Monday, 26 March 2012

We Apologise for This Break in Transmission

The editorial team would like to extend our very sincere apologies for this prolonged break in transmissions caused by suddenly becoming incredibly poor in liquid assets. Our technicians are working on the problem, and normal programming should begin again soon.
In the mean time, have a look at these pretty pictures.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Read: I Can Jump Puddles

We're having some technical internetty problems here at Leaflocker HQ, stay tuned for the completed reveiw and quiz just as soon as we can get them ironed out...

Australian books, to speak broadly and generalise, are a little bit like Australian film, vividly told, deeply emotional and full of sex scenes (and by 'sex scenes' I generally mean 'rape'). In fact, I once watched a marathon ten Australian films up until the first sex scene in each and spent a grand total of just three hours and ten minutes in front of the TV before going to bed disgusted with the Australian film industry. Thus it's with great trepidation that I pick up an Australian book or film, expecting the worst of human nature.

This one is an autobiography of Alan Marshall, a boy with crippling polio set in turn of the twentieth century rough and tumble rural Victoria, what unspeakable things wuld happen to this poor, defenceless crippled child...

I steeled myself and began to read...

Page 123:

Reading Progress:
Number of Books read: 9
Australian dividend: 2.045
Science Fiction dividend: 2.5
Fantasy dividend: 3.5
Biography dividend: 2.5
Mystery dividend: 0.5

Probably Next Up: Morris West, Shoes of the Fisherman/The Devil's Advocate/The Salamander (provided that I finish the Salamander)

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Tie of the Week

Perhaps this post should really be called "Win of the Week", since Sri Lanka did not get close enough for a tie in the final of the Tri Series cricket last night, although for a while there it seemed like it might be a close run thing. "But wait," I hear you say, "why are you talking about the cricket when you should be showing me pictures of ties?" The answer is that I (and my tie, hence the cunning excuse to make yet another post about cricket) were at the game at the Adelaide Oval last night to watch in real life.

I have no idea why this photo is upside down and can't seem to fix it, it's fine in my image library on my computer. Anyway, if you turn your monitor upside down, here's a picture of me, my tie, and part of a kickin' Sri Lankan brass band. We are having a lot of fun and the atmosphere is electric.

Tie Number:007
Designation: The Colom-bow
Provenance: Ian's Stash, February 2012
Manufacture: Unknown
No. of Comments: 7 (High)
Most Favourable Comment: "Nice tie, bra!"
Least Favourable Comment: "Umm...really? A bow tie?"
Observations: Bow ties are cool.

And just 'cause I have the bandwidth so I might as well use it...

Here's the other half of the brass band, one of two Sri Lankan brass bands in the area I was sitting in that alternated in filling the stadium with music. I'm pretty sure that these guys only knew one song, but that was ok, because the other band knew a different one (and I've never heard La Cucaracha sound like that before).

The best thing about standing around in the Sri Lankan section of the ground, apart from the music, is that it was easy to see what's going on, since I was a good foot taller that most of the others around. I am now also conversant in all the Sri Lankan bolwing chants, from the simple "Go Lanka Go...Go Lanka Go..." and "We want Dilshan, We want Dilshan"; to complicated call-and-response numbers like "Maharoof OH NO! You OK? OH NO!" and "We want an-OTHER WICKET. Just like the OTHER WICKET!"

My favourite is still the sublime: "Malinga BOWL HIM NOW!...Malinga BOWL HIM NOW!" which is just great when Herath comes in to bowl "Herath Mudiyanselage Rangana Keerthi Bandara Herath BOWL HIM NOW!" (entire area dissovles into giggles)..."Herath Mudiyanselage Rangana..."

The Australian fans were a little more reserved, we were at the cricket, after all.

