Sunday, 30 April 2017

Dubai Font - The Typeface, The City, The Legend

Dubai has its own typeface, Dubai Font.

And I have to say, I love it. Cool, contemporary even a tad, dare I say it, futuristic.

Created by Microsoft under a doubtless lucrative deal with Dubai Government, the new typeface is the first time a city has got its very own Microsoft font. Well, apart from the remote and little known city of Comic Sans, Wyoming.

You're welcome. My pleasure...

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Fake Plastic Souks Is Ten

Birthday Cake
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh golly, oh gosh! I nearly missed it. Happy Birthday, Fake Plastic Souks! Ten years ago this month, I was sufficiently intrigued by the idea of expressing my opinion without using a pseudonym (at the time the standard approach for bloggers in Dubai) and was also missing writing magazine articles (I used to do a lot of that) enough to contemplate starting a blog. It's hard to imagine today, but back then it was all, well, terribly experimental. Now, of course, it's quaintly retro.

It all followed on from another experiment in online scribbling, a Wiki called 'Orientations' I had started to put together, which played with the idea of creating a hyperlinked series of articles that led you on an adventure, a little like playing Colossal Caves, around what was something of a stream of consciousness. PB Works, the nice people wot hosts the Wiki, have been threatening to take back that workspace for years and yet the crumbling ruins of that largely incomplete experiment still exist. The first word of the first post on Fake Plastic Souks linked, through the fiendishly clever use of houmus, back to the Wiki in a sort of nod to the past.

That first post was inspired by the sententious rumblings from the Arab Media Forum and amused me greatly. Like many things that amuse me greatly (my first novel, for instance), I find I am in an audience of one. Luckily, that has never detracted from my amusement. The ability to amuse oneself avoids a great deal of unpleasantness in life, I find.

An awful lot of water has flowed under the bridge since those early days, quite a lot of the events which took place around me documented as I jotted things down. It's not quite Samuel Pepys, but I occasionally enjoy stumbling across something old and dusty. In all this time, a tad over 1.2 million pages have been read. Which is nice. I would hate to think how many words I've thrown into this little cloudy corner. I've probably written about 700,000 words in my various novels (not including the two books I made from FPS posts for publishing workshop purposes) and likely more in the blog.

Oh yes, the books. There were two of them, made when I needed a text to create a sample book for a 'hands on' publishing session I did for the LitFest chaps. The first one documented 2007-2009: Fake Plastic Souks - The Glory Years. I joked that I'd do another one if that book sold more than ten copies and to my mild amazement, it did. So I made the second, Fake Plastic Souks - The Fear Returns, which covered 2009-2011. The links take you to the Kindle editions, but there are also paperbacks. I never did get around to a third one. Just as well, probably.

It all seems a little irrelevant these days. Mind you, an early and perhaps over-passionate proponent of 'social media', I now find myself yearning to sit under a tree and play with wooden toys rather than post, share, tweet and snap for the benefit of small and frequently mildly bemused audiences.

I think my favourite things from over the years are were when I 'outed' Harper Collins' Authonomy and the 'Shiny' posts, which did rather tickle me. Documenting the egregious contents of Tim Horton's French Vanilla Coffee not only provided me with amusement, it has informed something like 10,000 people. The 'stuff they put in our food' posts have always caused the most 'Yews'. My abiding interest in food, of course, led to the co-creation of Dubai's first 'food blog' with partner in crime Simon McCrum, The Fat Expat. That was finally shuttered due to lack of time and photographic talent back in 2013. TFE was never really Instagram gold, but I still use it to find recipes even today.

These days, as people may have noticed, I post rather more infrequently and have stopped looking at Sitemeter or analytics. In the early days, the blog would attract a sort of 'background radiation' of readers, about 30 or so per post. That grew to hundreds and even thousands, with anything up to 40,000 page views each month. I was just starting to think that was getting rather reasonable when I met Russian writer Boris Akunin, whose blog gets about 1,000 comments a day. When he invited readers to join him in a walk around Moscow to protest Putin, 10,000 people turned up.

I was duly humbled.

Anyway, there's no real point to this post. I just thought I'd mark the occasion...

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Airline News

Kentucky man demonstrates customer service experience

I'm hesitant to add more words to the trillions that have been shared around the world after US airline United caused a passenger to be rendered insensible and dragged off a flight by three police officers. If you have by any chance been hiding in a nuclear bunker for the last 72 hours, 69 year old Dr David Dao was travelling home from Chicago to Kentucky on a United Airlines flight on Sunday and refused to give up his seat when instructed to do so by the crew. They called the police, who removed him forcibly.

United's blundering mismanagement of the entire incident reads like an text book on how to create a global PR fail of such magnificent proportions that it wipes $800 million off a company's stock price - which is precisely what it has achieved.

Although it would appear everyone was told the situation was due to 'overbooking', in fact United needed four seats to fly its own crew out to staff another flight. It had managed to screw up its own rostering to the point where it had to try and get people already boarded on a flight to agree to give up their seats. It offered $400 compensation, then $800 - which Dao agreed to and then rescinded his agreement when he found out the next available flight was 2.30pm the next day.

Of course, it's easier to say 'As the flight has been overbooked we are offering passengers...' in a tannoy than 'As we have goofed up our rostering and have four unexpected dead heads, we are offering passengers...'

United's consistent use of obfuscation and mendacity is only part of the whole glorious and potent mixture of incompetent communications that led them to become an object of global opprobrium. With a video of a bloody and unconscious man being dragged down the aisle of the plane being shared by millions, the company's CEO said this was 're-accommodating' passengers. The company also said that Dr Dao - a man torn from his seat on a plane - had been 'refused boarding'.

Dao is currently being smeared across mainstream media, a sad incident from his past being dragged up to show us that this seemingly innocent Doctor is actually a gay sex fiend who was struck off for ten years and earned a fortune playing poker instead of doctoring. We'll likely find out he was horrible to hamsters and kittens, too. United has finally, and this is Wednesday, made a full and proper apology - something it should have done at the latest by Monday but, in our Twitter-driven world, really Sunday was the time to react. It would seem United has either engaged an agency or started listening to its incumbent.

But the late reaction is too scripted, too late and follows an initial and very different reaction. Result? It lacks the one thing we know is the most important element of communications in today's environment: authenticity. They don't sound like they mean it and that's precisely because they don't mean it. United has consistently made it clear that Dao was an inconvenient trouble-maker because he didn't do what they told him to do and wanted him to do.

Is United responsible for smearing Dao? It's hard to tell, really, the smear has certainly made the 'innocent passenger' narrative more complex but it has also prolonged the coverage of the whole sorry incident. And with every new story, we have a chance to replay that video of a man being dragged from his seat - bought, paid for and occupied with every expectation of being able to fly home that night - and pulled off a plane like a sack of spuds.

For me, currently engaged in an arbitration case against British Airways, the story has particular resonance. Airlines are big businesses and the regulation of their behaviour would appear to be particularly lax. They are routinely lying about their flight times to avoid charges of delay (have you noticed how yesterday's 45 minute flight has become today's 90 minute flight?), using reasons of security to mask operational convenience and generally treating passengers pretty woefully. The first line of response is reasonably consistently to take refuge in obfuscation and filibustering, using a variety of means to disempower consumers. We are all sausages, lining up to be squeezed compliantly into the sausage machine.

It's remarkable how falling standards in aviation customer service and comportment have become the norm rather than the rule. BA's descent from the world's proudest national carrier to a sub-Ryan Air low cost carrier has been pretty meteoric. A sort of flying Nokia.

The exceptions to that rule are, of course, finding that being better than that pays off. That consumers will avoid (showing remarkable lethargy when it comes to making active choices to change) the bad airlines and gravitate to the good guys. It's where the Gulf 'feeder flight' carriers have made such inroads.

And it's going to be hard to see United waving the flag for 'good ole Amerikay first' when it comes to competing with the Gulf airlines, continuing that lobbying effort to have the Gulfies throttled to support American airlines. Their service standards being already notoriously low, beating up your customers really does set a new standard.

United will be reassuring itself that the news cycle will move on and this, like all things, will pass. they won't change, not one jot, despite their CEO's belated and PR-penned promises. It'll be interesting to see, when the online howls have died down, how many consumers vote with their feet in the weeks to come...

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

When Brands Go Wrong

For many years, I was the delighted driver of Toyota's achingly brilliant MR2, first the 'ordinary' one then the leather-seated T-Bar. A glorious car that, sadly, would never take off in France, because pronounced in French it translates to emmerdeu or pain in the arse. Rolls Royce narrowly avoided naming one of its models Silver Mist after someone pointed out that mist is German for dung although this didn't stop Clairol, which actually brought its 'Mist Stick' curling iron to market there. Mitsubishi's Pajero is, as eny ful no, called a Shogun in the UK and a Montero in other European and US & South American markets. That's because pajero in Spanish means onanist. And Ford rather blew it when it took its Pinto into the Brazilian market, where in the local argot pinto refers to an under-endowed gentleman.

Kia's sporty concept for a car named Provo, caused an outburst of offended reaction in Northern Ireland where it is slang for Provisional IRA. Who was to know?

I love these stories and can never get enough of them: the marketing disasters of idiotic nomenclature amuse me greatly. This is because, as anyone who's read this blog knows, I am a child.

The sustained train crash of Vegemite's attempted launch of a new product a few years back tickled me from the get-go and was a gift that kept on giving, from the opening salvo right the way through to the inevitable derailing and appalling subsequent tumble down the embankment and into the oil storage depot where a guard was smoking.

We start with the fact that Vegemite is itself a poor and pallid parody of the King of Dark Salty Spreads, Marmite. Vegemite came up with a new product, an insane experiment in wrongness which makes cheesy peas seem attractive, and proposed launching a jar stuffed with a blend of Vegemite with cream cheese. The company, in a move which should have served as a history lesson for the British Natural Environment Research Council in the same way Hitler would have profited from a quick review of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, asked the public to suggest a product name.

And there it would have ended if they hadn't chosen, from the 50,000-odd suggestions, 'iSnack 2.0'. The bloke that made the suggestion noted it was a tongue in cheek effort, but that escaped the drooling idiots at Vegemite brand owner, Kraft Foods. The company's head of corporate affairs defended the name: "Vegemite iSnack 2.0 was chosen based on its personal call to action, relevance to snacking and clear identification of a new and different Vegemite to the original."

I kid you not. Even Hitler himself jumped on the bandwagon.

It's apparently now called 'Cheesybite' which is, IMHO, not a great deal better.

The daddy of them all, the fact that Coca Cola was originally dubbed 'Bite the wax tadpole' in Chinese is, sadly, not due to an outbreak of idiocy at Coke marketing central but was the result of over-eager merchants daubing signs advertising the new wonder drink in the 1920s.

Which is really something of a shame...

Mind you, the geniuses at Pepsi didn't need a new product name to make a mess of things, did they?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Passing of Paper

Smash logo and brand identity
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I follow quite a few legacy publishers on Twitter and suffer from the not infrequent urge to block them as I stare, open-jawed, at their attempts at what they clearly think is 'marketing'. Where most self-published authors have worked out, often by trial and error, that 'buy my book' doesn't work, publishers are frequently to be found out there using Twitter as a broadcast medium.

My least favourite of an ugly bunch are the guys who have clearly logged into Twitter for their daily session ("Dave does Twitter from 4-5pm, then goes through the slush pile") who then retweet anything nice said about them or one of their authors. To the luckless recipient of this gold, a timeline suddenly packed with retweets of breathless praise for Dave's publishing house, event or client's book until Dave runs out of RT cruft. At this point, if you're really unlucky, you'll get Dave asking you what's your favourite colour or what book changed your life as he practices his 'engagement' skills.

The example that flashed across my disbelieving eyes last night, however, took the proverbial biscuit:

It ticks every 'shit use of Twitter by a publisher' box I can think of. What, you mean if I pre-order this book and send you proof that I have, indeed, placed a pre-order, you'll actually send ME a real whole honest-to-goodness PDF file containing chapter one of the book I can't read yet? I am SO grateful! I can't begin to thank you! Really! A whole chapter one of a book I just paid for but can't read as a crappy, bitty PDF (like the ones torrent sites serve) just for little me? Squee!

These are just a few examples of how legacy publishers are struggling to get their heads around marketing, promotion and distribution in a post-paper world. We're not quite there yet, of course - there's still a lot of papery stuff around. But anyone not habitually wedded to a paper-based business model can see that the consumption of ideas, information and narrative on mushed-up dead trees and bleached old knickers (paper) is moving to a diverse and often inter-connected ecosystem of devices with blinding speed. 

When we are using those devices, we are not pleased to be 'disrupted' and, in a device-centric world, the publishers' ability to use their market power - sales teams stocking retailers - is minimal. They're no better off than the rest of us. The Internet, as we have been seeing since 1995, is a great leveller.

The idea that there is value in selling information encoded in a 'book' or indeed any other conventionally printed product now belongs in a Cadbury's Smash advert. When was the last time you looked at a paper map? 

I fondly recall driving across Scotland in 1988, following a printout from Autoroute 1.0 and picking up some hitch hikers who, when they found out I was following a computer programme around Scotland, became very nervous indeed and wanted let out early. They clearly thought I was a madman. It's taken a while, sure enough, but the paper map today is (along with the dedicated GPS device, incidentally) a thing of the past. 

The ability to contextualise information based on a layer over the 'real' world is incredibly powerful. It's why Google has invested so much in building that layer with Earth, Streetview and the like. Apple is rumoured to be making a huge play in 'Augmented Reality'. 

Not only are we consuming information about where we're going totally differently, we can clearly see around the corner a world where we won't care where we're going. We'll just tell the car to go there and it'll tell us how long it intends to take and then provide us some entertainment of our choice as we travel. It'll probably be plotting to kill us, but that's another kettle of fish.

Newspapers are clearly in the throes of another aspect of the movement of information online. In their case they're having to struggle with the reduction of value in two ways - the loss of revenue from people buying papers and that of advertisers willing to pay to reach those readers. The problem becomes one of scale - the news gathering resource and reach of a quality newspaper is expensive - and when you devalue the good through information ubiquity, you lose the ability to pay for large teams of journalists. 

Who will custodiet custodes, then? Smaller teams working more efficiently - but also a slew of copycats, content farms and repurposers. Quality content has to fight harder to cut through the rubbish. It's messy out there, but there's one thing that's certain - nobody's interested in print anymore - and the revenue models for print don't translate online, the scale doesn't work at cents per click. Not only do you not have the resources for big newsrooms, presses and distribution networks, you arguably don't need them.

Print books are a good whose price is set entirely on its own inefficiency. The cover price of a book consists entirely of percentages based on the cost of print - including the author's royalty and distribution. A tiny proportion goes to editorial costs. Oh, and profit. Let's not forget profit. An author is remunerated on a percentage of the revenue generated by the book as, indeed, is a distributor - the latter gets a whopping 50% of cover price. 

You could perhaps see how publishers would be wedded to this model - it has been thus for the past century or so. That's the way we do it around here, see?

When you go online, you not only rip out the costs of print and distribution and sales returns/stock loss but you also tear down the sales network publishers have depended on for so long. Bookshops are dead, sales are taking place on platforms the publishers don't own, control or influence. And so that most passive of sales environments (the long shelves packed with attentive soldiers of stiff-spined papery joy, the tick of the clock, Mildred sitting behind the till, reading and leaving you to have a nice, long browse) has been transformed into an online nightmare of conflicting shrill demands for people's time and attention.

In this brave new world, publishers no longer offer the significant scale they used to. Even the media they retain privileged access to are less powerful. Physical book retail is on a massive decline, despite constant announcements by 'the industry' that ebook sales are under pressure. These are mendacious and statistically skewed to an amazing degree - and they're quite poignant, in their way. 'It's going to be okay, chaps, you'll see' - that brave last sentence nobody quite believes, but they're all grateful for as they all walk into the hail of enemy gunfire.

The one thing publishers had to offer authors was scale. Scale of marketing, distribution, recognition. That's a product of marketing. Rip out the sales channel and go online and you've got some serious problems on your hands unless you can get your head around building serious online scale. Legacy big-hitters like JK Rowling or Neil Gaiman have made the leap and brought their audiences online with them and have massive reach on platforms like Twitter.

Publishers haven't. And they really don't know how to do it. They can't believe they need to do it. And they won't resource to do it properly because they're still clinging on to that last log in the sea.

Or, as an old pal once said to me (of literary agents, but never mind, it fits today's legacy publishers too), "They're like eunuchs in the Ottoman court. They see it happening all around them; they know what it is that's happening. But they're totally incapable of doing it for themselves!"

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Great Emirates Laptop Ban

Abu Nidal
Abu Nidal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is notable that the UK, in slavishly following the 'security advice' of close ally the USA, has not included the UAE and Qatar in its version of the great laptop ban. It takes no great stretch of the imagination or cognitive leap to infer that this ban has a commercial implication, working as it does directly to the detriment of the three global airlines operating a 'feeder flight' model out of the UAE and Qatar.

The biggest threat to the three is a loss of business class travellers, probably the only people who will lose out significantly. While it's great for parents to provide kids with tablets to keep them entertained (those of us without children clearly think this is just bad parenting, but that's quite another kettle of marmosets), Emirates' much-lauded ICE entertainment system offers films, music, games across literally thousands of channels. The big hit comes when you lose that precious work time.

The solution appears to me to be blindingly simple - and if EK moves fast enough, they could get in a massive media hit out of this one. Buy in 100 Chromebooks, 600 Lenovo Ultrabooks and 300 Macbook Airs. Load them with MS Office. Provide them on loan to business class passengers (they could be booked at time of flight booking or even online check-in) who can bring a USB memory stick (or, if they forget, be offered a complimentary little red Emirates one) to bring/save their work on. To be honest, most these days work with online resources anyway, so could log in using any machine. The machines would be cleaned (both hygenically and data-wise) after each use. The IT stuff could be handled by EK subsidiary Mercator, already (quietly) one of the world's great software and services players.

Catch the current news cycle and you've got the solution in seconds. It might not fit everyone's needs, but it'll comfort many - and I think catch the public imagination, too. In the face of a mean-spirited and dubious use of security as protectionism, EK could show it's the customer who comes first and they're willing  - as always - to go the extra mile.

The ban is, of course, quite loopy. For a start, UAE security and civil defence is way better than US security. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are major international hubs and trusted by tens of millions of passengers each year. Their security procedures and capabilities are best practice. And there's nothing to stop a terrorist flying a bomb from Paris or St Petersburg - the idea that only Arab airports could be the source of a threat is as risible as Trump's Muslim ban. Which targets, it should be noted, different nations to the laptop ban.

Not that I, for one, am in any rush to go to the US. I have stamps in my passport showing a lifetime's travel around the Middle East and no desire whatsoever to stand there having some jerk in a uniform shouting at me and asking to look at the contents of my laptop.

This whole thing about making us dance around airports in our socks and ditching Masafi bottles because they could be bombs (presumably the water bomb is these days considered a credible threat) has long rendered me sore amazed. The IRA's last bomb on the UK mainland weighed a metric tonne, was packed in a lorry and blew out the heart of Manchester, doing £1 billion of damage. The concerted and sustained terrorist campaign waged by the IRA against the might and weight of the UK's civil defence and military over thirty years compares rather oddly to the threat posed by a bunch of bloodthirsty yahoos in Toyota pickups. It's what prompted me to write A Decent Bomber in the first place - that odd juxtaposition of the threat from today's water-bomb terrorism to the constant destruction wreaked in the skies by the IRA, PLO, Abu Nidal, the Red Brigade et al.

We have never been so constrained by, or constantly reminded of, the threat of 'terrorism' as we are today. And the credible threats have never been so slight - particularly when set against the efficiency of modern security apparatus. You might argue that we're safe precisely because that apparatus has stopped us bringing water bottles or unscanned heels onto flights, but in travelling outside the UK I have noticed nobody else out there is really bothering that much. And it'll be interesting to see if the rest of the world believes in the credible threat of a weaponised Kindle being stored in the hold rather than being used to read on a flight...

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Unbearable Lightness Of Not Writing

English: Erik Pevernagie, painting. Representi...
English: Erik Pevernagie, painting. Representing the opposition with lightness of being (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm not writing.

I'm not editing or marketing, either. I'm not planning, plotting or playing with a new MS. I started a new book but it's come to a sort of 'meh' point and I've put it aside while I do other things. I've scribbled a few short stories and other things, but nothing really significant.

It's mildly embarrassing when you meet people who know you only as a booky person, because they invariably (and perfectly politely) ask what you're working on at the moment and 'I'm not really, I've just sort of got nothing right now that's floating my boat' sounds wrong.

But it's God's honest, guv. I see no reason to force things and the new project is nowhere near qualifying for that excellent advice that saw me race to get A Decent Bomber done, 'Finish!'

I'm glad I'm not under contract. The agent/publisher would be nagging, reminding me an MS is due in next month and I'd be going spare about it, wracking my brains to force words onto the screen as I write in the certain knowledge that it's not really what I want to do or, indeed, what I want to write. And, by extension, that it's not really quite good enough to put my name on it and be proud of what I've done. I'd hate that.

It's not like it matters, of course. As we speak I languish in complete obscurity as a writer, so my lack of a new project is hardly going to have the NYT worrying about the future of literature.

In fact, it's something of a bonus. There's a certain sense of relief at not having characters bumbling around in my head all the time, not worrying about getting that next scene down or being niggled by a piece of dialogue. I've been doing more cooking, ambling about on the Internet and going out at weekends to rediscover bits of the Emirates. It's amazing how you get blasé about living somewhere as downright wonderful and exotic as Lalaland.

And no, I've not been posting here very much. I realised the other day that this silly little blog of mine will turn ten years old next month. That's pretty venerable. I suppose I shall have to celebrate in some way.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the, well, lightness of not writing...

Friday, 3 March 2017

How To Self Publish Your Book In Dubai. Or Anywhere Else, For That Matter...

I just thought this was more fun than the EAFOL logo, to be honest...

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is once again upon us. Yup, that was a year right there.

I'm doing  workshop on how to self publish in the UAE, although you'd be able to use the info to self publish in Copenhagen, Watford or even, to remain topical to our peregrinations last weekend, Kathmandu.

I'm also doing a Q&A panel session on publishing, apparently which seems to have become an annual event confirming me as the UAE's poster child for self publishing. Which is all very nice, but I'd honestly rather be talking about censorship, selling books, telling stories, spies in the Middle East or the region's troubled relationship with narrative fiction, building a sense of place in novels, terrorism in fiction or a number of other aspects of my booky life. Hey ho.

What do you get for your Dhs 250? Well, you get to be shouted at by me for two hours. You'll also learn about editing, cover design, page layout, formatting your core manuscript, file management, rights, ISBNs and copyright, dealing with the National Media Council and booksellers in the UAE, printing books and mounting to sites like Amazon - as well as ebooks and Kindle, Apple, B&N and other online outlets. Then we'll also explore book marketing and promotion, online marketing, using dashboards and other booky sales stuff.

In short, a grounding of all you need to know to publish your own book effectively, to the highest possible quality and directed at the widest possible audience. Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Kathmandu: The Green Eye Of The Little Yellow God

English: Durga, Kathmandu, Nepal Español: Durg...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There's a one-eyed yellow idol
to the north of Kathmandu;
there's a little marble cross below the town.
And a broken-hearted woman
tends the grave of 'Mad' Carew,
while the yellow god forever gazes down.

He was known as 'Mad Carew’
by the subs at Kathmandu.
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell.
But, for all his foolish pranks,
he was worshipped in the ranks
and the Colonel's daughter smiled on him as well.

He had loved her all along
with the passion of the strong
and that she returned his love was plain to all.
She was nearly twenty-one
and arrangements were begun,
to celebrate her birthday with a ball.

He wrote to ask what present
she would like from 'Mad' Carew;
they met next day as he dismissed a squad.
And jestingly she made pretence
that nothing else would do
but the green eye of the little yellow god.

On the night before the dance,
'Mad' Carew seemed in a trance
and they chaffed him,
as they pulled at their cigars.
But for once he failed to smile and he sat alone awhile,
then went out into the night beneath the stars.

He returned, before the dawn
with his shirt and tunic torn,
and a gash across his temples dripping red.
He was patched up right away
and he slept all through the day,
while the Colonel's daughter watched beside his bed.

He woke at last and asked her
if she'd send his tunic through.
She brought it and he thanked her with a nod.
He bade her search the pocket,
saying, 'That's from "Mad" Carew,'
and she found the little green eye of the god.

She upbraided poor Carew,
in the way that women do,
although her eyes were strangely hot and wet.
But she would not take the stone
and Carew was left alone
with the jewel that he'd chanced his life to get.

When the ball was at its height
on that still and tropic night,
she thought of him and hastened to his room.
As she crossed the barrack square
she could hear the dreamy air,
of a waltz tune softly stealing thro' the gloom.

His door was open wide,
with silver moonlight shining through.
The place was wet and slippery where she trod.
An ugly knife lay buried
in the heart of 'Mad' Carew:
'twas the vengeance of the little yellow god.

There's a one-eyed yellow idol
to the north of Kathmandu;
there's a little marble cross below the town.
And a broken-hearted woman
tends the grave of 'Mad' Carew,
while the yellow god forever gazes down.

(J. Milton Hayes)

This is my way of saying we're off to Nepal. Who knows what we're going to find... 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Another Sharjah Shipwreck

Cometh the storm, cometh the shipwreck. It's happened almost every year for a few years now, although we missed out last year. It seems like every time there's a decent storm around here, some poor mug ends up beached on the sandy Sharjah or Ajman corniches. I don't know what it is that attracts them to this particular stretch of sand, but it does.

They're currently digging up the beach along Sharjah's corniche, installing what looks like a drainage system. Absent any explanation whatsoever, we can only conjecture it's to support further hotel development (Boo!) on what is a much-loved stretch of public beach used every weekend by thousands - unless they're going to expand the corniche road, known locally as Muntaza Road. We can only hope they're going to put the beach back neatly the way they found it.

There was absolute chaos on Friday night as a combination of roadworks and rubberneckers who'd heard there was a beached ship to stare at brought traffic to a standstill on the beach road and all the roads that feed into it. The police were trying to impose some sort of order on everything, with the wind still doing a pretty good howling impersonation and the sea still dangerous. Earlier in the day, the wind was so strong out to sea, you could lean back into it and not fall over.

The name of the beached boat looked like 'Hira', which would make it an 867 tonne offshore supply/anchor vessel sailing under a St Kitts and Nevis flag, although this is by no means certain - there's also a Turkish Hira and an Indian one, neither of which look anything like this one. Another time I read it as 'Hide' but couldn't find anything under that moniker. It's firmly stucked in the sand in the shallows a hundred yards or so away from the beach proper. There's nothing about it in the news, which is odd as The National and Gulf News have both made much of past beachings.

Anyway, by Saturday pretty much everyone had got over it and the crowds had thinned. It's still out there, presumably waiting for a high tide, a tow or Godot. You can imagine the poor captain calling the owner: 'Hi boss. I've got got good news and I've got bad news.'

From The Dungeons

Book Marketing And McNabb's Theory Of Multitouch

(Photo credit: Wikipedia ) I clearly want to tell the world about A Decent Bomber . This is perfectly natural, it's my latest...