Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Want To Sign Up

I Want To Sign Up

The movie STARSHIP TROOPER 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION opens with a marvelously convincing promo which encourages us to enlist in the Mobile Light Infantry.

"We need heroes!"

Note that his is an equal-opportunity slaughter force, and they will happily recruit girls as well as boys.

The guy they put up on screen to talk to you is very much the Ultimate Recruiter, and just looking at him gives you a warm "me can too" feeling, and you want to sit down to have your "sign here, please" moment with him.

I am persuaded, and wish to join, for the reasons given below, but there are problems, which I will itemize later.

To begin with, we are cued to the background, which is that the monstrous and monstrously evil aliens, the arachnids, have launched an unprovoked attack on the planet Buenos Aires. The heroes of the Federation have struck back and have archived victory on the field of valor.

Now, "armed with victory" (marvelous words!) the forces of the Federation are pushing on into the heartland of enemy territory to "bring war to the bug."

The ultimate Recruiting Sergeant, a most wonderfully enthusiastic militarist, invites you to join the heroes of the Federation, and "Press on to glory!"

Which you will surely want to once you see the amazingly gaudy banner, a flag that anyone would be proud to die under, raised in victory on a battlefield on some planet far off in outer space.

So I ardently wish to join this magnificent enterprise, but have to confront the following unpalatable facts:

1. I am too old.
2. I have family commitments.
3. I would never pass the medical.
4. My rusty high school French is inadequate for me to function effectively in the Francophone environment of the Mobile Light Infantry.

Over and above that, on searching the Internet I have found an ominous silence on the subject of our war against the evil aliens of Arachnid. This silence suggests to me that maybe the war is over. If so, I sincerely hope that we won.

However, that said, even if reality were to be revised and the Mobile Light Infantry were to be ready to sign me on, I think I would bow out at that stage.

The thing is, I don't like creepy crawlies, not even little ones. And these arachnids - oh boy! The very lightest and smallest of these monstrosities must weigh at least as much as a hippopotamus.

I haven't seen the first STARSHIP TROOPERS movie but I did once read the Heinlein novel on which it was based, and if there was ever a book which was capable of bringing out the latent militarist in you, that's the one.

Mr Vegetable Goes For A Wander

Mr Vegetable Goes For A Wander

Mr Vegetable woke up in the middle of the night and found, to his delight, that his wife had forgotten to chain him up for the night. He decided to go for a wander, so headed out confidently, but got no further than the landing just outside the bedroom door when he fell down a rabbit hole, which he did not remember having been there.

If you know for a fact that you are a vegetable, then you should accept your status and should learn to live within your limitations. But Mr Vegetable persisted in seeing visions and dreaming dreams. He did this far more often than was good for him.

He imagined, for example, that he joined up with the mobile light infantry and ended up on a battlefield fighting hordes of chittering spider-collosal aliens, as showcased in the movie STAR TROOPER 2: HERO OF THE FEDERATION.

In another fantasy, he was the Emperor of Alberta, the most oil-rich nation on planet Earth, and he led his severely outnumbered forces to victory in a nuclear war against CanaFed, the cruel imperialistic power of Federated Canada, which had the rapacious hegemonistic aim of seizing Alberta's oil wealth so the Feds could do a Communistic divvy-up and share Alberta's God-given birthright with all the children of the Federation.

And, worse, he had made the mistake of thinking he could wander off into a realm far from the comforting touch of his wife's slim but reassuring hand. And now he was paying a terrible price for his presumption.

He was falling down the rabbit hole, and it seemed to be infinite. However, it was lined with shelves, and there were books on the shelves. He decided he had time for some light reading, so he started plucking up volumes as he passed. But they were all propaganda works from the Ministry of Information of the Chinese People's Republic. None of the titles looked tempting:
THE DALI LAMA: ARCH-SPLITTER AND MAJOR DRUGLORD; THE DALI LAMA: HIS ROLE IN THE THALIDOMIDE SCANDAL; THE DALI LAMA AND THE CASE OF THE INFANT SEX SLAVES; THE LOVE NEST: THREE IN A BED (GEORGE W. BUSH, KARL ROVE AND THE DALI LAMA.) THE DALI LAMA: HIS EARLY YEARS AS COMMANDANT OF THE AUSCHWITZ DEATH CAMP.
One by one, Mr Vegetable discarded the books, which went screaming down to inflict serious injuries on tourists sunbathing on the coastal beaches of Libya, the new Mediterranean playground. Those beaches were what lay directly below.

Giving up on the idea of reading, Mr Vegetable began to daydream his way into the palace of the Emperor of Alberta. There, after spending a little time fooling with a few of his twenty-seven concubines, he went to the Senate Building to give a speech:
THE CASE FOR FREEDOM-LOVING ALBERTA TO MAKE WAR ON HEGEMONISTIC CANADA, LAND OF EVIL, AND DESTROY THAT POLLUTED MUTANT ENTITY UTTERLY.
The speech was amazingly good and was rapturously received.
The moral of the story is this: even if you are irrevocably doomed to living as a vegetable, life can still be fun.

About Alberta's oil, if you're sceptical about this, the following page will put you in the picture:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4649580.stm

Quote:

"Canada is a modest and unassuming place when compared with its great big neighbour to the south. But now it has plenty to boast about: world-beating oil reserves in Alberta which are finally being brought into production after decades of talk.

Oil sands from the air
The oil sands could hold trillions of barrels - if it can be extracted

[Alberta is experiencing a huge and expensive oil rush, and Fort McMurray is at the centre of it.]

[The oil is bound up in black bituminous sand close to the surface. But even though the reserves are so huge and so obvious the oil sands have to be steam heated to release the oil.]

The Americans who are fighting in Iraq are obviously too far from home. Instead of making war in the Middle East, America should just have invaded Canada, which has more oil than the Middle East has ever dreamt of.

A Significantly Scary Experience

A Significantly Scary Experience

We live in a modest and entirely conventional two-storey house set on a hillside in the city of Yokohama, with views across the city to the distant horizon where, if weather conditions are favorable, we can see Mount Fuji (though only from the upper floor, the second storey.)

This is a small house, though significantly bigger than a rabbit hutch. It is definitely not huge. However, during the night of Monday 29 October, for some reason (which I cannot now remember) I went for a wander, with only my damaged brain as company, and ended up getting totally lost in a huge cavernous space upstairs. It seemed to be an abandoned movie theater.

Once there, I could not find my way out. I explored, looking for an escape route, but found none. What I did find was a wall with doors which folded inward to give access to a cavernous space stuffed with hanging coats, very much like the wardrobe in the CS Lewis book THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, the said wardrobe being a door into an alternative reality, the world known as Narnia.

I also found a window with a gulf of blackness beyond it, and I found a balustrade with various items sitting on top of it. Beyond the balustrade I had the sense of an empty auditorium sitting, waiting.

I blundered about, finding seats, and some places thick with huge layers of dust, and eventually, somehow, I accidentally stumbled on a staircase which led down. Ultimately I arrived downstairs, and found my wife doing some night time preparation before heading to bed.

Today, in the cold clear light of day, I looked for the theater but did not find it. It does not exist. I ended up concluding that I must have been sleep walking, and must have blundered into my wife's personal room.

If you put out your left hand with the palm down, then the palm is the landing on the upper floor, at the head of the stairs going to the second storey. The thumb is the door to the room where the three of us nightly sleep on futons, and the fingers, working round anti-clockwise, are the doors to 1. my wife's personal room, 2. my personal room, 3. the start of the stairs going down and 4. the upstairs toilet.

On checking out my wife's personal room I found that, yes, the doors to her wardrobe push inwards, just like the ones in my "I am lost" dream, and, yes, there are coats inside. I also found the expanse of glass - the French doors to the balcony - which I encountered during my perambulations. And one of the window ledges is lined with oddments, and this could have been the balustrade that I felt while I was asleep.

If, before this, you had asked me if I ever sleep walked, I would have said, no. Never have, never will. But, on the balance of probabilities, it seems quite likely that I did.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My Caped Crusader Daughter

My Caped Crusader Daughter

In daily life, my three-year-old daughter masquerades as mild-mannered daycare attendee Cornucopia ("Corny") Boadicea Nishikawa. However, in the realm of the super heroes she is none other than Petri the Dish, the svelte bio war hero who is not uncommonly cruising through the stratosphere in the Tokyo-Yokohama area, always garbed in Italian fashion apparel from the house of Tony Perotti.

Her aerial activities not infrequently cause consternation to American warriors manning the screens of the war radar system which the United States operates in our vicinity. However, these activities have never yet provoked a nuclear launch.

Petri's self-appointed mission is to troll through the human community, to find diseases which are circulating in the generate population, and then to culture them in her own body until they produce symptoms crude enough to be evident to the average doctor.

She then reports sick so the results of her latest scientific investigations can be delivered to the nearest appropriate hospital or clinic.

Today we were at the Diseased Kids And Infectious Infants Outpatient Plague Post at Myorenji, a short train station away. Petri had a fever of 37.7 Centigrade plus a runny nose and a cough.

By evening, she had a significantly higher fever, was vomiting monotonously, and was testing three of her superpowers: the Scream of Death, the Wail of Despairing Lament and the Filibuster, the last being a flexible talent which allows her to maintain any complaint, demand or grizzle indefinitely.

I found this wearing and suggested to my wife that perhaps we have been too gentle with Corny when it comes to discipline. "Maybe," I said, "she would benefit from a Boot Camp year, a year in the structured and disciplined environment of a Chinese brick kiln."

My wife told me she would get back to me on this idea.

A Gift from my Daughter

A Gift from my Daughter

Three-year-old daughter cornucopia came home from the daycare bazaar with an "o-miyage," a traditional gift from the holiday maker to the one who stayed at home.

"Ageru," she said, meaning [I] give [this to you.]

I took it. Some kind of vegetable matter, maybe a mutant broccoli or something like that. Tempura, at a guess.

I put it in my mouth, expecting to find some kind of tempura-type layer beneath my teeth. Instead, the food item had a plasticized surface. I took it out of my mouth. Not broccoli at all. Rather, some kind of weed festooned with poisonous berries.

