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Apr. 29th, 2016

Monocle Husky

Paleolithic Bear Cults

When I was little, I was fascinated by a picture in one of my many books on prehistoric life which showed early humans worshipping a bear skull. That's probably what made the scene of primitive religion in Neil Gaiman's American Gods stick in my mind, many years later.

So, when the second [adjective][species] poetry collection called for poems involving animals and religion or spirituality, this is what came out.


As you made fire,
so you made me.
From the skull of a bear you killed
not because she was attacking
or had attacked before
but because she might attack
From the skin of a sleeping lion
you tracked and speared and thanked
From these things, you made a god.
From nothing, you made the idea of god.
You named me as you name your children.
In me you pour your prayers
your fears
as you store meat in your clay pots.
I am your bear-lion-god.
I am dead things. Empty space. And power.
What do we make next?

Apr. 28th, 2016


A Soft Hail's A-Gonna Fall

We in the UK have been enjoying some bizarre weather this week, with blue skies, sunshine, freezing temperatures, and occasional brief but violent outbreaks of precipitation.

Everyone has been very excited by the five-minute snowstorms, except in the comments sections of local newspapers, where fierce debate rages between those who point out that it couldn't possibly be snowing in those meteorological conditions, only an idiot would think so, this is soft hail, and those who think the first lot need to get a life.

Last night I dined with a friend on the South Bank, and emerged from Pizza Express to find a small pyramid of hailstones on my bike seat. The journey home along roads awash with rain was enlivened by thunder and lightning above.

It's looking good for my friend's wedding on Saturday, then.

Apr. 4th, 2016

Cat Air

Try Everything

On Saturday I finally got to see the film everyone is talking about, at least in the circles in which I move: Zootropolis, or, in the US, Zootopia.

I went with three friends, furry writers all, and sharing made the whole experience more enjoyable.

For those who have not been steamrollered by Disney's marketing machine, this is the story of Judy Hopps, a bunny whose dreams of being a police officer are crushed when she is instead assigned to issuing parking tickets. By insistently doing the right thing and refusing to give up, she stumbles upon a citywide conspiracy and sets about solving it with the help of petty criminal and fox Nick Wilde.

It has all the things I've come to love in recent Disney movies like Bolt and Wreck-It Ralph: strong female characters, sweet, non-romantic relationships between male and female characters, and a well-conceived, immersive world full of tiny details and sight gags, not to mention a totally huggable cast.

I found the opening scenes very reminiscent of Robots, another CGI kidflick I adored. Optimistic young protagonist (Judy/Rodney) leaves the small town where they grew up (Bunnyburrow/Rivet Town), taking a futuristic train to the Big City (Zootropolis/Robot City) where anyone can achieve their dreams. They soon find that the Big City isn't all it's cracked up to be, and fall in with a loveable but cynical conman (Nick/Fender) who must be convinced to help save the day.

Compare and contrast: 'Anyone can be anything' / 'You can shine no matter what you're made of'.
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Apr. 1st, 2016


Light Just Falls Into It

Look what arrived for me at karate this week!


All the way from Japan, with gold embroidery. The short bit is the name of our school, Kenshukai, and the long bit is my name in katakana, or as close as you can get ('Arisu Doraiden', according to Japanese-reading friends on Twitter).

Mar. 30th, 2016

Husky Airways

Bodmin and the Jets

One of the consequences of an early Easter was that Howard's birthday fell a couple of days before it, so we both took some extra time off.

On Thursday we had planned a trip to Cornwall, but at the point of setting off we discovered a puncture in my rear tyre. The day's itinerary changed to having another coffee, calling the RAC to plug the tyre, riding to Yeovil, having both tyres replaced, and riding home as if on ice because the new tyres were now combined with pouring rain.

This all turned out to be serendipity, because the weather on Friday was much better. We set out for our destination, the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre near RAF St Mawgan, in sunshine, and didn't even hit holiday traffic until Bodmin. (We dived down a pretty little road marked NO A30 TRAFFIC, and made good progress until we caught up with all the other drivers who'd had the same idea.)

The museum, which opened in September, focuses on Cold War jets and encourages supervised cockpit access. I sat in a Harrier and a Venom, we toured the VC10 and the BAC 1-11, then we both climbed into a Canberra.

I'd highly recommend the CAHC, if you're passing Newquay: friendly, knowledgeable staff; nice cafe; planes.

