Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Non-Christmassy Christmas Stuff

Well, I'm going away tomorrow, and there's much stuff I've failed to put up that I said I would before Christmas. If you're taking time out from your Christmas experience to read this, here's 12 links I think you might enjoy while waiting for me to come back and be told off for not writing things I was going to.

1. A Gallery of Bad Album Covers. Bonus: Volume 2

2. Warning Signs from the Future.

3. Wikipedia's Lamest Edit Wars page (on Wikipedia).

4. Especially for Jim: Wikipedia's Fictional Chemical Substances (A-M). Bonus: N-Z.

5. An expecially funny 70s Star Wars parody that's a Spiderman comic. What? Didn't you realise that Darth Vader really is Dr Doom?

6. Another one for Jim: Make your own hat!

7. 10 most Dangerous Toys of all time.

8. Something actually Christmassy - A Christmas Tree Decoration Competition.

9. The How to Destroy the Earth webpage (this isn't the people who put a button on your desktop which tells you when the Earth is destroyed, although this site links to them.)

10. What Google Thinks of You (and other people, places, times and thngs).

11. Turducken Recipe (this is like the young mans Coq au Trice; following the scheme here, his would have been Turpheasridge I guess.) Includes step-by-step photos of how to debone a turkey, something I've often wanted to see.

12. And finally Movie Posters Redrawn as Medieval Russian Illuminated Manuscripts. As this site is in Russian, it makes a great "guess the film" game.

And one last thing: Recipe for Fish on a Stick.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Coq Au Trice

Well, the story here is pretty self explanatory; First is an email from me to my brother, then my brother's reply.

First Email:
I'm sure you'll be amused to know someone turned up on my blog, looking for Coq au Trice on google (It's no 2! It's the only one if you put quotes around it).

I must put the recipe, or a report up, to make my blog the no 1 sauce of information on Coq Au Trice on the internet. (Or better yet get lots of people to link to it, as that's one of the things the googlebot measures).


Second Email:

Coq au trice.
Aka 3 bird multi bird roast.

Ingredients.

3 Coc's. Various sizes.
Sausage meat.
Breadcrumbs.
Herbs and
that.
Bacon.
String.


Get your mate Nick's local Butcher to tunnel bone some birds. We used a partridge, a pheasant and a turkey*. Remove the skin and limbs of the smaller birds and use for stock/nibbles. Mix the breadcrumbs, sausage, herbs and that together to make stuffing. Lay out the biggest bird and smear the inside with the stuffing. Put
the next largest inside and open and put stuffing on that. Put in the smallest bird. Pull together and find that you cannot tie the turkey up with the string. Remove some of the stuffing and then tie it up. Stick bacon on any exposed skin.

Roast for a long time. Baste when ever possible.

As the legs and wings are still on the turkey it should look a bit like a turkey but instead of bones in side it has 2 other birds making it easy to carve and to impress.


* Please note that you will need 4 birds for a 4 bird multi roast, 5 for a 5 bird multi roast, 6 for a.... you get the picture. I would suggest only using a fatty bird like goose or duck on the outside.

Other varieties are the individual starter coc au trice using hummingbird, Robin and thrush.

Or the often forgotten 18th century recipe using Dodo, Moa and Giant Moa stuffed with Breadfruit. You can get the ingredients at specialist shops and some supermarkets.

I hope that your blog becomes the world centre of knowledge of c.o.t. and any help you need I will provide.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Films to watch out for over Christmas

Every Christmas, I send out emails with films I claim will be on over the period. In every case, they sound like films you might have heard of, but involve my friend Stan. Anyway, here's a quick recap:


The Lord of the Stans - The Fellowship of the Stan

Jimbo Baggins inherits a magic Stan on his 30th birthday. The wizard Annedalf determines that this is the one Stan, the most powerful and desirable object in middle earth. A fellowship is formed to deal with Stan in some way. Several exciting fight scenes ensue.


The Lord of the Stans - The Two Stans

The fellowship discover that Saruman has cloned Stan. They split up to try and deal with both at once. Several exciting battle scenes ensue.


