Cheeseburger Gothic

2nd Monster Book. Teaser

Posted October 30, 2013 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

The follow up to A Protocol for Monsters picks up a few days after its prequel. Although I'm trying to write them in such a fashion that you could read the titles out of sequence without losing too much.

That's a challenge for ya, right there.

As in Protocol it's a single PoV novel, with the story told from the hero's perspective. I am indulging in a couple of points of view in the prologue however. Partly to give myself some relief, partly to help confused readers who come to the series out of order.

So Book II is as yet untitled, and there's a cameo to be had for anyone who can come up with something as pleasing to my ear as A Protocol for Monsters. But the prologue takes place on the same day the day the monsters emerge in Protocol. In the scene below, however, nobody except Dave, our hard partying, deadbeat dad and Deepwater Horizon safety boss has figured out the monster thing.

It's raw copy. Even Murph hasn't had a chance to tell me all the ways I've got it wrong yet. There are two more sections to the prologue. At least one involving monsters. If you behave yourself, I might let you see them. Maybe.

A frame from The Demons of Buttecracke County, a not entirely unrelated story.

On a mild evening of the second day of Autumn in the year of our Lord, 2009, Supervisory Agent Robert ‘E-for-Easy’ Lee Suffolk II, went out to catch him a Goddamned Russki. A spy, but not just any old spy. Special Agent IN Charge Easy-Lee Suffolk’s Russki was an honest-to-Goddamn master spy of the female variety.

Because this damned Russki, a colonel of the GRU no less, was not your run of the mill agent, but a field controller of deep cover agents, a femme-most-fatale, Robert E-for-Easy Lee Suffolk, Supervisory agent of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Division in the New York Field Office insisted on belt and braces and extra safety pins all around to ensure it was not he who ended up pants down and red-faced at the end of the night.

This lady was, in his professional opinion, less Anna Chapman and more Nikita.

Right on the knocker at nineteen hundred and thirty hours, fifteen fleet vehicles rolled out of the underground car park at 26 Federal Plaza, bearing thirty-three special agents, including twelve heavy hitters from Manhattan’s FBI SWAT team.

The convoy moved east on Chambers for five blocks, escorted by two police cruisers. By prior arrangement with Metro Transport their progress through the thick, early evening traffic was hastened by staging a pulse of green lights between Federal Plaza and the target address on W27th street. The two cruisers did not power up their flashers. The long train of heavy black vehicles did draw the attention of some New Yorkers as it passed, some of whom used their phones to take photographs of the convoy, doubtless posting them immediately to Facebook or Twitter, and causing Special Agent in Charge Easy Lee Suffolk to wonder for the umpteenth time how anybody in his line of work was expected to get anything done in secret these days.

The soft warmth of the summer just gone still lingered in the evening air, and in the lead vehicle, a black Chevy Tahoe, SAC Suffolk sweated inside his dark blue suit jacket and heavy ballistic vest. He rode up front on the passenger side – the shotgun seat as he liked to call it – with the climate control pushed all the way down to Arctic, but his vest was leaden with trauma plates and his bespoke three-button blue suit was a heavy wool blend that he had had tailored at a very reasonable price in Hong Kong. It looked very smart, but did not breathe well. The ballistic vest he wore over it did not breathe at all. Every Special Agent rolling in convoy on the small art gallery in Chelsea were similarly attired and weighed down by armor. Boss’s orders.

The nick-name Easy Lee? That was strictly ironic.

The twelve tactical operators riding in two anonymous commercial vans just behind Suffolk’s Chevy were kitted out in armour, helmets, combat goggles and tactical black. They too looked the part but Easy Lee still worried about their combat load out and readiness. They were not HRT, which he had requested. Twice. The New York office, like all regional offices, maintained a tac-squad of part-time volunteers. Naturally, they received extra training and specialised equipment. The very name of the squad – Special Weapons and Tactics – would otherwise be a misnomer. But Agent Suffolk worried that his twelve operators were not quite special enough.

After all, this was one of the GRU’s top field operatives they were rolling on this evening. This lady had game.

Easy Lee Suffolk had thus seen fit to remonstrate with Assistant Special Agent in Charge Malcolm Preston, the part-time commander of New York’s part time SWAT team, that he was mistaken if he thought this would be some sort of cake run just because the target was a woman and her intention tonight was not to openly subvert the United States of America, but rather to launch an art exhibition. The art, after all, was part of her cover.

And anyway, were you to ask the opinion of Special Agent in Charge Easy Lee Suffolk, when he was off the clock and entitled to a private opinion, he would definitely tell you that as threats to the long term survival of these United States went, artists and communists were not a thousand miles removed from each other, or Ay-rabs or gay marrieds or that damned Rachel Maddow woman.

“Karen Warat – nee, Varatschevsky – is a full tweety bird colonel of the goddamned GRU of the Generalnovo Shtaba of the Armed Goddamned Forces of the Russian Federation,” he had lectured Agent Preston. “And if you assume her to be anything less than a deadly threat you will make an ass of ‘U’ and ‘Me’.”

Agent Preston had reminded Suffolk that he was, in fact an Assistant Special Agent in Charge, and that neither he nor his men made any such assumptions.

Still, as the police cruiser ahead of him swung onto Chambers for the quick run up West Street, Easy Lee could only wish that his request for a full HRT squad had been approved. Or even his request for a couple of back up NYPD SWAT teams in Bearcat armoured vehicles. Or a helicopter. Just one lousy helicopter would have been a consolation to his anxious mood.

The two NYPD liaison officers would make sure the local precinct uniforms took care of business out on West 27th, closing off the block to traffic, clearing any civilians who wandered into the tactical area like dopey cud-chewing moo cows and, of course, screening anyone swept up at the art gallery but…

Easy Lee Suffolk remained less than easy.

34 Responses to ‘2nd Monster Book. Teaser’

Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted October 30, 2013

I have a suggestion for the cover design. As long as @NBlob will sign a release on this photo.

So far it seems to have more Reds under the bed than Monsters? Um, "No Rules of Engagement"?

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted October 30, 2013

That is terrific fun. Thanks JB.

I realise this has not gone thru the editing process etc. and I know no one would pay 2 cents to read my action adventure, but if I didn't like you (in an internet acquaintance sense) I wouldn't give a rat's arse, so

" that he had had tailored ". 'Had had' is gramatically correct, but can be jolting. I think the contraction " that he'd had tailored " has better flow

"Bearcat armoured vehicle" I think the manufacturer prefers BearCat

damian asserts...

Posted October 31, 2013

He could smooth the "had had" jangle with a contraction, or it could usefully be written with slightly different emphasis, something but necessarily exactly like "was tailored, at a very reasonable price in Hong Kong, from a heavy wool blend".

But if I ever look like I might be starting down a copy-editor's path, please shoot me.

NBlob mutters...

Posted October 31, 2013


I can't turn the editor in my head off either, except when reading My work.

damian mutters...

Posted October 31, 2013

Last night I had a phone chat with an old school friend I haven't seen in 15 years. He tells me he'd been a copy editor for many years, including for Better Homes and Gardens, and that it is as soul destroying as you might imagine. He's been the corporate comms guy for a local council in Sydney for the last 4 years, something that he likes a lot better in that (if you look at it from the right angle, I guess) it has some redeeming social value.

Oh and that should be "something but NOT necessarily exactly like...". And under recursion, see recursion.

Respond to this thread

Bunyip mumbles...

Posted October 30, 2013


BTW, Easy Lee makes me think of the M4A3E8 "Easy Eight" Sherman. Just saying...

Respond to this comment

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted October 30, 2013

Dubya, I actually had BearCat in the original. Damned autoerect. (See what I did there?)

The double 'had' however? I got no excuse.

Respond to this comment

Murphy mutters...

Posted October 31, 2013

At Oblivion's End.

Mainly because I think that would be a cool title.

Reads well so far. I haven't gone over it for deets yet.



On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 31, 2013

I'm still getting over this nasty cold, so I'm unable to vouch for the coherence of the comment I just sent to Blunty. But anyhoo.

damian mutters...

Posted October 31, 2013

If I hadn't quite achieved incoherence previously, I'm sure the latest comment did :/

Respond to this thread

Peter Bradley mumbles...

Posted October 31, 2013

Four and a bit pages and I am hooked already. Damn you Birmingham!!

"The Game Just Changed" or "First Encounters with the Enemy"

Respond to this comment

insomniac mutters...

Posted October 31, 2013

in the absence of my go to gal for titles, ms insomniac, i'll just have to submit my own lamo version, "Bring Yesterday Back".

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop has opinions thus...

Posted October 31, 2013

The monsters are coming, and I for one can't wait. For a simple reader, following the previous title appears a trifle fraught with danger. The danger would be heading down the Ludlum path of cheesy title progressions. What is the collective noun for MONSTERS? A Mash of Monsters? An Horror of Monsters? A Terror of Monsters? Do they come in Cataclysms or Hordes? Maybe a new collective noun for monsters in the title.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted October 31, 2013

Loving it.