Survival note (but you knew this, right?): the basic rule here on planet Earth is that animals are safe to eat but plants are poisonous.

If you go out into the garden and catch and eat anything that you can find which is working around, nothing critically bad will happen to you. Maybe food poisoning, maybe dysentery. Hydatids is a possibility. Tape worms, too. But you probably won't die.

If, on the other hand, you go out into the garden (any garden) and start eating plants at random, the probability is that you will shortly find yourself dying a gruesomely horrible death.

Cornucopia has, thank God, long since outgrown the phase when she would eat absolutely anything that found itself into her mouth. But I should make sure that my evolution does not recapitulate hers in reverse.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

House Husband Messes Up And Forgets ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!

House Husband Messes Up And Forgets ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING!

On her return from China, my wife entered the house to find dishes in the drying tray. The dishes included a suite of small bowls ideal for the serving of ice cream, and her female brain jumped to the conclusion that, in her absence, I and my three-year-old daughter had been pigging out on ice cream.

My protestations that, no, no, we had eaten nothing but broccoli, yogurt and water cress were ignored. Plainly, the BAD label had been hung around my neck, and I would have to lift my game to restore myself to my wife's good graces.

That night, my wife had a horrific nightmare in which she was being machinegunned while lying in a minefield with bits and pieces of exploded North Korean slave laborers pattering down upon her. On waking, she realized that this was not a dream but a memory. This realization did not, apparently, make things better for her.

I had recently (by a means which I am not presently disposed to disclose) got my hands on a movie by the great comic master Charles Chaplin. The movie is THE GREAT DICTATOR, and is a spoof on Adolf Hitler, Mister Nine Million. I thought a little light relief would be appropriate to the situation, so fired up the computer and set Charles playing.

But, unfortunately, the movie opens in 1918 with scenes of trench warfare, and the subsequent humor involves, amongst other things, an unexploded artillery shell, jolly japes involving grenades and that kind of thing. Not exactly what the doctor ordered.

As my wife was seriously breathless, my own guess was that what the doctor would order, if he set eyes on her, would be a blood transfusion. The bottom line on being machinegunned is this: you leak. Having leaked quite a bit of blood, my wife must surely be low on red blood cells, and this is one of the things which can cause breathlessness. (There are other causes. Try running up and down the stairs in the Empire State Building some time and you will discover at least one for yourself.)

I persuaded my wife to call an ambulance, and she ended up spending the night in Meijin Hospital with good red blood flowing into a receptive vein, and with some "we'll take a shot at doing this a little better" surgery scheduled for later in the day.

Once I got home, I was tired, so, after delivering Miss "I Am Three" to the daycare center, I flaked out on the couch to catch up on some sleep which had gone missing in the night.

Later, on waking, I realized that the peace and quiet left me free to take some photos of the baby chaos which dominated the household landscape. So I did so. I wouldn't have been able to do this unless my daughter was at the daycare. But she was. And would remain there safely until ... what's today? Saturday. Okay ... until 1230. So what's the time now? 1330.

No, it can't be! But it was. Time flies when you're having fun. It also slips by unnoticed if you're sleeping. I then realized that I hadn't bought food for the evening meal, and it was my turn to cook.

Okay. First reclaim the daughter, then think about shopping.

By the time I'd reached the daycare I'd figured it out, and daughter Cornucopia and I headed for the supermarket. En route, she saw the library, and wanted to go there. So, on returning home, we gathered up the library books and headed to the library. Which was closed.

So we revisited the supermarket to buy two things I'd forgotten, Canola cooking oil and margarine.

Before going shopping, I always make a shopping list. Then, when I'm in the supermarket, I gather up things from memory. Then, just before heading to the cash register, I check the gathered things against the shopping list. This procedure is intended to be a kind of training tool.

But tody I was intellectually arrogant enough to think that I could skip the shopping list. ("Shopping list? We don't need no stinking shopping list!)

That, it turned out, was a mistake, though I had remembered to buy the most important thing on the list: another tub of Lady Borden chocolate ice cream.

After the library and the supermarket, we then went to Tsutaya to return two videos and to borrow four more. By the time we headed home, it was windy and pitch dark, and furious cold rain was falling, as a typhoon had come sneaking in. We were soaked by the time we got home, to find my wife waiting, and looking a little better than she had at the hospital.

I heard about her trip. She'd been pigging out in Shanghai on crab (now in season, apparently) and on Peking duck (a little greasy for her taste, apparently.) She had two very classy Chinese yin and yang T-shirts for me, and a fun story about a corpse.

The corpse was lying by the road connecting Shanghai to the airport, and a fellow tourist told my wife that, in China, people don't like to call an ambulance because, if you phone one, you have to pay for it. So - this at least is what my wife alleges that the tourist alleged - in China, if you have an accident, you need money so you can bribe someone to make that expensive telephone call.

With Charles and Hitler in mind, I thought of giving this blog entry the tile "Machineguns, Roadside Corpse and Genocide and Other Jolly Japes." Then I thought that might somewhat in bad taste, so I canceled that idea.

I did get dinner cooked, by the way: salmon, scallops, baked potatoes, rice, edamame (boiled soy beans) and tobinoko (flying fish eggs). I was all set to dish out ice cream for dessert, but my wife insisted, no, it must be fruit. Or vegetables. No broccoli being left, we ended up settling for a nashi.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Salvation for Mental Health Problems!!


Salvation for Mental Health Problems!!

While surfing online, I was amazed to find a miraculous new therapy for Repairing Damaged Brains. The details are here:

http://www.kadir-buxton.com/index.htm

Here is a quote:

"Decades ago I discovered a cure for mental health problems. The cure, which I term the Kadir-Buxton Method, has been used on a wide variety of mental health problems. The procedure stuns and resets the brain of the patient, so that the patient returns to a normal condition. The Kadir-Buxton Method is done by making a fist of both hands, and striking both ears of the patient at exactly the same time and pressure with the soft part of the inner hand which is where the thumb joins the hand. The arrow in Figure 1 shows this point for your ease of use."

Thought of the day: all CIA interrogators should be trained in this neat mental health technique.

Disclaimer: any downside as a result of the use of this technique is strictly between you and your medical insurance provider, and is none of my business, thank you very much.

Supplementary thought of the day: maybe my sometimes significantly demented three-year-old daughter would benefit, on occasion, from being treated by this radical innovative technique.

My Wife Returns From China

My Wife Returns From China

My wife returned from China last night, somewhat the worse for wear, having been slightly damaged by machinegun fire while trying to escape from slavery in a Chinese brick kiln.
She escaped in the company of 300 North Korean slave laborers imported from Pyong Yang. All but 3 of the Northerners died during the escape. Some got shot dead as they writhed on the electrified barbed wire. Others died in the unmarked minefield just beyond the wire.
As for the three who escaped, when they finally arrived in Shanghai my wife sold them to a gourmet restaurant which caters for upmarket dogs. In the West, there is a canard that people in Shanghai sometimes eat dogs. In today's increasingly affluent Shanghai, it is more likely to be the other way around.
My wife arrived at 0337 and spent the next hour on the phone, trying to find a beauty salon which was open at that time. She finally located one in the annexe of a private mental hospital. It was 50 kilometers away, but she phoned a taxi and set off immediately. I had no idea how she was going to pay for this because, after her departure for the People's Republic of China, I had taken the precaution of phoning the bank and canceling her credit card. However, it turned out that she was able to pay the taxi driver using counterfeit Japanese currency which she had bought cheaply from a North Korean street vendor on the streets of Shanghai.

In my wife's absence, I successfully got myself to Meijin Hospital for my latest post-cancer checkup. Friday 26 October the key thing was the blood tests, which checked out fine ... the dreaded magnesium deficiency is, it seems, a thing of the past.

My other challenge has been to be home alone with three-year-old Cornucopia. On this challenge, I give myself a B-minus.

On the good side, the house did not burn down, Cornucopia did not become road kill, and we were not attacked by any of the components of Imperial America's war machine which are based in our neighborhood.

Additionally, on the Thursday night, as per my wife's prior instructions, got Corny to sit in a warm bath so her "private spot" could benefit from the all-dissolving powers of water.

On the downside, toward the end of my time alone with Corny, the whole thing degenerated into a three-year-old kid's idea of orgy heaven, with bananas, videos and bowls of ice cream (BOTH the chocolate and vanilla, thank you very much) following one another in a kind of Triumph for the Baby Emperor.

Well, we did survive, and I didn't set fire to the house, and I guess that's what's really important.

Regarding the American war machine, a chunk of this is just down the coast from us, at a place called Yokosuka. Amongst other things, the bloody Yanks insist on bringing their nuclear-powered aircraft carriers all the way into our nuclear-free backyard. And, of course, these atomic crates, on arrival, leak radioactivity into the water, in total disregard of any theory which says that they shouldn't.

My wife has benefited greatly from her trip to China, and is now ready to face the prospect of doing what she can to resolve Japan's pension system mess. A brief stint in the brick kiln has filled her with zeal for the comparatively sybaritic life of the tax department bureaucrat.

Pity about all the dental work she now needs: the brick kiln manager saw fit to put a shovel into her face, and the damage will take anything from six months to two years to fix. Well, worse things happen at sea. And in Blackwater's playground, Iraq.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Wife Flees Japan to Seek Political Asylum in China

My Wife Flees Japan to Seek Political Asylum in China

Wednesday 24, my wife threw a few designer labels into a suitcase then headed off for the train station. Her plan was thus: fly to Shanghai, take the train to Lhasa, go by train from Lhasa to Beijing and there apply for (and obtain) political asylum.

I thought this was a hare-brained plan, and told her so to her face. I warned her that, quite possibly, the Chinese authorities might choose to:

1. laugh in her face;
2. outsource her case to a North Korean labor camp where the most nourishing thing on the menu will be refried cockroach shadows;
or
3. sell her as a slave to a brick kiln in Central China.

