Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thick and Chunky

Had some time to write yesterday ... the kids were behaving themselves, with one entertaining the other for long periods ... so I managed to get some solid writing in. Finished up a couple of Straitjacket Ninja scripts and then wrote down a story idea before composing some short comic strips. The most productive day I've had in a month.

So I was hopeful that today would be even better, but the wee boy was sick last night, even doing a great Exorcist impersonation. Poor wee kid. He's fine now though.

The lack of sleep has interacted with the tail-end of a cold and too much coffee to produce a writer who taps frantically at the keyboard, but produces nothing worth saving.

Hmmm, there's a short strip idea in that. Maybe I should have another cup and write it down?

Monday, June 29, 2009

What's black & white and has bad jokes?

Back on June 3rd I posted some pencils from Straitjacket Ninja. Well, here's the inked version of that page, which is the fifth page of the six-page story. Simon slaved over the feet of the nutty ninja in that large first panel.

This page has some very bad jokes on it, which as the writer I should probably apologize for. Let's just say that SN's twisted take on reality is full of bad puns and old gags. It's his fault, not mine. Honest.

Simon has already penciled the next two episodes, and I have plotted out twenty-four in total ... seventeen of which are written. We have no idea if anyone will take the strip. Even if they do there may be major rewrites needed, fewer or more pages per episode, ... who knows. But we are having fun. And we are getting in some practice. It feels right.

Meanwhile we have our day jobs. Simon has an ever-growing portfolio of commercial work, some of which you can see on his MySpace page. As for me, I have a stack of scripts on all sorts of topics, with all sorts of characters, from hard-nosed Victorian adventurers, to space-going goldfish.

Arthur Ashe once said that: "Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." On the other hand, we all have bills to pay, and who wants to be on a road to nowhere? Well, Talking Heads, obviously, but apart from them?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

As romantic as cold cat sick ?

I usually get my wife to proofread my blogs before putting them up. Yesterday's blog mentioned marriage, which made her bring up my less than romantic 'proposal' to a friend. In my defense ... actually, I'm not sure there is one other than being a stupid f**k.

My wife to be ... girlfriend at the time, obviously ... and I had been living together for a while ... not too long ...

Well, one day she asks me to go outside with her. I said, 'Why?" She just said she wanted me to go outside with her. I pointed out, quite practically I thought, that it was raining. She said it wasn't raining that hard. I had to agree, but still didn't see the point in going outside. She insisted. I resisted. She insisted. I caved, reluctantly, and she led me outside by the hand.

There, in the light drizzle, my girlfriend held me by both hands, spun me around a little, looked me in the eyes and asked me to marry her. I did what any idiot male would do in that situation ... I panicked. I mumbled, I coughed. I said: "No."

Over the years I have tried to justify my actions that day. I was scared. I was unsure. I was taken by surprise. But in reality I think I was just a dickhead.

To compound things further ... I often found myself, in the following days, thinking about this marriage proposal. One evening the two of us walked to the local Fish & Chip shop to get our nightly repast. We were holding hands on the way, talking about everything and nothing, until we arrived at the shop and both fell silent as we scanned the menu to determine what each of us would order.

Instead of choosing a meal I began to think about how great life was, how well the two of got along, how lovely she was in the glow of the florescent light of the Chip shop. So I turned to her and said softly ...

"You're right. We should get married."

Is it the least romantic proposal ever? Maybe. I like to think of it as a not very romantic acceptance of a proposal. However, it does make some things abundantly clear. My wife is a very tolerant women and I am lucky to have her.

What she sees in me ... ? You'd have to ask her.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Happy, happy! Joy, joy!

I was channel surfing, something I do far too often, the other day when I came across something on the Disney Channel that made me wince. It was a filler slice-of-life by a girl about her mother, who happened to be a wedding planner. I came in when the mother was re-enacting her own wedding day, and she uttered those tragic words ... "It was the happiest day of my life".

Really? You have a ten-year old girl for a start ... none of those ten years was better? You married some guy ... did he stop being fun and interesting to you the day after the wedding? Is it really all downhill from the wedding day ... the day that can never be topped?

I think the reason it got to me was it was on the Disney Channel. I hate the idea of kids being indoctrinated into the whole 'happiest day' myth. I'm surprised most brides don't end it all the day after the wedding. Or is the whole 'happiest day' thing merely an expected phrase, a required comment to satisfy all those involved in, and who paid money for, the event?

When I was at high school I used to get people telling me that these would be the best days of my life. High school was, apparently, the pinnacle of existence. If I had actually believed that I don't think I would have survived. Like many a geek I was not a happy camper at high school. But again, I did get the feeling that most of the people who said this worrying phrase really did look back on their high school years as the best they had experienced. It wasn't hard to see why for many of them. It still sends shivers down my spine.

