October 2005


Writing30 Oct 2005 06:30 pm

I considered posting about Saturday’s Delhi bombs and the high accident rate on Indian railways, but I assured you my next post would be cheerful. And a promise is a promise.

So let’s retreat to made up worlds and flights of fancy. Yes folks, I’m harping on about NaNoWriMo again.

Victorian writer Here’s my deal: my plot is still fairly shapeless, but at least has a few characters ready to go. The real difficulty for me is finding one strong idea and sticking to it. When I’m pondering possible plots, I keep wandering off into different places, different genres, even different eras. This can’t be right.

It occurred to me today that I am probably amalgamating too many disparate, half-formed ideas. Having never actually written a novel before, I seem to be mashing together every plot that’s ever occurred to me, in the hope that some of it might work. That might turn out like a literary fruit salad, but it’s more likely to be the reading equivalent of emptying a four course dinner into a blender and then drinking the resulting sludge.

I need to be more selective.

Incidentally, the NaNoWriMo handbook is quite an amusing read. Best of all, it reassures you that plot points will leap into your head while you’re writing, and that this spontaneity is to be welcomed: “Even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to fit those five ninjas into your courtroom drama, hey, they’ve arrived.”

So nuh-uh, I’m not going to worry about my plot. The path will reveal itself.

And I’m going to keep the blog going throughout too, because I’m a glutton for punishment.

American politics&British politics&Middle East26 Oct 2005 09:18 pm

Can anyone explain to me how I’m supposed to be deeply affected by the thought of 2,000 dead American military personnel in Iraq, while simultaneously not being bothered about the 100,000 Iraqi civilians who died violent deaths in the same period?

I’m having a few problems with that one today.

Boy weeps in Iraqi rubble

As always, visit BugMeNot for a login if you want to read the Lancet report for yourself.

American politics25 Oct 2005 10:19 pm

The men behind the curtain Here’s a story from this week’s Schnews mailout:

A schoolkid in North Carolina got a bit more attention than he bargained for recently when he submitted his work for class. His teacher had set a project to take photographs that illustrated their liberties as guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. So one kid took a photo of himself standing beside a poster of George Bush, giving him the “thumbs down”. He put the film into Wal-Mart’s for developing, who then promptly informed the police. Suspecting subversion, the FBI paid a visit to the school, confiscated the offending photograph, grilled the teacher for a bit, then had a few patriotic words with the boy.

I can laugh about this, but only to stop myself yelling in impotent fury. Meanwhile, Blair is taking notes.

Writing24 Oct 2005 06:12 pm

Light bulb Right. I believe I have the faintest outline of a semi-coherent plot ready for NaNoWriMo next Tuesday.

This is probably the most prepared I’d ever be for it, so I’m as delighted as a footballer’s wife in Harvey Nicks.

How about you? Got a plan? Or will you just wing it as you go along?

British politics20 Oct 2005 06:48 pm

Looks like Britain’s getting some shiny new weapons of mass destruction.

The nuclear power plant at Aldermaston in Berkshire has recently been given a bountiful budget increase. Nagasaki mushroom cloud Not just your average inflationary rise: the budget has doubled. A hefty £2 billion of our tax will go to the Aldermaston plant over the next 3 years.

The Government claim the 100% increase in funding is to maintain the existing Trident warheads, and certainly not because they are planning to build new ones.

Yet the Aldermaston plant admits it is also planning to recruit 1,000 extra staff as a result of this budgetary increase. How many nuclear physicists does it take to change a lightbulb? How many to “maintain” existing weapons?

One local newspaper in the Berkshire area notes: “Both AWE and the Ministry of Defence have denied the money means the go-ahead has been given to build a new generation of missiles at the site. … But there is no explanation why 1,000 new jobs are needed if Trident’s successor is not to be built.”

The (uncredited) reporter asked a spokesperson for the Atomic Weapons Establishment for an explanation. And she or he received this response: “People are leaving all the time – it’s ensuring we have the skills base to carry out our mission. We are not building a Trident successor and any decision to do so will be a Government decision. Ministers have made it clear in published statements no decision has yet been made.”

Not many businesses increase their workforce by 25% on the offchance that a few staff might leave. I think we’re getting ourselves armed to the teeth, my friends.

So it’s just as well countries like Iran are developing their own nuclear programmes really. How else are they to counter the mafia-style threats of rogue states like Britain and America?

