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Christmas Letter 2004

Dear Friends and Family...

It's been a big year of change, so we thought we'd update you a little on what has been happening at Chaos Central. Hopefully we'll get to talk with each of you over the coming year as things start to settle down and catch up with what's going on in your lives too.

Hal & Dee

The biggest news of the year is that Hal and Dee were married in May, on the third anniversary of first meeting in person. After a few years of jumping through every hoop the immigration authorities could find for us, we managed to legally slip rings on each other's fingers and are living happily at Chaos Central.

For those of you who only know one of us at present, we'd be glad to introduce you to the other along with the rest of our unique household.


Hal C F Astell has spent much of his year in limbo.

In May he happily left the rain of Yorkshire, England, for the sunny climes of Phoenix, Arizona, after the long and tedious process of acquiring a fiance visa. Once he had finally satisfied the immigration authorities that he wasn't an international drug dealer, an obscure terrorist or an octogenarian Nazi war criminal, the paperwork fell into place. Unfortunately while the Bureau of Homeland Security happily let him into the country, it wouldn't let him work for six months until he received explicit permission to do so. Finally that arrived in October and Hal is now working on a temporary basis for the City of Phoenix, hoping for a transition soon into permanent work for their IT department.

Hal still doesn't have access to any of his stuff from England and thus is working with a severely limited wardrobe and is unable to cook a Christmas pudding this year, but is still smiling while adjusting to life in a busy household. He misses his network server and a broadband Internet connection passionately but he has Turner Classic Movies to make up for it a little.

To fill some of his time during this long period of limbo, he has been working on a book. As yet untitled, it is an exploration of film history focusing especially on the Top 250 List at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Part film guide, part diary and part travelogue, it has introduced this so-called film fan to a whole slew of actors and directors that he had no excuse for not knowing about all along. He has 50,000 words under his belt already but is less than a quarter of the way through as yet.

Hal has also achieved the dubious distinction of becoming a 'Grandpa' while never going through the stage of being a 'Dad'. This realisation still stuns him and he wonders if his birth certificate makes him out to be younger than he really is.


Denise Astell (formerly Flanders) has spent her year working as a chauffeur, a babysitter and a mediator: all unpaid jobs, naturally.

She drives everyone in the household to work or school or wherever else they feel they have to be at any particular point in time, while looking after her grandbaby three days a week. In her spare time she has managed to perfect the art of juggling two households, as her mother ValJean is in a long term care home and George, her long-term significant other, passed away in August.

She has continued her association online with The Site Fights, under her alter ego of D'FlutterFairy. While she hasn't competed herself since the first half of the year, she remains active as a goodwill fairy. She also runs a number of cartoon doll shops online, and their popularity accounts for a scary percentage of web traffic through Hal's domain. You can find them, amongst many other things, at her website, which lives in a state of perpetual welcome at http://www.wickedwinks.com/.

She is also suffering politely through Hal's book project by watching each of the 250 films alongside him. In doing so, she has proved that she can keep her attention through 1920s silent movies from Denmark by way of France, and her composure during the more shocking segments of 1990s drug culture films. In payment for this behaviour which is entirely above and beyond the call of duty, she is happily read to sleep every night by her husband from the tales of Slippery Jim diGriz.

She hopes to find time and opportunity, once things have settled down to some semblance of stability, to get out to visit friends and family who she hasn't seen in far too long. Time and opportunity may well have been with her once upon a time, but she can't remember that far back. She is counting on both to return to Chaos Central during 2005.


Heather Flanders will turn twenty next month. She graduated from high school in 2003 and is currently working three days a week for the family firm, Flanders Glass. None of this is of course important at all compared to what she got up to in April.

She gave birth to Ivy Ceridwen Chapman on 18th April, 2004.


Ivy is a large baby who doesn't know her own strength. Amazingly enough given her environment, she has proved to be happy and well-adjusted to life in Chaos Central. However, given her early propensity towards the sort of looks we usually only see on the faces of villains in James Bond movies, she is generally known to her nearest and dearest as UberBaby. No doubt, she will conquer the world one day, accompanied only by a white cat who she will stroke softly while filling the air with maniacal laughter.

It should be pointed out that such behaviour does not and will not affect her being the apple of her grandma's eye.


Michael Flanders turned seventeen this month, and he is doing so well at school that he hopes to graduate at the end of this school year. All his grades are high but he has demonstrated an especially powerful ability in drama.

Only last month he was by far the best thing in a well received school production. Not only did he feature in many skits, but he wrote a good proportion of them too. We all knew he could act anyway but the writing, easily of a professional standard, was a pleasant surprise. The boy has talent! The whole thing closed on a high note with a hilarious improvisation duel between Michael and his drama teacher, Mr Solomon. His rendition of Alice Cooper's 'No More Mister Nice Guy' in the style of William Shatner deserved a Tony award all on its own, even though it went over the head of most of the audience. We're all very much looking forward to his next performance.


To prove that life hurtles past us far too fast, Shawn is now thirteen years old and is getting ready to start high school in 2005.

School is still a struggle for him, but he has learned more so far this year than in all of his previous years put together. He is working hard on his reading and writing, both at school and at home, and that work is paying off.

Shawn is still obsessed by wrestling and none of us would be surprised to see a WWE championship belt around his waist sometime in the next ten or twenty years.

The Ladies

Pern, Hal's cat who looks uncannily like Groucho Marx, has adapted amazingly well to life in an entirely different environment to what she has been used to. She is learning to be around people and other animals, and after six months in Chaos Central, she's settled down wonderfully. She flew over from England on the same flights as Hal, on tickets that cost more than his. It was an especially harrowing flight given that after almost twenty-four hours of travel time, she was misplaced at Sky Harbor airport.

Catzilla is a twenty pound monster cat who Dee acquired through a foster kitty program. Her name, chosen by Shawn, is entirely appropriate. We fear for the city.

Nicky is the grand old lady canine of the household, aging gracefully into her second decade.


We look forward to hearing from you in the future and hope that you'll look forward to hearing from us too. In case you don't have our current contact details, here they are:

Hal - hal@dawtrina.com
Dee - dee@wickedwinks.com
Michael - fuzznubb@aol.com

Hal - http://www.dawtrina.com/
Dee - http://www.wickedwinks.com/

From all of us at Chaos Central, we hope you're enjoying a Merry Christmas already and that it will soon be followed by a very Happy New Year.

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