Tuesday, April 29, 2014

H is for Hotrod

Yes, we're going back to Realmspace, specifically Intellida, today!

I'm not really a car person. To me they're really just a convenient way to get from A to B. Where I can I walk or take public transport, cars do however come in useful for shopping trips and to get to places that public transport don't easily go to. I can change a tyre, but anything more complicated than that has me contacting a mechanic, which is odd because my grandfather was a mechanic and in an age where if you couldn't source a ready made part for a car or a piece of machinery, you made one yourself.

In a reflection of that, Dancer isn't really mechanically minded, nor is he a petrol head, however cars (at least 2) do play a significant part in the book. One is Dancer's Rolls Royce Silver Cloud and the other is a bright pink hotrod, similar to the one pictured above.

The hotrod doesn't belong to Dancer, it's the highly ostentatious vehicle of choice for Aleanaes Goldenhair, Benefactress of Intellida. The car is rather at odds with the lady herself. She prefers tasteful to flashy and pink is far from her favourite colour (that would be blue), she doesn't even know how to drive, or if she does, she never drives.

The bright pink car is generally driven by her driver, a magically modified runner lizard who goes by the rather apt name of Wheels.

Cars of this sort aren't really about passenger comfort or space, and I've modified it so that aside from the driver's cab, Aleanaes' car also has rear doors and a fairly cramped looking passenger compartment. Like the Benefactress' house, the car defies the laws of physics and has far more room in it's interior than one could ever guess from looking at it without entering it. I've never tested it's full capacity, but it seems to be able to comfortably fit 4 - 6 people in the back with plenty of legroom.

It has a fully stocked, full size bar, a large screen TV and lots of space for people to relax and stretch out. There are rumours that it has a spa, a kitchen and maybe even a bedroom. Due to the speed at which Wheels prefers to drive (he does break the sound barrier, he's tried to have a faster than light drive installed, but Aleanaes won't allow or pay for it) Dancer has never really had the opportunity to explore the vehicle further than the bar and TV in the back.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Anzac Day

Anzac Day is a pretty big deal down here. It's celebrated on the 25th of April every year. It's a day when we can celebrate and commemorate the sacrifice countless members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corp (hence the name ANZAC) have made in all conflicts. The date was set about after the First World War, but people who were involved in earlier engagements (the Sudan, the Boer War) could also take part.

It's celebrated across both Australia and New Zealand. In Melbourne since 1995 a lot of has centred around an annual football match played between Essendon and Collingwood. There was a game played on the day prior to 1995, but it wasn't set in stone that it had to be between those two clubs until then.

I've had at least 4 relatives that I know of who were involved in WW 1 and 2.

My great uncle Herb fought in Europe in the First World War. He was gassed and sent home. He went on to found a successful pottery business and later held a high ranking position in the Civilian Army during WW 2 (my uncle claimed that this was because his pottery actually supplied the figures that the war office used when staging mock table top battles).

My great uncle Tommy, who I never met, fought first in North Africa in the Second World War. He and his regiment were on the way home to Australia when they detoured to Java to help the Dutch who were trying to hold out against the Japanese. They were captured and he died on the infamous Burma Railroad.

Uncle Jack signed up fairly early in the Second World War. He left Melbourne on Melbourne Cup Eve and wound up in the Middle East. He bumped into his younger brother in Palestine when on leave. Uncle Jack signed up in Melbourne and his brother Jeff was living in Tasmania, so signed up there. Uncle Jack didn't even know Jeff had joined up until he met him in Palestine! Uncle Jack was one of the Rats of Tobruk. He returned from the North African campaign, retrained and went to Borneo. He never spoke much about the war, certainly not the conflict side of things. He was in the Ambulance Brigade and went through a harrowing time in Borneo when he and others kept going back into the jungle to ferry wounded out, while being shot at by Japanese snipers most of the time. He met a young anti aircraft machine gunner by the name of Frank Greenway and came home with him. He later married Frank's younger sister Valerie and had two children. He passed away in his 80's.

