Monday, September 25, 2006

The answer to life, the universe and everything?

Don't ask me! I'm just the bloke who's going to be 42 years old in 4 days time.

What I do know is there's a bloody great former hurricane heading for Blighty and I've no intention of celebrating my nativity with gales. So I'm off to Havana for a fortnight of culture, architecture, rum factories, occasional thunderstorms, old cars, oldtime communism and possibly cigars. And rum - did I mention the rum?

Note to God: no hurricanes.

I've always wanted to go to Cuba. Now that the old fellow's feeling his age and the exiles are getting Uncle Sam a bit excited about possibilities following his (hopefully long to be delayed) demise, it's a case of now or never. Once Fidel and Raul are gone, nothing will be the same for that island. Advertising hoardings all over the place. J C Penny. WallMart!

Additional note to God: No state funerals or American invasions, either. And definitely no hurricanes!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gvekuu update (round 10)

It is the 527th orbit according to the Gevey calender, and as the 81st Gvekuu season nears the halfway stage things are beginning to sort themselves out. The three cities of Emadiase, Pidome and Elfane are the powerhouse of the game, with 10 teams between them - 6 of which are in the masters league, with 5 of those 6 occupying the top half of the league at this point. Only Gadite from the Cheves Isles appear capable of threatening this hegemony. In fact, the master's pennant has not left the three cities for 9 years; it made a short journey down the coast to Fanstrate in 518. The last significant journey it has made was in 515 when Brege took it north to Nevari Isle.

Following the 10th round, which saw 5 score draws in the six games played (Elfane's Tratintesh, champions 2 seasons ago beat Brege at home to help ease their relegation worries) Arausuu from Pidome have built up a 3 point advantage over second placed Osemevrhesh, Elfane's other team in this orbit's masters league.

But the key interest appears to be settling around Emadiase's perennial underperformers. Krasistesh are the least successful of the four Emadiase teams. They have won the master's pennant just once - 25 orbits ago. 13 orbits ago the team delivered the ultimate humiliation to their long-sufferering supporters when they came last in the apprentice league. Since then, things have improved, with a new, young team being brought together to win the apprentice pennant in 520 and the journeyman pennant in 522. Their re-entry into the master's league has been a journey of thrills and spills: runners up in 523 and 525; just avoiding relegation in 524 and 526.

The signs at the beginning of this season did not look good. Two heavy defeats in their first two games - ironically at home to Aruasuu and away to Osemevrhesh - saw the team firmly rooted to the bottom of the table. But then the team pulled themselves together with 4 wins at home and 2 wins and a draw away to leave themselves in a strong position as the competition is about to pass the halfway mark. If they can beat the teams above them in the return legs and carry on their form against other teams in the master's league, then the city of Emadiase may just be celebrating its 19th master's pennant from the least likely of sources!

More urbis stuff

Well, the site seems to have moved out of beta and into production. And I found a good poem to critique! I also got a bit of feedback on some of my other critiques. I am now an official grammer nazi, so watch your backs!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Lost in myspaceland

I am a bad person for not blogging more often.

My excuse is simple: I have been lost in myspaceland. It is a foreign land, an alien world whose rules I don't understand and whose cultures I have decided I am too old to begin to assimilate.

But it traps you. Two things in particular have trapped me in myspaceland.

The first was some sort of entity advertising a new sort of poetry site., which is still in development, puports to be a place where aspiring writers and poets can bring themselves to the notice of agents and editors. How could I resist joining? So I joined.

The site operates a wierd credit system where you earn credits for writing reviews of other people's work and spend those credits to reveal other people's comments of your own work. I posted a version of "First Night" and waited for the comments to roll in - which they duly did. 12 comments in total, of which about half were coherent. Most were positive. A couple offered some editing advice. The second poem I posted - "The Knife" - has, on the other hand, managed a grand total of zero comments over the past 48 hours. I would have thought the second poem would have generated more substantive commentary, simply because there's more in that poem that needs fixing. Apparently not.