Respond to this comment

Rob would have you know...

Posted October 31, 2013

'Billy and the Monstersaurus' how does that grab you?

Respond to this comment

Surtac is gonna tell you...

Posted October 31, 2013

'A Discourse with Demons'?

'A Dialogue with Daemons'?

Summat like that perhaps ...

I can't help it - I like alliteration.

Respond to this comment

Legless swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 31, 2013

"A Covenant With Demons"

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted October 31, 2013

The Menace of Monsters

Respond to this comment

NBlob mutters...

Posted October 31, 2013

Please release a bestiary.

Title: Devils take Gulfport

Respond to this comment

Sparty2 is gonna tell you...

Posted October 31, 2013

its on an oil rig right?

there are Demons?

"Drilling with Demons" - only way to go

Respond to this comment

Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted November 1, 2013

The Diet Of Demons

Demon Apps

Monster Mission


Earthborn Eruption

Demon Tide

Respond to this comment

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 1, 2013

Jesus wept, there's a reason you people dont work in publishing.

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted November 1, 2013

I was going to suggest,
"Dave the Monster Guerrilla".
Which is absolute genius! But I suspected you martini-soaked publishing wankers couldn't tell a good idea even if it was tattooed on your olive.

Rob ducks in to say...

Posted November 1, 2013

I work in the public service. I'vemade my bed and now I have to live in it. feck.

Respond to this thread

Therbs is gonna tell you...

Posted November 1, 2013

We may not be in the publishing caper but we do love extracting urine.

Respond to this comment

Brother PorkChop reckons...

Posted November 1, 2013

My Little Book of Monsters?

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane asserts...

Posted November 1, 2013

There have been some great title suggestions.
Luckily, there are some smart people in publishing who understand titles.
If it was all people like JB, we would never have gotten the children's classic.

"Pooh Gets Stuck"

insomniac asserts...

Posted November 1, 2013

Sorry ... Cooking With Pooh

Respond to this thread

Murphy ducks in to say...

Posted November 2, 2013

In reading up on FBI HRT vehicle support, they generally use a Mowag variant called the Bison. An eight by eight probably isn't the best for Manhattan. But then I am not sure why they'd need the BearCats either (meaning I'd have turned down the request). This secret agent type would probably prefer to exfiltrate away from any problem as opposed to stay in one place and confront it. Which, near as I can tell, is usually what an armored vehicle is good for in a SWAT situation, drawing the attention of some idiot while they find a way to gas or otherwise subdue them.

Low profile then would be better.

I do not see anything that jumps out as wrong in this scene other than the wishful thinking for a BearCat and even that can be sorta handwaved away.

Chevy Suburbans are the best vehicle for the FBI SWAT guys who would most likely be equipped with MP-5s, olive drab uniforms and body armor. They are likely to have the more advanced kevlar helmets. If needs must I can get deets on that. And a lot of these guys seem to have a nomex glove fetish.

A sample of what I do, folks.



On the Outer Marches

damian would have you know...

Posted November 2, 2013

They still make Suburbans? They stopped selling the Holden badged version in 2001 (though a quick look over shows many of the late 90s examples carrying Chevy badges anyway).

Or are fleet vehicles longer-lived over there? Here it is usual for organisations to replace them at 2-years, though I think there are tax and insurance reasons for that which on reflection could be Oz-specific.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 2, 2013

By way of answering myself, I see the Chevy site has the 2014 model up for $46.3k, which seems like good value to me.

Respond to this thread

Dino not to be confused with swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 3, 2013


Do I detect a theme?

As for a title what about the "WestaBaptaChapta meets Earth's Enema"?

Too catchy?

Respond to this comment

Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted November 6, 2013

Heya JB,

If this is the central arc of the story my two cents for a Title would be "Gospodina". That's Russian for female comrade.

Point of interest though. You would make use of an FBI SWAT team. Maybee Murph can add his input on this too, but would it not be a mission for the NYPD SWAT team, namely the ESU?

Respond to this comment

Respond to '2nd Monster Book. Teaser'

Under a Graveyard Sky extract:

Posted September 8, 2013 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Below is an extract from John Ringo's just released zombie/military thriller. I'm a huge fan of Ringo's Posleen invasion series and have been waiting on this bad boy for over a year now. With this an Steve Stirling's The Given Sacrifice out as well, it's looking like a good readin' month. For those coming here straight from Twitter, there is a introduction to the series by the Lord of Ringo himself in the post above.

Y'all can buy the Kindle version right here.


Snippet from Story One of Graveyard Sky (Light a Candle):

"Well," Kaplan said, catching the tossed rope. "I can see the family resemblance…"

Sophia had packed one 'good' outfit: a cream business suit and matching shoes. Which was what she was wearing. She was carrying a briefcase and had a backpack over her shoulder. And, because she wasn't stupid, she was wearing a nose/mouth respirator.

Faith on the other hand…

She had on body armor. And a full face mask respirator. And a tactical helmet. And a full coverage uniform. And tactical boots. And tactical gloves. And a radio. And a machete. And a kukri. And two or three more knives. And three, count 'em, three tasers, cause Uncle Tom hadn't mentioned (she couldn't carry) tasers…


"Do we have to go right back to the boat?" Sophia asked.

"It's getting dark," Steve said. "And there's a curfew."

"Which is hardly enforced," Tom said. "Even with the National Guard they're too busy rounding up infected."

"And it's getting dark," Steve noted.

"Up to the parents," Tom said, shrugging. "There are some clubs still open and I hear there's a more or less continuous concert going on in Washington Park. More of a rave, really."

"Concert?" Sophia said, her eyes lighting.

"In the dark," Steve said. "In zombie infested New York city."

"I've never been to a concert," Faith said, sadly. "I mean, that's one of those things you do when you're a teenager. The way things are going, I'll never get a chance. Or go to prom…" She sniffed.

"We are not going to a concert at night in a park in zombie infested New York!" Steve said. "And that's final!"


"This band sucks," Faith shouted…

(Yes, they went to the concert and, no, their father is never going to let it go.)

Longer snippet from the concert portion:

Sophia was reloading, visually tracking another inbound target, when her arm was grabbed from behind.

"What are you doing?" Christine asked. "You can't shoot those people!"

" 'Can't', 'may not' and 'shouldn’t' are three different things," Sophia said, seating the magazine and letting the slide go forward. "And what I'm doing is protecting you. Why the hell are you still here?" She looked over her shoulder and was amazed that the concert was still going on. Thinking about it, Voltaire hadn't even missed a beat.

"They come every night," Todd said. "It's their concert."

"What?" Sophia asked, her eyes wide. "Don't they…? Don't you get attacked?"

"They bite some people," Christine said. "Sometimes they eat. I've been waiting to get bitten. But they haven't taken me, yet."

"WHAT?" Sophia screamed. The infected was inside fifteen meters so she put two rounds in her chest and turned back, keeping her weapon pointed downrange and looking over her shoulder. "WHAT? Are you flipping nuts? You WANT to be a zombie?"

"There's nothing to be afraid of if you're a zombie," Christine said, starting to cry. "You just are. You just exist. It's like…"

"It's like zen, you know?" Todd said, swaying back and forth. "You just exist in the moment, man. There's no stress. No school, no work, just eat or be eaten. It's like Rousseau's noble savage, the beast inside every man."

"You are absolutely batshit freaking nuts," Sophia said, looking back to the target zone. Another inbound. "I am not going to be turned into a zombie. My sister got infected but she pulled through and we are not going to be zombies. We are not."

"You just don't get it," Todd said. "Myrmidon."

"Idiot," Sophia said, double tapping the next inbound. She looked around and had time so she quickly reloaded her magazines.

"And now you've brought the soldiers here," Christine said, disgustedly. "They're going to just blow us all away! Babykillers!"

"You want to be a zombie?" Sophia asked. She grabbed Todd by the arm and walked him over to the nearest fresh corpse. Then she pulled out a clasp knife. "Cut your arm. Wipe some of the blood on it. Instant zombie."

"I…" Todd said. "Let go of me…"

"You're not going to because you're afraid," Sophia said, holding the knife up to his eye-level. "You're afraid because you're not willing to fight back. You're the poet. What's the thing about the raging and darkness?"

"You mean Dylon Thomas?" Todd said, disdainfully. " 'Rage, rage against the dying of the light'?"

"Do not go gentle into this good night," Sophia snarled, waving at the darkness all around. "Old age should burn and rave at close of day;/Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

"That is what you should be doing!" she finished. "Raging against the dying of the light. You're not even in old age!"

"You knew the poem," Todd said, wonderingly.

"I got an A plus in a really tough AP English class," Sophia said. "And AP Physics. And Calculus. And I know how to kill zombies. What the hell have you been doing with your life?"

