Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

busy busy busy

Posted: 18 May 2015 in Uncategorized

In case you follow this blog, just to let you know, there’s no politics – or indeed any – blog entry today; I’m taking today off.

Back tomorrow.

I was going to write today about reshuffles. But I got too angry. So I thought I’d write about the Labour Party leadership runners and riders. But I got too angry. And then I thought that I’d put some words down about the likely inclusions for the government’s Queen’s Speech. But I got too angry and finally I took the fucking hint and realised I needed another night’s kip before I trust myself to write something that’s not full of expletives.

So instead, something to hopefully make you smile.

From 1987, and Jasper Carrott’s talk to first time voters, or Virignal Voters…

Antony Johnston is an intelligent writer, by which I mean that you become more intelligent by reading his books. His works always make you think, and re-readings of his superb opus Wasteland and his latest comic book The Fuse make you think even more. His graphic novel take on Julius Caesar – Julius – is flat out the best adaptation I’ve read, bar none. I’ve known Antony for well over a decade and I don’t think I’ve ever not been impressed by the way his mind works.

Antony has seven plans to escape the forthcoming apocalypse, but he only ever talks about three of them.

Title: This Lion Of Winter
Word: astrolabe
Challenger: Antony Johnston
Length: 200 words exactly

The scotch had barely been poured when the telephone rang, and the curator of the museum smiled and walked briskly to his desk, the heavy glass in his hand. He thumbed the appropriate button and softly asked “Yes?”

“It’s gone, sir. Again!” The distorted, exasperated but anxious voice of his security chief filled the room, and again, the curator smiled. He didn’t need to ask what had gone; indeed, had this particular theft not occurred, it was he who would have felt anxiety.

“OK, George,” he replied. “Same report as usual.”

Minutes later, scotch warming the curator’s chest, the head of security strode in, a large buff file in his outstretched hand.

The astrolabe was old, at least a thousand years old, and every year, every December, it vanished, returning the following day, polished and gleaming. Who would need an astrolabe for twelve hours, everyone asked. Who would even know how to use it properly? No-one admitted what they suspected, or at least hoped.

The curator picked up the photograph and shook his head in admiration. Navigating via astrolabe; that took style.

He raised his glass to the window. “Be safe tonight; happy travels.”

Then he drank, and smiled.

© Lee Barnett, 2014

This story is part of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction (More information on the Twelve Days here)
Day 02: An Immense Pecuniary Mangle – challenger: Steven Shaviro
Day 03: Is The Pope Pregnant? – challenger: Matt Brooker
Day 04: Father Christmas Got Stuck – challenger: Bevis Musson
Day 05: Early Sunday Chop Suey – challenger: Michael Moran
Day 06: Of Tinsel And Fire – challenger: David Baddiel
Day 07: The Man Who Could – challenger: Joanne Harris
Day 08: The Judge Disagreed – challenger: Rufus Hound
Day 09: Sweeping Up Shattered Chandeliers – challenger: Kirsty Newton
Day 10: Glorious Concatenation – challenger: Neil Gaiman
Day 11: Weaving With Angels’ Hair – challenger: Nick Doody
Day 12: Their Eyes All Aglow – challenger: Mitch Benn


“There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring.” – Wil Wheaton, from his introduction to volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge

Two volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 stories in Volume 1 and a further 200 stories in Volume 2, for £3.00 each, are available in ebook format from the author; email for details.

And, so, we come towards the end of another year, and – as is now becoming a tradition of sorts – it’s time for Twelve Days of Fast Fiction. What’s that, I hear you ask, or at least I would hear you ask if I’d activated the telepathic functionality on this thing.

OK, so in 2011, quite some time since I’d answered any challenges to write fast fictions, I wrote twelve stories in response to twelve challenges issued by friends and creators. I had a blast doing them, the creators seemed to have a blast reading them, and from the responses I had to the tales, and the downloads of the ebook that resulted, so did people reading them.

And then in March, for Comic Relief, I wrote twenty-four in twenty-four hours. Yeah, that was… fun probably isn’t the word, but hell, it was a unique experience and unique challenge, (unless I do it again, of course), and again, people seemed to like them. And we – the creators, the readers and I – raised about £1,600 (about $2,600) doing so.

So, that was nice.

At the end of 2013, I did it again: Twelve stories, one a day, leading up to Christmas.

And now… 2014’s Twelve Days of Fast Fiction commences on Saturday. I’m delighted that each of the challengers have said yes, and I hope they – and you – will enjoy reading the stories as much as I’ll enjoy writing them.

The challenge was the same in each case, the usual fast fiction challenge:

Give me a title of up to four words in length, together with a single word you want me to include in the tale, and I will write a story of exactly 200 words.

So, starting Saturday 13th December, I’ll be answering challenges from twelve very special people, each of whom are supremely talented in their own fields.

Who are the twelve? In no particular order, and not necessarily the order in which they will be written:


I’m very grateful they’ve agreed to challenge me; the stories will start appearing tomorrow. (Note: this entry will be continually updates as the challenge continues, to include story links as they were written.)

Mister Budgie Gets Wet

Posted: 27 August 2014 in Uncategorized

Not often I’ll take the opportunity to just re-post here some thing that happens elsewhere without a full explanation but pretty sure everyone reading this is aware of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Well, if you’re not aware, watch this…

Now you’ll see that part of the challenge is to nominate others.

And yesterday, my son did this:

and nominated me.

So, what else could I do? I am, has been mentioned very old, having celebrated my 50th birthday a little over a week ago. So, for that and other various reasons, the style of my own video is appropriate.

Mitch Benn, Tiernan Douieb and Alan Porter, over to you, gentlemen.

It’s a strange world. Let’s keep it that way.

The quote above is one that pops up in PLANETARY by Warren Ellis, John Cassady and Laura Martin. If you haven’t read it, I envy you only because that means that at some point you’re going to experience enormous joy from discovering it. And if you have read it, well, you know how superb it was.

But the comment itself has been on my mind a lot the past couple of weeks when online life in particular has been unlike any previous time in my experience. I’ve alluded to it more than once, and I think it’s likely that tomorrow I’m going to write about anti-semitism in the UK. I doubt I’ll be able to do it as well as others have done, but in preparation for it, I’ll merely point you to the following at this point:

The Guardian’s editorial: On Gaza and the rise of anti-semitism

Owen Jones’ superb piece: Anti-Jewish hatred is rising; we must see it for what it is

And – behind the Times Paywall – Hugo Rifkind’s masterly piece: Suddenly, it feels uncomfortable to be a Jew

Read all of them if you can.