However, my wife stood to her guns, arguing thus:

1. The pensions mess in Japan is of political manufacture. ("Sorry, sir, you say you paid into the national pension plan for fifty years? I'm sorry, but we have no record that you ever even existed.")

2. As a bureaucrat who is at the sharp end of the pension screwup crisis, my wife is a victim of political oppression, suffering under the yoke of the All-Time Idiots Who Really Screwed Up This Time.

3. As a victim of Japanese political oppression, the oppression of the competent by the incompetent, my wife can legitimately apply for (an expect to be granted) political asylum in China.

I have pointed out to her that there is no point in going to China. That magical Chinese toothpaste with the amazingly unexpected additives? You can buy that stuff right here in Japan, if you shop around for it. Those chemically potent Chinese vegetables with the hyperloads of insecicides? They have clearly labeled "Chinese garlic" at the veggie shop down the sidestreet by the station.

Plus, I don't buy into my wife's concept of how political asylum works. She chose to specialize, after all, in early childhood education, not in international law.

However, I must concede that, in some cases, my wife turns out to know more than I do.

She knew, for example, that I have a hospital appointment tomorrow, Friday, something which had completely slipped my mind.

She was able to lay her hands on the family photographs, intended for my parents (daughter Cornucopia in a kimono, husband and wife team togged out in formal gear) which I had gone and lost (somewhere) in the cluttered chaos atop the old kitchen table in my personal room.

She, too, turned out to be right when she asserted that there is now a train which goes all the way to Lhasa in far-off Tibet. I was inclined to doubt this, but, when I went and checked, this outlandish theory turns out to be true.

Tuesday, the day before departure, my wife showed me two tubs of curry defrosting on the sink bench. Dinner for me and daughter Cornucopia for Wednesday. The small one being "amai," ie "sweet," and intended for Corny. The bigger one (much hotter) for me.

Wednesday morning, after my wife's departure, I was planning my day and went to look for the curry. It had vanished, and was nowhere to be seen. I said some words about my wife which she, fortunately, was not there to hear.

Much later, toward the end of the day, I finally found the curry, hidden in plain sight in the fridge.

Good. We would have curry plus some of the rice from the rice cooker, my wife having promised that there would be a four-day supply of rice in the cooker, enough rice to feed the entire population of North Korea for the rest of the year.

The rice cooker was suspiciously inert, no friendly electronic light showing. On inspection, it turned out not to have been plugged in. I opened it up. Nothing. Nada. Either some sly crook had burglarized our rice or my wife had forgotten to put it on to cook. I said some more words about my wife. Pretty shocking words. (Fortunately, because of the limitations of the damaged brain I work with, immediatley forgot precisely what I had gone and said).

The phone rang.

I do remember what I said then:

"Now who can that be?"

In my mind, she, the regal Murasaki Nishikawa, was promenading through the streets of Shanghai wowing the local yokels with her stunning Italian fashionhouse getup. What had she been wearing when she left on Wednesday? Pada? Fendi? Versace? So many labels, so many brands! Can't keep track...
"Welcome to China," I said.
"I'm still at Narita," she said. "I forgot -"
"To put on the rice. I know. I just found out."
"You know where the rice is, don't you?" said my wife.
"No," I said.
Ignoring this assertion, my wife told me to take four cups of rice and put them into the rice cooker. Then fill the cooker to the "4" level. Then press the TORIKESHI button. Then press the button on the right.

This sounded horribly technical, and I had grave doubts as to whether I would be able to either (a) remember or (b) carry out such a complicated instruction set.

However, by happy accident the rice was sitting out on the kitchen floor in plain sight, and I succeeded in doing what I had been bidden to do. One small problem: none of the buttons is labeled in English. Japanese only for this rice cooker. But, for once, my Japanese was equal to the task.

All set to go, I pushed the button on the right. Much to my amazement, the rice cooked.

We have the ultimate high-tech rice cooker. No rice washing and no soaking time required. Just load it up then hit START. And the rice, once cooked, will keep warm for three days, easily.

American Death Camp

American Death Camp

News has recently surfaced online of a disgusting American death camp where prisoners innocent of any crime are subjected to lethal doses of radiation in order to establish survival outcomes in the aftermath of a nuclear war.
Presumably this research is related to the upcoming nuclear strikes which the United States will, in all probability, launch against Iran later this year.
The prisoners are, of course, terrified, and struggle to escape. But, in today's world, American genius is expressed by detention camps, interrogation rooms, torture chambers, secret star chamber proceedings, covert abductions and masterful disappearances. For those in the grip of the American claw, there is no escape.

The prisoners did not take well to being corralled within a tiny block arrangement designed to make sure each ... gets the same dosage.

The American mad scientists who are participating in this holocaust of the innocent seem to be, for the most part, shameless. Though one admits to faltering:

"I had to put myself in quite the mind-set to do it," Byron said.

The institution where this American dream of absolute power and violence is being enacted is the following House of Shame:

"The crew is using an irradiator in the basement of Hanford's 318 Building just north of Richland. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory usually uses the device to calibrate dosimeters, which measure radiation exposure to humans and animals, and to check for radiation damage of video cameras, fiber-optic cables and other equipment."

As for the prisoners, they, it seems, were born in captivity. America, like North Korea, now has trans-generational prison colonies, with infants being born in captivity and facing, from their first moments, a life of Living Hell.

That fact can be gleaned from the following:

"A scientific supply company sent 200 cockroaches for the tests, "all laboratory-grade, farm-fresh," Imahara said."

The actual URL where America's shame is on display is the following:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003963482_roaches20m.html

and I got there courtesy of this well-worth-visiting site:

http://newsoftheweird.blogspot.com/

From this site, I learnt that there are now braille tattoos for the blind. Here are a few words relating to that:

[Call me superficial, but I love cute haircuts, hot make-up, and creative tattoos, but lately I've wondered, if you're blind, can you enjoy these very visual things. Well one student has thought up a way where the visually impaired can express themselves through tattoos that can be read. The Braille Tattoo, designed by Klara Jirkova (a student at the University of the Arts Berlin), is a series of implantable surgical steel, titanium, or medical plastic that's placed under the skin. The tattoo can then be read via touch. Subdermal implants are nothing new, but using them to create body art for the visually impaired is an interesting idea. Jirkova thinks the implants could be used in the divet between thumb and pointer finger, so when people shake hands they can "read" each other's names and info.]

The quote above is from the following:

http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2007/10/tattoos-for-the.html



In the best tradition of American volunteerism, public spiritedness is what facilitates this research:

"Lab operators agreed to the research for purposes of science education, and workers donated their time, in some cases using part of their vacation allotments."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium Deficiency

Quite some time back, after a round of blood tests, my hematologist saw fit to ask me about my drinking habits. My wife being on hand, we confessed that we do imbibe, but only modestly, limiting alcohol to one or two glasses of wine on the weekends.

The question turned out to be because my blood tests had shown that my magnesium levels were low.

Initially, I was not worried about this. Magnesium? So what. I knew it was a constituent in some fireworks, but did not otherwise think it significant.

However, after someone kindly sent me some maagnesium data, I got seriously related. Not having enough magnesium can really screw you up. Most worryingly of all, part of the downside can be kidney stones, an agonisingly painful condition that I want to avoid at all costs.

Magnesium-rich foods include potato peels and certain nuts. But which nuts? I've lost the data I was sent, so, rather than eating magnesium-rich nuts, I've been eating nuts in general, which is not really the way to go.

So, with my next set of blood tests coming up this Friday, the 26th October 2007, I've finally gone online to refresh my magnesium deficiency concept.

Google "magnesium deficiency" and you get "about" 1,830,000 pages.

If you put the search term in quotes then the pages drop to about 300,000, with the snippet for the first being this:

[Conditions Linked to Deficiencies of Magnesium
Reviews mitral valve prolapse as a symptom of a magnesium deficiency as well as anxiety and psychiatric disorders, asthma, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue ...
www.ctds.info/5_13_magnesium.html - 36k - Cached - Similar pages]

Now, if you add in "nuts" ... you get barely 41,400 pages ... of which one is the following:

[Health Magnesium, Magnesium Deficiency and Benefit of Magnesium ...
Rich vegan sources include legumes such as beans and peas, nuts and seeds, ... Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood, ...
www.amazines.com/article_detail.cfm/211497?articleid=211497 - 67k - Cached - Similar pages]

The actual page in question is this:

http://www.amazines.com/article_detail.cfm/211497?articleid=211497

Here is a quote:

[ Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral found in the body and is very essential for good health. It is mostly found in the bones (around 50%), teeth, and red blood cells. The other half is largely found inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood. The body takes magnesium from the diet and excretes the excess through urine and stool. A balanced diet contains enough magnesium for the body's functional requirements.]

It's a long article so I did a wrap-around search for "nuts" and hit "cashew nuts". I then did a Google for ["cashew nuts" "magnesium deficiency"] and got about 299 pages, one suggesting that cashew nuts are pretty magical things:

[Eliminate Tooth Infection (Abscess) With Cashew Nuts
It is proposed that anacardic acids in raw cashew nuts will cure tooth abscess or ... Magnesium deficiency has been proposed as causing lower tooth density, ...
members.tripod.com/~charles_W/tooth.html - 39k - Cached - Similar pages
Plus]

This was not giving me what I wanted, which was a list of magnesium-rich nuts, so I decided to see if Wikipedia had a page for magnesium deficiency.

It turns out that Wikipedia has two pages, one for this deficiency in plants, and the other for the same problem in humans. I believe that I am a human rather than a plant, so I went for the human-relevant page, which is this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnesium_deficiency_%28medicine%29

Note that diet can fix you up, up to a point, but "intravenous supplementation is necessary for more severe cases."

("Nurse! His magnesium is critically low! Put up a drip! Now!")

Here is a quote from the page's SYMPTOMS section:

[Possible symptoms and pathologies as a result of magnesium deficiency are widespread, but may include: Hypertension, cardiovascular disease, Vitamin K deficiency, depressed immunity, depression, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, increased levels of stress, insomnia, migraine, cancer, ADHD, asthma, and allergies.]

