The Lovely Bones

Recently watched the film then read the book. The film was excessively harrowing, but the book was very good.  One thing that came out of it for me was a bit of a puzzle.

Spoiler alert for anyone not wanting to hear crucial parts of the plot! To summarise, a bad man does nasty things to a lot of women and children. Right at the end of the book, he ‘gets his comeuppance’, being killed in a freak accident that closely resembles the ‘perfect murder’ that the murdered Susie Salmon’s sister concocts at one point in the book. This seems to suggest that either Susie somehow intervenes from her heaven, or god has a sense of humour, or maybe it is all just coincidence. Now, here’s my puzzle.

Why do so many people – almost all of them – watching the film or reading the story feel that the bad guy ‘getting his comeuppance’ is almost cathartic, practically cheering his demise? I mean, it’s a good thing that he won’t go on to kill again, but his death does not bring the dead girls back. It doesn’t even bring any real succour to them or their living relatives as it happens pretty anonymously to all of them. It seems to me that it was a plot device aimed pretty squarely at the reader/observer, to bring some sort of relief. But what kind of relief actually makes sense?

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Alternative Acceptance Speech

Tonight I wish to thank you all,

For voting me to be,

Receiving this gilded statue,

With hasty scribbled speech.

Raise a cheer but before you clap,

Pray first applaud my seat.

It bore the weight of years of work,

Close rival to my feet.

Each buttock cheek neatly enshrined,

We grew so intimate,

Supported so reliably,

It barely creaked its fate.

So now I hope you understand,

Why I’m keeping one spare,

Of all the false tears shed I save,

A real one for my chair.


Another subconscious based story idea. Borrows from the H. P. Lovecraft idea of the Great Race of Yith who were capable of transferring their consciousness across time and space to exchange bodies with other lifeforms. In Riders, our heroine discovers that something is sharing her head, communicating with her in coded dream messages, automatic writing, art and other conduits.

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Egophage Online

Finally – my blog posts should be posting directly on Twitter! I hope you visit my site and feel free to browse the stories, poetry and philosophical meanderings.

The Anorak

This idea was prompted by a wonderful moment years ago in London, at the corner of a playground in Peckham, where I stumbled across a bunch of the most delicious, succulant and flavoursome blackberries in the universe. It made me think of transient moments of amazing coincidence or beauty, brief cloud configurations, moments of extreme passion or sorrow, basketball hoops scored from amazingly improbable positions and so on. Imagine an individual, or even a group of them, with access to advanced space/time travelling technology (or magic – whatever) that spend their time visiting and cataloguing these incidents, recording them for posterity or maybe some curious ‘Museum of Moments’. Dressed innocuously, possibly with flasks of weak lemon drink, hard-core anoraks waiting for hours in all weather conditions and all terrain for that second or two when the thousand-year bloom finally comes to flower, or the last butterfly of an endangered species lays down to die upon a rock.

Silent observers, we take a peek behind the scenes at their lives, and the ethical dilemmas they might face.

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Fall From Grace Part 3

~Part 3

Softly, a single feather fell from Mattias’ right wing, and drifted across the room in a light breeze from the doorway. It lay on the floor, glowing faintly. The woman stopped crying, and slowly approached it. Making sure that he was not looking, she bent and palmed the feather. She stood for a moment stroking its warm softness, her face lit by the glow, gazing in wonder at the object of her desires. Then, carefully, she placed the feather in a small chest squatting in the corner of the room, closing the lid firmly.

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Fall From Grace Part 2

~Part 2

Before long, a child’s cry emanated from the darkness of the adjacent room. The woman stood, glanced at Mattias as if to assure herself of his captivity, then moved silently towards the girl’s voice. A few hushed words, a soft melody, and silence returned. The woman returned, looking haggard and tired, and went about building up the fire without another glance at him.

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Charlie Whede

A sword fighter with a mysterious past and memory loss! Not terribly original, but I have a fondness for the conjunction of sword fighting with the sea, ever since the 7 Seas RPG came to my attention. As balance and agility are such an important part of fencing, to have this gentleman on board ship forces him to become skilled at balancing on uncertain surfaces, adapting to situations that life throws his way. His memory loss stems from the day he was dragged from the sea, barely alive, clinging to driftwood.

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Little Fishy

Once I saw a little fishy,

Little fishy in a dishy;

Tiny fins and eyes so bright,

Shiny scales that glow at night.

I wondered why the fishy lay,

So dull and lifeless, flat and grey;

But when the fishy didn’t play,

I simply blinked and walked away.

Who am I?

Depending on how you interpret the question, there is potentially a lot of mileage in this. I want to address the concept of personal identity because I really fail to understand the problem that a lot of philosophers seem to have with it. If there is a problem, it is about accepting the way things are.