But more about that tomorrow.

The world at the moment isn’t just strange; it’s interesting, but interesting in the words and terms of the old Chinese curse.

It’s not an easy time to be a politician; indeed, with what’s going on around the world, one might wonder what the point of politicians is. After all, the Middle East is in turmoil; Eastern Europe may have a lower body count, but the danger of escalation far beyond the current chaos is ever-present; and even in western democracies, everything feels like, and is presented as, hanging on a knife edge. And, as I mentioned the other day, everyone in office is someone who managed to convince the voters that they knew how to solve this proble, that problem and the other problem. And then something comes along that proves they don’t.

I’m glad that I’m not in control of the government. I’m glad that my friends aren’t; I don’t think I know a single person who I’d utterly trust to have control over the military, say, or to make choices between which government services are cut, and which maintained. The reason are simple: they’ve either not been trained in that, or would destroy themselves making those calls. I once knew a local councillor, a nice fella; we used to have coffee together on a semi-regular basis. I stopped asking him about the council role when he said that he had to vote that night on whether to cut funding to an old age home or a school. I don’t think anyone would like to have to make those choices in a time of austerity. And no matter what people would wish to be the case, that’s the time we’re in now.

In one way, I feel sorry for politicians, politicians of all stripes; the honest ones, I mean, the men and women who enter politics out of a genuine wish to serve and to do good by their constituents, their country and their honour. Because every one of them is in office because people believed in them, in their abilities, in their basic humanity, in their integrity. And now many of those same politicians discover how powerless they actually are, and what devils’ choices they have to make.

And that makes me think of all the people who have run for office and never made it… what goes through their minds when they think of what is, and what could have been? And how the hell do they not resent the hell out of the electorate?

I recall a comment from an American politician; bloke by the name of Dick Tuck who ran for the Senate in 1966, in California. When the results came in, and it was obvious he’d lost, he said what later became a famous quote:

The people have spoken, the bastards.

I’m sure that many unsuccessful political candidates feel the same way, and probably express it similarly.

Looking at the newspapers and the online news sites only proves to me once more (as if proof were needed) that Warren had it right from day one: the world is a strange place. I just wish that politicians didn’t take that as a manifesto commitment; I’m just not entirely convinced that the world needs any assistance keeping it that way.

About two and a half years ago – at the end of 2011, there was a public sector strike – a big one. At the time, I wrote:

No-one in the UK could have been unaware yesterday that there was a public sector strike. Or to be precise, there was a day of action called by several trade unions, and about two million people (give or take, according to which source you favour) took action, refused to work, marched, protested and otherwise signified their displeasure with the policies of the current coalition government, specifically about pensions.

At the time, some people – mainly tory politicians – argued that since the union strike votes received low turnouts in some cases, they were somehow less valid. And again, the same case is being made this week, by David Cameron among others. It’s utter nonsense, of course.

Utter, total, complete, nonsense.

But not for the reasons many suppose.

The main case against the “low vote” argument seems to be “well, how many people voted for the coalition?”

This, in my view, fundamentally misunderstands two, completely different, votes. An election and a resolution couldn’t be more different, either in process, organisation, or result.

How someone is elected and how resolutions are voted for are never the same.

You don’t tend to get alternative voting in resolutions, simply because it’s usually a choice between yes and no, between aye and nay.

A much better and more appropriate analogy would be something else that is a choice between yes and no, between aye and nay, say… how they pass laws in parliament. 

So if Tory MPs want to say that unions should have a minimum turnout for votes for resolutions, then they would presumably accept the same in Parliament.

And, to my astonishment, they do.

There is a quorum for divisions in the chamber of the House of Commons. There is – I checked.

You want to know what this quorum is, how many MPs are required in the Chamber for national legislation to be passed? Given the Tory MPs anger and passion about this, you’d expect it to be a sizeable number or percentage, yes?

It’s 40.

40 MPs in the chamber, and a vote can take place.

40.

Out of 650.

I’ll save you the maths. It’s a little over 6%.

So, with 6% of MPs in favour of a law, it can pass, yes?

Well, no, that would be stupid, wouldn’t it? That would mean that all 40 voted in favour.

No, the number in favour only needs to be 50% plus 1 of those attending, i.e. 21

Or a little over 3%. To pass national legislation. And in the House of Lords, the number is smaller still: 30 peers need to be in attendance.

30. Out of a House of Peers of 779 currently able to vote.

Conservative MPs are lucky that trades unions don’t say “you know, you’re right; we’ll accept minimum strike ballot turnouts… at the same percentage you lot have in parliament.”

Tory MPs? Shut the fuck up about trade unions requiring minimum votes for strike votes, eh?

cover2013The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction, 2013 was written between 13th December and 24th December 2013, and all the stories are now available in an ebook collection, together with introductory material and a bonus tale.

The ebook is available for $0.99 (about 65p) in three formats:

– ePub (for iBooks/Nook)
– .mobi (Kindle) and
– PDF.

PLEASE say when ordering in which format you’d like the book.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t extend my huge thanks to all the friends and creators who challenged me to write stories for them, so massively enormous amounts of gratitude to Jamais Cascio, Cherie Priest, Si Spurrier, Emma Vieceli, Neil Gaiman, Corrie Corfield, Mitch Benn, Leah Moore, Paul Cornell, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Sarah Pinborough and Tiernan Douieb – thank you, you’re all marvellous people.

And to those who’ve read them on the blog and those who download the ebook – I really enjoyed writing these stories, and I hope you enjoy reading them.

I’d like to extend the readership as far as possible, and I’d be grateful if you could spread the word by retweet, tumblr and the rest.

2014 minus 33:

Posted: 29 November 2013 in Uncategorized

This entry deliberately left blank.

It’s been a full twenty-four hours, and a post that I was writing, that for once I’m pleased with… isn’t ready to be released. I’ll reveal that it’s to do with political hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of politics, but that’s all you’re getting for now.

This blogging every day is harder than I anticipated, and unlike Robin Ince (who did something similarly recently) I’ve neither the excuse that I’ve been preparing to go on stage, nor the skills to blag 800 words every night and know they’re be good enough to be seen.

