Got this via Dee Madigan. It's pretty funny.
And yes, I haz interwebz again.
Got this via Dee Madigan. It's pretty funny.
And yes, I haz interwebz again.
Got a tech coming around later this morning to replace the wall plate for my coaxial cable which was also slagged by the lightning strike last week. I'm writing this on my iPad, upstairs, using the data plan on my phone.
I have my Saturday column to get out later today, and I'll be interested to see how that goes on the pad, rather than the big arse iMac, which is a lot less attractive to work on without connectivity. At least for media work. For book writing it's probably better.
I had a nice note from a drop in reader, LCB, down the bottom of the Burger Lite entry, about the chuckles they'd had reading some old columns and blogs of mine. In one of those weird coincidences I was trying to find all of my old Blunts and comedy features yesterday. I wanted to toss them into Scrivener to practice putting together ebook manuscripts.
Uno Problemo, I seemed to have lost most of the files in the move from my old system to the new about a year back. Secondi Problemo, not everything would have been in my files anyway. I found one Bounders Club on my old machine, for instance, another two reproduced in full at somebody's blog, but no mor eat Fairfax. And I'm pretty sure I've written more than three.
So, does anyone have any particularly fond memories of lulz either here, at Blunty or just published generally, say at The Bulletin, over the years? I'll see if El Goog can dig them up for me.
I was organizing my work files when I came across a series of character work ups for The Disappearance series. Tusk Musso was in there, still carrying all of the baggage we loaded him up with in that 'Build Me a Marine' entry back at JSpace.
And Caitlin. My beloved Caitlin. It was fascinating to read the bio I wrote her before I wrote even a single word of Without Warning. Before I got anywhere near that first line:
The killer awoke, surrounded by strangers.
In my early planning she was more of a 'bionic woman' type, loaded up with inserts and biomods. I stripped all that out, along with a lot of the family history you see here. Her father and siblings, you might remember were much more conventional. Nonetheless, whenever I needed to understand how she might respond to an extreme situation, such as her imprisonment and sexual assault by al Banna, I would return to this document and read it through.
Reading it now makes me want to go back to that series:
Caitlyn awakes in a hospital bed in Paris. She has been taken there along with other protesters who were set up. She sustained a head injury and was scanned. A lesion appears to have formed on her hippocampus, leading to memory problems. The lesion is not related to her head injury.
Name: Caitlyn Monroe
DOB: Sept 1. 1976
Current Appearance: Blonde hair. Grey/green eyes. 5"9. 71kg. Surfer's physique. Long, well muscled legs, unusually powerful arms and shoulders. Calloused hands and sides of feet. Some scarring on left upper thigh. Lower back. Old entry and exit wound right shoulder. Some faded, old defensive scarring on her forearms. Small chip set scar within larger scar tissue mass. She moves with a low centre of gravity and a noticeably feline flow of her limbs. Her resting state is still, almost unnaturally so.
Parents: Father Unknown. Mother. Tamsyn Ozorio. Monroe's mother, a Honolulu hotel cleaner died during childbirth. Turned out by her Brethren family for having sex as a teenager, she won a trip to Hawaii in a Wal-Mart store promotion and stayed there. With no known relatives willing to claim the baby, Monroe became a ward of the state. She was fostered out to a series of homes, staying in none longer than six months. She was a problem child and many of the homes were themselves problematic. At the age of six she was 'adopted' by Echelon and raised by them to become a weapon. She had carers and tutors rather than parents, but the Echelon staff were kind and, with four other Echelon babies, they became her family.
The Echelon Parents, Monroe Cohort: Mary Jane Monroe. 'Mother'. DOB Jul 25, 1970. US Army Lt-Colonel. Psychologist. 'Father' Dave Monroe. US Navy Commander. Psychologist.
Echelon children, Monroe Cohort: Michael, born Aug 2 1996(actual); James. born Feb 3 1998 (actual). Trish. born March 12 1997 (actual). Julianne. born October 3 2000 (actual).
The Echelon Program.
First mooted in the late 1990s, but not activated until late 2002, the Echelon Program took a small number of state wards from a young age and 'adopted' them into Echelon families. They were to be raised, as the children of Sparta were once raised, to be weapons. In their early years the Monroe Family were 'home schooled' near two military bases where Dave Monroe worked as an Army psyops specialist. The Monroe children grew up around the children of other military personnel, forming friendships with them, playing with them, leading otherwise normal lives. They were told from an early age that they were adopted, explaining their age cross overs and physical dissimilarities. James and Julianne, for instance were olive skinned and dark haired, where Caitlyn blonde and fair.
In addition to their normal schooling however, they received much additional tuition. Firstly in foreign languages. After school, five days a week, tutors would train them in Arabic (Mondays), Chinese (Tuesdays), Spanish (Wednesdays), Russian (Thursdays), French (Fridays). On Saturdays all conversation took place in one of those languages, on a rotating basis. When the children started high school, German and Japanese were added to their curriculum.
