I believe I have the answer. I am the person named in the heading, above. We even have the same shoe size. If you like you can call me Bradpitt Eastwood — it’s time someone did. Most of me is 63 years old and my knees are 75.
If you don't want to read the rest of this drivel, you can look at my CV instead:
Christopher Backeberg's CV49.85 KB
I am a South African living in the small, hilltop town of Eshowe, the historical capital of Zululand. The name means “Place of Breezes”; this probably explains why the washing keeps blowing off the line.
In decades past I edited a men’s magazine called Scope. Those were the years when an English pinup girl, Samantha Fox, had the most famous chest in the Commonwealth. She was short in the vertical plane but curved attractively in the direction of forwards. I mention her here because I have never written anything about her before and I’m unlikely to write about her again. This should please her.
These days I run a website design and general editorial business although I am hopelessly stupid about the way computers work. Software, sure; hardware, where’s the Valium? When I’m not inventing ways to avoid doing work, I spend much time finding ways not to meet deadlines for writing and editing. My wife, Lynn, thinks I’m slaving away when I’m actually listening to Porcupine Tree (which is a band, not a hybrid thingy).
My hobbies are talking twaddle, trying to keep up with quantum physics, listening to gigabytes of music and writing idiotic nonsense.
My best recent claim to anything was winning two categories in the worldwide 2006 Bulwer-Lytton competition in which the aim was to compose the worst possible opening sentence of an imaginary terrible novel. On the strength of that performance I have declared myself the worst writer on the African continent. (My two winning entries are at the end of this inordinately long intro.)
In the dim, dark past I chose to become a journalist because somebody told me if you do really well and please your editor, he'll give you a pet monkey that will type forever until it's produced all the works of Shakespeare. I can't have been a very good journalist — I still don't have a pet monkey. Maybe this is just as well; I’d rather have a lemur that plays the banjo.
I am as unqualified to discuss politics as Bono and Sting are, so like them I don’t do it. No, wait, they do! How can we stop them?
My obsession with Renée Zellweger came about because I've always had a thing for tall, voluptuous German girls, so it was inevitable that I’d fall for Renée Zellweger. By the time I found out she was a short, skinny American of Swiss extraction I'd already committed to her.
I suppose the best way for me to understand myself is to consider the people who have influenced me the most.
Ludwig von Beethoven: In a previous life I sat with the Master in Vienna to bask in his genius. Unfortunately I didn't learn much because he was deaf and I don't speak German. I also didn't watch him compose his music because I arrived at lunchtime. We had peanut butter sandwiches.
He did tell me, through an Austrian interpreter, that he had seen into the future and liked the hairstyles that the men in Abba wore in the 1970s. He declined to comment on Abba's music. He couldn't — he was deaf! Weren't you listening?
Beethoven wrote the best music ever created by mortals. He was a nifty disco dancer, too.
He had a pet hamster named Bismarck. Decades later the united German people named their emperor after Ludwig's rodent.
Albert Einstein: Oh, how I laughed and laughed the first time I read his Special Theory! Here I'd grown up believing he played the cello, when it was actually the violin! My, what a silly mistake!
But enough of serious matters. With his Special and General Theories of Relativity, Einstein opened my mind to the wonders of the Universe. My mind had been shut tight, tight. As a child I was too stubborn to accept Einstein's explanation of the photo-electric effect as a manifestation of quantum mechanics in action. I might have done if I had known what "manifestation" meant. Or "quantum". Or "action" — I wasn't very athletic.
Einstein could ride a bicycle, practise on his violin and play tennis at the same time. He could drop-volley better than Winston Churchill's mother.
Robert Heinlein: I was in my early twenties when I discovered Heinlein and received enlightenment — science fiction could be much more than a mere diversion. In Heinlein's hands it became a sublime art form adorned with his literary masterpieces. Time Enough For Love remains one of the best and most moving novels I have read. Sci-Fi is still my favourite type of fiction.
Besides demonstrating that you don't have to be superbly handsome to achieve success, Mr Heinlein taught the world another invaluable lesson that too few of us, sadly, have learnt. It is that a writer can have 26 cats and they can all sleep on his bed.
Richard Feynman: After Einstein, or maybe even in parallel with him, Feynman was the greatest genius of the 20th century. He did more than Yoko Ono, Noddy and Big Ears, Walt Disney and Boney M to reveal the deep and intricate workings of the Universe. He was so clever at explaining quantum physics that some physicists could understand what he was saying. Others couldn't because he had a typically nasal Bronx accent.
His crowning achievement, Quantum Electrodynamics (QED), makes Fifth Grade arithmetic look easy. QED is the most accurately predictive of all sciences. It made possible the wonders of our present time, including computers that crash when they run Windows, CDs by Usher, digital TV broadcasts of Survivor and laser guns that will never be as effective — c'mon, really! — as a 12-gauge shotgun at close quarters.
Isaac Newton: The greatest scientist of the last 400 years was also the worst alchemist in history. This is hardly surprising since no alchemist had anything but absolute zero success in turning ordinary metals into gold or discovering the Philosopher's Stone that would endow eternal life. Harry Potter did a better job.
Harry Potter, however, didn't formulate the guiding laws of optics, kinetics and non-relativistic gravity. Then again, Harry Potter knows Hermione Grainger, a little girl whose hair is MUCH bigger than Isaac Newton's.
Professor Stephen Hawking holds the Lucasian Chair in Mathematics at Cambridge University, the same professorship that Newton once held. But they have different hairdressers.
If Newton was the world’s worst alchemist, I would like to believe I am the worst monkey-wrangler. I have never wrangled even one monkey. That is a shocking record.
The last important thing I want to say in this lengthy self-description is that I am wary of turtles with sea-rabies. If such a disease exists it must be scary.
Winning Bulwer-Lytton entry: Science Fiction
"Send a message back to Command Central on Earth and ask for their advice, which we will be able receive immediately even at this great distance, thanks to the ingenious manipulation of coherent radiation through a Bose-Einstein condensate and the bizarre influence of the Aspect effect, which enables us to impart identical properties to remotely separated photons," Captain Buzz told the feathered Vjorkog at the comms desk, "and tell them our life-pod is going to explode in eight seconds."
Winning entry: Historical Fiction
While Hector and the heroes of Troy trembled behind the ramparts as cowboys below the walls raced up and down the beach, six-guns blazing and cries of "yee-hah!" filling the air, other cowboys across the sea were labouring gamely but in vain to throw a palisade around Wichita, Kansas, thereby adding veracity to the old homily of history that it is easier to cow a fortified city than to fortify a cow city.