School of Life

Things I discovered this week:

* I sing better in G than in A.

* Thai food is very nice.

* One electric blanket costs the same as twenty marsbars, lasts longer and gives more pleasure, in this weather.

* A cheap new pair of shoes costs the same as an electric blanket, and gives a lot more pain.

* The amount of material cut-and-pasted from journals into PhD theses - including material the student doesn't understand - is staggering.

* In America, some people tend to unplug coffee-making devices when not in use, on the spurious ground that anything which makes coffee is an electrical fire hazards. Though they happily leave VCRs, TV and bedside radios switched on all the time - and these things cause a lot more fires.

* That story about an Arab woman being able to legally divorce her husband by saying "I divorce you" three times is just the pile of dren I thought it was. Which is to say, it's true - in the same way it's true you can make a citizen's arrest on George W Bush for war crimes.

Streetwise Sunday - Two Halves Edition

People buy junk food. They eat and drink half of it, decide they don't want any more, and despite there being a bin right next to the bench, leave it on the seat.

And I'm glad they do, because I get thirsty.

And I put them in the bin when I'd finished.

Gah, No Write Mode

I had a small data crash. Annoying but I've got good at dealing with them - before doing anything else, recover and back up all your data using various unix utilities on your specially prepared USB stick, then if you can't get the operating system working again, format the drive and reinstall, then reinstall software and restore data.

I did all that, and in twenty four hours was back to normal. Except for one folder of text data which for no apparent reason didn't recover. Which data was that, Kapitano? Well, you remember I was writing something for NaNoWriMo?

Yes. So excuse me while I bash my head against the wall, reminding myself to do what I always advise everyone else to do - make frequent, regular backups of what you're working on.

The Drecks Files

Here's something I wrote a few months ago, but seemingly didn't get around to posting.

I'm fond of conspiracy theories. Or rather, I enjoy picking apart the psychology of conspiracy theorists. The latest I've stumbled upon is The Obama Deception, viewable as a film on youtube.

The central thesis is: The Bilderberg group is a secret consortium of bank owners and major politicians, managing a hypercompetent conspiracy to form a world government. They engineered the current recession to help them form this 'New World Order".

Two things tend to strike me about this kind of theory.

One, the conspiracies are omnipotent and omniscient. They never miscalculate, never have second thoughts, and if anything happens, it's because they made it happen.

In this kind of notion, A single rogue element in the government killed JFK, then successfully bribed, intimidated or killed all the witnesses, and controlled the mass media for the next four decades - presumably letting Oliver Stone make his questionable movie as cover.

Or, thousands of people conspired to fake the moon landings as a PR stunt, and none of them ever thought to supplement their pension by writing an expose. Or if they did, the CIA used magic to infallibly find out and stop them.

And the second thing about conspiracy theories...the conspiracies are so weak they'd essentially fold if the general public knew about them. Somehow, for some reason.

The Bilderberg group do of course exist, as an umbrella for the most powerful men on the planet to do business. It's a private club, not a secret society. It's a talking shop for the superrich and superpowerful, not the headquarters of SPECTRE.

The irony is that what the group does in real life is quite sinister enough.

Here's a few more things I 'learned' watching the film:

  • The Bilderberg group are utterly committed to the New World Order, and to secrecy.

  • At least two members frequently supply the producers of this film with inside information.

  • They meet in secret.

  • Protesters easily find out where they meet, and picket them.

  • They will happily kill anyone who threatens to expose or inhibit them.

  • The don't shoot protesters, or people who make films like this one about them. And they don't seem to mind men with video cameras and anti-cooperate teeshirts wandering around openly filming in the hotels where they meet.

  • Obama is nothing more than a PR puppet, controlled by the group.

  • Obama is one of the 125 members of the group, so somewhat more than a puppet.

That's the third thing about conspiracy theories. They're complex and unrefutable, containing enough provisos and ad-hoc get-out clauses to counter any inconvenient questions or evidence from skeptics.

They're like the delusions of paranoid schizophrenics - except that paranoid delusions hold together better. Conspiracy theorists go slippery and vague when their ideas don't add up, evading the point, accusing the skeptic, or just ignoring what they don't want to hear.

Genuine paranoids are like dedicated theologians, making incompatible ideas fit together by increasing their complexity and reach until they form a jigsaw.

