Month: July 2013

Young Sherlock

“Tell me what you said!”

Young Sherlock was pinned to the wall by his arch nemesis Frank Miniarty, one huge hand latched onto his scrawny throat, the other drawn back ready to pummel his face. Trying to avoid looking directly into the face of the school bully, Sherlock gaze drifted past him to the trophy cabinet. Sighing inwardly, he reflected that Baskervilles Boys Grammar certainly did excel at physical endeavours and had the trophies to back it up. Life had become so much worse for him since his parents had sent him to board here so that he might, in their words, “Toughen up princess.”

“Come on you little weasel, cough it up. What did you tell her?”, repeated Miniarty.

“I deduce from the strength of your grip that you have quite a lot of experience holding things tightly in your right hand”, croaked Sherlock with a smirk. A look of confusion passed over Miniarty’s face as he tried to work out what this meant. “Perhaps if you let me down, I might be able to talk better”, Sherlock suggested more directly.

Miniarty hesitated, but reluctantly he lowered Sherlock to the ground. The hand around his throat relaxed slightly but Sherlock knew he still had no option of running and so continued, “I merely mentioned to Miss Scarlet, that based on the pattern of your hand-writing, the homework that you turned in was obviously written in an extreme hurry. I can only assume that she deduced herself that you couldn’t possibly have thought your way through to those answers so quickly and must have copied instead.”

“You little squealer”, Frank hissed, “this is what happens to the likes of you at this school.” With that he landed a massive punch to Sherlock’s solar plexus and then stalked off leaving the young detective doubled up on the ground in agony.

From the floor Sherlock resolved to himself, “That’s it, tomorrow I’m signing up for the boxing club. And if all else fails, there’s always cocaine.”

 

Notes:

1. I by no means condone the use of drugs. It is interesting to note that in the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock was a cocaine and occasional morphine user – habits that Dr Watson disapproves of. Both drugs were legal in the late 19th century and modern adaptations often ignore this. I believe (although am not really a watcher) that the current American version uses Sherlock’s predicament as a recovering drug addict as the reason for his relationship with Dr Watson who is basically overseeing his rehabilitation.

Either way, I could imagine that with Sherlock’s peculiar mannerisms and anti-social intelligence, school would not have been a pleasant experience and may explain a descent into drug use. But, it is fiction after all.

2. Hey look, everyone else seems to be taking a crack at Sherlock Holmes at the moment so why not me?

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Santa Trial

Film poster for The Santa Clause 2 - Copyright...

It’s been a trying week and I needed to just let out a little craziness.  This is partly inspired by a ridiculous lunch time conversation yesterday and partly by the article 5 Writing Exercises That Will Make You More Creative.  Anyway, enjoy (maybe).

“Patrick McCallister, you stand before us today charged with the most heinous crime of the murder of Santa Clause.”

Echoing from the bench, the voice of the Judge reverberated around the chambers with the leaden solemnity and gravitas of a tomb. His face peered down, a terrifying visage cloaked with the fury of a well worn and aged mantle of authority, and locked onto the tiny trembling form of the boy. Cowering in the dock and barely managing not to wet himself, Patrick tried to hide under the full glare of the assembled court.

“How plead you?”, demanded the Judge. The three words slammed into place with the force of locking bolts on a prison door.

Patrick squirmed. On or twice his mouth opened, but no words would come. He wriggled in his seat, perhaps betraying the size of his small four year old bladder. He tried looking away, but when he caught a glimpse of the packed courtroom and rank upon rank of reporters, his confidence took a further hit. Turning his eyes to the floor, he shrank into the smallest ball he could and remained silent. It was soon evident that no answer would be forthcoming.

The assembly noticed movement and swivelled their attention as the defence attorney rose from his seat. With the sleekness of a puma, he paused to iron out the creases from his suit with his hand before responding, “Your Honour, my client wishes to plead ‘Not Guilty'”.

Around the room, people came to life as they responded to the plea as if to a jolt of electricity. The reporters were ecstatic. This trial had a long way to go. So many storied to be written, their excited babble almost drowned out the outrage erupting from the Santa Impersonators Union. Having been put out of their seasonal work, they had come en-mass to see the criminal who had destroyed their livelihood and spat venomous insults at the pint sized assassin who sat before them.

Toy manufacturers, paranormal investigators, researchers from Harvard Law, Groklaw journo-legals and all manner of people had come to this, the fourth trial of the century to have been offered this decade. And, over it all, presided Judge McCallister, his face a transparent picture of fury at the plea now on offer. In his fury he didn’t respond with his customary swiftness to still the cacophony before him, but eventually he did respond, his gavel beating out a staccato of taps to accompany his calls of, “Order! Order!”

The room responded promptly, the Judge was well known for his merciless court discipline, and he continued in his practised authoritative tone.

“Very well, let it be recorded that the defendant has pleaded ‘Not Guilty’. We proceed to trial. Dr Brody, please outline the prosecution’s case.”

Standing with a well practised ease, Dr Brody positioned himself in the centre of the courtroom. He was an expansive man, filling his shirt, which he wore without a coat, until it stretched taut against his stomach. A pair of suspenders held his pants up and he hooked his thumbs through them as he began to pace the room. In his Southern accent, with a conversational tone that was carefully calculated to put the Jury at ease, he began.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Your Honour. What we have before us today is a case of cold calculated murder. A boy – yes I admit it, he is a child – but a boy who none-the-less has a hard bitter vengeful hatred of that man we so loved and cherished. That man who brought us all so much joy. The man in red, Santa Clause. A hatred that lead him to murder.” Emphasising his last word, Dr Brody paused for effect, allowing time for the significance to sink in.

Abruptly his demeanour changed, taking on an air of innocent credulity. “Now the defence will argue that their ‘client’,” he said using air quotes and a knowing smile for the last word, “is just a boy. That his act of poisoning was done accidentally. That as a four year old he would have no way of understanding the repercussions of his actions.” Changing his demeanour once again, he followed with a visage of wisdom and gravitas, “But don’t be fooled by their lies.”

“During the course of this trial, the prosecution will allege, and demonstrate mind you, that on or about 8:30pm on the 24th December last year, the defendant, Patrick McCallister, did knowingly and wilfully leave out as a snack for Santa, crackers with off ham and rancid milk, thereby giving him the fatal dose of food poisoning that killed him.”

The court was silent. Patrick was still curled up in his little ball in the dock, but a reedy voice called out, “S’not true.”

Just then, the doors to the chamber burst open and a man in a lab coat came running up the aisle. Glasses askew on his face and panting from his unaccustomed exercise, he gasped, “Stop the trial, stop the trial. You have the wrong person.”

Glancing up at the Judge, Dr Brody looked uncertain and then asked, “Who? You mean Patrick?”

“And who the heck are you anyway?” demanded the Judge.

Catching his breath slightly but still visibly heaving, the man replied, “No no, not Patrick. Santa! You’ve got the wrong man with Santa.” This definitely had everyone non-plussed. It wasn’t what the Police had said.

“Look I’m the pathologist assigned to this case, and this morning I figured I should probably get around to taking a look at the body. You know, what with the trial starting today and all that.”

He wilted slightly under the whithering glare of the assembly. “Oh come on give me a break,” he protested, “I’ve got so much work to do, and you know … Santa, jolly red guy. Everyone knows what he looks like and all that. It’s not like the Police were going to get it wrong and so I figured …” His voice petered off as he saw his excuse garnering no sympathy and, if anything, just digging himself deeper.

Changing tack he said, “OK, ok, fair enough. Bad me. But look, I did get around to it today and I’m telling you, this ain’t Santa. Well the body I mean, obviously. He’s not here in the courtroom … sitting on my slab … back in my …” The glares were just intensifying and he couldn’t bring himself to finish a sentence under such searching silent accusations.

“And so, pray tell, who is the victim in this case?” asked the Judge with a sickeningly horrific calmness.

Eyes downcast, the pathologist mumbled, “Well I’m not 100% sure but I think from the dental records that it might be Patrick’s father dressed up in a Santa suit.”

In the dock, Patrick’s head snapped up, tiny eyes open wide like saucers and he started blubbing softly.

“But who would do such a heinous thing?” the Judge demanded in astonishment. “Everyone knows that to impersonate Santa requires a license. This is sacrilege and probably a bigger crime than the murder in the first place.”

With a thunk, the editor let the manuscript fall to his desk. He motioned for his assistant to come over and said, “Jerry, this is probably the worst ‘Law and Order’ fan fiction script I’ve ever seen. Please don’t let anything from this author cross my desk ever again.”

With that he binned the manuscript, chose another from the pile and sat back to continue reading.

Sorry 🙂

Jacob’s Well

English: Macro photograph of coca-cola bubbles...

The sun was hot, it always was at this time of day. Drawing water from the well under the glare of a noon-day sun was not a sensible habit to get into, but for her it was the only palatable option. The other women from the village would come together to draw their water either in the morning or evening. A gaggle of chatter, of empathy and shared sisterhood, the mundane back-breaking task of carrying their daily water somewhat redeemed by the social opportunity to bond and share in common human existence. But not for her.

Not for an outcast, a tainted woman. The companionship she so desired would simply be accusing stares and biting comments. After so many years she’d given up on redemption and so had resigned herself to bitter-sweet solitude, the quiet and heat of the noon-day trip.

Her thoughts were far away, dwelling on the daily business of life as she rounded the corner and saw him sitting beside the well. Jolted back into the moment, her heart skipped a beat as she wished he were not there. She came at noon to be alone not to meet strangers, but he was a man so would probably ignore her anyway and that gave her some solace.

Drawing closer, she felt vindicated in her hope. From the way he dressed, she could tell he was a Jew. Being a Samaritan herself, there would be no contact between them. No haughty, pure blood Jew would lower himself to speak with a Samaritan, and for their part, no Samaritan wanted any piece of their so-called brothers who left them to mercy of the Assyrians so many years ago. No, the brotherhood was over and so she was safe in her solitude.

Bending down to reach the rope, she heard his voice, “Give me a drink”.

Stunned into stillness she turned her head away. Did this man not know the rules?

“How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”, she replied.

He sat easily on the ground. In her peripheral vision, she could see that he had been travelling. The dirt caked on his feet and lower legs betrayed at least a day’s walk. It was unusual for people to travel alone, there was safety in numbers and likely that he had friends around somewhere.

He replied, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

This made no sense to her. It was a trick surely, a play on words making fun at her expense. Who asks for a drink from a stranger when they have water of their own to drink? He was playing games with her she was sure, but she was the one with the bucket and he was the one sitting thirsty in the sun. She answered, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

He responded, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

She sighed inwardly. What was this he was talking about? Here he was sitting thirsty in the sun and yet offering again a source of water that would quench a thirst eternally. He had tickets on himself, greater than Jacob, offering more than her forefather whose efforts had allowed them to settle in the area and survive. And yet he sat there alone, asking her for a drink. What could he possibly give that she needed? He was crazy then, but wouldn’t that be a wonderful simplicity in life, and so she humoured him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

A smile creased his face, and he looked knowingly at her and said, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”

Fear gripped her heart. The panic that shot through her was like lightning, galvanising her defenses. He’s found my weakness! My shame. Through years of practice in situations of shame and scandal, she kept her outward calm, only raising her head slightly as she answered, “I have no husband.”

He said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

The panic intensified – he knew! How much did he know? About the fights, the recriminations, the scandal. Of being discarded by one husband after another like broken pottery. Cycles of conflict and retribution over the years had led to one failure after another, and he was through her defenses. Yet, he was still talking with her – despite a stigma that transcended both race and gender.

Why is that – he knew? Her tenacity, the strength of personality that kept her going through the long years, came to her aide once again. Why would this Jew still offer things to me? How did he know? I must sound him out. Tentatively, she felt her way to reply, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

If he was going to play the mystic, the wise man, she was going to test him. Try him with the age-old controversy that had divided their people for centuries.

He said, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

This was a new teaching, a break from the relentless controversy of the temples. How was is possible that worship of God could be divorced from those rules, from the rituals that had been followed for so long? Was he implying that location was irrelevant? That nationality didn’t matter? He’s implying that there is a way to know God that goes beyond external appearances and from the recesses of her mind, she recalled a teaching, a promise she’d heard at the temple about God’s anointed man who would come for His people. In hope, she said, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”

Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

(Based on John 4:1-45)

Ninja Grannies

Where do they come from?

Where do they come from?

A strange thing has been happening near where I live lately. The trees on Blackwood Street have mysteriously started sprouting woollen coats.

I don’t know where these have come from, but my imagination runs with potential theories. My favourite is that a secret group of Ninja Grannies has taken it upon themselves to dish out vigilante justice to the world.

Ninja Grannies?

Ninja Grannies?

Following in the footsteps of Batman, these elderly do-gooders, replete with technological knitting gadgetry colour matched to the hair rinse, spend their evenings furiously knitting in circles around the trees in an attempt to keep society’s forgotten street trees from freezing.

They would meet in their living room for afternoon tea, scones and discussion of the latest covert knitting wizardry, their husbands banished from the Gran Cave for the session. Then as the sun sets, they retire for a nap but then emerge around midnight, clad in black. Noise suppressors fitted to the bottom of their walkers, they pass ghost-like through the night before retreating at dawn, justice achieved for another evening.

I’m sure the truth is much more benign, but sometimes it’s fun to let the imagination run. And hats off to whoever IS doing it! It makes the world a little more interesting, although I would like to ask how you wash them when they get dirty?

In response to http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/weekly-writing-challenge-humor/

Wherefore art thou ‘Context’

I love the contextual nature of language. It’s fascinating the way it can shift and change a phrase.

An advertisement this evening for a current affairs program had a man saying, “That’s the allegation, sweetheart.” What do you suppose he meant by that? Go on take a guess.

It could have been a heartbreaking moment of despair between a man and his wife in their kitchen. Facing false charges that carry with them the penalty of jail time, he is bearing his soul about the depths of his trouble, the heinous accusations levelled against him. “That’s the allegation, sweetheart.”

And yet it doesn’t quite fit because a current affairs program is unlikely to have such intimate footage (or probably even care so much). Contextual awareness of our society is already helping us to shape our understanding of the phrase. Perhaps it is a Father tending the wounds of his son who has fallen and skinned his knee. In tears the boy looks up at his Father asking the question, “It’ll be all right won’t it?”, and tenderly the reply comes, “That’s the allegation, sweetheart.”

A beautiful picture but again it doesn’t quite fit. Most children wouldn’t readily understand the word allegation. There are countless other contexts in which the phrase can carry with it a variety of implications and emotions. In this particular case, it was the reply of an self-assured and quick mouthed car dealer when confronted with an allegation of ripping customers off. “That’s the allegation, sweetheart”

In this context the phrase shifts again, the word sweetheart this time taking on a condescending, horribly dismissive connotation, the phrase palming off the need to answer and the authority of the questioner as a mere joke. It’s fascinating.

However this nature is not solely related to the domain of human language. Upon reflection, there are many ways in which contextual relativity changes the meaning and/or results of things in computers too.

A certain piece of code may work perfectly when running in the context of a certain user login, whereas different permissions may cause it to crash or fail gracefully to achieve its intent when executed under the context of a different user.

A database query may return a result when run in the context of a lightly loaded system. However under a heavily loaded system, the resources may not be available for it to complete without a timeout, or it may block other queries or itself be blocked depending on transaction boundaries.

I’m sure with more thought, the same could be found for many spheres of life. Relationships, medicine, politics and more. As people, we live in a nuanced world and our capacity for dealing with the changing context is quite remarkable. There are clearly many times we fail to interpret it, but I suspect that if we were always failures, then we probably would not have survived or continue to do so.