Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007

Renard thinks he is saying goodbye to Lapin.


Lapin: And what are your resolutions for 2008?

Renard: I don’t presolve or resolve anything. I simply solve problems as they arise.

Lapin: Well, has it been a good year?

Renard: A capital year. As the moon rises over the estuary, all my troubles will float away down the river.

Lapin: You’re sure? If I’m not here, you’ll have no one to chase.

Renard: So you’re saying to catch and release is better than to catch and eat?

Lapin: And it doesn’t make you fat. Be generous in the new year, even to those who run faster than you.


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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Henry visits by kayak

Henry who navigates the estuary by kayak drops in on Bruce.

Bruce: Beaut day to be out on the water.

Henry: I’ll tell you what. There’s even fish. Old Jang seemed to have a boatload as I came past.

Bruce: Good size?

Henry: He wasn’t keen to show me his catch so you can bet your life they weren’t legal.

Bruce: I’ve never caught anything in the estuary. Only outside in the sea.

Henry: Jang told me he’s using artificial bait. It wriggles and the fish jump it. Even in the daytime.

Bruce: Daytime? Even my goldfish won’t even sniff at anything after dawn and not until sunset.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dennett, Schopenhauer and truth

Arthur Schopenhauer consoles Daniel Dennett.


Schopenhauer: I liked what you wrote about God.

Dennett: Many people don’t like what I wrote. About him.

Schopenhauer: I tell you this. All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.

Dennett: But it can be asynchronous. It is true that I am ridiculed in many places by people with faulty logic claiming if we throw away religion we throw away decent behavior. I am so violently opposed in the Bible belt I sometimes think a Christian fatwa has been issued against me. But many people come up to me saying I agree, God is a delusion.

Schopenhauer: Religion has been around for 2000 years. Thousands of heretics have been sacrificed. But the time will come and people will begin questioning why people constructed this God belief. Just as they once made graven images. Unfortunately, it just may be after you have been burned at the stake.


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Friday, December 28, 2007


Graham is telling his grandson, James, about the last fish he caught on the lake.


James: And how heavy?

Graham: A good five pounds.

Merilyn: Two and half. It was just on the legal weight.

James: And this fish, it was a few years ago?

Graham: Not really so long.

Merilyn: Fifty years ago. Almost to the day. Christmas 1957. That was the last time he caught a fish.


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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Colliding stories

An animated attachment for Ernie and Bert arrives from a friend.


Bert: He says, “Beware of the lupo, the wolf.”

Ernie: Play it.

Bert: I wonder if he made it himself. Maybe he’s going from filming Sunday mass to making animation videos.

Ernie: Here it comes. Three little pigs. Chased by a big bad wolf. They rush inside, bolt the door, he’s on the roof, they put a pot of boiling water in the fireplace, splash, they clap the lid on, boil it up and rush outside, take the lid off.

Bert: Uh oh. Some presents, a boot, a red hat. It was Santa Claus! They boiled Santa.

Ernie: And look how sad the waiting reindeer look.


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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Time for a bit of Grickle

Graham is at the computer, animatedly composing a new Grickle cartoon. Zorba is packing distractedly.


Graham: Take a look at this.

Zorba: No time, I’m packing.

Graham: Come on, it won’t take a second.

Zorba: This better be good.

Graham: Trust me. Look.

(Short film plays: Long silence. Crow caw. Aaargh.)

Zorba: OK. Pretty funny. Certainly worth a minute.

Graham: Is that how long future attention spans are going to be, I wonder?


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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Book cover preliminary

Friederich is planning the book production on a flowchart. Marshall prods him about a missing element.


Friederich: Proofing 2 completed, Proofing 3 should see almost no corrections, and then there’s just the printing and sending out.

Marshall: The cover? Have you started the design for that?

Friederich: Cover? Hmm. A cover’s just a cover. Isn’t it?

Marshall: Not in my book.

Friederich: Got any samples?