So there you have it. Conspiracy theories - a bit like some mental illnesses, but shoddier.

This is The News

You know what I'm really sick of? Explaining the thuddingly obvious to people determined not to listen. Here are a few thuddingly obvious thoughts about some of today's news stories.

  • If we must have priests at all, there is no good reason not to have female priests. There are dozens of incredibly stupid or irrelevant reasons - Jesus only lived with men, Paul was a misogynist, tradition, women are too silly for church etc. - but a big pile of nonreasons doesn't add up to a reason.

  • So an English prince is marrying a minor aristocrat with no discernible personality whatsoever - because it worked out so well last time. Nonevent.

  • The pope thinks male prostitutes should wear condoms. Evidently because he thinks HIV is spread mainly by male prostitutes, because he thinks it's a gay disease, because that suits the prejudices he's both pandering to and promoting. Like any politician, even if he does know the truth, his power relies on spreading lies. Lies, hate, and fear.

  • North and South Korea have a disputed border. South Korea set up a military base on an otherwise uninhabited island next to the border. Yesterday North Korea shelled it, then South Korea shelled an area of North Korea but won't say where. If you think this is about one country being in the right, you're not out of the first grade politically.

  • The machine which sees through clothes at airports can't detect explosives or drugs hidden inside the body. Squeezing passenger's external genitalia is likewise conspicuous invasion for the sake of appearances, but otherwise functionless.

  • If your aim is to kill as many people as possible including yourself with a bomb, stand in the middle of the queue waiting to be fondled at the airport, and set off the bomb in your luggage. A bigger bang, a bigger bodycount, bigger headlines, and far more disruption and political impact than you'd get smuggling a small hidden bomb onto a plane.

    Where did the idea come from that everyone's entitled to their opinion? If you don't understand Newton's equations, you're not entitled to comment on them. If you only select historical facts which support what you'd have preferred to happen, you're not entitled to write history books.

    I like discussing things with people. I enjoy learning new facts and aspects from experts - and when I do, I do the listening. What I do not enjoy is spending an hour walking someone through the ten seconds of elementary reasoning needed before you can begin a grown-up discussion.

  • Streetwise Sunday - Shoo Off Edition

    People leave a lot of clothes on the street - I still haven't worked out why. And a lot of them are shoes, and a lot of them are children's shoes. From which I can conclude, either:

    (1) Large numbers of young children are being kidnapped by aliens, using a matter transmission beam which leaves shoes behind, or

    (2) Kids get bored with really bad, tasteless, nonpractical shoes hurting their feet, and throw them away when the parent isn't looking.

    Unless of course it's just one child who gets a lot of shoes, and doesn't like any of them.

    A Family Announcement (Part 2)

    I'm going to Finland in three months. Yes, for the wedding. It was decided, then I was told.

    My brother and his other half have invited a dozen more people, and they're paying for our airfares. Even though we've dropped more hints than a dog drops hairs on a newly cleaned carpet that we don't really want to go, we're all going.

    It's a new experience to me, being told I have to take a holiday. I might be under orders to enjoy it too. Though it's a more familiar sensation to be berated by people who have the same thoughts but are horrified that anyone should express them.

    So, expect tales of moose-based cuisine, hotel mixups, incomprehensible TV gameshows, photos of snow, touristified shops where everything's in English, and if we're very fortunate, a drunken punchup between strangers at the wake, erm, catered thing.

    A Family Announcement

    My brother is getting married. A few things about this:

    (1) There seems to be no reason at all why he's doing it.
    (2) There seems to be no reason why he's doing it in a cold foreign country.
    (3) We don't want to go.

    Now, my brother's been happily living with his girlfriend for years. Neither of them has any desire for children, nor any deeply held superstitions about the need for marriage, nor any legal or cultural reasons to start calling themselves Mr and Mrs. They're just...doing it.

    Which is to say, they're taking a long weekend holiday, and getting married along the way. Which involves making promises they've no intention of keeping about raising children, to a god neither believes in.

    The wedding is in Helsinki - apparently inside a chapel that is also somehow an igloo. That part may have got garbled somewhere along the line. The journey is a two hour train ride to the airport, followed by a twelve hour flight, followed by a four hour flight, followed by a car drive to a hotel.