And note that:

"68% of the US population do not meet the US RDA for levels of magnesium."

There is also a page for Hypomagnesemia, which is this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypomagnesemia

Quote:

[The prefix hypo- means low (contrast with hyper-, meaning high). The middle magnes refers to magnesium. The end portion of the word, -emia, means 'in the blood' (note, however, that hypomagnesemia is usually indicative of a systemic magnesium deficit). Thus, Hypomagnesemia is an electrolyte disturbance in which there is an abnormally low level of magnesium in the blood. Usually a serum level less than 0.7 mmol/l is used as reference. It must be noted that hypomagnesemia is not equal to magnesium deficiency. Hypomagnesemia can be present without magnesium deficiency and vice versa.]

All I wanted was a list of magnesium-rich nuts, which I thought would take 30 seconds to find ... but when I started this search it was Tuesday, and now, suddenly, it is Wednesday.

Okay, let's try:

[list magnesium-rich nuts]

Looking at the results, this is NOT the search I need to do. Okay, try this:

"magnesium-rich nuts"

Okay, only about nine pages, with the snippet for one being this:

[Why Breakfast is the Most Important Meal of the Day- Quick & Simple
Combine leafy greens like spinach or broccoli, which are high in magnesium, with a protein-rich omelet, or add magnesium-rich nuts like almonds, ...
www.quickandsimple.com/article.php?id=403&menu=2 - 41k - Cached - Similar pages]

Okay ... cashew nuts, almonds ...

The page is this:

http://www.quickandsimple.com/article.php?id=403&menu=2

And here is a short list of relevant nuts:

[Combine leafy greens like spinach or broccoli, which are high in magnesium, with a protein-rich omelet, or add magnesium-rich nuts like almonds, peanuts or cashews to your cereal or oatmeal.]

Okay, already done ... my daily cereal, Alara Deluxe Muesli comes already with a bunch of nut fragments. Here in Japan we buy it at Seijo Ishi, which has a number of branches scattered around the place, one at Atre at Ebisu, for example, and one down in the basement level below the JR station on the Yamanote Line which is the terminus of the Toyoko Line ... can't remember the name of the station ... the magnesium deficiency must be hitting me real hard! ... humiliatingly, I ended up having to Google this. The answer is "Shibuya." Of course ...

Okay then, here it is, a list of magnesium-rich nuts: cashews, almonds, peanuts ... and Googling that list in conjunction with the term "magnesium" I arrve at this:

[Nutrition | Ludlow Nut Co.
Magnesium is a mineral that is abundantly found in nature. ... Products: peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, ...
www.ludlownutco.co.uk/recipes/270_nutrition-home.asp - 19k - Cached - Similar page]

The page is this:

http://www.ludlownutco.co.uk/recipes/270_nutrition-home.asp

And it has a good list of magnesium-rich nuts, as follows:

[Products: {sources of magnesium} peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, walnuts, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, dates, prunes, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, linseed and tomatoes.]

The good news, obviously, is that peanuts are a good source of magnesium. Good because peanuts are the cheapest nuts of all.

We don't currently have any nuts in the house, for the simple reason that I've gone and eaten them, but I think we do have some choco pies downstairs, and I'm going to head down to the kitchen now to check out that hypothesis. It's now 06:20 and I feel in need of some nutritional assistance ...

I used to think the three important food groups were chocolate, ice cream and liquorice allsorts, but obviously this theory, while attractive, was insufficient ...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

WRAITH SHIPS III: THE SECRET OF THE TERRORIST TRAINING CAMPS

If you've had a taste of glory - I mean, real glory, victory parade glory - then it's addictive. Instantly and forever. Just that one sweet taste.
You get into your hotel suite and it's huge, with an enormous vase of fresh cut flowers on the genuine antique table and with a bottle of the best possible sparkling white in a bucket of ice by the flowers.
And when you get to the bedroom you find Miss Flower Festival naked in you bed, and she smiles at you as you turn back the covers to inspect this trophy.
You weren't expecting this, so, seeing that you look slightly disconcerted, she asks, very politely, if perhaps you would prefer your brother. If you would, well, he's just upstairs in a matching suite, oiled, perfumed, lubricated and ready to begin. Just say the word and he'll be right down. Or, if you prefer, he can come down here.
That was the memory I had in mind when I had my meeting with Colonel Cuthbert. Not a fantasy, but a fact. A real memory. Something that actually happened.
One taste and you are addicted.
If we lived in an age of warlords, I would want to be first warlord then emperor. In the absence of such opportunity, celebrity is not a bad substitute.
In the downfall of the Save Our Snails mob, in the police sweep which had brought them into the orbit of the state, I saw my opportunity. If unleashed upon them then I, with my ten years of experience and my fearsome reputation, would crack their secrets out of them and get at what they had been doing.
Rumors were surfacing. Electronic equipement carried into the mountains. Odd, bulky packages being carried over difficult terrain along trails usually seldom or never frequented. In an age of terror, this stank of organized murder in the offing.
So my meeting with Colonel Cuthbert was important. But went badly. he did not like me, and I did not like him, either. And I think our mutual dislike was all too apparent.
Even so, he approved of the report that I had written on my client, a classic piece of ratutil - that is to say, of rational utilitarianism. It boiled down to this: he is old, he is senile, he remembers nothing and the chances of him ever surfacing useful data are precisely zero. We expend resources on him with no possibility of reward. It is time for him to be surceased. Grant me the permission and I will do the job myself, no executioner's fee required.
It was that final point, perhaps, which decided the colonel in my favor. Much to my surprise, he signed the surcease papers permitting me to liquidate my client.
For a moment, it seemed that the path to the gateway of my celebrity dream was clear and lit. But then the situation went horribly pearshaped.
Our bottom-feeding tabloid, Pravda, had scored a journalistic coup by cracking the secret of the terrorist training camps.
Pravda had done this by the simple expedient of sending journalists out to the huts and survival shelters in the Traken Mountains, the place where the Save Our Snails mob were said to have been doing mysterious training involving oddly-shaped pieces of equipment and portable electronic gear, and harvesting personal details from the log books.
The log books are mainatined in huts and shelters by DOC, the Department of Conservation, which has "Safety first" as its motto for the mountains.
Here on planet Sentosa, we all think of ourselves as survivalists. We are, after all, all members of the same congregation, all adherents of the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ Survivalist, Christ being the Ultimate Survivor. (Yes, he was crucified, we know that, but he survives because we embody him. We, then, are his immortality.)
But, while our self-image is that of the rugged and independent outdoor expert, the truth is that we are effete city dwellers who have very little hope of surviving once we get very far from the nearest electrical outlet. So, to optimize the chances of recovering either lost hikers (or "trampers," to use the Sendosan word) or, failing that, their bodies, DOC makes it a rule that hikers (in Sendosan, "trampers") should record in the log books (a) their names, (b) their contact details and (c) their intended route.
DOC is hated by most trampers because it ruthlessly enforces the pay-five-dollars-a-night rule. Way back when, you could sleep in the huts and shelters for free, because they were built on public land with donated money and volunteer labor. But then Planetary expropriated the whole lot, and DOC was charged with the mission of setting up a toll booth on the network of mountain trails once known as Freedom's Highway, hallowed ground on account of their role in the bitter guerilla campaigns of the Long War.
Such was the resentment at Planetary's high-handed arrogance that, for the first twenty years of the five-dollar system, it was commonplace for DOC officers to be gunned down and left for dead on distant trails. But those times are gone, and now most trampers toe the line and, obediently, fill out the safety-first log books.
By contacting people who had been in the area, Pravda was able to surface eyeball testimony backed up by digital photographs and home-made video, and, when the truth of the "military training" came out, the supposed terrorist emergency disintegrated into utter farce. And, with it, my dreams of glory.
What the SOS guys had been doing in the mountains was an extremely eccentric sport called "extreme ironing." This requires oddly-shaped packages, weird equipment which is anomalous in a hiking situation, and electronic equipment, the said electronic impedimenta being in the form of a portable steam iron.
The sport, if you can call it that, involves trekking into the mountains and taking along with you (a) a small ironing board, (b) a steam iron which can function as such once it no longer has access to a mains electricity outlet and (c) something to iron.
You iron in extreme conditions and in extreme terrain, braving snow, ice, frost, fog, hail, lightning storms and, in the Plektorite season, descending meteorites.
For the second time in my life, my dreams have been shattered by the Save Our Snails mob, sneaking the whiff of victory in front of my nose then snatching it away again.
So what is left?
Only tottering old Captain Slocum, whose death permit I have in my possession, safe for the moment in my biometric safe. And he, perhaps, is my one last shot at glory. It is, I think, almost impossible, but, even so, I will give it a try. I will attempt the impossible and seek from him the secret of the Wraith Ships.
If I can succeed, and can summon the ships themselves from out of the depths of time and space where they have been lost for so many centuries, then I will be not just a celebrity but a World Historical Figure, which, if you play it right, means, I think, top-quality hotel suites and happy girls forever.
Well, roll on tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

