Musical Tuesdays – Soundtracks

I bought a new TV.

This isn’t as much of a sybaritic indulgence as it may seem, as my old TV was on it’s last legs. And when I say ‘last legs’ I mean that if I wanted to watch something I had to subject myself to the following baroque procedure…

1: Turn on the TV.
2: Wait for around 12 minutes as the screen changes via almost imperceptible stages from black to bright white.
3: Enjoy 15 minutes of an image appearing on the screen for half a second, followed by a loud ‘crack!‘ sound, and the screen going to black for ten seconds before the cycle repeats.
4: Once the cracking has stopped and the picture stabilised, turn the TV off, because there’s no sound.
5: Turn the TV back on, which will hopefully restore sound.
6: Actually watch any TV.

While I’m not the most demanding guy when it comes to creature comforts, having to turn my TV on a good half hour before I want to watch something was getting kind of wearing, so I splashed out and bought a brand new unit. A 40 incher would you believe, which is mostly because I screwed up the maths and thought it was somewhat smaller than it actually turned out to be.

Such a large screen has taken a bit of getting used to – more than once I’ve caught it out of the corner of my eye of an evening and been momentarily shocked into thinking that Adam Hills was actually in my apartment. But now that it’s settled in and gathering a fine patina of dust, it’s all good.

As I was making such a large purchase I decided to spoil myself with an add on and bought the box set of Misfits as well. Misfits has been one of my favourite shows for ages, but I’d only ever seen the first two seasons. I knew of course that the subsequent seasons aren’t meant to be as good – in no small part due to the absence of Nathan – but decided to give them a go anyway. To date I’ve watched all of season three, and will shortly move on to season four.

So, what did I think?

Season three, in my considered opinion, was OK. It’s definitely not the same show. It suffers for the lack of Nathan and the new powers everyone ends up with are really rather naff. There’s nothing that can be described as a story arc across the season and the whole thing lurches around from episode to episode with a complete lack of point or drive.

There’s also lots and lots of death. In the first two seasons someone getting killed was a big deal – much of both seasons revolved around concealing the bodies of the characters’ inadvertent victims. But this season people are dropping like flies and no one really seems to care. I suspect it’s actually deliberate self-parody, but even if that’s the case it’s a big change from the serious drama of the first two.

That being said, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had. Newcomer Rudy is both a terrible, terrible human being and a riot. The elements of self parody, although jarring, are fun. I was also surprised at how moving I found the conclusion of the Simon/Alisha/Super-Hoodie story arc in the final ten minutes of the season – it was like a sudden return to the tone of the original show, and was really rather epic.

So, what has this to do with Musical Tuesdays? Well, soundtracks my friends! Soundtracks!

Here’s to my mind the best bit of music from Misfits

Not bad eh? When I first heard it I wondered if it was by Murray Gold, but it’s actually by Vince Pope.

On the subject of Murray Gold, here’s one of his best pieces, from the soundtrack of Doctor Who.

For my money the best bit is 1:40 to 2:37, but frankly the whole thing is pretty wonderful.

Well that’s it for this week. I have Titans to build and lightbulbs to change!

Info Dump!

This post is a big dump of info concerning Zurvár Arèáná and the Zurvár people. Feel free to read it, but it’s in pretty raw form. I shall gradually clean it up…


The Zurvár prefer to live on tropical coastlines, which means they have to cope with regular tropical cyclones. The traditional Zurvár house reflects this, being built of heavy masonry with small windows, and being reinforced with earth berms. The interiors are high ceilinged and tend to be dark and cool (another advantage in tropical environments) but a large amount of living, and most socialising, takes place on the flat garaqrum (roof-plaza).

The front door (Kâmá Weþá) is typically located in a verandah area known as the Kârá Weþá (Entry Box), accessed by a set of stairs up from the street or yard level. Usually protected by an awning and decorative wall the Kârá Weþá is often used to grow shade-tolerant herbs and other useful domestic plants. Adjacent to the door will usually be a Santarènè Kâmá (Bell-circle of the Door), consisting of a hand cranked circle of small bells rung by visitors for attention. The door will typically be made of heavy wood and have a glassed-in window allowing visitors to be seen from inside.

Inside the front door is the Kantà Hànak (Hall/Chamber for Business/Planning/Plotting). This is both a formal reception area for visitors and a barrier to proceeding further into the house. Anyone visiting the house on business will be dealt with in this room – which will contain chairs and a desk or small table – and not enter the family areas. Any valuable artworks or decorations possessed by the household will usually be on display in this room to impress visitors. If the house has a Teláfonak (Telephone) it will also usually reside here.

Adjacent to the Kantà Hànak – usually opposite the front door – is the Savrakad (Travel Room). This is used by visitors to refresh themselves after their journey and as a place for them to dump any bags, packs or external clothing they won’t require until leaving. Water is provided in both a basin and foot pool, and towels and toiletries are kept in the niches. Guests (as opposed to business visitors) will usually remove their outer shoes and leave them in the Savrakad. If the visitors are good friends of the host, the host will proceed with them to the Savrakad and converse while they refresh themselves. In more formal situations the host will retire to the family areas of the house and rejoin the visitors in the Kantà Hànak when they are done.