In short, these guys made the whole thing a whole lot of fun, adding an element of festivity that Aussie cricket fans don't often see. When I took this photo it was the drink break, equilalent to the intermission in a show, Sri Lanka were four down for nothing and everyone else was taking it easy. Not these guys. It was just a pity that their batsmen didn't really get going, I would have loved to hear some more of their chants.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

World Twenty20 Qualifier

This post is about cricket, and since cricket is an esoteric subject to the minds of many readers of this blog, it contains a number of hidden sections, reached by clicking on the hyperlinks, designed to elucidate matters for those interested in finding out more and/or with a lot of time on their hands.

What's Cricket?

March, as well as being the traditional time for basketball madness, also hosts the qualifier for the World Twenty20 Cricket Tournament, held this year in Sri Lanka.

What's Twenty20?

Twenty20, the format of the game most likely to ever break into the Olympics (and a very outside chance at that), is also the format that the ICC has determined will be the proving ground for associate and affiliate sides moving into the future, as the ODI World Cup will be reduced to just ten teams in 2019 and beyond, and as every associate and affiliate will have a chance, however small, to qualify for the tournament every time it occurs.

ICC? Affiliates?

In the future there will be more teams in the World Twenty20 competition, but the 2012 edition will feature only twelve teams, including all ten of the full-member nations, and thus only two spots are up for grabs for the associates and affiliates (let's call them A&A teams for now). This means a large-scale round-robin tournament to be played in the UAE, amongst the cricketing minnows to decide which teams get to compete on the big stage in Sri Lanka. This is, for an avid cricket fan interested in the development of these sides, a very exciting event.

Because few of the A&A teams are professional or well-funded and the cricket-playing world is as far-flung as the Commonwealth of Nations, opportunities for them to play other teams from diffent regions are few and far between, and when they occur, they are between only a few teams. This bigger 16-team tournament, then, is a great chance both for teams to show their collective mettle and through success increase the profile of cricket in their home countries, but also for individual players to shine in the richest form of the sport, and hopefully pick up contracts to play in higher-level domestic competitions in other countries to dramatically improve their skills.

The six ODI-playing nations (Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland) automatically qualified for the tournament, and they are joined by ten teams who won through a series of smaller qualifing events from the regions, two (Namibia and Uganda) from Africa, three (Hong Kong, Nepal and Oman) from Asia, two (USA and Bermuda) from the Americas, one (Papua New Guinea) from the Pacific and two (Denmark and Italy) from Europe), the number of teams from each region being determined by the approximate quality of the teams in the region. Thus, each team has played a number of games over the last six months to prepare, and it should be one pretty high-quality tournament.

The top three teams after the round-robin stage in each of the two groups will go through to a series of finals. The top team in each group playing each other for a free pass to the grand final and thus automatic qualification for Sri Lanka, with the loser playing a series of elimination games against the other teams that reached the final for the last spot in the tournament.

So, how's it going to pan out? Well, as an Australian who has never seen an affiliate team play, is utterly ignorant of current form and has only a limited understanding of Twenty20 tactics, I am perfectly placed to make a full analysis of the teams and their chances, and shall now proced to do exactly that for your delectation, dear reader.

Group A

The great success story of cricket in the past five years, Afghanistan have shot from playing in the lowest international division to being the number nine ranked team in the short few years since 2008, an even won this qualifying tournament to play in the 2010 World Twenty20. Based on this success, cricket has become extremely popular in Afghanistan, but the playing ranks are still somewhat thin, with the top-level players being mostly raised in Pakistani refugee camps rather than in the country. That said, the under 17 and 19 sides are also very strong, and Afghanistan could rightly be considered the favourites to win this tournament once again. They recently played an ODI against Pakistan (the first time an affiliate nation has ever played against a full member national side), and were very impressive although they were defeated comfortably.

A few short years ago Bermuda was considered one of the better of the minnow sides and actually had ODI status, but they now rank in at number 22 in the world cricket league table, and only just qualified for the tournament, having been beaten by the lower-ranked USA in the qualifying matches. They're talking up their chances, but I expect them to collapse after winning a game or two against sides in similar situations, failing utterly to adapt to Asian playing conditions.