The Lord of the Stans - The Return of the Stan

More exciting battles as the fate of middle earth is in the balance. Eventually Stan turns up to sort it out. Then the film goes on for about another half hour or so.


Stanman

By day, shy retiring computer technician Chris Roberts fights for truth and justice by solving technical problems, but by night he becomes millionaire playboy Stan.


The Good, The Bad and Stan

Stan does a Mexican accent for a couple of hours. Eventually someone shoots him.


The Usual Stan

Stan lies through his arse for about 2 hours after being fitted up for a crime.


The Stankillers

A motley group of criminals fail to kill Stan.


Stan's baby

Stan becomes pregnant with the antichrist. Again.


Stan's A series of unfortunate events

Stan goes on a pub crawl.


Gone with the Stan

Frankly, no one gives a damn by this stage.


"Get Stan"

Stan does a Micheal Caine impression for about 2 hours, until eventually someone shoots him.


"Being Stan Malkovich"

Stan works on platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross, until one day he disappears up his own passage.


"Stanablanca" - Stan fights the Nazis while doing a Humphrey Bogart impression. Eventually Igrid[1] Bergman leaves him.


"Breakfast at Stan's"

Stan has breakfast with Audrey Hepburn.


"The Stan who fell to Earth"

Stan does a David Bowie impression. Eventually someone trips him over.


Stan Wars I: The Phantom Stan

Stanakin is a small child with bad hair who turns out to be extraordinarily gifted in the Force. Despite this, it takes really quite a lot of people being killed for the Jedi order to train him. Stan also flys like the very devil himself.


Stan Wars II: Attack of the Stan

Due to some unclear political chicanary, Stanakin, now an adolescent, finds himself at the centre of a plot to tear the Galactic Republic apart in civil war. But worse still, he fancies a girl who treats him like a small child! Anyway, a long and spectacular battle sequence ensues, although Stanakin doesn't get to show off his piloting.


Stan Wars III: Revenge of the Stan

An opening sequence allows Stanakin to show off his piloting once more. But then he's forced to hang around being morose and broody as more politics happens. Boooring. Eventually he turns to the Dark Side, for more reasons than you can shake a stick at. Fairly swiftly he's forced to wear a big black hat, while the other characters do a lot of things that don't really make a lot of sense, except that the setup of Episode IV wasn't all that well thought out to begin with.


Episode IV: A New Stan

Luke Stanwalker, Stanakin's son, heads off into space to try and rescue a princess. He gets to show off his piloting skills, and oh boy! You think Stanakin could fly? Stanwalker is definitely the dogs bollocks. He and Stanakin, now Darth Stanner, dogfight in a chasm on the Death Stan. The Death Stan blows up. Darth Stanner is sent spinning out into space.


Episode V: The Empire Strikes Stan

Luke Stanwalker gets plenty of piloting in at the start of the film. However, it's clear that without the force, he'll never fly as well as Darth Stanner, plus, there's always the possibility that he won't meet him in deep space, and instead have to use the light saber or all those other Jedi tricks. Just as Yoda's non-training is about to take effect, Luke flys off to rescue a princess, who's Luke's sister. Darth Stanner has got her again! Anyway, Luke foolishly doesn't try any clever flying tricks, but goes saber to saber. Stanner reveals that he's Stanwalker's father! Luke is so suprised, his hand falls off.


Episode VI: The Return of the Stan

See The Lord of the Stans - The Return of the Stan, but with more piloting.

[1] Or maybe Ingmar Bergman

12 Days of Christmas Script Page 5

Page 5 - 3 tiers, 1st tier 2 panels, 2nd tier 1 panel, 3rd tier 2 panels

1st Tier - Panel 1

STAN is sitting on a chair. He's tied on, and in the nip, although shadows prevent us from seeing anything we wouldn't want to. The silhouette of CARDINAL REICHSTAG can be seen holding a piece of knotted rope. This really wants to be a Frank Miller style frame, but whatever you can draw will do.

CARDINAL: I expect you're wondering what's going on.

STAN: Since this chair has no seat, there's only two possibilities. Either I've been elected Pope, or you're going to beat me around my parts with that rope.


