Finding Damo

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

Archive for the tag “death”

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!

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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.

Post-Bucket List

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But anyway, the list:

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

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

  1. Go to my own funeral.

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

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

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

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

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

On the other hand:

Megrahi, Convicted in 1988 Lockerbie Bombing, Dies at 60

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

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

Traveler and philanthropist Perry dies after decades of community work

Perry, shamed teacher, dies alone after extended scandal

Conspiracy nut Perry dies in accidental piano incident

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

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

Suspected Maryland cannibal ranted about ‘human sacrifices’ on Facebook

This guy didn’t pick his Death Photo.

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

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

Ummm…

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

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

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

Let’s see what I can find.

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

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

Rupert, Roger and Roderick

Rupert sang Yellow by Coldplay while slitting Roderick’s brassiere. Yesterday Regina saved Rupert when skies were falling on Roderick. Roderick drugged himself to death by show tunes while bleeding profusely on roger fainting. Sunsets faded into nothingness causing death and destruction to Roger. Tomorrow Regina helped herself to death by poison for herself to suicide assisted death for herself. Resurrecting Rebecca proved impossible however vampires drank Rupert’s life force transforming Roger into Captain Corpse. Captain Corpse disintegrated slowly killing Rupert and festooning Roderick with intestines.

– Dromana trip – 2012.

Road Trip

Road Trip

Before the days of smart-phones, this is what we used to do when we were bored. Rupert, Roger and Roderick were names we took from Life of Brian. We were on a long car trip, or sitting around a campfire, or drunk and bored somewhere and needed something to do and decided to play theatre sports. We told a story, with each person saying a word to make a sentence. And then one of the characters died in a most horrible way. And we laughed. And did it again, this time trying to kill the character. And then again, with each person trying to save their own character and kill off the others.

I was hunting through my old files of random nonsense and found the first ever story, the precursor to Roger, Rupert and Roderick. Here it is:

On a bright summer’s morning the hotdog vendor went north to the hotdog vending laboratory where he inspected hotdogs for sale rapidly in succession. Suddenly out from a bun leaped (leapt?) several mottley yeast particles intent on bloating everything? No! Suddenly out of the bun popped the many faces. Each face ate another bit menacingly of the hotdog vendor.
Seriously though folks,  the moral sucks because there is never time on many faces tick-tocking away to bother eating hotdog vendor.

                        The End?

                           No!

        Consequently, stories like Goldilocks stink because the moral never equates correctly with statistics much in practice but only when [insert budgie’s name here] tells the story. Not often does [insert budgie’s name here] tell stories however hotdogs do. Nothing.

        Mary was sheepishly eating sheep relish and using a forklift to eat daintily. Barry thought Mary should watch herself because without cutlery she might injure him less rapidly. Mary is unconcerned mostly because she doesn’t conserve barries in Australia. When Mary spat the sheep bit she targeted Barry but missiles of destruction work wonders with Barry’s defensive corset. Retaliation was not mandatory however Barry did. Death came yesterday with great pecs of bone and nicely scythed through sheep to provide food for beasts like Mary with alien nuclear capabilities. Barry was angry because Death missed his breakfast on toast, so went under Mary for some beast bits to dye. Instead Barry walked right into hours of plastic
sheep work. Unfortunately Mary dyed the group  of Barry’s sheep dips metallic so committing herself.

– First ever game, October, 1998.

By now we had a game, and so we had to come up with some rules. And thus was born the most exciting game of Rupert, Roger and Roderick. At this stage, it was Rupert, Rufus and Roderick:

Rodgering Rupert, Rufus and Roderick

Roderick killed Rufus almost but fortunately Rufus killed Rupert
nearly totally acting badly. Rupert loves Rufus but killed himself. Rupert
decomposed compost but for now. Rupert resurrected 80’s music after tea
reviving Rupert almost. Roderick suicided unsuccessfully but was bruised by
Rufus who revived Roderick lovingly to throw himself nicely, painfully and
safely onto spikes living in memory escaping life.

As you might guess, it was, of necessity, a three-person game. The first time we added a fourth (we named her Regina) the game went as such:

Regina: Regina

Rupert: Died

Roger: Full stop.

