Journeys With Jack

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Doing posh things today. At a Palace in Madrid. Hope you like the photo readers. I was caught chasing rabbits on my first leg stretch of the day though which left her not amused!

Today I have explored Salamanca. It is full of old buildings and cobbled streets and things that made her go ‘ah’ on many occasions. I loved the number of pee stops and exotic smells! I am really becoming a town dog at heart. It’s a good job I am happy to, well you know, ‘do things’ without grass. If I was as fussy as some dogs I could mention I would have had my legs crossed all day today!!! I got a bit of running around action in besides a river too which was good. Why do things try and chase me??? I can outrun them all!

So I have moved from Spain and am now in Mountain village in Portugal. We went through some boarder stress as usual, in fact she even made me wear a harness thing and tied me up!! Really, no one is going to confiscate me!!! There are dogs every wear, I was asked to write about doggy fashion, but this lot have not reached the dizzy heights of a brush yet!!! The wine is cheap, but fresh milk scarce so there is a bit of a balancing act there to keep everyone happy!!! The food thing is interesting as at home it is additive free no expense spared healthy stuff. Colouring and E numbers galore here and they wonder why I run round the van in circles in the evening!!!

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Journeys With Jack

Jack S here. Delighted to be updating you on my travels for a bit.

Biarittz by Night

Biarittz by Night

We did not get off to a good start on Tuesday as

although we got to the ferry in good time they boarded us early and so no play time in the pen! No nasty stains and smells for her to teeter round!!! Fortunately the crossing was ok. The oldies always get so stressed though going through passport control. Do not understand it: I have one, along with a chip bit of metal in me and all the jabs. They really need to stop

Biarittz by Day

Biarittz by Day

fussing!! Once we arrived in France we were not happy campers. She was really sick and could not talk! Funny really, but rubbish for recall and treats. Spent Tuesday night in Le Mans by the river. She nearly had heart failure when we were joined on the bed time trip by a rodent as big as me!!! I was confident I could outrun him though!!! Le Mans was followed by one of her favourite places Biarittz.

We then hit Spain! Oranges and Pamplona were the first stop. Not sure about this Bull thing they do, but the statue was impressive. That’s her in the picture by the way. Love her really!

After Pamplona and a hectic few days I arrived in Javea. Upgrade from the van to a Villa courtesy of Friends of hers. What a good few days. Sofas and beds galore to sleep on, fresh friends on the beach, bars and some tough walks up those bloody mountain things they keep dragging me up!

Big but boring day today! Apparently it’s my birthday (whatever that is). She has sung to me and provided endless air kisses. I am 2!! I hope you can see the picture of my birthday dinner! The highlight of the day was a special piece of exercise. We arrived in Madrid after hours and hours in the van and immediately set off into a park. In the park was a track for bikes (the things you chase when they go past you) to do tricks so it had ramps and jumps and things. Well we set off round the track at a good pace, up and down ramps, over jumps. We were nearly at the end and I could sense she was pleased with herself, (mind you she should be, she couldn’t run anywhere this time last year!). But it all came to an abrupt end as she tripped on a jump and hit the deck face first, clean white jeans, oh dear!! I only moved across her a little bit…

So, I will be regularly updating you on my travels, but until next time, this is Jack S, signing off!

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Cos Sometimes I read stuff

As most serious nibblers will be aware, we have recently acquired a new contributor; fantasy author and reviewer of things, Samuel Z Jones.  As Badger co-hosted his online book launch party, he sent her a copy of his most recent book The Baron Moruna to read, presumably so she’d know what she was talking about.  Here’s what happened next.

So, it’s been a while since I have written a samfeature, in fact I haven’t put my feature writing hat on since Rockonnection ceased to be, and that was several years ago now, so it was time to kidnap another minor celeb, chain them to a radiator in the basement and seriously get to the bottom of their creative intentions.  As Sam now works with us here in the Newsnibbles office, he was surprisingly easy to abduct, and just followed the trail of vegetarian antipasti down to the basement, where I was able to tether him to a chair.