My wife and I had a fantastic wedding. It was a great day. But there have been so many other great days since. Personally, I hope my happiest days are still to come, and I hope that applies to all of you as well.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Real feelings for virtual people

One of the oddest, yet most compelling, blogs I've found is the Alice and Kev blog by Robin Burkinshaw. It is a daily illustrated story of two homeless people, a father and daughter, but the story is being played by Burkinshaw in the Sims 3 game. Some clever editing and a feel for pathos makes the story seem far more than two game characters. I find myself actually feeling for these virtual creations.

Burkinshaw is a student of games design, and has a history of trying to subvert the intentions of games and push their limits. There's a very funny related blog about the game Space Rangers 2. The aim of the game is to become the best Space Ranger in the galaxy ... but Robin's method was a little unorthodox, and very funny in the telling. There's also a downloadable collection of Spore creatures that push the limits of reality.

Alice and Kev have a large online following, and my wife and I are addicted enough to check for the daily update every day. Because Burkinshaw lets the game decide much of what happens there is a real degree of not knowing what will happen next. Will Alice escape the clutches of her abusive father? Can she form meaningful relationships with the other Sims when she seems incapable of trust? Will Kev go too far in his outlandish behaviour? Are there consequences in the game for actions we would find abhorrent in real life?

It's a geek soap opera for the post-modern age. Check it out and get hooked.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Simon's Big News

Simon has is about to have some art published in Heavy Metal magazine. The story, Tomoe, was written and penciled by Katie Houghton-ward. Simon did the inking. Look for it ... well, Simon has no idea when you should look for it. But look for it anyway.

Congrats to Simon and Katie !!!

Now if we could only find someone to buy Straitjacket Ninja ...

... the quest continues.

Artwork copyright Katie Houghton-ward and Simon Morse.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's here ... !!!

Simon just delivered the pages to the third part of Straitjacket Ninja. As promised here's the inks to page six. You can compare them to the pencils by clicking here.

All the pages look great. Simon has put in a lot of effort on buildings, backgrounds and minute details. There's a few in-jokes, and even some computer trickery.

Simon tells me I am allowed to spill the beans on his big news. But that will have to wait until tomorrow's blog ...

Artwork copyright Simon Morse

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Update on SN part three

I did something I have never done on Skype last night. I did some comic book writing on it.

Simon rang me on Skype last night wanting a re-write of one panel of episode three of Straitjacket Ninja. A while back he had made a good suggestion that changed one page of the script slightly.

I had originally had the straitjacketed one sitting on a fire escape and having delusional thoughts about sophisticated technology inside his cardboard box. The thoughts of the ninja went as follows ...


Simon suggested that SN should be more Zen than tech in his delusions. It was a good suggestion.

So Simon drew one page slightly different drawings from the script, but I never replaced the one panel of block text that needed alterations. So last night we changed the script over Skype in record time, about three minutes It now reads ...


This fits into the 'plot' much better, and is by itself a funnier line. At least I think so. Now there is nothing to stop Simon finishing the lettering. He hopes to have the six pages of episode three electronically in my hands tonight.

Oh! I should mention that Simon has some big news regarding his comic art, but I'm not sure I'm allowed to tell you about it. So I'll just be a big tease instead.

Art is copyright Simon Morse

Monday, June 22, 2009

... and I feel fine (but tired).

So ... tired.

Not enough sleep ... lately.

Can't ... form ... cogent sentences.

Must write ... blog ... or world will ... end .... (zzzzz, zzzzz, zzzzz!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's a Classic ... No, really !

We have a few DVDs in our collection that provoke dismay from some of our friends. Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death is one of those. I think it is great. My wife will tolerate it every few years if there's enough to drink when it's playing. Part parody of Apocalypse Now, part cheesy exploitation movie and part sly commentary on the feminist movement, it falls flat at times, but overall it is a fun film.

The writing impresses me on Cannibal Women--I aspire to mix elements into a story as effectively as they are in this movie--but I was amazed to learn that the writer's name, J. D. Athens, is a pseudonym for the writer of Pretty Woman, among other things.

I'm one of those people who can't understand why anyone would find Pretty Woman to be a romantic movie. He buys her for sex. Plain and simple. It is not romantic. Rather it is unbelievable, exploitative, and perpetuates an unwanted myth about the heart of gold hooker and the nice john that I'm sure has been used for evil ever since. But then I'm of the opinion that The Piano isn't a romantic movie either.

For me a romantic movie is The Princess Bride. I'm still a kid at heart. But as for Pretty Woman being romantic? Inconceivable!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The hair goes all the way 'round

This is a picture my daughter drew today. It is me after drinking coffee. The more I drank the more she added to it. In my defense it had been a sleepless night thank to her wee brother. Coffee was needed.

I think she captured me rather well.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Information Spaghetti Junction

The web can be a tangled labyrinth. The other day I saw an item scrolling arcos the bottom of the screen on a news channel that suggested water vapour was a more harmful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. I only caught half the tape on the ticker, and so I looked up the details on the web.

Sure enough water vapour is a greenhouse gas,. I got a number of hits from 'concerned individuals' who worried that the focus on CO2 was wrong, and that the lack of discussions about water vapour emissions at climate conferences showed that the whole thing was a farce. One even pointed out that carbon dioxide was a plant food, so what were we all worried about. That got me thinking ... isn't water also something that plants like? What was going on here?