    And the same back again two days later.

    I'd quite like to see Helsinki, in the same vague way I'd like to see Mount Rushmore and the Moscow Underground. But I don't especially want to spend 40 hours travelling for a quick tour. I've been in enough aeroplanes to know they're (1) uncomfortable, (2) really uncomfortable after the first two hours, and (3) all pretty much the same.

    The guest list so far consists of:
    * My mother
    * My father
    * Me
    * The bride's mother
    * One of my brother's friends

    So, quite a low-key affair - and no particular reason to go through the legal hell of getting the paperwork to get married in a country where you're not a citizen.

    Fortunately, I've got a reason not to go - namely, five dogs and three parrots to look after. Unfortunately, I've also got two parents with their eye on the same reason - and only one of us can use it.

    Families. Society's gentle introduction to crazy people.

    Sreeetwise Sunday - 'It's a Wrap' Edition

    Nighttime, on the street, wondering whether I wanted a bag of chips or not.

    Or rather, knowing full well that I wanted a bag of chips, but wondering whether I should.

    Or rather, knowing full well I shouldn't, but wondering whether I could resist.

    Or rather...ah, what's this? Someone's left a spicy chicken wrap sitting on a windowsill, next to the liquid remains of a curry. Someone obviously wasn't as hungry as they thought.

    Here it is, my supper waiting for the kettle to boil back in my room.

    The Evolution of Sex

    No new novel segments, but a science fiction short story.

    Introduction to The Evolution of Sex
    (1st Edition 2153)
    by Matrachio Seldi, MpD

    Everyone enjoys sex.

    That is not to say everyone enjoys having sex with another person, or going through the social rituals the procure it, and there are still those who go through emotional torture as a result the contradication between their belief system and the facts of sexuality. Rather it would be true to claim that everyone enjoys the bodily sensations of sexual stimulation, as opposed to the presence of another human body giving those sensations.

    For some, the distinction is a subtle one, but the industries of sex toys, dildonics and interactive pornography depend on it completely.

    Arguably, even prostitution is a business model dependant on the client's desire to replace a human being - with a mind, desires and agendas - with a responsive body which they can pretend has no thoughts of its own not related to the client's desire.

    Even today, prostiution still exits, and its practicioners may not care to liken themselves to the blow-up dolls of our grandparents, but this author is certain they can understand the characterisation.

    In any case, this publication is concerned with recent advents in wholly artificial stimulation devices, and with research conducted by The New Angeles Institute for Erotics and the its sposor, the Bodyplex corporation.

    There is no reason why the mechanical devices and methods used to autostimulate should resemble the biological devices and methods a human can provide. The placement of the clitoris, for example, is not convenient for stimulation by a penis. The prostate is easier to reach, but neither penises nor fingers can provide the rapid sensations of a vibrator.

    This is why the most effective clitoral stimulators look nothing like any bodily organ, and the modern penile oral stimulator has up to five 'tongues', each concentrating on different sub-erogenous zones.

    In the following sections, a variety of authors working in various fields will detail their recent work, and put it into historical context.

    The first section deals with a number of still-common misconceptions, especially that stimulation is a way to get to orgasm as quickly as possible. Methods for this do exist, but actually the majority of research does not concern orgasms at all - neither advancing nor delaying them, extending them, making them multiple, or decreasing the refractory period before the next one.

    Indeed, only a minority of nerve clusters classified as erotic are involved in orgasm production at all. The scrotum or outer vagina, the buttocks, perenium and inner thighs, the anus and rectum, the nipples and indeed the face are all sensitive areas capable of stimulation.

    Furthermore, when we speak of stimulation, we do not just mean the common wet licking, dry sucking, rolling, massaging and pulling variations. We are also referring to sensations that would be called painful in another context - pinching, pinpoint heat, rough friction and so on.

    The second section expands on this, detailing devlopment of the latest full-body sex suits. With these all the common pleasure centers (plus most of the uncommon ones) can be simultainious stimulated.

    The mouth for instance is filled with a wide, slightly spongy mass which pulses and has waves of warmth traveling along its length, which tapers at the velum to bypass the gag reflex, then expands again to push against the throat - optionally extending down as far as the stomach opening.