They also received intense physical training, although it was never sold to them as 'training'. They were simply raised to believe that everyone should play a lot of sport. Their sports included swimming, cross country orienteering, martial arts, gymnastics, pistol and rifle shooting. From as early as they could recall, their father and his army friends would take all of the children hunting. They were encouraged to stalk, kill, and butcher their prey. Occasionally they even traveled overseas to hunt. Foxes in England. Wild boar in Australia. Bears in Canada. One these trips they would occasionally meet other Echelon children, often described as 'cousins' with very similar backgrounds and skills to their own. Caitlyn had a winter hat made out of white seal fur from a pup she had clubbed and stripped herself on one such trip.
As the children grew they came to socialise increasingly with their 'cousins' and less and less frequently with anyone else. Their training became harder and more dangerous. Their academic lessons more challenging. From the age of ten, they began formal instruction in civics, with an emphasis on the idea of public service. At fifteen they were told the meaning of their lives and what was intended for them. They were shown a video of the Twin Towers attack, and later atrocities. They were asked if they wanted to help stop that sort of thing ever happening again. Of course they did. Their conditioning was akin to that of a suicide bomber, but it was life long and conducted with the full resources of a hyper power, and under the tutelage of psyops experts. From the age of sixteen to nineteen the Echelon children undertook the equivalent of an undergrad degree in espionage. They were assessed and their various strengths analysed by the programs administrators. In spite of their unusual upbringing the children, or young adults by now, were not automatons. They were individuals with their own foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Their controllers gradually came to assign them different roles based on their individual talents and inclinations.
Caitlyn Monroe stood out for a number of reasons. She was unusually intelligent, with a tendency to grow bored if not continually challenged. She had been accelerated at least eighteen months ahead of her age cohort in the Echelon academic program because of this. Program controllers speculated that her unknown father may have been the source of her academic abilities. She had a natural acuity for languages beyond even the norm in the Echelon cohort, which was itself a statistical outlier because of the way the children had been trained so intensively in languages from an early age.
She was off the scale in a number of physical indicators. Again, the Echelon children were stronger, faster and had much grater endurance than the norm, because of their life long training. But within this group, Caitlyn also stood out. Her strength, her fast twitch musculature, her cardio vascular health, her eye hand coordination, pain thresholds etc were all significantly greater than her peers. She could have competed for a men's gold medal in the Olympic Decathlon.
Psychologically she returned high scores along both empathic and competitive axes of personality matrices from an early age. In sports and games she exhibited high drives towards dominating opponents, but without objectifying them. Indeed, as she grew older, her ability to empathise with opponents became an advantage she deployed with great effect. Whether playing chess, paintball or judo, she was better able to 'read' an opponent than anyone else in the progam. In later role playing exercises, she demonstrated a unusual willingness and ability to blend into any group, to establish trust, and to betray it, without a qualm if necessary.
She was emotionally self-contained, not nearly as giving as her 'bothers and sisters', and not needing physical or emotional contact to the same extent. Nevertheless, her empathic nature allowed her to understand others needs in this regard, and although she was naturally happiest with her own company, she was able to 'swtich on' with friends, family members, targets etc.
At the end of her 'undergrad' period she was allocated to a specialist training cadre for assassins.
Job: Killer. Caitlyn Monroe is an employee of the Office of Special Clearances and Research (OSCAR), an executive unit of the Echelon Program. Her pay and conditions are equivalent to a US Ambassador. She specialises in deep penetration and multiple target preperation. Rather than individual targets, she is assigned to target clusters, such as independent cells or leadership cadres. She penetrates the target group, gains their trust, and sets them up for sanction by OSCAR. Her operations are deniable. She sets up cells to be wiped out by rival factions. Money handlers can be sold out to criminal interests. Recruiters from radical mosques set upon by neofascist street thugs. Sometimes however, she is required to take direct action herself, and on those occasions she will simply 'disappear' entire clusters. Killing them all and organising for disposal.
Home: Her only home is in the Echelon reserve, five thousand acres of woodland in northern California, at the centre of which is a small compound a little like Camp David where the Echelon cohorts can gather for family events. Other than that she moves from one safe house to the next, or lives wherever her 'cover' might take her.
Interests: Caitlyn surfs, a legacy of her time in California. She keeps three short boards at the compound and when on vacation (six weeks a year) travels to surf breaks with her brother Michael. She has an extensive memorystick library of surfing videos, going right back to Endless Summer and OSCAR subscribes to three surfing magazines on her behalf. She wants desperately to take on the big wave riders at Mavericks etc, but is restrained from doing so by OSCAR, because very few women have ever ridden those breaks, and she would quickly find herself on the cover of half the surfing mags in the world if she did.