I dug deeper. I came across a recent press release from GM about their new eco-car, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that emits only "harmless water vapour". Hang on I thought ... if water vapour is a greenhouse gas is the emission of it harmless? I began to wonder if there really was something odd going on here. Were so-called 'zero emission' cars merely swapping one greenhouse gas for another? If water vapour contributed to greenhouse effects, as wiki informed me, five times more than carbon dioxide then would a zero emission car actually make things worse.

I struggled to find answers, I did find lots of hyperbole. Lots of sites that cheerfully told me of the conspiracy to promote the myth of 'man-made' global warming. Some of the sites were even written with good grammar and references. Maybe banning Dihydrogen Monoxide isn't that stupid after all? At least when it's in vapour form.

It took a bit of searching, and some refinement of my search terms, but I did find an answer. Water vapour is indeed the most important variable in terms of the greenhouse gas at any given moment. It has a greater effect than any pollutant. But water vapour is a natural component of the atmosphere and it goes through a cycle (remember those posters of the water cycle kids) that last days. Water does not remain in the atmosphere for any time, and the human contribution is too small to be important. Way too small. Also the contribution from water vapour to warming is very complex, as while clouds trap heat in the atmosphere, they also reflect sunlight away from the Earth.

Cardon dioxide, on the other hand, hangs around. It builds up. Sure, it is a plant food, but we are pumping more CO2 into the air than the plants can gobble up. Much more. Carbon dioxide, and a number of other pollutants, build up in the atmosphere, making it their permanent residence, while the water merely comes and goes in its natural cycle. That's why the focus is on human emissions, but not water vapour. That's why eco-cars are technically correct when they call water vapour harmless.

But that hasn't stopped people using the notion of water vapour to justify their claims of climate conspiracies ... or why they should continue to pump 'plant food' carbon dioxide into the air ... or even how the US government is creating global warming with cloud-creating airplanes. That's right ... vapour trails are a conspiracy to heat up the earth.

My point though is that it took me some time to find answers to the initial query generated by that news ticker. I consider myself to be moderately intelligent, yet I'm embarrassed to say that for a while there I was seriously wondering if the water vapour emissions from 'eco-cars' might not be making things worse. It took effort, thought, time and patience as well as a critical ability to weed the nutcase sites from the more reputable to get an answer. The web is a confusing and tricky place to navigate and find what you want. Unless you're looking for porn.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Status update, or where is the nutty ninja?

Finally, we all seem to be over the parade of colds and bugs that have gone through the extended family. Sending a child to Kindergarten this time of year seems like a great way to expose your family to a wide range of diseases. I don't see little kids there anymore, just virus factories with cute smiles. Unclean! Unclean!

As a result, not much writing got done in the last six weeks. I did manage fifteen episodes of a four-panel comic strip that will hopefully turn up on this blog in a matter of weeks. They say write what you know, so it's a strip about a struggling writer. I also managed about two-and-a-half Straitjacket Ninja six-pagers, this blog, and some random stuff that may end up as bits of other things. But all-in-all not a productive period.

I did spend a bit of time working for cash, and at bit less time adding data to a large database I'm putting together. Yes, I do databases in my spare time. Shoot me now. Even worse, it's a combat calculator for role-playing (yes, that D&D type of stuff with elves and monsters and geeks, although not D&D in this case but rather Rolemaster).

Simon says he'll be around in a day or two to drop off the latest Ninja artwork, and as promised I'll post one inked page when it arrives. He too has been a busy lad, working on band posters and the like. You can check them out on his MySpace site.

There just aren't enough hours in the day ... I blame the government and daylight saving. Just what are they doing saving days like that in the summer. Is there a day surplus now? I bet there is, and they are hording them all. I say a day refund is called for. Vote for me for dictator and I will refund all those saved days. A sunrise in every pot. I promise I'll be a benevolent dictator ... at least for some of you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playing Catch with Franz and Hermes

I am officially a grumpy old man. I have been one unofficially for many, many years, but a while back I confirmed my status by making a complaint against a television advert. In my defense, I had been drinking at the time. That, and I'm an anal git. There's an online form, which made it so easy. I'm not allowed to be specific in what my complaint was, but I'd like to share with you my amusement with the process and verdicts.

My complaint was heard. It took place without any input or observation by myself, which is the norm, behind closed doors with an official bringing the complaint. The letter I received informing me about the hearing was polite, but a little lacking in details. The tribunal had not decided to uphold my complaint. I thought that was the end of the matter.

The fun part came many weeks later when I got another letter that revealed there had been an appeal. The appeal focused on a portion of the original decision that had said my complaint was rejected because the advertiser was only using hyperbole. No-one was meant to take what the ad said seriously. The decision referenced a certain energy drink ad that implies you can fly after drinking a can. No-one really believes that, and it is not a breach of the code. My complaint was rejected on similar grounds.