As one of top six A&A sides with a number of good results behind them in recent years, Canada automatically qualified for this tournament, but their recent string of losses in the West Indies domestic cricket competition suggest that they're not at the level that we've come to expect from them just at the moment. A team made up mostly of ex-pats from the subcontinent since few native Canadians play cricket, this team punches above its weight, but I expect them to crash and burn under the pressure and get beaten by a number of lower-ranked teams. I have no real reason to think this, but there you go.

Another team that has flagged in recent years with the retirement of their last generation of players, the Danish team is now considered the fifth-strongest European associate, after Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands and Italy, and they had an easy qualification tournament against a large but pretty rubbish European field this year. They unseated Italy in the final (the "big 3" having already qualified), and are arguably in better form coming into their tournament, but since Italy is in the other half of the tournament I expect that Denmark will come bottom of this group unless Bermuda has a bad day when they play each other.

Current rankings say that Hong Kong is the second-best Asian team in this tournament, with the normally very consistent UAE having been unseated on points in the qualifiers, but I expect that they will be out performed in this group (as they have been so many times in recent meetings) by their great regional rival Nepal, who they will play on the first day of the tournament.

Cricket is the biggest game in Nepal, the little team made up almost entirely of indigenous players that I would be rooting for if I weren't throwing my weight behind Pacific number one team PNG, but the mens team has never lived up to expectations given how well their junior teams always seem to do. I think that this will be their year, but for the sake of PNG cricket I hope that they come fourth in this group, not third. To do that they'll have to out-perform Canada, which will be quite an ask, but their continually good performance in regular Asian tournaments should stand them in good stead in the conditions in the UAE.

Probably the most regularly impressive of the associate teams, the Netherlands are always strong when it comes to these events. I'd expect them to come out second in this group after Afghanistan, based on the strength of a number of players who play domestic cricket in the major nations (including Tom Cooper for my South Aussie Redbacks). Like most European sides, the Netherlands struggles to field teams of born and bred Dutchmen, but since just one of born or bred is all that is required, expect them to be a force to be reckoned with and the real yardstick in this group as to the quality of the other teams, being more consistent than Afghanistan.

The team that I'm backing in this tournament, for emotional reasons rather than belief that they can really win it. PNG are the strongest A&A team in the Pacific, not really a particularly impressive feat given that their closest rival is Fiji, all the way down at number 38 in the rankings. That said, the PNG team all play club cricket in Australia and their development program in the last few years is rumoured to be very good. They rank about in the middle of the tournament, but with the addition of former England wicket-keeper Geraint Jones providing a little extra hitting power and experience I expect them to do very well.

Group B

No discussion of A&A teams would be complete without mention of Cricket Ireland, who are the team next in line to achieve Test Status should the ICC ever deign to admit that actually, they're pretty good. Ireland is developing a strong domestic competition and this is flowing through into a very strong team, particularly in the batting department. Widely expected to win or come very close, Ireland should be the standout in an already strong group.

Cricket is not a particularly popular game in Europe, but the Italians have been consistently not terrible for a number of years now. Although outclassed by most of the teams in this group due to not playing as much cricket as the African or Asian sides, it is my fond hope that they will be competitive and courageous in this tournament, even if it's hard to see them acheiving a win unless it's against the United States.

Powerhouse of the African A&A sides, I'm predicting that this one just won't be Kenya's year, as I feel like their squad just hasn't got enough games under their belt in recent times to be able to deal with difficult Asian pitches. African sides that rely of fast bowlers can be expected to struggle on sticky wickets where spin is often the preferred option. I expect them to be outperformed by both Namibia and Uganda , and to fail to get even to the preliminary rounds of the finals.

African teams traditionally rely on home-grown cricketers, and this Namibia side is a good one in that vein. More consistent than the other African sides, Namibia won each of their qualifying matches to get to this tournament before bombing out against Uganda in the final, and I'm thinking that they'll do much the same here, qualifying into the knock-out rounds and then suffering a batting collapse against a strong bowling team.