    The lips however require a completely different stimulant - distantly related to a kiss, it involves massaging the lips with soft rollers which release a viscious oil that serves a secondary purpose for the olfactory sense.

    The nipples are alternately 'spiked' and 'soothed', as are the thighs. The rectum is filled with a balloon-like structure with rounded studs, inflating and deflating every few seconds to create a kind of breathing internal pressure.

    Many users enjoy the rectal stimulation, but not the sensation of the anus being transversely stretched, so the tube going into the rectum can be made small. Thus it is possible to have the feeling of a penis or a fist in the rectum, without the inconvenience of one passing through the anus.

    These and other innovations are discussed, with the focus on the development process. Marketing, empirical research, hormone theory and ethical issues are also touched upon.

    The third and final section deals with expanded sensation methods, which show great promise but are still in early stages.

    The human brain contains a map of the body, continiously updated by sensory feedback. However, sometimes the map or the update system misfunction, leading to alien limb syndrome, phantom limb syndrome in amputees, and the rare conditions where the brain thinks the body has an extra (invisible) part.

    It was this last condition which led a team of NAIE researchers to speculate that the brain could be electromanipulated to create new body parts existing only in the bodymap - complete with sensory feedback, erogenous zones, and unique kinds of stimulation.

    After ten years of experimentation, it is now possible to generate and remove multiple 'illusory' organs in minutes, with a range of pleasurable sensations not possible in the physical body.

    Needless to say, this is tremendously exciting work, and we look forward to future refinements. We have come a long way since the days when the only way to gain erotic pleasure was in sharing it with another. That way still exists and, humans being the social creatures they are, is in no danger of dying out. But with technology, the possibilities are now so much greater.

    Matrachio Seldi
    The New Angeles Institute for Erotics

    Irritation Station

    I wonder if I should start a weekly column of things which have annoyed me that week.

    There's no shortage of material, from the way my 75 year old father can't grasp that his computer isn't telepathic, to the way the media vacillate when reporting a protest which turns into a riot and occupation - do they call the protesters rude names like "animal" and "mindless" with loving, lingering shots of one policewoman with a cut forehead...or do they dismiss it with a ten second segment on a handful of misfits making a racket?

    They don't know either, so they do both.

    What should I call such a column? Ticked-off Tuesday? Why-I-Hate-My-Life-Wednesday? Kapitano's Krappy Days?

    Yesterday I dragged myself out of bed for a 10am meeting with a student - to spend the morning proofreading their PhD thesis. Still wishing I was in bed at 1030, I called the student in the cold outside their department, to gently ask why they're delayed.

    The response was a bleary voice saying I'd just woken them up, so could I wait half an hour for them to shower and bicycle in. I said okay.

    At 1130 I called again, just to check they were still coming. The response was a bleary voice saying I'd just woken them up again, so could I wait half an hour for them to shower and bicycle in. I said okay again.

    At 1215 they appeared - and wanted to go to a coffee shop for breakfast. Seeing as this involved them buying me a cup of coffee, I went along - and got talking with a friend of theirs who wanted English lessons for his wife. Another client maybe - nice.

    So at some time after 1pm, we started our, erm, morning of work, which ended at 5:30 when we both needed to go home to catch up on sleep.

    And started again at 9pm when we'd done that. Because the PhD was due handed in the next day. I suspect this is how all five year PhD projects work.

    I got home at 2am and collapsed into bed - my plans to work on my great novel put on hold for the day.

    This morning, woken up first by a strange man in my bedroom - actually a builder who needed to check something or other before repairing the drains. My parents have had a shifting cast of cheerful men in paint-stained jeans doing things to the outside wall for the past fortnight, but this is the first one who affected a plummy accent with clipped vowels.

    The second time it was the student again on the phone, wanting to know how to copy and paste in Microsoft Word - on which he's spent years typing up his PhD.

    And finally it was another strange man - this one in a call center, reading painfully from a script trying to sell me stock market tips. Presumably it was a company which takes commission from other companies to recommend the latter's stocks and shares as sure-fire wins - but instead of asking I just hung up.

    There's an art to hanging up on nuisance callers which I haven't yet mastered. Next time I'll try doing it in the middle of their second sentence.

    And finally, the weather's bloody cold, the shops are full of frelling christmas music, my wi-fi keeps cutting out, people keep telling me I can't be happy till I make some babies, the country is full of people who blame people poorer than themselves when the government makes them poorer...

