Cheeseburger Gothic

Rusty

Posted December 18 by John Birmingham

Finally returned to the mat last night. The first time I’d trained at the dojo, in about five or six weeks. I was away of course, and when I came back I promptly caught a tummy bug. Missed a week or so before travelling too, with all of Thomas’s graduation stuff.

Long story short, I was rusty.

So of course we did knife work, all night.

It was interesting to be reminded just how quickly your skills degrade when you’re not working on them all the time. Even a dull bladed training knife will do that. I kept my fitness up while we travelled. The hotel gym was pretty swish and I was walking about 20km a day, most days. Even with all the beer and chicken I kept the weight off.

And last night, my base level of fitness was still there. One of the ways I turn up the calorie burn at jujitsu—which isn’t always cardio intensive—is to do a burpee up off the mat whenever I get put down. That can mean doing twenty or thirty of those bad boys every session.

No problem with that last night.

But the jujitsu itself?

Rusty.

And not just in body, but also in mind and spirit.

I looked across the dojo at one point, watching about a dozen pairs of uke and tori doing various knife defences, many of them involving the breaking of limbs and the gouging of eyes, and I recall thinking very clearly, almost in surprise, “Holy shit! This is really dangerous. A bloke could get hurt doing this stuff!”

Just for a moment last night I felt myself a newbie again, and newly exposed to harm.

Of course, part of the art lies in training to do harm without coming to harm, and I’ve been doing it long enough now that even after five or six weeks away, I have enough muscle memory and neural imprinting to move along pathways laid down over the years. I also know from previous breaks that it wont take long to get back up to speed. About three sessions.

But man, the skills do decay when you don’t tend to them.

4 Responses to ‘Rusty’

jl is gonna tell you...

Posted December 18
"The skills do decay..." Yeah. Very, very true. And not just the skills, the body too.

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she_jedi ducks in to say...

Posted December 18
I really felt this. I took up Pilates at the beginning of the year, which is a particular form of torture, and then I got a cold that knocked me on my butt for a week, and then lingered for another 3 weeks. And then I got diagnosed with low iron and low vitamin D, both of which contribute to feeling fatigued, and I missed about six weeks of Pilates between the cold and the diagnosis (I came second in my doctor's annual 'which of my patients is a vampire?' competition. A healthy level of Vitamin D should have a recording in the 70s. Mine was 16. The winner of the competition's reading was 6. It was not a shock that both of us work in IT).

Now that I'm on supplements for the iron and D deficiencies I'm feeling better and went back to Pilates and oh boy were my glutes and abs PEEVED at me. For weeks. In fact they still are. I had Pilates this morning and I know I'm going to wake up tomorrow and everything will hurt and I will feel like I'm dying, and then I'll go back on Friday and do it again. Then I'm out of the country for a couple of weeks and will miss it again so the small progress I've made will be lost again. Sigh.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted December 18
Yup. We break for Christmas at the dojo this Thursday. Don't resume until mid January. And then I'm off overseas again in Feb.

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 18
Ouch. You're going to be hurting in March!

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The Sturm's next move

Posted December 17 by John Birmingham

I had a chat with Jason yesterday about the outline for the next book in the The Cruel Stars series, a draft of which is due with the publishers at the end of January.
I already knew in broad terms where I wanted to go. One thing holding me back, however, was wondering where the Sturm might go.
Those who read TCS will recall they got a ferocious arse kicking from Hardy & McLennan and Co at the end of the first book. But the Sturm, I can assure you, have more than enough arse to absorb the kicking.
There’s no question about what our heroes have to do next. Get the fuck out of dodge and re-arm, before ginning up a resistance movement.
But what do the bad guys do?
At this stage, they’ll keep driving for Earth. Because that’s the mission and the loss of a mere fleet shouldn’t interfere with that.
It will take nearly two years to get from the edge of the Greater Volume into the Sol system, where the Sturm’s decapitation strike has wreaked utter havoc. But that’s two years for our guys to get their shit together.
McLennan in particular will want to delay the enemy’s advance as long as possible.
How he does that is massive spoiler so I won’t go into it here.
But in the first instance I am interested to hear from any readers about what they imagine the Sturm might do in response to the loss of Admiral Strom’s 101st Attack Fleet.