So, here’s a fast fiction challenge I write which hasn’t been on this blog previously and with which I’m particularly pleased.

It’s been a while since I wrote something in verse, and maybe I should return to the format at some point. But not tonight; tonight, you get an oldie but (I think) a goodie. Toughest thing about this one? Finding a way to use a five syllable word in the verse format in which I write the tale. I think I pulled it off, but then that was part of the challenge…

Enjoy.

Title: The Randomness of Everything
Word: synchronicity
Challenger: LJ – opheliasclone
Length: 200 words exactly

The physician to the newly crowned
Monarch of Seville
Delighted when he’d finally found
What made the new king ill.

He jumped around in celebration
And then he stopped quite dead
And poured himself a large libation
Wond’ring how to save his head

The problem was, he saw at once
With the diagnosis
Twas not a boil that he could lance
Nor was it halitosis

The king was poorly, he now knew
because of strain and stress
He’d need to live his life anew
Complete and utter rest.

No more could he allow the power
The strain of being King
With fifty things to solve each hour
He handled everything!

From who was right and who was wrong
O’er disputes large and small
Deciding fashions; short or long
He could not do it all!

There’s a time for randomness all right
It’s there in every city
But in the royal palace, right
Only synchronicity

But he knew the king’s right hand men
Would never listen right
And so upon the stroke of ten
He ran into the night.

And no more was ever heard of him;
He’d wanted no alarm.
He’d merely followed the physician’s lore
First off: ensure no harm.

© Lee Barnett, 2005

It’s been a while since I put any fiction on this site, so here’s a one paragraph story, something that makes a fast fiction appear over-written.

No title, no context. You can let your imagination fill in any gaps you feel are there…

I wanted to reach over, to hold her hand. But I didn’t. I wanted to take her in my arms and kiss her. But I didn’t. Instead we uttered trivialities, both of us avoiding what we wanted to say. We spoke… carefully, memories and hopes underscoring every word. The bell rang; we exchanged a long look. Then she left the room, and I went back to my prison cell, both of us heading for home.

I like writing rhyming verse. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. Sometimes it”s serious, sometimes it’s romantic, sometimes it’s just plain silly.

Like the following.

This was the first fast fiction challenge to which I responded in verse. It was not the last.

Title: And For A Sequel
Word: ranunculus
Challenger: Challenger: Elfie Taylor
Length: 200 words exactly

And once again, the stranger came;
He came most ev’ry year.
To make a sound, and look around
But mostly to drink beer.

He’d sully forth, first East then North
And end up in our place.
He’d get right drunk, with beer he’d sunk
Through the hole at the end of his face.

But as he fell, he’d curse and yell,
For times of long ago.
And with each glass, (he’d swear, his last)
My, how the tales did flow.

He’d tell of things, forgotten things
Of centuries gone by.
And challenge those, with woeful prose,
Who’d call each one a lie.

To folk in town, he was a clown
And no more need be said.
They’d heard before, these tales of yore
And to their homes they sped.

Then came that day, the first of May
When spring was in the air.
The stranger’s heart, it gave a start
And muscles deep did tear.

He hit the ground, without a sound
The stranger bit the dust.
The doc was called, the body hauled
With very little fuss.

Permission granted, the man they planted.
The priest said “dust to dust”.
Upon his grave, the priest did lay
Some sweet ranunculus.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


“There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring.” – Wil Wheaton, from his introduction to volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge

Two volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 stories in Volume 1 and a further 200 stories in Volume 2, are available from lulu.com, and in some countries on Amazon. ebooks available from the author; email for details.


Buy the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly for £4.99 – click here

Writing fast fictions is enjoyable for the challenge, of course, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s worth throwing something else into the mix: writing a story in verse, or in script format, or solely in dialogue.

Or throwing in as much alliteration as possible. Once I saw the title for this one, the fun started.

I hope you enjoy this one – it was hugely enjoyable to write.

Title: Barbecued Babies
Word: bulbous
Challenger: Challenger: Sarah Houlton
Length: 200 words exactly

The rain ran rivulets down the wet washed windows, leaving long smears and streaks. She never noticed it, as she anxiously approached the bluff brick building.

“Morning, Mister Monkton”, she suggestively slowly said as she woefully walked unwillingly into the huge hallowed halls of the Association for the Advancement of Alliteration.

“Hello Helen,” he quickly came back with, taking her torn ticket and then scribbling his scrappy signature.

With a superbly stunning smile, she actively aimed herself at the enormously elegant elevator, and saw his sad sallow facial features definitively disappear from view.

When she reached the fifty-fourth floor, and the delicately decorated doors slid silently apart, she heard the howl of hysteria, loud and lurid laughter that presaged problems.

Speedily sloping soundlessly along the long crowded corridor, her opulent office awaited. And once inside, she was stunned senseless by the view of the violet vision therein. It vexed her.

A bulbous mass – botanical, Browallia. Presented in purple, the florid flower festered.

Standing still, she swore, then sighed and slowly sat. Sitting, she searched for her incredibly inconvenient in-box, overflowing with obnoxious officialdom.

The abysmal advertising had to suddenly cease, she decided, desperately.

After all, inflammable infants caused complaints.

© Lee Barnett, 2005


“There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring.” – Wil Wheaton, from his introduction to volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge

Two volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 stories in Volume 1 and a further 200 stories in Volume 2, are available from lulu.com, and in some countries on Amazon. ebooks available from the author; email for details.


Buy the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly for £4.99 – click here

This has come up several times in different ways the past week. Whether it’s carcinogenic water bottles, some nonsense about child murderers being released from prison (long after they were already let out on licence and one returned to jail) or quotes that were never said… we appear to be in the season of gullibility again.

It never fails to astonish me how gullible people are. What is it that makes otherwise intelligently sceptical people completely gullible fools when it comes to email hoax notifications?

I’m sure there have been studies and theses and quite possibly more than one parliamentary inquiry, but gullibility survives in such large amounts that you’d think it was a new element on the Periodic Table. It seems that right up there with hydrogen and stupidity, as the most common elements, come gullibility and self-delusion.

