Saturday, 22 September 2007

Foreword: Vernal Equinox

To begin at the beginning:
It is spring, moonlit night in the city, star-struck and bible-free, the asphalt streets humming with tyrenoise and fluorescent-washed footpaths busy with the weekend crowds …

Ch 1: the still centre of the turning circle

I've made this ‘hub’ blog to reserve the name.
Expanding outwards from this hub you can, if you desire, seek my traces on the pages of the online world elsewhere. Here's a list to start with:

  • Hello Cruel World blog
  • Flickr Fotos
  • Darkroom photo blog
  • YouTube Videos

  • Mirror LJ
  • Mirror'd blog
  • Alternate Photo blog
  • Cafepress shop
  • Blog books: 2002-2004; 2005-2008
  • Some others' places I recommend you check out:

    Tlaloc: at (a good friend, a good spot) or Gleet Net (with the strip Identity Redacted (probably finished now).
    Making Light (Community)
    Stephen Fry! blog (Warning, you could spend far too much time there.)

    ఫిగ్ 1: YouTube Customized Player

    Thursday, 20 September 2007

    Tuesday, 11 September 2007

    An Earlier 9/11 — Broken Glass & Ashes

    (In Australia 9/11 is November 9th).

    Remembering 'Kristallnacht' - 9/11/38

    An eyewitness account ( books/ kastner.html). There you can see Erich Kästner's description of "Crystal Night, 1938", as well as his attendance at the 1933 burning of his, and 23 other authors' books. It was also mentioned in a post in my main blog in March 2006 ( 2006/ 03/ erich-kastner-writer-part-of-his-story.html)

    In Summary
    (In 1938, incensed by hearing of his family in Germany being forced into "relocation camps" in the November snow under Nazi laws, an adolescent Jew in Paris shot and killed a German diplomat.

    Goebbels used this for propaganda about conspiracies against Germany, inciting Germans to "rise in bloody vengeance", culminating on the long winter night of November 9th in organised widespread violence. Non-Jews who protested were beaten. Police and firemen watched people brutalized, buildings smashed, looted and burnt. Morning footpaths were impassable under an icy glittering crust of broken glass and ashes.

    Prominent Germans who protested were arrested. Ordinary Germans who protested were beaten up. Lack of public protest encouraged the Nazi government to pass even more repressive laws in the next few months.

    Can we hope that we've learnt from last century's several examples of disasters wrought by stirring up the darker side we all have - for power, for gain, for dogmatic religion or ideology?

    Note the winding-tighter spiral of assassination, having been sparked by rage at the laws & treatment following the Reichstag fire, being used as pretext for Kristallnacht, which sparked the next round of ill-treatment & laws giving more power to The Party, und so weiter. That's why I detest the violent political language particularly around in recent right-wing US commentary, but not exclusive to them.

    Two sites of many others about it: and

    I particularly like the knife-twist, so typical of current 'economic fundamentalists' of indemnifying the Jewish community to pay for the damages, for example by confiscating their insurance payouts. Relatives were also billed for execution expenses in Nazi Germany (see below). It reminds me of recent British stories of released prisoners whose convictions were quashed being charged for their keep (from March 2007, the Bridgewater Three, Wrongly convicted men must pay 'lodgings' costs for prison, and Warren Blackwell), and of course our own Respected & Beloved Government's way of discouraging rejected refugees in a similar way. Can't promise I'll put the links to those recent Australian stories, but they're there, in solid factual reports.

    [From books/ kastner.html]
    (To establish the proper atmosphere, this is as good a place as any to show a sample of the bill you got for having your husband killed by the Nazis … Hangman's Bill (Eric Kastner) Yes, you were supposed to pay for the execution (or else...) It comes to a total of what now must be well over $6000. They even charged you 12 cents for the stamp to send you the bill.

    Tuesday, 28 August 2007

    Gene Wolfe on Writing: a Summary

    Everything I know about writing, in no particular order

    , web/ 20030814163044/ http:// onwriting/ index.asp?name=./ References/ 19970101wolfe.htm

      The hardest worked cliche is better than the phrase that fails.