Running along the main axis of the house – usually at right angles to the Kantà Hànak and open to it via a wide arch – will be the Kantà Modák or “Inhabited Chamber”. This is the main living and entertaining space and will be fitted out with chairs, tables and shelving. The main Mazakan (radio set) will be located here, as will be the Kembá Halem (Family Shrine/memorial). Mon tálávišak (televisions) have become popular on Zurvár Arèáná over the last twenty years, and if the house has one it will be located in this room (some of the cities have a television station, in smaller settlements televisions are used with video and DVD players).

The Kantà Modák is often subdivided into a more casual and more formal area, the latter of which will be used for important private meals – more public events will usually take place on the roof – weather permitting.

The barrier that exists between the Kantà Hànak and Kantà Modák is a social one.  A visitor who walks through the archway without being invited would be considered to be extremely rude and presumptuous, and a terrible guest – the reaction would be similar to that of discovering a guest going through one’s bedroom closet. Short of exceptional circumstances they would be asked to leave immediately, and not be invited back.

The fact that there is no physical barrier between the rooms is viewed as a mark of respect. It says to guests that the host trusts them to behave properly. It’s also a symbol of the openness of the house to those (close family friends for example) who have been granted the right to enter the rest of the house without restraint.

Adjacent to the Kantà Modák will be the Abed Elbrán or “Wet Room”. This is the house’s food preparation area and laundry. It has perhaps seen the largest change since the settlement of Zurvár Arèáná, as several traditional features have been replaced by appliances imported from Earth.

The central feature of the room is the belakan (oven). This is typically constructed out of brick with a combustion chamber below and a metal lined cooking space above. The usual fuel is dried seaweed. While many Zurvár cooks claim that the traditional belakan is necessary for true Zurvár cuisine, many houses have replaced them with more convenient electric ovens imported from Earth.

While some mon belakan feature hotplates, it is more usual for a separate electric hotplate system to be used. Many models are manufactured on Zurvár Arèáná itself, although some are imported. Many houses will also have a microwave or toaster oven for when firing up the belakan would be excessive.

Dried, canned or preserved foodstuffs are stored in the kârá (cupboard/small room/pantry). This is a small, walk-in space lined with shelving. Perishables are kept in a chest refrigerator in the abed elbrán, with frozen goods in a chest freezer – usually in the redásad (utility room) next door. Upright refrigerators are regarded with a mixture of horror and amusement.

The abed elbrán is also used for washing clothes and linen. Old fashioned electric or hand-cranked Zurvár washing machines have now almost universally been replaced by more efficient models imported from Earth. Once washed, clothes are dried on lines on the roof – driers are seen as an indulgent waste of electricity.

The abed elbrán will usually have a exit to the rear of the house, which will open onto stairs up to the garaqrum (roof-plaza). Out the back of the house will be a garden area that provides much of the food eaten by the house’s inhabitants. A wide variety of food is grown including melons (sòfá dâmurn), a variety of small, elongated tomato (sòfá po’rumun), yams (ìpò), a type of dry-cultivated rice (sácè) and sugar beets (teberá). The traditional plants have been supplemented by imports from Earth including potatoes (pádàdá) and tomatoes (sòfá po’rumun tárlá or domádá).

Adjacent to the garden there will often be a chicken coop (kârá lûkol) to provide meat and eggs.

Seafood is naturally very important in the Zurvár diet with a wide variety of fish and shellfish consumed. Just as important are a variety of lagaš or edible seaweeds. These are grown in a series of communal tidal pools known as a másá lagaš. A good site for a másá lagaš is an important factor in choosing a location for a Zurvár settlement. In addition to growing seaweed for food, species useful for producing fabric, medicines and alcohol are also cultivated.

The need to protect the másá lagaš from fish predation is responsible for the Zurvár domestication of a species of sealion known as the hárùq kanad. A hárùq kanad stands up to a metre tall when on land, and has a sorter snout than most species of Earth sealion, giving it a facial resemblance to a seal. They are about as intelligent as dogs and are notable for their loyalty, playfulness and curiosity. Any Zurvar settlement will have a family of hárùq kanad who are looked after by the community as a whole.


All of the roof furniture (the wind catchers, awnings, solar panels and wind turbine) are collapsible and can be brought inside or locked down when a storm system threatens. On Zurvár Arèáná – with the massive oceans spawning intensely powerful storms that can wander around the planet for months before petering out – all of the windows will have metal shutters for added security.

The roof also doubles as water catchment, with rain diverted away to tanks for future use.


This is the first part of the rundown of the in-world history behind my conworld of Zurvár Arèáná and the Zurvár people.