Whilst I was waiting for him to come to, I was able to glance at the copy of The Baron Moruna, which I always carry in my back pocket, because long books make me look clever.  The first thing that struck me was ‘he doesn’t write at all like he talks,’ and I was impressed.  It was like reading an epic fantasy novel, it could have been from any era, with classical tones and stylings that set the scene right off and tell you this is fantasy.

Some years ago, when we first met on a writing website that is no more (I was pretending to be human then, I have since realised that badgers sell more books) I read his first novel in the Akurite Empire series, and was impressed by the fact that a male writer was confidently able to write strong female characters, without stereotyping.  This is set in the same world, but years later, and the characters in the first book I read are now characters from history, which reading it makes me feel like I am part of  the world too, I know their history, I understand more what’s going on, he has created an entire world with history and future and real people.  It was at this point that he started to come to, so I decided to ask him: How do you go about building a world?

That’s a big question. And the subject of my dissertation. Short version: Begin by creating the space for the world to exist in. Sense it, learn to touch and hear it, hanging in that liminal non-space between your inner self and the external world. Find or imagine or create a crack in reality, and peer through. On the other side will be someone, somewhere. Speak to them. Widen the gap between worlds and make a space where you can sit and talk. Make it a place in that world, furnish it, get comfortable. This first person you’ve met here will be your chief narrator, your guide in this otherworld; talk to them, let them tell you stories, and introduce you to their friends. Ask them about their world, and write down what they tell you. When you know a few people there and have heard of a few places, start walking, and write about everything you find and everyone you meet there.

Well that seemed fair enough to me, but I wanted more specifics, so I jabbed him with a pointy stick and persisted; but how did the world of Akurite Empire come about?

Pretty much exactly like that. I was making little bubble-worlds, mini-excursions across the ether, until I ran into a character there who offered to be my guide and tell me his adventures. Eventually, he introduced me to one friend and then another, and they told me stories too. I still make a point of visiting that first friend in that otherworld, but he’s retired now and doesn’t mind others taking centre stage.

In this new work there is a character called Ailen (not our fashion correspondent, that’s Aline) who speaks in such a good Scottish accent you can hear it even when reading in your head, so I had to interrupt Sam’s escape attempt to ask: Where did you learn to speak Scottish?

From Robbie Burns. I’m literate in Scottish; I read it, barely speak a word of it. When writing a character’s words, I listen to their accent, their intonation.

Hmm, interesting.  With such a vast collection of titles to his name he must have tens of fans, so I found myself wondering who his stories were aimed at.  Well, there’s no point in wondering when he’s right there, tied to a chair in front of me, and I’m not shy, so I asked: Who is your main audience?

I write for the grown-up Fantasy fan, the people who grew up on it and never grew out of it, who love the old stories and want new ones from the same wellspring of human abstraction. I write about reality through the lens, so I write for people who want to not merely to escape this reality, but to bring something real back from that otherworld.

It was at that point he seemed to be on the verge of escape, and I knew the only way to keep him there would be to distract him with my brilliant intellect, so I struck another question, like the brain ninja that I am: If you could take 3 books, with their authors to a desert island, who and why?

i: Me, and only one book, the one I’d be working on. When I have finished the epic Fantasy, I look forward to writing about a desert island. Nice, calm, peaceful.

ii: Stephanie Myer. Because she must be stopped.

iii: Hugh Cook. Because he’s dead, and he shouldn’t be, and I only found out the man had a website a few months after he died, and now even his website’s gone, and I feel oddly cheated of speaking to an obscure author who very strong influenced my work.

It was no good, whilst he was dazzling me with he quick witted responses to what I thought were really tough questions he had broken free his bonds, and I found my mind drawn back to the amazing fight scenes that are scattered throughout The Baron Moruna so asked, with some trepidation: Do you know Kung Fu?

“Yes. I do know Kung Fu,” he responded, raising an ominous eyebrow.

Whilst this amazing story has a kickass army of women, ghosts, zombies and adventures on an airship, it leaves one question completely unanswered, a question that it is really essential to know any member of the Newsnibbles’ teams’ position on as a matter of course: Pet Couture, would you?

No. I think it’s cruel. No animal wants bows and bunches in its fur, dayglo anything is not a colour any dog wants to be. Cats do not like being shaved (remember that, kids).

