Friday, November 05, 2004

Gunpowder, treason and plot

Good morning.

Sorry about that. Half-way through Election Day, feeling stressed-out and irritated, I decided to take my own advice (from the Harvey Awards keynote speech earlier this year)

As a solution to various problems you may encounter upon the way, let me suggest this: Make Good Art.

It's very simple. But it seems to work. Life fallen apart? Make good art. True love ran off with the milkman? Make good art. Bank foreclosing? Make good art.

So that's what I did. Mostly I'm writing a novel now, but that's such a mountain-climbing-or-ditch-digging sort of a thing to do that I stopped working on it for a few days and I finished a short story I'd started a couple of years ago (it was to be for Holly's 18th Birthday. She's now 19 and a half. The cobbler's children go barefoot). In the past two years I'd written about three pages of it -- say 1000 words -- and between Tuesday lunchtime and yesterday I wrote another five thousand five hundred words, until I put the last ones down and suddenly there weren't any more to write. It's a very odd story.

"Beetles," said Professor Mandalay. "I once calculated that, if a man such as myself were to eat six different species of beetle each day, it would take him more than twenty years to eat every beetle that has been identified. And over that twenty years enough new species of beetle might have been discovered to keep him eating for another five years. And in those five years enough beetles might have been discovered to keep him eating for another two and a half years, and so on, and so on. It is a paradox of inexhaustibility. I call it Mandalay's Beetle. You would have to enjoy eating beetles, though," he added, "or it would be a very bad thing indeed."

The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before. I e-mailed it off to Holly-at-college last night (subject: Happy Birthday), and decided to raise my head back above the parapet.

Today is, of course, the Fifth of November -- Guy Fawkes' Day -- when the English celebrate Guy Fawkes' attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament while they were in session, using barrels of gunpowder which he (and his fellow conspirators) stored in the cellars beneath the Houses of Parliament. They were betrayed (quite possibly They Were Set-Up), the plot was uncovered, and the British have celebrated November the 5th with fireworks and bonfires for the last four hundred years. As a boy I wasn't sure whether we were meant to be celebrating Guy Fawkes as someone who tried to change the system by doing something about it, or whether it was just that the English love a good loser. When I grew up I realised that it was a thanksgiving for the fact that the Parliament had not been exploded. Still, Guy Fawkes has a day named after him, which is more than King James had (although James got a bible dedicated to him, of course).


Now the results of the election are in, I find myself focussing on Charles Brownstein's comments over at Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter blog on what this will probably mean for the CBLDF, and for protecting the First Amendment in comics; there are people out there who don't want you to read things, for your own good of course, and I suspect that the next four years may be easier for them than for you.

Which means a lot more fundraising, and a lot more court battles (and money to lawyers), and winning cases and probably losing cases as well. (Sometimes the good guys lose. It happens. You carry on.)

You can find out what you can do over at


Time to close some windows and tabs: someone wanted to know if the "Social Work" adverts -- a few of which you can see at -- were by Dave McKean or not. (They are.)

Having mentioned it here long ago, I was fascinated to learn the true history of the Hello Kitty vibrator.

Many of you have asked me over the years whether the platypus is officially weird, or just unofficially weird. It's officially weird. And on the subject, and for those of an apocalyptic bent, you may be relieved to know that Giant Squid are "Taking over the World".