Much of the material in this part of the history was developed when I was in high school and I’ve never really gone back and revised it – being more focused now days on the history, geography, language and culture of Zurvár Arèáná. As such there are bits that are a bit inconsistent, illogical and juvenile. Please feel free to point out any particular problems you notice, but don’t be offended if my response is “yeah, I know” rather than a decent explanation

Probability and Metaphysics

There are two underpinning concepts in my conworld. The first is a fifth dimension called “probability” (this is a direct crib from Douglas Adams by the way). Moving in probability takes you to alternative universes. For instance, if you were standing in the middle of Times Square and moved a small distance in probability, you’d still be standing in the middle of Times Square, but a slightly different Times Square. Move a bit further and you’ll be in a completely different Times Square, and further still a universe where New York City doesn’t even exist. All my conworlds are alternative (sometimes very alternative) Earths, known as Otherworlds.

The second concept is that of “Metaphysics” – or in ordinary, non-pretentious language, psionics. Metaphysics covers the old standards of direct mind to mind communication, mind reading, telekinesis and teleportation, but also movement through probability. Most sentient beings can learn a few metaphysical tricks with training and rigorous practice, but some individuals have much higher potential.

Metaphysics operates through the generation and manipulation of Artonic Energy. This obeys rules – but rules that I’ve only vaguely defined to date.

OK, that’s the background – on to the history…

The Metaphysicians Guild

While the Zurvárr people have been traveling through probability for thousands of years, the story of Zurvár Arèáná really begins on our Earth, in London, England in the 1880s. Here a man of mysterious origins using the pseudonym ‘Azmael’ established an occult society named “The Guild of Metaphysicians”. This attracted the usual crowd of enthusiasts and dilettantes, but unlike most of the other ‘magical’ groups flourishing at the time, Azmael had some actual, working knowledge of metaphysics. In 1889 he and his group managed to establish contact with the Otherworld of Wyrymya – an incredibly ancient society highly skilled in metaphysics. The Guild initially thought they’d contacted some kind of spirit world full of ‘ascended masters’, but the Wyrms they’d contacted soon cleared up this misapprehension.

The Guild’s breakthrough had actually happened at a fortuitous time, as numerous groups in Wyrymyan society were agitating to protect the non-metaphysically aware societies of local probability from exploitation. Being contacted by a group of ‘primitives’ who regarded the Wyrms as some kind of spiritual messiahs provided these groups with a prime example of how metaphysics could be exploited by the unscrupulous, and the Wyrymyan government decided to establish a body to prevent such abuses and protect non-metaphysically aware species. This organisation was named the Metaphysicians’ Guild in tribute to the group of occultists who sparked it’s creation, and was founded in 1893.

The newly established Guild set up shop on a previously uninhabited Otherworld that was renamed Metaphysica. Facilities – part university, part police precinct – were set up on the spatial locations of major settlements on both Earth and Wyrymya, and the Guild, which included members of many species the Wyrymyans were in contact with, began cataloging and investigating the Otherworlds within their remit.

The Neanderthan Scandal

One of the earliest Otherworlds charted (in 1895) was a pre-agricultural Earth still locked in an ice age and inhabited by a species of human descended from Neandertals. It was designated as Neanderthan. The party of Metaphysicians sent to scout it included a number of Azmael’s group, who had been inducted into the Guild based on their involvement in its founding. Unfortunately, although they had handled their exposure to a more advanced society well, they were still afflicted with the prejudices of the 19th century, and quickly came to regard the Neandertals they encountered as brainless savages. Relations between the locals and the Guild party deteriorated until the Metaphysicians’ camp was attacked. The party managed to send a distress call back to Metaphysica, and a large relief party was dispatched, only to arrive in the middle of a pitched battle. In the resulting chaos a massive blast of artonic energy was released, destroying a dozen or so Neandertal villages, killing hundreds of Neandertals and leaving a crater two kilometres wide in the spatial co-ordinates of Luxembourg.

In the aftermath of the fiasco the Guild revised its policies and started investigating non-metaphysically aware Otherworlds in a much more careful and surreptitious fashion. Over the following decades it became a well organised and well regarded body among the metaphysically aware societies of local probability. It broke ties with the Wyrymyan government and became truly independent in 1931 (although it continues to receive funding from Wyrymya to this day).

The Neanderthan War and the Zurvár

In February 1960 Metaphysica was suddenly attacked by tens of thousands of Neandertal warriors, led by powerful shamans who managed to open artonic gates between Metaphysica and Neandertan (subsequent research indicated that artonic radiation from the Luxenbourg crater had caused mutations in the local population, giving them enhanced Metaphysical ability). The Guild headquarters of the time were not constructed for defence, and bloody fighting spread across the European and Asian sectors of the world. The Guild was paralysed by the surprise nature of the attack and was suffering heavy losses when a massive force of Zurvár mercenaries who had received the Guild’s distress calls arrived on-world and intervened in the fighting. With the support of experienced Zurvár fighters the Guild was able to regroup and drove the attackers back through their gates.

Once the crisis had passed, the thankful Guild offered the mercenaries anything they wanted by way of repayment. The mercenaries (who had already recovered large amounts of loot from the battlefields) simply asked for directions to somewhere with a decent beach to settle down with their families for a few years. The Guild offered them freehold of a recently cataloged, uninhabited ocean world and any assistance they required to settle it. That world was to become Zurvár Arèáná.