The downside of is offering your own commentary on other poems. The poems I have been offered fgor critique have ranged from interesting ideas poorly executed to no-fucking-idea-whatsoever. If you have ever had to attempt constructive critique on dire material then maybe you will know how I'm feeling after that experience. I've managed 5 critiques over the past week: I want my medal now!

But back to myspace. Myspace is all about the people, and there's always a small chance that you will run into someone you haven't heard from - or thought about - in decades. My friends, it happened to me!

Now, for me, school was not an issue. Yes, I was often bored at school, but I was never bullied, I was rarely belittled. I wasn't part of the "in-crowd" as such, but I wasn't part of the "exiled" either. My reports were decent, my behaviour was acceptable within limits.

But the day I walked out of that place, I never looked back.

The person I met on myspace wasn't a close friend, or even a friend as such. We vaguely remembered each other which, given there were over 300 kids in our year, isn't bad going. We exchanged a couple of messages and did a bit of reminiscing about the old alma mater.

Yet the impact of that contact on my has been fairly devastating. I've spent the best part of the week reminiscing, trying to remember people (not easy if you're prosopagnostic) and activities, trying to work out why I've not bothered keeping in touch with old school friends or visiting the old haunts on a regular basis.

I'm not comfortable with those thoughts. I'm beginning to wish I had not ventured into myspaceland at all.

And no, I'm not going to write a sodding poem about it, 'kay?

Monday, September 11, 2006


I've joined the damn thing, but I'm not sure I get it.

I posted a couple of love poems to the myspace blog thingy, and the obligatory photo of Rik-with-monkey. I think I want to advertise the book on there but haven't worked out how to do that.

So far I've got 1 friend - Tom, who seems to be friends with about 100 million other people. I'm not sure Tom's a real person, but don't tell him I said that.

Oh, yeah. Also listed in the sidebar here in case I forget where I put myself.

Ugly bags of mostly water

Now, I know that my conlanging habit is a bit, well, wierd. But I'm happy to indulge myself because I know nobody is harmed in my pursuit of my hobby. Unless they ask me about it, of course, in which case I'm quite happy to bore them into taking refuge in the cat litter as I whitter on about conjunctions and the importance of redundancy in a constructed language.

I can't imagine that anyone would want to make a film about conlangers. I mean, Derek Jarman made a 2 hour film of blue paint drying (or something) and, even with no soundtrack, that would be more interesting than a film about conlangers.

Believe me on this point. I am a conlanger. I have a good understanding of my capacity to bore.

But then something comes along and I think that maybe I really am living in an alternate reality. For instance, somebody really has gone and made a film about conlangers. It's called Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water. I can do no more than quote the synopsis from the film's website:

On August 1, 2003, 33 people met at a Philadelphia hotel to celebrate and speak a language from Outer Space. The comical documentary, Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water, captures the life, passions and quirks of the members of the Klingon Language Institute. Interviews of KLI members (Linguists, Psychologists, Star Trek fans and steadfast individualists), reveal the intellectual, fraternal, liberating and no-nonsense, direct qualities they enjoy within the constructed-from-pop-culture Klingon language. From Louise Witty, who becomes fascinated with the language from her interest in Star Trek boots (and then fabricates and sells them) to a Paintball King who shouts strategic, military movements in the Klingon tongue, Earthlings examines the interplay between culture and language, communication and emotion, and the rather delicate line between reality and fiction.

Produced within a visually interesting and texture-filled, Sci-Fi style setting, Earthlings might be categorized as a Picture Show, a highly-stylized subjective documentary that emphasizes specific narrative strands and takes liberty with the tone, pacing and composition for comic effect. This is not a Trekkies (1994) imitator, but instead an entertaining view of an intellectual (and not-so-intellectual) endeavor to sort out and to explore humans and language, and the definitions of success and failure.

I can see the queues forming already.

But don't let my cynicism get in the way of anybody going to see the movie. Instead, lets hear from some people who (claim to) have already seen it. Mr Cranky gives the movie 2 bombs. He concludes his review by saying:

"You'd think there'd be ample opportunity to mock this curious assemblage, but director Alexandre O. Philippe passes up this opportunity and instead focuses on two things:

- Linguistics and social dynamics and how studying a "constructed language" like Klingon can provide insights into our own and... zzzzzzz....

