30 June 2010

Spies are them. We're lobbyists and consultants

As China knows, in our modern post-ideology world, human spies are soooo last century now that K Street and its imitators around the world run policy so smoothly. In Australia, we don't have a K Street, just a Canberra, Sydney, etc. One lobby in Washington will soon leave the NRA reaching out with their cold dead hands for slippery lobbyists (not that it needs lobbyists now that it's got the Court), so effective is China in hoovering up lobbyists and legislators alike.
Ten years ago, U.S. lawmakers publicly accused the China Ocean Shipping Co. of being a front for espionage and blocked plans to expand its Long Beach, Calif., port terminal over fears that Chinese spies would use it to snoop on the United States.

By last year, Congress was seeing the state-owned Chinese behemoth in a far kinder light. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) authored a resolution applauding the company for employing thousands of Americans and helping keep the waters of Alaska clean. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.) hailed the firm on the House floor, calling its chief executive "a people's ambassador" to the United States after it rescued Boston's port -- and thousands of jobs -- when a European shipping line moved out. The congressional about-face illustrates a dramatic increase in China's influence on Capitol Hill.
– John Pomfret, China's lobbying efforts yield new influence, openness on Capitol Hill, Washington Post, January 9, 2010
In Australia, China's lobbyists include Bob Hawke, one of Australia's longest serving prime ministers (1983–1991).

He's a spy. You're a lobbyist. I'm a consultant.
The FBI said it intercepted a message from SVR's headquarters, Moscow Center, to two of the 10 defendants describing their main mission as "to search and develop ties in policymaking circles in US."
– James Ford, Nearly a Dozen Alleged Russian Spies Arrested in NY, NJ and Cyprus for Inside PolicyMaking Info, Baltimore Sun, June 29. 2010

Mr [Tony] Blair kept his deal with UI Energy Corporation secret for nearly two years after persuading the committee that vets the business appointments of former Ministers that the information was ‘market-sensitive’ . . . The former lobbyist acted as a middleman between potential bidders and a son of the then South Korean president."
– Martin Delgado, Peter Simpson, John Kampfner, Boss of Korean firm that gave Tony Blair secret cash was jailed for briber, Mail Online, 20 March, 2010

The top Swiss financial services company Zurich announced it had signed up Mr Blair to give advice on "developments and trends in the international political environment".
– Toby Helm, Tony Blair takes new financial consultancy role, Telegraph, 28 Jan, 2008

So the Russians must be running their "alleged spy ring" for nostalgia's sake. And for this, I thank them. This is so much fun. Reports of the spies are filled with such fraidy-cat text that the newspapers must be printed with hot lead while new articles are being bashed out on typewriters.
Most mornings, according to neighbors, it was the mom, Cynthia, a blonde woman who favored long flowing skirts, who walked up Marquette Street to catch the commuter bus to Manhattan. Or at least that's where everyone assumed she went. – Bob Drogin and Geraldine Baum, Alleged Russian spy ring members led typical American Lives, Los Angeles Times
Until she zipped her human skin off.

And all of this reminds me that I've wanted to recommend to you an absorbing series of books. This is just one of the three volumes that are packed with far more than just pictures.

29 June 2010

Lacewing larvae

Budak and I were just discussing lacewing larvae, so you might like to see these pictures of some freshly emerging lacewings born in March literally at our front door. This shady surface is very popular with lacewings, as every year the door fairly bristles with patches of eggs on silk stalks.

Apologies for the poor quality of these pictures. These larvae needed a better photographer and possibly better equipment to do their finery justice.

28 June 2010

Every place is exotic to someplace else

And every exoticism is normal to someplace else.

Local playing field
Detail from the forest beyond that

Paperbark tree & Swordgrass
Melaleuca (possibly quinquenervia) and a sedge (Gahnia?)

27 June 2010

Just for fun: "DragonBlog" now in Virtuous Medlar Circle

"DragonBlog", a short story by Simon Petrie, is now published as a reprint in my Virtuous Medlar Circle.

"DragonBlog" first appeared (splayed on rolled dead trees) in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, issue 33, 2008.

This is just one of many tales in Simon Petrie's jolly big and intelligently funny first collection of short fiction,
Rare Unsigned Copy:
tales of Rocketry, Ineptitude, and Giant Mutant Vegetables

published so recently by Peggy Bright Books that the ink (or rare blood on the pages) still wafts its ineffable fragrance.

Buy your Rare Unsigned Copy here, from Infinitas Books.

25 June 2010

Halleluyah Gillard, who didn't thank God

"So many of us worked so hard and dreamed of this for so long. Julia Gillard is our Prime Minister.

A woman. Like our mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, nieces and daughters who still can't help feeling they are not good enough simply by the evidence of the constant sea of suits. Everywhere. On the boards, on the altar, on the bench, on the airwaves, on the telly, on the newsstands and on the ballot."