Marshall: Sigh. These writers. They think what’s inside is the most important.

Friederich: Well, isn’t it?

Marshall: I can see from your shoes and your sweater that’s what you think. Covers sell books. This is going to take some time.



Monday, December 24, 2007

Dali landscape

Sven tells Mario of a dream he had.

Sven: It could have been a computer game, or a horror movie, maybe even a scene set in Second Life. I’m walking across a treeless African plain, and there are a few people here and there, some squatting, mostly single figures, and then in the distance a sort of fuzzy cloud appears. It comes closer, a group of figures is following this cloud. A humming noise comes from the cloud, it’s a swarm of bees, swirling back and forth. Then I see why. The group of figures, masked, veiled, are throwing things at the swarm. People are running away desperately, this way and that, as the swarm changes direction. Now the throwers are really close. I can see what it is they are throwing. It’s chunks of broken hive. The bees swarm about chasing the pieces of their broken home. There’s an angry buzzing from the swarm. I run to the side behind a rock. There is a woman sheltering in a shallow pit, with branches pulled over the top. She crawls out, trying to escape, she cannot walk, her legs are broken, there is a cut on her face, she grips a leash attached to a dog. How does the story end? That’s why it reminds me of Second Life which has a similar dream-like quality. You’re in a scene, it could be a room, it could be outdoors, and a threat appears. In a dream you wake up. In Second Life, you leave. Resolution through escape.

Mario: Where did the bees go, do you think? What happened to the woman?

Sven: I’d like to think they turned on the veiled attackers and got their hive together again. I’d like to think that some bush doctor passing by applied poultices to the woman’s injuries. But I woke up so I’ll never know.

Mario: What do you think it meant? Why did you have this dream?

Sven: The symbolism you mean? The treeless African plain? Deforestation maybe? The bees? Something to do with their disappearing from habitats because of human intervention like GM crops or cell phone microwaves, who knows? Maybe a symbol of nature under attack from humans. And the injured woman with the dog? A by-product of violence in society but grasping at some protection?

Mario: A reworking of a Dali theme? No melted watches?

Sven: No watches, no clocks. Just the veiled hive-breakers, the buzzing bees, the injured woman, on a treeless plain.

Mario: Sounds more like a painting than a story.

Sven: Maybe. And yet, many paintings suggest a narrative. I’d just been reading Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Perhaps I was recasting its themes in images.


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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Short short stories

Deepak, texting a last minute seasons greetings to a relative and being at a loss what write, seeks help from Philip.

Deepak: I'll just say Merry Christmas.
Philip: Pretty banal. Can't you send him some news?
Deepak: What? In an SMS? With a 160 character limit? What could you possibly say?
Philip: Quite a lot. What's your big story today?
Deepak: Ha! Nothing exciting at all. Going to buy a rice cooker.
Philip: Well there you go. Write that.
Deepak: Hmm, just about fits in 160 characters. "Hi Pete. Last minute panic shopping. K. says rice cooker broken, get new one before boarding! Mary Christmas, Harriet Newyear."
Philip: Er, why do you need a new rice cooker so urgently? You eat rice for Christmas?
Deepak: Doesn't everyone?

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas is in summer?

Where Nick is going for Christmas is beyond the range of reindeer, disguised as Santa, he has persuaded an Antarctica-bound military flight to drop him off at his home in Christchurch.

Nick: Can I try that? Wow, got him!

Marine: Good shot. I thought you'd be staying in the northern hemisphere. More work up here.

Nick: I'm only a part-timer. I just helped with loading the rigs. Going down for some warm weather.

Marine: Oh, right. I forgot. They celebrate Christmas in summer down there. Don't you think it's weird?

Nick: Nope. I grew up there. All the books I read were from the northern hemisphere, had reversed seasons, got used to it. Like my body, it's a place I've always inhabited, it's always been like that. It's the norm for me.


Friday, December 21, 2007

All taken care of

He returns after a few hours, earlier than expected and still in disguise.