Uncle Frank joined up when he was only 17 by forging his father's signature on the papers. He went to Borneo where he met and became friends with one of the famed Rats of Tobruk; Jack Maddox. He too survived the conflict, returned home to Melbourne, married and raised 3 daughters. He also died in his 80's.

It's for them and all the others that went, and either did, or didn't return, that Anzac Day is a very special day on the Australian and New Zealand calendars.

Lest we Forget.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I thought long and hard about what to title this post and I think the one word above sums it up best. if the picture hasn't given it away this is another football post.

As I said last time I spoke about the footy the Tigers have 3 arch rivals. One is Carlton, one is Essendon and the final one is Collingwood.

That's the emblem of the Collingwood Football Club, also known as the Magpies, commonly shortened to the Pies, some also call them the Woodsmen, commentator Rex Hunt used to call them the Carringbush in reference to the old name for the suburb of Collingwood. It's an aptly chosen metaphor for the club. Actual magpies are loud, annoying birds, who will take liberties if you let them.

The rivalry with Collingwood goes back even further than the formation of the two teams really. The suburbs of Richmond and Collingwood border each other and back in the days before the urban sprawl the two fought about everything. It was no surprise that it spilled onto the football field.

Richmond club legend Jack 'Captain Blood' Dyer was famously quoted as hating Collingwood so much that he wouldn't even watch a black and white movie.

For some reason the AFL have only scheduled the two teams to meet once a season in recent years. It is true that every club wants to play them twice because due to their passionate and large membership games featuring them are a cash cow, but the AFL have opted not to milk that particular cow in respect to the Pies and the Tigers. Round 4 seems to have become the expected date.

Both Richmond and Collingwood made the finals last year and both were expected to do so again in 2014. As things turned out this year form wasn't something that either side had a lot of going into this clash. Both were 1 - 2, rather than the expected 2 - 1 or even 3 - 0.

I'll admit that the Pies had a harder early season draw than the Tigers. They lost to last year's losing Grand Finalist Fremantle in the opening round, bounced back strongly against perennial finalist the Sydney Swans in Sydney in Round 2, then fell to the always highly fancied Geelong in the 3rd Round. All three of those times featured in 2013's finals series.

Richmond by comparison had lost to the Gold Coast in the 1st Round, fell in against Carlton at the MCG in Round 2 (and given Carlton's form this season that wasn't that hard a task), then disappointed against the young Bulldogs in Round 3. Of those 3 opponents only the Blues made the top 8 last year, and that was only because Essendon were disqualified due to infringements against the league's anti doping code.

The Tigers had injury issues across 3 lines (Alex Rance from the back line, Ivan Maric in the ruck and Brett Deledio from the midfield) along with an out of form defender in Troy Chaplin and forward in Ty Vickery, but the Pies weren't without their own woes on that score.

There's always a feeling of anticipation against Collingwood, knocking them off is extremely sweet and we've never let them forget the thumping they received in the 1980 Grand Final. I have to hang onto things like that even though they were 34 years ago, because it's looking increasingly like I'm never going to experience it again in my lifetime.

The loss against the Bulldogs, even though it was only by 2 points, had sent shock waves through the Richmond camp and to be totally honest I didn't expect us to really rally for this game either. I actually picked Collingwood to win it by 41 points. The margin isn't really important, I can never pick them ahead of time. I just pull a figure out my backside and go with that.

Even though I didn't go with much hope I somehow expected more than what I got. The Tigers played without system, without skill, without anything I could recognise as a game plan (I watched my nephew's under 12 side play on the Sunday and they had a better more systematic game plan), without confidence and without pride. They let the supporters down, they let the coaches down, they let themselves down.

Collingwood won by 38 points, we got a few in junk time to make it look slightly respectable, but it was how easily they did it. If we'd played a genuine contender like a Hawthorn or a Geelong they would have won by 138 points and still not broken a sweat doing it. The Tigers were like the witches hats at training, actually I think in many cases the witches hats would have put more of a contest.

