Malo Malo Malo Malo

I would rather be
In an apple tree
Than a naughty boy
Stabbed to death in a Deptford boarding house

(This is really sophisticated literary joke so don’t feel bad if it goes over your head – we can’t all have minds of astonishing genius…)

Bad Contamination

The Worst of Perth has recently alerted me to the fact that Bayswater Councillor Sally Palmer has of late been peddling some truly atrocious poetry on the subject of a concrete plant being constructed on Collier road.

I know nothing about Ms Palmer’s politics, and while I have not been aware of plans for a concrete plant on Collier road I can see why such a proposal seems like a bad idea. One thing I do know however is what makes for a half decent poem, and I can say with certainty that “Black Cockatoo Calling” is probably the worst bit of poetry foisted on the people of Bayswater since Gina Rinehart defiled Morley with her poorly composed plea for less government regulation on the activities of disadvantaged mining billionaires.

It is a basic rule of English poetry that you can’t rhyme a word with itself – it’s cheating. Yet Ms Palmer rhymes “lands” with “lands”, “accord” with “accord” and “earth” with “earth”. Another rule is that of meter and scansion – lines should follow a uniform pattern of syllable count and stress. While not as bad as Ms Rinehart in this respect Ms Palmer still breaks meter all over the place. A basic understanding of grammar is also expected – I don’t think the construction “to do contamination” would pass muster in any high school English class, let alone “to do bad contamination”.

The horror engendered by reading Ms Palmer’s poetic burp got me wondering – how is it that apparently intelligent people can spew up the kind of doggerel that would embarrass William McGonagall but then be proud enough to put it on display for all to see? After some thought I think I’ve figured it out…

We all wrote poems in primary school. And almost all of them were awful. Awful, terrible atrocious poetry. But because we were young and just learning how to write and compose, our teachers encouraged us. A poem like “Black Cockatoo Calling” would get any 10 year old a gold star and maybe a special certificate from the school principal, despite its many obvious faults. And there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever.

The problem arises when the 10 year old internalises the message “I’m a good poet!” and goes on through high school, and maybe university, without ever writing another poem. They never have cause to write more poetry, and never get any feedback that would let them know that their poetic skills have failed to grow beyond the levels of that 10 year old, and are – in a grown adult – simply an embarrassment. Throw in a desire to express strongly held beliefs about mining regulations or concrete plants and the stage is set for a horrible, poorly composed screed to be vomited out into the world, generating untold suffering and trauma.

If I get the time I may rewrite Ms Palmer’s poem into something more acceptable. But then again I may not. I am rather busy at the moment.

Bis In Alle Ewigkeit

Thanks folks for the kind words on my return. WordPress decided not to tell me about any of them, which is why I haven’t replied previously. I’ve also been busy on another project, which is why I haven’t been around the Wyrmlog. Details will follow in good time.

In any case, today I discovered that not only is there a German folk/rock version of the Hooters’ classic All You Zombies, but that the band responsible (Santiano) re-wrote the lyrics to be about Valhalla. Which can only be described as awesome.

Because I’m a nerd, I decided to attempt a translation. Here ’tis…

To the End of Time (Valhalla)

A cry of horns from far horizon,
The triumph of the Æsir’s thrones,
Let us follow close, seeking out our reward…

Have no fear about our leaving,
Death and darkness we’ll confound,
A hero’s grave is not for grieving,
We will travel where the trumpets sound!

We’ll meet again in far Valhalla,
We’ll sing the songs and drink the wine!
Feast with the Gods in fair Valhalla,
We’ll party ’till the end of time!

Lift your mugs to Odin’s glory,
Quaff deep, cry out a drinking song,
He gathers up his host, the bravest of them all…

The feast awaits with laden trenchers,
A thousand barrels filled to burst,
At the end of all our ventures,
Come and join us when you’ve grown a thirst!

We’ll meet again in far Valhalla,
We’ll sing the songs and drink the wine!
Feast with the Gods in fair Valhalla,
We’ll party ’till the end of time!

OK, that’s it for now. Expect some more activity soon.

The Austrian Govmint’s Pleen Pickaging Loh Ex Spearmint

Oh, this is something special!

That could possibly be an Australian, if they had a smoking induced stroke.

You have to wonder, if Plain Packaging is such a failure then why is the tobacco industry spending millions of dollars funding lobby groups like the “Property Rights Alliance” to stop it?