Commentator: The going looked a bit rough at times out there, sir.

Governor: All taken care of.

Commentator: Did they see you coming?

Governor: They never guessed.

Commentator: Well, they weren't expecting to be playing against Terminator.

Governor: Look, I played by the rules. I signed on as Arnold. They were just expecting the wrong Arnold.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'll be back

The Governor is going over the day's messages with his secretary before departing on a shoot.

Secretary: There was a message from you know who.
Governor: Hmm?
Secretary: It said, "We'll be in touch."
Governor: When?
Secretary: Didn't say.
Governor: Any contact?
Secretary: He left an 0800 number.
Governor: What! He thinks I'm too Scrooge to call his mobile? You know money doesn't make you happy. I have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.
Secretary: So what do you want to me to say?
Governor: Just the standard line. Tell him, "I'll be back."
Secretary: Soon?
Governor: In the new year.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Mistaken identity

The feudal lord Orochimaru mistakenly thinks the man in kimono is a master strategist, Hojo. But the gardener had just been trying on Hojo’s kimono.


Orochimaru: Do you think we can attack by retreating?

[Long pause, sound of cicadas]

Gardener as Hojo: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.

Orochimaru: In the garden.

Gardener as Hojo: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

Orochimaru: Spring and summer.

Gardener as Hojo: Yes.

Orochimaru: Then fall and winter. So we should retreat?

Gardener as Hojo: Yes.



Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Kenneth, a lawyer working on carbon agreements, shares a weariness of festive cards with Kumiko who has been interpreting for the American team.


Kenneth: Americans send a Christmas card. Usually it’s got a bunch of deer pulling a fat man in red. Same every year.

Kumiko: We send cards too. Same every year.

Kenneth: But you change the animal. What’s next year?

Kumiko: Rat. Year of the rat.

Kenneth: Auspicious?

Kumiko: For rats, maybe. They might get a little more protection than usual.


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Monday, December 17, 2007

Breaking out of cloud

Raymond and Charlie are not far from touchdown. They’ve just come through some bumpy air.

Raymond: The clouds are opening their doors.

Charlie: Good to see. Storm’s behind us, if we just get over that cumulo-nimbus, we can go straight in visual.

Raymond: And Christmas is a good place spend the new year in.

Charlie: Hello, Anno Estrimita Tower, this is Santa Claus one niner four six requesting landing in ten minutes.


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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Kamishibai remix

Atsuko borrows some techniques of kamishibai for an audition.

Oliver: Why is she moving back and forth?

Ned: Well, first she speaks one part and then she speaks the other.

Oliver: She’s telling a story?

Ned: Through dialogue, yes.

Oliver: And pictures too.

Ned: It almost looks like she has done a remix, putting together a ventriloquist act with kamishibai.

Oliver: Kamishibai?

Ned: A story told using pictures and a frame.

Oliver: Refreshing change from the gravity of Gore, but she could use a little coaching on voices and maybe a couple more pictures.

Atsuko's performance here >


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Saturday, December 15, 2007


Frida is complaining to Inga about her being taken for someone older than she actually is.


Frida: I’m going to the movies with my daughter and she says this is my mother, she is 60 so she should get a half price ticket.

Inga: But you’re only 59.

Frida: I know, but she’s getting the tickets and after we are inside I say, “I’m not 60 yet. Why do always you round up my age?” And she says it’s easier or something.

Inga: My daughter did the same but much worse. When I was 58 she rounded me up to 60. Swedish rounding.

Frida: Well, in that case you can stay 60 until you turn 63.

Inga: Sure, then in one day I jump to 65.



Friday, December 14, 2007

Fearless mouse

William S. and Christopher M. discuss science at the Globe.


William: Forsooth, did you mark where the Royal Physician disabled fear in a mouse?

Christopher: I did, though methinks it was not too taxing, was not all he did was to stuff the mouse’s snout with balm?

