Responding to Daesh


Mrs Dim and I were in New York when we heard about the latest atrocities by Daesh*. That day we had visited the 9/11 memorial and seen the One World tower. The obvious reaction, aside from horror and sympathy for the nations suffering (more than just France, remember) was bafflement.

What do the terrorists imagine they are achieving? In the wake of 9/11 there was a huge outpouring of anger towards the supposed perpetrators, and the war that followed has rumbled on for years. Certainly the casualties in the initial attack were high, and many countries have lost soldiers and other personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the cost to the aggressors and the civilians has been immeasurably higher.

Then I read some terrific news articles that outlined exactly why this kind of vicious attack and the response to it is exactly what Daesh want. They want to drive a wedge between the Islamic citizens of the West and everyone else. Only by turning our citizens against each other, by dividing us into “Us and Them” can they hope to recruit more disaffected fighters, to grow a new generation of haters.

Those trying to prevent the refugees entering their states through fear of similar attacks are responding just as Daesh hoped they would. They are promulgating the fear of the “other” in their society, they are telling people in genuine fear of their lives that they are the enemy. If you drive away these refugees and treat them as criminals and terrorists, where will they go? How will they view your land of freedom and equality?

Is there a danger that more Daesh infiltrators are amongst the refugees? Of course. But who are we, who do we want to be as a nation? As a Canadian, I know my country was built on immigration. The cooperation of the First Nations helped those original settlers and they were repaid cruelly. New immigrants have come and made Canada their home and they have fared better, helped the country grow. There should never be a dividing line between immigrants and “old-stock Canadians”, because that’s not how our country is.

By all means, pray for Paris. Pray for Beirut. Pray for peace. But remember that Jesus also said there were a few more responsibilities for a conscientious believer:

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’




*Not “Islamic State, because they’re neither Islamic, nor a State. They have no system of government, no ambassadors, no foreign policy or economy. They are nothing but fighters, and so have no plan beyond destruction. This has been shown in the towns they have captured – time and again they are found to be abandoned by the populace, unable to support regular life under the “governance” of Daesh.

The Flash Fantasy Project 5: non-epic tales of other lands

WP_20151109_001 (2)The final descent into the valley was steep, and made trecherous by loose scree. Tired feet stumbled, and though their packs held only the last scraps of food, they still weighed heavily on their shoulders.

Silence lay thick amongst the ancient ruins. Bordin walked steadily at the back of the group, unwilling to intrude on his friends’ air of reverence. These were the homes of their ancestors, and they were the first of their people to walk these streets in hundreds of years.

Frembar halted the company a few times, checking his faded and worn map. He lead them through the remnants of the once-proud city, now just walls, paved sections of street and smashed statuary.

After a while they turned aside from the main streets, weaving through smaller ruins until they found themselves inside a building that backed on to the slope of the valley itself. Frembar pushed aside debris and rubble to clear the very back wall. Dusk was coming on, so torches were lit and the flickering light picked out a design, cleverly manufactured into the brickwork. Bordin gasped. It was the same symbol that had been carved into his father’s work chest, the very thing that had tipped him into this adventure.

The others were muttering now. A couple had fallen to their knees, and old Wargon was actually weeping. Frembar, however, seemed unmoved. Consulting the map again, he pushed hard at a number of bricks in the design and they sank back into the wall. Each brick made a satisfying “clunk!” and then the wall shook and folded down, becoming the floor of a new chamber.

The company cheered as one and stepped forward eagerly, pushing past Frembar who stood holding his map. Bordin wondered if they’d even need it again.

“Look!” called Wargon, “Ahgscript!”

He was at the far end of the new chamber, his torch held aloft and illuminating strange runic characters carved deep into the wall.

“Can you read them?” asked Frembar.

Wargon sneered.

“Better than I can read YOUR handwriting, you young whippersnapper! Just give me a moment to get used to the light.”

Everyone waited as patiently as they could while the elder waved his torch back and forth, muttering to himself and shaking his head. When he shuffled back to the beginning of the carving for the fourth time, Frembar burst out:

“For the love of Egbar’s beard, old man! What does it SAY?”

Wargon turned to face them, the picture of dismay.