WRAITH SHIPS Part II: SAVE OUR SNAILS

WRAITH SHIPS Part II: SAVE OUR SNAILS

I hate Save Our Snails and all the rest of that mob. They destroyed my childhood dream when I was just eleven years of age, and the damage they have done to my life is permanent and beyond repair. At age eleven, my hope, my dream, my life flame's desire, was nullified by SOS, and for that I will never forgive them.
So here I am, one day after my eleventh birthday, sneaking by night on the lumpy terrain of Rebthot Peat Diggings, property of Jonathan Lucent Rebthot. You have to get past barbed wire (very rusty old wire) which is adorned by red signs saying "MINE FIELD."
I'm half way out, only twenty paces from the Bunyip Tree, when I freeze up. A panic attack. The MINE FIELD signs have been working on me, and now they've precipitated a panic attack. I am marooned. Can't move.
And that's when I hear one of Johnny Reb's dogs waking up inside Blackheart, the Rebthot stronghold.
The dog galvinizes me into action, and I do my own little one-boy infantry assault (yes, I was a mere boy, then, for all that I imagined myself to be a man) to the Bunyip Tree, which was heavy with big orange-purple Bunyip Snails, unique to our planet and doomed to extinction on account of the pollution that would inevitably result from the polyvinyl chloride plant that was soon to open in our neighborhood, over the dead bodies of our Local Council. (All nine members of the Council had committed suicide to protest against Planetary's decision to force us to host the PVC plant.)
The snails - I still remember how they felt under my trembling touch - were velvety, with tiny little prickles in amongst the velvet of their fur. I gathered five, ten, twenty. I only needed half a dozen for my Grand Scheme, but the others would come in handy for trading purposes. I would be the only person in Known Reality to have surplus Bunyip Snails available, and, even at age eleven, I had a realistic appreciation of the kind of leverage that would give me.
I shoveled the snails into the shoplifting pockets built into the lower legs of my denim jeans, and that was when I was grabbed from behind. By who? Johnny Reb, it turned out.
Once he had me down in the basement of the Rebthot stronghold, he did a full-scale Military Interrogation. I mean, the whole thing. Face slapping, a strangulation mask (an efficient alternative to water boarding) and adroit use of both a Taser and a cattle prod. The cattle prod, boy, that was brutal.
I withstood all. If I could resist interrogation, there was a chance that I would get out of here alive with my sacred dream intact.
Here on planet Sentosa, we have more snails than all the planets in the rest of Known Reality put together. I'd always been fascinated by snails, ever since I was old enough to walk, and I'd been collecting them seriously since I was three.
By the time Johnny Reb was interrogating me, I was supported by my dream. Give me a why and I will endure any how.
My dream was to have my own snail museum, a place of elite spaces and crystalline light, a meticulously ordered alternative universe entirely divorced from the sweat and vulgarity of daily life, life as lived by the peasants who inhabited my planet.
So I endured.
But Johnny Reb did not give up. He had his daughter Mezlot phone my mom and con her into believing that I was going to be saying over at the Rebthot place to play mahjong. Actually, I did not then (and do not now) play mahjong.
My mom bought it. She had been a serious alcoholic for at least five years by then, and she wasn't anything you could seriously think of as as a "mother."
Having secured time in which to work, Johnny Reb picked up the phone and summoned five of his cronies, all whiskery whiskey drinkers aged between, I would guess, fifty-five and sixty-five. And, for a solid week, we played games in the basement. Mahjong was one of them, but there were a lot of other games, too.
What happened in that basement is something that I have never discussed with anyone, not even the psychiatrist who worked with me for six months, doing a Deep Dissection, during the first year of my five years of training as an Interrogator.
He wanted to know why I was phobic to, amongst other things, mahjong boards and the tablets used to play the game of mahjong.
I hung tough for the whole week, then Johnny Reb threw me in the shower, shoved a vial of Invigorator into my veins to get my legs working again, had his wife do a makeup job on me and forced me to take three tablets of Sluggard to make sure that I didn't turn friskily informative when I got home.
When I got home, I laid out my precious Bunyip Snails on my quilt, the one my grandmother had made, completing it just the week before. My snails, my precious snails. The achieved foundation of my dream.
"My real life has started," I said.
That was a line straight out of a comic book, I know that. But, with so many years having passed, I can no longer remember which comic book.
A week after Johnny Reb sent me home, a helicopter winched two kids out of the lumpy terrain of Rebthot Peat Diggings. One of them was winched out on a stretcher, having lost both legs, as he had stepped on a Deep Waltz longlast mine (an A#22-7/0-mod-redux#9, if you happen to be an afficionado of the very interesting universe of land mines.) The mine had been there since the Long War, one of the estimated seven billion unexploded mines on our planet, so Johnny Reb didn't get into trouble on account of it.
I gloried, then, in the possession of my snails, all the more precious becuase (albeit unknowingly) I had hazarded my life in a minefield to win them.
Nobody else, I was sure, was going to be doing any snail poaching in, on or near the Rebthot property. My monopoly, my lifelong monopoly, my unique sales point, was locked in and secure for the rest of my life.
Then those Save Our Sails sods, those unspeakable excremental urine-drinkers, they did me in, trashing my dream, destroying my hopes, and sending my dream castles tottering down to ruin.
The Conservation of Species Act, that was what did it. Having strongarmed Planetary by an eighteen-year campaign of terrorist acts, including the use of polonium bombs, cobalt 90, ricin and the mutated and highly lethal strain of nanovirus known as Quelp, they had broken the will of the Central Government to resist.
Under the terms of the Conservation of Species Act, it became illegal to own, kill, farm, breed, collect, sample, scientifically investigate, archive or DNA-type dolphins, whales, penguins, wombats, quokkas, platypuses, tarantula spiders, any cephalopod certified as having an IQ higher than 17 ... and snails.
Any and all collections of any such organisms, whole or fragmentary, were to be surrendered immediatley for destruction.
I saw the details on the TV news in the evening and, that night, set my alarm clock so I woke before dawn. My parents were, convniently, out of the house for the day, attending one of the compulsory marriage-counseling sessions mandated by the court.
Like all boykids on Sentosa, I was competent at basic carpentry, which was a subject that we actually studied at school, where it was called "woodwork." With a boy's lifetime of comic book reading behind me, I knew exactly what I had to do.
By the time I was finished - it took more than a whole working day, but I got it done before a taxi decanted my extremely drunken parents outside the house shortly before four in the morning - if you reached up to the top of my bedroom door then there was a panel you could slide away.
The panel would slide right off, then you could lift it up. And, suspended from it by thin threads of fishing line nylon, there were my precious Bunyip Snails, each in its own little plstic bag, safely wrapped in cotton wool.
I knew from my boyhood comic book reading that, historically, this was one of the stash-em-and-hide-em tricks that had been used, way back when, back in the Twentieth Century, by the Israeli Secret Service ("Israel" being, depending on what reference book you consult, (a) a planet that was part of the Home System, (b) a nation state or (c) a leading chain of fast food restaurants at atime when Planet Earth was ruled by coalitions of such chains, each coalition always at war with all the others.
In my smugness, I was sure that my secret was perfectly safe, and my only bad moment came when my mom, whose sense of smell was much sharper than mine, enquired as to why my bedroom smelt of wood shavings.
A week later, one hour before dawn, my bedroom door shattered into splinters as an elegantly calculated incursion charge blew the door off its hinges.
As I stumbled out of bed, a tear gas grenade went off in the room. And, as I was making futile efforts to open my lock-back pocket knife, I was clubbed into submission. My entire room was smashed, ripped and shredded, and, of course, they found my snails. They had grown up reading exactly the same comic books that I had.
I was interrogated for a solid three months but they got nothing out of me. Nothing. Not one single word. In consequence of this unprecedented feat, I was computer-selected for the career track I am on now.
I have, at this writing, the honor of being an Interrogator, a full colonel in Planetary Interrogation. I won my rank by extorting from General Cheops the prevacise location of the Happy Valley thermonukes. When I got to work, we were only two hours out from Deadline, the moment at which the nukes would do their stuff and cobalt 90 would render our planet uninhabitable.
To do the job, the only piece of equipement I had with me was granny's quilting hook, the one she had used to make the quilt that used to adorn my bed (one of the many things that vanished in my parents' suicide pact fire).
I broke General Cheops in precisely ninety minutes, the most intense ninety minutes of my entire life, so shattering in their intensity that I needed a month to recover.
That is what I am famous for. But now, I think, my apotheosis has arrived. Over the weekend, Planetary has had armed police taking down a whole range of dissident groups, everything from Save Our Snails to Clean Air Now! They have been hauled into court on murky charges, with gagging orders slapped on those few of them who have been granted bail.
I am itching for the call which, I hope, will come before the week is done. But now I have to leave this file for a moment and head off to Brynderwyn Hospice, where, all going well, I will be able to persuade Colonel Cuthbert to sign off on the surcease papers that I need to bring an end to the life of Captain Slocum, the client I have been working with for a solid five years now.

WRAITH SHIPS ON MY MIND - PART I.

WRAITH SHIPS ON MY MIND - PART I.