What makes a person a person? What makes a person the same person they were a minute ago? Or yesterday? What am I? I think a lot of the problem grows from a tension between general conceptions of identity in space and time conflicting with the idea that people are special in their identity.

Identity outside the realms of maths and logic is a messy affair. Ships get replaced bit by bit. People change their minds and behaviour. Organs are transplanted. Plant grow from seeds and people grow from infancy. Despite these changes, we still identify a person as that same person, simplistic matters of mistaken identity and error aside. Indeed, errors are possible, but in most cases the identity is sound and useful. Otherwise I’d not know if you were my mother, a stranger, work colleague or whatever. Cunning philosophers offer many thought experiments to eat away at this kind of identification, involving switching brains between people, removing parts of the body until the person ‘disappears’ and suchlike.

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Problem of Incest

This is an odd one, as incest has such negative connotations, but as far as I can tell the only reason against it is the genetic risks to any resulting children from the inbreeding. There are cases of incestuous abuse, but if both parties are consenting this doesn’t really apply. The actual abuse is the issue in such cases, rather than the incest per se.

For the record and before the torch and pitchfork brigade arrive, I’d just like to clarify from the start that I have no incestuous leanings myself: This is simply about attacking what appears to be an unfounded prejudice!

Incest is taboo in virtually every society, but if we compare it with, say, homesexuality, presumably the parties involved can’t help feeling that way. In fact, genetic sexual attraction is a very real factor – ever noticed the similarities of the faces and features of couples in the marriage announcements? If having kids was removed from the incestuous relationship, what is the problem, say, if the male/female was sterilised for instance? For that matter, if the relationship was non-sexual as with non-practicing homosexuals, would there still be a problem?

My concern is that when people consider the concept of incest they immediately gross themselves out by thinking of how much they would NOT go for their relatives, and this disgust becomes associated with incest in general. For myself, I love my family dearly and have no desire to have sex with them, but I cannot see any reason that incest should be declared taboo for responsible consenting adults (dealing with the genetic risks) without appeal to some religious mandate. The religious standpoints vary in terms and conditions of permissiveness and the nature of the blood relationship, but I cannot find any justification. Given the number of agnostics and atheists, why does the taboo persist?

No Kids, Thanks

Whether or not to have children. It’s a significant choice for anyone to make, so here’s my reasoning:

  1. There are many kids already lacking a decent upbringing.
  2. I don’t feel any particular selfish attachment to having my own genetic offspring running about, and I think it is perfectly possible to love another’s biological child as a son or daughter.
  3. I believe that there can be more to life than breeding.
  4. I’d be content to establish a social institution doing good works as my ‘child’.
  5. I can be a good role model to others without having my own children – I can even be more of a father figure than some biological dads out there.
  6. We are not in a situation where society is desperate for more children.
  7. Babies are not cute. I think that myth is some hormonal trickery at work!
  8. I disagree that having a child is the epitome of mutual love.


I don’t want my own kids. Alternatively, adoption or fostering could work.

What are Schools For?

Prompted by ideas about social changes effected by digital communication and the Internet, what do we need to learn in schools? There are several online resources with this very question up for discussion, and rightly so. The Internet, as a wonder of the modern world, is utterly deserving of its capital letter.

Youth work has emphasis on voluntary engagement with young people, but schooling has conventionally been compulsory. Why is this? I can see schooling as teaching young people things they need to know, accepting that young people are not necessarily in a position to decide what is important, and so we conduct a form of indoctrination while they are in this fledgling state. The nature of this indoctrination varies, depending on the society. Later in their development we seek to teach them about choice and responsibility, helping them on the path to becoming active members of society.

The question arising from the context of improved digital communication and Internet access is this:

What do young people need to learn, and what can they simply access via the Internet?

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Feng Shui Assassin

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics beleived to use laws of astronomy and geography to improve life by receiving positive qi. In other words, it is the holistic arrangement of living spaces to be fit for purpose. The Feng Shui assassin has mastered the art and its darker side by association – redirection of qi is not restricted to positive outcomes! By placing innocuous items around a house, or by the subtle rearrangement of furniture, the assassin can create death traps invisible to most. Its victims fall down stairs, trip and break their necks, get crushed by toppling wardrobes and fridges, electrocute themselves or gradually poison themselves. It is almost always diagnosed as accidental death by misadventure, and the deaths can be sudden or subtle, depending on the requirements of the assassin.


The nasty people came today,

With chemicals they used to spray,

The flowers sleeping in their beds,

To give them poisoned, droopy heads.

These bringers of the toxic sleep,

A withered bounty they shall reap,

For fruit will make the nasties sick,

When it’s washed down with arsenic.


Today I saw a caravan,

Eat a small and dimpled man.

Yesterday I saw another,

Eat a lonely single mother.

The world can seem so big and mean,

When caravans do things obscene,

So now I burn them carefully,

To hear them shrieking horribly.

Urban Safari

Today’s urban safari day,

I found this gun you see.

I stalk the streets in search of prey,

Bring down the ones that flee.

I’ll ornament my mantlepiece,

Car horns of ivory,

Volkswagen trunks and leather seats,

Displayed to all with glee.

Caught in Time

Our perceptions of the passage of time are not constant. Sometimes it flies, and sometimes it drags. Imagine what would happen if a person’s perception of time were to greatly increase or decrease? In the case of the former, the world would blur and you would become as a statue. If your lifespan were unchanged, you would be dead in a flash – seeming to the rest of the world as if you had fallen into a kind of paralysed coma. In the latter case, things would slow down to a virtual stop. However, there would be no ridiculous sci-fi style wandering about moving objects frozen in mid-flight and rearranging furniture for comic effect – abusing physical laws left right and centre. You would be literally stuck in place, frozen in time. If your mind was still functioning I think you would find it quite an unpleasant experience. You would be trapped for an eternity before anybody even knew it – and probably be quite insane by the time it all wore off, a second later from the point of view of the rest of the world. All this from a simple matter of perspective.

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We are Legion

This is pretty fundamental to the entire ‘Egophage’ project. The idea that the subconscious can be a construct of multiple warring needs and desires – much like the kind of possession by demons seen in the Bible and other stories. In this concept, the person in question acts as an unwilling host for his subconscious assailants, who strut around garbed in his memories and personality despite his best efforts to cope. Here are some trial paragraphs.

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Who Needs Luck?

This is about lotteries. Working from a basic principle: Resources should be assigned according to need. A lottery, therefore, is only appropriate where needs are equal and there is no other way of deciding who is to benefit. So what implications are there for raffles, or the National Lottery?

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It’s Your Fault You’re Offended

Simple really. There’s so much emphasis on political correctness that I think this needs to be said. If you are offended by something, it’s your fault.

There is a difference between offence as a harmful thing and the actual cause of the offence itself being harmful. Say I shoot an orphan and you take offence. The shooting of the orphan is certainly worthy of criticism etc. for being an inappropriate act, but any sense of offence you take at the act is entirely in your head. If the sense of being offended causes you to suffer, then stop being offended. Remember the old saying, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’? Words do hurt – emotionally – if you let them, but only physically if carved on bricks and thrown, for instance! By all means correct my racist remarks, and re-educate me to stop my rape and vandalism, but don’t be offended by words. That much at least should be within your power to control, and is beyond my ability to apologise for!

If declarations are taken as an indication of prejudice, then act appropriately to educate or minimise damage, but if someone was to insult me with a completely unfounded or unjustified statement, then why on earth would I actually be offended? May as well be offended by a dog for barking – irritated maybe by the noise and spittle, but the words are meaningless. If they actually speak the truth, then why be offended by facts? That seems similarly immature. Perhaps what is really going on is people are participating in a cultural ‘Shibboleth’ in which visible signs of outrage help people to guage and reinforce membership of a social group. In which case, a simple, calm and measured ‘Inappropriate’ would suffice.

Keeping My Mouth Shut

Increasingly I find myself achieving insights which I cannot share with anybody. Some of the reasons for this are as follows:

1. I don’t see the point of telling somebody something they are conceptually ready to understand. Using the metaphor of building a house, handing someone roof tiles when they are still constructing foundations seems not only premature but also unhelpful, as they now have roof tiles to manage and weigh them down.

2. Even being conceptually ready for something does not mean that you are emotionally ready. Discussing fairly simple conceptions of free will are often quite disturbing for a lot of people – so why do it? If they are not actively seeking answers, is it likely that they are going to make any use of this to justify the distress?

3. Relevance of a concept. If someone has never needed a particular concept to date, by virtue of it being ‘new’, why then teach them it? Is there an unwritten rule that we should share these new concepts? If nuclear power was an example, I am not convinced that all concepts should be shared. For that matter, if all these concepts will be discovered at some point, then leaving them until later seems valid if there is no ostensible need for them immediately.

What seems to be emerging is a kind of conceptual eugenics, deciding which concepts are ready to be released and which are not. Is one person really in the right position to make these choices though? Would a group decision made by a govenment be any better? Imagine if the cure for cancer, via research into cellular degeneration, became inextricably linked to removing natural aging. Would the government release such knowledge, bearing in mind the social ‘nuke’ that immortality would be for society? In fact, the further one thinks about the consequences of their actions, the more variables, uncertainties and pitfalls appear. God help us. Luckily most concepts are unlikely to be so volatile, so disclosure seems viable in general if you can talk to the right audience! At least on the web, the right audience can find you…

Another thing is, the more things are predictable the less questions you need to ask. Most answers are pretty self-evident. Reminds me of a joke about a child who did not speak. Parents were really worried, but no diagnosis was satisfactory. Eventually, one day, the child says something like ‘No celery please’. The parents are relieved, and ask why the child started speaking. The child replies ‘There was nothing wrong before’. Sometimes speaking can be instinctive, habitual or comforting. If you don’t need to ask for anything, and nothing you say is appropriate for the audience to hear or understand, I think you’d find yourself being quite quiet too.

Cruor, Demigoddess

Cruor started hearing voices at an early age. Initially she thought they were friends playing tricks, but the voices said very strange things. They told her secrets and special words and gestures that made things happen as she desired. She eventually recognised the voices as being one voice: Her own, but older. Her own voice was telling her that she was going to become a goddess someday, but that she would need to make sacrifices to achieve this. Trusting herself, Cruor began her long path to power, littering her way with the broken bodies of former friends and family.

She started to craft herself anew.

Kimiko, Tourist Assassin

Kimiko resembles a short Japanese woman, with a weather beaten and wizened face, oversized spectacles, cheeky grin, large all-weather poncho and latest digital camera. She travels a lot and likes taking photographs for her relatives and friends. She is actually a mystical repository of the various unfortunates she has assassinated over the thousands of years of her stolen life, stealing their souls at the moment of death. In turn, she uses these trapped souls to control animals, insects, birds and so on as a form of hive mind, which is her primary method of assassination. For instance, one gentleman was killed out walking by the beach with his family, when Kimiko possessed the circling gulls who pecked him to death in an homage to Hitchcock. A lady was killed in her sleep by rats coming up through the toilet and eating her alive. A more subtle occasion required a lone wasp stinging a man know to have an anaphylactic reaction. There are some who believe that some primitive cultural resentment of photographs may stem from Kimiko’s actions a long time ago in her travels. As to what she is exactly, nobody rightly knows, but she is effectively immortal by transferring her souls to another convenient vessel where necessary.

Nadja, Vermin Queen

Nadja grew up in a small hovel by a marsh, alone with her aging mother. She cared for her mother as she died from a slow wasting illness. The emotional stress of the situation led to her developing a fascination with the cycles of life and death, and she learned a great deal from her mother about the flora and fauna of the marsh. After her mother passed away, Nadja gave her body to the scavengers and kept her wisdom locked carefully away.

One day, Nadja was approached by a haggard youth of a similar age as she crouched studying a dying bird, overcome by marsh gas. He was touched by what he took to be her compassion, when in fact she was simply watching its demise. They loved each other for a time, but the relationship soured as their mutual outlooks grew apart. She felt betrayed by him, and resented his special link with nature when he left to become a hermit. Vowing to make him suffer, she went in search of the power she needed to achieve her vengeance.

She sought out a spider demon, and made a pact to marry it. On the wedding day, they exchanged marriage gifts to make the pact binding. She gave him a silver ring, then the demon laughed and insisted she wear a special wedding dress. They kissed, but at his bite a paralyzing venom flooded into her. At this point the demon summoned his arachnid minions to bind her with silk – a ‘special’ dress to fit the occasion – and the demon turned to carry her away to his lair where his other ‘wives’ were entombed. Nadja, succumbing to the venom, mumbled “what is yours is mine” and triggered the enchantment on the rings. Shrieking, the demon was consumed and bound within Nadja’s ring, his power flooding into her, but she knew she would remain a prisoner of the web forever. To free herself would in turn release the demon and the consequences that entailed.

With her new powers, she silently bid the beasts of the marsh to carry her silken coffin to a blasted oak, branches reminiscent of a crescent moon: a natural conduit of magical energies. Borne aloft, she was suspended at the centre of the crescent, and a protective shell of silk woven thick and strong to shelter her. She sent her mind out into the marsh, and the myriad eyes of the spiders, insects and vermin that dwelt there, and so began the reign of Nadja, Vermin Queen.

The Boy With A Thousand Faces

Once upon a time there was a special boy. God had decided to fill his heart with love, but the world was too scared by the brightness and averted its eyes. In order for the boy to live, he made a mask for himself to hide his love. He made one for every occasion: Feeding the ducks, playing with friends and going to school. Very soon, the boy had a multitude of masks. Each represented part of him, but all were woefully incomplete.

When the boy came of age he started courting. Sadly every person he encountered only saw a flimsy mask and found them lacking. Heartbroken, the boy decided he would show his true love to his future partners. When he did so, they were so terrified and overwhelmed that they fled immediately. The boy slumped to the ground, with despair creasing his beauty and tears pouring down his cheeks.

Isolated from the world, doused with sorrow, his love was finally extinguished. The boy became a hollow husk, filled with ashes. He cast off his masks, went outside into a grey world and lived out his days as a productive and anonymous member of society.