“It says the door to the hidden treasury will only open on Vilbard’s Day each year!”

“So? When’s that?”

Wargon would not meet Frembar’s irate gaze.

“Six months from now.”

The shocked silence was broken by Bordin’s raucous laughter. Frembar turned outraged eyes upon him.

“What”, he demanded frostily, “is so funny?”

Bordin gulped and hiccuped his way back to sensibility.

“It’s just”, he said, hiccuping again, “that if we hadn’t taken that shortcut with the eagles, we’d be arriving right on time!”

And he was off again, his laughter ringing off the chamber walls and his stony-faced companions.

It was going to be a long six months.

It’s not the end of the world….

Missing lynxAccording to the stats page of this blog, someone has been looking for the script to my sketch “It’s not the end of the world”, but the page they looked at included an old link that doesn’t work anymore. Rather than contact me (or, I guess, Lazy Bee Scripts), the person has come back a few times to check if the link has been fixed.

Since it takes a while for me to get a hint, I’ve finally fixed the link today. It works on the original page and here too.

If you spot any other missing lynx…er….links, please let me know so can fix them!

1985 on my mind…

We’re all hearing a lot about today being THE day, finally, when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive from the past. We’ve bemoaned the lack of hoverboards, the fact there isn’t a Jaws 17 in real 3d on at the movies. Surprisingly, there ARE still a lot of Deloreans kicking about.

But I’m looking the other way. I’m remembering what I can about 1985, wanting to remember what I thought the future would really look like.

Dim November 85

In 1985 I was thirteen. In my third year of Secondary School, and doing reasonably well. I was a big Star Wars fan, although I actually had only seen “The Empire Strikes Back” for the first time the year before, on VHS. (I’d seen “Return of the Jedi” several times, including once up in London as a result of winning a competition…)

the last show at Winchester fixed

The last days of Winchester’s cinema.

I saw “Back to the Future” at the cinema in Winchester, a relic from the glory days of the movies, sandwiched between anonymous buildings on North Walls. I likely saw the sequel there too. At thirteen, the cinema was a place I could suddenly go to with friends, not parents, and back then it was also within my limited budget.

North Walls today

What the cinema site looks like today.

It was obvious that the 2015 shown in “Back to the Future 2” was over the top, but thirty years was a long time. Look at the advancements we had made since 1955, after all – we had digital watches, space shuttles, a phone the size of a small briefcase you could carry around with you! Clive Sinclair was trying to get people to ride a three-wheel electric scooter, for Pete’s sake, surely we’d have hoverboards by 2015?

I think I missed the clear message of Back to the Future, though : that no matter how much times may change, people remain the same. If I could talk to that thirteen year old now, I wouldn’t tell him that we have a company making all-electric cars that can outperform most petrol cars, but people are still fighting wars over oil. I wouldn’t tell him that there’s overwhelming scientific evidence and vocal protest about climate change, but people are still putting profit first. I wouldn’t tell him that people are still fighting and killing over gods, over land, over ancient feuds.

I might tell him I carry a device in my pocket that can access almost limitless information and play movies and games. That my kids use computers every day and they are as common in schools as exercise books were in my time. That there are people like Malala who stand up to ignorance and cruelty, and a whole generation growing up who believe in recycling, renewable energy, healthy eating and are anti-bullying.

If you’re not sick of movies yet, try watching “Tomorrowland”. Near the beginning the heroine of the film is in class after class, being shown terrible images of the near future – climate change, over population, deforestation, animal extinction. The teachers are grim and despondent, and she raises her hand to ask “How can we fix it?”

That’s how we get the future we need. Not by aiming for hoverboards and shark movies, but seeing the problems ahead and asking “How can we fix it?”

Bard on the Beach 2015

A different configuration for the stage this year, but still simple, and able to represent numerous locations.

A different configuration for the stage this year, but still simple, and able to represent numerous locations.

Last year’s Bard on the Beach was a bust for us – we were ready to go and be entertained on Sunday morning, but it turned out we had tickets for Saturday afternoon. Oops.