But the appeal decision went on to say that the comparison with the energy drink hyperbole was not valid. My original complaint was correct, the advert was representing something real and doing so in a misleading manner. They had made a mistake in the original decision.

But there was a sting in the tail. The appeal judgment noted that while the initial decision had been incorrect, that was not in itself a valid reason to appeal. They were saying (deep breath); Yes you were right, the ad was in breach, we made a mistake in our first ruling, but you cannot appeal that because the rules do not allow appeals on the grounds that what we decided initially was wrong, which it was, but you can't appeal that, so your complaint is rejected.

It was another triumph of red-taped officialdom.

What was I to do? I re-read a book on Kafka (a simple, short book with illustrations by Robert Crumb) and watched Brazil. Maybe I should get Catch-22 down off the shelf as well?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Midnight Magnesium?

It's cold and flu season in New Zealand, and this year it has the added impact of 'swine flu'. Everyone wansts to avoid the dreaded H1N1. Back in 1918 all you had to do was drink Bovril to avoid the flu. But modern advertisers are doing their best to cash in on public paranoia, with more frequent showings of flu-related products. Panadol now comes in 'Flu Strength'. This year flu vaccinations are being advertised by a crazed karate-kicking guy attempting to fend off a green cloud of flu germs. Household cleaners are even getting into the act, with one claiming it kills flu germs on surfaces.

With all these products out there I wonder why anyone is worried about swine flu. The race for a vaccine seems to be unnecessary ... it's all controllable with these products ... advertisers wouldn't lie to us, would they?

My favourite ad of the moment is the "Afternoon Calcium Made Fun" concept. A mother is walking with her children and she thinks to herself in voice-over that while her kids have had their morning and lunchtime calcium how will she get them their afternoon calcium? So she buys them a calcium enhanced frozen treat.

Afternoon Calcium? By this logic shouldn't she be worried they are not getting any midnight calcium, or their 4am magnesium, or their six minutes past six sodium?

"Wake up, Timmy, and drink this milk."

"But Mum, it's the middle of the night."

"Just drink it, Timmy. I'm not having my kids lacking in calcium. I'm a caring mother. Oh, and here's your 2:30am multi-vitamin ... I'll set the alarm so you know when to take it."

You won't catch me falling for advertising like that. I'm off to enjoy a 100% natural 99% fat-free candy (it sounds so healthy) and then I'll have a big bowl of cereal (it must also be healthy as it's "Ironman food and ironmen are fit and strong"). Then maybe a mug of Bovril, just to be safe.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Delia Smith versus Johnny Rotten

Is it just me or are green concepts being used as protectionist measures? I'm not the biggest fan of free-market philosophies, but when you live in a country like New Zealand you grow up with the struggle to gain entry into overseas markets as a constant backdrop.

As I matured and attempted to gain access to bras and panties my efforts were paralleled by NZ's attempts to sell more butter to the EU (or the EEC as it then known), gain access to all those numerous Chinese consumers, and to get our food exports back into the US after our anti-nuclear stance was punished by trade restrictions. It was an epic uphill struggle for us both, and there were many setbacks. Some markets and bras proved too difficult to unlock. Sometimes we got into bed with the wrong people. We were desperate.

But now a new threat to our overseas market access is emerging ... a green chastity belt, if you will, that may keep us locked out of the choice markets. New Zealand is long, long way from most other countries in the world. We are basically half a world away from our most traditional of markets, the United Kingdom. Anything we wish to sell to the UK must be transported, and this raises the emerald spectre of food miles.

New Zealand lamb was recently praised by Delia Smith, and this landed her in some hot water with the English media (http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/2502251/British-cook-upsets-fans-with-NZ-lamb). As one website commentator put it: "In the age of food miles and carbon footprints – not to mention the need for supporting British farming – what on earth is wrong with our own [UK] lamb?". This does not bode well for New Zealand. The concept of food miles originated the the UK, and is well entrenched, and carbon is now public enemy number one. Being associated with these conceptions makes us the bad guys.

John Lydon has also recently appeared in adverts. His promote UK butter in opposition to NZ butter, 'outing' Anchor butter as an imported product. While the ads focus on taste, there is an underlying "buy local" tone (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/farming/2419356/Rotten-campaign-no-threat-to-butter-exports). While the Rotten butter ads never mention carbon footprints or food miles the connection is made by many viewers none-the-less. The implication is clear; buying local butter is the green thing to do ... the moral thing to do.

New Zealand had its own "buy local" advertising campaign, Buy NZ, which was recently curtailed. It was not a very well thought out concept for a trading nation like ours. The buying local mentality does not help us if people in other countries start doing it. It's a bit like a drug dealer telling his neighbours to stay clean, then walking down a couple of blocks to sell his junk. The Buy NZ campaign was a NZ Green party initiative, part of their 2005 election deal with Labour, and cost at least $NZ6.3 million (http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/750552).