Oh dear, divorce may be on the cards… Well at that point he was free and I was distracted by something shiny, so we left it at that, and will probably never speak of it again, but you can find out more about his worlds by going here.

If you think you would like to be featured in a feature, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do.

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Seven Questions With Canine Partners

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Today we have a special 7 Questions with a charity that you probably haven’t heard of, but should have, @canine_partners.  Hopefully this will help.

1. What is Canine Partners?

Canine Partners is a national charity that trains dogs to help disabled people by performing a range of tasks that the rest of us take for granted.  These can range from picking up dropped items to undressing their owner!  They can even take a credit card and money from a cash machine, although they can’t put the pin number in.  Perhaps just as well, otherwise they might be off down the pet shop to buy supplies!  They can certainly take items from supermarket shelves and hand a purse to the cashier!

2. What is involved in training a canine partner?

To train a canine partner takes the best part of the first two years of the dog’s life.  They begin as eight-week-old puppies, living with a volunteer called a puppy parent!  That’s a very apt title for someone who basically housetrains the puppy, takes them everywhere to get them socialised, teaches them right from wrong (using the right commands for actions such as touching, tugging and retrieving), and brings them to school … or puppy class as it is called.  When the dog is about 14 months old and has completed the puppy training he will go to big school, or advanced training, at one of the Charity’s special centres.  There he will learn the more advanced tasks such as unloading a washing machine, opening doors and retrieving a phone, and will also meet his future disabled owner.  At the end of the five months advanced taskwork training the dog and the applicants with whom he has been paired, spend two weeks on a residential course.  This is for the disabled person to learn how to work with his new canine partner … the dog is already fully trained by then!

3. Who qualifies for a canine partner?

The dogs are trained to assist someone with a physical disability or who has a mobility problem that affects their everyday life and who would benefit from a special dog performing a variety of household tasks for them.  Very often people with physical disabilities struggle with pain and fatigue due to the effort of doing even simple things like picking up something that has dropped or opening a door.  Having a canine partner beside them who can do all those tasks for them means their pain level and fatigue is reduced, and often this means they don’t need as much medication.  So perhaps canine partenrs should be on the NHS!

May taking card from ATM

4. How can people get involved and help?

As the Charity doesn’t receive any government funding they rely on the generosity of the public to give donations to further their work.  People can help by undertaking any fundraising activity – it doesn’t matter how small.  Bake sales, sponsored walks, skydives, challenge events … all of these activities can raise funds.  Maybe even grow a sponsored beard for a year!! Or try nominating the organisation as a charity of the year at your workplace.  Canine Partners also relies on volunteers so people can give their time to the Charity: for example, if they don’t work and would like to be actively involved with training the dogs, they could volunteer as a puppy parent.  These people take the young puppies into their homes for a year or so and, under the guidance of trained staff, they teach the pups basic obedience and core activities that will then develop into the taskwork that will one day help a disabled person.  Not only are you contributing to a dog that will make a difference to someone but you get to have a cute puppy for a year! The Charity also has a network of volunteer speakers who, after undergoing some training, give talks to groups and organisations helping to spread awareness.  It’s a great way to meet people too!

5. Where do you stand on the topic of pet couture?

Not quite sure what is meant by this question!  We encourage our puppy parents and partners who are paired with our trained dogs to actively groom their dogs as that helps build the bond which will be so important, while keeping the dog looking the best it can.  The dogs wear their purple jackets announcing that they are assistance dogs when they are out and on duty, so they always look very smart!

6. We have many dog readers, some of whom might like to become a canine partner, what type of dog do you need to be?

To be a canine partner you need to be a dog that enjoys being with people, that loves retrieving items and picking up items that are dropped on the floor over and over again, and enjoys learning new things.  You will probably be a Labrador, or golden retriever, or a mixture of both.  You might be part poodle, for intelligence!  You will be young as you will be expected to be a fully trained canine partner for many years, and you will just revel in being in the limelight as canine partners do become local celebrities when they are partnered with a disabled person.  Finally, you will be the most wonderful assistant, friend and companion to someone who relies on you for their confidence and independence.  What a great life!

7. Where can people find out more?

If all of the above has whetted your interest in Canine Partners, then please visit with website: www.caninepartners.org.uk, check out their Facebook page or follow them on Twitter.  Finally please do tell all your friends about how amazing these dogs are and their life-transforming role for people with disabilities.