William: Simple words make ornamental sentences. Simple science can spark an invention. What if we were able to modify human behavior through the sweets that grocers sell?

Christopher: William, you lag. They do it already. My humours stay balanced by imbibing nightshade, and my doctor, his name is Faust, believe you not, he stopped his age at three score by taking dried toad, sage and vinegar. Old Nick is unsatisfied yet.


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Thursday, December 13, 2007


At ballet class on Thursday, Aaron mentions to Mason that he has a final page of his book to write.

Aaron: I have to write an acknowledgements page.

Mason: Acknowledgements? They’re usually pretty perfunctory. Thanks to everyone who pitched in. It’s a place to thank your mother for all her cooking.

Aaron: Well the grant has to be acknowledged.

Mason: So it has to be academic? Thanks are due to the corporation for their money.

Aaron: Warmly academic. Not coldly academic. I was really appreciative of their help. I also wanted to thank people by describing how they helped.

Mason: Okay, so gush, be effusive. If you want to be really appreciative and hi-tech, you can hyperlink to the websites of the people who helped.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shoulder pain

Assistant sees Pythagoras leaning on an angle and walking slowly and diagonally.

Assistant: Master, what’s wrong?

Pythagora: This shoulder pain. All last night I was proofing right angles. Leaning to one side.

Assistant: Master. I know a good doctor called Hippocrates. He will put your humors in balance.

Pythagoras. I don’t need that Hippocrates and his humors. I’m waiting for Leonardo. Meantime, I need some Counterpain. Run out and get some me some from the pain shop. There’s a good lad. Here’s two drachma.ippocrates and his humors. Hi

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The origins of proofreading

Pythagoras is wrestling with his theorem of ultimate reality. A bright young assistant offers his services as “proofreader”.


Assistant: Can I proofread it for you, Master?

Pythagoras: Well, you could pick up the obvious stuff like spelling errors, grammar errors, leaps of logic, inconsistencies in style and presentation.

Assistant: I can do all that.

Pythagoras: But can you see inside my head? The things I really should add. Or, the things I don’t think I want left in the text?

Assistant: Both of us should work on it. You’ll miss what the reader will see and I’ll miss what you think the reader should see.

Pythagoras: OK. Bring me the red pens, the blue pens, the white correcting fluid, and a couple of rulers. Let the reading of the proof, the "perfect" number, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10, hereby begin.


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Monday, December 10, 2007

Stand and deliver

Oliver and Ned are discussing an actor’s audition.


Ned: Has he got it?

Oliver: What?

Ned: What it takes.

Oliver: Oh, he’s got what it takes. You see?

Ned: I see him standing.

Oliver: And delivering.

Ned: That’s it. Standing and delivering.

Oliver: He’s just right. He’s got character, he’s got poise, he’s got timing. He’s got it all.

Performance here>

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

The sound of air hissing out

Oliver is thinking of submitting a short film for the “Filmed by Bike” festival to be held in Portland, April 2008.


Oliver: It’s only short films, six to ten minutes, see, so I just thought up this scenario.

Ned: Tell.

Oliver: This actually happened to me. I’m riding my bicycle through the forest and I’m saying to myself be careful of the tree roots because if you hit one you’ll get a puncture and you have no repair kit.

Ned: No repair kit.

Oliver: And I’m humming along and suddenly there’s a bump and I say “Steady on” and then there’s this SSSSS – sound. “Darn it.” I’m just thinking about getting a punk and damn me if doesn’t actually happen there and then.

Ned: Power of positive thinking? Visualizing your goals?

Oliver: I jump off and look down and there’s this leaf caught between the brake and the tire whizzing round is making the SSSSSS –sound.

Ned: And you want to make a film of this?

Oliver: What do you think?

Ned: Ten seconds long should be plenty.


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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Time to say goodbye

Rajiv is leaving after 20 years in Islamabad and runs across his old friend Gurmeet who still works as a border guard.