This year we almost missed the boat completely. With visitors throughout the summer, it was always an option, but superseded by other events. Lucky for us, Middle Weasel asked about it with just days of performances left, and we ended up booking tickets for the final performance of the season.

The play we booked was “A Comedy of Errors”, one that none of us had encountered before. The production had transformed the setting into Steampunk, and we were all excited to see how that would work. As the photo shows, the set was all brass and cogwheels, with steam and clanking, grinding sound effects from five minutes before the start of the show. The characters wore great outfits – goggles, metal-accented limbs, eyepieces, Victorian styles.

The story concerns two pairs of identical twin boys, who are separated in a shipwreck, and are then amusingly mistaken for and by each other... over and over again.

The story concerns two pairs of identical twin boys, who are separated in a shipwreck, and are then amusingly mistaken for and by each other… over and over again.

It’s no surprise that the performance was excellent. The production values are high, and this was the final performance of the 26th Season of Bard on the Beach – you don’t get longevity like that with mediocre work. But it felt like the last night was giving the performance some extra zing. The actors were clearly having a lot of fun with their roles, and there was more than a hint of in-jokes being played throughout.

The Weasels try out a Steampunk look.

The Weasels try out a Steampunk look.

As always, I was mesmerised by the fact that a simple set – in this case a walkway above and two side entrances plus a central doorway – could be so many locations. I wanted to film the proceedings and post it on the Lazy Bee website to show other playwrights what is possible with a minimal set and a wild imagination. Of course, the person I should be reminding about it is ME.

The evening closed with a brief ceremony to mark the end of the season, with the Artistic Director inviting all the cast, crew and volunteers onto the stage. Each brought a candle, and the AD recited Prospero’s closing speech from “The Tempest” – the lights went down, and the candles were blown out.


We’ll be coming back next year – Romeo and Juliet is on the schedule, and Middle Weasel is studying that this year. Come along to Vanier Park and see it with us – there’s no better way to see Shakespeare!

Reading the Last Discworld Novel – The Shepherd’s Crown

The last Discworld book completed by Terry Pratchett.

The last Discworld book completed by Terry Pratchett.

When Middle Weasel was nine years old, we read her “The Wee Free Men“. It had been around for seven years at that point, but the main character, Tiffany Aching was nine years old too. She is a determined young girl, looking to make sense of the world, unwilling to take at face value the nebulous explanations offered by adults . In this way, she and Middle Weasel were very much alike. In the book, Tiffany decides that she wants to be a witch, and when the Baron’s son goes missing, Tiffany goes off to save him. She knows that in the “real” world, it’s boys who do the saving and girls that get saved, but no one can give her a good reason why this is so. Armed with a frying pan, she defeats the Queen of the Fairies and restores Roland to his father, earning the respect of the senior witches along the way. She also learns a lot about herself.

wee_free_menThe Wee Free Men is supposed to be a children’s story, but it’s by Terry Pratchett and it’s got a lot to it. There’s comedy, certainly, provided by the titular blue heroes, who generally help Tiffany. But there’s a lot of philosophy too, a lot of musing on the reality of life, and why we see things a certain way. Terry Pratchett has always flipped genre stereotypes, and here he takes on the massive task of inverting the old prejudice against the old woman who lives on her own in the woods with only her herb garden and cats for company.


Middle Weasel liked the book, primarily for the comedy, but enough that she took on the subsequent Tiffany Aching Stories. Either with us or alone she read “A Hat Full of Sky” and “Wintersmith” and “I shall wear midnight“. Along the way, Tiffany grows up, sometimes a little faster than Middle Weasel. She learns that being a witch is more about not using magic, not because you can’t, but because you can. It’s about doing the job that’s in front of you. It’s about helping everyone in a million tiny ways, and not expecting thanks. It’s about learning that when you dig a hole well, your only reward is a bigger shovel.


Tiffany faces challenge after challenge in the series, and each time the challenge is brought about by who she is, and resolved by it too. The other witches support her, but never do the job for her. By the time we reach “The Shepherd’s Crown“, Tiffany is in her teens and working flat out as the only witch on the Chalk – the downs where she lives, not terribly unlike Wiltshire, where Terry Pratchett made his home.