Oman are the real wild-card for me in this tournament, because I really can't even begin to guess how they might do. Effectively the home team for this tournament after combining with Hong Kong and Nepal to knock out the UAE, they should be familiar with the conditions and do well. But Oman are always second fiddle in Asia, and being in the other group from the rest of the Asians it will be interesting to see how well they do. I'm tipping them to upset a few of the higher ranked teams too, but just miss out on the finals.

Scotland, my UK team of choice, is not doing that well at the moment. As I write this, they've lost three quick wickets to the UAE and look like struggling to score a decent total in their Intercontinental Cup match (Update: they did alright, but still lost pretty easily). Thus, though I was confident about their chances earlier I am now ranking them as number three in the group below Namibia but above Kenya. The numbers all say that I've got to wrong about someone in this group, though, and for the sake of African cricket in the future I hope that it's this, and that Scotland fall of their faces letting two African teams (or one and Oman) into the finals.

Always teh African team that I barrack for, what with their bright yellow uniforms and impressive pace bowling attack, I think that Uganda, like Kenya, will struggle this tournament, and I'm tipping a tustle between the tow and Oman for the 4-6 postions in the group that will come down to points and be too close to call. I hope that I'm wrong, and Uganda are coming off of some good form, but I don't like their chances.

Oh USA. What to say about the USA, excpe that US cricket is in disarray without and end in sight. The team is hoping that a good performance will raise the profile of the sport and convince the association to sit up and behave themselves and maybe even have some elections some time, and many pundits think that it could happen. I myself won't be laying any money on it, and think that they'll be hard pressed against Italy to get out of the bottom spot.

Thus my projected results, without going through and guessing all the individual results yet:

Group A:
1. Afghanistan, 2. Netherlands, 3. PNG

Group B:
1. Ireland, 2. Namibia, 3. Scotland

Afghanistan d. Ireland, PNG d. Namibia, Netherlands d. Scotland
Then Netherlands d. PNG
Then Ireland d. Netherlands

Grand Final:
Ireland d. Afghanistan

So, there you are, the tournament according to the owl. If you think you have a better idea of how it's going to go down, why not join my tipping pool and try your luck? The password, incase you need it, is the automatically generated 'burgswab'.

Wednesday Quiz (iii.ii) Character Reference

It's that time again, everyone's favourite time, quiz time! In case you've forgotten the rules:

-There shall be 14 more approximately weekly quizzes of 10 questions of equal weight, normally in the form of pictures stolen from the internet.

-Entry is open to all and sundry, provided that they are willing and able to submit their answers to the comments before the next quiz is posted.

-Entrants should solemnly vow to consult no other persons, nor to seek to obtain the answer or information leading to the answer from any source other than their own brain prior to entering their answers.

-Each entrant shall have up to one free point on one question each week provided that they admit their total ignorance of a subject moderately relevant to the question. (If the question is to name a the best response in a chess game, the answer "Pass. I know nothing about the Sicilian Opening" would be acceptable, while "Free pass for me, I'm a Franciscan" would not). Acknowledgement of ignorance will be taken as a declaration of intention to educate oneself on the aforementioned subject.

-The entrant with the highest total score taken from the aggregate of their best ten results for the season shall be declared the winner. This title may not be worth very much.

-Tie-breaks shall be determined by the aggregate of the best best eleven results, or if still tied, twelve results, et cetera.

-The editorship reserves the right to award bonus points for particularly clever or amusing answers, be they right or wrong, up to a total of ten points.

-Disputes on the rules will be entered into with any interested party, but any decision of the editorial team made ex cathedra shall be considered infallable.

With that done, let's get on with the show, which this week is about identification of glyphs, symbols and icons.

1. Which 'artist' once changed his name to this unpronouncable symbol?

2. In some languages, this character is a full blown grapheme, but in English is considered an example of what L?

3. This Mah-Jong tile represents which Chinese numeral?

4. This famous hunk of rock contains the same message in Egyptian Heirogylphics, Demotic script and which other ancient language?