Whether it’s the
– ‘get rich quick’ schemes,
– the ‘Bill Gates will pay you $1,000 if you forward this email to 100 people’ stupidity, or
– the ‘there’s a new virus going around – delete this file’ daftness that led thousands of people to delete a perfectly harmless part of the Windows Operating System…

…it seems as if because the notification comes by email, and likely as not, comes from a friend, then it has to be genuine.

Note that, it’s not come from an address that’s been spoofed… it’s come from a friend. A genuine email, from someone you trust to have the judgement not to be an idiot.

So, some ground rules:

  1. If there was a new virus discovered by Microsoft or IBM, they wouldn’t spread the news by email. Like so many other viruses (virii?) there would be news stories in the media.
  2. No bank, government department, tax office, financial institution or ISP will ask you to send membership details, credit card information or anything like that by email. Never, as in ‘not ever.
  3. If you open attachments without knowing in advance what they are, wrap up your computer/tablet/phone, etc., take it back to the store and tell them that you’re too stupid to be allowed to keep it.
  4. Bill Gates has never heard of you, and he didn’t get to be a billionaire by giving his money away to people who are that gullible.
  5. If you don’t have anti-virus protection on your email, do me a favour: don’t send me any email.
  6. If an offer by email looks too good to be true, it is. Always.
  7. If you’re unsure whether or not something is genuine, and you have a friend that knows more about computers than you do, write and email and ask him or her whether he/she knows anything about the virus.
  8. If you get an email and it’s from a friend but you’re not sure about it… drop them an email and ask them whether they just sent you an email or not… (seriously, cannot recommend this one enough; have done it on several occasions, and it’s never ever been objected to.)
  9. Check Snopes.com before spreading inspirational stories, warnings, and “true stories” via email. It’s the best of similar sites: Hoaxbusters and Urban Legends and Folklore just to name a couple. Other sites are available – pick your favourite.
  10. Don’t forward something forwarded to you. Chances are anyone you’ll send it to is going to get it any number of times anyway.
  11. No-one, but no-one, wants you to pay an amount in advance to claim anything.
  12. You’re not attractive enough for a modelling agency to contact you in advance and ask you to pay a photographic fee in advance. Sorry.
  13. Neither have you won the Euro lottery. Sorry again.
  14. Forwarding mails won’t make you rich. Or attractive. And it won’t help you avoid a terrible fate.
  15. And, terribly disappointingly, I know… but you’re not related to anyone that just died and happened to have two hundred and thirty million dollars that they’ll send you 10% of…

If you have any other tips, let me know and I’ll update the list.

I’ve always been fascinated when people maintain “I’ve always thought…” or “I’ve never believed…”

Jeremy Paxman, in his wonderful examination of British politics and politicians entitled The Political Animal, notes that only in politics and religion is it regarded as an advantage never to have changed your mind. And he doesn’t regard it as a coincidence.

So when my friend Jess Nevins challenged me with the title to the following story, I knew I was in for an interesting tale. Oh yes, I find writing these stories as fascinating as, hopefully, you find reading them.

(Please note that Jess declined to supply a word to use in the story, merely the title.)

Enjoy.

Title: I Always Hated You
Word:
no word supplied
Challenger: Jess Nevins
Length: 200 words exactly

I never liked the way you were always at home in any social setting: how you’d walk into a room where there were thirty different people, none of whom knew each other, and half an hour later, there’d be six or seven different conversations going on, with you drifting from one to another as if you’d known them all your life. All the time, that smug half-smile on your face that others found endearing and that you swore was merely relief at getting through it.

I loathed the way you pretended not to know how attractive the other sex found you; you couldn’t not have known, not with the way you responded to every person who wanted your ear, acting brash with one, bashful with another, flirtatious with a third… and each of them convinced they knew the real you.

I found it contemptible how effortlessly you found it, settling down with me – how could you have genuinely been happy settling for a wife and children when you so obviously enjoyed the spontaneity that familial obligations denied you?

And then you died, you bastard, before I could tell you again that I loved you.

And I hate you for that.

© Lee Barnett, 2006


“There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring.” – Wil Wheaton, from his introduction to volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge

Two volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 stories in Volume 1 and a further 200 stories in Volume 2, are available from lulu.com, and in some countries on Amazon. ebooks available from the author; email for details.


Buy the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly for £4.99 – click here

Greg Rucka, apart from being one of the genuinely nicest blokes I know, is a hell of a writer. Whether it’s his novels or his comics, he grabs hold of your brain from the first page and then refuses to let go. With his stories, you desperately want to know… what happens next.

Of course, before he entered the witness protection programme, he was known as Señorita Conchita Velasquez.

Title: It Shines Like Mud
Word: quillon
Challenger: Greg Rucka
Length: 200 words exactly

I was scared. It couldn’t be, could it?

The weapon lay in a large pool of clear liquid, glinting in the light thrown by the portable units erected around the site. The middle of the hilt was damaged; one quillon was snapped off, but the rest looked new, other than something dark and shiny covering the edge of the blade. Blood? No-one said it; no-one dared.

Generations of searching, and we’d found it.

A sudden burst of light: our backup. My boss almost ran to us, but of course, she didn’t. One-eighth normal gravity wouldn’t let her even if the bulky suit had allowed it.

She knelt by the side of the pool and slid a probe into the pool. The tip flashed twice, then twice again. Then again.

Water. Some slightly weird readings, sure, but it was water.

Ninety billion miles from home. She hadn’t even noticed the sword at first. To be fair, nor had we.

Then we were all laughing, and slapping each other on the back. We talked of colonies and new eras and… well, we talked.

Later, afterwards, someone nicknamed it The Conch. We should have just left the damned thing where we found it.

© Lee Barnett, 2012

This story is part of The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction (More information on the Twelve Days here)
Day 01: Why Can’t Reindeer Fly? – challenger: Neil Gaiman
Day 02: Around and Around Again – challenger: Wil Wheaton
Day 03: Hell Comes To Greenland – challenger: Jason Arnopp
Day 05: Frederick The Unopened Package – challenger: Amanda Palmer
Day 06: Under Hetty Pegler’s Tump – challenger: Warren Ellis
Day 07: The Impossible Box – challenger: Mitch Benn
Day 08: Away In A Manger – challenger: Tony Lee
Day 09: Typos and Typography – challenger: Kieron Gillen
Day10: Why Santa’s A Jerk – challenger: Ed Brubaker
Day 11: The Wrong Christmas Cookies – challenger: Matt Fraction
Day12: The Christmas That Wasn’t – challenger: Jamie McKelvie


“There are two hundred stories collected in this volume. They are funny, they are thoughtful, they are romantic, they are frightening. To me, though, they are more than entertaining. They are inspiring.” – Wil Wheaton, from his introduction to volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge

Two volumes of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 stories in Volume 1 and a further 200 stories in Volume 2, are available from lulu.com, and in some countries on Amazon. ebooks available from the author; email for details.