9 Responses to ‘The Sturm's next move’

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 17
Go into the hall of mirrors take a good hard look at themselves Re-evaluate their fundamental beliefs, remember its a game with two halves and go out there and win one for the gipper?

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Dirk swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 17
Being the Sturm and having a crooked logic, but a logic anyway, I would see them making up a tally. You don't attack unless you have a 3:1 advantage, and your opponent is severly weekend. True you lost a battlefleet, so you moarn and glorify the dead. But you push on: your strength/advantage vis a vis your enemy hasn't changed. Ok, they have superior tech, but you can overcome that with a combination of tech and tactics of your own, the willingness to take huge sacrifices in men and material and pure grit and determination. And keeping your populus in line with harsh terror and propaganda always helps. So the Sturm will rage, probably even harsher then before. "Prisoners? We don't take prisoners! Remember glorious heroes of the 101st!"

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted December 17
the sturm had a lot of time for planning and war gaming and may have created backup plans, worst case scenario outcomes . eg what if we lose the first fleet to an obnoxious immortal Scotsman ? do we have back up? or a 1000 cuts have been made to a home world now run by digital zombie class ridden filth so we can bide our time to move on to the earth while personally taking out said Scotsman, before he does something super clever (and obnoxious) again.

or

2nd fleet better than the first .

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jason ducks in to say...

Posted December 17
After getting an arse kicking it is important for morale to deliver an even greater arse kicking , possibly to an opponent who looks stronger but is essentially a punching bag. This should improve morale and establish that the first loss was a fluke.

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insomniac mumbles...

Posted December 17
If I know the Sturm, and apparently I do, I'd have sent two fleets concurrently, where the second went on a longer Earthbound arc in some sort of flanking strategy.

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Leftarc puts forth...

Posted December 17
Sturm seem abit like the Soviets of WW2.
Quantity has a quality all of its own.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted December 17
Do they happen to have a couple of elite fighting units specialising in cruel and unusual punishment (allowing a tight focus on narrative as they harass our heroes) while the main fleet continues with their mission in the background? (just putting on a thinking cap - the good guys defeat the big bad in bk1 but not decisively, second book is getting their arses handed to them by the gods of retribution . . . . which i hate to say it means sacrifices of most likely my favourites . . . and then the third book gives a satisfying arse kicking by the underdogs to the big bad previously defeated in book 1) . . . . . . with lots of explosions.

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted December 17
Would the Sturm lower themselves to sending assassins after that annoying immortal Scotsman, while their Fleet 2.0 with a commander less prone to hubris chugs away to Earth? Could be a fun B plot; while Our Heroes are trying to work out WTF the second fleet are up to, they're distracted and distressed by some Sturm space ninjas messing with them?

Matthew F. swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 20
I like this idea.

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FAIL STATE chapter one

Posted December 16 into Books by John Birmingham

The full audiobook hasn't dropped yet, but for anyone who'd like a sneak preview, the first chapter is on SoundCloud.

You can listen here.

4 Responses to ‘FAIL STATE chapter one’

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted December 16
Squeeeeeeee!!! This dropping a week before Christmas is everything :)

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 17
The whole thing has dropped to the race is on to listen and provide the first 5 star review on Amazon.

jl has opinions thus...

Posted December 17
On. It.

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Dirk has opinions thus...

Posted December 17
Huzzah! Tenfold Huzzah!

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Hey man, it’s my bag

Posted December 16 by John Birmingham

I’ve been using the same beaten up shoulder bag for just under twenty years. I picked it up for a trip to the US back 2001, and it’s served me well ever since. Indeed it it gave yeoman’s service just recently in Korea and Hong Kong.

I fear those days are coming to an end though. A couple of small holes have opened up in the corners and I can easily imagine my very expensive Apple Pencil slipping right through one of them.

I’m having a surprisingly difficult time replacing it.

There’s a few things that come come together to make a Goldilocks bag; as in - just right.

It’s not too big, or heavy, and yet in a weird Tardis-like fashion you can fit a lot of stuff into it. My big arse iPad Pro, for instance - with the Smart Cover and bunch of other things. Notebooks. Phone. Wallet. Headphones.