The validity of food miles is hotly debated in New Zealand. Indeed, we are devoting rather a lot of effort into research on the matter, and there have been studies that point out that transport is a small amount of the total carbon footprint in food production, and that in New Zealand food production is very efficient as we use less fertilizer, have better production efficiency, transport our foods mainly by sea, and offset our carbon footprints with schemes to plant trees, etc. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_miles). But while the debate and research continues here, overseas the issue has already been decided.

Whatever the truth is, the court of global public opinion has ruled in favour of local produce. Buying local is the right thing to do. It's patriotic. It's green. It's moral. It will save the world. It's simple to understand. It doesn't matter that in reality it may actually be "four four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard." ('Food That Travels Well', The New York Times, August 6, 2007) Coming to that conclusion requires a lot of calculation, thinking, reasoning, debate, effort, and a lot of prejudice to be overcome.

Delia Smith was not praising NZ lamb for its green credentials, merely its method of production and taste. This was met by criticisms that had a veneer of green moralizing, but underneath seem to have more in common with nationalistic protectionism. The Lydon ads, while mostly innocent and even funny in their execution, managed to tap into those same feelings. But sometimes instead of acting locally you need to think globally, for all meanings of the word global.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Babies of the World, Unite !

Are babies communal property? When my wife was pregnant total strangers felt they were able to approach her and touch her bump. They were mostly female and often younger than her, but not always. She almost punched one man who meant no harm but just could not restrain himself from feeling the bump.

After the birth the simple act of carrying the baby often draws a crowd of cooing strangers. We took our wee boy to a party just a few days into his short life, and I swear it was half an hour before anyone noticed there was a adult, me, carrying the child. Zoom! Cue the high-pitched voices and longing sighs! Action! The waggling finger comes out and waves at the face or tummy of the baby. Minutes later: "Oh, hi David. How have you been?" ("Sleep deprived" is my usual answer.)

Carrying a baby seems to be a free invitation for people to accost you no matter what you are doing. They often offer sweet lil' comments that are somehow scary... "He's a yummy as an ice cream cone. I could just eat him up."

They may tell you about their own children, or desire for them ... "I want my own child more than I want this ice cream."

They may offer advice ... "When mine was that age we use to dip his head in chocolate so he looked like an ice cream."

They may even criticize your child-rearing ... "That's a very uneven coating of chocolate on that boy's head, and you should have sprinkled chopped nuts for a better effect."

Yet for the most part the communal aspect of a baby seems like a positive thing. The fact the so many people overcome their usual social inhibitions in order to interact with a baby seems to say something wonderful about the human condition. In a small way the entire community wants to help with the raising of our child.

Soon, however, he'll grow up and cross the mystical line from cute baby to annoying toddler, at which point he'll be able to smear his own head with chocolate, and the strangers will keep their distance, keep their advice and criticisms to themselves, and keep their eyes on his sticky hands. That's my boy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Yarr! Me Hearties!

We watched a movie on DVD last night and had to wait while it played an interminable anti-piracy advert. We own many a DVD with the exact same anti-piracy message ... you wouldn't steal a handbag ... you wouldn't steal a car ... equating these actions as being the same as stealing a movie by viewing an illegal copy. The irony, of course, is that if we had obtained an illegal copy we wouldn't have had to sit through the annoying anti-piracy ad.

Copyright law, both national and international, has made criminals of us all for some time now. Have you made mixed tapes/CDs of music? Have you taped a TV show and then kept it for months? Have you taped a TV show for a friend? Have you made backup copies of software, music or films? Of course not, because if you had you'd be a criminal.

By the logic of the anti-piracy ad, if you answered yes to any of the above questions you may as well start stealing cars and handbags ... after all, it's the same thing.

As a creator of written content I have a love/hate relationship with copyright law. I do like the idea that if I write something that really makes it big it will be protected (in most countries) and provide an income for myself and my near dependents.

At the same time, I despise the way copyright law is updated in ways designed to stop creativity. I once wrote a story that featured Winnie-the-Pooh, and by rights the bear of little brain should be out of copyright by now and I should be able to publish that story. However, the law was changed to prevent characters like Winnie and Mickey Mouse from going out of copyright, and on current form the law will be changed again around 2019 when these icons and others are up for general release again.

We have figured out one trick though ... some DVDs we own ask you to select the country you live in. Being a fundamentally honest person I was choosing Australia, since New Zealand is not included as an option (oh, no, I live in a place that doesn't exist ... help me, I'm melting). This resulted in these DVDs playing the annoying anti-piracy ad. However, one day I got lazy and just selected the first country on the list, and to my delight the DVD went straight to the menu. It didn't even play trailers first. Once again, laziness has shown me the way.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The never-ending war

Under the still, dark waters something stirs. A bubble rises to the surface, breaks through the thin film of soapy residue, and pops. A close observer would see a ripple, a movement in the murky water.

Splash! A hand. Breaking through the water, clutching at the slippery edge of the scum-encrusted sink.

He lives!

The sink will not be his lemon-scented grave after all. The dishes put up quite a fight, and they will never be completely defeated, but for now they are reduced in numbers and strength.