I'm not sure what's going on down there at present, but they need to start at least playing like a team and showing a bit of passion if they want to retain their own pride and not further damage their image in the eyes of their once adoring supporters.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


What feedback that I have received for Realmspace indicates that those who are reading it don't hate it, but neither do they like it enough to take it further. Now as all most of them have to go on is the first 2 or 3 chapters I can only conclude that for one reason or another the opening of the book doesn't have enough to hook people. Even something that doesn't fit into one of the nice safe, saleable niches, can make it out there if it can hook the reader early.

Looking at Realmspace overall I think it's strong, and I have had one beta reader say that she didn't get a lot from the synopsis, but the narrative voice of Dancer was enough to pull her in and keep her reading on, so that's something, but it still had to change.

It is why we have drafts after all.

So I'm making changes, I'll start at the beginning because I'm odd like that, and work my way through the whole thing.

They're minor changes. I'm not suddenly going from first person to third person, and at this stage all the characters will remain as they are, and I don't think I'll add any new ones, although a few minors could have their roles increased a little. Overall a lot of it will remain as it is with a few cosmetic alterations and the never ending grammatical and punctuation corrections. The basic plot is also the same.

So what is altering? The chapters or journal entries as they're titled in the book, won't be cold openings anymore. Each one will be prefaced with a paragraph that pertains to the contents of said chapter. Yes, I'm going the 'gnomic utterances' path (thank you Diana Wynne Jones and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland). I've been toying with the idea of doing that for a while, this just pushed me over the edge with that device. Realsmpace doesn't have a sage as such, unless you count Og-Dog, who does sometimes seem to serve the same purpose.

I've also noticed while writing the second and third Realmspace books that I've probably created a few continuity errors for myself, so this will afford me the opportunity to fix a few of those up.

As I've clearly made the decision that this is a series composed of standalone adventures I may also change the title of the opener and bill it as a Realmspace book.

I think overall it will add more depth and make the character and the work itself more accessible to readers and that is what it is really all about at the end of the day.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Football Round 2 Richmond V Carlton

I put a few things that are important to me here, so football was probably always going to find it's way here. This isn't a standard game review and I doubt I'll talk about every game in the season. I already missed the opening round, but that's got a lot to do with it's very odd scheduling and the fact that the entire thing (split over 2 weeks) seemed be more of an extension of the pre season competition rather than the opening round of the home and away season.

Before getting into the post and the game itself I need to explain a few things. Firstly when I say football I don't mean the round ball code (that's usually called soccer down here), and I don't mean either code of rugby, either union or league. In Victoria when we say football, or footy, we mean Australian Rules Football. The game has been going for well over 100 years and regularly draws crowds in excess of 70,000 to big matches. Last year's elimination final between Richmond (my team) and Carlton had over 95,000 people in attendance, and I was one of them.

The origins of the game are lost in the mists of time. Some say it's a hybrid of soccer, rugby and gaelic football. Others believe that the man credited with being the founder of the game: Tom Wills, adapted a game of keepings off that he saw the local indigenous people playing with a possum skin, they called it marngrook. I think it may have incorporated elements of all of these sports.

Victoria was the most populous state that played the game (NSW, especially the Sydney area never really took to the game and preferred rugby, still do really) and became the headquarters. The first governing body was known as the VFA (Victorian Football Association), some of it's more powerful clubs broke away and formed the VFL (Victorian Football League). The VFL became a bigger deal than the VFA and the VFA became a secondary competition. Somewhere that people who weren't ready for the VFL honed their skills, and a place that guys who didn't cut it anymore at VFL level played their days out. In recent years it's changed it's name to the VFL and is a feeder competition for the AFL.