The Marble Paradise

As I have often commented on this blog, I am insane. Not “come at you with a tomahawk” insane, but certainly “do very strange and ill advised things” insane. Like attempting to rewrite Hamlet into rhyming couplets, or inventing the cheese shot. Well, I’ve started on another insane project – this time I’m aiming to learn more about the world created by Dmitry Glucovsky in his post-nuclear Metro 2033 series and teach myself German at the same time by re-translating the German translation of Sergey Kuznetsov’s мраморный раи into English.

Now I’m not going to do anything as crass as take a German course. That’s for sane people. No, I’m teaching myself the language by squinting at Google translate, beating myself around the head with Barron’s German-English Pocket Dictionary and occasionally sending begging emails to my friend Matt.

It’s slow progress, but it does actually seem to be working. I’m starting to recognise words and I’m sometimes able to figure out the general gist of a sentence. It’s going to be a long time before I’m singing along at Oktoberfest, but at least it’s giving me something to do and will probably have some kind of long term neurological benefit. Or something.

In any case, I thought I’d post my translation of the book’s introduction. So strap yourself in for a slightly-awkwardly-phrased journey through the harsh streets of post-nuclear Russia in Sergey Kuznetsov’s The Marble Paradise


by Sergey Kuznetsov
Translated from the Russian by Anja Freckman
Translated from the German by Denys the Purple Wyrm

The author dedicates this book to the shining memory of his father


A long time ago, many years ago, there was a city here.

It was an ordinary, not particularly large provincial town. The inhabitants were simple people, some educated, some less so. They led orderly, peaceful lives, had times both good and bad, watched their children do the chores, and had a drink from time to time. They managed their lives and their city as best as they could. Some found work in the town, others commuted many hours to Moscow and back and cursed the travel time and crowded railway carriages.

Their city drowned in greenery and its squares, parks and well tended gardens were a welcoming sight. It was especially beautiful in the Indian summer when it was wreathed in every conceivable shade of yellow and red. In late autumn and in winter it was gray and monotonous, yet it still radiated its own particular warmth and coziness. On the long winter evenings the lights burnt in the homes, on the streets the lamps shone one by one in long garlands, and from the air the town looked like a giant, fully lit Christmas tree.


Now there was no longer a city. All that remained were meaningless, jumbled boxes of abandoned homes with smashed windows, torn-off doors, and power lines hanging limply between crooked, semi-collapsed power poles. Steel rods poked from the torn walls of ruined buildings like exposed bone. Across all was smeared lichen and the green-brown stain of moss. Through the cracked asphalt grass and bushes poked, and the playgrounds were overgrown with high weeds. The summer dressed rusted cars and buses in a cloak of dusty reddish green. That that could rot, decay or dissolve had – over the years – rotted, decayed and dissolved.

On this day the houses were covered by a thin layer of fresh snow, which had fallen overnight for the first time this year. It was a strange snow, light blue-gray. But not even the snow could conceal the aberrance of this world. In the dead city terrifying new residents had emerged. People had not lived here for a long time. Except…

Through the dead town staggered a man, swaying like a drunk. His dark blue radiation suit was badly torn – three deep, bloody furrows ran across the back from shoulder to waist, as if three sharpened blades had sliced in one stroke through the rubberized cloth, the fur jacket and sweater beneath and into the man’s flesh. His chest and left shoulder showed other injuries and his right arm was soaked purple with blood – although it was perhaps not his own. Only the sturdy plastic helmet on his head and the expensive foreign respirator mask strapped across his face seemed intact.

The man was breathing heavily and awkwardly dragged himself in a strange zigzag path – any observer would have thought he was wandering aimlessly. But he had one goal – to escape as soon as possible from this terrible place and reach the Military Academy. Because – he had heard – the basement levels of that facility housed a few other survivors. That would be his salvation, his only salvation. If he managed to reach it…

The man tried to concentrate, to remember: Who had attacked him? Who had he fought?

Something gigantic and grim-faced had attacked in a flash with tremendous force. The creature had pounced on him from behind, slashed him with those claws right through the suit, his clothes and – damn how his back was burning! He was losing blood and there was no way he could reach the wounds to patch them up. What if the beast had venomous claws? The second creature had knocked the gun out of his hands and would probably have demolished him with its next blow if he hadn’t had his army knife.

He’d driven the blade – a serrated-back Spetsnaz knife slightly smaller than a machete – forcefully into the monster’s gut and twisted. Both beasts seemed to lose interest and they… fled?

What happened next?

