somehow, but seeing as neither of the girls had been born for WarGames, I left the clue as a literal thing. “To the games cupboard!”

Scrabble anyone?

Scrabble anyone?

Notice Catan Jr in the background? That’s right. We indoctrinate early in this house! The Apple in the box clue took them awhile. And then O had no idea where she kept the box for the iPad, but we got there in the end. I felt a bit bad stuffing a turtle in a box. It had overtones of pet burials from our childhood (surely a turtle gets a box, not a flushing).

turtle inna box turtle inna box.

This next one was exciting for me as a parent.

“In the wild I hide in the forests. In this house, there’s only one place to hide that’s similar.”

“Hmm,” Miss O said. “What’s similar to a forest?” It’s Christmas. There’s a whopping great Christmas Tree in the front room. I thought it would be obvious. “Wait! To the library!”

“What? Why?”

“Books used to be forests.” Duh. We had just shown her Silence in the Library (Doctor Who).

“Ohhhh. Ok. Try being more literal.”

“The, um, the Christmas Tree?”

IMG_5088 IMG_5090

“They say it’s dangerous to hide inside a fridge. But this is only a very little one. I’m sure it’ll be OK.”

This photo didn’t turn out well. That’s what the note says. I have a little one-can fridge for cooling Coke cans powered by USB. I left the door open a crack (What? You don’t want the raccoon to suffocate, do you?). They still had a look in the real fridge, and O’s friend was sure it was an esky, before I said we didn’t have one.

IMG_5091 Don't try this at home!

Don’t try this at home kids! I thought this next clue would be easy. Magic, wizard, wizard hat, too big for a Beanie Boo. No problems. But sometimes a detective can be too clever for their own good. These two gave me too much credit as a clue-master.

“Gandalf was in the Hobbit. She must be hidden next to the Hobbit book!”

At this point I was in trouble. I’d “hidden” a Rainbow Bear on a bookshelf in plain sight. I really didn’t think this through. “Umm, don’t look at the Bear. That one’s for later. What is Gandalf?”

On the right track again, they found the cutest looking wizard I think I’ve ever seen.

IMG_5113 IMG_5093 Nothing up my sleeve, or this one, or this one...

A quick advertisement. My lovely wife made this hat for me. It’s spectacular. The octo-wizard sent the girls back up stairs, to find the next critter, nice and safe and cosy sleeping where any cat would sleep given a chance…

IMG_5109 IMG_5096

Fia the Dog, meanwhile was enjoying the peace and quiet, not realising that karma was creeping up behind her with a Nerf bat.

zzzzzzz

Finally, the girls were legitimately allowed to find Rainbow Bear (2? 2, I think. I can’t tell them apart).

IMG_5099

And then to find the final Rainbow Bear, somewhere near water.

“The fish pond?”

“Oh. No, that would be mean,” I said.

“The sink? The dog’s water bowl? The washing machine?”

This is the last one and, I thought, the easiest. “Where in the house is there enough water to swim?”

“Ah,” Miss O’s friend said, as the party girl herself kept reeling off answer after answer. “The bath.”

A few more answers later, the bath answer filtered through and they dashed upstairs again. All of the toys had been found and there was to be a party on the bed.

IMG_5102 Party on the bed!

I’m sure (ahem) that Fia was very happy to see all of her friends returning to the bed, and they all piled on to show her how much they missed her while they were away. Did you notice the dog’s expression change at all?

IMG_5134

Sorry, this has been a really weird post. But I had fun, and the kids enjoyed it immensely.

If I don’t get back on here before Christmas, have a good one, and I’ll see you in 2015!

40

40

It’s just a number. The only reason it has any importance at all is because humans evolved with five digits on each hand. It doesn’t mean anything.

BUT

I turned 40 in September. It’s taken me almost three months to get over it. The worst part I think was being reallocated in surveys.

survey_n

When discussing success, this age milestone is one that gets a good look in.

“I was ready to retire at 40.” “I owned my house outright by 40.” “I had a three-picture deal by the age of 40.”

As far as 40-year olds go, I am pretty happy with the things I’ve accomplished. What are the big ticket items? Check out my blog on success from the early days.

Back? How am I doing? From the list at the beginning of the post:

  • I have kids (kid).
  • I’m married.
  • I have a house.
  • I am known in my field.
  • I have lived in over two countries (over two meaning three).

From my own musings, success meant married, house, kids, published. I’ve done all of those things. Luckily, there’s no end-point for success. I could end the book here and it would be satisfying for the reader, but I could also write a sequel (Finding Damo Too) where I raised the bar a bit.

So, where to from here? From 40?

Before I’m fifty, I’d like to:

  • Be debt free
  • Have a contract with a publishing house
  • Publish a full-length play
  • Be financially secure enough to be able to travel overseas for vacations with the family.

I’d still like to have biological offspring, but at 40 the fear of being sixty and having a teenage child is slowly outweighing the desire to pass on my genetic lineage.

The other tough part of turning 40 is the dreaded 40th. This should be the party to end all parties. Stuff your 21st, this is your FORTIETH! Let your hair down. You’re still alive. Well done.

I thought I managed quite well. I organised with Dymocks in the city to hold a book launch for Dwarves in Space. Dymocks 234 Collins Street, Melbourne is now the only store IN THE WORLD that stocks Dwarves in Space on the shelves. Go and say hi.

book eventn

I read some excerpts from my novel. I read an excerpt from the first of many short stories that will make up the second book of Trimador. I signed a heap of books. There was wine, there was laughter… Basically, as it should be, my fortieth was about me, spending time with my friends and feeling special. I asked people not to buy me presents, but instead to buy Dwarves in Space for someone who doesn’t already have a copy. I even filmed it:

seldom bucketForty so far has been very productive. I have been published again – this time in a book of 10-minute plays. I don’t know whether you can buy them online yet, but if you’re ever in Emerald…I spent three weeks as Seldom Bucket in Gemco’s production of Maskerade by Terry Pratchett. I’ve been asked to write for an educational publication on a few different subjects (more on that as I find out more – and when I can cut down the word count on my massively over-inflated first article) and I’m well into my third short story for Short Stuff – diminutive fiction from Trimador.

All in all, I’m a happy but tired 40 year old. Next goal: to exercise enough to keep me alive until I’m fifty.

For St Patrick’s Day

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

Oh, and Happy St Patrick’s Day!

The Leprechaun comes to Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah mate. I’m on a plan.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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