    ...and the world is slightly more doomed than it was yesterday because Barack Obama made John Shimkus chair of the House Energy Committee. This man believes climate change is impossible because God promised Moses Noah he wouldn't flood the world a second time.

    Correction: Yes, it was Noah, not Moses. Blame my annoyed mind for not concentrating on that part.

    Fill by Mouth

    Today a man spent ages poking in my mouth, giving it a really thorough seeing to while telling me how good I was being. He gave me two big fillings one after the other and afterwards I couldn't talk properly for hours.

    Yes alright, but "Kapitano Goes to the Dentist" doesn't sound as interesting.

    But I did get a bit of writing done. Here's a section:

    Alex rounded a corner into a quiet side street contrasting with the traffic and pedestrians. Slowing to a rapid walk but still glancing about, he turned another corner, counting the house numbers till he found number 34. Hesitating and out of breath, he pressed the buzzer.

    He waited, fingers twitching, nervously shifting from one foot to the other for half a minute. His finger was almost on the buzzer again when the door was opened by an Indian man two years older, who looked surprised to see Alex standing there.

    "Rob!", blurted Alex, "Rob, I..."

    "What is it man? What's wrong?"

    "Sorry Rob, I couldn't think of anyone else. It's...I've..."

    "Come in man. Tell us about it."

    Alex followed Rob inside, carefully shutting the door behind him. In the sitting room, Rob flicked off the TV with a remote and sat on the leather sofa, gesturing Alex to sit on the chair. Looking straight down, the younger man sat perched on the edge, one hand over his forehead, covering his eyes.

    There was a long silence.

    "What's up Al?", said Rob, "What's got you freaked?"

    Alex drew a breath. "Rob I...I think I've killed someone."

    Another silence, broken again by Rob, speaking gently.

    "What you mean man? You think...?"

    "I killed someone. Some bloke. He was in my room, going through my things. He...he had this knife and I hit him with one of my weights. He's dead in my flat Rob. What am I gonna do?"

    "Okay Al. Does anyone else know? Was anyone else there?"

    "No. No one else. Never seem him before. I got in and he was going through my stuff!"

    "Okay, so no one'll be back till tomorrow morning. Now listen Al. I'm going to make us some coffee, and you're going to tell me everything, then we're going in my car to your place to see what we can sort out..."

    "Oh thanks man. I knew if I asked you..."

    "But first you've got to tell me, are you absolutely sure he was dead?"

    "Dead? Oh yeah, totally. I checked his pulse. In his neck. Nothing."

    "Okay. Now you sit and get your head together, and I'll be in the kitchen. After I get back we'll go in ten minutes. Understand?"

    Alex nodded, still looking down. "Yeah sure thing Rob, thanks."

    In the kitchen, Rob mechanically took out two coffee mugs and a jar of instant. His face showed a kind of determined blankness, going through the routine of spoons, sugar, filling the kettle and swatting it on.

    He was dressed in the same basic uniform as his friend, but cleaner, more expensive, less abused. His hair was more neatly clipped, the cutlery draw organised, and above the steaming kettle spout, a framed certificate in management.

    Returning with two mugs of coffee, he set them down carefully and waiting for Alex to take a sip before speaking.

    "Alex. Why did you come over instead of phoning?"

    "Phone's out of charge."

    "I see. And did anyone see you leave your place?"

    "No. I checked to see if the coast was clear and there wasn't anybody."

    "Right, good. Now when did you get back and find this bloke?"

    "It was...It would've been four thirty - or a bit after. I unlocked the front door, went right upstairs to log on the net, and there he was, going through the stuff on my bed."

    "What was on your bed?"

    "Just clothes - and the duvet."

    "Jackets? Coats?"

    "Um. Yeah, my leather jacket. You think he was looking in the pockets?"

    "Maybe. Were there any drawers open? Did it look like he'd been looking anywhere else?"

    "Uh, no. I don't think so."

    "And what did he do when you saw him?"

    "He didn't see me at first. I said something like..."What the fuck you doing?"...and he turned round real quick. There was this pause, then he got this knife out of his coat and went for me. I wasn't thinking. There were my weights and the bench press between him and me, and he kind of tripped up on the dumb-bell. And I grabbed one of the weights and...kind of...threw it down on him. On his head. He didn't make a sound."