Whenever I refer to my foot, and the problems with it, I always forget that there are some people who have joined this blog in the past year (or have recently followed me on Twitter) so only know that I do have a problem with it.

So here’s a quick primer:

A little over ten years ago, I fell over and snapped the fifth metatarsal (that’s the long bone that runs from your little toe down the side of your foot) on my left foot. That wasn’t so serious, but I also dislocated the bones in my foot and an ‘extra’ navicular bone popped out. I had to have that removed, and the result was that my foot never fully healed from the op. As a result, I could walk – after some time – for about an hour and a half before the foot started hurting, and after two hours, I’d need an icepack on it. Running was out. Forever. As was playing football, or any serious strain on it.

OK, leap – if you’ll forgive the word – forward to 2007. The middle of the same foot had started hurting… badly. To the extent that I was, once again, limping all the time, and walking for more than a few minutes felt like I had a knitting needle rammed up the middle bones in my foot.

So I went to the same fella who’d operated on my five years previously and… turned out (with no link to the previous problems) I’d developed something called Freiberg’s, where the blood supply is disrupted to the second and third metatarsals.

So, the pain I had in my foot was the ends of my second and third metatarsals dying. As they die, the ends of the bones collapse in on themselves and flatten, and since you’ve then effectively got a square peg in a round hole, they rub away and destroy the cartilage/material between the metatarsals and the Proximal Phalanges (the toe bones furthest away from the toenails). And if you’re really unlucky… like me, the damage affects the shafts of the bones as well.

Eventually, I’ll need an op on the foot, but it’s a particularly gory procedure (details on request, if you’re of that mind) and the recovery is a bastard, with six weeks in plaster, another six to eight on crutches and then six months learning to walk again. So yeah, I’m putting that off as long as I can.

Thing is: the operation will only return my foot to how it was a year or so ago; it will not heal my foot per se.

That’s not going to happen.

Ever.

But until I need the op, I’m taking lots of painkiller meds (many, many 30/500 Cocodamol, if you’re curious.)

The bits on the MRI above that look like Tippex has been spilled all over the film are where’s there’s… let’s call it “damage”. In other words, that’s where the bones are dying.

Any questions?

Fourteen years

Posted: 9 January 2012 in Uncategorized

Fourteen years. A decade plus four. Or to be more precise, fourteen years and eight or so hours since my brother died.

Despite me rewriting it nearly every year, I post something about Mike annually on this day with not a smidgen of guilt or concern.

Michael deserves a public remembrance from me every year.

9th January 1998. I’d gotten into work early and having dropped my bag at the office, was having a coffee across the road. About five-past eight, someone else who’d been in early came to get me; a call from Laura. Then a call to the hospital, the growing suspicion from the understandable reticence of the doctor to tell me anything over the phone… and then the knowledge – the horrible, horrible knowledge – that my brother had died.

Not a good morning.

Mike was 38 years old, nine years younger than I am now… And that’s a thing you never get used to – that you’re older than someone who was older than you. And that’s completely apart from the fact that he lost those years – he lost seeing his children grow up, he lost the chance to see Phil grow up, and that Phil never got the chance to know Mike. Not properly, not as a growing child should get to know someone.

Where the hell has fourteen years gone? Well, I know the answer to that: I look at my son, and know the final family photo taken of Mike was with Philip, when the latter was a little over two years old. And Phil’s now sixteen. Still, where have the years gone?

Fourteen Years.

It’s utter nonsense to say that ‘time heals every wound’. It doesn’t. It doesn’t even come close. What it does do, I’ve rediscovered with ever passing year, is lessen the temptation to pick at the scab.

So with every year that passes, it hurts a little less… most of the time.

Michael Russell Barnett wasn’t perfect, far from it. He loved puns, just didn’t ‘get’ comics at all, had problems carrying a tune in a bucket, and his enthusiasm for the guitar wasn’t in any way matched by his ability.

Still, as a brother, Mike was as good as they get and if I’d have gone to Brothers ‘R’ Us, I couldn’t have picked better. He taught me so much, including the most important things in life, like the proper glass out of which to drink scotch: “one with a hole at one end, and no hole at the other.” I was best man at his wedding to Lynne, and that he trusted me (at the age of 21) with that responsibility honoured me then, and it still does. I’ve still many wonderful memories of Michael, but those few hours on the morning of his wedding when it was just me and him… ah, they’re memories I wouldn’t trade for anything.

He died fourteen years ago today and I miss him dreadfully, especially today. I miss him always, but today, it’s a bugger.

Rest easy, brother.

A few years ago, after I posted something similar to the above, I got several emails and messages from people who either didn’t know I’d had a brother, or didn’t know what had happened. Both asked what had happened. Here’s what I put up in response.

Soon after Mike’s death, I was asked to write something about him – this is what I wrote.

Occasionally, things concern me.

These aren’t great matters of import. No, those I leave to others to worry about.

Global Warming? Whether there should be another moon shot? War? Sure, like I, me personally, can affect any of them in a meaningful way.

The inherent unfairness of the current tax system? Hey, I’m an accountant, but there are some things you can’t blame on the users of the system.

So what does concern me more than they ever should?

Trivial things. Meaningless things that everyone else makes fun of me when I mention them.

Things like:

– Why do I say I’ll pop ’round to someone “for a coffee” when most folks don’t drink it late at night?

– When did it become the norm to use the expression “the norm”?

– Why is business email still regarded as somehow less formal than a hard copy letter?

– Something that someone else asked, but it’s bugged me: what is the point of perfumed underarm deodorant? If someone is smelling your armpits, surely the seduction is over?

– If it’s the thought that counts, what’s wrong with me just thinking about sending someone a present but not actually doing it?

– Why is “heat” spelled the way it is? It always seems to be spelled wrongly.

– How come I can like two people and have them as close friends of mine, and yet they can’t stand each other?