(shocked laughter filled the car)

Regina: Well, that didn’t work!

So we added some more rules.

OK. Rules.

Basics:

Rupert

Rupert

Roger

Roger

Roderick

Roderick

Regina

Regina

Each person takes a name. Traditionally those names are Roger, Rupert and Roderick (with Regina if we need a fourth). You need to keep your character alive and kill the others. However, if you die, that’s not necessarily the end of you. Characters have been resurrected in the past. Often at the expense of someone else.

Grammar:

We had high hopes for grammar and sentence structure when we started this game. Now we just say “if we can’t follow the sentence, we’ll challenge you and it’s up to you to make the sentence work out.” The sentence should work as a sentence. But we’re not going to fire a mailbox up your bottom (Death of Rupert at one stage) if you don’t get it perfect.

Punctuation that ends a sentence or that changes the meaning of a sentence counts as a word. The phrase “full stop” has been the knell of death for many a poor R-named hero or heroine. We also allow the addition of ‘s to a word. Hence “Roderick slashed Rupert’s sneakers”. Finally, the person who says the word is not always the person who spells the word. So, almost once a game we get:

Roger: Rupert
Roderick: dies
Rupert: wool. See what I did there? Change the spelling you tosser!

Roderick dyed his Rufus green. Roderick slashed Rupert’s sneakers causing Rufus’ safe death. Roderick prospered almost committing Rupert. However when Roderick fell four stories fatally it happened that he died.

Cause of Death

We really ramped it up when we decided that people should really die of something. So we added the necessity of weapons:

Scissors didn’t bother saving Rupert from washing powder poisson distribution (this was Dave’s save. a bit dodgy but hey!) but caused Roderick massive lifespan loss. Rufus swallowed nothing but lettuce insecticide fatally kissing Rupert unsuccessfully. However rabbits of great happiness and humour napalmed Rupert almost. Rufuses everywhere donated killer bees. Roderick laughed as chainsaws didn’t stop ever killing Rufus lookalikes but Rufus came undone. Grabbing missiles stealthily Rupert suicided unsuccessfully and aimed them at Rufus. Not aware of the impending destruction, Rufus smelled Roderick’s immortality fading as Rupert destroyed Roderick momentarily distracting himself. Let knives fall. They pierced? Yes but missed Rufus mother, murdering Rufus.

I’m getting the feeling that this is how They Might Be Giants write a lot of their songs.

Once we had the “cause of death” clause, it was safe to put in a fourth person. Thus, Regina was born!

End of Game

When everyone but one person is definitively dead, the game ends. They might be able to be saved in the next sentence, but if they’re dead in this sentence, that’s it. And majority rules. If you think you’re still alive, but can’t argue your case strongly enough, tough, you’re pushing up daisies.

rabid weasel

Worst. Death. Ever.

Rupert, Roger and Roderick is not a game for the faint-of-heart. It’s not a game for the overly argumentative or people unwilling to back down. It is best to enjoy the carnage, embrace the death of your character and try your hardest to take revenge on your murderer. And it doesn’t have to be Rupert, Roger and Roderick (as evidenced by the loss of poor Rufus in the great name shuffle of 2002). You can use your own names, or anyone else’s names. But we find that there is more laughter at “Rupert was stripped to the bones by rabid weasels” than at “Damian was stripped to the bones by rabid weasels”. Well, by me, anyway.

I don’t know how you’re all doing, getting checkout servers to laugh. But we’re done with that now. Make ’em laugh in your own time. New challenge: Get two or three friends. Play Rupert, Roger and Roderick. Write down your game and post it in the comments section. Let me know what worked and what didn’t.

Oh. For the sake of fairness: Dave has a rule that he keeps trying to add in, where you can add “ing” or “ed” to the end of the last player’s word as your go. I feel that it takes away from the simplistic purity of an already devilishly complicated game. However, feel free to give it a shot.

I’m pretty sure there’s an App in this somewhere. If only I could program.

One fine morning when Rufus stabbed Rupert non-fatally complications set Roderick crying with joy because he died. Roderick smells vile but not alive even though he lived shortly. Rupert! Dead finally survived not.