He is safe for now. Exhausted, but safe. A tea-towel draped across his shoulder ... a damp talisman of victory.

But lunchtime approaches. The dishes shall rise again. The battle will be rejoined. The war never ends.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Superman's lemon-scented demise

I like cooking. It can be a very creative and satisfying experience, taking a bunch of raw ingredients and turning them into something yummy.

I picked up my cooking skills slowly, over time. I got the basics at home as a kid, gained confidence when I managed not to poison anyone while flatting, and when I got married I was shown a number of new skills, and given wider scope for my cooking. My wife is a superb cook and allows me to indulge my culinary curiosities, unless they involve coriander or zucchini.

I like cooking. But I hate dishes. I think dirty dishes are my kyrptonite.

Losing strength ... suds invading every pore ... can't go on ... lemony smell overpowering ... *gurgle* ...

... food clinging to pots and pans ... can't scrub it off ... must use rubber gloves to save the world from greasy buildup...

... must dry plates before all is lost ...*urgh* ... can this be the end? ...

... if only we had a dishwasher ... where's the Flash when you need him? ... where do all these dishes come from? ... surely some evil super-villain is behind their creation ... the bubbles! the bubbles! ...

... noooooooooo!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Comedy Bug

I mentioned my parent's LP collection in a disparaging manner recently, but I should point out that they had some wonderful comedy albums. Two Fred Dagg records, Wayne & Shuster, and Bridge Over the River Wye. The last of which is a Spike Milligan penned masterpiece with Peter Sellers, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook. These records had a lasting effect on my sense of humour. A sense of humour which I'm forced to apologize for on a regular basis.

Combine this with the Muppet Show, the occasional Marx Brothers movies that NZ TV would sneak on air on a Sunday Afternoon, my accidental discovery of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy on the radio, and some Monty Python shows and I was set for a life of nerdy loneliness.

Somehow I survived. I restrained my tendency to quote these shows and records for long enough to fool a woman into marriage. I even managed to pass my somewhat suspect genes onto a new generation. Now thanks to digital technology I can inflict my humour on these unsuspecting children, mutating their humour to something that resembles my own.

Is a sense of humour like a slowly infecting disease? I'm a carrier for a particular strain, and close contact with me can result in the development of related symptoms. Of course, some people are immune. Others avoid contact; "Unclean! Unclean" they scream on the inside. People with the same or similar strains of humour tend to find solace in one another's company. Humour colonies, where isolation not only keeps others safe, but strengthens the strain for those in the colony.

Comedy festivals are like health outreach programs for humour. Attempting to educate the public and show that these afflicted individuals are not always contagious. Mainstream American sit-coms are what's left after the humour has gone through a rigourous sterilization programme, injected with anti-humotics, scrubbed clean with laughter suppressing soap, and irradiated with large doses of UV (unimaginative visualizations).

Uh-oh! I feel I'm coming down with a case of the Goodies. I'd better rest up on the couch and have some warm milk. Goodie goodie, yum, yum!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Papyrus Alley

The little story made its way to the alley when it got dark. The others were there, huddled close to the fire burning in the forty-gallon drum. But not too close.

Fire was something they all feared. It was a necessary evil, for without it on a damp night their pages might curl, the ink might run, and they would slowly rot away. But the fire also offered destruction. The little story had only lived on the streets for a short time, but she had already seen a book thrown himself screaming into the flames. "No-one wants me," he'd yelled, then he started screaming as the flames took hold. The others fled in terror. There was nothing they could do to save the unwanted novel. Nothing that would not have spelt their own fiery end.

The others made room for the little story in their circle.

"How'd it go today, kid?" asked a rat-earred filmscript.

It wasn't really a question. It she'd been successful she would not be back in the alley. She just shook her pages from side to side.

A short story with a distinctive tear on its frontpage spoke up.

"I think I had a good nibble today," it said. "From an anthology editor."


There was sudden interest from all the other short stories in the alley.

"What's the theme?"

"Romance fiction involving otters."

The interest faded. A single-spaced novel script printed on pink paper spoke up.

"How would you fit in that?"

"I'd get edited a little. Turn the cat into an otter. Set the story near water rather than the jungle."

The others considered this.

"That's a big edit for you." It was Paradise Re-Lost, a very old and heavy draft that spoke. "Really big."

"Yeah, isn't the desert an essential part of your story?" chimed in a limping, half-finished poetry collection.

"Not really." The short story was getting defensive.

There was a nervous rustling of pages around the fire.

"But your hero is a nomadic Bedouin, and the twist at the end involves a camel," said Paradise Re-Lost.

No one spoke for the next ten minutes. They all stared intently at the fire, watching the warming, deadly flames, ruffling their pages for maximum heat transfer.

"Yeah. I'm not going to get in that anthology."

"There'll be others."

"It's okay, man. You'll get there."

Half a dozen more empty platitudes were said by various scripts, drafts and unshipped novels. Then the silence came back.

"Anyone else have any luck?"

There were a few mumbles. One novella claimed to have had lunch with a agent for a major publisher, but he was known for his exaggerations. All in all it had been another lean day.