She cooks. As part of her language training, she was frequently exposed to the cuisines of the country's whose languages she was learning. She took French cooking lessons in French. She worked as a kitchen hand in an Italian restaurant. Through learning about the cuisines she also learned about the histories and culture of the subject countries. She can relax when cooking and at family gatherings she has become the kitchen boss, taking over from her father, Dave. Mary-Jane was a woeful cook. The children's meals were often prepared by their language tutors, as part of the training.
Fears: Abandonment. Does this gel with her self contained lonesomeness? Or does it explain it? Perhaps she cuts herself off as an insulation against abandonment.
In her early years in the program both tendencies were noted. Caitlyn was content to be on her own, and spent much of her free time reading or playing by herself. But twice, when she thought she had been lost by the family she displayed neither fear, nor paralysis, but rage. Observed by program analysts, she was later questioned about the incidents, one at shopping mall, the other at a fair ground. They concluded that in fact she had suffered an intense fear reaction to being 'lost', but had referred the emotion into a furious rage. All of the Echelon children display understandable sensitivity to abandonment issues, but when tested most of them exhibited normal 'fear' responses, rather than intense anger.
Prejudices: No known prejudices. The Echelon children were raised to judge people and situations on the merits.
Desires: Autonomy. Like all of the Echelon cohort, Caitlyn has a strong desire to please her adoptive mother and father, a programmed urge which was later transferred to her controllers, without lessening any attachment he felt to her parents. Unlike her siblings and other Echelon cohorts in both the US and partner countries, Caitlyn displayed a notable desire for personal autonomy from her earliest days in the program. Translated into adult behavior this manifested itself in such mundane ways as a stated preference for living alone during her college years, and individual leisure activities such as surfing. More significantly she tested high for an ability to work alone, under extreme duress, as long as she had confidence in her controllers.
Attitudes: Caitlyn consider 99% of men to be undate-able, but acknowledges that she herself falls into this category. She has an almost naïve faith in the idea of one true love, but a realistic appraisal of the chances of meeting him. About three billion to one.
She hates commercial television, but loves romantic comedies and maintains a large collection of them on stick.
She reads cookbooks, popular histories and biography.
She hates exercise classes but loves training on her own in a gym.
Her favorite city is Florence.
Her favorite season is autumn.
She loves airport lounges because there’s nothing to do but relax and wait.
Her favorite snack is coffee and a Spanish donut, which she indulges in once a month.
Otherwise she tries to eat only organic foods when not on a job.
She has a contraceptive subdermal insert.
She hates cigarette smoke, but quite likes the smell of pipe tobacco.
She does not vote.
When at home with her family she likes to play board games and cards.
She describes her religion as frisbeetarian, but she is quietly Catholic, mostly non-practicing.
Her room at the compound still contains many of her childhood toys and she is prone to tantrums if it is disturbed while she is away.
Friends: Caitlyn has no friends outside of Echelon. She surfs with an Australian girl, from another Ecehlon cohort. And when in London she always catches up with a financial analyst, another woman, from the UK program. She has no close male friends among her contemporaries, but her unarmed combat instructor, a former marine, is something akin to a favorite uncle. Now retired, he lives in Florida, and she sends him emails and cards via Echelon. He is a friend of her fathers and sometimes travels out to the compound for holidays. A football fan, she has taken him to a couple of games, including a rugby world cup in France in which the American team was beaten 113 to 6 by Scotland.
Enemies: Her enemies are mostly dead.
Really lovely and thoughtful piece in the NYT about the way our passwords "take on secret lives". It's a great Sunday read.
Many of our passwords are suffused with pathos, mischief, sometimes even poetry. Often they have rich back stories. A motivational mantra, a swipe at the boss, a hidden shrine to a lost love, an inside joke with ourselves, a defining emotional scar — these keepsake passwords, as I came to call them, are like tchotchkes of our inner lives. They derive from anything: Scripture, horoscopes, nicknames, lyrics, book passages. Like a tattoo on a private part of the body, they tend to be intimate, compact and expressive.
Perhaps my biggest surprise has been how willing, eager actually, people are to openly discuss their keepsakes. The friends I queried forwarded my request, and before long I started receiving passwords from complete strangers. There was the former prisoner whose password includes what used to be his inmate identification number (“a reminder not to go back”); the fallen-away Catholic whose passwords incorporate the Virgin Mary (“it’s secretly calming”); the childless 45-year-old whose password is the name of the baby boy she lost in utero (“my way of trying to keep him alive, I guess”).
I saw Le G had been gonged this week for contributuions to American Letters, and that she'd given some sort of kick arse acceptance speech. But I didn't realise how kick arse until I read it.
She gives Amazon a kicking, champions SF and Fantasy writing, and makes you think you really wouldn't want to go up against her in a dark alley without a lot of fire support:
Thank you Neil, and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.
I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.
Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)
Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)
Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.
I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. It’s name is freedom.