– Why do the Americans use the date format mm-dd-yy and Europeans use dd-mm-yy? (This one has been bugging me for years and yes, I am that sad and pitiable that I once called up the Library of Congress to ask them if they knew. They didn’t, or at least they told me that they didn’t.)

And some comics related ones:

– If Wolverine has a constant, always-on healing factor, why does he look older now than when his powers kicked in?

And… you stick Sue Richards (aka The Invisible Woman) in a windowless room with black walls, floor and ceiling. The room is lit by a single 60 watt bulb. That’s the only light source. She turns the entire bulb invisible. What happens? Does the room go dark or not? Does your answer change if instead of the room being all black, the walls of the room are mirrored?

2012 and all that

Posted: 1 January 2012 in Uncategorized

So, by now, it’s 2012 wherever you are.

So many people I know are so bloody glad that 2011’s over, and for myself, I greeted the end of the year with mixed feelings. On the other hand, some of my friends had a simply wonderful 2011.

No-one, however, has a year that’s wholly marvellous or wholly horrible. Sure, the year itself could have been mostly horrible, with only the occasional lighter bit of relief; or it could have been just fantastic, with only a couple of lousy bits.

It may sound trite, but a lot happened in 2011. You’d expect it to. There were 8760 hours in 2011. You slept some of them, had fun during some of them, hated some of them, hated others during some of them, possibly even hated yourself during some of them… and had reason to be very grateful during other hours.

Same as every year.

Me? I had some good, some bad, some weird, some unusual. Let’s just leave it by saying that 2011 was a hell of a year, and leave it at that, eh?

2012?

I wish I could come up with something staggeringly original, such as any by Neil Gaiman‘s message, but I can’t.

I can only wish you the following:

  1. May you do something you’re proud of. Whether it’s something you do in your personal life, your professional life, your creative endeavours, or even something in your family life. Something that when you look in the mirror (to shave, put make-up on, etc), you can think about and not wince.
  2. May you know that some people like you, some people care about you, some people love you… and may you accept that knowledge without it freaking you out.
  3. May your friends know that you like them, you care about them, you love them… and may they accept that knowledge without it freaking them out.
  4. May you learn to take compliments gracefully, and even if you don’t believe them for a heartbeat… may you learn to reply in such a way that doesn’t make the other person feel worthless.
  5. May you understand that sometimes, just sometimes, you’re allowed to upset friends, knowing they’ll forgive you.
  6. May you quickly and honestly forgive your friends who upset you.
  7. May you know that when I say “sometimes, just sometimes“, that’s supposed to be an indication that it’s a rare, limited allowance; you’re not supposed to do it daily.
  8. May you remember that being inexperienced, being ignorant and being naive are three different things; may your response to each be different, and appropriate.
  9. May you be inappropriate; everyone needs to be sometimes.
  10. May you be able to make decisions quickly, and not second guess the hell out of every decision you make, and may you be able to deal with the consequences of those decisions.
  11. May you embrace the unexpected, enjoy the unanticipated, and live a year of wonder and dreams unimagined.
  12. May you have a wonderful 2012.

Enjoy.

One of my favourite guilty pleasures recently has come on a Monday evening on BBC FOUR, a quiz hosted by Victoria Coren, entitled Only Connect, in which, as the Wikipedia page has it,

In the series, teams compete in a tournament of finding connections between seemingly unrelated clues.

Here’s a small taster of it:

Now that only covers the first half of the show, and neither the “connecting wall” nor the “missing vowels” round (although the biggest puzzle about that final round is why it’s in the show; entertaining it is, but not really linked to “connections”).

I was delighted to discover the Only Connect app (click link to be taken to iTunes app store), but Only Connect is far from the first quiz on radio or Television to deal with connections.

For a start, there’s the wonderful television entitled Connections, more about soon, I promise. There’s a reason I’ll be talking about James Burke, but I’ll write more about that in a few days…

And then there’s Round Britain Quiz, where horribly convoluted questions are linked by something that might seem obscure but is, of course, immediately obvious once explained/realised.

On the BBC, in the UK, (and, I guess, probably on World Service and iPlayer as well) Round Britain Quiz has been running for several decades. As I say, it takes minor celebrities who represent various areas around the UK and gives them the most convoluted and contrived questions in order to get several answers, all linked by a theme.

Two examples follow here.

OK here’s one of them, one of the easier variety:

Three have vanished, one remains and three are gone, but still with us in a manner of speaking.

OK, I’ll pause while you think about that…

[pause…]

OK, got it?

The three that have “vanished” are The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Temple of Artemis and The Statue of Zeus.

The one that remains is The Great Pyramid at Giza.

The three that are gone but remain with us “in a manner of speaking” are…

  • The Tomb of King Mausolus at Halicarnassus, which gave us the word MAUSOLEUM
  • The Colossus of Rhodes, which gave us the word COLOSSUS, and
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria which gave us the word PHAROS, used to describe a lighthouse.

They are, of course, The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Clever, huh?

Here’s another one that you probably won’t know, since it deals with UK politics, but it’s a better example of how tricky the questions can be and how every word in the question is important.

The first was a Scot who founded the party. The second was a Scot who split the party 31 years later. The third is a Scot noted for his prudence. Who are they and what’s the nominal connection that isn’t obvious, but is there all the same?

The three men are obvious, to anyone who knows their UK political history. It’s the “nominal connection that’s not obvious, but is there all the same” that’s the kicker.

The connection the question is looking for is that the men all have the same first name (nominal, remember), but didn’t use it in public life.

The party is the Labour Party.

(James) Keir Hardy (1856-1915) was one of those who formed the Labour Party.

31 years later, in August 1931, (James) Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) split the party, when he formed a coalition government that was chiefly supported by Conservatives and Liberals.

And (James) Gordon Brown, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, was, of course, noted for his obsession with “prudence”.

All of them had the first name James, and none of them used it in public life…

As with many such things, the listener sometimes thinks, “well, I could do that…”

So I did – I sent in a question ad it was used in the following series.

Here’s the question:

Why would the reduction of what we can see of the moon and what Eskimos wear be signalled large in Canterbury, and be reported in a humorous volume?

OK, so what’s the answer?

No idea? Oh, good. That’s the plan.

You want to know the answer?