- Lamps. Given that the KLI's interplanetary gala seems to have been held in a motel off the interstate somewhere, Philippe takes the only visual prop available to him -- lamps -- and uses them the frame the film in otherworldly ways. Which helps explain why I spent so much time feeling like I was lost in space."

And, erm, that's it! Nobody else seems to have been able to bring themselves to review the film. I'm tempted to go and watch it - it's on a limited release in London's Prince Charles Cinema this week - but I've got to strip wallpaper off the hall walls and the tropical fish tanks need a good scrubbing and I promised my Significant Other I'd sort out the laundry that's been piled in the back bedroom for the last 6 weeks so maybe I'll just wait until it comes out on DVD.

I hope the DVD comes with its own brown paper bag. There's some things I'd prefer the neighbours not to find out about ...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rewriting a messy poem

I've decided that last poem posted on the blog is messy. The redraft is not too pretty either - several attempts at a the closing fifth strophe have turned into glyph-vomits. So I've decided to cut it completely. I'm not sure the fourth strophe offers up enough of a close, but I'm tired: I can always rework the poem again if it doesn't cut the horseradish.

First night

It was your eyes that sobered me: ice
at the end of the world, the ghost of a fox
staring down his hare across the tundra,

a chilled air vaulting through the sweat
of men as they drank, posed, assessed. That glance
of shivered blue left me feral. I was in the bar

and then I was in the bar with you. When
you passed me lager I spied iceflakes glint
on your dew claw. We danced, I think

we danced, or possibly you stalked my tracks
through the snows of our private ecology;
new ground frozen from the polar seas.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

First Night

Not sure about this one - a touch post-modernish. But it was something to do during my lunch hour:

First night

It was your eyes that sobered me: arctic
like the ice at the end of the world, a fox
staring down his hare across the tundra

of the crowded bar; tight shirts and shots
of cheap whisky mixed with slanders and lusts.
I don't think I smiled. I was in the bar

and then I was in the bar with you. Did we
dance, or chat? When you handed me lager I spied
iceflakes glint on your dew claw. I was

bounding through tundra, a London suburb
draped in white water, pack-ice in the streets.
Did we meet in the road? You goaded me

here, your arctic eyes reflecting curtains
of ghost-light, a god's disco crackling static
before our next dance, before we kiss.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Eating Out

I'm on a roll: another iffy first draft love poem to add to the bubbling pot ...

Eating Out

When he laughs his tongue splits
his lips, his eye-sides fold
like the accordion serenading
the hall; the veins across his nose
map out his joy of fine malts.

Her joy is steady, beige hands
around the linen where she hides
her smile, beige eyes fixed
on his; I can see her heel
stroking the curve of his calf.

I curve designs on the tablecloth
with the heel of my knife, quiet
amid the clatter. As I wait for your
late arrival I refuel on house white
and the sight of the waiter's groin.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Another dirty love poem

Having a title for the "chapbook" isn't enough. I'm still a few poems short of the ideal length for the project. Warning: this draft is not for the prim'n'proper!


Beyond the veil, darkness:
a wrist-free hand contacts
the unseen skin, stroking
my vestless chest. Someone
exhales, his breath seeks out
my stubbled nape. Kisses
of palm to arse echo
through stairwells, vault manshapes
who seek the spilt saltlicks -
I sit on boots, open
my mouth and wait. Presents
come cheap beneath London's
relentless streets: weakness
is mine to devour.

Needs a bit of work, I think, and perhaps a touch more research ...

"Chapbook" title

I haven't yet finished writing and editing the set of love poems I'll be releasing into the world (sometime in the next few months, fingers crossed), but I've already got a working title for the collection:

"Poems to quote to your lover (before and after you fuck)"

Classy, huh? Just thought I'd lodge the title here in case I get distracted and forget it ...