Rajiv: Haven’t seen you for …

Gurmeet: Ten years?

Rajiv: No, more. Sixteen, seventeen, I would think. 1990.

Gurmeet: Do you ever see Manendra?

Rajiv: No, I’ve been remiss. He went away and I lost his number and didn’t chase him up.

Gurmeet: And how about Vijay?

Rajiv: Well I heard he got sick. And nobody has actually seen him for, oh six or seven years. Tell me, you don’t ever see Osama do you?

Gurmeet: Oh he comes through here time to time. But you’d never guess it was him.


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Friday, December 7, 2007

Mercury amalgam

Jack visits a new dentist.


Dentist: Open wide. That’s it. Ooh.

Jack: Huh?

Dentist: You have quite a few older fillings.

Jack: Splutter.

Dentist: Those older ones are amalgam. Mercury. You suffer from headaches?

Jack: Eerh.

Dentist: I suggest we take out the old mercury amalgam fillings and replace them with newer non-toxic fillings.

Jack: aah..cost?

Dentist: Don’t think about the cost. Think about how good you’ll feel without headaches. You want to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s, don’t you? You really want a headful of mercury?

Jack: Aaaah?

Dentist: I thought so. Let’s get to work. Nurse!


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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stroop test (not) in Russian?

Anna is showing her friends a test using her new MIG computer. Olya takes the test.


Anna: Read the colors.

Olya: But they’re not Russian. They look like English words.

Anna: That doesn’t matter. Don't read the words, instead say the color each word is displayed in, as quickly as you can.

Olya: красно, голубо, пурпурово, желто, пурпурово, красно

Anna: Perfect score.

Olya: But what does it mean?

Anna: You are highly intelligent and have no signs of schizophrenia nor anorexia.

Olya: But I can’t read English.

Anna: Oh, that doesn’t matter, this is a color test.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dieting by diversion

Janet and Gladys are in a meeting. Both sometimes worry about getting overweight. Janet shows Gladys the story about Nancy Makin.


Janet: Did you see this article about the woman who lost weight without even trying? Went down from 500 pounds to 170?

Gladys: I saw the story yesterday. And didn’t go outside for twelve years!

Janet: And then got help by chatting anonymously online.

Gladys: So the Internet helped. People communicated with her because of what she wrote, not because of what she looked like.

Janet: The bit I liked was that as a result she didn’t diet, or have surgery, or take medication to slim down. She did something else and she forgot about binge eating.

Gladys: Like the best way to get what you want is to help someone else get what they want.

Janet: Not quite the same. Maybe a closer analogy is to get better at another language by studying something else in that language.


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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Why do you like the desert?

Bentley asks Lawrence a simple question.


Bentley: Why do you like the desert?

Lawrence: It’s… clean.

Bentley: Clean?

Lawrence: Yes. Feel the sand between your toes. Clean.

Bentley: Not dangerous?

Lawrence: The trick, Bentley, is not thinking it’s dangerous.


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Monday, December 3, 2007

How to block a coastal wind farm

Over lunch, Gustav, an engineer working with a wind farm corporation, gives Heinrich the background on the blocking of a coastal wind farm.


Gustav: We can’t get government approval. The energy minister has a house on the coast overlooking the site. At four miles offshore the turbines will be half a degree above the horizon, which he has said privately will interfere with his view.

Heinrich: So he blocked it?

Gustav: Not directly. Naturally, he doesn’t want to be seen to be anti-clean energy. But he’s matey with the defence minister. So a month back the defence minister forces through a bit of legislation

Heinrich: In the name of national security, right?

Gustav: Of course. The legislation is nonsense, naturally. All wind farm projects have to go through a long checking procedure to ensure that they don’t interfere with radar.

Heinrich: Wind interferes with radar?

Gustav: That’s just step one. Then he gets the transport minister to add another proposal that no wind farm can be less than five miles from any shipping lanes. That will add years to the approval process.

Heinrich: Perfect case of NIMBY.


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