For a wonder there’s also, for such a small, simply designed bag, a surprising number of little pockets and hidden slots for documents, keys, coins, AirPods, Kindles and suchlike.

Stitched together from soft but durable canvas and cut just so, it’s very light and when empty moulds to my side so that I forget I’m carrying it. The strap is wide and fixed directly to the main body of the bag. (Buckles are an abomination, and thin straps the tool of assassins). The main flap seals with Velcro, making it difficult for pickpockets and direct marketers to gain access to the inner volume without my knowing.

I’ve got a new Crumpler coming for Christmas, but I doubt it will replace my much loved and far travelled old companion.

15 Responses to ‘Hey man, it’s my bag’

jl would have you know...

Posted December 16
Do they still make this bag? Then it's no problem- order the exact same bag. I did this recently with the wallet that lasted through three tours and retirement- a SpecOps T.H.E. wallet. The best, toughest ever with a lifetime guarantee that actually means something. So I get it about being attached to a good piece of gear. Nothing beats the best.

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andrew mutters...

Posted December 16
That's a nice looking satchel! If you're fishing for alternative suggestions, I offer my well-worn Peak Design messenger bag. Not twenty years old yet, but hanging in there admirably. Has one feature that I particularly like: it fits exactly under the airline seat in front when standing up, even when full of camera gear and tablet and what-not. That means that you still have room for your feet. No velcro, except to hold the internal partitions in place. Lots of interior pockets and places. Canvas. Wide strap.

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John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted December 16
I will check out both of these fine product recommendations.

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insomniac puts forth...

Posted December 16
Have you thought about getting it repaired, or at least get an Apple Pencil pocket installed.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted December 16
Oh I would be totally up for repairing it with gaffer tape and using it another twenty years. But unfortunately the flaw has been noted by Jane. And she is made of sterner stuff. The bag must die.

Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted December 16
Surely a good tailor, bootmaker, backpack fabricator or some such could effect a decent repair. Perhaps enquire through a better camping shop for referral to a pack and tent repairer? Clearly this bag is worth keeping and repairing!

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted December 16
Yeah maybe they can reinforce the corners with leather corner wrap thingys? Like on a book bag? It seems a tragedy to summarily execute such a faithful workhorse...

FormerlyKnownAsSimon mutters...

Posted December 16
i also suggest asking at a shoe repairer. Leather and canvas being their . . . . bag

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 16
It is exceedingly difficult to find a real, honest to God repairer. My wallet, for example. I learned when I purchased a new one that SpecOps had a lifetime guarantee. So I sent the old one back, wanting a repair. Me and that wallet had a history, you see. Did they fix it? No. They pitched it and sent me a brand new one. Can't complain, brand new wallet. But the old one could have been saved. No one repairs anymore. A real shame.

spankee reckons...

Posted December 19
JB there is a luggage repairer on Vulture St, West End. We've had great success with cricket bags and the Boy's school bags. Could be an option while you wait for your Crumpler to wear in. Just past Kim Thahn bakery, where they do those meatloaf sized sausage rolls.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted December 19
Noted. Thx mate.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 16
Good luck on your hunt. I would like to think that in 20 years bag technology would have improved better materials, better designs and of course cheaper- however, that has not been my experience. After using the same bag I picked up on an overseas trip well over a decade ago I have gone through three bags in the same period of time.

Currently trying to find an old grizzled merchant in a cursed store to purchase a replacement.

Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted December 18
'the Froghurt is also cursed'

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Barnesm mutters...

Posted December 17
Personally I am a bit of a traditionalist and believe in waiting to make one with leather made from the leather of the first climate denier I kill and skin in the post-apocalyptic wasteland.

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Leftarc ducks in to say...

Posted December 17
Crumpler are worth a look. I have a Crumpler messenger bag that is 18 years old and been to Norway and back. Black and responsible on the outside, orange and loud on the inside. It is starting to fray on the top of the inside pocket where my laptop goes, but I think that is from putting too much in that slot.
Good luck with your search.

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Christmas party in TV land

Posted December 13 into Writing by John Birmingham

I enjoyed a quick trip down to Sydney last night for a Christmas party with the TV guys I’ve been doing some stuff with this year.