And, closer to home, the cancer rate in Newbury, West Berkshire (the area where the Aldermaston plant is situated) is 40% above the national average (original study source: Berkshire Health Authority, 1997). So local residents probably won’t be welcoming the news of renewed arms production either.

We are officially in the Axis of Stupid.

Writing19 Oct 2005 02:20 pm

Victorian typist If you’re embarking on NaNoWriMo next month and you don’t mind being placed in the ‘Friends’ category on my profile page – so that I can spy on your word count and panic that I haven’t done enough, naturally – then please tell me your username.

I managed to find Spin, Swiss and Bee with no clues, so I’ve added you three already. Was that terribly presumptuous?

In a display of remarkable originality, I have chosen the username ‘urbanfox’. So now you know.

Strangeness18 Oct 2005 12:41 pm

Like Red, I asked for the moon and it appeared in my sidebar.

It’s full moon today. Apparently this is the time when you should do your most important spells. But apparently not the best time to plant things in your garden.

Perhaps someone more mystical, like Spinsterwitch, would know more about this sort of thing than a mere Muggle like me.

Has anyone here ever had experience of strange lunar effects? Speak now, if the fangs aren’t too obtrusive.

British politics17 Oct 2005 07:28 pm

Police from five different British forces are undertaking “vital training” (yes, “vital”, it says here) so that they can learn how to protect the Queen from underwater bombs. That’s five (5) different police forces. All abandoning their communities while learning how to better protect Her Maj.

Now, call me a rampant anti-monarchist if you will. In fact, you may as well, because I am. But three questions spring to mind.

1 – Isn’t this hysterical measure a bit of a kick in the face for anyone who is forced to take public transport every day, not having been born into the sort of stagnant gene pool that garners you a fleet of armour-plated Bentleys?

2 – How much is all this costing us?

3 – And how dangerous is an underwater bomb for someone living in a reinforced palace and two castles? The article says this extravagant palaver is to protect Queenie “if touring Windsor Great Park and the river”. If she’s worried, perhaps she could not wander around those places? Or would that be letting “them” win?

Take the tube tomorrow, Ma’am, and see if that makes you feel any more comfortable with your normal routine. Tell you what, I’ll even shell out for your Oyster card. Can’t say fairer than that.

Pop culture16 Oct 2005 06:08 pm

FOX: “Perhaps the reason Lost has captured public imagination is that it offers a glimpse into another world, one we may secretly hanker for without realising. This is a world without the class system, without the futility of the rat race, without the trappings of consumerist aspiration, where everybody is equal regardless of their status in the ‘real’ world and the only things that matter are practical skills and knowledge. Money means nothing. The island is their prison, yet on another level they are freer than they’ve ever been. It’s a place where community and cooperation is the only thing standing between life and death. It’s a place where pain is genuine: they risk death at the jaws of wild animals or starvation, not the indulgent Western luxury of neuroses or guilt. Don’t we all yearn sometimes for a more real, authentic life? Don’t we all feel a sense of dissatisfaction with the empty materialism of our culture and its sham promises? Don’t we all, deep down, wonder what happened to real human emotion, real danger, real experience? Isn’t that why Lost is so popular across all social strata?”

FOX’S FRIEND: “Yeah. That and the three ultra-hot blokes in it.”

I conceded the point.

Writing14 Oct 2005 03:31 pm

I had a vivid dream the other night. I think preparing this website for launch was the inspiration for it.

In this dream, I had wandered across a dark, tangled forest (uh… yeah, not entirely unlike that header up there) to reach my own front door. Just as I was putting my key in the lock, a flurry of forest animals came pelting headlong towards me. One was a particularly large fox.

I was concerned it was trying to follow me in, and wondered if it would bite me if I tried to fend it off. But once I engaged with it, I found it playful and cuddly. I discovered that it was a furry pet, not a predator.

If there are any amateur Jungs in the audience, do your worst.

Antique bureau pen-and-ink sketch

Vivid night imaginations are one thing, but what if you are struggling for inspiration in the daytime? If only my dreams would provide me with a story for NaNoWriMo, which is – eek! – a mere 2-and-a-bit weeks away.

“Any tips?” I asked a friendly fiction writer of loose acquaintance.

“Yes,” she said. “Double spacing. Don’t skimp on the margins. And serif fonts are most readable.”

“I know all that,” I said, making surreptitious notes.

Perhaps I can work the fox dream into an Angela Carter-style gothic fairytale. Or perhaps my sleeping brain will conjure up an appropriate novel plotline in the next fortnight. At the very least, it’ll be neatly presented.

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