And if you would like to answer 7 questions then get in touch

 

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Sophie’s Shaun Hunt

Due to some technical difficulties we have been unable to post our festive travel report, so here are some Shauns to tide you over.

38. Dolly

I’m just gonna take this one, shhhh no one will know…
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40. On the Waterfront

Ship a’hoy land lovers
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68. Willow

This one is a fine example of how one simple colour can make magic.
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A Festive Fiendishly Tricky Maths Puzzle

By popular demand we have another fiendishly tricky maths puzzle for you, this time with a festive twist.

Rcf2L1nwSo, today is December 13th, and Annie, our resident fashionista is the office Santa Claus, so she will be making a list, and checking it twice.  This year Christmas will be on December 25th.  So, what is Annie’s name?

You may notice that this is very similar to our other tricky maths puzzle, but since that one is still baffling readers the World over we thought we’d stick with a good thing.  Pop your answers in the comments below.  There’s no prize but the glory of knowing your superior intellect.  The answer will be posted on our Facebook page on Christmas Morning, so if you need to know, you’d best like us.  You know you do anyway.

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Sophie’s Shaun Hunt

Bet you thought we’d finished the Shauns, we haven’t…

35. Beach Boy
Round, round, I get around, I get around….. Around Bristol that is
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36.  Green Poems for a Blue Planet

Music and Lyrics are all you need
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38. Life Aquatic

Who’da thought sheep like to swim?
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Music Review: Ferocious Dog – Live

Review by Samuel Z Jones

An eccentric venue for an unusual band; this Friday 13th, Ferocious Dog played the Talking Heads in Southampton. Revolutionary lyrics, punk fury and screaming guitars, drawn into anarchic harmony by an electric violin.

It works. I’ve never actually seen crowd-surfing in a local venue before. An almost Pagan fervour gripped the mosh, culminating with a bare-chested tattooed man with greased spikes in his hair rising aloft on the shoulders of the crowd, upright, arms wide as if crucified on the music.

Ferocious Dog have been compared to The Levellers, Billy Bragg and The Pogues. They’re described variously as punk, modern folk, folk-rock, punk-folk and Celtic-folk-punk. The crowd they drew at the Talking Heads this Friday were no less difficult to categorize; an age-range from 20s to 50s, with enough band T-shirts on show to evidence a dedicated following.

There was a great atmosphere all night. Despite a suitably ferocious mosh, no trouble attended the gig. The Talking Heads is both a local pub and a music venue, two bars adjoining. Pub regulars were friendly and the main bar itself a charmingly eccentric lounge. Deeper in the building, the music venue is a short tangle of corridors leading to a dark cavern. A low stage puts the band directly in the faces of the crowd, the wavelike motion of the moshpit throwing some almost at the lead singer’s feet.

Ferocious Dog comprise Ken Bonsall (lead vocals/guitar), Dan Booth (fiddle), Ellis Waring (guitar, mandolin), Les “Fruitbat” Carter (guitar), John Alexander (bass), and Scott Walters (drums). Their music and lyrics are politically charged, angry at injustice and spotlighting a long history of the same. Their set at the Talking Heads on Friday kicked off with “Gallows Justice” and the lyric “I shall dance a jig of death in the morning…” They closed two hours later to a triple-encore, having called the last song some twenty minutes before the moshing finally abated.

There was a particular energy, live on stage, to “Gallows Justice”. It’s a grim tune and the first one of the band’s I heard on CD; live, they bring an aggressive charm and wry humour to a song about hanged outlaws.

Newsnibbles is delighted to welcome Samuel Z Jones as our latest contributor.

Samuel Z Jones is a prolific Fantasy author with over fifteen novels and numerous other works to his name. He espouses a complex theory of worldbuilding, and maintains that fiction is an exercise in psychological portraiture of people who do not exist.

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7 Questions

Seven Questions is a section of Newsnibbles where we ask one of our Twitter followers seven questions (duh).  Because we do it via email they are free to answer in more that 140 characters, which is nice.