He couldn’t remember. His thoughts were confused. How had he entered the city? When? And what for?

The man couldn’t answer these questions. He remembered the battle, but tried in vain to recall the appearance of the creatures. Helpless, he gritted his teeth. Had the beasts thought he was dead? Why hadn’t they devoured him? After they’d left he must have lain unconscious for a while. He’d only come back to himself when he was already wandering through the city.

He collapsed repeatedly from exhaustion, lying on the ground, trying to get up again, but every time he staggered painfully to his feet he found that he’d lost more strength than the brief rest had granted him.

Twilight settled over the city. He looked around in alarm.

He slid his right hand in its torn glove under the protective suit to the handle of the knife, which hung in a short sheath on the belt of his jacket. He heard – or did he imagine? – sounds that made the blood in his veins falter: howls, yelps, growls, and sometimes a smack and a short angry roar, as if unknown predators were fighting for prey.

He glanced around startled, but couldn’t see anything living.

The wind came up and it started to snow again. With each step, his strength waned, but he knew that he could no longer spare the time to rest, not even for a few seconds – he had to hurry. An hour ago he could ignore the pain in his back, but now the wounds were burning like crazy. It almost felt like insects were crawling in them. He grunted and shrugged. The temperature had dropped considerably with nightfall and the cold was creeping into him through the slits in the suit.

The ruined buildings swam before his eyes, and his vision doubled as his sight dimmed. He laboriously set one foot after another, his legs were like wood and barely obeyed him. Suddenly he clearly heard a voice. Mechanically he turned towards the speaker only to find there was not a soul there.

But the twilight hissed around him, shouted, howled, and the sounds were getting closer…

He had almost left the city behind him.

It was dark.

His hand clasped the grip of the army knife.

His foot caught on a piece of broken asphalt. He tripped, and fell hard onto his back. The noises all around fell silent for a moment, and in that silence he heard, rather than felt, a sickening crunch from his left arm. When the pain arrived a few seconds later it was dull and grey.

His energy was spent. He tried rolling over onto his front like a beetle but a few attempts exhausted his last pitiful power reserves. They also knocked his knife loose and out of reach, which raised a small spark of anger in him – he would have liked to take at least one of the creatures with him into death.

As everything around him slowly sank into a fog, he realised just how carefully a large grey animal was slinking out of the nearby bushes, snuffling up his scent with its half-rat half-wolf snout, teeth bared and growling.

Then he lost consciousness.

Want to know what happens next? Learn German! 🙂

State Tax Dodging Charges

Hi On Wednesday colleagues received public investigation order dispatched by Internal Revenue Rervice. Authorities are incriminating You tax evasion that is allegedly a serious crime and most probably would lead to grave consequences. Attached kindly see scanned copy of the official notice letter. Kindly review the enclosure carefully so that we could prepare objections later. According to our administratition advise the session with tax service authorities is to be approved today. Our consultants strictly advise You to prepare for upcoming hearing since severe accusations are brought to You. Upon getting Your instructions specialists will commence drafting needed form-sheets. Stacey Bernard Senior Accountant

I am astounded that someone could rise to the level of Senior Accountant with such terrible grammar skills. Let this be a warning children, numbers rot your brain!

What is this I don’t even…

A client is having problems importing data from Excel into one of our systems. They’ve provided (after much prodding) a sample file so I’ve asked them for details on exactly how they’re trying to import it – what options they select, etc. Today I got the following response…

“Yes, this is the one of the way to import file (not direct way), just copy and paste to suit Excel import format column, then import it.”

Even if that was written in comprehensible English I suspect it would not answer my question.

From VDNKh to Pobedy Park

I finished another of my Christmas books, the Russian sci-fi novel Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky yesterday. For those not in the know – as I was not until Helen mentioned it in an email a few months back – it’s a post-apocalyptic story set among survivors of world war three inhabiting a rebuilt society (of sorts) in the Moscow Metro system.

The setting is fascinating. Each station (the inhabited ones anyway) is its own town with its own government, customs and specialities. Some stations have banded together to form wider alliances, such as the Hansa who regulate trade throughout the system via control of the Circle line, the Communists who have taken almost complete control of the Sokolnicheskaya line, the neo-nazi skinhead Fascists who control a major interchange, and the mysterious Polis beneath the heart of the dead city whose inhabitants are said to live almost as well as people did before the war. Bandits, mutants, gas pockets, seeping radiation and worse things make travel between stations difficult – traveling from one end of the system to the other can take weeks, in contrast to the couple of hours it took back in the days when the trains ran. The surface is uninhabitable, plagued by dangerous creatures and lingering radiation that makes going outside without protective gear a death sentence. And even with a gasmask and environment suit the surface can only be braved at night – after decades underground the survivors’ vision has become so sensitive that the sun would instantly blind them.