- Catherine Deveny, Labor rebirth: It's a girl, ABC Drum

Laundry washpowder!
From Liz II down, the gov-gen, prime minister, our federal member of parliament, state premier, state member of parliament—even our local bank manager: they're all women. Even the boss of the big bank that owns our bank is yet another woman, in a suit. Besides, as Kristina Keneally, Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina and some would say Margaret Thatcher prove, a vagina warming a seat of power is nothing to celebrate, in itself.

A real reason to party
Refreshingly, Gillard didn't mention God once in her first speech as head of the Labor Party, just minutes away before becoming PM. The hijacking of Australian democracy by the Christian right has seemed inexorable since March 1996 when John Howard became Prime Minister. The connection was strengthened by Kevin Rudd's Christian-targeted campaign and his policies in his term of office as PM. This meant that, far from reflecting the bulk of Australians' attitudes, the (now former) PM as well as the present Leader of the Opposition (Tony Abbott, right-wing Catholic, like NSW's Premier Kristina Keneally) have skewed many policies (and overturned legislation) to satisfy a vocal and well-connected minority—from euthanasia to censorship—against strong public opinion. Already, the right-wing Christian lobby is trying to make sure they continue to enjoy over-representation and legislation tailored for them.
Her lack of Christian conviction, however, will be a harder one to rationalise with the Christian lobby which has already urged her to confirm "the values in society that proved attractive to many Christians throughout Australia under Mr Rudd".

She doesn't have to be photographed coming out of church every Sunday to have decent values and she spoke on Thursday about the values which have driven her to this point.
Gillard and Abbott: Now the flirting ends, TVNZ
Hopefully, government with Gillard at the helm will respect democratic values.

"... she took an affirmation yesterday, not an oath, which leads us to think that Gillard, highly unusually for an Australian PM, is no God-botherer."
- Sydney Morning Herald Diary, June 25, 2010

A recent related Medlar Comfits post:
Australia's funniest science prize: The Eureka Ethics Prize and the Vatican

24 June 2010

Leeches suck you, but you can suck a lychee

12 July INTERRUPTION: If you love good fruit, please read my lastest post,
Foodies arise, for luscious fruits you've never eaten.
We need your help to get the word out before the world's greatest collection is bulldozed.

Now, back to leeches and lychees ~

Just don't call us leeches

Ah, spelling! Ach, pronunciation. What a shock, then for the people who have recently been mobbing (relatively speaking) my posting "A resilience of leeches, and lovely luscious fruit"—all because they searched "fruit leeches".

That posting is about leeches—of the yellow-racing-striped back and bloodsucking chompers, and about a fruit gorged on by insects and birds but not humans. This posting, therefore, is about the deliciously sweet, "jellylike" (in a squeaky way) fruit above, pronounced lee-chee, lye-chee, or li=tzhi.

It is a cruel irony that 'leeches' is a misspelling
Correct names for this fruit:
Litchi chinensis, syn. Nephelium litchi
Common names, all correct somewhere: lychee, litchi, litchee, laichi, lichu, lizhi, and chinese cherry.

Lychees are often confused with rambutans and longans. See the difference on Jim Darley's informative site and (though I like these fruits best straight and not as ingredients) see his mouthwatering recipes, from his book Know and Enjoy Tropical Fruit.

Lychees are a treat eaten out of hand, and unzipping them from their skins is part of the fun. A lychee is as messy in its way as a fresh oyster, being surrounded in its perfect container by a thin layer of juice. The naked flesh has a clean, musical bite and a rather complex sweetness that combines Macintosh apple, pineapple, banana and resin. The seed is so smooth and shiny that it's luxurious on the tongue and a pleasure to behold and hold.

Lychees take to canning well, keeping their firm personality and distinctive taste. They also make excellent dried fruits.

There are many lychee cultivars being sold now, as this is a most attractive evergreen tree and can be grown in a small pot.

Highly Recommended: Lychee, in an excerpt from Fruits of Warm Climates, by Julia F. Morton, on the Purdue University horticulture site

21 June 2010

A bone to pick at Customs - Is that a novel in your pocket?

The first person who correctly identifies these porn seekers will win a free copy of Spotted Lily, my fly-blown Australian novel about wowsers, writers, art and censorship—so shocking that the anonymous Publishers Weekly reviewer fabricated a completely different ending in their tell-it-all review, and so Australian that this novel is published only overseas. If you bring it in from overseas, you might have to declare it under our sparkling new regulations, as 'legal porn'. LOLita!

Bugger the World Cup. Australia is really competitive when it comes to censorship. We are now competing with the Chinese, and winning.

11 June 2010

Hair today, gorm today

Style before substance is not something anyone could accuse this little beauty of.