The AFL (Australian Football League) grew out of the former VFL when the decision was made to make the game national rather than have their separate state leagues. This happened when founding member South Melbourne moved to Sydney and the West Coast Eagles and Brisbane Bears were introduced into the competition. Since then 5 more clubs have come into the competition (Adelaide Crows, Fremantle Dockers, Port Adelaide Power, Gold Coast Suns and Greater Western Sydney Giants) and one of the VFL's founding members: Fitzroy, ceased to exist and gave their lion emblem, colours, theme tune and a few players to the struggling Brisbane Bears, turning them into the Brisbane Lions.

Now onto Richmond and Carlton.

I'm a Richmond supporter. There are many reasons why someone follows a particular club. In my case I was born into it. Both parents followed the Tigers and I was unlikely to ever follow anyone else.

One of the Richmond Tigers greatest rivals are the Carlton Blues. Carlton were a founding member of the VFL. Richmond didn't enter the competition until 1908 with the now defunct University. Carlton, Collingwood Magpies and Essendon Bombers became great rivals of Richmond and the drawing power of the 4, especially during the late 60's, 70's and early 80's, saw them referred to as the Big 4.

The Tigers have always hated the Magpies, but Collingwood are like that, you either barrack for them or you hate them. I once tried to support the Pies in a Grand Final when they played Brisbane once. I lasted for about a quarter before I really wanted them to lose the game. It's just hard coded into me.

I think the Carlton thing (we really do hate them. They're often referred to as the Scum or the Blue Filth by supporters) started in 1967 when their ruck man John Nicholls took a dive in a final and claimed that Richmond ruck man and captain Neville Crowe hit him. They didn't have video technology back then. If they had they would have seen that Crowe did attempt to hit Nicholls, but didn't connect and the Carlton big man gave a performance deserving of an Academy award. Years later he admitted this. Poor old Neville Crowe was suspended, missed the Grand Final (which Richmond won) and retired at the end of that season.

The rivalry flared again in 1969, when Richmond beat Carlton to claim their second Premiership in 3 years and 7th overall. In 1972 the Blues took out the big game, with Richmond kicking what was then a record losing score. The rematch in 1973 was a vicious affair. Richmond's Laurie Fowler took out John Nicholls early in the game (it's never been worked out if this was a deliberate tactic or just an accident that happened to work out in Richmond's favour). Tigers ruck man Neil Balme launched an extraordinary attack on Carlton defender Geoff Southby. Players who played in the game still speak about the bad blood between the two sides. They didn't meet in a Grand Final again until 1982, which Carlton won, and the game tends to be more memorable for an appearance by a female streaker than anything that actually happened in play. However the stage had been set and Richmond and Carlton would forever be bitter enemies every time they stepped onto the field of play.

This was probably high in the minds of the AFL in 2007 when they scheduled the two teams to meet in the opening round and decided to make it a regular thing. That year the opening round was the Easter round and because they don't play on Good Friday the opening game of the round is played on the Thursday night. It drew a good crowd, so they always had it on a Thursday night regardless of whether or not there was a public holiday the following day.

They always seemed to have something to promote the game. Chris Judd's first game for Carlton in 2008, Ben Cousin's first game for Richmond in 2009, Damian Hardwick's first game as Richmond coach in 2010. Mick Malthouse's first game as Carlton coach in 2013.

Carlton have a huge advantage in terms of games won. They seem to have a strange hold on Richmond. It's not just the opening round, either. Up until last Thursday Carlton had won 11 out of the past 12 games against the Tigers.

Richmond played Carlton 3 times in 2013. They won the opening round clash narrowly, after leading comfortably, then freezing like a deer in the headlights, really only being saved by a last minute tackle from Richmond defender turned forward Luke McGuane. They blew what could have been match winning leads in a late season match up, and again most painfully in the elimination final.

This game was meant to be redemption for that final. Neither side had started the season well. Carlton came out of the blocks firing against Port Adelaide in the first round, but faded badly and went down by 33 points. The Tigers went north to play Gold Coast, were disappointing and lost by 3 goals. They were never out of it and if Dustin Martin had been paid a free late in the final quarter and reduced the margin to 6 points with not a lot of time on the clock, who knows what may have happened.