Great night. The venue was a brew pub in St Peter’s - Willie the Boatman.

I had whatever lager was on tap, because I’m finding most other beers too fruity for my gnarly old man palate these days. There was an elegant sufficiency of nosh, including three different types of sausage sandwich. The company was excellent. And I want to be a TV writer now.

Seriously. I love this stuff. Not just the wide range of Frellman-approved complimentary sausage products, but the writing. There is something about the screenplay form that really appeals to me.

Earlier this year I talked a bit about writing a pilot episode for a black comedy set in the world of espionage. (Couldn’t sleep, seething, the night of the election. Got up at 3AM and vomited my rage into the screenplay software. Finished the first draft inside a day. It was very funny. Who would have imagined that deep existential dread and loathing would have an upside?)

I put my experience with the Felafel movie to good use. Sent off the script with my invoice and promptly moved on. I didn’t forget about the screenplay, but I consciously stopped thinking about it.

Writing for screen more generally, however, was a different matter. Having acquired some new skills I was keen to polish them. So when I got back from Korea I put aside some time to write another pilot. This time an adaptation. Since A Girl in Time was the first novel I wrote after studying screenwriting to get a better grip on story structure, I decided to rework it into a TV pilot.

Smooth transition. Or relatively smooth, with a couple of caveats. The dialogue and scene setting moved from page to screen without a hitch. An hour long pilot was the perfect length to move Cady and Smith from Seattle to London. The ep finished with them escaping London on a cliffhanger. All good.

The one issue I did have, and still have to address in any future drafts, was point of view. I write point-of-view novels, of course. I hadn’t realised just how pointy until I attempted the transition to screenplay. A lot of the humour and narrative power of that book, and probably all of them, comes from the very particular world views of whichever character is narrating a chapter.

But how do you do POV on screen? To be honest, I have no fucking idea. But I’m going to find out. One way it affects the transition if you just cut and paste? You find your characters standing, talking, and doing nothing. In a novel those sections can be surrounded by passages of internal monologue and reflection. But not on screen.

That’s why that party was so good last night. A room full of people who’ve done this stuff their whole working lives. It was like talking to a bunch of kung fu masters who had all of this arcane knowledge I needed to gather.

So I’m gonna do another quick screenplay next week. A conventional crime/adventure/martial arts story based on a book idea I had a couple of years back but did nothing with.

And then back to novels for a while. Still gotta pay those bills.

4 Responses to ‘Christmas party in TV land’

Bondiboy66 ducks in to say...

Posted December 13
Smith and cady would be a great basis for TV! Be nice if it comes to fruition!

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted December 13
Yes, yes they would.

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Therbs would have you know...

Posted December 13
Ask for a laugh track for the funny bits. Apparently its a TV thing. And a tag line at the end of each episode.
"Oh Cady, you sure do talk funny!" (cue laugh track, roll end credits).

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted December 13
Man, it’s like you’re looking over my shoulder.

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How to cook the perfect steak

