Our paper is looking down the barrel of a strike.
What’s the secret of comedy, as the old joke goes? Timing. The funny part comes when you say “timing” before the other person gets a chance to answer the question, thereby you have no concept of the secret of comedy at all. Yet the horrible timing is funny in itself, like a comet hitting a planet just as it starts an intercontinental thermonuclear war. Jeff Jarvis, declaiming from the Throne of Googlympus, said today we should use the chance to bust the contracts, kill print and go digital. (It’s like my novel is writing itself in my daily actual life.) Perhaps, but in a town that has another newspaper, I prefer to wave to the door and say “you first.”
Did you know the Chinese character for “Crisis” is the same as the one for “Opportunity?” Also the same as the one for “rammed up the fundament with a 36-spiked hot pole dipped in lemon juice and battery acid.” True.
So get this. The story of The Kind Shadow, discussed here yesterday, was sent back by the teacher with request for more detail. She had to make the story longer. It’s about a girl who falls out a window, is caught by a Shadow, taken through a dark forest to a castle, where he plies her with treats before attempting to steal her soul. Since we needed more, we had a story conference over dinner. I just asked questions. So: what more do you want to add?
The shadow is really a prince who’s had a spell cast on him.
Why does he take the girl?
To help him break free of the spell. She has to kill the witch who cast the spell.
How does he tell her this? He’s a shadow.
(I thought: he has a magic mirror that shows his true self when others look into it.)
He has a mirror, and when she looks in it she sees him as he is in reality!
Why does he send her to kill the witch? Why doesn’t he do it?
She is the Chosen One with a pure heart.
So how does she do it?
With a magic sword only she can use.
Sorry, the witch will see her coming a mile away. Witch is sitting on the porch, kid walks up with a sword, witch knows something is up.
She brings . . .a guillotine.
Well I was going to put it in the story but I couldn’t spell it.
Okay, I don’t think we’re going to have a Chosen One with a pure heart dragging a guillotine through the forest. Try again.
She has . . . Candy! But it’s poison. She says it’s from the witch’s demon friend.
Interesting. And what if the witch is suspicious and asks what the demon’s name is?
(Sudden shuddery Fear of Bob)
No, not Bob. What else?
Okay, Cornelius. How does Ella know the demon’s name?
Because it’s the Shadow’s brother. He went to the dark side and made the witch curse his brother.
Why didn’t he do it himself?
Because there was still some good in him, and he still loved his brother. He gives the Shadow the poison candy.
And that was it. I just took a look at what she’d written – and TELL NO ONE, since she’ll be peeved if she knows.
While she was eating, the Shadow came over with a coral decorated mirror. What? A mirror? Ella thought. The shadow set it down and stared deep into it. Ella gasped. The reflection – it wasn’t a shadow at all. It was a prince! His suit was pure white and his cuffs were sun-gold. His eyes were leaf green and his hair was as brown as soil.
Superstition, feudal class systems – man, I thought we’d left this stuff behind years ago.
Maybe not. I enjoyed this story: maybe we should paint all our roofs white to forestall the inevitable climate catastrophe. And oil up the barn doors, while we’re at it.
I’d be curious to see what percentage of the United States consists of roofs. I think it’s rather small. But it’s an interesting idea, inasmuch as it isn’t going to happen, but will be talked about in serious tones. These things invariably lead to excitable public servants coming back – via jet, of course – from a really exciting convention where there was just a lot of positive energy about change, and then the officials commission a White Roof Study, which leads to someone commissioning a White Roof Commission, which leads to outreach, consciousness raising, and a total of 145 white roofs in town – and this leads to a newspaper story about the Growing Trend towards white roofs. A few city buildings are painted; the mayor is on hand for each. They look filthy after six months. One day in July passersby are treated to the site of city workers hosing down the roof in the middle of a drought.
Reminded me of this story from Blighty. It helps if you imagine John Cleese delivering the news, and Jim Royle shouting BURPING SHEEP MY AHSS at the telly:
Government advisers are developing menus to combat climate change by cutting out “high carbon” food such as meat from sheep, whose burping poses a serious threat to the environment.
Excuse me: burping sheep are the environment. Burping sheep are natural. Ah, but we raise too many to eat, so they’re not natural. But it would be natural, I guess, if there was a parasite that flourished at the expense of sheep’s predators, leading to a temporary increase in gross sheepage until the situation rebalanced. But everything that rebalances the old unbalances the new. There is no balance in the long run. Balance is an illusion you get when you don’t live to an age of 125 million years.
Once again I say: any planet whose ecosystem can be wrecked by burping sheep deserves it. Darwin on a galactic scale. Man up, Mother Earth. But the article raises some other foes:
Out will go kebabs, greenhouse tomatoes and alcohol. Instead, diners will be encouraged to consume more potatoes and seasonal vegetables, as well as pork and chicken, which generate fewer carbon emissions.
Well, I like chicken, and I don’t care much for lamb, so HOLD ON A MINUTE, ALCOHOL?
Alcoholic drinks are another significant contributory factor, with the growing and processing of crops such as hops and malt into beer and whisky helping to generate 1.5% of the nation’s greenhouse gases.
China will vomit out in perpetuity enough greenhouse gases to make a Venusian suspect he’s having an asthma attack, and wee Britain will be filled with nothing more than small pale people sitting in shabby rooms having a wee dram with the shades down, lest the neighbor’s Karbon Kid Patrol Member does a spot-check of the bins for whiskey bottles. You get one per year. It’s registered to you, so don’t think you can break it and hide the pieces. Each bottle has a unique signature in the glass, tied to your carbon account.
(Yes, I know, reducto ad ridiculouso – but the people who roll their eyes when I tease them with these scenarios usually turn out to be the ones who think there should be carbon accounts. But somehow it’s paranoid to take them at their word.)
The Carbon Trust, a government-funded firm, is working with food and drink companies to calculate the “carbon footprints” of products – sometimes with surprising results.
Sorry, but after reading “The Carbon Trust, a government-funded firm,” nothing will surprise me.
Today: Lance Lawson over at buzz.mn, and if all goes well, Black and White World will make a late appearance. As I said, everything’s delayed this week. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a column to write. See you soon.
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