Today we catch up with photographer, pagan and badger fan @WildThing404 to find out a bit more about her life, influences and inspirations.
Scent

Like we have to say it, but this photo is copyright to WildThing404, you can look, but don’t touch, and if you really like it you can buy it from Fine Art America

1. How does being a Pagan/Witch/Druid effect your art do you think?

My being a pagan/witch/druid gives me an affinity for the type of photos I take. As I say, my photos are not of grand vistas, mountains, or oceans. I find beauty in the simple beauty that is around me. I use the guidance of the elements that I as a pagan consider sacred, air, fire, water, earth and the universe. I find facets of those in everything I see. Being a pagan allows me to tune into nature so that I can feel it’s energy whether it is a plant, a crick, or a rock.

2. When do you know the time is right to take the perfect photograph?

As I never plan where I’m going to go or what I’m going to take before leaving, I trust that nature & the Universe will guide me. I let myself tap into the energy that is sent to me by the source. Once I connect, it’s like I enter a type of altered sense of being and my awareness heightens. It’s then that I see things and begin to shoot.

If I have to stage a shoot, I have to envision what it is that I want to have the photo say. I touch the objects, feel their energy, arrange them, look at them and feel the synergy they create as a whole. I then look at them from different angles and feel the energy. Then I shoot.

The next step is in editing. Again, I have to feel the energy. Not all photos taken make it into the public eye. I can take up to 1000 photos and only 100 will ever be seen. That doesn’t mean they all won’t ever be seen, it just means that the time isn’t right for them to be seen. And some will remain unseen.

3. Describe your artistic style

I have been complimented by one person as a female Ansel Adams and by another as another Margaret Bourke White… but I’m not sure I have a style … I enjoy taking a variety of photos. Nature/wildlife/Sunrise/Sunset/Moon/Black & White/old buildings, barns, abandoned homes are my dominant photos but I also enjoy any oddity that captures my fancy and cemeteries are a passion for me as well. So I guess I would my style is kind of eclectic. Ansel Adams once said, “Every man’s work is always a portrait of himself,” and I think that is really true. My photos are always a reflection of who I am at the time I take the photo. Each photo has a small piece of my heart in it. I truly take them out of love. Love for what I do … love for what I’m taking a photo of … love for who will see it … love for who purchases it.

4. Do you have a favourite badger?

I have 2 favourite badgers! Grumps & Bucky Badger, the mascot for the Wisconsin Badgers! ;)))

5. If you could meet and photograph anyone from history, who would it be and where would you do the shoot?

I would want to photograph Biddy Early, Ireland’s most famous Witch & Faery Friend. And I would want to do the shoot in Tir-na-n-Og, The Land of the Young … where else? ;)))

6. What advice would you give someone who wanted to break into a career in photography?

My advice to beginning photographers is to take as many as you can, listen to other photographers, look at the work of other photographers and experiment. But most importantly, take your time, there’s no rush to do it all at once. Start by taking photos of what you love and follow your heart.

7. Describe your ideal photograph, the one you’ve always wanted to take.

My ideal photograph is the next one I’m going to take!

And you can find WildThing404 all over the internetz, including:

  • her personal website where you can buy work directly from her. Tell her the badger sent you, you won’t get any discounts, but you might get a funny look.
  • Facebook – because apparently everyone is there. We certainly are, why haven’t you liked us yet?
  • Her full portfolio – look, don’t touch
  • Her new blog – you never know, might feature an interview with a badger… hint hint…
  • Featured on: www.latenightfootfalls.tumblr.com/  (a beautiful site by Cletis L Stump featuring a combination of Poetry & Images where she has approximately 15 photos featured with poetry from various poets)
  • And www.downtownlalife.com/ (for the last year she has been a guest artist featured seasonally, but as of January 2, 2016, she will become the Resident Witch & contributing artist on a monthly basis where I will choose various  photos to be showcased).

If you would like to answer 7 Questions, then why not give us a tweet?

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Sophie’s Shaun Hunt

24. BAA-WULF

This one has show biz in it’s blood, all glitz and glamour  on Bristol’s on Broadway.
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25. King Arthur of Lambelot & Excalibaaar

Do this and we’ll be king of all farms
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26. From Dusk ’til Shaun

Eat your heart out Quentin
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