When I left home to head for work, I heard screams coming from the Plantation. This is the woodlot out behind our homestead. All we grow there is manuka, a shrub that grows to the size of a small tree and makes nice firewood. We use the firewood for smoking snapper, a name applied to the kind of sea bream which we catch in local waters.
Judging by the screaming, it was a woman who was making the noise. I was all dolled up in my new dress uniform, because I was going to be meeting with Colonel Cuthbert, and I wanted him to sign some surcease papers for me. The last thing I wanted to do was to paddle down the wet and muddy path that leads into the Plantation, but that's what I did.
When I got to the clearing where the incinerator stands, there was a woman staked out on the ground, fresh blood red on her pale thighs. Half a dozen of the Gwenty brats were standing around, three of them with vivid blue paint spattered all over their pubic area. She's obviously had one of those anti-rape packets stashed in her panties, and it had gone off, and now three of the Gwenty brats were splattered with it.
"Get lost, Eater,@ said the largest Gwenty on hand, Barolo, eighteen years of age and a head taller than I was.
I didn't mess around. I hauled out my Taser and I tazed him. Twice. I just love the way they kick around in screaming convulsions. That really does it for me. I love the Taser so much that my first stock purchase ever was ten shares in Taser Transcosmica, our beloved T-trans, most important commercial outfit in Known Reality, if you ask me.
"Call the police," said Miss Bloody Thighs, struggling to the feet.
"Get out of here, bitch," I said.
I didn't want her bringing any cops here. My dad had not yet finished harvesting this year's marijuana crop. Plus I had five totally illegal plants of my own growing in the back of the Plantation - tobacco plants. You get caught with those, it's a death penalty offence. And on top of that there's the methamphetamine lab.
"Get out of here, bitch," I said, "or I'll taze you."
That upset her so much that she started pissing, right then and there. I was disgusted to see the stuff vomiting out of her. I hate it when a woman can't control her excretory functions.
My hatred goes back to the day when I murdered my sister, who was twelve years old at the time. It was my dad who had tasked me to perform this honor killing, just one day before my fourteenth birthday. Here on Sentosa, when you turn fourteen you become criminally liable for your acts, but up until then you get a free ride.
Although sister Belinda was as tall as I was, and almost as strong, taking her down was easy enough, thanks to the piano wire garotte that my father had recommended. But toward the end she lost control of her bowels, and all the excrement she had packed inside herself came shoveling out all over my best suede dress uniform shoes, which were never the same thereafter.
So when I saw Miss Bloody Thighs doing her Me Big Leaky act, I lost my onion, and I tased her. Three times. Just love that sinister clickety-click. In my imagination, it sounds like the hugest scorpion in the world coming scrabbling over wet rock to grab you and do you.
I tazed her three times, leaving her in a weeping heap huddled on the ground.
"Can we do her now?" said Putty Gwenty.
Only nine years old, but, much to my surprise, fairly well hung, and already standing at attention.
"Yeah, okay," I said. "But no knives! That means no blades, no chisels, no screwdrivers, no bamboo stakes, nothing apart from what you were born that. Got that?"
Once I made sure they weren't going to overdo things, I headed for the Brynderwn Hospice.
By now, I wasn't
worried about the raped foreigner going and blabbing to the police. After our local custom of raping tourists got out of head, the govenment put pressure on the cops to crack down. Accordingly, if the rape rate stays below ten percent of what it was formerly, back in the louche days before the crackdown, each cop gets a tax free cash bonus which is equivalent to twice his annual salary.
The cops do a great job of keeping the rape complaint rate right down. They have a simple but effective method. When a woman comes in, they stuff her mouth full of modeling clay then gag her. Then handcuff her and stuff her in a bait bag, one of those big bags which are big enough and strong enough to hold a full-grown cow. Then, that night, they take her out fishing. What they fish for is megasharks. And her function is to make herself useful by going on the big hook and serving as bait.
I used to be friendly with a cop, once, and got invited to a copshop beer bash where they showed off trophy videos. So I saw uncut video of megashark fishing. Boy! Talk about a turn on! Some day, I'd like to get hold of some expendable girl - an unsatisfactory wife, for example - and take her out on the Big Deep to do a bit of that fishing myself.
But I'd need help getting her on the hook. I don't know how that is achieved, getting her meat on the steel, so I'd need some help with that part.

New Zealand: World's Best Outdoor Anarchist-Terrorist Training Camp!

Words Heard Through A Gag

... or, more exactly, through a gagging order.

One of the many people arrested by police in New Zealand who has been brought before a court and who has had the "terrorist" label stuck on him and who has been subjected to a gagging order, says the following:

"Its still all very murky, but what is clear is that the cops have used it as an excuse to harrass and raid as many different activist spaces & activist's houses as they can possibly think of. The net they've cast is simply MASSIVE."

The above surfaced on the following blog:

http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com/

Blogger Calvin Jones has a long post about the terrorism angle on the following page:

http://climatechangeaction.blogspot.com/2007/10/terrorist-arrests-or-state-repression.html

A quote from Calvin:

[There is also an anti-coal mining campaign that has been targeted, one of its members houses have been raided. Possibly the police are using some real armed Maori nationalists as an excuse to arrest some politically inconvenient campaigners...nothing is clear. It is also possible that the whole thing is being cooked up: it is true that one of the Maori guys arresed had worked as a security guard for high wealth businessmen, hence a need for arms...although not molitov cocktails that have been roumoured!

One of the social centers raided is called 'A Space Inside'. New on one of their conferences here.]

The "here" clicks through to an anarchism blog, and to this page on that blog:

http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/2122

Quote:

[Two weeks ago, the A Space Inside anarchist collective in Auckland held the Anarchism Is Organising conference, the first national conference for anarchists since the Anarchist Tea Party in December 2005. Anarchists from Auckland, Raglan, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Wellington and Christchurch attended (a fairly decent geographical spread) although total numbers were slightly less than the Anarchist Tea Party, and considerably less than the 2004 conference in Christchurch, and the 2003 Anarchist Tea Party.

The organisers had planned the conference agenda to first analyse the current state of anarchism in Aotearoa (day one) and then, on day two, to move towards what they saw as the best way to move forward, a broad Aotearoa anarchist network for communication and coordination between centres. Day two of the conference kicked off on a sour note, when before it had started, police arrived at the conference venue, allegedly to do a “bail check” on an activist who lived there, but on sight they arrested him, beat him up and pepper sprayed three others. The activist was eventually released around 27 hours later, with no charge.]

Aotearoa, for anyone not familiar with New Zealand, is an alternative word for "New Zealand" and comes from the Maori language.

Now, to wrap up, here's a scary concept for you: ANARCHIST KIDS! As if all kids weren't natural anarchists anyway.

Quote:

[Early in the conference, one attendee commented that it was the first anarchist conference she’d been to where there weren’t any children present. The lack of children certainly changed the atmosphere (one later joined, but she was relatively old and was happy to join in with the conference activities), and I wonder whether part of the reason for the lack of children (given that there’s no shortage of them within the anarchist community!) was because in the advertising for the conference, no mention of children or the conference being child-friendly was made (a stark difference to previous conferences). Part of the reason for this could be that, unlike the 2004 Christchurch conference and the 2003 and 2005 Anarchist Tea Parties, none of the organising group had children, and therefore it was able to escape their mind (and, in an extension to this, that unlike the Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin communities, there are very few anarchists with children in Auckland full stop). This shouldn’t be an excuse however, and I wonder what would have happened if people from other centres had brought their young children up. Given the lack of space I mentioned in the previous paragraph for alternative meeting spaces, I wonder if a “childrens space” could have been created, and who would have kept the children company (and entertained) throughout the conference.]

A quick peek at the website for the New Zealand Herald, this being:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/

[High Court sends bailed terror suspect back to jail
5:00AM Wednesday October 17, 2007
By Herald Reporters
Jamie Lockett faces gun charges. Photo / Richard Robinson

Jamie Lockett faces gun charges. Photo / Richard Robinson
Anti-terror raids

* The bush that Tuhoe rules
* 'Leftie' backs police action

A man charged as a result of the investigation into alleged guerrilla camps was last night back behind bars - less than eight hours after being freed on bail.

The High Court in Auckland overturned a District Court decision and told Jamie Beattie Lockett there was "just cause" for his continued detention.

He had earlier been freed after Judge Josephine Bouchier said that on the evidence before her, Lockett could not be considered such a significant danger to the public that he should be in custody.

But in the High Court, Justice Helen Winkelman over-ruled that after receiving more information from police on Lockett's activities. She suppressed the details.]

I went to Google News and searched for "terrorism New Zealand." It responded, in part, by asking me if I actually wanted to search for "tourism New Zealand."

Well, that used to be our image: a tourist destination rather than a big outdoor terrorist training camp.

And this from the Bangkok Post:

[Wellington (dpa) - New Zealand police refused to confirm on Tuesday reports that Prime Minister Helen Clark had been targeted by a paramilitary group, which has also reportedly tested a napalm bomb and trained dissidents planning terrorist attacks.]

It does not define "napalm," but perhaps, in context, the word simply denotes a mix of petrol and detergent, or something like that ... but to say even that much is, I guess, unwise under the circumstances, so I'll avoid the temptation to look for stuff online about Molotov cocktails, and will call it quits here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Duty is not Clear and I am Worried

My Duty is not Clear and I am Worried

Something strange is happening in New Zealand, and I can't figure it out. Because the bottom line is not clear, I am not sure where my duty lies. Do I treat this as spectacle, or am I, implicitly, involved? Put it another way: is this just another disaster movie, interesting but none of my business, or is this the Time of Testing, trundling into town but with no standard bearer to clearly advertise its arrival?

What is happening, if the international media can be believed, is that armed New Zealand police have been cracking down on terrorist organizations which have been stockpiling arms and undergoing military training in mysterious camps.

From an international perspective, it all looks very simple. For example, www.bloomburg.com has a clearcut headline which says "New Zealand Anti-Terror Police Seize Weapons in Raid (Update2)"

To the BBC, the story is nice and simple, and runs thus:

[Police Commissioner Howard Broad said those arrested had used firearms and other weapons at military-style training camps.

Among those held was the prominent Maori rights campaigner, Tame Iti.

The North Island raids were the first use of the country's Terrorism Suppression Act.

The people targeted were from "a range of motivations" and from various ethnicities, the police chief said.

"Based on the information and the activity known to have taken place, I decided it was prudent that action should be taken in the interests of public safety," Mr Broad said.]

But if you are from New Zealand then you know that these people with "a range of motivations" are not new on the scene. They have always been there, and it has never, until now, been thought to call in the Waffen SS to come storming in with live ammunition chambered in their guns.

It seems pretty clear that the people on the scene are familiar faces. A "save our sails" mob which may have got a bit out of hand, as they apparently seem to see taking down and defeating the coal industry as part of their snail-saving mandate.

But the eco movement is not exactly new on the scene.

And, in New Zealand, unresolved tensions over land rights have been grumbling on all through my lifetime. While I was at university, there was a major standoff involving the police and Maori activists who had laid claim to some land near the coast in Auckland.

However, why the guns and raids now? What has changed?

I have been watching, for the second time, Terry Gillian's BRAZIL, his brilliant comic riff on George Orwell's 1984. It's about a world of jackbooted repression and state intimidation in the name of security. It's significantly scarier than the movie I've been watching back to back with it, that movie being STARSHIP TROOPERS (plotline: brave gung-ho military types fight Very Large Bugs, Extremely Noisily (and fight them in French for some reason, presumably because of a quirk of the download I've managed to get my hands on.)

Looking at the New Zealand situation, it seems that there are two ways to interpret it. One is to think it is symptomatic of a government which, being short, for the moment, of useful ideas, has chosen to create a homegrown terrorism problem out of the thin stuff of its own imagination.

One might imagine that, if everyone keeps their heads, this will all blow over, and that the New Zealand government will not actually go down the same Fascist dictatorship route that the United States of America has been taking in recent years.