As is traditional for such settings the story is that of a quest. The main character, Artyom, must leave his home station of VDNKh – under seige by terrifying mutants from the surface known as ‘Dark Ones’ – and deliver a message to Polis in the hopes of saving not only his home, but the entire Metro. We follow him on his dangerous journey and get to see the Metro and its inhabitants through his eyes. It’s a damn good adventure story, so good in fact that it’s sold over 500,000 copies in Russia alone and spawned a franchise with a sequel, stories by other authors, and two computer games.

That’s the good stuff. The other stuff, well…

The prose is not great. With a few exceptions it’s slow, pedestrian and stilted. Dialogue between characters is awkward and in some places so forced that you could envisage it being read off an autocue. A random example…

He spoke totally without accent, his pronunciation was no different than Artyom’s or Sukhoi’s. That was very strange – hearing pure Russian speech from such an unusual being. Artyom couldn’t shed the feeling that this was some kind of farce and the narrow-eyed man was only moving his lips while the bearded guy or the man in the leather coat spoke from behind him.

‘I shot one of their officers,’ he admitted reluctantly.

‘Well, good for you! You’re just the kind we like! That’s what they deserve!’ the man with the high cheek bones said enthusiastically, and the big, dark skinned guy who was sitting at the front turned to Artyom and raised his eyebrows respectfully. Artyom thought that this guy must mispronounce words.

See what I mean?

Given the book’s great popularity in its native country I suspect that this is all down to a quick, by-the-numbers translation by someone familiar with English on an academic or business level but with limited exposure to the language in a literary or informal setting. Which is a real shame as the story deserves much better.

In addition to being dull and stilted the translation has other issues. The different stations are highly important to the plot, but their names are mostly left untranslated. This makes it hard to get your head around the Metro as every location is a random string of syllables, completely bereft of meaning. Coming up with an English name for each station would have gone a long way towards both mentally navigating the Metro and creating atmosphere. ‘Sparrow Hills’ for Vorobyovy Gory,  ‘Clear Ponds’ for Chistye Prudy, ‘Mir Avenue’ for Prospekt Mir. At the very least ‘skaya’ could have been cut off the end of the names and either rendered as ‘Station’ or left off entirely. Alekseyev and Oktyabr are easier to get to grips with than Alekseyevstraya and Oktyabrstraya for instance.

And while we’re on the subject of station names, the map provided in the book is horrible. A bunch of stations important to the plot aren’t even labeled! Try and find Sukharevskaya on it, I dare you! I had to resort to looking a map up on Wikipedia to figure out what the hell was going on half the time. In addition to not including vital information for understanding the text, it does include information that really should be left to the reader to discover by actually reading the text. For the sake of avoiding spoilers I won’t elaborate, but it would have added a real sense of exploration to the story if the map started out limited to just what Artyom knows and you have to fill it out mentally along with him as the plot progresses.

Oh, and ‘Artyom’. Couldn’t that have been rendered as ‘Artie’ in non-formal instances?

While reading the story I was often pulled out of the action by thinking about how I’d rewrite certain passages. In fact, I think I’ll have a go with the example from above…

He spoke without an accent, his pronunciation was no different to that of Artie’s or Uncle Sukhoi’s. It was strange, hearing pure, unadulterated Russian from such an unusual looking individual. Artie couldn’t shake the feeling that his rescuers were playing some kind of joke, and that the narrow-eyed man was moving his lips while the bearded man or the guy in the leather coat spoke instead.

‘I shot one of their officers,’ he admitted reluctantly.

‘Good for you!’ enthused the man with the high cheek bones. “That’s what they deserve. You’re the kind of guy we like!”. The big, dark skinned man at the front of the cart turned and raised his eyebrows in respect. ‘Surely’ thought Artie ‘This guy can’t speak proper Russian?’.

Now I’m not saying it’s Shakespeare, but I like to think it’s better than the 0fficial version.

Anyway, translation issues aside it’s a great book and well worth a read if you’re into post apocalyptic fiction. Check it out, and be sure to come back regularly for my chapter by chapter unauthorised re-translation!

(Just kidding 🙂 )

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