“Oh what a tragedy!” said Bob about Rupert. Even though Chucky died in theory and practise, their genius will prevail when medical tricorders revitalise the tomato and then something exploded.
Chucky, decomposing rapidly decided to forsake Bob after Rupert plunged sinks on Rufuses everywhere. Consequently Chucky posessed Rufus! As Rufus stripped, Chucky’s spirit ate bananas in Hell!
The Armageddon soundtrack sucked and so Bob died.
Chucky disintegrated taking everybody or nobody. Everybody wasn’t crying over Bob’s reincarnation myth. ARMAGEDDON! Nobody liked anybody. Rupert lives not.

Lies to Children

Andy Riley's Great Lies to tell Small Kids

This went straight onto the toilet wall...

I was listening to someone talking to my (almost) step-daughter the other day, wondering at all of her missing teeth and asking about the Tooth Fairy. The TOOTH FAIRY! The supernatural creature who comes into your room at night, takes your teeth and leaves money in return. Now I have no problem with the concept of fairies (see the Money Fairy blog entry) but I can’t help but be disturbed by the concept of a creature that wants my child’s teeth. What does she/they do with them? Anybody who has read (or only seen – heathens) Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather has a pretty good idea. But maybe there’s a thriving economy in children’s teeth in fairy land. We all know what rhino horns are used for. We should maybe be glad that the fairies aren’t just coming and taking teeth by force! Or maybe we should be preparing against the inevitable Tooth Recession of 2012. Our kids do eat more sugar than is good for them, after all.

20120308-132757.jpg

Ho ho Damo.

But that’s not my point (it’s just what’s going to keep me up at night for the next couple of weeks). We create these incredibly complex belief systems for children. Of course, children are wonderfully gullible. They’ll believe anything, and it is an endless source of amusement to me.

NOT A SMURF!

Definitely not a Smurf.

They won’t, however, believe that vegetables taste good. But they believe in Santa. They believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Smurfs and Pokémon. And we encourage this belief.

I’ve gone from child to parent with Christmas these past couple of years co-habiting with my soon-to-be step-daughter. It changes everything! I ate three mince pies before I was satisfied with the “santa bite mark” I left on the pie left behind for him. Oh, the sacrifice! And my reindeer dental print in the carrot had to be seen to be believed. For Easter one year I created massive bunny footprints on the carpet.

A point. I have one. Ah yes, my point being that to maintain these beliefs for our credulous offspring (or step-offspring, or random children on the street) we lie to them. Unashamedly and with delighted malice (or is that just me?).

“You must go to bed early tonight. And straight to sleep. If you wake up, Father Christmas might not deliver the presents!” Translation: “Will you PLEASE go to sleep so we can get the pressies under the tree before midnight? We know you’re going to be up at 5am.”

“It’s time to write a Christmas letter to Santa. Write down everything you want. He’ll choose one or two things that he knows you want most!” Translation: “I have no idea what a 7 year old wants for Christmas. And I need a loophole in case the child asks for something that’s sold out or costing a bajillion dollars.”

Paul Kidby's version of Death as Hogfather with Albert

HO HO HO?

Why do we do it? Pratchett’s answer, again from Hogfather, is this:
“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME… SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

MY POINT EXACTLY.”
― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

Calvin's dad explains science

Calvin’s dad would say, and I agree wholeheartedly, that it is just more fun to tell an imaginative lie than explain the boring truth. It’s a defence mechanism against the dreaded, all-powerful question “why?” Anybody who has ever dealt with a young child will know the question “why?” and the mind-melting implications of infinity it brings with it.

“It’s time to go, Chad,” I say.
“Why?”
“Because we have to get home.”
“Why?”
“Because your mother’s waiting for her dinner.”
“Why?”
“Because she’s hungry after a long day at work.”
“Why?”
“Because the human body burns food the same way cars burn petrol.”
“Why?”
“Because, um, look. Have you had the God talk yet?”

A far easier response goes as such:

20120308-133026.jpg

What if I wasn't lying?

“It’s time to go, Chad,” I say.
“Why?”
“Because a velociraptor has escaped from the dinosaur park and if we don’t get out of here soon, he’ll burst in through the door and eat you, one leg at a time!”
“Oh. OK.”

See? Much more fun. Only slightly more therapy needed as an adult.