But, alternatively, it's possible that the long-awaited hour of testing has come at last. That this is the time to send out the signal, to waken the sleepers, to pour water on the dehydrated dragons teeth, to turn the key in the lock and open the secret armory, the one which holds the repository of Semtex, polonium and cobalt 90, along with the well-oiled machineguns.

Is this, then, the hour to hand out the guns and ammunition? Or is it, rather, time to go look for some popcorn and enjoy the show?

I can't decide.

Probably I will think better once I close down STARSHIP TROOPERS so I can think with an unoccupied mind, but I have no plans to do that until I have succeeded in downloading LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, the Warner Brothers trailer of which I have successfully downloaded and watched.

On top of the problem of the movies playing (or soon to be played) on my computer screen, I have the problem of the movies playing in my own mind, most recently the wraith ships. Of which more later, but not right now ...

FIRST WORLD WAR POEM

FIRST WORLD WAR POEM

In my dreams,
I am unable to recover Flanders.
My white-bread soul
Has no authentic equivalent
For gangrene.
Happily asleep,
My three-year-old daughter says
(Speaking, it seems, in Japanese)
"Corny come too!"
In her dreams also,
It seems,
The black cows of tank attacks and mustard gas
Are missing.
My dreams move on,
Chaotically.
From the shattered plaster-of-paris replica
Of my mother's soul,
I cannot recover
My younger brother's identity.
An attempt to salvage it in mp3
Is thwarted by a bureaucratic popup
Demanding his surcease number.
Which I do not have.

Lacking authentic cataclysm,
I will content myself with the Grand Armada,
And our last-ditch assault on Pivot.
Our wraith ships spewn across transcosmic battlefields,
Falling and failing,
The last barrage of our suicide ships
Death-dwindling in a firefly kamikaze.
My father's father fought at Somme
And lived.
The missing Wraith Ships
Are no more recoverable than he is.
On a planet of buried battlefields I attempt
To dream to the black cow stratum,
To dream down,
Descending,
Falling
Past Madonna's contract,
Paris Hilton's fragrance,
Marcel's mime
To a death mask which will answer to my name.

Beyond Freudian psychology,
Beyond the realms of the ego and the id,
There lies the truest self,
The self called marzipan,
The reveler who enjoys
Bouncing in the mind's bright plastic play pen
On bean bags stuffed with empty eyes and surcease numbers.
Reclining on the bags, I fall to sleep,
And night, at last,
The true and real black cow night,
Descends,
With its buckets of faceless faces,
Settles upon my face ...
To shroud them.

Ancient Archives

I'm taking another shot at historical research using the links found on the following page:

http://london.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.00b00a

My target now is as it was before: the military career of my paternal grandfather, Gilbert John Cook, born 1893.

What I noticed yesterday was a link marked NATIONAL ARCHIVES. That link goes here:

http://london.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.00b00a00b

You are here:

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM LONDON >> LINKS >> NATIONAL ARCHIVES

Here is one that looks promising:

[Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Responsible for the graves of the war dead. The on-line Debt of Honour Register provides personal and service details and places of commemoration for the 1.7 million members of the Commonwealth Forces who died in the First and Second World Wars. Details of the 60,000 civilian casualties of the Second World War are also given]

That link goes to here:

http://www.cwgc.org/

There is a search box here:

http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp?menuid=14

I try:

Search for: Casualty
Surname: Cook
Initials: G. J.
War: First World War
I op for from 1914 to 1918 since I have no data that would let me fine-tune things further.
Force: army
Nationality of the force served: United Kingdom

Okay, fingers crossed ...

SUBMIT!!

""Here are the results of your enquiry. There are no records which match your search criteria""

Bums!

Okay, I'll give this one more shot ... try for Walter Butler, though I only have on initial ... see how I go ... killed in the First World War, I believe, so I will be looking not for "casualty" but for "cemetery."

No, won't work. If you choose "cemetery" then you have to specify the cemetery, which I don't know, so I'll go with "casualty" after all.

Here are the results of your enquiry. There are 90 records which match your search criteria.

Select a name to see more details

The direct link to the page is this:

http://www.cwgc.org/search/SearchResults.aspx?surname=Butler&initials=W&war=1&yearfrom=1914&yearto=1918&force=Army&nationality=6&send.x=47&send.y=13

There is only one Butler, Walter. His rank is private, his service number is 8208, his date of death is 28/12/1914 (28th day of the 12th month rather than 12th day of the 28th month, meaning that he died just after Christmas - bummer!), dead at age 37, Royal Irish Regiment, United Kingdom. The grave/memorial reference is Panel 1 and the cemetery/memorial name is PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL.

Never heard of it.

Doing a Google ...

[CWGC :: Cemetery Details
Location Information:, The Ploegsteert Memorial stands in Berks Cemetery Extension, which is located 12.5 kilometres south of Ieper town centre, ...
www.cwgc.org/search/cemetery_details.aspx?cemetery=88800&mode=1 - 17k - Cached - Similar pages]

"Ieper town??!!" ... oh ... misread it as "Leper Town," and did a double take ... Google Ieper town ...

[Map: Ieper town
Ieper Town. Heading. Introduction Maps Silver Line. France Belgium Silver Line. Guest Book E-Mail Silver Line. filler Go Back filler. Ieper Town ...
www.webmatters.net/maps/ww1_map_ieper_town.htm - 5k - Cached - Similar pages]

[Poperinge New Military Cemetery
Poperinghe New Military Cemetery is located 10.5 km west of Ieper town centre, ... From Ieper, Poperinge is reached via the N308. From Ieper town centre the ...
www.webmatters.net/cwgc/poperinge_new.htm - 15k - Cached - Similar pages]

I think this is the place sometimes written as "Ypres," which, if memory serves, I read somewhere that English troops, not big on authentic Continental pronunciation, used to refer to as "Wipers."

Okay, that's as far as I intend to go today. For my next stunt, a First World War Poem. I think ...

Brain Damage



Brain Damage

After my brain got shrunk by chemotherapy and then boiled by hard radiation, I lost my capacity for night navigation. Put me on a dark road at night and I can't find my way back home. Even more alarmingly, wake me up in my bedroom in one of the darker hours of the night, and I'm lost. Marooned. Can't find the door out.

I fixed the bedroom problem by mapping the room in my mind. Not so hard to do because the family bedroom that I always sleep in is a rectangle. All I have to remember is to lie flat on my back on the futon and stretch out my right arm. My fingertips will now be resting against the line of build-in cupboards, and I can follow that line of cupboards to the door out.

So, the other night, I was very unsettled to wake in my bedroom and to find, whoops, I'm lost again. Can't make sense out of this. What's this floor to wall window doing here? Don't remember that!

After a couple of really disconcerting minutes, I finally clicked. Not in my own bedroom. No, not at all. Instead, I'm up in Gunma, sleeping in the tatatami-mat room which opens directly off the kitchen in my mother-in-law's house.

I worked out how to get to the door, and got there, but I was seriously alarmed for a moment.

The next day, I took three-year-old Cornucopia out for a walk. We went past a stable where they keep cows, and I explained to Corny how it is with cows and little girls. The cows start by eating the hair, because it looks like grass. Then they realize that little girls are salty, and they love salt, so then they really go to town. Gao! GAO! (Munch! MUNCH!)

I don't think Corny had been expecting to have an adventure that day, but suddenly she was.

Then, suddenly, less amusingly, so was I, because I had gotten the pair of us lost.

Since returning to Japan, I'd at least twice been to the cow barn and back, but now, on the return journey, I was lost.

There were a few people on the streets, so I could ask for directions. But, in this pretty featureless landscape, it's difficult to think of a place which is known to me (once I'm there, I'm oriented) but also to the average local resident.

My brain still being at least partly functional, I hit on a good location: the library. A little out of my way, but I really do know the way back to my mother-in-law's house from there.

So we got home.

I passed that test, despite having a damaged brain, but failed another, which was to untangle, in the privacy of my own mind, the genealogy associated with the closely annotated set of old photographs I had received recently in the mail. Sorry, no can do.

However, I've started nibbling at the problem. And now I'm going to go online to see if I can find any details about two people upstream in my family line.

One is Walter Butler, and, sorry, I can't see how he fits into the picture, though, when I take another shot at the paperwork, it will all fall into place (probably). What I know about Walter B. is that he was killed in the First World War, which doesn't really seem fair, as my understanding is that he, personally, did not start that war. Nor was he the guy who decided that his nation, England, should be part of it.

The other one is simpler. Gilbert John Cook, born 1893. He is my father's father, which makes him my paternal grandfather. He didn't start the First World War either, but he, too, got dragged into it. Wasn't killed, but did get wounded. However, was lucky enough to recover so he could participate in the Somme. Which you wouldn't have wanted to miss, because it was one of the longest, bloodiest and most all-round horrific battles in the history of the human race.

(Sorry, looking at my notes, I think the brain damage may have done me in yet again. It seems, from re-reading my notes, that he got as far as the battle of the Somme in an unwounded fashion, but got wounded then.)

Anyway, apart from waging war on a bunch of Europeans who, personally, hadn't chosen to start the First World War either, my paternal grandfather worked quietly at the St Cuthbert's Paper Mill, then owned by the Inveresk Paper Company.

During the First World War he was in the Grenadier Guards.

My mission now is to see if I can find anything, anything at all, about the military careers of these two people who stand in my ancestral line, Walter Butler and Gilbert John Cook.

Gilbert John seems the easier, because I know that he was in the Grenadier Guards, so my first move is going to be to see if Wikipedia has an entry for the Grenadier Guards. And, if they do, is there an external link to an online repository of data on veterans?

Once more into the breach, dear brain, and fill the central cerebral fosse with the faces of our faceless English dead ...

(I had not plans to write a First World War poem, not this year, not ever, but maybe that is where this line of research is going to terminate.)

Okay ... Wikipedia ... Grenadier Guards ... instead of one entry, there are 707 ... I'd rather it were the other way round ... can't find any compact little list of external links ... okay, guess I will Google this ... about 750,000 pages for "Grenadier Guards" ...