    "Okay. What did he look like?"

    "Sort of older. Maybe forty? Stubble, long hair, it needed a wash. In fact, I think he looked like a homeless guy."

    "Did he smell of anything? Cider? Sweat? Cigarettes?"

    " No he didn't. Mind you I wasn't paying attention."

    "And it was a white guy, yes?"

    "What? Oh yeah, white."

    "Was there blood?"

    "Couldn't see any. But I didn't look real close."

    "But you checked his pulse."

    "Well yeah, I didn't know what else to do."

    "Did he say anything? Before coming at you?"

    "No, nothing. But he did look..."


    "Scared. In fact the bloke looked terrified."

    "And when he tripped and you got the weight, was there much noise?"


    "Do you think anyone could've heard him or you?"

    "Um. Not really."

    "So there was just you saying 'What the fuck are you doing?', and the sound of him cracking his shin on the bench press and falling over."

    "Yeah. And the sort of thud when I dropped..."

    "Yes okay. Right, drink up. We're going over to have a look. We'll see if he's really dead or if he needs hospital treatment. If he does, we'll say he broke in to your place and you found him like that when you got home - he obviously tripped up and a weight fell on him. I've got some vodka - if we have to take him we'll get him completely drunk first so no one'll believe him. If he is dead we might have to go to the police."

    "Rob, no! You can't grass me up!"

    "No one's going to grass anyone up. If we can get away with saying you just found him like that, that's what we'll do. If we can't, we'll make it look like he broke in and attacked you."

    "But that is what happened."

    "We'll make it look more like that. And if we can't do that...well, lets just say you're going to owe me for a long time, mate."

    "What do you mean? What'll we have to do?"

    "Dispose of it. Now come on."

    In the car the two said almost nothing, and after parking they didn't speak until they were in Alex's room, looking down on the lifeless body of a strange man, lying face down amid the clothes and biscuit wrappers. Rob sighed and was the first to break the calm.

    "I don't think we'll be taking him to the hospital. Help me turn him over.


    "What is it?"

    "I don't want to...touch it."

    "Neither do I, but you got me into this, you asked for my help, now let me give it."

    Alex hesitated, then helped turn the body over, wincing more with squeamishness than effort.

    The man was probably in his late forties, with lank greying dark hair around a pasty, moist face that was somehow both puffy and undernourished. There was a stud in the left ear and a hole in the nose for another - it looked like it had been infected at one point.

    He was wearing baggy clothes, two or three sizes too large for him. A green pullover seemingly with nothing underneath, a dark beige overcoat and trousers patterned with a faint tartan - a kind that might have been worn by Alex's grandfather. The shoes were brown leather in good condition, but too small over the argyle socks.

    There was no visible blood on the carpet, and only a little crusted around an inch-long gash in the man's temple. With his eyes closed, he could have been just another homeless man, passed out in a shop front.

    "We've got a choice.", Rob's voice interrupted both their staring. "We can either trust the coppers and the courts to do a good job and find the truth, where you're innocent kid who defended himself against a mad homeless burglar...

    "Or we can trust them to pin the blame on the obvious suspect whose already got two drugs convictions, so was probably selling crack to the man or something. In which case we've got a body to hide."

    Alex was silent, staring at the dead man's face.

    "You've got to decide this one Alex, and you've got to decide it right now, and stick to it no matter what. If you want to cover up, I'll help you - but you've got to do exactly what I say, and you're going to owe me big time. Forever. Understand?"

    Alex said nothing.

    "Al? You've got to tell me, now."

    "It's not him."


    "It's not the man who was here. It's a different man."

    Streetwise Sunday - Hooverville Edition

    This week's ThingFoundOnThePavementTM leads me to think someone tried to clean up the streets. But forgot something.


    I am writing, though not as much as I should. There's a plot of sorts, a narrator who's also the protagonist, and a form. Here's a taste, though if I ever finish it, the parts probably won't be in this order.

    There is a famous article by George Orwell called Decline of the English Murder.

    It's about the peculiarly English fascination with murder in fact and fiction, and how it has, in his view, degenerated from an interest in elegant puzzles of detection, to a morbid obsession with tacky meaningless killing.

    I think he's wrong.

    Carol. My sister, two years older. When I was fifteen, I found a school essay she'd written when she was nine. It was about how she'd broken a window and blamed it on her younger brother, but when she saw how he'd be punished, she owned up, and her mother had forgiven her because she'd been honest.

    Of course it never happened. She'd been set the homework to write a story about why it's always best to tell the truth, and the teacher had given her the story in case she couldn't think of a real incident to demonstrate.

    The same teacher gave me the same story two years later, and I wrote the same essay with the roles reversed.

    Agatha Christie broke a lot of rules. In Murder on the Orient Express it's all the suspects who are guilty. In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd the narrator is the killer. In The Mousetrap one of the suspects is really the detective undercover, and the detective is really the killer in disguise.

    In Poirot's final case, Curtain, there are two killers. One is a man so supernaturally skilled in psychological manipulation he guides others into committing murders they would never otherwise have considered, but the manipulator's only motive is pleasure in the manipulation.

    The de facto detective is Poirot's sidekick Hastings, after Poirot's death. Hastings deduces that the manipulator must have been killed by Poirot himself - because there way no legal way to stop him. Poirot, having effectively become the enemy he spent his life tracking down, sees no other honourable way out.

    Christie broke a lot of rules, but only ones that weren't needed for logic and plausibility. There were no long lost identical twins, no locked rooms with impossibly intricate deadly mechanisms hidden in the grandfather clock, no murders with zero motive except the killer being a deranged foaming psychopath who'd somehow managed to pass as normal for forty years.

    Jenny. I don't remember what she looked like. She sat on the other side of class and we probably never spoke.

    Girls and boys didn't mix much - girls played their games of skipping and hopscotch, and boys shot each other with pretend guns, or kicked around and improvised football.

    It was sometime in November, she started telling the other girls about her father. About how he took her on little weekend holidays to Blackpool or Brighton, about the enormous ice cream cone he'd bought her with five scoops, each a different flavour. Then about how he touched her at night.

    Word got around, and soon she was telling the headmaster, then the police. Suddenly all the teachers were telling us we could confide in them if any grownups touched us in a "wrong way".

    Some of the playground games changed. "Perv" was basically tag, but we passed on the tag with a slightly different touch. I remember playing a varient on kisschase called lickchase - just one time, before a teacher broke it up and smacked some of us around, shouting. And at the center of it all, Jenny, who was more upset by the attention than anything else.

    Then suddenly it all stopped. She didn't have a father - he'd died when she was two. She'd invented an imaginary father-friend, and mixed him with a documentary she'd seen on TV.

    Was Jenny her name? It might have been Gemma.

    All narrators are unreliable, even when the author doesn't intend them that way, because all authors are unreliable.

    Detectives don't have romance. Occasionally they have sex, and they're even sometimes married, but if it's a good marriage the wife is invisible, and it's usually not a good marriage.

    Poirot was a confirmed batchelor. Which is to say, a gay stereotype. An epicure as opposed to a hedonist, a vain man as opposed to a handsome man, a solitary man as opposed to a lonely man, a solver of puzzles as opposed to to a resolver of problems.

    Miss Marple is a lesbian stereotype, though a benign one - elderly and never married, wise and cynical, rather private and a little bit prissy.

    Holmes was more-or-less asexual, and impatient with Watson's habit of adding romantic interest to cases. There was of course one woman, Irene Adler, who he felt a kind of affection for - but that was strictly in terms of admiration. At least, that's how he permitted himself to express it to watson.

    Jason King was metrosexual three decades before the term was coined - by a gay man. Patrick Steed is similar. For that matter, Lord Peter Wimsey is a dandy - though not a fopp. The main difference between the dandy and the chorusboy was social class, not intellect or behavior.

    King, Steed and Wimsey were all nominally straight, and all three had female sidekicks who were hopelessly in love with them. But even if you can find subtextual hints that they reciprocated the emotion, you can't deny the obvious fact that you had to delve and search hard in the subtext to find those hints.

    These men were happy for women to love them, but they didn't feel the need or indeed the capacity to love them back. The women knew that, and seemingly accepted it without bitterness. Which means Emma Peel...was a fag hag.

    Thomas and Timothy. The twins. when I was five, at school there were twin boys in my class. They always sat opposite each other, always dressed alike and had the same haircuts. They had name tags - Tom and Tim - pinned to their shirts, but they were always swapping them over, so sometimes only they knew who was who.

    It took me a long time to realise, but it wasn't their choice, and they hated it. Their parents - especially the mother, I think - made them wear identical clothes. We all expected them to go everywhere together, do everything together, do it in the same way, so they did.

    We shared our sweets with them when they made us laugh by completing each others sentences, or eating their packed lunches in unison. And we stopped when they were different.

    One thing tipped me off. They were far too young to shave, but one night one of them had tried, and cut his cheek. I think it was Thomas. The next morning he came in with a plaster placed neatly over the cut.

    The other twin had an identical plaster, over the same spot. But at some point during the day, he ripped it off.

    We made the other one take off his plaster too. The next day both were back.

    I should have realised earlier. They never liked it when we called them Tom and Tim - they prefered Thomas and Timothy. It was more different.

    If you could kill one person, and be sure of getting away with it, who would you kill?

    A politician? A historical figure? A parent?

    The one who bullied you at school, the one who mugged you, the one who made you feel like a fool in front of your friends?

    the one who broke your heart, the one who stole away the one you loved, the one who never returned your glances?

    My Mother. She had me when she was twenty, and I don't think I got to know her till I was that old myself.

    It was only then she felt able to tell me I'd been a mistake, and after I'd been born the doctors hadn't expected me to live. When she told me, I wondered whether I should respond with a secret of my own, but decided that wasn't what she wanted.

    I don't think she wanted anything from me - certainly not forgiveness or understanding. She just wanted me to know.

    Presumably the father was the man I'd grown up calling Father, and that was why she married him. Maybe that's what she was trying to tell me.

    she took up music after I left home - piano, a little guitar, even some saxophone. I saw her play in a smooth jazz band booked for someone's birthday party - it was pretty good, though I think I was the only one listening.

    It was like she'd been waiting for her children to go before getting on with her life.

    Who would you kill? Who's worth it, even if you get caught?


    You in America might have the craziest politics right now, but we're catching up. Slowly, but we're doing our best.

    This a van parked near my home.

    Who are the English Democrats? Essentially, they're the halfway respectable end of the isolationist movement. The closed-borders anti-immigration movement - which is to say, the anti-foreigner party. Which is the say, the racist fuckwit scum movement.

    But they're different from the British National Party, because they're dewey-eyed sentimental racist fuckwit scum, whereas the BNP are literal nazis.

    The English Defence League are a completely different set of pondlife, in that they hate the other two for being jewlovers, ie. supporting Israel. Odd how the nazi party are pro-Israel, but there no limit to confusion and hypocrisy, especially where drooling hate is involved.

    The EDL are into Arthurian legends and pig latin, the ED are into Bulldog Drummond and pretending to be apolitical,and the BNP are into worshiping Hitler, but only when they think there are no cameras watching.

    There's also the UK Independence Party, but they're a joke even among hypernationalists.

    The ED, the BNP and the EDL are dedicated to making Britain pure British - that is, to making it pure White. Like it never was in the golden age which they can never quite place historically.

    Not that terms like 'pure white' or 'pure british' have meaning anyway, for the same reason 'pure human' has no meaning. But dedication to a meaningless notion is politically very useful - because a meaningless notion can be made to mean anything.

    We may not have much in the way of Birthers, Deathers, anti-masturbation candidates, ex-gay frauds, marches comparing health insurance to deathcamps, or candidates who want to gamble social security on the stock exchange...but we have loonies too.

    Eat Your Words

    The last time I tried to eat healthily, I bought a lettuce. And ate the whole thing in one sitting. With a little pepper. It was quite nice actually, and the indigestion didn't last long.

    The time before that I tried drinking water. You know that myth about how everyone should drink 1.2 litres of water a day? I think I about doubled that over an hour.

    You wouldn't believe how much rivita I can put away.

    Anyway, tonight I have another lettuce, a choice of half a dozen classic but as-yet unseen movies as inspiration, and a target of two thousand more words.

    Yes, I've got about four thousand written so far, but they don't exactly form a linear story - partly because I've only got the vaguest outline of a plot. If it gets to a state of linear readability, you'll read it here first.