Artonic energy is produced by sentient brains as part of their natural function. With practice an individual can harness this energy and manipulate it to achieve psychic and telekinetic effects. It can also be used to punch holes (“gates”) through probability, allowing travel between Otherworlds.

Massive expenditure of artonic energy can cause localised damage to probability, which causes all manner of strange effects – primarily distortions in space and time and objects spontaneously slipping back and forth between Otherworlds. It can also (I have to admit I don’t know exactly how at this point ) result in persistent low level fields of artonic energy, which have “interesting” effects on the evolution and development of local lifeforms.

It’s pretty much limited to psionics, although I forgot to mention that it can be produced by complex electronics as well as organic brains. There is another type of energy, called Orgonic which is a property of living things – it’s chief use is for healing (for those wondering about the name, Wilhelm Reich managed to detect both artonic and orgonic energy, but conflated them together and came up with some very strange ideas).

‘Evolved separately’ is a bit tricky to pin down in this setting. The Zurvár for example evolved somewhere out in probability, but are to all intents and purposes human (with a few interesting adaptions) because their evolution mirrored ours so exactly. Humans and Zurvár can even interbreed without problems.

The Wyrms are a different matter entirely. They’re actually shapeshifters, their natural form is a large, snake-like creature with trilateral symmetry, but they can change at will to a form that will happily pass as human under light scrutiny. The exact details of how this works are muddy, but it has something to do with them having twelve stranded DNA and being able to ‘jump tracks’ between this DNA in every cell in their bodies simultaneously. The Wyrms have an interesting history, having almost completely wiped themselves out in a nuclear holocaust around 1200 BC, an event that took almost all traces of their original culture with it. It’s not even known if they had the ability to shape shift before the Cataclysm (as they call it) or if it was a mutation brought on by the poisoning of their biosphere.

Wyrms cannot interbreed with humans or Zurvár.

Haven’t had time to format up part two of the history today, but here’s some more info anyway…

Notes on Zurvár Biology

The Zurvár are a human-variant species of near-local probability. While the Otherworld of their origin is unknown, it’s considered highly likely that they originate from several different, close-by worlds.

Zurvár are able to pass as Earth humans under all but the most serious scrutiny. The Zurvár species has a smaller range in skin tone than Earth humans, with colouration ranging from mid-brown to light olive. Hair colour ranges from dark brown to light blonde, with occasional (although rare) occurrence of deep black or red. Eye colour tends to be brown, although other colours appear in small numbers – the most common being green. About 60% of Zurvár have epicanthic folds, giving their eyes a slight almond shape. There is no noticeable difference in build, height or lifespan between Earth humans and Zurvár.

As far back as records exists the Zurvár have been a maritime people, preferring to live next to the ocean wherever possible and deriving much of the sustenance from it. A number of evolutionary adaptions to this lifestyle are apparent in their population. Full webbing is common between the toes. Webbing between the fingers varies between virtually non-existent to all the way up to the first knuckle – the average is about 1cm. Zurvár kidneys are better adapted to high levels of salts than Earth humans, a Zurvár can drink nothing but sea-water for up to two weeks without suffering ill effects – attempting a similar feat would quickly kill an Earth human (as a consequence of this tolerance water supplies on Zurvár Arèáná are often not completely desalinated – Earth humans visiting the world should be careful what they drink).

These differences aside, Earth humans and Zurvár are almost genetically identical and can breed without difficulty. Children of such unions inherit a mix of features from both parents and can usually pass for either Earth Human or Zurvár.

This is the second part of the rundown of the in-world history behind my conworld of Zurvár Arèáná and the Zurvár people. This material is a bit better developed and more ‘modern’ than the older material in part one – which is responsible for a bit of a disconnect between the two. Specifically, I’m not at this point entirely sure how the offer of a world to a group of Zurvár mercenaries turned into the offer of a world to the entire Zurvár race. I’m also not entirely sure why there were so many Zurvár mercenaries available to fight in the Neanderthan war, as my modern conception of the Zurvár is of a much more peaceful people. The exact origin of the Konsâtèum is also something of a mystery at this point. No doubt I shall solve these issues with time – on to the History…

Zurvár Arèáná and the Konsâtèum

Historically the Zurvár have been a nomadic people, moving in extended family groups (known as mon mòet or ‘houses’) from Otherworld to Otherworld. On finding a location that suited their requirements they would settle for some time – usually somewhere between ten and twenty years – before packing up and moving on. Some houses exclusively sought new territory, while others limited themselves to cycling between known locations – most varied between the two, revisiting favoured places while seeking out new locations to add to their journeys.

Favoured locations for the Zurvár have always been tropical and semi-tropical oceanic coastlines. Most Otherworlds discovered by the Zurvár had only limited areas matching this profile, and many were either already inhabited or had undesirable features such as dangerous predators or other threats. The nomadic nature of the Zurvár allowed these issues to be coped with – small, mobile populations being able to easily relocate when problems arose.

The Otherworld that was to become Zurvár Arèáná on the other hand presented the Zurvár with a new opportunity. An entire, completely uninhabited world with a climate ranging from tropical at the equator to sub-tropical at the poles, made up entirely of island chains with no dangerous predators and abundant seas – in other words a paradise large enough to absorb the entire Zurvár race.