You have to start somewhere, so I started with this page:

http://www.army.mod.uk/grenadier/index.htm

Prominent top right was this message:

Soldiers and members of their families looking for the most up to date information should be using the www.armynet.mod.uk version of this site.

https://www.armynet.mod.uk/

Okay, on this site they invite you, if you are a relative of someone in the British army, to apply for guest membership of something which seems to be called ArmyNET.

""This is a monitored proprietary system for authorised users only. Access by unauthorised individuals is prohibited and is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. If monitoring reveals evidence of misuse or criminal activity, it will be used to support disciplinary and/or legal proceedings.""

Better watch myself ...

If you want to sign up as a guest, there's a snag:

""This process requires you to have a sponsor who is already a full member of the ArmyNET community, for example, a serving soldier. You must know the ArmyNET username of your sponsor in order to complete your request to sign-up as a guest.""

Okay, scratch that. Where else can I look? British War Museum? I seem to think that there is such a place, the reason for so thinking is because I believe I once visited it, many years ago, in London. Let's see ...

Okay, welcome to the Imperial War Museum ...

http://www.iwm.org.uk/

Okay, and the London branch of the museum has a short and convenient page of links:

http://london.iwm.org.uk/server/show/nav.00b00a

Links to links and links to links ... the Internet, the ever-self-complicating brain, or the nearest thing that we as a civilization have to it, begins to unfold ...

Can I short-circuit this search by looking simply for "Gilbert John Cook"? Well, nobody will shoot me if I try.

To my great surprise, I get two pages for that exact search. The snippets for these two say:

[RootsWeb: COOK-L [COOK-L] FW: Cook Family tree
More About GILBERT JOHN COOK: Records: Marraige Certificate show John Gilbert Children of GILBERT COOK and KATIE SCOVILLE are: i.WALTER M5 COOK, b. ...
archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/COOK/1999-11/0941759411 - 14k - Cached - Similar pages]

[Staplehurst Marriages by Groom 1695 - 1792
... widow 1772 13 Oct GARNER William WOLLET Elizabeth Both OTP 1700 22 Oct GILBERT John COOK Elizabeth G: of Smarden, B: OTP 1779 19 Sep GILBERT Richard ...
freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~staplehurst/Mar_Groom_1695.htm - 56k - Cached - Similar pages]

I try the first one, drawn by the "Walter," which is my father's personal name, which he inherited from his father. I searched the page for "Walter" and came up with this:

[More About GILBERT JOHN COOK:
Records: Marraige Certificate show John Gilbert
Children of GILBERT COOK and KATIE SCOVILLE are:
i.WALTER M5 COOK, b. February 1885, Santa Rosa, California; d. February
28, 1929, Paradise ,Eldorado Co, California.
Notes for WALTER M COOK:]

So far, I've drawn a blank. I'll rethink and try again another day. Now, before I go, a search for "somme" "grenadier guards". Doing this search, I find that the battle honours of the Grenadier Guards include the following:

"Somme (Baupaume). 28 Mar1918. Arras. 30 Mar 1945. Rhine. 12 Apr 1918. Hazebrouck. 23 Apr 1943 ."

While doing the same search, I also find that there is something called the Grenadier Guards Association, which I will Google next ...

And here we are:

http://www.medwaygrenadiers.org/association.htm

A sister site is here:

http://www.grenadierguardsassn.freeserve.co.uk/

Almost done for tonight. But, at a way of touching base with at least one of my forebears, I will take a quick look at the Wikipedia page for SOMME ... here is the guts of it in two paragraphs:

[In 1916 Somme was the location of one of the largest battles of World War I, with more than one million casualties. It is also one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Allied forces attempted to break through the German lines along a 25-mile (40 km) front north and south of the River Somme in northern France. One purpose of the battle was to draw German forces away from the Battle of Verdun; however, by its end the losses on the Somme had exceeded those at Verdun.

While Verdun would bite deep in the national consciousness of France for generations, the Somme would have the same effect on generations of Britons. The battle is best remembered for its first day, 1 July 1916, on which the British suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 dead — the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army to this day. As terrible as the battle was for the British Empire and Canadian troops who suffered there, it naturally affected the other nationalities as well. One German officer famously described it as "the muddy grave of the German field army." By the end of the battle, the British had learned many lessons in modern warfare while the Germans had suffered irreplaceable losses. British historian Sir James Edmonds stated, "It is not too much to claim that the foundations of the final victory on the Western Front were laid by the Somme offensive of 1916."]

And night,
With its buckets of faceless faces,
Settles upon my face ...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Santa Claus Conquers the Marians the Martians

Santa Claus Conquers the Marians

Downloaded via GET STUFF option for BitTorrent 6.0 from "free movies" selection. Downloaded file is "santa claus conquers the martians.mpg," and its size is 540 MB.

Credits. Jaunty Santa music. Cartoon of Santa seen in background as credits roll. "Hang up that mistletoe, / Soon you'll hear 'ho-ho-ho" / Hurray for Santy Claus."

"Special Toys by Louis Marx & Co."

We see a TV. The TV reporter is at the North Pole at Santa Claus's workshop for an interview. Reporter is at the North Pole in furs. But his hands are bare: no gloves. Verisimilitude breaks down at this point.

Santa's workshop. A couple of bearded dwarfs in the background. Santa looks like a pipe-smoking alky. He nixes the rocket sled idea, says he's going with the retro reindeer. Santa has a CRS stuff problem. He can't reliably remember stuff, such as the names of his reindeer.

Mrs Santa shows up, proclaims that her hair is a mess, didn't know she was going to be on TV.

Winky the dwarf has made a weird doll. What is it supposed to be? A Martian. Santa seems to be a bit of a bully. He workers obviously need a union organiser. No, wrong. The bossy guy is a Martian, and he's chewing out a guy called Droppo. Martian kids spend all day blobbed out in front of the TV watching "ridiculous Earth programs."

We see Martian kids watching Earth programs. They don't know what a "doll" is or what "tender loving care" is. Martians look exactly like us but seem to have a somewhat stronger sense of hierarchy.

Keema, the leader of the Martians, says something strange is happening to the children of Mars. We, being faster on the uptake than him, pick up on the fact that the probable cause is the noxious influence of the Santa Claus stuff that the Martian kids are being exposed to courtesy of Martian TV.

Keema goes to the forest to meet one of the old ones. "Chochum is eight hundred years old. You can't dismiss the wisdom of centuries."

"Chocum, are you here? Ancient one of Mars, I call upon you."

Blurred guy looking like King Lear in the days of his decreptitude shows up. Chochum knows what the problem is: "What is a Christmas?" "It is an occasion for peace and great joy on planet Earth?"

Chochum has seen this disaster coming for centuries. The kids are electronically tutored from birth so have adult minds once they can walk, so have never played, have never learnt how to have fun, so now they are rebelling. Solution: the kids must be allowed to have fun, to be children again.

"We need a Santa Claus on Mars!"

The Martian leader decides to snatch Santa Claus from Earth and bring him to Mars. A confrontation, obviously, is in the offing.

Note on Martian technology: launch of a Martian spacecraft involves a trumpet fanfare.

We are not going to destroy anyone. "Our purpose is to bring Santa Claus back to Mars."

They think they see a Santa Claus, but what they are seeing is the begging-for-charity Santas who infest American streets at Christmas time, ringing "please give for charity" bells.

The Martian space ship has been spotted by the defenders of Yankland, who are cranking up their Star Wars stuff to confront the menace.

The President of the Unite d States orders the Strategic Air Command into action.

The movie has now been running for 22 minutes with a body count of zero. A bit slow by our standards, I think.

At this stage I abandon the mission. Sorry, free is not good enough. If I'm going to watch any more of this stuff, I'm going to have to be paid. Seriously good money.

Most obvious retro note: a computer, which I presume we're supposed to perceive as being "powerful," which is so huge that it takes up a number of sizeable rooms. The one surprisingly modern touch: when the Martians view one of Earth's cities from near Earth orbit, they immediately pick up on how stunningly vulnerable it is to attack from the air.

Stupid Earthlings, they should have built the sucker underground!

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Some time back, when three-year-old daughter Cornucopia was only two, I denounced her behavior online as being that of one of the most terrible of the terrible twos. In response, one correspondent saw fit to e-mail me with the warning that the threes can often be more terrible than the twos.

As Corny's behavior had, at the time, been apocalyptic ally awful, I was inclined to doubt that this was the case, but some of her behavior in the last week or so has convinced me that perhaps my correspondent was right.

On a recent day, I delivered a breakfast banana to the kitchen table, and her response was to throw it on the floor and bellow "Chisai!" (= "Small!).

I responded by saying that, on my last outing to our local outlet of Bananas R Us, all they had in stock was very small bananas, so a small banana was all she was getting. With that, I politely replaced the banana on the table.

Her response was a scream of agony, as if I had just gone and shoved a red-hot needle up her nose. All the torments of the Twenty-First Century were compressed in that operatic scream, a shriek of agony from the doomed m of Gotterdammerung.

"Chisai!" she shrieked.

And, with that, hurled the titchy banana to the ground.

I contemplated my options, which were two in number.

#1. Take her to a psychiatrist, have strong drugs prescribed, and, a few years down the track, deliver her to a mental institution for treatment in the form of ice cube baths, insulin injections, electroshock therapy and, eventually, a lobotomy.

#2. Ignore her.

I chose option #2, and the titchy banana remained where it was on the floor until, some hours later, I added it to my lunch.

It is now late Friday afternoon, and I am pleased to report that my food shopping expedition today means that the house is now stocked with bananas of a proper size, the same size as the ones we routinely import into New Zealand by the shipload from places such as Ecuador. And, in addition, I have bought more of the chocolate ice cream that Corny has almost exhausted.

My next task is going to be to view and critique SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, a free (and, I hope, not just free but also legal) movie that I succeeded in accessing and downloading by using the GET STUFF option provided by BitTorrent 6.0.

My dark suspicion is that perhaps it is free for a reason, ie is free because it is every bit as crappy as the title suggests it might be. But we will see.