      If you can't make a section good, at least make it short and get the pain over with.

      Try to have something interesting on every page.

      Appeal to the senses. What colour was it? How did it smell, sound?

      Main characters should be striking in some way, attractive or grotesque or interesting in appearance.

      Spear-carriers should be more or less ordinary for contrast. If you can't decide which a character is, make him striking.

      Perfection is not sexy.

      Never name a character Fred.

      Vary sentence structure.

      Adopt a style suited to the viewpoint character.

      Unless a paragraph is very short, the antecedent should be given before any pronoun referring to it.

      At least every second speech should be identified: "Fred said."

      It is better to repeat a word than to use a series of far-fetched synonyms.

      Get facts right. If you wish to flout fact (for example, have argon the principle constituent of the atmosphere) provide some explanation of how the change came to about.

      If you wish to flout a widely accepted theory, such as relativity, provide an alternate theory.

      Unless there is excellent reason not to, maintain a single viewpoint throughout the story.

      If you are stuck for an idea, write down a list of ideas you don't like or feel are too slight. Eventually you will hit several you like pretty well and one you will like a lot.

      Try to combine several ideas in a single story.

      Compress your information. When you are describing a scene try to choose details which will develop your character. When you have to move your character somewhere describe the scene.

      Choose specific details.

      Examine your modifiers ruthlessly. What do they add to the story?

      Cut adjectives, adverbs, similes and metaphors which do not shed light or develop the narrative voice.

      Don't repeat yourself.

      Give the reader small surprises: moments of humour, delightful metaphors, something that jolts.

      Understand your characters. No one is a villain to him/herself. No one is clinically sane if you know them well enough.

      Resist the temptation to overdescribe. Your readers have their own imaginations.

      Resist the temptation to overexplain. Your readers are smart.

      Almost any interesting work or art comes close to saying the opposite of what it really says.

      Advice from Jack Kerouac: "When you get stuck, don't think about the words. Imagine it better and keep going."
    Gene Wolfe

    Gene Wolfe on Writing – Longform

    on writing

    A must read for writers of Science Fiction, or readers of SciFi.

    Turkey City Section 1 web/ 20030814162619/ onwriting/ index.asp?name=./ References/ 19960102TurkWords.htm

    January 02, 1996


    "Said" Bookism
    Artificial literary verb used to avoid the perfectly good word "said." "Said" is on the few invisible words in the language, it is almost impossible to overuse. Infinitely, less distracting then "he retorted," "she inquired," or the all time favorite, "he ejaculated."

    Tom Swifty
    Similar conclusion to follow the word "said" (or "said" bookism) with an adverb. As in, "'We'd better hurry,' said Tom swiftly." Remember that the adverb is a leech sucking the strength from a verb. 99% of the time it is clear from context how something was said.

    "Burly Detective" Syndrome
    Fear of proper names. Found in most of the same pulp magazines that abound with "said" bookisms and Tom Swifties. This is where you can't call Mike Shayne "Shayne," but substitute "the burly detective: or the "red-headed sleuth." Like the "said" bookism it comes from the entirely wrong-headed conviction that you can't use the same word twice in the same sentence, paragraph, or even page. This is only true of particularly strong words, like, say "vertiginous." It's always better to reuse an ordinary, simple noun or verb than contrive a cumbersome method of avoiding it.

    Eyeball Kick
    That perfect, telling detail that creates and instant visual image. The ideal of certain post modern schools of sf is to achieve a "crammed prose" full of "eyeball kicks." (Rudy Rucker)

    Pushbutton Words
    Words used to evoke an emotion response without engaging the intellect or critical faculties. Words like "song" or "poet" or "tears" or "dreams." These are supposed to make us misty-eyed without knowing quite why. Most often found in story titles.

    Sudden change in level of diction. "The massive hound barked in a stentorian voice then made wee-wee on the carpet."