Naah – think a bit… now think a bit more…

Ok then, since you insist:

Answer:

  • the reduction of what we can see of the moon is wane, yes?
  • and that coat the Eskimos wear, that’s called a parka
  • now “signalled large”… well, a large sign could be a banner, couldn’t it?
  • and, of course, Canterbury, is in Kent.

Hmm: Wane, Parka, Banner, Kent.

Hmm even more: (Bruce) WAYNE, (Peter) PARKER, (Bruce) BANNER, and (Clark) KENT.

And by now, you’ll have realised the reason they’d have been in a humorous volume, or a COMIC BOOK.

I thangew.

More tomorrow.

For the first time in a while, and since this is a new blog, I’m doing this before the end of the year…

Now about the pics you’re going to see below: I’ve already been about as embarrassed at the shots as I’m ever likely to be, but yes, if you feel the need to go “awwww” at the cute pics of me as a youngster, or mock the pictures of me during the decade(s) that fashion forgot, feel free to do so.

Look, the whole thing started in 2004 when there was a meme going around about putting up photos of yourself when you were younger. I did it… and then continued to update it every year or so for more recent pics…

So, here they are, bringing the photos up to date, as of November 2011.

In rough order of age…


Probably the earliest photo I’ve got of me…


It was 1972, ok? And I was at my brother’s bar mitzvah


My son takes great delight in this shot – I think I was 10 at the time.


Me at age 11


Just after my 15th birthday


August 1980, I’m 16 – yes, that is a curly perm. Shut up.


November 1982 – Freshers’ Fair at Manchester Poly


1983 – me at the PULP office, 2nd year at Manchester Poly.


Age 21, at a work leaving do, having left Manchester Poly a month or so earlier..


1985, at my brother’s wedding… at which I was best man. Yeah, 21 again.


At my dad’s 60th birthday in 1989, aged 25. Blimey, was that really over twenty years ago?


1994 – Laura’s and my wedding day


1996


September 1997, at UKCAC


Me in New York, January 1998, just after we lost Mike


Part of a formal family shot, mid-1999


June 1999 – my spiritual home


August 2000; taken by Phil – he was five years old at the time


October 2001; New York, six weeks after 9/11; visiting Ian


May 2002, Hypotheticals – not a happy Budgie


mid-2002, taken for a WEF World Wide Wednesday


Bristol, 2003. You can see the greying hair now…


July 2004 – working at the office


December 2004 – at my nephew’s bar mitzvah. See? I scrub up nicely occasionally.


August 2005 – at Brighton. First picture for ages that I’m genuinely happy with.


September 2005, last picture of the Nissan before I crashed it…


October 2005. Again, a photo taken by Phil…


April 2006, at the flat.


May 2007, Bristol, Saturday night, at around 2 in the morning.


December 2007 – at the office party, with my ‘secret santa’ gift. No, the book.


May 2008 – Phil and me at Comic Expo


May 2008 – Me interviewing Dave Gibbons at Comic Expo


October 2008 – Me and Phil, studio shot for the bar mitzvah


October 2008 – Me and Ian, at the bar mitzvah


May 2009 – Me and Matt Jones, (pic by Jamais Cascio)


July 2009 – At the BERG 40th Anniversary Apollo 11 drinkup (pic by Matt Jones)


October 2009 – In New York, with my cousin Nikki.


November 2009 – Me and Phil at Ian’s son’s bar mitzvah.


April 2010, in Luton


July 2010, on Mastermind


August 2010, at Laura’s


October 2010, from Phil Tanner’s Photos – Mitch Benn ‘Proud of the BBC’ video shoot) The actual video’s here.


October 2010, again: at MCM


December 2010, after the office party


January 2011, at Tony and Tracy Lee’s wedding.


October 2011.


Yeah, I grew a beard in October, then shaved it off..

Well, to be fair, it’s always the month of MRD Syndrome.

And to be even fairer, barely anyone reading this has a clue what MRD Syndrome is.

Some years ago, I helped run a UK Politics Forum on CompuServe. At one point, and I no longer recall when, or who said it, someone responded to a comment with “MRD.”

For anyone British, while the initials didn’t immediately mean anything, the explanation was simple: Mandy Rice-Davies, who uttered one of the most recognisable political quotes of the mid-twentieth century.

A figure in the Profumo affair, while giving evidence at the trial of Stephen Ward, (charged with living off the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Rice-Davies), the latter made a famous riposte. When the prosecuting counsel pointed out that Lord Astor denied an affair or having even met her, Mandy Rice-Davies replied, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”

That became thereafter, on the forum, a standard response not only to politicians’ statements of the bleedin’ obvious but for when anyone made one.

But taking a look at the news recently, MRD Syndrome does appear to be particularly prevalent at the moment. The following are just from the BBC, today:

Labour leader Ed Miliband says the protest at St Paul’s Cathedral and others are “danger signals” and reflect the concerns of millions of people.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander says some unions are “desperate” to take industrial action over changes to public sector pensions.

The Treasury should pay the £5.5m bill that councils face for altering parking meters to accept new coins, the Local Government Association has said.

Ruth Davidson, upon being elected Leader of the Scottish Conservatives – who have long ceased to be an important party in terms of Scottish Politics: In her victory address, Ms Davidson said Scottish Conservatism was “alive and kicking”.

Tell me, honestly – don’t they all make you think “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?”

Although I’ve spent much of my computing life dealing with PC and Windows, a few years ago a friend got me to buy my first iPod mini by the simple method of suggesting that I cease thinking of it as being able to carry “1,000 songs” and instead think of it as “4.000 minutes of sound”.

This genius – Alasdair Watson by name – is, therefore directly responsible for me owning in succession, several iPods, followed by several iPhones (I currently have an iPhone 4, purchased in August, quite deliberately just weeks before they announced the iPhone 4S), a couple of iPads… and being featured in Tap! Magazine.

A few weeks ago, Tap! put out a request – “challenge us to do something using only an iPhone”.

I was in a whimsical mood so I replied

“Find out where I drink coffee every day and come buy me one.”

Apart from anything else, I figured at best I’d get one over on them and at worst, I’d get a free coffee out of it.

You can follow the rest of the tale in the piece below, wherein the story is revealed…

The gentleman who tracked me down was very polite, and a pleasure to meet.

And yes, I got my free coffee.

Aren’t some people nice?