As usual Richmond V Carlton was hyped up. I'm still not sure why it was held on a Thursday night. The sense of that particular decision eludes me, but then again I don't understand the rationale behind the uninspiring opening round match ups at all. Fortunately disappointing crowds for that will probably ensure that the AFL don't do it again.

As they had in the past 3 engagements the Tigers came out ready to hammer the Blues. To help with this particular endeavour Carlton were awful early. They were 23 points down at the end of the first quarter and 31 in arrears at half time.

We all knew it was going to come. Richmond supporters have been conditioned by years of failure to hardly ever relax during a game. It's said we're the only people who can still get nervous when their team is leading by 10 goals at half time. It's even more true with Carlton in recent times.

They always seem to find a way to come back against us. They were without Chris Judd, the architect of the elimination final come back. Another of the Tigers villains was Brock McClean and he was a shadow of what he had been in 2013 and 2012 and was benched by three quarter time. Richmond young gun Brandon Ellis had held Blues playmaker Bryce Gibbs. Robbie Warnock was having his colours lowered by his old team mate, Richmond's off season signing Shaun Hampson (best known at this stage for being the partner of super model Megan Gale). The Blues had been awful, coach Mick Malthouse was throwing things at the window in the coaches box in a vitriolic rage. Yet we knew that they weren't done.

It started in the third quarter. Richmond kicked badly and the Blues were more accurate, generally goaling through one of Chris Yarran, Jeff Garlett or Jarrad Waite. They'd cut the margin and looked full of running.

We always thought it was going to be a tense final quarter and so it proved. Carlton now had belief. They're a confidence side, always have been, give them a sniff and they'll roll right over you. The Tigers were once again rattled, they got tight and they got ultra defensive. Rather than try to extend their lead or answer Carlton's forward thrusts they tried to protect what they had. I'm not at all sure why teams do this. It's a dangerous tactic and rarely ever bears fruit. It's not just footy either. I've seen cricket teams lose when trying to protect a lead rather than go for it and do what got them on top in the first place.

There's been a lot said about the Tigers fade out and people have attributed it to a lack of fitness. I don't actually believe that. Mental weakness and old demons come back to haunt them, yes, but not fitness. I can't believe that after shooting out to a lead against Port Adelaide and then losing in the second half the Blues brains trust said let's let the Tigers in early and then run over the top of them.

I haven't had many tenser final quarters. Thank God the Blues can't kick straight. They kept cutting the lead and their umpteenth miss had them level the scores with a few minutes left. I'd almost left the ground on a few occasions and I kept telling myself if they got ahead I was gone, because we wouldn't come back from it.

Then it happened. Ben Griffiths stood up and took a huge mark in defence, this was after hobbling by a tackle which never should have been laid in the first place. Then he unloaded one of his trademark big kicks up the line. We eventually scrambled that up forward. After a comedy of errors which included Shane Edwards taking a fresh air kick and falling over, Carlton tried to clear the ball, it fell into the hands of Ty Vickery and TV kicked a goal. Richmond hit the lead again!

I don't know how much time was left. Probably enough for Carlton to level, but maybe not to win. Enter Dustin Martin. The ball went towards Richmond goal. The mercurial Dusty fought off Carlton defender Zac Tuohy using his superior strength, surged towards the ball and the goals and kicked a major! 12 points up. 3 seconds on the clock.

Dodged a bullet. Lose this one to Carlton and we're rubbish and the successes of 2013 are just a distant memory. A lot of people say that we were lucky. I don't believe in luck when it comes to football. Yes, Carlton missed a lot of gettable shots, but bad kicking is bad football. If Richmond had kicked more of their own goals the game would have been over earlier. The final score was 14.12 to the Tigers and 12.12 to Carlton. Same number of behinds. It's also Carlton. They have some weird hold over us. Besides any win against them is good. As the bloke who sits in front of me said when we high fived at the end of the game: "We beat those Blue bastards!'

That little statement pretty neatly sums up the relationship between the two sides.