    Brand Name Fever
    Use of a brand name alone without accompanying visual detail, to create a false verisimilitude. You can stock a future with Hondas and Sonys and IBM's and still have no idea what it looks like.

    internal section divider

    Turkey City Section 2 web/ 20030814164052/ onwriting/ index.asp?name=./ References/ 19960103TurkSentenc.htm
    January 03, 1996

    Sentences and Paragraphs

    Expositional redundancy. Making the actions implied in a conversation explicit, e.g., "'Let's get out of here,' he said, urging her to leave."

    Telling, Not Showing
    Violates the cardinal rule of good writing. The reader should be allowed to react, not instructed how to react. Carefully observed details render authorial value judgments unnecessary. For instance, instead of telling us "she had a bad childhood, an unhappy childhood," specific incidents -- involving, say, a locked chest and two jars of honey -- should be shown.

    Characters give cues to the reader as to how to react. They laugh at their own jokes, cry at their own pain, and (unintentionally) feel everything so the reader doesn't have to.

    Squid in the Mouth
    Inappropriate humor in front of stranger. Basically the failure of the author to realize that certain assumptions or jokes are not shared by the world at large. In fact, the world at large will look upon such a writer as if they had squids in their mouths. (Jim Blaylock)

    Hand Waving
    Distracting the reader with dazzling prose or other fireworks to keep them from noticing a severe logical flaw.

    Hand Waving — You Can't Fire Me, I Quit
    Attempt to diffuse lack of credibility with hand-waving. "I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself." As if by anticipating the reader's objections the author had somehow answered them. (John Kessel)

    Element of motivation the author was too lazy to supply. The word "somehow" is an automatic tipoff to fuzzy areas of the story. "Somehow she forgot to bring her gun."

    Intrusion of author's physical surroundings (or mental state) into the narrative. Like the character who always lights a cigarette when the author does, or is thinking about how they wished they hadn't quit smoking. In more subtle forms the characters complain that they're confused and don't know what to do -- when it is actually the author's condition. (Tom Disch)

    Bogus Alternatives
    List of actions a character could have taken, but didn't. Frequently includes all the reasons why. A type of Dischism in which the author works out complicated plot problems at the reader's expense. "If I'd gone along with the cops they would have found the gun in my purse. And anyway, I didn't want to spend a night in jail. I suppose I could have just run instead of stealing their car, but then..." etc. Best dispensed with entirely.

    False Interiorization
    Another Dischism, in which the author, too lazy to describe the surroundings inflicts the viewpoint character with space sickness, a blindfold, etc.

    White Room Syndrome
    Author's imagination fails to provide details. Most common in the beginning of a story. "She awoke in a white room." The white room is obviously the white piece of paper confronting the author. Often in order to ponder her circumstances and provide an excuse for Info Dump (see section 3, below).

    internal section divider

    Turkey City Section 3 web/ 20030814162548/ onwriting/ index.asp?name=./ References/ 19960104TurkBackgrnd.htm

    January 04, 1996


    Info Dump
    Large chunk of indigestible expository matter intended to explain the background situation. This can be overt, as in fake newspaper or "Encyclopedia Galactica" articles inserted in the text, or covert, in which all action stops and the author assumes center stage an lectures.

    Name assigned to the voice which takes center stage to lecture. Actually a common noun, as "You have a stapledon come on to answer this problem instead of showing the character resolve it."

    "As You Know, Bob"
    The most pernicious form of Info Dump. In which the characters tell each other things they already know, for the sake of getting the reader up to speed.

    "I've Suffered For My Art (and now it's your turn.)
    Research dump. A form of Info Dump in which the author inflicts upon the reader irrelevant, but hard-won bits of data acquired while researching the story.

    Re-Inventing the Wheel
    In which the novice author goes to enormous lengths to create a situation already familiar to an experienced reader. You most often see this when a highly regarded mainstream writer tries to write an SF novel without actually reading any of the existing stuff (because it's obviously all crap anyway.) Thus you get endless explanations of, say, how an atomic war might get started by accident. Thank you, but we've read that already. Also you get tedious explanations by physicists of how their interstellar drive works.