"You know who could be easily edited to included an otter?," said the limping poetry collection.

They all knew.

"The kid."


"Yeah, you, kid," said Paradise Re-Lost. "You could easily change that seal to an otter. It doesn't alter any of your pathos."

There was a chorus of agreement.

"But it's Friday Night and Alone's gig," said the little story.

"I don't mind, kid." Friday's frontpage seemed to sag even more than normal along its distinctive tear, but his voice betrayed nothing.


"Really, kid. You go for it. I'll set you up with a meeting tomorrow."

The fire was dying down, so they threw another Barbara Cartland novel that one of them had picked up in a bargain bin, two Dan Brown's rip-offs and some trashy chick-lit pages torn from a library copy.

Once you were published you were fair game.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

why is my knee wet?

i have a baby on my knee as i type this. so cute.
as long as i keep talking to him and bouncing my knee up and down gently all is well. he has a tight grip on one on my fingers, and a wide eyed stare. poor guy is a bit under the weather, but is getting better and is a happy chappy most of the time, anyway.
babies really reduce the world to essentials. food, shelter, rest, and companionship. if he has a smiling face to look at he's always happy. well, most of the time. as long as those other three things are sorted.
soon he'll learn to walk and talk and become a social animal, and life will get oh so complicated. but for now, a bouncing knee, a friendly voice, a fresh nappy, a tummy full of milk after a nice long sleep, and a warm house are all he needs.
sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Poetry is, like, you know?

This is a response to an article in another blog.

Tim Jones, writer and poet, suggested in a recent blog that an interesting way to promote poetry in the public consciousness would be to make a Project Runway style 'reality' TV show ... which he called Poetry Runway. You can read his very funny take on the idea here. http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2009/06/poetry-runway-promoting-poetry-one.html

I'm no poet, but I think I may have watched more trash TV than Tim in recent months. I say watch, but I try to pretend I don't. I sit at my computer editing while it's on the background. I even say disparaging comments to my wife like ... "You're not going to watch this rubbish, are you?" But then I pay enough attention to know what happens. In defense of my wife, she spends a large amount of her time feeding our wee boy at the moment, and so trash 'reality' TV is a welcome distraction for her when she tires of reading.

So, with my new-found expertise on reality shows I can suggest to Tim that his show treatment needs something. No offense, but poets as a group are not the most televisual of people. So why not take a leaf from the Beauty and the Geek scripts and pair each poet with a beautiful, and probably vacuous, model of opposite sexuality. Poet and the Muse?

If the poets are forced to train up their model-muses so they can perform the poems the show will have tension, embarrassment and its fair share of semi-naked oiled flesh. In one challenge the poets would be required to write a sonnet to their muse, but the muse is allowed to read it to anyone in the house they desire.

Cat-fights ensue. One poet deliberately sabotages their verse so it insults rather than celebrates it intended target. Another inserts tongue-twisters in their work just to annoy their vapid muse. Over cigarettes and scotch late one night three of the poets realize they are chasing the same model. They never speak to each other civilly again. Somehow one of the poets ends up on the roof, drunkenly reciting lines from Byron. When rescued by a local fire crew a new romance blooms and one of the firemen becomes a surprise house guest.

The models are all forced to write a haiku relating the lessons they have learnt in the house. Just watching them trying to count to five, then seven, then five is must-see TV. A humorous misunderstanding over the word quatrain leaves one of the models stranded at a railway station. Another model confuses syllables with cymbals, but performs a great little musical number wearing only a thong. The winning team seals the deal with a canzone about calzone, using a mix-up to their advantage with an amazing performance that includes a pizza-themed bikini. ...

All I ask, Tim, is an executive producer credit, and the cash that goes with it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Frampton fiddles while George Burns

When I was a wee lad music came from the radio, almost exclusively. My parents had some LPs, but even then I couldn't bring myself to listen to Petulia Clark, Olivia Newton-John (the pre-pop years) and Helen Reddy. There was only one radio station that we could get clear reception for where we lived, radio Taranaki. It played middle-of-the-road music ... the kind that's so middle-of-the-road it gets hit by all the lanes of traffic. Thanks to Radio Taranaki I can sing along to such hits as Wichita Lineman, Afternoon Delight, and Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town.

Sometimes the DJ would sneak something a little bit different into their rotation ... I remember being fascinated by Talking Heads' Once In A Lifetime. But mostly it was Calendar Girl, Jolene, and disco, disco, disco.

My mother added Abba and the Bee Gees to her collection, which did give me exposure to one of the weirdest albums in history, The soundtrack to the movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. This movie/album fused Peter Frampton together with the Bee Gees to become a pseudo-Beatles group who perform a mish-mash of Beatles' hits as part of a storyline that bears a striking similarity to the first Muppet Movie.

I have never seen the movie, but the LP got many a listen. It was so odd. Steve Martin sings Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Aerosmith do Come Together. Alice Cooper sings Because. George Burns drones through Fixing A Hole. Earth Wind and Fire provide horns on several songs. I really like the version of She's So Heavy on this album. Overall, however, the album was a spectacular failure.