Top down view of the Venom cockpit


BAC 1-11
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Mar. 18th, 2016

Dogfight [by the_gneech]

A Life at Full Throttle

On Wednesday evening I went to a talk at the Royal Aeronautical Society on the life and career of test pilot Eric 'Winkle' Brown', who died last month at the age of 97.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Rode the Wall of Death
  • Flew under the Forth Bridge
  • Interrogated top German officers at the close of the Second World War, including Göring
  • Flew captured German jets, including one which was towed back to the UK behind a Spitfire
  • Flew a helicopter with no training whatsoever
  • Was friends with Neil Armstrong, and could have been an astronaut if he'd been prepared to take US citizenship

You can watch the entire talk on YouTube. You can also check out the list of aircraft Winkle flew, which is long enough to need its own Wikipedia page.

I feel the bar has been raised for what constitutes an interesting life lived to the full.

Mar. 16th, 2016

Monocle Husky

Awards Season

My short story 'The Analogue Cat', published in The Furry Future from FurPlanet, is among the nominees for Best Short Fiction in the 2015 Ursa Major Awards!

I am really thrilled. I've been writing in the fandom for five years, and this is a first. A lot of short stories get published in a year, even in this relatively small pool, and for mine to be among the five on the final ballot...wow.

I've had some great feedback for this story and it's made me very happy. The piece is just 2,000 words long and was written in an evening (admittedly it was winnowed from the chaff of an 8,000-word story that didn't quite gell), yet here it is punching its weight in the up-to-40k category.

A huge thank you to everyone who made the effort to nominate their favourite pieces from the year. Now keep up the good work, and vote!
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Mar. 14th, 2016

Something So Right

Helden Für Einen Tag

I spent Saturday evening at '80s-themed pub The Old Schoolyard for slightlyfoxed's birthday, featuring KARAOKE!

I was nervous at the prospect of singing in front of other people, despite singing fairly constantly in the shower, on my bike and in the middle of the high street. Indeed, everyone hung back a little at first - but then we discovered Bowie's Heroes in German, Helden, and after we had struggled through that, nothing else could hold any fears.

I did You Can Call Me Al, which was the only Paul Simon song on the playlist, and slightlyfoxed and I tried to out-Dylan each other duetting on Mr Tambourine Man. I had The Love Cats cued up but it kept getting accidentally skipped or deleted, so I decided it was not meant to be, at least on this occasion.

The last time I did karaoke was when kowarth and I performed 'Sloop John B' in our local, which must have been one New Year's Eve in the early '00s. But now I realise that every evening I haven't spent on karaoke was basically wasted.

Mar. 8th, 2016



The lovely jm_horse came over on Sunday for a frugal lunch of soup and bread, followed by an improving stroll in Crystal Palace Park.

I have been living in Crystal Palace for nearly 18 months now, but I still haven't explored every corner of the massive park. On this occasion we checked out the little museum, found the centre of the maze, visited the dinosaurs, and said hello to the animals at the petting zoo city farm before getting a drink at the café.

To do when weather improves: pedalos.

The best new fact I learned about Crystal Palace was that Hiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun and inhabitant of West Norwood, raised money for more serious projects by designing fairground rides based on his aeronautical theories.

Mar. 7th, 2016

This IS me (by schwitters)Default

"Who Knew Late-'80s Pop Was Basically Plato?"

On Friday evening I attended a Radio 4 recording of Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, which is standup comedy about figures from ancient Greece and Rome. Very much peak Radio 4, yes.

I had, as usual, arrived late and been given a sticker number in the early 200s, which means sitting somewhere at the back of the balcony. However, as I was shuffling towards the auditorium with the tail end of the mob, a BBC official called out "Any singles?". I raised my hand and was shown to a seat in the fourth row. So that was a nice result of my friends' total failure to want my spare ticket.

Natalie was recording two episodes, one about Aristophanes and the other about Plato. I enjoyed them both, though she lost marks by dissing the Greek New Comedy, on which I did about a fifth of my degree, in favour of Aristophanes's Old Comedy (I may write in and complain).

As well as the standup, there were interviews with experts, one of whom described Socrates as a 'laser mind in a bumbling body'.

"You've made me realise why I like Socrates so much!" Natalie exclaimed. "It's because he reminds me of Columbo!"

The title quote comes from Plato's description of the human mind as an aviary; the original birdhouse in your soul.

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