The suggestion to permanently settle on the planet was circulated among the houses of the Zurvár, and most responses were positive. The challenge was how to co-ordinate such an undertaking. The Mataphysicians Guild was already offering assistance, but a Zurvár body was needed to control the settlement process.

The answer came in the form of the Konsâtèum – a pre-existing group of powerful houses who had combined resources in the early 20th century for purposes of exploration and research (the name of the group being taken as a loan-word from English). The Konsâtèum stepped forward and offered its services to survey the planet, establish the best sites for colonies and manage the development process. After much debate the offer was accepted, and in 1963 the Konsâtèum (in association with the Metaphysicians Guild and the Wyrymyan Government) was granted control of the settlement and development of the world, which was officially named Zurvár Arèáná – Planet of the Zurvár.

The first step taken by the Konsâtèum was to establish a number of subsidiary bodies, most importantly the Konsâtèum Kredatèn Mametak Kelkertaklá (Konsâtèum Settlement Survey Authority), which dispatched hundreds of teams to survey the planet. The results of these surveys indicated that Zurvár Arèáná was everything it seemed to be, and plans were drafted for settlement.

The Seven (Plus One) Cities

The final plan for the settlement of Zurvár Arèáná was finalised in 1965. It called for the establishment of seven large cities – mostly around the bodies of water christened the Eastern and Western Oceans – each with a hinterland of smaller settlements extending outwards for several hundred kilometres. Five of these cities were to be established directly by the Konsâtèum, with the remaining two made open for tender by private groups of settlers conforming to Konsâtèum approved standards. The first of these cities Gorat Balzad Zurvárurn (First City of the Zurvár) was founded in early 1966, with Gorat Bárkalif Ganalû (City of the Great Blue Bay) and Gorat Sûlbarn Hì (City of Evening Breezes) founded later the same year. The first of the privately settled cities Gorat Karaþ Dárgurn (City of the Western Karaþ) also took place in late 1966.

Gorat Mìam Doráþû (City of the Golden Dawn) was founded in 1967, followed by the second of the privately settled cities Gorat mon Dìad Mantábon (City of the Pine Groves) in 1969. Shortly after the founding of the later a schism occurred between the settlers, causing a large group to splinter off and establish a new, unplanned city six hundred kilometres north which they named Gorat Mantábon Dìaz (Free City of the Pine Tree). The two cities maintain a rivalry to the present day.

The last of the cities Gorat Bármárgiv (City of the Great Lake) was founded in ST0070, bringing the total number of cities to eight.

All eight cities are known casually by truncated nicknames. Gorat Balzad Zurvárurn as Bal, Gorat Bárkalif Ganalû as Kalif, Gorat Sûlbarn Hì as , Gorat Karaþ Dárgurn as Karaþ, Gorat Mìam Doráþû as Mìam, Gorat mon Dìad Mantábon as , Gorat Mantábon Dìaz as Dìaz and Gorat Bármárgiv as Márgiv.

The settlement process established by the Konsâtèum was simple. Any Zurvár was welcome to settle on Zurvár Arèáná. Settlement in established population centres was open to all – pending approval by the local authority – however to establish a new settlement required a minimum number of settlers and financial capital, and the site and plans had to be approved by Konsâtèum inspectors. Establishing a plot on the world required payment to the local authority – to make this easier the Konsâtèum offered a selection of low interest loans. Loans and assistance were also available to communities as a whole to establish infrastructure such as power stations and water treatment facilities. This system served (and still serves) well to establish the planet and by the mid 1980s the population of Zurvár Arèáná had reached 4,000,000.

Over the years the Konsâtèum has adopted the role of a (somewhat weak) central government for the planet. This role is not without controversy – many Zurvár feel that it was given its authority to settle the planet and that in continuing to run it it has overstepped its bounds. The Konsâtèum on the other hand claims that the planet is still being colonised and as such it is still within its remit. Despite requests from both sides the Metaphysicians Guild and the Wyrymyan government have refused to intervene – declaring the issue an internal Zurvár matter. Debate continues, although it must be said that as long as there’s food on the table and time to go surfing on the weekends the majority of Zurvár don’t feel strongly either way.

The Mon Dolfin

In 1972 several pods of bottlenosed dolphins resident in the Pacific Ocean of Otherword One* made contact with the Zurvár and requested asylum on Zurvár Arèáná to escape from threats such as pollution and drift netting. Their request was granted and 1,238 dolphins, porpoises and small whales relocated. In 1975 several remote and uninhabited island chains and their surrounding waters were ceded to the Cetaceans as exclusive territorial zones exempt from Zurvár law, known as mon Burzum Dolfinár (Cetacean Areas) or mon Mazon Dolfinár (Cetacean Reserves). The largest of these surrounds the remote Pùlost Yestur (Yestur Island) in the Eastern Ocean, which is regarded as the Cetacean capital.

The mon Dolfin have thrived on Zurvár Arèáná with a current estimated population somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 worldwide (Cetaceans have an extremely relaxed attitude to most things in life, including statistics).