"You want to tell us what's been going on here, miss?" the sergeant of the three man team asked. They weren't up and pointed but you could tell they were here for a fire-fight.

"We're having a poetry and philosophy discussion, Sergeant," Sophia said, holstering her pistol. "I'm glad you could join us…"

Snippet from the beginning of story two (I Will Not Bow):

"If not us, who?" Steve asked. "Tom, if he's out there still, is locked into a fortress and can't get out. Ditto any remaining government groups. There probably are government secure points that held out. But they're trapped by the zombies. We have mobility. And there are other boats, ships, survivors out there. We'll rescue them and organize."

"You think they'll go for it?" Stacey asked. "Tina's a lovely child but she's not going to be much help. They're all going to be traumatized, terrified…"

"Some will," Steve said. "Those that don't…" He shrugged. "Cross that bridge when we come to it. We'll cross every bridge when we come to it. We're going to win and I'm not going to let the bloody damned zombies stop us. I will not bow."


Longer snippet from the Second story:

"Have you ever wondered why my daughter is called Faith?" Steve said.

"I had assumed you were a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Galloway said. "Or at least that was suggested by one of my advisors."

"Never saw it until after she was born," Steve said. "My masters was on logistics in a low support condition, specifically keeping the Gloster Gladiators flying on Malta during the Siege."

"I have a lot of history, but… Standby… Ah, my senior Air Force advisor just filled me in. Faith, Hope and Charity. I see."

"Three obsolete biplanes faced down the Luftwaffe for nearly two years and kept flying, sir," Steve said. "Their crews had to make parts from scrap metal. Parts would come in for Hurricanes. Hurricanes. They didn't see their first Hurricane until 1943. So they would rework Hurricane parts to work in Glosters. They would beg, borrow or steal. Rework, refit, literally use chewing gum. When they had chewing gum."

"That makes sense," Galloway said. "I guess you are well prepared for your current situation."

"Does your Air Force advisor know which aircraft had the most kills, sir? That never missed so much as one battle?"

"She admits that as a bomber pilot she'd sort of consider them the bad guys, so, no."

"Put it this way, sir," Steve said. "Whenever they went to battle, they always had Faith."

23 Responses to ‘Under a Graveyard Sky extract:’

Dilph mutters...

Posted September 8, 2013

Some fairly bad HTML issues here, bossman...

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted September 8, 2013

Yeah, but once you get past the intro code, the shout out is fairly cool.

Respond to this comment

ShaneAlpha puts forth...

Posted September 8, 2013

On the gripping hand, liked the extracts. Must. Spend. More. Money. On. Zombies.

Darth Greybeard reckons...

Posted September 8, 2013

Stinkin' Motie!

Respond to this thread

Anthony reckons...

Posted September 8, 2013

I bought the advanced readers ebook from Baen yesterday. For once I'm at the leading edge :)

Now all I have to do is get around to reading it...

And JB, be greatful Clive didn't take up your offer. You could have ended up a politician...

Respond to this comment

MickH mumbles...

Posted September 8, 2013

No political debate this year John?


Used to enjoy those in the past

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted September 8, 2013

Later, Mick.

Respond to this thread

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted September 8, 2013

I too thought Mr Abbott wins the election an already the formating is Fracked. Thats a great extract and I have purchased the book on Kindle.

Respond to this comment

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan would have you know...

Posted September 8, 2013

We are drifting off topic, but that can only be deemed natural considering that your National Party has achieving power via a coalition that includes a big chunk of the Australian lunatic fringe, and the Derpocracy (I adore that term; thank you Bob) that results. It will be interesting to see if this has the same effect it had in the US.

Respond to this comment

Barnesm asserts...

Posted September 8, 2013

You know if you paste the HTML salad above into a web browser it calls up a clip of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody being played backwards and it sounds like it is saying "Freddie is the Devil".

Darth Greybeard has opinions thus...

Posted September 8, 2013

(thinks: What rubbish! But it is Barnesm so maybe I should try it. Hmm. Soul is devoured and browser reverts to Netscape Navigator. Damn you Barnes.)

Respond to this thread

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted September 8, 2013
Off topic (again) Barnes' comment reminds me of a news story I read back in the early 1970's about a group of fundamentalist Southern American Christians who bought and burned a big bunch of records with the Mr. Ed theme song on them ("a horse is a horse/of course, of course/ and no one can talk to a horse, of course..."). They claimed that, if you played the Mr. Ed theme song backwards a demonic voice could be heard chanting "Someone sang this song for Satan."

I laughed and laughed when I read that news story. What a bunch of maroons.

Now those people are in control of the US House of Representatives in the American Derpocracy.

Respond to this comment

Murphy would have you know...

Posted September 8, 2013

Not only is the kudo from Ringo well deserved but I gotta say, if he didn't find any quibbles with the military bits of the Disappearance Trilogy then that is something to crow about.

I'm getting a copy next payday. Looking forward to having something on my stack that I actually WANT to read again.



On the Outer Marches

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted September 8, 2013

"And you must be Ringo.
Look darling, Johnny Ringo.
The deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say.
What do you think, darling? Should I hate him?"

Respond to this comment

Quokka would have you know...

Posted September 8, 2013

Um, what happened to my burst of cackling at all that code?

That completely made my day, that the first thing I saw on the internet under the new world order was that littany of code transcription horror.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted September 8, 2013

I deleted it. And I cackled like a crazy cat lady while doing so.

NBlob mutters...

Posted September 8, 2013

I thought you were a manic completeist? Or are you completist tendancies inconsistant? rending it pointless, yet poigniant.

Mmmm. Render.

Quokka puts forth...

Posted September 8, 2013

Well that explains the buckshot in my avatar.

Respond to this thread

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted September 8, 2013

Ringo stands calmly looking on. The desert stretches out into the distance beyond him. If Ringo is taken aback by Curly's shotgun, he doesn't show it.

Respond to this comment

w from brisbane has opinions thus...

Posted September 8, 2013

A favourite movie scene.
Latin translations are accurate in meaning, but not literal. I have nicked them off someone else.

Doc Holiday:
And you must be Ringo. Look, darling, Johnny Ringo.
The deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say.
What do you think, darling?
Should I hate him?

You don't even know him.

Doc Holiday:
Yes, but there's just something about him. Something around the eyes.
I don't know, reminds me of... me.
No. I'm sure of it, I hate him.

Wyatt Earp (to Ringo):
He's drunk.

Doc Holiday:
In vino veritas. (When drinking, I speak the truth.)

Johnny Ringo:
Age quod agis. (Do what you do best.]

Doc Holiday:
Credat Judaeus Apella. (I don't believe drinking is what I do best.)

Johnny Ringo (pats gun) :
Ecentus stultorum magister. (Fools have to learn by experience.)

Doc Holiday (Cheshire cat smile):
In pace requiescat. (It's your funeral)

Sherriff White (enters, appeasing):
Come on now, we don't want any trouble in here. Not in any language.

Doc Holiday:
Evidently, Mr. Ringo's an educated man. Now I really hate him.

Respond to this comment

Anthony reckons...

Posted September 9, 2013

Not working today so I actually read it through. I think Mr Ringo may be mellowing a little with a bit less of his political views coming through. I enjoyed it - with the usual reservations which I won't mention yet because of spoiler.

Not a bad job of having an Australian central character - he's not quite got the language right but a far better effort than most.

The bastard has ended with a "To Be Continued". I hope it's continued soon.

Respond to this comment

JOHN RINGO would have you know...

Posted September 10, 2013

I wrote all four books in the series in a year. Baen got out a crowbar and shoehorned them into a year or so of schedule. Next one is due in February so you won't have to wait long on the 'to be continued.' The first two books end 'To be continued' the third ends 'The Beginning.' The fourth I don't think I put a 'the end' or anything. It's simply... there. (Didn't really want to write the fourth book but the situation called for it.)

My great grandfather's first cousin was not educated in Latin. (Although my GGF was.) He was a mean drunk with a surly disposition. He gained fame from claiming to have killed two men. (Some question whether he did. Whether or not he did, they were 'bushwacked', IE 'snipered.' Shot in the back with a rifle from cover. Not face to face.)

He missed the OK Corral from, take your pick, being too hung over or too cowardly. I go with both. There's no indication that he ever faced a man in cold blood in his life. He was just a surly drunk and a bully who waved a gun around alot. He probably took his own life in a fit of depression which runs in the family. (God knows I've got it.)

My GGF was a marshal in Kansas when his cousin was in Texas. Family legend has it that they had an agreement: Johnny didn't go north, Ben didn't go south. That way they wouldn't have to try to kill each other which makes family dinners awkward. I've got better than even odds on my GGF.