Exercise regime

Posted: 30 October 2011 in Uncategorized

It’s been some time since I thought about doing any exercise; I’ve been a member of a gym for some years, but have rarely visited it for anything other than the occasional swim.

It’s a good gym, and I genuinely believe that if you’re not going to go to a gym you belong to, it’s important that you don’t go to a good gym.

Previous attempts to actually exercise have always foundered on a combination of my own laziness, frustration at how long it would take to actually make a difference, and my own entirely unreasonable expectations of what can be achieved.

However, I have come across something that could be achievable, even while sitting at a desk. It is suggested for deskbound people to build up muscle strength in the arms and shoulders. It seems sensible and, as I say, just about achievable, so I thought I’d pass it on.

The article suggested doing it three days a week.

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface where you have plenty of room at each side.

With a 5-lb. potato sack in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, then relax.

Each day, you’ll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.

After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb.potato sacks, then 50-lb. potato sacks, and eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb. potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute.

After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each of the sacks, but be careful.

Now, see here!

Posted: 28 October 2011 in Uncategorized

Today’s been another of those days, so here’s what I consider to be one of the finest optical illusions of all time:

Don’t believe they’re the same colour?

Then click here.

Still don’t believe me? Then click here.

I wrote this a while back, but came across it tonight, and thought that some people may not have seen it, and may be interested in it…

A BILL OF RIGHTS
About twenty years ago (1990, to be precise), Scott McCloud wrote the following, in Comics Journal #137. He had apparently been thinking about it for some time, as even a brief read of the document will make obvious. I understand that Dave Sim, Steve Bissette and several others were also involved in the drafting.

A BILL OF RIGHTS For Comics Creators
For the survival and health of comics, we recognize that no single system of commerce and no single type of agreement between creator and publisher can or should be instituted. However, the rights and dignity of creators everywhere are equally vital.

Our rights, as we perceive them to be and intend to preserve them, are:

1. The right to full ownership of what we fully create.

2. The right to full control over the creative execution of that which we fully own.

3. The right of approval over the reproduction and format of our creative property.

4. The right of approval over the methods by which our creative property is distributed.

5. The right to free movement of ourselves and our creative property to and from publishers.

6. The right to employ legal counsel in any and all business transactions.

7. The right to offer a proposal to more than one publisher at a time.

8. The right to prompt payment of a fair and equitable share of profits derived from all of our creative work.

9. The right to full and accurate accounting of any and all income and disbursements relative to our work.

10. The right to prompt and complete return of our artwork in its original condition.

11. The right to full control over the licensing of our creative property.

12. The right to promote and the right of approval over any and all promotion of ourselves and our creative property.

Now these rights were (and are) great – super, and something that generated a lot of discussion… But that’s just dandy for the creators – what about us poor shlubs who plunk down our money month in, month out for comic books. Where do we fit into all of this?

So, humbly, I offer up something that I call the:

A BILL OF RIGHTS For Comics Readers
For the survival and health of comics, we recognize that no single system of enjoyment can or should be instituted. However, the rights of readers everywhere are equally vital.

Our rights are:

1. The right to enjoy a comic book without having to read the previous issue.

2. The right to enjoy a comic book having read the previous issue.

3. The right to expect the solicitation for an issue to bear some relationship to that issue when it comes out.

4. The right to expect professional creators to be, well, to be professional.

5. The right to be able to follow a comic book page without a set of instructions.

6. The right to know when a comic book is coming out and to be apologised to if deadlines are not met.

7. The right to courtesy from professionals.

8. The right not to be lied to in a comic book story. (see addendum 1 below.)

9. The right to ask stupid questions in letters without having fun made of you.

10. The right to be proud to read comics.

11. The right to be taken seriously when pointing out an apparent error.

12. The right to be offended.

13. The right to choose not to read a comic book without being criticised.

14. The right to have price rises announced well in advance.

15. The right to be a fan.

(Addendum 1: In point 8, above, I don’t object to being misled — I’m referring to being flat-out lied to. In Uncanny X-Men #327, the splash page says “an adventure of Magneto”. Two years later, we’re told “nahh, that wasn’t Magneto…” That’s a lie from where I stand.

Addendum 2: I’m glad to see that the advent of digital comics hasn’t in any way invalidated the points made above.)

Taking a constitutional…

Posted: 11 October 2011 in Uncategorized

You know, the older I get, the more I come to the almost inevitable conclusion that the Colonies have it about right: a written constitution is a good idea.

There’s a myth that the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. We do have one. We just have it in umpteen (a technical term, you understand) different laws, statutes, statutory instruments, etc.

What we don’t have is a single codified document entitled “The Constitution”. And not only do I think we should have such a single codified document, I think that we could do a lot worse than look at our American cousins’ one as a general guide.

Now, sure enough, I can’t stand the second amendment, or at least the interpretation that’s been put on it ever since the US created a standing army, which never existed at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified. And I still prefer a parliamentary system rather than the entire separation of the executive and legislature…

And yes, I know that for a couple of hundred years, people have been arguing about the precise meanings of not only the second amendment but the entire document. After all, that’s what the Supreme Court spends almost all of its time doing. Well, that and paperwork. And ok, every so often (every hundred years or so) they sometimes have to give the Chief Justice a few days off to supervise a Presidential impeachment.

But I do like a lot of it, particularly the first amendment.

You remember that? It’s the one that goes:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Of course, as fans of Alistair Cooke will recall, he never tired of reminding people of the qualifier “peaceably”.

However, I am long past tired of people, ignorant, [knowingly or unknowingly] stupid people, who – whenever a message board censors something they’ve written, or (as happened fairly recently) Twitter removing what they considered to be an offensive hashtag trend – complain that their first amendment rights have been infringed.

I’d ask if they were so ignorant of their own bloody Constitution that they don’t know that the first amendment does not apply to any private organisation, only Congress, but the answer is obviously, sadly, yes.

Not EXACTLY a test, but…

Posted: 7 October 2011 in Uncategorized

OK, this is more of a test post than anything else, since I’m just trying out various ways of posting to this place.

Although I expect to be posting mainly from the iPad or iPhone, there’s still the possibility I’ll be posting from my PC, and so far it looks like the best method is to write it in the old LJ Client I have (Semagic) and then cut and paste into WordPress.

Still, that’s nothing to interest you, is it?

Here, have something to make you smile, Hils Barker from her set at The Distraction Club: