Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Corporations are People - Sociopathic People.

Corporations are immoral. They have no conscience or consideration of right and wrong of or for the individual. They only care about their financial bottom line and growth and because of this they only care about the masses.

The masses can alter their fate, an individual is powerless.

One vote, one customer, one injured party in a sea of millions doesn't warrant a sideways glance. No-one fears a snowflake, only the avalanche gets attention.

The masses are not ten, not one hundred; not even one thousand. 
A thousand like grievances joined together as one will be noticed and hushed, but not for their complaint. They will be dealt with and hidden as quickly and as inexpensively as possible because they are the first carcinogenic cell that could multiply to threaten the corporate life.

Alone an individual is a single voice shouting into a canyon. It takes a chorus of tens of thousands, or a sympathetic media to amplify that song of complaint so it is loud enough to be heard.

The media commands public opinion, it informs and guides, like a brain with the body of a billion thoughtless cells that follow and submit to suggestions and thoughts formed and sent from above.

Thank God for the new social medias of Twitter and Facebook because the old media platforms have become themselves corporately corrupted and molded by financial objectives. This old media has lobotomized itself in a quest to offend no-one and gain ratings at any cost.

How sad that for so long we abstained from personal responsibility and allowed the corporate voice of network manipulation and greed to guide us down a path that is paved with gold only for them.

How sad that an industry that had the power to do so much good has slunk to its belly and settled on making arbitrary decisions born from the pen of accountants, rather than forging a brave new world in a forward backward path that the artist should have led.

How sad that we allowed them to become so powerful before we took a stand.

But it is not simply the old media that has caught this corporate tunnel vision of purpose. Ring any multinational company and press their automated buttons spruiked by their recorded voice menu. Time the difference it takes to get a response to a request for anything compared to the time it takes that same company to respond to a call to pay money or give them new business.

Corporations are people. But they have been poorly raised and are now spoilt children who only know how to take graciously. When it comes time to give they can only throw tantrums and elicit an age old immature doctrine: if can’t get what I want, no-one will.

Despite social media’s desperate attempt to allow a single voice to be heard, that single voice is only sounding a final shuddering death rattle. The individual is dead. A single person no longer matters to the one percent.

We are in the age of spin and insincerity. We are in an age where only the fewest of the few are, in the long run, treated fairly by large corporations. As customers we are bled and fed just enough to keep our blood flowing into their wealthy coffers. As workers we are pushed and stressed and cruelly convinced loyalty and long service is valued and rewarded. There is nothing worse than seeing the crushed spirit of a worker who discovers their life’s work and effort has been rewarded with a pink slip that ends a career without even a name behind the decision.

It’s easy to steer a ship in calm weather. But the narrow minded and selfish spirit of these new ‘people’ never learn that in calm weather it’s important to bond a crew who have the skills, courage and loyalty to save the ship when the next storm blows from the far horizon.

Corporations are now legally people of the United States of America according to that country’s Supreme Court. But until those newly born corporate souls grow up and gain the maturity that allows them to think and feel like a person, with choices swayed and prayed for with a conscience and an empathetic soul, they will continue to be the modern scourge and we should all beware.

There could be no poorer teachers for future generations than the corporate giants that have been brought up to scream for everything and are prepared to give nothing back unless there’s a bigger upside in doing so.

Multinationals may be people, but they are at best sociopaths who should be evaluated, diagnosed and treated for their personality disorders quickly before they deliver a final fatal blow and we all suffer at their hands.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Greed - The Enemy of Poverty

Greed is taught.

There is the problem and downfall of man and our attempts at civilisation. Look at it, analyse it, debate it and as much as we'd love it not to be true - it is. It's in us all as part of human nature and the reason we are not yet succeeding to live together with any sort of harmony.

We're all born with an element of greed. It's an instinctual need to get the necessities of life: food and warmth. These things we fight for instinctively. There's no shame in a basic human want to survive. But as children, once we have a full belly, we rest. Once we find warmth we sleep. It takes time to learn that a year comes with seasons and if we don't squirrel away food in spring we'll go hungry in winter. If we don't build a house that shields from harsh winter storms before they hit, we'll never see the winter break. So we start to do these things because we have a brain large enough to work out our needs in advance. And the animals around us have brains similarly able to work this out as well.

But man's brain is bigger. It reacts not just to instinct and ways to solve a seasonal shortfall, but also to opportunity. It sees machinations many moves ahead and can adapt and prepare for these as well. 
"If I squirrel away resources, above the level I need, I can sell them to those who run short when the resources are in demand." 
"If I could squirrel away all the resources then others would have no choice but to buy from me at whatever price I set."

I have no real problem with this. It's a conservative view I admit. It's not pretty, but you can't set up the game and then cry foul because some learn to play it too well. Well done to the smart, industrious souls who worked out how to rape spring to put away all it had to offer and sell back to others in winter.

The problems begin when you bring in the exceptions. For a man who works hard and gains an oversupply for himself should be able to benefit from the resale to others when those resources are needed and in demand. But what if they're needed by a family who fell sick in spring. A father who lost his wife in labour and then spent his spring caring for a sick infant. And what if that man and his young child are neighbours. Now we have an exception. Of course he should be given a free handout from the oversupply. How could anyone be so heartless not to be charitable in this situation?

What about the nineteen year old who spent his summer drunk and partying, he, of course, gets turned away. Because he has long hair and is a vegetarian - need I say more? So now, in simplest terms we have a government. A group of the powerful with the means, who decide who gets help and who does not, based on any number of flexible, moveable agendas. (Although vegetarianism should always be pretty much a deal breaker)

And the exceptions get more complicated. And those with the oversupply get more obstinate. They want and are happy to give money to the needy, but they want it to be their choice who those needs are and what criteria 'needy' is judged on. 

In the US more is given to Charity by the wealthy than at any time in history and yet tax rates are at historical lows and any talk of increasing them meets with extraordinary opposition. There's no dispute we need to contribute money to fix our global problems, that's clear from the charitable donations. But it's also clear there is no faith in the decisions makers to be trusted to do the right thing with money raise. So the wealthy would rather donate and decide themselves than allow a democratically elected government make those decisions for them. Are we head back towards an elite monarchical state that is governed not by birthright but by bank balance?  

There comes a time when people are faced with a genuine choice about how to right this global ship we're all afloat in. There is a distinction between a genuine and non genuine choice - for instance, to liberate Iraq was a non genuine choice. There was and is a huge economic advantage to invading this country so rich in oil. Had we definitive proof of weapons of mass destruction being used - the choice would have become genuine. But a hunch, from a source that's sort of usually accurate isn't enough to overcome the cynicism of world who knows how much an invading country would reap from the invasion.

A genuine choice is more like the one made to ignore the plight of the decades long civil wars in Africa where genocide was and is still being carried out.

Eventually, in a world that can never give itself to deliver justice, injustice is done. It may simply be to allow one young person to go underfed. This can be followed through to any degree, one person underfed becomes a hungry childhood where a brother or sister died through illness exacerbated by malnutrition. Suddenly the childhood grumble has become a bitter hatred. Force that young person to walk past a gilded department store every day and stare through grand windows at food overflowing the shelves - and I guarantee you are sowing the seeds for a personal revolution. It may not be in every child that becomes an adult, in fact it's likely many will be beaten down and lack any real driving force from the fight just to survive, but some will vow to walk into that shop as an equal, a few will vow to own the store and eventually one, so numbed by learnt lessons to the falseness of giving importance to moral right or wrong - will form their own empire and rule it to make wealth beyond the needs of millions and still call it their own.

Greed is learnt. It is taught. It is a lesson that applied in moderation allows young people to find a will and a spirit to achieve great things. But shown without its politically correct, presentable attire, teaches the falseness of moral karma, the apathy to empathy and the falseness of a good deed being repaid a thousand times.

So what is the answer? We could make sure we only teach the 'right' amount of greed. But then we arrive back at our rules and exceptions. Who decides who gets what and how much? Because this will in turn allow the lessons and scope of those lessons learnt. And will we truly blanket our decision without an eye to benefit for sacrifice. Will we feed Africa without a return? Will we be neutral with the rich middle east when opportunity to exploit arrives? 

It does seem, as much as everyone tries to deny it, the world is like a human body. And every organ needs to be healthy to allow the whole to survive and thrive. At the moment the organs that deliver joy are getting all the attention - has it ever been different? Show me one person on a death bed ever rejoicing because the 'glamour' organs are all still intact.

There are protestors now in cities around the world calling for change, to stop the flow of power and wealth from pooling in ever more increasing percentages at the very top of society. It's a mighty quest. And it can work if we understand that change comes so slowly it can't be seen. The protests do nothing but change the view by a degree of those watching on. So they don't even notice they have changed in thinking by a degree and the next big push will see another degree given. 

Eventually the degrees will have us facing the right direction where we don't regard a financial institution as being too big to fail. An institution that pushes paper money from one account to another at ever increasing price; an institution that fluffs a dollar until it can be trimmed to line a pocket; an institution that contributes not one ounce of product to a standard of living anywhere in the world - this is currently the institution we as a race, decided by those we elect, consider too big to fail. A nation of African's, of real people, men, women and children with bloated stomachs and gaunt faces that look to cameras with incredulous eyes wondering who it is that could possibly want to look at them die from the luxury of a lounge room or a dentist's waiting room - that is not yet an institution we as a race consider worthy of a bailout. And let's remind ourselves the financial bailouts of the past years could have fed the world in real goods many times over. The war fought in Iraq could have done the same. But we remain stoutly adhered to the lessons we have all learnt so well and for now, we stay well fed.
Greed is taught. And it's a lesson that history shows us leads to devastating results.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

My girlfriend was a lady boy!

I've decided to record my stand-up routines on this blog. The following has been performed a number of times in various forms. This is based on those routines, although altered fairly significantly because stand-up's advantage is the unexpected flow created with an audience's reaction.

For those wondering why I'm suddenly straight when I do stand-up - I'm not, I do have a number of routines that I'll get to in time that deal specifically with being a 'straight' acting gay man. Interestingly these routines are always difficult as stand-up because most men in the audience find it confronting to have a gay man comment on how confusing the signals are that straight men give off these days about sexuality - the 'metrosexual' generation. I've been told many times when I do stand-up that if I suddenly drop the 'oh by the way, I'm gay' line half way through, the audience get so thrown expecting it to be a joke set-up, that they stop listening to what I'm saying. So often, like with this routine, it's simply easier to pose as a straight man and let the chips fall where they may.


I recently turned 42 and suddenly realised -
"Oh, my God, I've forgotten to have a mid-life crisis."
So I immediately made plans to rectify this situation, because every-one knows that a life's not complete without a crisis midway.

I made a list.

First thing I'd need to do is quit my job. But then I remembered I work as a writer for television and therefore lose my job on a regular basis. At the time I was working on a show called The Bounce, an Australian football show mixing sketch style comedy and sports interviews. The network showed a great deal of faith in the show and held off cancelling it until after the fifth episode.

Job - check.

Next I'd need to make some changes to my life that were completely age inappropriate. I had no idea sports cars were so expensive. I tried sagging my pants, but when your stomach is bigger than your ass, sagging isn't sagging. Once those bad boys drop below the central meridian they're headed all the way to the floor. I did the next best thing. I jumped online and started dating a Thai Go-Go dancer. Awesome! None of the mid-life crises I'd ever heard of included that sort of stupidity. I was off to a great start!

In her photos and through her poorly connected Skype, I could see her long blonde hair, her long legs and glitter in the most extraordinary places. Perfect. Now all I had to do was get her to Australia to assure everyone I was deep in the midst of one almighty mid-life crisis. I was sure my rendering of this classic phase would become the stuff of legends. In years to come, men would discuss it alongside great sporting and drinking achievments of the past. ESPN may even make a documentary about it.

My friends had all gone down the more mundane tracks, buying flashy cars, traded wives in for beauty queens who only remained attractive as long as they didn't speak. I read of a man who took up base jumping and died, but he turned out to be a former lawyer so no-one really dwelled. (There is an interesting issue here: does killing yourself recklessly during a mid-life crisis negate the mid-life crisis and turn it into more of a final last stand. Can the label of a mid-life crisis be correctly applied if the person in question turns out to be at the very end of their life?)

So I paid for a visa and ticket for my dancer to come to visit. I chose Christmas, feeling the arrival of a glitter covered, dyed blonde Thai dancer at the family Christmas dinner would have maximum affect. I should point out here my parents are conservative. My father is a retired surgeon and from a different generation. He remembers a time when his generation led simpler, cleaner, healthier lives. He chooses to forget they also hit women if they annoyed them, reduced whole races to insensitive stereotypes and refused to give Aboriginals the right to vote. Ah, the world was so much simpler then and I felt my dancer at a family Christmas dinner would be a cathartic release against all the things any middle class child holds against their parents for an unhealthy length of time .

I went to the airport to pick up my lovely and stood waiting for what seemed like hours. I received a call from customs to ask if I was serious? I was and they agreed to let her through. In Australia we don't like letting in foreigners who don't look like the Australians who first arrived as convicts and then set about committing genocide. We have very high standards when it comes to the neighbours we're prepared to live next to.

The doors opened and .... dressed in sagging jeans and a tight flat top where her breasts had been, stood a young twenty-one year old Thai boy.
"Mr Scott, I think maybe I forget to tell you everything."
My gorgeous glitter covered Go-Go girl was a boy. I was stunned for a moment, then figured... he is pretty cute and I'm in a bit of a drought. Besides the idea of arriving home with this exotic man on my arm thrilled me. The havoc I could deliver in one single sitting would be truly spectacular!

Now the only other thing you need to know about this story is that my older sister has recently undergone her own midlife crisis and converted to strict orthodox Judaism. She's a lawyer, so no really big changes - won't work on Saturday etc. But this was to be the first Christmas she had agreed to attend since the infamous three year conversion boycott. I believe she wasn't able to attend during those years because she was busy reading texts and precedents to find a valid angle to clear her people of hanging the first recognised Christmas decoration, but I can't be sure.The facts you need to know are that she agreed to come to the family's traditional Christmas dinner after some years away. She did have some stipulations: she'd arrive only after presents had been given and received - because she no longer recognised Christmas as a time to celebrate and she didn't want anyone mentioning ... he who shall not be named.

So that's the stage set. My sister arrived before me. I arrived with my arm around my boy, who stood five foot six or five foot eleven if you counted his gelled hair. His eye-liner and see through string top showed off his many tattoos and his purse went perfectly with his effeminate ways

My father answered the door, took one look at my 'date' and screamed, Jesus H Christ!

At that point my sister took up an extremist position, because she exploded.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Rudd and Gillard - the Jan and Marcia of Australian politics

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Kevin has the glasses, the blonde hair and the same cold dead eyes seeking revenge that haunted the Brady house for so many years.

Once upon a time this Jan in Kevin's clothing was seen as a breath of fresh air. He seemed decent, inoffensive, even passably life like. Then we discovered he was one of those with more than a passing hint of autism alongside above average intelligence that go together like the squares of a Rubik's cube in the hands of a master - which of course Kevin would be. Finished!

If this half gene from an albino man walked into your office to answer a call to fix the computer network, you wouldn't think twice. You'd forgive the socially offensive observation he makes when he greets you with such disconnect, that you assume he's inadvertently labelled you fat by misspeaking. He didn't - you are fat, but he thought he was making charming small talk and has no idea he's plunged you into two weeks of depression.

When Kevin was Jan dressed up as Marcia he sat in his room and gave orders to his sisters to compile reports and form commissions to provide estimates and projections on all things, regardless of whether they could be calculated or not. The reports and commissions protected him from making any real decisions and when he finally had to act it revealed this was Jan and not Marcia at the helm.

Granted, Marcia turned out to be a spectacularly angular bogan, but once she had control of the girl's room, Jan was cast back to the middle bed and told to tow the line. And there this blondilocked not-by-choice virgin sits and plots. One day soon he will have the opportunity he's waited for to deliver a Carrie like humiliating blow to the woman he feels the need to outshine. But will anyone notice the blood red delivered to an already rudely ginger head?

If you understand there is no situation in life that can't be related back to a particular episode of the Brady Bunch, then you'll know there is always the wise counsel of Carol, Mike or in times of desperation, Alice to rely on. The advice this time is that middle child Kevin is destined to live out his days in the middle bed silently cursing into his sheets those words almost as famous as the whole of Macbeth - Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!

Marcia of course is destined to be the most popular girl in the school. Remembering our Marcia is an Australian, ginger bogan - the corresponding level of popularity places her passed out on some unbelievably cool guy's lounge-room floor with her skirt up, alcopop in hand and a penis drawn on her cheek. When our Julia gets to be the centre of attention she makes so many people happy and deserves her well earned nickname as the lucky count - ry.

She is our Marcia and Jan should come to terms with that. The honest truth is, Australian's would rather have an angular, ginger, bogan as the sister in charge than some socially awkward, albino, number crunching middle child.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Gay Marriage

This was originally written as song lyrics for my Brother's show, but he worried the audience may rise as one and hate it. He feared they may misconstrue it as a genuine Anti-Gay marriage protest song. I think it's pretty clear what's being said, but you be the judge. (His show played at Chapel on Chapel in Melbourne and then at the Edinburgh Festival to rave reviews btw. The show was called 'So Inappropriate' - so it would have been perfect!)

The sanctity of marriage is the new topic de jour
Anyone can do it, doesn’t matter, rich or poor
It’s a sacred oath to God that shouldn’t be ignored
Unlike other oaths to God that make us kind of bored.

But don’t let those gay folk reach the altar
They wouldn’t know their fingers from their ring
They’d decorate the church in gaudy colours
And they’d all be booking Elton John to sing!

Marriage is a union, till death tears you apart,
Unless you’re young, you rushed a bit or needed a green card
The ring, the dress, the spot-lit vows, it’s all that we adore,
And I should know, the records show, I’ve done it twice before!

But don’t let those gay types reach the alter
It’s reserved for those who understand the vows
The church is not a toy, like a priest’s young altar boy,
It’s entirely there to join the Herr and Fraus.  

You can read all my published poems at Outrageous Rhymes or my other published works at Smashwords.

Also - if you're a composer and feel like finally giving these lyrics a tune - Go for it! I'm sure there's a group who would love it in a revue somewhere. 

God is Gay

Because I like to stir the pot - I thought I'd post some of my poems individually - especially the ones that will offend! I just can't help myself. If you're inclined you can read the whole volume of Outrageous Rhymes along with my other published work for free HERE.

God’s older than time, that’s not just a line, 
Even Gaydar would list him above 39.
He’s certainly single, no wife on the shingleNo fiancĂ©e, or girl, no regular twirl.
And a lot has been penned about God and his friends,
But never a line of a girlfriend spoken
In his house the male form goes unbroken
So he’s up their alone, in a home he calls heaven,
Avoiding suspicion with Romans 1:27
But he’s not all alone as he works on our fates
There’s talk of his friend, attending the gates.
Peter his ‘flat mate’ who works the front yard.
Toiling all day, his abs cut rock hard.
And the bible tells more, about others before,
One of them Gabriel who God once adored.
Cast out of heaven in a terrible fight
God took off his wings denying him flight.
And unlike straight couples who argue for debts,
A gay separation is about wardrobe and pets
So Gabriel’s wings, the metaphor clear,
The wings were designer, the season last year.
And why should we argue or take any bets,
When Noah’s quite famous for taking the pets. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

Robbing the poor to give to the rich!

When did we stop caring about Quality? Because we don't care any more. There's an ad on TV that has Kmart rounding up a group of women and challenging them to guess the price of a number of items. Of course they're all shocked to find out the cushions/scarfs/shirts/sheets/pants cost so little.... and they laugh and celebrate at how wonderful life is in a world with a store that's a large shed and able to sell products for a price that is far less than the sum of any of their parts. God bless our modern world!

Of course the fact a multinational/multi million dollar profit making company is so comfortable to put an ad like this on TV is the real story here. And even worse is this real story is no longer even noticed. It doesn't shock anyone as cruel of the super chain stores to gloat at the bargains they can bring to our everyday lives. How well we've all been deceived by the rich about the world we live in and the quality of the lives we lead!
How does anyone offer a microwave for $45 or a pair of jeans for $10 and shoes for $5.

There are a number of possibilities - 1/ Slave labour. Third world sweat shops as producers. 2/ Electronic components being sourced from raw materials from third world countries, 3/ A buying power so enormous that individual units are incredibly cheap, or 4/ Make the products as cheaply as possible with little regard for longevity or ongoing quality.

Once you factor in the fact that corporations are now legally ruled to be people, a decision that still defies any sense of credibility, and they only answer to shareholders and shareholders are only after or happy with one thing, increasing share prices - you can safely bet all of the above go into keeping prices low and profits high.

 "The United Nations issued a damning report on the, "illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo."  Guns, Money and Phones. Global Issues.

And these resources are going into all electronics. Now every company will declare they never source any of these raw materials or labour from third world countries. They source their supplies only from reputable manufacturers. And those reputable manufacturers source their raw materials from reputable suppliers who get their materials from many varied sources and they in turn - HEY LOOK OVER THERE! IS THAT A MICROWAVE FOR $45!!!!

And the corporations wash their hands of the whole thing. 

To be tarnished by exacerbating the plight of an innocent impoverished third world people would be bad for the image and may cause a backlash that would reduce sales and then reduce profits. So lets not dig too deep - because we love profits and we love $20 bedlinen!

And that's why we're so happy! Because tonight we are sleeping on 500 cotton thread count sheets and they feel so good. And next month, after a couple of washings they'll feel a bit thin. And in 8 months, they'll rip and the stitching will come out and - Oh sorry, there's no guarantee on that item and no return after a month. But it was only $20 - so no harm no foul. Let's just buy another one! Hooray all around! I am happy, the shareholder is happy, even little 15 year old Indira is happy because she was just allowed a pee break - now back to work Indira - or risk your 15 cents an hour!

And somewhere, there are a few who own enough of these companies' shares to accurately lay claim to owning the entire chain of stores. They never stop to think of how their products are directly disadvantaging those who make them. They'll argue Indira and her kind are better off having a job than not. They don't care that the pair of pants you bought are so thin they'll rip if you brush by a sharp corner on a bench or that the microwave is supplied with raw materials raped from an African farmers land. They're only concern is to bring you the best quality at the lowest prices. They want you to be happy.

It's pleasing to hear them say they are trying to give you the best quality. What? Sorry? That's not a singular statement, more a compound phrase? Huh?! Oh.... I see, best quality at the lowest prices is only accurate when spoken together. In other words, ...
So it's not a lie. They really do bring you the very best quality at the very lowest prices. Any higher in price an they'd no longer be able to lay claim to bringing you the best quality at that price. Any lower quality and they couldn't argue they are doing you the best price - because by lowering the quality even slightly you could get the same exact thing for free by scouring a tip, your neighbours bin or the back of a charity shop.

"But they aren't ripping me off. I'm not playing into their hands by blindly accepting what they tell me. I'd never succumb to a shiny new thing at the expense of doing harm to an already impoverished worker." 

99% of us do and there's nothing we can do to stop it or change it. We can agitate and make people aware - but the wait to change, equalise and eradicate poverty is like the wait for Godot... so don't give up agitating, especially when directed at the fat cats who can truly do something to change things. But try to enjoy yourself while you're doing it - because we may be here a long time.

And while you're waiting, here's a test to work out whether you are of the new aristocracy or an everyday pleb/serf simply being toyed with to allow the wealthy upper class to continue their lavish lifestyles.
  1.  Look around your home, can you find small items, bought because they looked good, you thought you'd use them, they were something that appealed to you on impulse?
  2.  Are these things now cluttering up shelves and on display so others will see that shiny new thing you liked in the store so much, even though you haven't used, looked at, thought about it for days/weeks/months?
  3.  When you go through a cupboard/storage area, are you reminded of a different times of your life just by the small and varied trinkets/objects/gizmos you re-discover?
  4. Are you sitting on a yacht or on an Island, or would you need to ask the help to answer any of the first three questions?

If you answered yes to any of the first three - grab an oar and keep rowing before you get your ass whipped. If you answered yes to question four - can I have my money back please?

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Facebook and your personal privacy.

I found this cartoon - thanks to failbook, I had to post and comment on it because it is just so astute.

So true! I have certainly noticed over the past year or so how aggressive Facebook, Gmail, Blogger and many other sites have become at asking for more private information from me "to benefit my experience of their site'.

I don't know about you, but I like Facebook. I can briefly glance at the page and find out what my friends have been up to and lessen my guilt at not calling enough of them to catch up. But why would I want my phone to msg me every time someone wants to make public that they are going out and can't decide whether to go formal or casual. (All they really want is for me know they have been invited to some big do.... knowing this vital information can wait.)

The problem is the explosion of cold calling pollsters has diminished lately because of sites like facebook, amazon, ebay, etc. Every time we do anything on-line the information becomes theirs to sell and make more profit on top of the ads they now run. A friend of mine made a very funny comment about Sarah Palin on Facebook a while back and within a week started getting updates from the Palin camp. There is only one way this can have happened - a program that scours the pages of Facebook to categorize everything written into groups that can be sold off for profit to people who are looking to hit you with ads to buy things or support causes. That's why my phone number and facebook will never meet.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Trip to Thailand

I spent August in Thailand and loved every minute of it. While I was there I got news about being a finalist in the Global E book awards for Inner City.

I went for a holiday between scripts for television shows I'm freelancing for and while there, instead of relaxing 100% of the time, I spotted the Scriptapalooza TV competition and being such a fan of 30ROCK and feeling I'd never get a chance to write for them - I did a spec script for the show as an entry. Pretty simple - think up a story - match it to the characters and make it funny. Of course how do you write as funny as someone like Tina Fey? Almost impossible... Her list of past presidents from Jack Donaghy's mouth are: President Reagan, President Bush, President Intra-Bush, President W Bush. That line still makes me laugh!

The entry was a fun thing to try and when it doesn't place I will stick it up here on this blog for everyone to read.

But Back to Thailand - I promised to put up pictures of my trip. Here they are:

The view from my condo

 My new friend - San.

 I travelled to Roi-et and Mukdahan on the boarder with Laos. San took me to his parent's farm and on the way I saw miles and miles of rice fields and wandering buffalo.

 Photos from one of the many temples. I am sure this one was in Roi-et. I won't go on a rant about religion because each to their own - but sometimes I think religious leaders should also go to business school. Having collection tins and 'relics' for sale at every turn gives away the main objective.

 Outside Roi-et. Looks like a twister to me - but we just kept driving towards it. Why not - what's the worst that could happen. Duck - flying monk!

 Shame this has no scale to show just how big it was. All the bugs and insects in tropical countries seem larger to me.

Original artwork now hanging on my condo wall. I bought this from a local artist. It had been hanging in his gallery for a long time and I spotted it high on a wall. I paid a deposit and came back to pick it up a few days later. I handed over what I owed and the artist told me to be careful with it because the paint was wet. I asked how and why the paint was wet - because that was weird - and he admitted - on looking at it again so long after finishing it - he simply wasn't satisfied. How great is that?! A true artist! He had to fix what he saw as wrong - even though he'd already made the sale.

 A 180 degree view from my condo.

 How it began the day I bought it.

Just concrete, bathroom fixtures and a smoke detector.

And all finished.

If I could have my way I'd be out on this balcony with this view writing happily away all year around.
One day - hopefully.

World War 3

This is something I've had rattling around in my head, probably since the huge bailouts occurred in the US way back in 08. To me it's clear World War 3 is well and truly under way and thankfully for all of us, it's financial and not a physical war of blood and bullets.

The irony is, America, a country that, regardless of what anyone tries to say, has been the world leader for almost a century, exporting 'American' democracy and more importantly, American culture and thinking across almost every country in the world, has almost neutered themselves as a significant force in this economic war because of the obsession to remain the world's strongest physical power.

In short - they spent all their money going to the gym and building themselves up and the other guys studied hard and saved and now have enough money to get a date with anyone they want.

And yet the arguments continue against raising the higher bracket tax rates that are at historical lows (1900-1912 excluded) - a move that would fix so much so quickly.

I understand no-one wants to pay more tax.

But with the uber wealthy coming out and declaring this is needed and what they themselves want - and with others like Gates and Buffet donating more money than anyone in history to the third world or lower socio economic groups - what is going on and who is it that is so tight fisted they aren't willing to fight/fix for the economic health of the country that made them so privileged?


I guess it is easier to send a young man or woman to a foreign country to risk their lives with a gun than it is to prise a dollar from the fist of a wealthy man.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Dan Poynter's Global Ebook Awards

I'm a few posts behind because of my trip overseas. I arrived back home last week and then got struck down by the worst flu I've had in years. I don't know if I caught it off the plane or I brought it back with me. Anyway, on the 17th of August I was emailed that INNER CITY had been judged a finalist in Dan Poytner's Global ebook award.

The winners were announced on the 20th with all finalists invited to USA to attend the awards ceremony. Wow - talk about needing to be in the Amazing Race just to make it there.

This was the first year of the awards so I thought I'd put down my thoughts about the experience I found from entry through to finale.

Firstly let me say I am no writing award virgin. I have a Writer's Guild award for theatre sitting on my shelf, I was nominated for another in TV. I was a finalist in the Southern Cal independant film festival, in the screenplay comp in 2009, Scriptapalooza finalist for a Reality TV concept and an AFI winner as Script Producer for Neighbours way back in the late nineties.

There are a huge number of competitions for writers to enter - all ask for entry frees of between 30 and 75 USD. If you're a writer and want a fast easy and comprehensive way to know when how and which to enter... check out and join 'Withoutabox'

So back to the Global Ebook awards - any award helps a writer - so I hesitate to go negative. I'm sure some readers will come to Inner City as a result of being named a finalist.

But I did have a few concerns so will simply list them...

First, Inner City seemed to be nominated because it was entered. It was certainly listed as nominated before I sent a copy of the book in. I may be doing them a disservice - someone may have gone to the provided link to the book, read it and decided it had merit, but it seemed quick.

Next I noted an email asking for people to act as judges a good time after I had been listed as a nominated entry.

Then my announcement as finalist came 3 days before winners were to be announced at a big ceremony. And finally, promised feedback from judges hasn't eventuated.

So where do I sit about this competition and whether or not it is worthwhile... I would say too early to call. Ebooks are so new that it's a great initiative and may well turn into something really important. I am on the fence because it's a first year and I applaud their effort to get something started. But with anything, prestige comes by high standards. It shouldn't be easy to be nominated, or listed as finalist or to win. Judges need to be in place and respected people in the community - they need to be listed as part of the reason people should enter in the first place - not be wrangled into place at the last minute.

And finally, the campaign of publicity for finalists and most importantly winners should be awesome and ongoing. It is now 10 days after the competition has ended and my inbox should be filling up with notifications of interviews and links that have been made, forged, found and created to help get the winning books out into the Ebook reading community. To date I have had 3 emails - 2 offering to make me trailers for my book at a cut price and one to let me know if I haven't received feedback to date - probably not going to happen.

So should you enter next year - I will again. But if some of these things are not improved as the competition moves into future years, I'd be tempted to give it a miss.

UPDATE*** I've just received 7/9/11 an email from the competition offering a guide to help self promote my book. I'll have a better look at it when I have time - but it looks like some fairly interesting tips towards self promotion and this was also part of what was promised for winner/finalist in the competition. It says it's the first of more - just letting everyone know - they are certainly trying to make the awards more than just a entry fee/scalping exercise so good for them! I'll keep you updated.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Global Ebook Award Finalist

Inner City made it all the way to the finals of the Global Ebook awards. Just on 2000 downloads now and still going strong. Thanks to all my readers and hope you're enjoying it.

I have been overseas for 3 weeks and will post an entry and some pictures when I've had time to settle back into homelife.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Travels in Thailand

Apologies for being out of touch for a  while, but I've been travelling Thailand. I've just logged on and found all the menus are in Thai sanscript so going by memory. Lots of pictures and stories of wandering buffalo and monks as well as the usual feast of amazing sights......

I've also just received an email from the Global E Book Awards to let me know Inner City has been listed as a finalist - great news and it continues to download well even while I'm away!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Inner City

Inner City continues to download well on Smashwords and has now started selling on Amazon - the kindle version. Thanks to everyone who's buying!

For anyone interested in seeing what it's about.... here's the cover and the first few chapters...

Chapter 1.

Callen sat on a moulded plastic bench positioned at the far end of a long corridor. It was a cold, empty corridor in the centre of the Family Administration Agency. He watched his feet swing back and forth, but his mind was riveted on what was going on behind the large double doors in front of him.
 Leona and Jonathan Carrus were on trial as parents of Callen, their seven year old boy. They had spent the morning trying to convince the Judge they were close to developing a new compound that would help reverse their business fortunes.
 “I don’t understand why I’m looking at all this technical data,” the Judge said, his frustration towards the speed of the trial starting to show.
Leona and Jonathan’s Lawyer stubbornly continued his argument.
“We are demonstrating, Your Honour, the potential for a breakthrough. Every person in this city carries a crystal containing their personal scan. Every person,” he emphasised. “That’s almost ninety million potential clients.”
The judge was losing patience.
 “We are dealing with a very simple question of wealth. The defendants no longer meet the requirements and their son is not yet nine years old, so he’s eligible for reassignment. Is there anything else I should be considering?”
 The Judge’s duty was a grave one. But his decision was delivered for the greater good of the community. Within the city the average life expectancy was one hundred and thirty years and the longevity of life had caused overcrowding. New lives were at a premium. Each one had to be carefully assigned to those best suited to provide and raise a child. Countless couples were waiting for a child of their own, and their businesses were flourishing, not going backwards.
 While the Judge knew of the pain his decision would cause in the short term, he remained convinced he was working for the greater good of all those who lived within the city’s walls.
“Callen Carrus is to be taken from his parents and reassigned immediately to a new eligible couple who meet the financial requirements.” The hammer fell. The decision was final.
 Leona wept uncontrollably. Tears streamed down her face. Jonathan sat beside her. For the first time in his life he did nothing to comfort his wife when she needed comfort. They had just lost their son. When they were granted the right to have Callen their business was going from success to success. Now, here they were, less than a decade later, listening to a judge destroy their lives - their family.
 As a guard came and stood behind Leona and Jonathan, the Judge looked to them.
 “Your son is to be escorted from this building. You are to have no further contact with him and no record of his existence with you is to remain. If you try to contact the boy in any way, you will be charged and face a sentence of fifteen years incarcerated public service. Do you understand?”
 Leona sobbed as she nodded. Jonathan hardly moved.
“Yes”, he said without ever taking his eyes off the Judge. They had no choice but to accept that Callen was no longer their son.
 A neat woman with a painted smile entered the far end of the corridor. She walked directly towards Callen. Her conservative skirt and button down blouse sung of her position within the government and try as Callen might to ignore her approach, he couldn’t.
“Callen”, she said from about half way down the hall. “Come with me, please”.
“I’m waiting for my parents. They’re in there”, he said pointing to the door in front of him.
“No, they’re not sweetheart. Come on, I’ll explain everything”.
Callen looked to the women. She was trying her best to look like a friend. She held out a hand, her delicate fingers extended. Callen jumped up from his seat and ran at the large doors to the courtroom. He pulled hard on the handles but hardly managed to move them. The doors were locked.  Callen cried out.
“Mummy! Daddy!”
 In the courtroom Leona and Jonathan tensed to the sound of Callen’s cries. They reached for each other’s hands and squeezed tight. Legally their son was now someone else’s concern.
 Callen was led away down the long corridor. He struggled hard, but the dissenting seven year old proved little problem to his practised escort. At the end of the corridor a door swung shut behind them. The ensuing silence made a mockery of the extreme drama that had played out along the hard polished floor.

Chapter 2.

 Callen sat in an empty room, the third room he’d been asked to wait in already this day, not including the corridor where his nightmare began. Every now and then someone would come and talk through legal protocol, but Callen’s head was swimming with information and he’d rather pretend he agreed than try to fully understand what was happening. The wheels of administration wrapped the red tape around him and his seven years of experience were hardly adequate to keep up with the many stages the law seemed to be guiding him through. All he knew for sure was that his parents were not with him and he was expected to accept they would never be with him again.
 His mind protested the fact. He remembered the lessons about families at school. The icy cold fear of every child surrounded him. He wasn’t going to let it happen. He wouldn’t submit himself to being reassigned and he didn’t care who his new parents were, he’d never accept them.
 Finally, late in the day, Callen was collected by a young man who took him to a dormitory. He was assigned a bed within a plastic moulded room. Here he’d wait until tomorrow, when his new parents would arrive to take him home. Callen said nothing. He didn’t want anyone knowing the thoughts he was having. When the reassignment was finalised, he’d go with his new parents and play at being a dutiful son. At the first opportunity he’d be away to find his old home and his real parents.
 Callen took a long time to fall asleep. As he lay in darkness his mind drifted and fell upon the memory of a holiday taken beyond the city walls, to a sister city by the beach. He’d watched the in flight viewer showing magnified images of the barren land they were passing over. He watched riveted with his family as they saw movement far below. One of the ‘outlocked’ living a poor excuse for a life in the exiled wastelands, far removed from the modern privileged lives being lead within the City’s walls.
 As Callen lay in his bed trying desperately not to think of his reassignment, this memory helped ease his mind and induce sleep. At the time the sight of that one outlocked scavenger, so far below, terrified him and made it impossible to enjoy any part of his holiday. Callen recalled the hotel where they stayed and that first night when his dreams wouldn’t let go of that scavenger. His parents came to him to help ease the many frightening thoughts he was having: What if they were cut off while on holiday? What if they were overrun by the Outlocked? He woke up his parents with these alarming thoughts. They took him in their arms and held him tight, assuring him such things could never happen. That memory, of being nursed in his parent's arms almost four years before, finally gave Callen the peace he needed to fall asleep.
 Come morning, he was woken early and taken to a shower where he was rudely scrubbed by a woman wearing rubber gloves and an apron. The task left him humiliated, but more was to follow. He was taken, still naked into a doctor’s surgery. There was no colour at all in any of the rooms. Not the room he slept in, not the shower room, not this new room. A doctor entered, she too was dressed in white to match the room. Callen stood shivering, not from cold, but nerves. The doctor was a young woman and she went about her business with great routine. Measurements and checks were made of Callen without a word of explanation. At the end of the examination the doctor sat behind a desk and scribbled on a file.
“You’re a very fit young boy. You’re going to make some lucky parents a wonderful son.”  The doctor closed the file and left the room.
The door to the room remained open and Callen hid behind it peering out. Had everyone forgotten he was naked?
 The women, who had scrubbed him down, re-entered and took him by the hand. Callen had had enough.
“Can I have some clothes?!”
The woman looked at him in astonishment, almost as if the request was a strange one.
“You’re about to get a whole new wardrobe if you’d just be a little patient.”
Callen gave in and walked with the large women as she navigated the hallway. There was no-one else walking by to see him, something he was extremely grateful about. Another room waited; another white room. He sat on a cold plastic bench moulded into the wall. His hands stayed fast to his lap. The women in white left him alone. Callen looked around the room. It was unremarkable. His nerves were frayed, his emotions frantic. The door reopened and Callen tensed up. Who now? The women in white re-entered. She wheeled in a plastic cage. Callen stared at it. All he could think of was that he was to be placed in this cage and wheeled around on parade.
“What’s that for?” he asked nervously.
“For you,” she said.
The women swung open a door and revealed clothes. The cage was a wardrobe now displaying, shoes, socks, underpants, pants, shirts and jumpers.
“These are all yours. Paid for by the Helfners.”
Callen had never heard of this organisation.
“Your parents.” She explained.
Callen stared motionless. In one day his entire life had been turned upside down and shaken. The women left the room and Callen quickly went to the cage to dress. He searched for his favourite labels and finished looking like a mannequin in a department store, displaying the unmistakable creases that new clothes hold.
 The door to the room was still open and the moment Callen was happy with his appearance, he walked through it. One step into the adjoining white corridor he came face to face with the women in white.
“Good, you’re finished,” she said. “We’ll get all the other clothes sent around to your home some time later today. Your Mum and Dad are waiting for you. I think they’re a little excited.”
Callen had been doing his best to remain brave, but the mention of two strangers now being called his ‘mum and dad’ was too much to handle and he broke down in tears. Within seconds, Callen was a sniffling, snorting, hyperventilating mess. His need for air produced a louder cry when he breathed in than when he was actually crying. The women in white showed compassion; it was hard to tell if she was responding to the harshness of Callen’s experience, or simply because the tears of a seven year old reached her heart.
 She hugged him close until his tears stopped.
“You have to be brave about this. The Helfners are going to love you very much. You’re a lucky young man.”
“I don’t want new parents. I want to go home to my real mum and dad.”
This statement threw the woman. She didn’t know how to react.
“You’re seven years old, aren’t you?”
Callen nodded.
“Surely you’ve been taught about families at school? You must know how people have children?”
Callen went silent. He did know. He’d been remembering those lessons he’d been taught since this nightmare began. He could virtually recite every word he’d ever been told about the subject, but that didn’t make it any easier to accept. After a moment he reluctantly nodded that he understood. The woman showed relief. Had he not known, for whatever reason, she could have been facing quite an awkward situation. She moved quickly, brushing a few stray fibres from Callen’s new clothes as she tried to encourage his recovery.
“See if you can’t cheer yourself up a little. Your new parents don’t want their first sight of you to be in tears.”
Callen ran the back of his hand across his eyes.
“Good, boy. Now let’s put a smile on that face and go and meet your new mummy and daddy.”
Callen was led away through another door into a room of colour. A room of synthetic seats and viewer screens. A room of sound and activity. Raegher and Annie Helfner sprang to their feet as their number was called. They threw their arms open and hugged Callen as if he was a long lost son, which, in a way, he was. Callen suffered the smothering without a word. There was little else he could do.
 The trip home was uneventful. Both Raegher and Annie were nervous and couldn’t stop telling him all their plans. They could have been talking about revolution for all Callen knew. He kept nodding and changing his focus from one to the other, all the time watching the passing streets. He was desperately trying to map the direction of his old neighbourhood. The Helfner’s unit was almost two hours drive from the administration buildings. By the time they arrived Callen’s head was spinning with landmarks and turns taken and all the while the incessant chatter continued.
 On their arrival at the Helfner’s home Callen was shown straight to his new room. The walls were bright yellow. A bright blue bed with bright red cupboards set them off. A mobile of the solar system hung from the light and as the planets rotated, so did the coloured lights they gave off. Callen was overcome with the vibrant room. He sat on the bed and the Helfners retreated to prepare for their first dinner together. Callen began planning when and how to leave this new and unfamiliar family behind.
 Dinner was a feast. Everything any seven year old could want. Largely synthetic, but far more nourishing than anything natural. The ham and vegetables were a forerunner to the sweets. An ice cream pie with a crust of chocolate biscuit all covered in fudge so thick it stopped running as it cooled. Callen’s appetite had not suffered at all during the past twenty four hours and he happily had a third helping of desert to the delight of his new parents.
 In bed, he was visited and kissed on the forehead no less than three times, before Annie and Raegher finally turned in for the night. Callen waited a good hour, desperately keeping his focus so as not to fall asleep. When he thought the time was right, he silently inched down the hall to find his new parents, they were sound asleep. Back to his room, he rummaged quietly in his wardrobe. He located a back pack perfect for what he had in mind. He loaded the bag with all the clothes he thought he might need, which really wasn’t much, and he left the room.
 Quietly he navigated the stairs, stopping only at the kitchen to add some easily carried food to his load. He walked to the door and opened it. He rode the lift to the ground floor and slid out into the night. He was away, on a journey to find the parents he loved and refused to leave. Everything was going perfectly. He’d have the whole night to get a head start on those looking for him.
 The building’s alarm wailed to life. A flashing light above the door lit the surrounding buildings with its intermittent piercing blue light. Callen couldn’t believe he’d missed something so obvious – the alarm! He turned and ran. His plan would remain the same - the only thing altered by the oversight was his head start.

Chapter 3.

 Callen ran and ran. Past the prefabricated buildings that stretched as far as the eye could see. Past the communal park designated to the area. He headed for the transport stations. If he could just make it to an underground carriageway, he’d be whisked out of the neighbourhood and could relax. The streets were all clean, the buildings were all similar. It was hard to keep his bearings as he ran. As he rounded another corner he came to an abrupt halt, worried that he’d travelled the road before. He hadn’t. A solitary splash of colour on a nearby wall, gave the street an unknown identity, again he started to run.
 Beads of sweat formed on his brow. By his reckoning, the whole world was after him and he had to keep moving as fast as he could. He also knew the stories from the playground that a reassigned child was never treated the same again after they’d made an attempt to escape back to their previous life. Callen was determined to make this attempt successful. He knew he wouldn’t have another opportunity any time soon.
 He was unaware of how little danger he was actually in. While the Helfners may have alerted the authorities, only those with the specific brief to track him down would ever pose any threat to him. Youth had become a symbol of prosperity. Children had become the new elite, an aristocratic class; revered and powerful in their own right by nothing more than association. The city housed many millions and less than ten percent would ever rise to be successful enough to be allowed a single child in their lifetime. The criteria to qualify were wealth and power, so any child had to be associated with a family of considerable standing. To cause distress to a child, to impede, to interfere in any way, was to ask for someone with power to step in and take an interest. Given Callen’s age, the crowds literally parted in front of him. Few gave him more interest than a stare of curiosity. He was obviously heading somewhere and no one wanted to slow him down in any way.
 As he ran, Callen took little notice of the city around him. To him it was unremarkable. He’d lived his Seven years, taking all the technology and infrastructure for granted. It existed and he lived with it. Nothing seemed to impress him about it, nor did it impress any of his young friends or the countless hordes that called it home. The only people truly impressed by the way the city lent itself to modern life were the elderly. Anyone over the age of one hundred could remember when the world they lived in was new. They remembered how they’d marvelled at every new building as it was moulded from indestructible plastics and clicked into place as the pieces came together. They marvelled at the climate control systems that gave them perfect weather and mirrored their regimented lives.
The pollution problem had long been solved with pipes that took the city’s exhausts and sent them into the wilderness. Wealth was accounted for by a tally of debits and credits recorded on a microscopic chip worn on band around a person’s wrist. To flash this across a scanner recorded the transaction and adjusted the balance. To remove the band, made the contents irredeemable and only the chemical signature of the owner, given off in a normal relaxed state, could validate it again.
 Those eating at local cafes on the sidewalk watched Callen pass. They made no attempt to find out where he was running to. It would have been novel to think, in less enlightened times a Seven year old running in desperation down a main street close to midnight would have raised more concern. Tonight it barely brought a sideways glance.
 Callen was looking for darkness and he thought he’d found it in the park. A long thin stretch of artificial grass, bushes and trees, that lay between two lines of large multi storeyed apartment houses. Every foot of every park was assigned in accordance with the number of people living in the area. The single light in the park shone out and the trees provided a canopy that gave Callen some momentary security. For the first time in almost an hour Callen stopped running. He slumped down and lay on his back on the cool imitation grass. He gained his breath quickly and within a minute or two was able to sit quietly and look around. To one side of the park was a small lake. He could see the bushes that surrounded it. This would be the perfect place to hide. He moved to the bushes and stopped suddenly. A strange noise could be heard; someone in pain. Callen took tiny steps towards the bushes. The noises became louder and his curiosity pushed him further and made him forget about his own escape.
 With one more step, Callen was as close as he dared. He raised his hand and inserted it between the long slender leaves of the bush in front of him, moving them out of his line of sight. What he saw shocked and confused him. On the shiny resin rocks that formed the surround of the lake, nestled deep amongst the bushes and well out of sight of anyone, lay two naked teenagers: a boy, maybe seventeen years old and a girl about the same age. Their clothes were nearby on the ground in no particular order and their bodies were entwined. Their skin beaded with sweat, set off like small fluid crystals against the moonlight. The young girl was on her back, with the boy on top of her. Callen watched in awe. He knew what he was watching from talk he’d heard amongst his friends. Callen wasn’t sure what to do. The couple could be exiled from the city or incarcerated for most of their lives for what they were doing. If Callen didn’t report them and this was discovered, he could be arrested as well. The young lovers continued until slowly they came to rest. They breathed heavily and went quite still, lying by each other as if sleeping. Finally they laughed, enjoying their moment together. Callen went to move. He caught his foot on a lower branch as he backed away. The bush shivered into the silent night and the couple suddenly sat bolt upright, staring at the bush. They were looking straight at Callen who froze behind the bush. The boy went to his clothes and quickly did up his pants. From his jacket he took a shinning blade, it kissed the moonlight with a ray of reflected light. Callen could not move now if he wanted to. The young girl began to dress as the boy took steps, one by one, bringing him closer. Callen trembled in fear. The boy circled, desperately searching the leaves for whatever made the bush shudder. His shaking hand gave away his mood. His bare feet took slow but sure steps on the smooth resin floor. His damp naked torso a backdrop to the glittering blade held aloft.
 He stopped dead, staring straight into Callen’s eyes through a gap in the leaves. Callen jumped up to run, but the boy was too quick and with a scream from Callen and a bold yell from the young boy Callen was roughly pushed to the ground.
“Do it”, said the girl now almost fully clothed.
“He’s a kid”, said the boy, firmly holding Callen to the ground with the blade gripped menacingly near his neck.
“He saw us. You know what that means if he tells someone?”
“I don’t think he’s going to.”
As he spoke the young boy motioned with the knife to Callen’s pants. A wet spot had appeared and was growing like the boundaries of a victorious country at war. Callen was shaking all over.
“He’s not going to be too scared to tell tomorrow.”
The young boy thought about the point his girlfriend was making. Slowly he turned his head to Callen. The two stared at each other for a moment, until the young boy spoke.
“Sorry, kid.”
He raised the knife and brought it down hard towards Callen’s chest.
 Callen reacted with a reflex out of fear and he jerked to avoid the knife. It wasn’t enough to escape the blade completely, but it was enough to save his life. The knife dug into his skin to the side of his rib cage. A rib guided the blade away from its intended mark. Callen cried out and kicked with pain. The boy with the knife recoiled back in shock at the unexpected defence. There was blood on the knife and Callen’s shirt was witness to the fact the knife had pierced his skin. He lurched in pain, throwing the young attacker off balance. Callen got to his feet and began to run. He ran holding his side and headed directly for the light of the nearby street. Being caught for running away from the Helfners now seemed like his best option. The young attacker took off after Callen, his steps getting closer and even the adrenalin charge of saving his life wasn’t enough to help Callen’s seven year old legs outrun his pursuer. He yelled out. He didn’t direct it at anyone, he simply yelled, screaming for help. The teenager in pursuit, stopped. In an instant he turned and ran in the opposite direction. His girlfriend was quick to follow and the park swallowed them up in darkness. Callen continued to cry out until he reached the road. He turned and showed surprise that his attacker had given up the chase. He was met with a sea of faces; some out walking, some from nearby restaurants, spilling onto the sidewalk, and some peering over balconies from the apartments above. To aid a youngster asking for help had its rewards and everyone was suddenly keen to offer assistance.
 Callen looked around and stared into the deserted park. His hand was on his side, covering the blood trickling down inside his shirt. A woman noticed.
“This boy’s hurt.”
Callen looked to his side and removed the pressure of his hand from his wound. The shirt was shinny, wet with blood.
“Oh, my God,” said another women with the well pronounced vowels and expensive clothes.
“Child, you need help.”
Callen put his hand back to his side and winced. The two women took hold of him. Callen kicked one in the shin.
“Owwww! You little shit!” she screamed. Her vowels lost their expensive cloak.
Callen ran from them both. The crowd, which had gathered to see what was going on, once again parted before him and he was back to running as fast as her could. He still thought the carriage system was his best option. If he could just make it to the underground lines he could slip off at a station and find some safety in the darkness of the tunnels that ran below the city. There he could rest, tend to his wound properly and wait until it had stopped bleeding. All he wanted was a place to hide and work out what to do without having to worry about anyone interfering with his plans.
 Callen ran as if he had a bad stitch. Occasionally he winced at the pain from his side, but he was determined to keep going. He hadn’t come this far and endured this much to give up now. When he finally reached the station he stood at the entrance and realised he had another problem. When he was taken from his parents and placed with the Helfners his credit band was taken. He had no credit to purchase a ticket. He watched commuters come and go. There seemed to be no way for him to get though the electronic gates without setting off the guard’s alarm. With so much at stake the last thing he needed was to be arrested for fare avoidance.
 He sat on one of the seats nearby and tried to come up with a solution. He couldn’t think of anything. He used the public toilet and rung out his shirt as best he could. He took some micro-thread towel and fashioned a poor bandage from it, before laying it across his wound. The wound was doing more than weeping. It was bleeding and Callen was in two minds about pushing on or turning himself in. He decided once a bandage of towelling was in place and his shirt was done up and dried he’d spend some more time searching for a way onto the carriage system. If he couldn’t solve the problem, he’d go back to the Helfners to be tended to. He sat down on a bench and began to think of how to solve his dilemma - sleep got in his way as his head wilted to rest on the back of the high moulded bench and he finally escaped, this time to dream.
 The sun had come up. A blue sky and high white clouds spotted in irregular patterns and projected onto the underside of the UV curtain made for the perfect day. It was exactly twenty five degrees. The weather bureau saw to that. Callen was woken by the sounds of commuters passing nearby on their way into the station. He woke himself properly, paying little attention to any of those passing, until a group of around twenty school children, all in casual clothes, came down the far ramp. One teacher accompanied them and barked orders. They were about Callen’s age and almost as an impulse he jumped onto the end of the group, walking calmly amongst them towards the entry gate. The teacher ran the school’s credit bracelet back and forth over the scanner. As Callen approached he held his breath. The red light went green. He was through and he followed his adopted classmates down onto the station platform.

Chapter 4.

Getting lost from the class was little trouble. Callen made a casual wander to the platform level toilets and took up residence in one of the cubicles. The children’s voices continued to drone out on the platform, until the whirring rush of the carriages approached from down the long darkened tunnel. The carriages stopped, exhaled and then inhaled with a clatter and a hiss. The voices of the young children became muffled as the doors closed them in for their journey. The carriages strained and then purred their way to a speed that generated the familiar sound of the windy express. All that was left was the distant rumble moving away and the sharp metronomic footsteps from departing commuters heading up the ramp towards daylight.
Callen walked out onto the deserted platform. He looked right and left and saw no-one. For the first time in hours he felt more at ease. Now what? Across the platform on the wall facing him was the ten foot smiling face of a woman with perfect hair and teeth: her beauty secret, pro elastin-mannitols. It meant nothing to Callen. He hardly even noticed the pro elastin face above him as he sat with his legs hanging over the edge of the platform. He’d decided to move from the platform and hide in the tunnel for as long as it took to sort out his bleeding stab wound. Again he looked the empty station over, before quickly lifting himself off the plastic platform and lowering himself to the tracks below. He walked quickly before coming to a stop to size up the tunnel he was about to enter.  He began to walk, hugging one of the walls. He was clear of the station, but quickly losing the advantage of light. His eyes slowly acclimatised and he found it surprisingly easy to see. He moved at a steady pace and the entrance to the underground labyrinth grew smaller and smaller behind him.
He walked until he could find a place to rest, an indent in the wall or a door to hide in. He found nothing. The sheer plastic walls continued and he worried about the carriages. There’d be one along soon and Callen wasn’t sure how much room he had to spare. He was about to find out for certain. A rumble in the distance gave away their approach. Callen felt for the wall. He pressed his back firmly into it. The carriages growled, louder and louder as they raced to meet him. Then, around an invisible bend in the distance they appeared. A bright light and a pilot’s window was all he could see, but a steady gust of wind began. Callen waited as the carriages whistled past. The wind they created was almost enough to make him adjust his stance. The bright windows flashed like a mosaic of the city’s belongings: an old man with a grey moustache, a business woman reading a paper, a mother and her young child. They appeared then disappeared as if by magic before Callen’s eyes. He took his head off the plastic tiles that had been his cushion. Could he be seen by those travelling aboard the carriage? If so, any number of police or guards could be sent to find him. There seemed no possibility for him to relax.
Callen began his lonely walk again – there had to be somewhere to safely rest. He felt like he was walking for miles and all the time he had a feeling of staying still. The tunnel was remarkable only in its relentless similarities. A yellow line, within the white plastic walls to the side of the composite plastic tracks, kept him company. There was nothing different from one step to another and the sameness was depressing. If he kept walking he’d end up at the next station. Even he could see the pointlessness in that.
Callen heard footsteps behind him. He stopped and listened in silence. There was no sound. He began to walk again and within a few steps he heard the sound again. Maybe only an echo through the plastic chamber, he thought to himself. He walked a few steps and then stopped suddenly. He briefly heard steps, but they could have been the sounds of his own bouncing off the plastic walls. They came from behind, some distance away. Perhaps from the point where the tunnel curves. Was it an echo? Is that how echoes work – around corners?
“Hello,” he called out in the most feeble of seven year old voices.
“Hello,” he heard back, repeating itself as if growing thinner and enveloping the voice of each call that had gone before. It was an echo. Callen’s nerves were growing weary of this adventure and the journey into the dark tunnels under the city was not providing him with the trouble free resting place he’d hoped for. All he wanted was to rest and recover while the hunt for him cooled down, then he could catch a carriage back to his real home. He walked on dragging a hand along the smooth wall beside him. He caught a glimpse of something in the distance. It looked like a door and surprisingly, he could see the outline more clearly if he didn’t look directly at it. He couldn’t work out what was going on. First his ears were listening to echoes and now his eyes were seeing mirages. Or was there a door up ahead? He quickened his pace. With each step he turned his head sideways to see the outline more clearly. As he moved closer he no longer needed to rely on refraction to see it. There was no doubt about it being real. His excitement grew as he closed in and that excitement turned to pure joy when he reached the doorway and discovered an unimpeded entrance to stairs that led down, away from the glare of the carriage windows and away from the last possible threat to him being found.
Callen carefully walked down the stairs.  Step after step, until in blackness, he ran out of steps. He stood, alone and lost. He couldn’t see a wall or a direction. He couldn’t even see the steps he’d come down and his first impulse was to turn around and climb back up the stairs. The thought barely settled in his mind before his parent’s image came to him. He lay down to rest and almost immediately fell asleep. Above him he could hear the rattle of another passing carriage. At least he was past that particular worry for a while.
A rasping sound sparked the birth of a flame from a lighter close enough to Callen’s face to singe his hair. Floating in darkness, lit up in horrifying theatricality, was the face of the seventeen year old boy who had tried to stab him. He’d followed him to finish the job and found Callen in the most perfect place to commit a crime undetected.
“Hello, kid,” he said, knowing this was his moment of terror to deliver. Callen opened his mouth and squeaked. Somewhere in his throat there was a blood curdling scream ricocheting around, searching for an escape that it was never going to find.  A knife came out and flashed silver against the flame.
“Not too many people come down here. Which is good for me, I reckon.”
Callen began to shake uncontrollably and his lip was flicking back and forth. To the sound of yet another carriage rattling past overhead, the knife was brought around to Callen’s throat. Callen’s legs went weak and he began to cry as he closed his eyes and tensed his face, preparing for what was to come. It never arrived. The knife fell from the boy’s hand and hit the ground. A moment later the boy joined the blade on the ground. Above, the carriage clattered away as a shuffling could be heard close by. Callen went to run, seizing his good fortune, but his legs buckled and he tripped. He lay on the ground, clutching at his injured side and moaning. The boy’s lighter flicked back to life. The boy hadn’t moved and he and his knife both remained motionless at the feet of a bearded old man dressed in rags.  The old man flicked the lighter closed and began to shuffle off.
“Please,” Callen called after him.
“What?” came the gruff reply as the old man stopped in his tracks.
“I don’t know where I am.”
“You’re below Sydenham Street.”
With that the old man began to walk again. Callen was quickly on his feet. The pain from his side had sharpened, but it didn’t stop him following the sound of the old man’s footsteps. The old man stopped on hearing the boy behind him.
“Are you following me?”
“I don’t have anywhere else to go.” 
The old man walked towards him and clicked his newly won lighter to life.
“What’s in the bag?” he asked.
“Clothes,” said Callen.  The old man sneered and turned.
“And some food,” Callen added.
This seemed to please the old man far more and he moved the lighter around Callen’s face to get a better look at him, coming to a momentary stop at his side, which was once again seeping fresh blood.
“Can you walk?” he asked.
Callen nodded. The lighter clicked to black as the old man closed the lid.
“This way,” he said.
That was all that welcomed Callen into his blackened world. Callen was simply pleased to be in someone else’s care. He never gave a thought to any danger associated with this old man. After all, without him, there would have been nothing but rest for Callen in one of the world’s largest tombs.
Together they walked for a long time. There was rubble under foot. Small crushed rock that had been evenly spread by time. Occasionally Callen would stumble as his foot came to rest on a larger rock that wasn’t secured. The old man had designed his shuffling steps to eliminate this distraction. Callen was now some way behind. His side was still seeping blood and he’d taken to holding it firmly as he walked. The pain was causing him to wince with each step, but he quickly forgot about the injury as they turned a corner. Up ahead, not fifteen metres away, was a piece of thin hessian cloth. It was draped over an opening; a small room that was fashioned out of a crumbled wall; a cave that the old man called home. The feature that intrigued Callen more than any other was the light straining to break its way through the cloth door. The old man swept past and was silhouetted, not in darkness, but in light from behind the curtain. Callen reached the doorway and slowly moved the cloth to one side with his hand. The cave was lit. Not well, but enough to see. 
There were two rooms, partitioned by a plastic sheet and propped up with some crates, all in various colours. There was a hole in the far wall with the telltale signs of a recent fire. On the ground nearby was a stockpile of sealed plastics, containing food. A small radio looking extremely antique, sat to one side of the room and a number of badly fashioned pieces of furniture, made from discarded plastic, stood at various points. The partition separated a bed that was raised off the ground. It was difficult to tell if it was made or not as the covers were rags, similar to those the old man wore. The bed could easily have held a dual purpose as a wardrobe. Callen stood watching the man go through a well rehearsed coming home ritual. This was a civilised being with everything but the civilised world to live in. Finally, having placed a number of items on a slightly skewed plastic shelf, he turned to Callen.
“Where did you get that?” he asked, indicating the wound in Callen’s side.
“In a park.”
Callen was now faced with making a quick decision. He’d been educated about the seriousness of concealing knowledge of physical intimacy and he decided to edit the events heavily as he retold them.
“I got in a fight.”
“Over what?”
The old man came and kneeled by Callen’s side, removing the blood soaked towel and inspecting the wound properly.
Callen paused. The old man looked at him. He knew there was more to be told, but he wasn’t going to force the boy to speak about something that he plainly didn’t want known.
“It’s alright,” he said. “You don’t want to say, we’ll leave it unsaid.”
The old man went back to work on Callen’s side. He went to a shelf and found a bottle. He then took a rag that looked less dirty than the others nearby and soaked it with the contents. Callen was watching without worry. The old man seemed to be acting in his best interests and he was quite happy to give him his complete trust. The old man brought the rag to Callen’s side. Callen reacted as if he’d just been branded with a red hot iron. The old man placed his other arm around Callen, now jumping and screaming out in pain. He was held in place and the severe heat and sharpness that the wound had suddenly found, forced him to continue with his fruitless struggle. A fire had been lit in the wound and for some reason yet another person seemed to be taking revenge on him for things he wasn’t aware he’d done. After a long moment, the pain became less intense. It was still stinging and uncomfortable, but Callen was aware the worst was over and his desperation was tempered. He began to breathe normally, but his eyes were wide, staring at the old man who seemed to have few cares about what he’d just done.
“I don’t have stitches, but if you stay still for a day or so it might take on its own. Looks to me like you’ve lost a lot of blood. Not enough to kill you. That stuff’ll kill any germs looking to get to it.”
The old man moved to put the stinging liquid away. The rag went onto a shelf, folded and stacked with others.
“So what did you bring to eat?” he asked.
Callen took a moment to recover and then unpacked his bag. He had some synthetic bread and meats. He also had a plastic jar full of chocolate fudge and as he brought this treasure from his pack, he explained that it really needed the ice cream pie to set it off, but he’d felt, under the circumstances, the fudge alone would have to do. The old man laughed, which eased any remaining tension Callen had about being in his company. Callen’s seven year old mind demanded to know more about this strange man and the questions began thick and fast. Who was he? Where was he from? How and why did he live where he did? And where did the light come from to light the room?
The old man was happy to give away all his secrets. His name was Lewis Aurum. He was born and bred in the city. He worked hard for almost fifty years before he decided to try and better himself through crime. He was caught for fraud and sentenced to public service for two years. When he was released he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With his police record, he was blamed for an attack he didn’t commit and given a life sentence of public service. Such a sentence included work details into the Outlocked land’s to gather natural resources for use within the city. It was during such a work detail that Lewis escaped, only to be set upon by the Outlocked. They had primitive weapons and no idea of what it was to be civilised. He waited to die, but found luck was on his side. They didn’t kill him straight off, but held him prisoner long enough for him to escape. The Outlocked chased him until he was cut off by a series of cliffs, but he managed to find a path that led him to an opening out of that hostile world and back to his own.
Lewis turned around and looked at the source of his light - it came from the wastelands.  He had crawled along it to escape the world beyond and he explained that due to his record and unfinished sentence, resurfacing in the city wasn’t an option for him. The only other choice was to remain hidden in the tunnels and fashion what life he could. Callen stared at the small tunnel. He could easily fit through it. The thought terrified him. His curiosity would love to have travelled the adventure to the Outlocked world, but his common sense and understanding of what would be waiting for him made him think better of it. He had a path of his own to travel - to reunite with his parents. He’d rest for a day or two with this charitable old man and then climb to the carriage way. Then he’d ride to his old neighbourhood. All he had to do now was wait and heal.
The cloth door lifted slowly upwards. Callen and Lewis swivelled their heads in unison to see the boy with his knife. He had a trail of blood down his cheek from his right temple. His hair was dusty on one side from where his head had slept unconscious on the ground.  He took a step inside the room.
“You should have stayed out of it, old man,” he said with a wave of his knife.
Lewis stood up and prepared for battle. Callen feared for him. He looked as old as anyone Callen had ever seen, by his best guest one hundred and forty or fifty years old. While a person’s life had extended itself to well over a hundred years above in the city, Lewis’ life had countered this trend since moving below. His diet had accelerated his age and Callen had no way of knowing he was barely seventy years old.
The two circled each other, until the young boy lunged forward. Lewis began to wrestle, prompting Callen to step in and try and help. The boy with the knife slung his arm at Callen and threw him away. The blade tore at the flesh on Callen’s upper arm and for the second time his blood baptised the knife. Lewis battled on and they struggled for a short while before the tension left the contest with a sharp movement from the boy’s arm. Callen couldn’t see the weapon anymore, but he knew exactly where it was. Lewis collapsed into the boy’s arms. The knife embedded to the hilt in his stomach and a coldness fast flowing over the old man’s face. He coughed slightly on finding rest on his knees and cried out when the boy removed the knife, letting him fall forward, his support now removed. He clutched at his stomach and seemed to shrink slightly, as he lay on the dirt floor. A single stream of blood meandered from underneath him to the foot of his attacker, now standing, staring at his victim and wiping the blade of the knife across his pants. The shine quickly returned to the blade.
As Lewis lay dying at his feet, the boy with the knife changed his focus to Callen. Callen held a hand over his arm, which bled freely from its fresh wound. The blood wasn’t stilled by the pressure of his hand and it formed a red glove as it coated his skin. Droplets were hitting the ground, having travelled over his hand and down his arm to the bend in his elbow. Callen was in great pain, but he wasn’t ready to die. In desperation he turned and crawled away, entering the small tunnel. The boy lunged and caught a foot, but his grip wasn’t firm and he was left holding a size five shoe. Callen crawled further. The opening to the Outlocked world was only a few metres ahead. Behind him, he heard the same shuffling sounds as the boy tried to follow him. Callen never thought of the consequences as he hit the light and emerged onto the steep slope of the near cliff like face of a small mountain. He rolled and skidded to the bottom, across loose rocks and sand, coming to rest fifty or sixty metres below. Above, at the opening to the tunnel, the boy looked down at Callen lying in pain. Nearby, an Outlocked scavenger had seen the dust clouds and was blowing a wooden trumpet to signal the arrival of an intruder from the city.
Callen saw more Outlocked approaching and began to take a few steps back up the steep slope. He looked up to see the boy, flashing his knife with a smile on his face. Callen changed direction and began to run as best he could. The Outlocked grew in number and, led by the trumpeter, began to chase. Their unkempt hair, emblazoned with ornaments of nature, jumped and bounced with each step they took. There garments dirty with wear and poorly cut from skins, gave them a prehistoric look. Callen’s pace increased. He wasn’t aware that two of the hunting party had broken off to try and scale the slope, having seen the young boy peering out from above. The boy disappeared quickly inside. He was happy to leave Callen to fend for himself and while he wanted to be certain of the outcome, he didn’t want to place himself at risk. Besides, he was convinced the Outlocked would finish the job he’d started.
The pursuit of Callen continued for some minutes. The Outlocked overtook him and wielded him around, as if they were mustering cattle. They had him heading back towards the area he’d come from. An exhausted Callen was sprinting; he’d lost any consideration for his wounds. The fresh cut to his arm was bleeding freely. The wound on his side had opened up to join it. He was fighting for breath as he ran. A number of times he was as good as caught, but the Outlocked seemed intent on extending the chase. Like a sport, their pursuit continued. Again and again they drove Callen in a direction of their choosing, until he was left no option but to try and scale the same slope he’d come down. The Outlocked chanted and screamed, as Callen struggled to gain a footing and ascend the slope. The blood still flowed from both wounds and his breathing was fast approaching the sounds of someone hysterically sobbing. Finally, half way up the face, he felt his head going light. His balance became unsure and all went dark.
He fell forward hitting the lose stones hard before beginning a tumbling descent like a rag doll. His tumbling fall continued until he reached level ground. Motionless, Callen lay unconscious at the feet of his pursuers. His breath made it obvious he had only passed out. The group looked at one another, unsure what to do next. ...