He'd gone west to seek his fortune, ended up working as a clerk in a store in a cattle-town. (Where they brought the cattle herds to get loaded on the railroad.) Young men who hadn't seen civilization for months and who had to be armed for a variety of reasons on their jobs would come into town looking to get laid, get drunk and get into a fight in no particular order. He, being a young man as well, would go to the bars. He quickly got a reputation as a guy who could 'calm' things and when that didn't happen could 'end' things quickly and definitively. He was initially hired as a 'cooler' then was asked the take over as marshal. The previous marshal had quit cause the job was impossible. The one before that had been killed.

He sent down some of his maxims through the family. "Never start a fight. If you can, try to calm people and stop it that way. If you cannot avoid the fight, be the last man standing."

(I used to be able to do this, by the way. My 'friends' HAH! in the army would get a bar on the point of riot then throw me in to 'see what I was made of.' Five minutes later, everybody would be singing along to 'Carolina'. (Carolina, nananaa, hey, hey, hey, Gooood bye!) They truly hated me for that.)

My GGF had to return home to take over the affairs when his father had ill health. He later attended Princeton, became a lawyer then a magistrate and retired as a Circuit Court Judge. (Back when that meant riding a horse around the circuit.) His reputation was as a judge you wanted to be before if you were innocent and avoid if you were guilty. Fair but firm and absolutely unyielding to the guilty. He ordered more than one death sentence.

We have his pistol and regalia from his marshal days. They say that carving a notch on your pistol was a sign of a tinhorn. Whatever. You only carved a notch if it was a stand-up fight.

He had seven.

Which is one of the many many reasons I cordially hate any reference to that turd who got a reputation as an 'infamous outlaw.' I somewhat wish I'd been named Benjamin but it was taken by a cousin my generation. However, the name has probably helped sell some books.

And I am an educated man.

John Ringo

Anthony has opinions thus...

Posted September 11, 2013

Them's good news about the books...

Romantic ancestors are not always romantic. My wife has an ancestor who was sent out to NSW as a convict. He was convicted of "Robbery on the King's Highway" .The family had notions of a gallant Dick Turpin "stand and deliver" type. What they discovered was basically a thug who in company with a couple of accomplices would creep up behind people, hit them over the head and make off with whatever they had.

A common or garden mugger.

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'Under a Graveyard Sky extract:'

Book Extract - Extreme Cosmos by Prof. Bryan Gaensler

Posted June 16, 2013 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

The First Sounds in the Universe.

You can buy it here in OZ/NZ.

And here everywhere else.

There are supposedly no sounds in space, because space is a vacuum. After all, sound is a pressure wave that needs air in which to travel, so space must be completely quiet.

But as it turns out, there are sounds in space. Space might be more rarefied than anything we can produce in a laboratory here on Earth, but it is certainly not empty. In a typical part of the Milky Way, far from any stars, planets or nebulae, every cubic metre of space contains about a million atoms. This is more than 10 million trillion times fewer atoms than in a cubic metre of air at sea level, but it is still not a vacuum. Correspondingly, the pressure of the gas in space is extremely low. But because the pressure is not zero, the movements of stars, planets and other celestial bodies through the cosmos will produce upwards or downwards variations in this pressure. And these pressure fluctuations will then travel through space as sound waves.
As a result, the Universe is full of noise: the deep roaring of giant black holes, the sharp cracks of supernova explosions, and a myriad of other sounds. One way or another, all these sounds are produced by the actions of stars, black holes and galaxies. But these constituents of the cosmos have not always existed. We know that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old, and we know that there were times, very early on, when no stars or galaxies had yet formed.

So before the first star and before the first galaxy, were the vast stretches of the Universe filled with nothing but silence? Or was there a cosmic song long before there were individual singers? What was the first sound in the Universe?

These questions sound like the sort of thing best left to philosophers. But incredibly, astronomers can answer them with considerable precision.

There is very strong evidence that space and time both began with an event known as the “Big Bang”, which from our current best estimates occurred 13.8 billion years ago. But despite its name, the Big Bang is thought to have been utterly silent. The distributions of matter and energy created in this sudden cataclysmic event were almost perfectly smooth – there were no oscillations in pressure that could correspond to any noise.

However, after much less than a trillion trillionth of a second, when the observable Universe had expanded to about the size of a beach ball, the cosmos had become decidedly lumpy. As time passed, and the Universe continued to expand, the denser clumps of material used their gravitational attraction to pull in more mass toward them. These clumps then grew in pressure as the gas in them became more tightly squeezed, forcing the gas to expand. As these clouds of gas expanded, their pressure dropped and their expansion slowed. Gravity then began to exert itself, and the process repeated.

By less than a millisecond after the Big Bang, gas clouds over a whole range of sizes had begun collapsing and expanding, their pressure rising and falling as a consequence. Oscillations of pressure had been established – the Universe had found its voice!

These first sound waves were special. Rather than travelling from point A to point B, like my voice sending sound through the air to your ears, these waves oscillated up and down in pressure without actually going anywhere. These are known as “standing waves”, and are very similar to the stationary sound waves set up inside a flute or organ pipe.

The length of an organ pipe determines the tone of the sound it produces: the smallest organ pipes produce the highest notes. In an analogous way, the age of the observable Universe at these early times dictated the pitch of the primordial tune. When the Universe was very young, only clumps of matter that were relatively small, and for which the gas was able to expand and contract rapidly, had had enough time to complete one full cycle of pressure oscillations. Correspondingly, the cosmic choir was comprised only of sopranos. As the Universe aged, increasingly slower oscillations were completed, and correspondingly deeper notes were added to the chorus.

Furthermore, as time went on, the music became louder. This is because the overall level of clumpiness in the Universe increased as gravity began to exert its grip. As the clumps grew in size, the contrast between expansion and contraction of gas clouds was higher, and the pressure waves became stronger.

So what did the standing waves in the early Universe sound like? Just 10 years after the Big Bang, the dominant note in the Universe was F-sharp (but 35 octaves lower than the lowest note a human ear can perceive), at a volume of 90 decibels (about as loud as standing next to a lawnmower). Over the next hundred thousand years, a whole new set of larger gas clouds were able to begin oscillating: more than 13 octaves of even deeper notes were added to the celestial pipe organ, with the volume increasing by a factor of 20.

At any moment in time, just as the largest possible gas cloud was completing its first cycle of collapse and expansion, there were other gas clouds, exactly half the size, which had completed two full cycles, and yet more clouds, half again as large, which had oscillated four times. As a consequence, the loudest note was accompanied by a whole set of fainter harmonics and overtones.

However, do not envisage some pleasant sounding barbershop quartet. This set of harmonics was not the pure timbre of a musical instrument, but a blurry blend of overlapping notes. The result, if you could hear it, would be a fuzzy hiss, steadily descending in pitch and gaining in volume as the Universe aged.

This celestial song lasted for 380,000 years, but then abruptly ceased, never to resume. What happened to mute this enormous cosmological pipe organ? And how do we know that these sounds ever happened, if they vanished billions of years ago?

At very early times the Universe was a dense fog, because a ray of light was unable to travel even a short distance before colliding with a sub-atomic particle. It was throughout this period, known as the “pre-recombination era”, that clumps of gas expanded and collapsed, producing these first sounds.

However, after 380,000 years, the Universe had cooled to a temperature of 2700 oC, cold enough that sub-atomic particles could combine to form atoms. With this soup of free-floating particles removed, the skies cleared, and the cosmos became transparent.

This process silenced the Universe, because it changed the speed of sound. Before recombination, sound waves travelled through a gelatinous mix of light and matter, for which the speed of sound was about 60% of the speed of light, or about 620 million kilometres per hour. At this high sound speed, gas clouds were able to collapse and expand relatively quickly.

However, once matter and light went their separate ways, the speed of sound plummeted essentially to zero. At the moment of recombination all the sloshing of gas in and out immediately ceased, and the Universe became silent.

The cosmic symphony suddenly halted, right at the time when the Universe opened itself up for view. So how do we even know that these sounds existed?

We know because although these sounds have long since faded, the final crescendo is forever frozen into the very fabric of the cosmos.

The moment of recombination left behind the cosmic microwave background (CMB), a faint, cold light that fills the Universe. The CMB was discovered in the 1960s, and immediately became the object of detailed study by astronomers around the world. By the 1990s, precision observations were able to show that the glow from the CMB was not completely uniform, but that some parts of the sky were 0.001% warmer or cooler than others.

As measurements have continued to improve, these tiny variations have revealed a spectacularly detailed portrait of the Universe at that moment of recombination more than 13 billion years ago, just 380,000 years after the Big Bang. Because what these small temperature variations correspond to are individual clumps of gas, frozen in time in the middle of their pressure oscillations in or out. Those oscillations have now ceased their motion, but we can see them at their final positions. It is as if we have a photograph of the orchestra as it hits its final note: the conductor’s arms are raised high, and the performers can all be seen straining with effort as they play their instruments at their loudest volumes. But the sound itself is missing.