I felt guilty when I heard that Terry Pratchett had completed this last book before he died – guilty because I was pleased. When Douglas Adams died, I eagerly bought the collection “The Salmon of Doubt“, because it contained seven chapters of an incomplete Dirk Gently Novel, but reading those chapters and knowing the story would never be finished was terrible. The introduction to “The Shepherd’s Crown” explains that Terry Pratchett would probably have revised this version of the book a few more times before publication had he had the chance, but I’m glad it was published. Other stories and outlines that were incomplete at his death will never see the light of day, something I am simultaneously sad about and glad for. His daughter recently said on Twitter that she might work on tie-ins or spin offs, but the books “remain sacred to Dad”.

Some fans have read all but the last page of the book, so that the Discworld novels will never end for them. I couldn’t be that way, devouring the book in a single night. The story is classic Pratchett, and I found it more satisfying than the last Sam Vimes outing (“Snuff“) or the final Moist Von Lipwig story (“Raising Steam“) even though I’m a big fan of both of those series too. The story does leave one thread loose, but not in a way that will bother most readers. I won’t go into the story itself, because you should read it – and if you haven’t already, start with “The Wee Free Men” and work your way through, learning about Discworld witchcraft along with Tiffany.

Quite early on in the book, Death comes calling. Death is a frequent character in all of the Discworld novels, and actually is the central character in more than one. As anthropomorphic personifications go, he’s a kindly reaper, and in this instance he says more than he usually would about the nature of the life led.


(For those who don’t know, Death always speaks in all caps.)

It struck me, on reading this line, that this was a worthy aim for all of us. Instead of trying to change the whole world, instead of raging and demanding it change to conform to our view of right, perhaps we should do the job in front of us, help those around us, and do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because we expect to benefit.

Life isn’t binary (or “Why I’ll probably like Star Wars Episode VII AND Star Trek 3”)

Binary Code. Thanks to WikiCommons.

Binary Code. Thanks to WikiCommons.

Since the late 80’s there’s been a vogue for things to be digital. Starting with watches and spreading throughout our lives; we watch digital tv, listen to digital music players, even make the tea with digital kettles.

But digital is a binary thing. On or off. Ones or zeroes. Life isn’t binary, but we like to pretend it is. If you don’t believe me, argue with a US Republican on the internet. They will reason as follows:

“Argument ≠ Republican THEREFORE : Liberal (insert insult)”

(This is, of course, a gross generalisation, and I apologise to the Republicans I have had reasonable discussions with. You both know who you are.)

There’s no degree of political engagement considered, it’s a digital, binary state of on/off, yes/no. And it’s not just politics either. This binary attitude crops up in the important things too.



and within these there are binary choices too:

Star Trek                                                                             Star  Wars

Did you like the reboot?                                            Did you like the prequels?

Often we use this binary reasoning to find our tribe, clonking down the branches of a flow diagram where each path has only yes/no choices until we find ourselves at a point where there are no more questions to ask, and we know the people around us are sane, clear thinkers, because they agree with us on everything.

But lately I’ve been noticing the analogue side of life more and more. As the Weasels shuffled themselves into tribes (Whovian, Sherlockian and Merlinian), I felt bad that they felt there were areas they couldn’t go, fandoms that were closed to them because of their choices.

In an analogue world, you can just like something. Not a Facebook “like”, but a faint “It’s ok” with no more commitment than that. Not a ringing endorsement, not a lifelong commitment, not something that will trigger dozens of adverts for similar things… Just an admission that you think it’s ok.

I’m a Star Wars fan, but I like Star Trek. I like Voyager more than Deep Space Nine, but I also like the reboot movies. AND the original series. Come to that, I also like the prequel Star Wars movies, though yes, I can see where they are flawed. From a certain point of view. I didn’t like all the novels and comics, though, and I don’t think I have to.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy Episode 7, The Force Awakens, and I don’t think that’s a betrayal of anything, any more than it’s disloyal to go watch Star Trek 3 and like it.

Life shouldn’t be about binary choices, where the things you like automatically define things you DON’T like. We should be willing to stand up and be counted, yes, but there will be times when we’re not that fussed about standing up, and may just raise a hand. We just like it, that’s all.