My grandfather used to say the best way to find out whether a cat was a boy or a girl was to pick it up by the tail and swing it. If the eyes popped out, then it was a boy. He then offered to demonstrate on our cat Pepsi, who he well knew was a boy cat. It is one of the ways Perry men interact with children. Tease them until they completely lose it.

Lies-to-children is a term I first read in Terry Pratchett’s Science of Discworld (written with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen. It describes the simplification of reality to help children understand the reality beneath. Things like “The Domino Effect started the Vietnam War” and “the sky is blue because of light refraction” are lies-to-children. Lies to Children are more along the lines of “the dog has gone to live on a farm where it will be happier.” or “if you have any more ice-cream it will leak out of your eyeballs and freeze your brain.”

I know which I prefer.

Imagine That.

A good imagination...

Shereen and I sat down with a financial planner last night and discussed getting life insurance. I’m growing up! But now that I’m worth more dead than alive, I’ve had to accept that I’ve just taken the first step towards accepting that I’m going to die. I mean really, why would you bet an insurance company that you were going to die if you knew you were going to lose?

Dammit.

But never fear, bloggy followers, I am not talking about death, save as a lead-in to a commentary on imagination.

I spent a few weeks as a child wide awake each night terrified that I was going to die. As an adult, I’ve always assumed that it was a normal stage of development. You start off and everything is part of you. And then you want someone to feed you and they don’t and you realise that they are an independent entity. And eventually you realise that if they can go away and not come back then you might end as well.

For me, that was compounded, I think, by an incredibly vivid imagination. At night, trying to think of what death would be like, I could feel the wood of the coffin on my skin. I would try and drag a breath from a space completely devoid of air. I couldn’t imagine being dead and at peace. I could only imagine dying and the fear and panic that went along with that.

I’ve never written about that before. But I’ve written about almost everything else. And I know that I’m not famous enough for people to care where I get my ideas, but I’m going to tell you anyway. It is an insight into my warped mind and where a simple idea can take me.

The most convoluted idea for a story ended up being a short story called Have your Lamington and eat it too. I was living in Seymour, walking home from the bakery, eating a sausage roll. Bits of pastry were flaking away and dropping to the ground. I watched ants take the flakes away – a tasty meal – and had an epiphany: it is incredibly difficult to eat every little bit of anything! Imagine, then, if you had to eat a magic lamington in order to gain a special power. Imagine if you had to eat ALL of it for the magic to work. And imagine that something really bad would happen to you if you didn’t eat it all. I watched the ants drag crumbs of sausage roll down beneath the earth and decided that some poor sod wild have an extremely unpleasant time getting hold of those last few crumbs.

Ted’s Souls came out of a conversation with Dave, where we tried to figure out what the appendix did. It seemed like as logical a storage place as any for the human soul.

Shoot for the Moon was an exercise in sense-writing to begin with. I wrote a scene with as much sensation in it as possible. It turned into a proper story because I wanted to explore a world where nearly everybody was a werewolf, because really, it wouldn’t be that bad – most of the time.

Dwarves in Space began as an image of a group of dwarves lighting fires in the hold of a spaceship to keep warm and ponderings on how a wizard would survive in an environment of pure technology.

And Finding Damo evolved from a desire to tell the story of some of the stupid things I’ve done along with the idea that there might be a junior Perry out there somewhere that I don’t know about.

I have a story that deals with what the heir to Prometheus would steal if we got another go at Break-and-Entering Olympus. A story that came out of a minor nervous attack over the thought that, on a train, you’d have nowhere to go if the passengers suddenly turned into homicidal maniacs (yes, I think about these things). A story based on the observation that when you kill a spider, the corpse doesn’t always stick around (and so, is it really dead? Or are spiders immortal?). And a story based around a song called Skin Deep. I never knew it was called Skin Deep as a kid. I just remember the line: Better watch out for the skundig. What the hell are skundig?? That was a year’s worth of peaceful sleep I’ll never get back, I tell ya!

Come to think of it, “Better watch out for the Skin Deep” also has incredibly creepy vibes.

Lots of stories in my head!

Anyway, there are thousands of stories in my head. I should stop talking about them and go and write some. And if you know anyone who wants to buy some, feel free to send them my way.

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