Astronomers have analysed these temperature fluctuations in considerable detail, and have found that the CMB is not comprised of a random jumble of different-sized sized patches of hot and cold, but that regions of higher or lower temperature tend to have certain sizes. In particular, most of the temperature variations that we can see extend over extents on the sky about twice the diameter of the full moon. This implies that there is a clear fundamental tone imprinted onto the Universe (subsequent analysis has that this is accompanied by at least five higher harmonics).

We can thus state with considerable accuracy and confidence that the dominant note of the cosmos at recombination was almost exactly 54 octaves below middle C, at an ear-splitting volume of around 120 decibels. To play this note, an organ would need a pipe more than 10 trillion kilometres long!

After recombination, the Universe continued to expand and cool, but did so in absolute silence. Over the next hundreds of millions of years, clumps of gas that happened to be near maximum contraction at recombination were able to continue collapsing under the influence of gravity, and eventually coalesced into the first stars and galaxies.

There is a startling connection between the strange harmonising of the pre-recombination era and the hubbub that the cosmos experiences today.

As we can see directly from the CMB, the hottest gas clumps at recombination (i.e., those that were just completing the compression part of their pressure oscillation at the moment the Universe became transparent) all had a particular size. The size that we see on the sky, about double the size of the full moon, corresponded to a physical extent of 460,000 light years at the time of recombination. However, over the more than 13.8 billion years since then, the Universe has expanded by more than a factor of 1000. As a consequence, if these regions still existed now, they would have been stretched so that they would now be 500 million light years across.

In the early 1980s, astronomers began to measure the three-dimensional positions of hundreds of relatively nearby galaxies, and found that they are not scattered uniformly, but are clumped into complicated patterns. The realisation that the Universe is not totally chaotic but has a characteristic structure was a remarkable discovery.

But in 2005, when astronomers had expanded their catalogues of galaxy positions to many tens of thousands of objects, an even more incredible result emerged. Not only is the distribution of galaxies clumpy, but the size of these clumps is not random. How big is a typical clump of galaxies? Pretty close to 500 million light years, the same size the hot clouds of gas from recombination would be if they had survived through to the present.

The conclusion is inescapable: these hot clouds have survived, but have now evolved into galaxies, stars, planets and people. What we see all around us, and indeed ourselves are part of, is a fossil record of the oscillating sound waves from the earliest times in history, forever woven into the distribution of matter throughout the cosmos.

The first sounds in the Universe ceased long ago. The conductor and the musicians have departed the cosmic stage, taking their instruments with them. However, the performers have left behind their sheet music. By studying the cosmic microwave background and the large-scale structure of the Universe, we can recover the first music ever played, music that was never intended to be heard.

Bryan Gaensler (@SciBry) is Director of the Centre for All-sky Astrophysics at The University of Sydney. This is an edited excerpt from his book Extreme Cosmos, published by NewSouth Books (Australia/NZ) and Penguin (everywhere else).

2 Responses to ‘Book Extract - Extreme Cosmos by Prof. Bryan Gaensler’

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 16, 2013

Love this stuff, and its available in the kindle

if interested in this sort of science stuff check out Downloaded the Universe reviews these sort of electronic books.

Respond to this comment

Neuronhead reckons...

Posted June 19, 2013

"Comprised of"

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Book Extract - Extreme Cosmos by Prof. Bryan Gaensler'

Book of the Week: Philosophy in the Garden

Posted June 9, 2013 into Book Extract by DAYoung

Available direct from Melbourne Uni Press.

All this thinky at such a low, low price.

And you can support an indy bookshoppe.

Aristotle had a reputation as a dandy. According to ancient biographer Diogenes Laërtius, the father of scientific philosophy lisped fashionably, and was known for his schmick wardrobe and bling.

The impression, bolstered by his ties to the Macedonian royals, is of a metropolitan bon vivant with a taste for opulence. And this makes historical sense: as Aristotle himself noted, philosophy arose in big, rich cities, which gave literate upper classes the leisure to converse and write.

But Aristotle’s school was not in the Macedonian court, Athens’ prestigious suburbs like Kerameikos, or the agora, the busy marketplace. The philosopher preferred to give his famous lectures in a park.


His school, the Lyceum, was named for the shaded groves where the philosopher rented his buildings. Situated east of the city walls, the Lyceum was dedicated to Apollo Lyceus, the son of Zeus in his “wolf god” guise. It had walks, running tracks, change rooms, wrestling schools, temples and stoa- porticoes, shaded from sun and rain. Military parades were held there, along with cult rituals. It was an all-purpose reserve for sports, religion, politics – and philosophy. Aristotle taught his students as they strolled around the peripatoi, the colonnades – hence their name, the “peripatetics”. His Lyceum also housed the first botanical garden (probably stocked by the Macedonian empire), which undoubtedly contributed to his lost book On Plants.

In this, Aristotle was following his teacher, Plato, whose Academy was also in a sacred grove, and who similarly taught on the hoof. (“I’ve been doubting long, and walking up and down like Plato,” gibed playwright Alexis, “but only tired my legs.”)

This devotion to gardens lived on in Classical philosophy. Aristotle’s own student and successor, Theophrastus, wrote the first systematic treatise on botany, and bequeathed the Lyceum gardens to his colleagues “as may wish to study philosophy and literature there . . . on terms of familiarity and friendship”.

The Lyceum and Academy schools remained at the heart of Mediterranean intellectual life for over two centuries. One of the great Hellenistic critics of Plato and Aristotle, Epicurus, retired to his backyard in suburban Athens for a life of grumbling austerity. His school was called “The Garden”: a symbol of his independence, and a means of realising it. “He who follows nature,” Epicurus was quoted by Porphyry as saying, “is in all things self-sufficient.”

Educated Romans also took to gardens for scholarship and conversation, often in a knowing nod to their Greek forebears. Shoved from public office, Cicero wrote of opening an “Academy” in his own Tusculum villa. He and his students worked while walking outdoors, and Cicero noted the particular joy of watching plants grow. “I am principally delighted,” said Cicero’s Cato in On Old Age, “with observing the power, and tracing the process, of Nature in these her vegetable productions.”

At the end of the Classical era, more than 700 years after Aristotle opened his school, the Platonic theologian Augustine was converted to Christianity in a garden. “I flung myself under a fig tree,” he wrote in his Confessions, “and gave free course to my tears.”


Philosophy was often alfresco. There are many reasons for this. Most obviously, gardens are a bulwark against distraction. Philosophy is a gregarious pursuit, which thrives on social ferment. But too much stimulation leads to madness, not meditation. Even in Classical and Hellenistic Greece, cities were noisy, busy and full of interruptions. Athens’ streets were small and winding, with residents walking at all hours (often drunk, stumbling home after symposiums). Wagons rumbled and squeaked all day, and if the comic playwright Aristophanes is to be believed, the roads were often dumping grounds for emptied bladders and chamber pots.

But Athenians couldn’t flee the streets’ chaos by heading home, as they often had donkeys, goats and other livestock as housemates. The Lyceum let Aristotle and his students escape the commotion of urban life and focus on the finer points of logic and metaphysics.


The ancient Greeks were also a physical people, for whom study did not mean a sedentary life. The first schools were gymnasiums for sports like sprinting and wrestling. A public park was a place to stretch their legs, flex their oiled muscles. And gardening itself was, as Socrates reportedly pointed out, an exercise.

“Quite high and mighty people find it hard to hold aloof from agriculture,” he was reported to have said, in Xenophon’s Economist, “combining as it does a certain sense of luxury with the satisfaction of an improved estate, and such a training of physical energies as shall fit a man to play a free man’s part.”


Aristotle, like many of his students, was also an empirical philosopher. That is, he was not content to merely theorise – he wanted hard evidence. “Those whom devotion to abstract discussions has rendered unobservant of the facts,” he wrote in On Generation and Corruption, “are too ready to dogmatise on the basis of a few observations.”

Hence his cultivation of a botanic garden, and his studies abroad. His work on biological classification was detailed, rigorous and unparalleled for millennia – so much so that Charles Darwin referred to the great taxonomists Carl Linnaeus and Georges Cuvier as “mere schoolboys to old Aristotle”.

For the philosopher, the Lyceum garden was most likely a regular source of philosophical material, for dissection, analysis, synthesis and lecturing – a field trip and laboratory demonstration in one.


But there are more intellectual reasons for philosophy’s plein-air tradition. The garden is not simply a retreat or source of physical exercise. It is intellectually stimulating in its own right, because it is a fusion of two fundamental philosophical principles: humanity and nature. This is suggested by the word itself, and its cognates in German and the Romance languages: Garten, jardin, giardino.
Like the English “yard”, they refer to enclosure, which requires two things:something cordoned off (nature), and someone to do the cordoning (humanity). Beginning with sacred groves like the Lyceum, every garden is a union of this kind: nature separated, bordered, transformed by humans.

What makes gardens unique is the explicit character of this fusion. Nature is regularly and radically transformed by humans. As Aristotle pointed out, this is the very definition of craft: realising natural possibilities that cannot realise themselves.

In art and manufacturing alike though, the contributions and combinations of nature and humanity are often hidden. For example, trees become timber; ore becomes metal, zooplankton and algae become oil then plastic – they are natural in origin, but no longer “nature”. Nature is understood as wilderness, disease, esoteric symbols – as distant “other”. Meanwhile, human labour is also invisible: we see products and services, but not necessarily the people who produced them.

The garden overcomes this double alienation, by displaying human and natural processes together. Plants and stones remain recognisably plants and stones, but they are arranged, cultivated and maintained artfully. In this, they demonstrate our specific relationship with nature – what we make of it, physically and intellectually.
Aristotle saw nature as something of an organism, full of growth and movement. Plato’s nature was a divine blueprint, Epicurus’, a random strife of atoms.

There is no final word on what nature is – what “is” is. Precisely because of this, mankind is also a puzzle. Our existence is enigmatic, because human nature is not universal or eternal, and we are opaque to ourselves. There is not only nature, but also second nature – the first given, the second made.


Yet what humanity makes of itself is often unclear and unpredictable. These were the unspoken points of the riddle of the Sphinx, the premise of one of Athens’ premier tragedies, Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.
“Man” is the answer to the Sphinx’s question: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three in the evening, yet keeps its voice?”– but this is a deceptively simple reply. The species continues, but we keep transforming. As individuals and societies, we are works in progress, with novel perspectives and trajectories. And as poor Oedipus discovered, these are rarely completely clear. Humanity is an ongoing question, not an answer.

These riddles, nature and humanity, combine in the garden.


For all Aristotle’s speculative flights, he recognised that humans are embodied creatures: ideas are often inspired and expressed physically. This is doubly so when they are given some organic or primal form, like plants or rocks.

The garden gives basic concepts a vital dynamism or dense gravitas. This intellectual and sensory richness is why gardens still have an air of sanctity to them.

Many religious buildings – from the Lyceum’s “wolf god” temples, to Buddhist monasteries, to medieval cathedrals – have gardens attached or nearby. But these are simply the more notable examples.
The garden is not strictly a theistic or spiritual phenomenon. It has its roots in more basic impulses: to carve off a portion of the landscape, and distinguish it from ordinary places.

This is suggested by the origins of the word “sacred”: from the Indo-European sak, meaning to separate, demarcate, divide. The opposite of the sacred is not the secular but the ordinary, from which it is set apart. In this light, the garden is one of the original sacred sites, preceded by groves like the Lyceum: an area cordoned off from purely natural or human activity, but which explicitly unites both. While perfectly secular, its walls, fences, ditches or hedges symbolise a break from “common sense”.

The garden is, in other words, an invitation to philosophy.

This invitation is not only for professional philosophers – as if reflection were a private club for tenured academics. Starting with the Greeks, philosophy has a long amateur tradition, which flourishes as much in literature, poetry and fine art as it does in philosophy seminars.

It does not require a university, but rather the balance of society and solitude that universities, at their best, provide. Like Aristotle’s Lyceum, the garden is a companion to the life of the mind.
Aesthetically, it caters to varied tastes: colourful or muted, geometric or serpentine, busy or austere. But more importantly, in an era of acceleration, over-stimulation and interruption, the garden is a chance to slow down, look carefully and think boldly – it is an antidote to distraction. ‘The human race lives,” wrote Aristotle in Metaphysics, “by art and reasonings.”


Over two millennia on, the garden remains a rare refuge for both. Gardens can be beautiful – sometimes overwhelmingly so. They can console, calm and uplift. But they can also discomfit and provoke, and this is often their philosophical value. For all their common themes – order and disorder, growth and decay, consciousness and unconsciousness, stasis and animation – gardens reveal conflict: the conceptual strife in every civilisation, and every civilised mind.
For this reason, the story of the garden – told through my book – involves varied characters, with jarring sensibilities.

Jane Austen looked to her cottage garden for the comforts of perfection. Leonard Woolf’s frozen apple trees suggested exactly the opposite: a taste of the world’s precarious brutality. For Marcel Proust, stuck in his musty, latrine-smelling bedroom, three bonsai symbolised a search for lost time. Friedrich Nietzsche’s Italian thought-tree gave the sickly philosopher a surge of strength and bravery: forget the past; keep creating and destroying.

The scandalous French author Colette discovered contemplative peace in roses. A generation later, her cafe-haunting countryman Jean-Paul Sartre described the nausea provoked by a chestnut tree – an existentialist cry that rallied a generation.

In this way, gardens make the truth of philosophical discord easier to identify, and harder to ignore. “Piety requires us to honour truth,” wrote Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics, “above our friends.”

In this spirit, this exploration offers an increased intimacy with nature, human nature, and their mysterious fusion: the garden.

Buy it now.

25 Responses to ‘Book of the Week: Philosophy in the Garden ’

Brian reckons...

Posted June 9, 2013

Nice. A lot of stuff that I've been doing and reading in one place. Went to Monets - Water Garden exhibition where similar themes are explored . En plain got thrown around a lot - French, in the open air ref. painting outside.

Missed one thing on Aristotle a peripatetic - wandering or walking philosopher. A jarring note.

Respond to this comment

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat ducks in to say...

Posted June 9, 2013
Hi JB, you're up early. Or late. Anyway, thanks for this. I've read a number of 'philosophy for non-philosophers' books over the years and some struggle to balance accessibility with sufficient detail to remain interesting . This book appears to have achieved the balance and I really enjoyed the writing style.

Couple of things came to mind. Donna Tartt's The Secret History features ' The Lycaeum' but it refers to a building rather than a garden - although having read the above, I now suspect Tartt selected the name to symbolize the cultivation of the students' minds by their teacher.

Gardens do play a significant role in Austen . I don't know if the book goes on to discuss it

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat would have you know...

Posted June 9, 2013
But there are often references in books of that time to 'a wilderness' part of the garden i.e. Plantings deliberately mimicking a wild place untouched by human hands. So we have the appearance of wildness and danger without the risk.

I do feel smarter!

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted June 9, 2013

I seem to recall spending a few pars in Leviathan on competing systems of thought re landscape gardening in eighteenth century Europe, one of which emphasised order and another the 'natural wilde'. You can do that in long books.

DAYoung ducks in to say...

Posted June 9, 2013

Thanks, Jayanthi's Atomic Cat. The book actually has a chapter on Jane Austen. (Her silhouette's on the cover, too.)

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat is gonna tell you...

Posted June 9, 2013
Cool! Thanks DA . Shall definitely get a copy..obliged to now as a Janeite.

DAYoung mutters...

Posted June 9, 2013

*secret Janeite handshake*

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat asserts...

Posted June 9, 2013
Your book 'Distraction' looks interesting too DA . I feel some philosophically indulgent Sunday afternoons coming on.

Respond to this thread

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted June 9, 2013

Nice change of pace for the Sunday extend pieces.

Dino not to be confused with mumbles...

Posted June 9, 2013


Yes a nice change.

I wonder if there are any chapters on Zombies?

A dialectic on Nature should include zombies IMHO.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 9, 2013

agree completely

Respond to this thread

w from brisbane asserts...

Posted June 9, 2013

The author probably covers this, but I would say the main reason for the plein air tradition is a lack of electric lights.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted June 9, 2013

They had candles.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted June 9, 2013

They also had oil lamps. Still not great light and it costs.

Also why Shakespeare's Globe Theatre had no roof and plays were preformed in the afternoon.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted June 9, 2013

I do have a vague recollection, however, about one of the Greek brainiacs insisting it was better to be outside in the world while you learned about it. Probably wrote a whole scroll on it. Or rather talked up a scrolls worth of thinky that someone later wrote down.

Brian has opinions thus...

Posted June 9, 2013

Hmm . . .no doubt someone did. I think that they did all their work outside. The gymnasis was more a rich boys school where everything got taught. One reason their are so few scrolls was that they had really good memories and writing was what scribes were for.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted June 9, 2013

Yes! And one of the really famous ones, possibly Aristotle, used to complain about the invention of scrolls cos he thought it would ruin people's memories

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted June 9, 2013

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.” Cicero (106 BC - 43 BC)

Ippy Percival ducks in to say...

Posted June 9, 2013

Yes to the thing about writing and memory. Part of the reason I think the changes we are seeing now with the start of the information age are just the beginning and are are profound as the invention of writing itself.

Brian asserts...

Posted June 10, 2013

Ever see one of these scrolls? No punctuation,nospacing.

Sophists were the memory guys and they got bad raps from Socrates onwards. The writing gag was mentioned by him and attributed to an Egyptian god and a pharaoh. Re. Sophists, they played around in memories and altered them hence . . .the bad rap.