Saturday, September 02, 2006


Well, I missed out in Miss Snark's Crapometer Lottery (my entry was #276), but I'm sure there will be lots of fun watching the "successful" entries get eviscerated over the next couple of days. It also gives me more hope for today's lottery, as I've only got a small store of luck to go around.

Purely for fun, here's what I sent in. 750 words on the nose!

Dear Miss Snark.

Thank you for your wise and witty blog, and may K-Y's chew-bones be forever filled with marrow.

Delaem, daughter of the Governor of Burramesh, is going to court. She has a contract for a marriage to a handsome courtier and a will to explore the world beyond the walls of her provincial city.

But when her mother arranges one last gift for her daughter, Delaem's certainties begin to fray. Her lessons in the "easing" of men are learned too well. When all her attention should be focussed on her betrothed, Delaem can only dream of Shapeis, the head-horned servant employed to teach her.

Shapeis has problems of his own. The servants in the city are finding themselves a new religion - her name is the Sosunda, the child who speaks to God, and God has a message for his chosen people: freedom. Between his lessons with the Governor's daughter, Shapeis learns about the history of his people, the genetic wrongness of his creation - and the increasing desire he has for his aristocratic pupil.

Beyond their knowledge, the world is changing. Life has never been easy on this planet: a new plague has evolved in the southern ports, and the Empire will destroy cities to halt its progress. Fearful that illegal servant movements are threatening his city, the Governor orders their termination.

Escaping the city, Shapeis discovers an alien world where survival depends on knowledge and cooperation. For Delaem, too, survival has become more than deciding which dress to wear for breakfast. Both have to grasp new strengths and skills.

Yet no skill can stand firm before the plague. It stalks the city's unwashed streets, killing all in its path. Despite the Governor's every effort to contain the disease, the news of its presence within the city walls travels fast beyond them.

The Empire must act - the disease must die, as must the city and all within it. If the surviving servants are to fulfil their dreams, they must reach the safety of the mountains before the the soldiers arrive.

One man will not listen to prophecy. One woman will not accept defeat. Only when these two people learn to work together and respect each other will any life - master or servant - be rescued from the fires and fevers of death.

"The Sosunda" (working title), my first full novel, is a 90,000 word work-in-progress for which I hope to find representation in due course. My previous writing experience has ranged from drafting government propaganda to writing and publishing my own poetry. I hope you find my first serious foray into writing interesting enough to ask for a further 750 words.

As stipulated in your post, the opening paragraphs of the first chapter follow.

And many thanks for taking the time to read my submission.


Rik Roots

The Sosunda: Chapter One

"Is it true he is handsome, this contract of yours?"

Arbelle was combing her sister's hair: long, slow, steady strokes bringing the night tangles to the surface where she could tease them free. Her sister already wore her morning dress and was putting together her face before breakfast. It was a good morning ritual, the brushing of the hair; a time for sibling gossip before facing the rest of the family, and the world that insisted on invading their home.

"I have a picture of him in my safe-room," said Delaem. She put her hand on the brush to stop her sister's work, turned round and smiled. "He appears reasonably handsome."

They both giggled, no care for decorum. "Pictures can be doctored, you know," said Arbelle. "Mother whispered to me one night that Father's picture was at least ten years out of date when she came to compare it to the flesh!"

"No!" Delaem was grinning still. "Mother never told you that! She never discusses such things - I would know. I am the eldest, I've watched her four years more than you!"

"Three years."

"Four, until your birthday next month. Now tell me the truth, or I shall set the brother on you!"

Arbelle grimaced. The thought of having to deal with a sticky child did not appeal to her this morning, and Delaem had the right to pass on his care to her if she had more important things to attend to. Important to Delaem, that was.

Instead of answering, she leaned over her sister's shoulder, reaching towards the pots of powders and greasepaints forming a semicircle around her elbows ...

Question: if you were a literary agent, would this sucker you in to asking for a partial, or even the full manuscript?

Friday, September 01, 2006

I can't resist ...

Originally uploaded by adleyrik.
... posting the latest oilified snap of one of my kitties. This is Mr Dolly learning that carnation leaves are not as tasty as they look.