5. What does the "p.p." in this and many other signatures represent?

6. These glyphs are an example of which language?

7. This is the alchemical symbol for which mundane element?

8. What is the name of this prominent religious symbol?

9. This is a picture of the most famous page of which medieval manuscript?

10. What was the "peace symbol" originally designed to represent?

Deposit your answers, in the language of your choice (provided that that language is English), in the comments.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Read: Confederate Vampire Tales

I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing a book a week this year, for some crazy reason, and so far I've read five books (and am thus four books behind) and reviewed, a grand total of none. Thus the reading posts for the next couple of weeks will be double-barrellers while I struggle to clear the backlog.

For some curious reason, the last book that I read last year and the first book that I read this year were both vampire novels set in the American Civil War. Given that I'm neither particularly into vampire novels or war novels, this is a little bit strange, but it does give me a chance to kill two birds with one stone.

Read: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith

First up, the quasi-biographical Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, finally the truth about the 16th US president as presented by the author of such classics as Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. How his grandfather and mother were killed by vampires, he became an adept axeman in order to better hunt and kill vampires, how Ann Rutledge was murdered by a vampire...basically, each and every notable event of Lincoln's life was actually inspired by vampires. Why did Lincoln hate slavery? Because it gave the vampires in the South an accessible food supply. There's a lot of vampires in this book. I'm a fan of historical mashup novels like this, and I'm not adverse to vampires, so you'd think that this one would be for me, wouldn't you?

As always when I read a book on an American topic like this one I'm saddened that I and many other Australians are more familiar with the biographies of men like Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson than the men who shaped my country, but in the moments when I can supress this regret I have to grudgingly admit that this book was a lot of fun, and an interesting way to find out a little more about a man who must have been very interesting, even if in reality his every waking thought wasn't about vampires.

The book itself is suposedly written by Henry, a reformed good-guy vampire of the type so often seen these days that makes those that take their vampire lore seriously shudder (most people that take their vampire lore seriously made me shudder), and it's a nice mix of his prose and entries from "The secret diaries of Abraham Lincoln", in which Honest Abe tells of his adventures in his own words. The device is used well, but the diary entries lose their charm after the first few chapters and quickly become wearing, if not as wearing as the photoshopped pictures sprinkled around the book as evidence of Abe's vampire huntin' ways (which amused me greatly the first few time, then just seemed a weak excuse for a cheap joke).

Page 123:
I cursed aloud most of the ride home. Never in my life had I been so
embarrassed or made such a drunken error. Never had I felt like such a fool. If there was one comforting prospect it was this: soon I would finally be free.

The start, Abe's childhood, his coming of age, and first vampire encounters; and the end, the climax of the war and Lincoln'sassassination by the maddened vampire John Wilkes Booth, are the standout sections. The long central section in which Abe hunts a bunch of vampires and kills them in exciting and extremely gorey ways didn't maintain my interest, but it may have been more accessable to the American audience that is no doubt more familiar with Abraham Lincoln than an Australian that's just picked up snippets here and there, mostly in other fiction.

In short, I wouldn't exactly recommend this book for most, but it gave me a few hours light entertainment on some rainy days at the end of last year, it's well paced and very readable, with the faint feeling of despoiling someone's grave and legacy that is a little bit disturbing to someone thinking of doing much the same thing (though with fewer vampires) to a bunch of dead Italians in the near future. I gave it two decapitated vampire corpses.

Read: Fevre Dream - George R. R. Martin

More satisfying was George R.R. Martin's Fevre Dream, which is devoured with all the eagerness of his blood-frenzied vampires. One of the nice things about one of your favourite authors becoming more popular is the availability of their back-catalogue, and I eagerly snapped this one up when I discovered it while looking for Christmas gifts for my family.

This one also features evil vampires supping on the blood of slaves in the South and building armies of like-minded vampires and thralls, and good vampires (or at least, good vampire) at war with them for the sake of mankind, and has a similar historical setting, but there the similarities end. The story doesn't flow quite as well as his later work, dragging a little in the beginning, and the characterisation is not as good as one comes to expect from Martin, but this is his formative stuff, and there's more than enough here to satisfy me.