The movie was said to be even worse than the music. The producers are said to have hoped the film would be "this generation's Gone With the Wind". It was more like Plan 9 From Outer Space meets The Wiz.

One day I hope I get to make something that spectacularly bad. ;-)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Men are from Earth. Women are from Notrub Three

On the planet Notrub Three the dominant humanoid race evolved not from apes, but from lizards. These cold blooded creatures have traveled far and wide, discovering many other inhabited planets, and other intelligent species.

Through the use of chameleon technology they have disguised themselves so they can intermingle, observe, and even intimately interact with other races. They are, of course, on our planet, and have been for some time. Some have blended so well into our society that they have married humans, and even borne hybrid children.

The chameleon suits these lizard-aliens wear have their limitations. For some reason they are best suited to imitating female humans, not male. Probably something to do with the natural physiology of the lizard-aliens. The female form is just a better fit for their bits.

Another limit of the chameleon suits occurs at some extremities. The suits do a good job of keeping the cold-blooded lizard-aliens warm, and they project some of this heat outward in order to mimic human body temperatures. However, the suits can begin to fail after time at the extremes of the body, particularly the toes and nose. This means that the camouflaged aliens have extremely cold toes, and nose tips. Too cold to be human. No human flesh could be a alive at such temperatures.

If all this seems like an unreal fantasy culled from too many bad horror/sci-fi TV shows, well think again. It's real. They are out there. They live among us.

How else can you explain the temperature of my wife's feet when she curls up next to me in bed?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A dash more grey before the black and white

Simon rang last night to say he's finished inking the third six-page episode of Straitjacket Ninja. All he needs to do now is electronically stick the words on it. This one was long delayed, by various things, but mostly paying work. One of the problems of restarting something like the nutty ninja on spec is that Simon and I are easily distracted by anyone waving money at us.

Water was also something that slowed Simon down. He was stranded in Nelson due to heavy rain and winds, and had a plumbing problem that means he needs to replace walls in his house.

Illness is the thing that has been slowing me down. I'm finally feeling much better after almost a month of ick. Nothing serious, but it really me stopped my living my life the way I'm used to.

I did manage to draft a Straitjacket Ninja script the other day, which despite ... or perhaps because of ... being written with a fever still holds up okay. It needs some editing, but the storyline actually makes sense when read with a less fevered mind. The story is a tribute of sorts to the creators of Knuckles the Nun, and introduces two continuing villains.

I also started sketching out something a bit more epic, but that will probably remain a sketch for now. For the moment I'm concentrating on short, punchy scripts. A few months ago I sat down and wrote three full-length comic scripts, just to see if I could. I have no idea of their quality, but it was a good exercise from my point of view. The story was a alternative reality Victorian-era detective story with vampires and other undead ... dare I say a Sherlock Holmes meets Vampire Hunter D? More an idiot second-cousin of Holmes, and a not so bleak vision of the world as Vampire Hunter D.

So the good news today is that coming soon to this blog is a sneak peek at an inked Ninja page from episode three.

The artwork is, of course, copyright Simon Morse, 2009.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

But not to anyone else

Self-censorship is a wonderful thing. I mean, without it you'd reveal your inner-most secrets, fears and humiliations to everyone. Without self censorship I'd tell you all about the time I ...

... and when I ...

... oh and the fact that porpoises' really ...

... not to mention the ... in the ...

Yes. self censorship is great. It's what keeps all of us together. After all, if I knew what you did that time at the ... when you were with ... and you thought no-one saw, but secretly you hoped someone did because ... was so awesome, and the ... was just perfect. Well, we'd never be able to look each other in the eye again.

Nice shoes, by the way ... leather soles?

Love the red nail polish.

Well, um ... see ya ... I've got to be somewhere else.

To thine own self be true.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Recipe for Disaster

Thanks to an annoying chest infection I ended up home alone over a holiday weekend. It was nice and restful ... well, relatively. It also meant I got to cook some of the foods that the rest of my family are not so interested in. Sardines, yams, black pudding (actually my daughter loves this, so much so I usually don't get any myself), hot curries, coriander (which my wife despises) and zucchini (or courgettes if you prefer). This meant I could cook my signature dish ... the only recipe I can say I created myself, mainly out of desperation one day in a house that only had a few things to cook with ...

Zucchini and Bananas

1 small knob of butter
1 medium or 2 small zucchinis
1 banana (not too ripe)
The juice of 1 lime or lemon
1 handful of fresh coriander leaves (optional)

Melt the butter in a pan, add sliced zucchini and cook until lightly browned. Then add the banana, cut into slices about twice as thick as the zucchini. Add the lime or lemon juice. Cook until the banana slices start to change shape but before they dissolve, it shouldn't take very long. Serve with a sprinkle of chopped coriander leaves or, if you prefer, chopped parsley..

It goes well with curries, or anything with a bit of spice, but don't cook it for my wife.