    Unless it impacts the plot, we don't care.

    Used Furniture
    Use of background out of Central Casting. Rather than invent a background and have to explain it, or risk re-inventing the wheelUniverse, only we'll call it the Empire instead of the Federation.

    Space Western
    The most pernicious suite of used furniture. The grizzled space captain swaggering into the spacer bar and slogging down a Jovian brandy, then laying down a few credits for a space hooker to give him a Galactic Rim Job.

    The Edges of Ideas
    The solution to the Info Dump problem (how to fill in the background.) The theory is that, as above, the mechanics of the interstellar drive (the center of the idea) is not important; all that matters is the impact on your characters; they can get to other planets in a few months, and, oh yeah, it gives them hallucinations about past lives. Or, more radically: the physics of TV transmission is the center of an idea; on the edges of it we find people turning into couch potatoes because we no longer have to leave home for entertainment. Or, more bluntly: we don't need Info Dump at all. We just need a clear picture of how people's lives have been affected by their background. This is also know as "carrying extrapolation into the fabric of daily life."

    The Grubby Apartment
    Writing too much about what you know. The kind of story where the starving writer living in the grubby apartment writes a story about a starving writer living in a grubby apartment. Stars all his friends.

    internal section divider

    Turkey City Section 4 web/ 20030814162858/ onwriting/ index.asp?name=./ References/ 19960105TurkPlots.htm

    January 05, 1996


    Card Tricks in the Dark
    Authorial tricks used to no visible purpose. The author has contrived an elaborate plot to arrive at a) the punchline of a joke no one else will get or b) some bit of historical trivia. In other words, if the point of your story is that the kid is going to grow up to be Joseph of Arimathea, there should be sufficient internal evidence for us to figure this out.

    The Jar of Tang
    "For you see, we are all living in a jar of Tang!" or "For you see, I am a dog!" Mainstay of the old Twilight Zone TV show. An entire pointless story contrived so the author can cry "Fooled you!" This is a classic case of the difference between conceit and an idea. "What if we all lived in a jar of Tang?" is an example of the former; "What if the revolutionaries of the sixties had been allowed to set up their own society?" is an example of the latter. Good SF requires ideas, not conceits.

    Abbess Phone Home
    Takes its name from a mainstream story about a medieval cloister which was sold as SF because of the serendipitous arrival of a UFO at the end. By extension, any mainstream story with a gratuitous SF or fantasy element tacked on so it could be sold.

    Deus Ex Machina or God-in-the-Box
    Miraculous solution to an otherwise insoluble problem. Look, the Martians all caught cold and died.

    Plot Coupons
    The true structure of the quest-type fantasy novel. The "hero" collects sufficient plot coupons (magic sword, magic book, magic cat) to send off to the author for the ending. Note that "the author" can be substituted for "the Gods" in such a work: "The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest." Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance. (Dave Langford)

    Gene Wolfe

    Thursday, 22 February 2007

    St Valentine's Eve — Hilton Bomb

    St Valentine's Eve — Hilton Bomb
    There didn't seem to be very much made of the 25th Anniversary of our 'terrorist bomb', back in 2003, and the memorial actually disappeared for quite a while, first during pre-Olympic developments, then major refurbishment of the Sydney Hilton. Luckily, a plaque has re-appeared, moved to a slightly obscure pillar. But I'm hoping that next St Valentine's Eve, the 30th Anniversary, will bring some recognition (and perhaps some related government papers will get released).

    Restored memorial plaque to the 3 dead in the Sydney Hilton Bombing, after major refurbishment of hotel.