What I've always liked about Martin is his ability to set the scene, his stories work well because he drops you in a location and you feel part of it. He can tell a big story, build up to the big reveal, without dropping it on you like an anvil. Well before the vampires appear in this story you're emotionally invested in Abner Marsh, steamboat captain, his dreams and his love of the river, for this could just as easily be a story about steamboats as about vampires. Then he's approached by Joshua, a mysterious stranger with a lot of money, and asked to build the finest boat ever built, covered everywhere with mirrors and running mostly at night...

Page 123:

Marsh did not cotton to Joshua's new friends, he decided in short order that they were as queer as Joshua's old friends, keeping the same night hours and all. Raymond Ortega stuck Marsh as a restless, untrustworthy sort. He was polite
enough in a haughty, indolent fashion, but Marsh got a chill off him.

Yeah, there's a good guy vampire and a bad guy vampire and they fight for control, but the scenes between them, the conflicts of their differing philosophies, are written like a vampire novel should be, pregnant with tension, mysterious, lustful, dark and brooding. Not the best vampire pathos stuff I've ever seen, with not quite enough depth to it, but it's pretty good. Martin was able to take his skill at building conflict in short stories and transfer it here to a full-length novel and it's success spurred him on to greater things.

Well worth reading in it's own right, but perhaps made even more interesting as it, alongside his anthology of short-fiction, shows the building blocks in G.R.R. Martin's career as he worked towards the Song of Ice and Fire series that has made him a household name in recent years. I gave it four hulks of once-magnificent riverboats. And of course, I have a copy I'd happily lend to you if you're keen.

Reading List Progress:
Number of Books read: 8
Australian dividend: 1.045
Science Fiction dividend: 2.5
Fantasy dividend: 3.5
Biography dividend: 1.5
Mystery dividend: 0.5

Probably Next Up: Morris West, Shoes of the Fisherman/The Devil's Advocate/The Salamander
Probably Not Next Up: William Gibson, Neuromancer

Remember, it's your last chance to score points for the last week's quiz. Results will be posted at noon ACDST tomorrow.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Thinking Out Loud

So, once again my papal project has stalled, but each time I get back into it I get a little bit further, and gain I little more confidence in the idea. I still think that Habemus Papas is something that I want to do sometime in the future, but for now there are a few things that need ironing out. It's a strange way to come at telling a story, because I don't really have a story that I want to tell. I've started with a concept, a plot device, I guess, designed to get a lot of popes in one room, but I have no idea what should happen next.

I started off thinking that this would provide lots of gag-a-day strips, little jokes that I find amusing but would be utterly inaccesible to most people, but where do you go with such an idea once you've run out of terrible puns to come out of the mouth of Gregory I or funny situations to put JP II in? And how many long and facetious notes can you write before you either get bored or people notice that you actually don't know very much about popes at all and just spend too much time on wikipedia?

The idea of a big interlocking storyline with many of history's popes being trapped in the modern-day vatican being unwilling or unable to return to their own times seemed to be the way to go, but how to make it happen, or why? I still like this idea, and I think I've engineered a moderately plausible way to pull it all together (ok, I'm not that happy with it, but it's a start), but my primitive cartoonish style is not at all suited to telling that kind of story, since I can't express settings and backgrounds, let alone the subtle facial and body expressions needed for the diverse range of characters.

The characters themselves are probably the biggest issue. With 265 of the guys to choose from (and a few anti-popes and other hangers-on too), how do I choose who I want to have the starring roles, and how to I ensure that they're different enough from each other. I want to give them life and put them in strange situations, but I want them to retain enough of both their place in history and their actual character (as little as we know about it), and that's hard for me. I've never been good at characterisation. The other issue with the characters is that they were all, and some of the are, real people. I want to convey a sympathetic and generous outlook, try and get at them as real people in a tough job, but still be funny and still convey a little of what I am a protestant have to think is the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

Some are easy, the current Pope, Benedict XVI, is a shoe-in, he has to play the role of the tie to the real world, the everyman protagonist through whose eyes we get to see this strange other world populated entirely by pontiffs that I want to introduce. He comes with a serious theological bent, a German efficiency and wry sense of humour, and also with a fun little byplay with side-kick and offsider in the ever-handsome Mnsgr. Ganswein. I'm still not happy with how I draw him, but he's gotta be the man.