Posted December 12 into Funny by John Birmingham

Before you start you will need land, lots of land, underneath the starry sky, and you will need to fence it in. Otherwise your tender juicy steaks will wander off. If there is no land available in your local area, you may have to send an invading army through the fence lines of rival steak lords, seizing their ancestral lands and women for your own. If they have yurts, burn them.
When the yurt coals are reduced to an even heat, extract your steak from its container. This will be messy and often distressing, but less so for you than for the steak.
Jamie Oliver recommends feather steak, also known as flat iron steak, but neither feathers nor flat irons are edible, which explains why so many of Oliver’s restaurants have closed.
A simple fillet steak, cut into the shape of a steak, always impresses.
Never cook your fillet cold, because the application of heat causes the molecules of the steak to rapidly move backward and forward in a process we call cooking. Applying cold to the steak will not cook it at all.
Make sure your griddle, fry pan or barbecue plate are similarly hot and cast from iron or you will need to go back to the Bronze Age and restart your civilisation if you want to caramelise your steak for a deliciously crusty outer crust.
When done, your steak must be medium rare, or else there was no point to any of this. If perfect steaks were just lying around all over the place and not even mediumly difficult to find, this whole exercise would collapse under the weight of its inherent contradictions.
Do not, under any circumstances, allow the steak to toughen up. It will learn Krav Maga and then it will be you on the iron griddle and the steak boasting to all its friends as it sticks a fork into your rump.
Rubbing the steak all over with olive oil is sexy.
So very, very sexy.
Add your steak to the hot pan and cook for six minutes, turning every minute to make sure nobody is sneaking up on you.
Rub the steak with half a garlic clove as you turn. Your screams as you burn the tips of your fingers will unsettle whoever was sneaking up on you. Put your burned fingertips into a knob of butter.
This is also a little sexy.
If you want to go the extra mile for your guests, walk a mile into the woods and create a herb brush by tying woody herbs like thyme and rosemary to a stick. Unless they followed you, your guests will never find out how you did that.
Once cooked to your liking, rest the steak. Some Netflix and a little day time drinking. We all need me time. Your steak will come back to the game refreshed and stronger than ever.
We all have our favourite ways to eat steak, but increasingly I’m turning to the old ways and using my mouth.

15 Responses to ‘How to cook the perfect steak’

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted December 12
I agree with much of this, not all though, but only at the periphery. The fundamentals are strong.

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Spanner puts forth...

Posted December 12
Medium rare? BLASPHEMY

We the TRUE eaters of steak have it rare or mildly frightened. I declare a jihad on you unbelievers.

spankee puts forth...

Posted December 13
Wipe its arse and walk it thorugh a warm room I say.

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andrew asserts...

Posted December 12
My favourite steak-cooking involves the extra degree of difficulty that comes when the steak starts out as a Wagyu. These tend to burst into flames under the slightest provocation, and once alight are self-sustaining. So the heat needs to be just-so. The rewards for success are significant though. I tend towards freshly ground black pepper and a little salt, rather than herbs, but the choice is yours. Olive oil on Wagyu exacerbates the combustion, in my experience, so I avoid it now.

jl mutters...

Posted December 12
What you suggest sounds truly amazing.

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Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 12
"you will need to go back to the Bronze Age and restart your civilisation" damit! put this at the start of the instructions..

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Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted December 12
Needs more salt. Olive oil, rub some salt in, Cook more or less as above. Drink beer while cooking - this is important. Or wine if you must. Hydration will save you from fainting over your hot cooking implement/fire/energy transfer device. Rest the steak in your belly!

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tqft is gonna tell you...

Posted December 12
For science only of course I am going to try something newish next week.

Aldi is selling smoking bags (Mesquite and Hickory).

So when I have to entrain/cook for my brother in law next week I think, or even better just myself, going to put some steak, corn on cob and maybe some sweet potato in bag. Put bag in cast iron camp stove. Put camp stove on bbq hot plate burner and cook while drinking beer.

Then when the time (?) is up, see if it worked.

she_jedi mumbles...

Posted December 12
We need a full report on this, including UAT and QA testing. For science, you know.

jl mutters...

Posted December 12
This thread is making my mouth water.

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Ceramic mumbles...

Posted December 12
Haha, I love it "deliciously crusty outer crust." It feels like you're taking the piss out of "serious literary writers". Yeah? Nah?

OMG, turn every minute? I would have thought it would dry the steak out!?

Hmm yeah man, I grow thyme, and rosemary bushes are across the street. Got a wicked garlic butter recipe with fresh thyme, parsly, chives,, paprika and salt cuby things. My homemade lamb seasoning is salt, dried rosemary, chilli bits, pepper and fried onion. Soo good.

she_jedi asserts...

Posted December 13
Heston Blumenthal advocates turning every minute, and demonstrates with science (SCIENCE!) why this will a) not dry the steak out and b) locks the juices in and makes it more tender. Track down the beef episode of How to Cook Like Heston :D

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Ceramic puts forth...

Posted December 15
Oh man. That thermal imaging camera made me understand the turning frequently. Cheers She Jedi!

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted December 16
How good was it??? I was instantly sold on the turning frequently thingy.

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Dick mutters...

Posted December 17
Did this last night with a scotch fillet on the Webber. Very noice.

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