Simple, classic, and unlike style, attractive

A teaser, from Style Zero
The ladies swooned, to be brought to life only with a clod of chicken scat up a nostril. Men secreted themselves, unbuttoned sleeves as fat and slashed and colourful as candied-fruit-stuffed pheasants, and blew their noses into the embroidered cloth. Each man was suddenly as ashamed to be seen in what he stood in, as Adam was in the garden that suddenly wasn't Paradise.
—from my upcoming story "How Galligaskins Sloughed the Scourge" in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #46.

10 June 2010

The effects of star-power on a publication

Mike Allen, poet and editor/founder of Mythic Delirium has some pungent words (yes, they are not illuminating) about the power of a name.

09 June 2010

The mermaid and the sardine: Points of view and time

La Sirena & La Sardina
Now, if only they told their stories in the first person —
though would either, neither or both say, "I flap my tail . . ." ?

Hi Anna,
I've been working on on a story that is set in .... when it was .....
I wanted to explore the impact of ....on ......
Anyway I've got a favor to ask . . .
Hi . . .
I'm pleased that you're writing yet another story, and would be happy to look it over for you on one condition (and this is a subject that I almost brought up with you before). Please don't write it in the first person present. This is the default stance of most modern amateur writers, and it is a pain in the bum, to be honest. It is a faddish stance brought on by, I think, the overabundance of writing groups and classes, and the self-centredness of our times. The tense being the present is the primary wearier.

A natural stance for a story is to relate it in the simple past. It gives a distance to the reader and the narrator that is necessary for perspective, I think, and also allows a certain flexing in the tense. One can bring it forward to the present if needs be, for a reason. Or one can even go deeper into the past.

And as for the first person, this also is wearying. Unless the character has some character to explore, the protagonist being in the first person can lead to a preponderance of "I", and engender an unintended lack of sympathy for this person in the reader's mind. If there is a reason for the story to be told in the first person, to for instance, highlight the difference between this character's perceptions and that of the reader in what this person says and how this person reacts, then by all means, this point of view can be very effective and can add greatly to the story. If, however, the writer defaults to the first person, there are too damned many stories that are in the first person as this default.

So, is the story told as "I . . ." and is it told in the present tense? If not, great. Send it to me whenever you like. If it is either of these, and especially both, I beg of you to challenge yourself. Rewrite it in the simple past with an omniscient point of view. And if you couldn't be bothered and disagree with me, then I'm not the right person to read it now. I am OD'd.


Looking forward to hearing from you,

Hi Anna,
Thanks for your email . . . The story is present tense . . . I've never been made aware of the logic you outlined but it does make sense. I will print out your brief and keep it near me when I re-write. I will also try and keep an eye out for the things you mention when I'm reading . . .

POSTSCRIPT: One intense and brilliantly effective story told in the present tense is Spar by Kij Johnson, in Clarkesworld Magazine. The point of view, however, is omniscient—and nothing in the writing of this story was done by default.

I can't think of any stories that work that are told in the first person present, but I'm sure that they exist. So please tell.

04 June 2010

Jayaprakash Sathyamurthy writes again

It can be a long time between drinks for those of us with a thirst for Jayaprakash Sathyamurthy's stories (I highly recommend Aranya's Last Voyage), so here's his latest: Empty Dreams

Quaff away
On the 1st of August, I look forward to featuring another new story by JS, in The Virtuous Medlar Circle.

03 June 2010

Persephone Books' special

From Nicola and Clara at Persephone Books, a small press that I've raved about before, repeatedly. I just love their books (and their bookmarks); and PB is a joy to order from:
"You may not realise but a huge proportion of books are returned by bookshops and then pulped because the cost of having them sent back to the publisher and cleaned up is far greater than printing new copies.

We could not go along with this because it so environmentally unfriendly, and asked for a thousand unsold Classics to be returned to Lamb's Conduit Street. This cost £500! Which makes the point that it is almost as cheap simply to throw away and reprint.

Sadly, most of the Classics are very slightly damaged: they either have a small mark or the remains of a bookshop sticker.

Since we cannot sell these either to our mail order customers or in the shop we have decided to give them away. So -- if you order one grey book at the normal price we will send you a free Classic. PLEASE DO NOT PAY FOR IT. Simply pay for your grey book as normal and write in the Additional Information box - free Miss Pettigrew Classic please, or something similar. (Nb. overseas books will be sent surface mail. And the offer only applies to one book.)"
There's been a lot of silly talk about the threat to publishers from electronic books. The horror is far worse in the system of "turnover" as maintained in today's hypermarts of commodified paper with printed words. Computers order with the taste and discretion of—computers—and stock must be sold within X# days or pulped like a day-old male chick.

It's great to see that Persephone Books is so revolted by this waste that they have paid to save the books for readers with human discretion (even if the PB special caters to base instincts—I've never been able to stop at just one book).

Drop in to Persephone's candy shop Books