Respond to this thread

pitpat asserts...

Posted June 9, 2013

Watching the rain tumble down listening to Gram Parsons( as well as the discordant sounds of guitar and piano being practised) looking over the garden thinking that it is good that it is raining and we ( the garden and I ) do not have to join battle today. The grass is safe. Also just finished reading Joe 'The Bloody" Abercrombie which defenitley colors my outlook.

Respond to this comment

Darth Greybeard would have you know...

Posted June 9, 2013

Checked with my wife. Apparently I'm no smarter and she wants me to do the mowing. Gardens. What a gyp.

DAYoung is gonna tell you...

Posted June 9, 2013

Couch grass makes me stupid.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted June 9, 2013

Hmm, perhaps because you were coming off such a high base, el Beardo?

Respond to this thread

Dino not to be confused with swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted June 9, 2013


Having real trouble with this link-(at the bottom of the Front Cover)-

"All this thinky at such a low, low price.

And you can support an indy bookshoppe."

The better half is going to buy it for me straight from the Kindle shop.

Respond to this comment

Respond to 'Book of the Week: Philosophy in the Garden '

Atomic City, by Sally Breen

Posted June 2, 2013 into Book Extract by John Birmingham
Ms. Breen

I'll be launching this bad grrrl at Avid on 21 June. Sally is one of my favorite writer-writers. She has great craft, as you'll see below, but none of the breathless pretense of Big-L literistas.

Atomic City is a grifter novel of the Jim Thompson school. There are no good guys, only bad guys you sorta want to hang out with anyway.

Elmore Leonard is probably the most famous modern exponent of these sorts of characters, but although he's more famous than Thompson, he didn't have the same eye for darkness.



This is Jade. Her story begins the first time you remember being lied to. Jade is the colour of a lie. A silicate of lime and magnesia, a hard green, blue or white stone. Green. A green that is not leafy lush or verdant but unripe. A green that is sour and inedible. Betrayal. A caustic taste in the mouth. White bile in the guts. Green, white, blue. White lies, the green eyed monster, licentious blue. Jade, the colour of a lie. There are certain people who are prone to being lied to. There are certain people who aren’t. But there are certain cities where the colour of lies is so camouflaged inside the fabric of the streets that every word ends up being tinged with a shade of something untrue. The Dealer lives in such a city. He was born into this prevaricated space. He has made it his life. Jade was never from here and that is why she belongs.


Jade arrived on the Gold Coast in the cold season. I remember the time: 3.57 pm. It had been a long afternoon, the floor subdued. I was still a rookie then, what the other dealers call a lumpy, but I was working my way in. She came directly to my table. Blackjack. Round 701. A bunch of papers and keys in her left hand and a modest wad of cash in the other. She dragged back the vacant chair in front of me resting her stash on the rubber lip of the table. I checked out the papers under her hand. Usual hotel check-in paraphernalia and a bus ticket. Couldn’t see the details, but wherever she was from she wasn’t wasting any time.

Jade settled quickly. She put the papers between her legs, drew out a few hundred dollar bills, waited for the next round and asked me to hit her. She was serious. She was young. Not an average combination.

I remember her hands – quick, elegant hands with fast fingers – but I didn’t miss the way they shook. The shaking got me. It wasn’t nerves. The rest of her was clear, focused. It wasn’t

drink, because her eyes didn’t drift. It was something else. Jade had the sickness; something I knew about, something I hadn’t seen for a while. Everyone in the Casino had symptoms; not everyone had the sickness like her. I felt it as soon as she sat down; the mix of intensity and distance. Jade was on the take.

But she wasn’t like the others. She was sick but she wasn’t diseased. Jade could have left that table, that room, anytime. What drove her wasn’t addiction; I saw addiction every day. She knew about the game, she knew where her decisions were taking her. It wasn’t fear or excitement making her shake, but knowledge. Jade was here for something else, something bigger than a dice or card. And when she looked at me, straight into me, she knew I’d seen it.

We played.

Our hands conducted the game on that table. The game between us was happening in our heads. Her eyes, our subtle smiles were locked in a forcefield the table kept at bay. The faster I dealt the more she defied me. It wasn’t the cash she wanted then. In twenty minutes she had my number.

Like most practised gamblers, Jade didn’t attempt to speak to me. She hit the table with her index finger when she wanted something and sliced her hand through the air when she didn’t. And I liked talking in symbols, it was what I was trained to do but I found myself wanting more than anything to speak to her. The game on the table kept me quiet. Three other players on either side of Jade, one of them Asian, all good but typically last-minute and fussy. Jade, win or lose, just kept firing.

I remember she sat the last one out. No play, just sat there and watched my hands and every movement I made was cleaner, magnified, better because she was there. I forgot about the machines and their tidal noise, the sound of money falling into steel traps, the rattle of tokens flushed repetitively down holes. None of it was there. My eyes didn’t register the swirls of insistent light, flowing up the walls, rolling reflected over our bodies. I concentrated only on the fluid movement of my hands. The precision of my splays and folds was perfect; the

effortlessness in my features right; it was a ballet, a test, and when she pulled her papers out of her lap in preparation to leave I found myself, mid-deal, wanting to stop but I didn’t. I kept dealing and tried to let her know with my eyes there had to be more time. And in that moment I sealed my fate.

Jade smiled.

She took her room key, a flat acrylic card, white and shiny and angled it towards me so I could see the number ‘1109’ then she stacked her tokens and left. A look back wasn’t necessary; Jade knew she had me. And that’s when I got scared. As soon as she’d fallen out of my line of vision I remembered why I wasn’t on the take anymore. Why I’d spent so long trying to undo the fallout. Why I’d started dealing because I thought working on the other side of the table would keep me clean. I faced people all the time who acted like they knew but all they did was make gambling easier to refuse. Jade changed all that.

I was still vulnerable to the rush. Still curious.

Whatever she wanted me for, the possibilities, the idea of what might happen was charging in like rapid fire between me and an old friend – but I didn’t have any friends by then and I didn’t even know her name. All I knew was my past was irrelevant. A woman I’d never spoken to had superseded it and I was heading as fast as I could to that room.

6 Responses to ‘Atomic City, by Sally Breen’

Barnesm mutters...

Posted June 2, 2013

Look that was all very well, the darkening gloom, the morally ambigous tones, the sparse pared back style all their well represented. As fan of this stuff I liked what I read.

My only complaint, a significant lack of Atomics for an atomic city? and don't tease me with the word Fallout unless it is nuclear.

Respond to this comment

HAVOCK21 mumbles...

Posted June 2, 2013

And much much better fkn looking than you I might add!

Dino not to be confused with has opinions thus...

Posted June 2, 2013


Now that you mention it...

Respond to this thread

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted June 3, 2013

I thought that was John.

Sometimes a bloke just wants to feel pretty.

Respond to this comment

Dan mumbles...

Posted August 8, 2015
I'm just not 'buying it.' Just like The Casuals it is a thoroughly boring and predictable read. Made only worse by Ms Breen's insistence that she is interesting. Her delusion that she is an important author shines through in everything she writes. A bit sickening.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted August 9, 2015
Jeez, Dan. You're a little slow getting your review in, mate.

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'Atomic City, by Sally Breen'

Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport By Anna Krien

Posted May 19, 2013 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

‘Cops want to catch crooks, they don’t want to be social workers,’ he said. ‘I’m not saying they don’t care about the victims – it’s just that a lot of police aren’t equipped with the skills to deal with the complicated issues that sexual assaults offer up. A break-in rape – now that’s a good job, a “feather in your cap” job.’

‘Because there is an obvious villain?’ I asked.

‘Exactly. A crap job, however, is a fourteen-year-old goes to a party, says she was raped, the guys say she was with everyone. That’s too hard.’

Davies spent twenty-nine years with the Victorian police force, the top cop at the sex crimes squad in his final years. It was here that he felt he could do his best work.

Intent on changing police and public perceptions of rape – perceptions that in his mind often damaged victims because their experiences didn’t suit the stereotypical scenario – Davies wrote letters to newspapers to clarify stories, met with journalists and tried to raise the profile of the squad so that the public understood its work. A fellow detective, Ken Ashworth, said Davies brought about a cultural change. ‘When a prostitute would make a complaint, police used to say it was just a civil debt,’ Davies told me later. ‘They don’t anymore.’ But then, only two years into the job, Davies found himself suspended.

It was the rape allegations on the night of Collingwood’s premiership win that partly triggered it. During a separate police integrity investigation, Davies was recorded confirming to journalists that Dayne Beams and John McCarthy were the footballers being questioned about the allegations. When the charge of unauthorised disclosure of information was laid against him, Davies was forced to resign.

Although he would never be a policeman again, Davies’ desire to change police culture had not diminished. As he loaded me up with names of authors, papers and textbooks about police and media attitudes towards rape, I asked him about the process following an allegation of rape.