Communication between Zurvár and Dolfin is handled mostly via metaphysical (psychic) means. There is a pidgin language of whistles and squawks suitable for the hearing and vocal apparatus of both species, but it is very limited – apart from the area of cheerful profanity in which it positively abounds.

The ruling body of the Cetaceans is the Koreb Dolfinurn Tárlán (High Cetacean Council). Details such as the composition, number and location of the Council are unclear, although it is a recognised legal entity under Zurvár Arèáná law. It is a common theory that the Council is a fiction created and maintained by the mon Dolfin to make dealing with the Zurvár population easier. Equally popular is the theory that it’s a fiction created and maintained by the mon Dolfin as some kind of obscure joke.

(*Otherworld One is an alternate Earth superficially identical to our own, but with many historic events ‘scrambled’ from our perspective. Examples: The Lusitania sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 with great loss of life, while the Titanic was sunk off the south coast of Ireland by a German submarine during World War One. World War II ended with a massive assault on the Nazi Alpenfestung in the Austrian Alps. Elvis Presley disappeared in 1977 then re-appeared fit and healthy in 1979, only to be assassinated by a crazed fan in New York city in December 1980. The world’s most successful coffee chain is called Queequegs. Charles Manson is a respected musician and founding member of the Beach Boys. And so on.)

Zurvár Arèáná Today

Zurvár Arèáná is for the most part a peaceful and prosperous world. The total Zurvár population stands at around 7,000,000 with the largest city, Kalif, boasting a population of around 650,000. Transportation around the planet is mostly handled by a system of matter transporters, a technology the Zurvár are particularly skilled with. New settlers still arrive, but numbers have fallen since the 1990s and it is now thought that the majority of Zurvár reside on the planet. Discussions are on the table to establish a new city in the near future and a number of sites around the Gulf of Sponges have been surveyed in anticipation of this.



Well, according to the source and destination of all human knowledge (ie: Wikipedia) Cyclones usually form between 10 and 30 degrees N/S, although they can sometimes form at up to 5 degrees. My understanding is that the equator side of the limit is based on the Coriolis effect (which would be the same on any planet with the size and rotation characteristics of Earth) and the polar side of the limit comes from ocean temperature. Zurvár Arèáná has a warmer climate than Earth, so I’m assuming that cyclones would consequently form further north and south.

Furthermore cyclones only die when they’re cut off from the warm water that fuels them, either by heading too far north or south, or by passing over a continent. Zurvár Arèáná has no continents, so the storms don’t die until they hit cooler waters around the poles. I’ll have to figure out exactly how close to the poles they can get.

OK, after some back of the envelope calculations and squinting at ocean temperature maps I think I can say that cyclones form on Zurvár Arèáná between 10 and 40 degrees and tend to die (degenerating into extratropical cyclones) off around 60 degrees. Comparing data from a whole bunch of sources – and gut instinct – suggests that the average settlement would be hit by about 5 cyclones in an average year with about the same number of serious tropical storm systems.

No biggie. The Zurvár scoff at storms



If you mean the top right corner, that’s the entrance to a seln malazká or “Storm Tunnel”. Some Zurvár settlements link important buildings with tunnels for communication purposes during severe storms. It’s a bit unusual – although not entirely unheard of – in a private house. Doors into the tunnels are heavy and vault like, and can usually only be opened from the building side.


The tanks to the side store rainwater collected from the roof. The larger tank contains the ‘raw’ water, the smaller filtered. The drains are now modeled on the roof, which is slightly slanted out towards the edges to direct the flow of water.
Around the back of the house can be seen the top of the septic tank. Some areas of the larger cities have centralised sewage systems, but most houses rely on septic tank systems.

In this version all the roof furniture has been removed and stowed inside the house. The awnings and poles have been taken down and the wind turbine pole folded and locked. Metal shutters have been fixed over the windows and (as this is a particularly strong storm system) the doors. Finally the herb planters outside the door have been protected with a fastened down plastic sheet (if it breaks lose it won’t do any damage, and hey, herbs can be replanted).

Regarding the internal walls and arches – all the walls are built from interlocking masonry blocks a good 75cm thick, fixed together with mortar. The roof is supported by metal beams, socketed into the stone. Combined with the earth berms it makes for pretty strong construction. If that still doesn’t seem strong/waterproof enough I’ll invoke creator fiat and say the Zurvár have incorporated some building techniques/materials from more advanced cultures such as the Wyrms

The most obvious factor is that of wealth. The house illustrated is typical of a reasonably well off family who’ve taken out a Settlement Loan with the Konsâtèum to fund construction. A less wealthy family, or an individual, would construct a smaller home – although along the same basic template. The rooms would be smaller, there might be less bedrooms and the utility and storage areas would be combined.

Smaller homes are also found in the cities where a house doesn’t need to be quite so self sufficient. There is also a wider variety of architecture, including low-rise apartment blocks and accommodation above workplaces and shops. These dwellings are typically inhabited by young Zurvár who’ve just moved out of home, or are living away from home for education or work purposes. The traditional division between public and private areas of the home is generally ignored, or only weakly implemented in these homes.

Gender is not a huge issue in Zurvár society. Social equality of the biological sexes has (theoretically) been the norm for centuries and while there are some societal roles viewed as traditionally masculine and feminine they are violated often enough that only the most conservative minority has a problem with them. While there is no specific religious or societal prohibition on same-sex relationships they have, historically, been treated as second class when compared to straight relationships. This has gradually been changing – gay and straight partnerships have been equal under Konsâtèum law since the early 1990s and disapproval of non-cisgendered relationships is increasingly unacceptable among young Zurvár.

The main political/ideological issue on Zurvár Arèáná concerns the Konsâtèum, and whether or not it’s overstepped its authority in becoming the de-facto government. Zurvár who oppose the Konsâtèum are far less likely to take out Settlement Loans and as such their homes tend to be smaller, or take much longer to build. There are also some differences in architectural style between different ancestoral Houses, the most obvious being that of House Fèelis who prefer to build round rather than rectangular houses – a style that has caught on with some other Zurvár for purely aesthetic reasons.

Finally, there are naturally some individuals who, for reasons of politics, ideology or simply personal taste, reject the traditional house entirely and construct dwellings that are completely different.

Musical Tuesdays: Paranoia

Music can make you feel happy. Music can make you feel sad. Sometimes it can make you feel both. And on occasion it can make you feel like the walls are closing in.

Many years ago I was at a friend’s place who had recently splashed out on an extremely powerful subwoofer for his stereo system. To demonstrate it he asked for all of us coming over that day to bring a CD or two (this being back in the days when the CDs was the music storage medium of choice). I remembered this instruction at the last minute when heading out the door, and grabbed the first random CD I found to hand.

Also attending the christening of the subwoofer was an individual who had earlier on indulged in some, shall we say, less than legal substances. Once the power of the subwoofer had been adequately demonstrated by almost shattering the loungeroom windows, we put on the CD I’d bought with me, at which point our slightly worse for wear friend quickly became quite twitchy, and begged us to turn it off, because it was “making him paranoid”.

The song in question?

Yes. Seriously.

I had a rather twitchy experience myself recently when I stumbled over Phillip Glass’s soundtrack to the 1982 movie Koyaanisqatsi. The first time I heard the main theme I had to turn it off, because it sounded like the most lifeless, frightening and downright evil music I’d ever heard. It resembled the droning of Satanic monks on their endless rounds through benighted, lightless catacombs, deep under the earth, where the twisted bodies of the uneasy dead have long mouldered into dust. Or the tramp of a million workers trudging into a factory where the corpses of unwanted children are systematically rendered into ash.

After a few re-listens I can now tolerate it (no damn song is going to beat me!), but I can’t say I like it much. That said, plenty of people do, some even calling it “soothing”. I wonder if that says more about them or about me?

Finally (and with nothing to do with paranoia) I stumbled over Chvrches’ cover of Bela Lugosi’s Dead today. I really don’t know what to make of it. Getting a bunch of synthpoppers to cover a Bauhaus track is like hiring Andre the Giant to play a Munchkin. There’s nothing wrong with Andre the Giant, but he’s so at odds with the role that the end result won’t be anything like it should. Judge for yourself…

Or perhaps you might prefer this version?

Over and Out.

The Red Castle

The Red Castle

Back in the day, the Red Castle Motel was the place to be in Perth. Situated just outside the CBD with river and city views, and on the main road to the airport, it was a medieval themed paradise. Many couples (this being in the days before cheap airfares made international honeymoons from one of the most isolated cities on Earth viable) spent their wedding nights there – numberless are the Perthites who claim to have been conceived with its walls. Not only a place to stay, the castle was also a well regarded nightspot, where you could dine beneath the watchful gaze of suits of armour in the revolving King Arthur’s Table restaurant, or wander the gardens where a hand grasping the sword Excalibur would emerge from a pond on the hour, every hour.

But alas, time moves on. Faux Arthurian medievalism went out of fashion as Western Australia slowly moved away from its British roots and started to look towards Asia. The Castle gradually changed from fashionable accommodation to slightly shabby, to a glorified truckstop, to a regular truckstop and eventually into a complete fleapit. The revolving restaurant struggled on under a variety of names before eventually shuddering to a halt and closing, and a fire that destroyed the penthouse level in September of 2012 was the final straw. The once iconic structure is soon to be demolished, and the site redeveloped for housing.

So naturally, as a badly decayed landmark that is soon to vanish I made some time today to go and photograph it.

The set can be seen here. The place is pretty well locked up. I would have been willing to try and find a way in, except for the fact that there was a car parked inside and some lights were on in the front building, so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and just photographed from the street. Nonetheless you can tell that it would have been an impressive place back in the 60’s – particularly in sleepy little Perth. Burswood will never be quite same without that tower looming over the horizon, no matter how awful the establishment below it may have been.

It may be of some interest that among the photos is the 10,000th one in my photostream. How about that then?

Number Crunching

Had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes,
She sat around and counted them all a million times,
Cab Calloway (and many others) – Minnie the Moocher

It occurred to me this morning, just how long would that take?

The first thing to establish is just how many coins would a million dollars in nickles and dimes add up to? A dime is ten cents, so a million dollars worth of dimes would add up to 10,000,000 coins (which incidentally would weigh 22.68 tonnes). A nickle is five cents, so a million dollars worth of them would be 20,000,000 coins (weighing 100 tonnes). We don’t have any information on exactly how Minnie’s cash is divided, but we can average it out and assume that she has 15,000,000 coins to count (weighing about 61.34 tonnes – better hope that gold and steel house she got from the King of Sweden has reinforced floors).

We can make a not unreasonable assumption that it takes about a second to count a single coin. Furthermore over the course of counting 15,000,000 coins Minnie would probably get pretty good at it, so let’s assume that it takes her only half a second per coin. This means that to count the whole lot would take Minnie 7,500,000 seconds. This is 2,083.3333 hours, or 86.8 days – assuming that Minnie takes a whole bunch of stimulants and never sleeps. It’s actually more reasonable to assume that she spends only 8 hours a day counting coins, so she has time to enjoy racing those horses and riding around in her diamond car.

Taking that into account, counting all the coins once would take 260.41 days, or 0.71 years.

That doesn’t seem too bad – but remember, she counts them a million times. To achieve this Minnie would need to spent eight hours a day counting coins for 713,001.49 years.

Poor Min indeed.

Musical Monday – Final Thoughts of Latvia

I’ve always had a somewhat ambivalent attitude towards Nirvana.

My parents were in their 40s when they had my brother and I. They were children of the second world war rather than baby boomers and came from fairly conservative stock – as such they viewed the popular music of the latter half of the 20th century with disdain and did their best to inoculate this view into us. As a result my childhood was marked with a stubborn refusal to entertain the idea that that horrible “rock and roll” music that got played on the radio could be anything but degenerate trash, a view that persisted until I started to develop a personality of my own around the age of 11, a point at which I would reluctantly concede that Livin’ on a Prayer was quite catchy and maybe some other rock music might be OK in limited quantities.

In my teenaged years this prejudice evolved into a kind of carefully maintained contrarian elitism. If a new band came along I would be willing to give them a chance, but if the great mass of unwashed plebs (ie: everyone except myself and my close associates) were crazy about them they were clearly populist garbage not worth considering. Nirvana’s Nevermind arrived right in the middle of this phase and its sudden, massive popularity led to my declaring the band emblematic of the worst excesses of youth culture and an anathema to all right listening folk. I regarded Kurt Cobain as a talentless hack distracting attention away from more worthy musical acts such at the KLF and Dire Straits, and refused to even listen to his works.

By the time Kurt did himself in, the year after my high school graduation, my attitude had mellowed a bit, but not enough to have any sympathy for the hordes of my peers who fell into various states of hysterical grief. I thought it unfortunate in a general sense that he’d taken such a step, but really didn’t care either way. Kurt Cobain dead meant as little to me as Kurt Cobain alive, and I regarded the crowds of mourners with the kind of disdain we reserve today for Beliebers and Directioners.

Over the next decade my attitude towards the music of Nirvana softened while at the same time my attitude towards the ongoing apotheosis of the band hardened. Being told that Kurt Cobain was the voice of my generation, and Smells Like Teen Spirit was the anthem of my youth would drive me towards a state of apoplexy. I’d go out of my way to point out that there were plenty of us who couldn’t stand Nirvana and thought that Kurt was a dickhead – a dickhead who came out with a few decent tunes, sure, but still a dickhead rather than the tragic hero everyone was making him out to be. It was about this time that I discovered the Pixies, and I reframed my criticism of Cobain into classing him as a sad, Black Francis wannabe – someone who could ape some of the sound and style of Doolittle while missing the weirdness and bizarre sense of humour that gave the Pixies their edge.

In the years since I’ve mostly made my peace with Nirvana and Kurt Cobain. As you get older you realise that what other people think about you and your ‘generation’ matter less than what you think about yourself and your place in the march of history. If someone looks at my birthdate and decides I must have spent my teenage years wearing plaid flannel and wishing I lived in Seattle, well good luck to them. Nirvana had some great songs and Kurt Cobain was a gifted, but troubled soul who didn’t get the help he needed. I don’t even mind Smells Like Teen Spirit any more, although it remains without any special meaning or significance to me. Which I guess is why I can enjoy madness like this so much, when many other people my age would regard it as absolute blasphemy 🙂

The more you listen to this insane mashup, the better it works, although even on my first listen there were bits that I found absolutely sublime – the descending chords during “oh no, I know a dirty word” for instance, and the “hello” chant after each verse. The smoky images of moshing teenagers somehow really seem to suit the epic 80’s buildup at the start and the Europe guitarists at 0:55 seem to have internalised the old axiom that when playing rock your guitar is every bit as much a weapon as an AK-47 or M16.

Well I’m all pooped out after all that reminiscing, and still need to include another music video, so – apropos of nothing – here’s Laimutis Purvinis.