JPII, the ludicrously popular and talented at everything Pole whose shadow BXVI is always trying to pull out of, is also a shoe-in. I imagine him as a bit of a jock-pope, matey and super-competent, and expect that he grates on the more rigid Benedict. Sure, they agree on a lot of things, and they are friendly, too, but they don't quite see eye to eye, he's the Lancer to Benedict's Mario. Why cast JPII like this? Because he's way too popular with my generation not to try to mess with, it's a kind of reverse Jar-Jar Binks situation.

JPI has got to be in there too, I see him as the peacemaker, both between the power partnership of BXVI and JPII, and the strait-laced moderate Paul VI and my favourite larrikin pope John XXIII. The world saw so little of him that you can do a lot with his character, and besides, he wrote letters to Pinocchio, he's just too cool to leave out. Of these, Paul wasn't a particularly exciting man, but he served the church and the world faithfully and humbly in the aftermath of Vatican II in an increasingly difficult time, and probably makes a good counter to the dominant personalities of the other four modern popes. So I can't leave any of them out.

Going further back, Pius XII, who served during World War II, Pius XI, the pope of the depression and Benedict XV, of World War I, who together represent the strength of the church and its position in the Europe and the world in difficult times, are all interesting men to me (and Benedict particuarly is fun to draw). Leo XIII, the intellectual reformer and oldest pope in history, is photogenic too, and Pius IX, the pope whose reign saw the end of the Papal States and the beginning of the modern Vatican as we know it today, is surely worth adding to the list of regulars.

So here I have a cast of ten major characters spanning 100 years of fashion and history, and I am reluctant to stop there with such fun options like the old monk Gregory XVI next in the list, and from there it's only a short jump back to the popes of the industrial revolution and renaissance, not to mention all the medieval and ancient guys that I already have such a fondness for...

In other words, this is just the start, and there's plenty more where this one came from, setting, mechanics, dialogue... It's a big job, one I'm utterly unequipped for, and yet for years this idea idea has floated around in head and kept me up at nights. It's time I got this show on the road, preferably before I have yet another pope to add into the mix. That means picking a target to work towards storywise, otherwise I'll get stuck in the soap-opera zone of character interplay and never get anywhere, if indeed I even get there. I'll keep you all posted on how that goes.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Tie of the Week

So the good news for the tie project is that I have been faithfully wearing a new tie each and every week of the five months since our last post in September, some twenty ties. The sad news is that the pile of worn ties is a somewhat overwhelming item to blog about, so I've made an executive decision that the ties that have not yet featured in a post will get sorted back into the fresh ties pile and I can start afresh without a big accusative pile of ties in the corner of the room. Thus, I am glad to present this little number:

This week's decidedly dated neck-decoration is a recent acquisition, coming in a very exciting pile of ties that I look forward to sharing with you in the coming year or so, and which increased my collection from a respectable 53 to a rather impressive 68, meaning that even making the large assumptions that I can keep it going and am somehow prevented from gaining any further ties this project will still be running come Easter 2013.

Tie Number:006
Designation: The Crimson Peacock
Provenance: Ian's Stash, February 2012
Manufacture: Unknown
No. of Comments: 8 (High)
Most Favourable Comment: "Nice! Very retro..."
Least Favourable Comment: "You're not actually wearing that, are you?"
Observations: Oddly enough, the green semi-ovals in a bright orange tie (it doesn't look that bright in the photo, but it's pretty out there) actually work pretty well, in the unlikely circumstance of owning a "Woolworths" green shirt of almost exactly the same shade.

Tune in next week for more Half-Windsor goodness.