A neat explanation goes a little like this, explained Davies. If the complainant comes to the police immediately, hours or days after the incident, they undergo a medical examination. Then their statement is recorded and the ‘what, where, when and who’ are established. Once all or most of these boxes are ticked, police have a potential case to prosecute and the complainant will get their ‘options’ talk. ‘This will involve talking them through the prosecution and court process.’

The process of the investigation, however, is rarely neat. The complainant’s statement is invariably picked over for inconsistencies and credibility. ‘They know that any weakness in credibility of the complainant will be seized on by the defence.’ Davies added that this can often be done with a fair degree of scepticism. ‘There’s the, “C’mon, tell us what really happened” or “If I ring your boyfriend, what will he say? Do you have a boyfriend?”’

The complainant’s initial reaction to the alleged assault is almost always interrogated, the general belief being that there are only two options available to a victim: fight or flight.

‘But there’s a third reaction,’ he said, ‘and it’s the most common one. It’s “freeze.”’ Like a rabbit caught in headlights, the vulnerable person simply seizes up, unable to flee or to fight. ‘But that doesn’t suit police, the media or the courts – you’ll always have a defendant’s lawyer saying, “Why didn’t you scream?”’

Then there is the tricky scenario in which the complainant actually knows the offender. ‘You’ll have police asking, “If you were raped by this guy, then why did you go back and see him?”’

But again, Davies said, the complainant’s reactions are far from practised in such a situation, and in some instances they’re second-guessing themselves. ‘Especially when the guy they think may have raped them comes back to them the next day and says they “had a great night.” She’ll be like, “What? It was hell. Is this the same night we’re talking about?” Often men will “retell” the situation and dress it up as something it wasn’t.’

The options talk is a necessity, no matter how cold and pragmatic it may seem to the complainant. Carolyn Worth at the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault told me about a situation in which a woman, after being told what she could expect during a trial, decided she would not be able to handle the crossexamination. The woman had Tourette’s syndrome, explained Worth, sighing. ‘She knew she wouldn’t be able to withstand the questioning. The thing is, what made her not testify is likely to be the same reason her neighbour raped her. She was vulnerable, a perfect target.’

A friend of mine who was raped at a wedding reception when she was in her late teens was told quite pragmatically by a police officer and a sexual assualt counsellor that she would have to accept that she’d no doubt be ruining the wedding couple’s memories of their special day if she decided to take the offender to trial.

‘I was told that most of the wedding party would have to testify,’ she said, adding that the options talk had been so discouraging that she had even started to question if the assault had happened, despite the physical evidence. ‘I should have been encouraged to go through with it. I had a toxicology result proving that I had Rohypnol in my system from that night. Who knows how many others the same guy has done it to since?’

The options talk is also about police explaining what the complainant’s chances are of getting a conviction – and if the prospects are low, then police will most likely be advising against pursuing the case, or will already have made the decision to suspend their investigations.

Davies believed police needed to be less focused on getting a win in court. ‘The law is very specific about what is rape and what is not, but it’s not being applied. We’re not brave enough in our own prosecuting,’ he said. ‘I’ve heard numerous sergeants say, “Oh, it will never get up” and “The Office of Public Prosecutions, they just want a win.” But we need to not focus so much on conviction, but keep putting these cases in front of juries and maybe one day they’ll be more sophisticated in their understanding of rape.’

I wondered if this was why Justin was charged and the others who came under investigation on the same evening were not (Sarah’s statement revealed she’d made multiple complaints against multiple protagonists) – because police assumed a jury would not be sophisticated enough to understand the nuances of the bedroom allegations, while the charges against Justin involved a classic rape stereotype. The setting was, after all, a dark alleyway.

‘I had a sergeant come up to me recently,’ Davies continued, ‘and he’s a good policeman, but even he said to me he was confused about what to do in a rape case he was investigating, that it just came down to “he said, she said.” And I said, “How can you be confused? You charge him. Why not? You do the same with a robbery. If a complainant was robbed in the street and identified the assailant, the police would not hesitate in charging the offender.”’

I was uneasy. ‘But a rape charge is different, surely? I mean, you can’t rub that off. It’s a permanent stain.’

I wanted to agree entirely with Davies, to share completely in his horror at the treatment of rape complainants, but something kept snagging in my thoughts and it was Justin. His quiet and gentle manner threw me. When I looked at him in the dock, snared in a stereotypical rape scenario from the alleyway to the aftermath, he didn’t seem to fit the stereotype that went with the story. A stereotype that seems to rely on a typology popularised in 1979 by Dr Nicholas Groth in his book Men Who Rape: the ‘sadistic,’ ‘anger’ or ‘power’ rapist, men varying in their motives but all premeditated in their hunt for vulnerable prey. Justin seemed like a boy in comparison.

But this was naïve. ‘There is no type,’ Dr Angela Williams, a forensic physician with much experience of rape cases, later said to me. ‘I meet a lot of offenders, and not one is a guy hiding behind a tree. You can’t pick them in a crowd, but they can pick out their victim – it is someone in a vulnerable position, be it a family member, an ex-partner or someone who is very drunk.’

Williams said in spite of commonly held beliefs about rape and rapists, only about one in a hundred offenders was the ‘tree’ man, the rape occurring in the alley, by the train tracks or in the bushes. Among her colleagues, these stereotypical scenarios were often referred to as ‘rape myths.’ ‘You never hear about the husband who rapes his wife and brings her flowers the next day. Or the guy who’s a top bloke, plays cricket at the local club and so on. And as a result, the victim looks at these myths and thinks no one is ever going to believe them.’

The same thing applied to the victims of rape: ‘I meet all sorts of girls and women, they can be covered head to toe, in work attire, dressed for a nightclub, in gym gear, there is no pattern.’

And then there was the question of how to define rape itself.

Anna Krien

10 Responses to ‘Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport By Anna Krien’

Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 19, 2013

It certainly sounds like it will be a timely book, given recent and all to frequent cases. The Steubenville High School rape cases upper most in my mind at the moment. I think at least a culture that contributes to rape is being talk about. I hope that is only an intial step in trying to change things for the better.

Respond to this comment

JG reckons...

Posted May 19, 2013

Thanks for the extract, John. It seems a most useful book in that it challenges the myths and stereotypes about rape. I hope the police and judicial system learn from it, and that rape victims are comforted and feel heard by reading it.

Respond to this comment

Barnesm is gonna tell you...

Posted May 19, 2013

Can you imagine the comments if this was a Bluntie? The Ban Hammer would be worn down to a nub by noon.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted May 19, 2013

Well, I doubt I'd get away with extracts at Blunty. But yeah.

Respond to this thread

Toni Fish ducks in to say...

Posted May 20, 2013

Thanks for sharing the extract, JB. Seems like a long-overdue account of the problems regarding rape, policing and false assumptions in our culture.

Respond to this comment

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat asserts...

Posted May 20, 2013

Very interesting, JB. Thanks. Found the comment by Dr Williams interesting...I would have to say with the majority of my female friends, they are less worried about the stranger behind the tree and more worried about having their drinks spiked in a nightclub. I wonder if you looked at different age brackets, whether certain 'myths' would be more pervasive - that would be logical, wouldn't it?

I am curious to read this book and will go get a copy. In my previous life as a counsellor I counselled a few young women who were raped (none in an elite sports setting though) and almost inevitably part of them knew they were putting themselves in a risky position (even with boys/men they knew) and regretted not listening to their intuition later. There were a lot of reasons they didn't listen to their intuition, and it often involved being perceived negatively by their male and/or female peers if they 'backed out'. Would the same apply, perhaps even more strongly, in the elite sports setting? Does it make it harder to stand up for yourself and say 'no'? I strongly agree with Williams' comment about perpetrators being able to pick their victims. This does not just apply to rape but to other situations such as domenstic violence. OK, dismounting from counselling horse now.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat ducks in to say...

Posted May 20, 2013
Not generalizing the above to all women or all situations btw, and certainly not suggesting that it's as simple as ' just say no'! Although aspects of culture can make it hard to pass on certain risky behaviours e.g. Binge drinking as another example.

Promise, i have stabled the counselling horse now.

Respond to this thread

Matthew K would have you know...

Posted May 20, 2013

Sounds like police culture is very similar between UK and Oz.

The drink spiking is the most terrifyingbecause of the possibility that it happens so much and it appears so ambiguous in that we are a fairly drunken society. It might well have happened to my sister when she was at uni, luckily her puzzled and exasperated friends took her home.

Respond to this comment

Matthew K reckons...

Posted May 21, 2013

Spiking someone, with anything, no matter what the motivation, is such scum behaviour. It's a sort of rape all by itself.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 21, 2013
Well put, Matthew, and dead on target. Like rape, it's about power.

Respond to this thread

Respond to 'Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport By Anna Krien'