    Hilton Bomb Memorial (IMG_3924a-crop)
    "To the memory of Alec Carter, Arthur Favell and Paul Burmistriw, two city council garbagemen and a 1st class police constable, who were killed here as a result of a bomb explosion on 13th February, 1978. Forever in our thoughts. Your workmates."
    Update February 2008: Some of the coverage of the 30th Anniversary (no photo of the new memorial yet):
    ABC News – Sydney Hilton blast to be remembered 30 years on ( news/ stories/ 2008/ 02/ 13/ 2161121.htm)

    Sydney remembers Hilton bombings
    February 13, 2008 - 4:35PM sydney-remembers-hilton-bombings/ 20080213-1s0q.html

    A smile, a morning hello and their world exploded
    David Humphries with Paul Bibby
    February 14, 2008 articles/ 2008/ 02/ 13/ 1202760398954.html news/ national/ a-smile-a-morning-hello-and-their-world-exploded/ 2008/ 02/ 13/ 1202760398954.html
    TIME and counselling have eased her pain, but Rosamund Dallow-Smith's campaign for justice is no nearer success than at any time in the 30 years since serendipity spared her life by inches but ruined innocence around her.

    "I had just walked past him, smiled at him, and taken just my first step inside the staff entrance when I heard this enormous explosion,"

    City of Sydney Re-dedicates Plaque Commemorating Hilton Hotel Blast Victims (Sydney City Council site)
    12 February 2008 html/ 3513-city-of-sydney-re-dedicates-plaque-commemorating-hilton-hotel-blast-victims.asp

    Sydney Hilton Hotel blast commemorated
    February 13, 2008 - 7:44AM sydney-hilton-hotel-blast-commemorated/ 20080213-1rwb.html

    Remember the Hilton bombing
    by Premier Morris Iemma
    February 13, 2008 12:00am dailytelegraph/ story/ 0,22049,23202422-5001031,00.html

    Articles : Scams and Scoundrels
    The Hilton Fiasco
    by Ben Hills
    12 February 1998
    Publication: Sydney Morning Herald articles/ articles/ SCM38a.html

    Current Wikipedia version of Sydney Hilton Bombing

    White Rose Day

    White Roses (at
    February 22nd

    It’s White Rose Day. On this day in 1943 Sophie and Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst were guillotined.
    White roses and trout
    The Nazis executed Probst and the Scholls for blogging, or at least for getting as close to it as they could gven the technology of the day …
    The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent
    Most Germans took the traditional position, that once war breaks out, it is the duty of the citizen to support the troops by supporting the government. But Hans and Sophie Scholl believed differently. They believed that it was the duty of a citizen, even in times of war, to stand up against an evil regime, especially when it is sending hundreds of thousands of its citizens to their deaths. …
    Freisler and the other accusers could not understand what had happened to these German youths. After all, they all came from nice German families. They all had attended German schools. They had been members of the Hitler Youth. How could they have turned out to be traitors? What had so twisted and warped their minds?

    Sophie Scholl shocked everyone in the courtroom when she remarked to Freisler: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare to express themselves as we did.” …

    No relatives visited Christoph Probst. His wife, who had just had their third child, was in the hospital. Neither she nor any members of his family even knew that he was on trial or that he had been sentenced to death. …

    Unfortunately, they were not the last to die. The Gestapo's investigation was relentless. Later tried and executed were Alex Schmorell (age 25), Willi Graf (age 25), and Kurt Huber (age 49). Students at the University of Hamburg were either executed or sent to concentration camps …

    Testing HTML colour samples

    Purple/Indigo/Violet colours for text & such in templates

    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 443266
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — C3C3E5
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — F1F0FF
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 8C489F
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 692DAC
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 9D538E
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 484452
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — F8F2DA
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — C7AFBD
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 4C50A9
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — AF4FA2

    Taken from sample colour schemes at

    And from elsewhere

    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 4B0082
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 8A2BE2
    Sample TEXT for colour comparison XXX — 6600FF

    Now trying the non 'font' declaration version of changing colours, using whatever this editor does to change text colour.

    (Note: I checked the HTML codes and they're hideous! But it is possible to extract the RGB values for the different text colours in the sentence above.)