Panel 2

As above, but the CARDINAL is swinging the rope.

CARDINAL: Actually, it's both.


2nd Tier - Panel 3

The Bogcave - except there are now many members of staff, JIM, BEN, AUZ, Ben's sprogs etc. working in here. At one end the World Crisis Monitor has lit up. STAN can be seen, dressed as the pope, but looking in pain, maybe bent over, maybe being held up by two members of the Swiss Guard. Just in case noone gets what's going on, the words "STAN ELECTED POPE" are on the screen.

No dialogue.


3rd Tier - Panel 4

We zoom in on JIM who has become aware of the report on the World Crisis Monitor. He looks unhappy. BEN has come over to him.

BEN: Don't worry. That Stan may now have diplomatic immunity as head of state, but there's still 159,999 we can get at.

JIM: Stan... Pope... But that means...


Panel 5

Close up on JIM.

JIM: ...Stan is infallible!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Words!

Boris came up with a new word on Saturday night. (Here's Boris, dressed as a pirate). The word was "Alchofrolic", The mystery is, how a word of such obvious utility has never been invented before!

Or so I thought. However, a google search shows One (1) previous use of this word on the internet. Still, it beats my word, ambigamous, which has been used 5 times.

Lamb Shanks

After being given 2 lamb shanks and a handful of vegetables on Friday, I checked out Good Housekeeping Cook's Book, a book that tells you everything you need to know before you start following a recipe. It noted that Lamb Shanks would normally be braised for 3 hours. The page on braising suggested that, after browning, the meat should be put on a bed of aromatic vegetables (called a mirepoix if you're feeling posh, or are actually using onions, carrots and celery in the proportion 2:1:1) and some stock and/or other liquid poured in. So here's what I did:

2 Lamb Shanks
2 Medium or 1 Large Onion roughly chopped (as might be imagined, I actually used one medium and half a leftover large onion)
2 or 3 Stalks of Celery, roughly chopped
2 or 3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled
a Fistful of Rosemary
Half a Lamb Stockcube
Olive Oil
Salt, Pepper to taste

Brown the shanks in a large casserole in a little Olive Oil. Put to one side; we're going to be quick so they don't need to be kept warm. Throw the Onion, Celery and Garlic into the casserole and cook on a high heat for just long enough for the kettle to boil. Make up some stock with the half Stockcube and the water from the kettle. Stir the vegetables, add a little Salt, a generous amount of Pepper and the Rosemary, then add the stock, making sure it doesn't cover the vegetables. Put the Shanks back into the casserole and turn the heat down. Put the lid on and leave for 3 hours. You can make a cup of tea with the hot water left in the kettle if you want.

After three hours, check the meat. It should be cooked, and nearly falling off the bone. Put the shanks to one side (keep them warm this time), bring the liquid to the boil and reduce. Then use a hand held whizzy thing, or a food processor, or you can do that thing with a sieve and a spoon they used to do before electric appliances came along; anyway, purée the vegetables and stock. It makes a nice sauce for the shanks; it's a little dull grey-looking, and tastes of garlic and rosemary; if these turn you off, maybe a touch of wine in the casserole after browning the meat three hours before would work, or you can use your favourite lamb flavourings.

Friday, December 08, 2006

If Dale Brown wrote romances, this is not what would happen.

Dale Brown[1], Technothriller author doesn't write romances. That this came up in an online conversation is entirely my fault. (The recurring theme of Dinosaurs and Sodomy on that page is an injoke which is explained fully here).

I'm not Dale Brown, I don't write Technothrillers, and I don't write Romances. So what follows is also entirely my fault...


It was a starlit night at HAWC, the High-technology Aerospace Weapons Centre[2] in Southern Nevada. As he walked into the hanger USAF Lt Col Patrick Maclanahan[3] looked up into the sky. That was wjere the trim, sandyhaired officer wanted to be; flying in a cutting edge jet rather than managing research projects on the ground.

Everyone else had left for the night, but Maclanahan was determined to sort out the bugs in the weapons system submenu. He climbed into the darkened B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and retrieved the troublesome electronic box, intending to tinker with the display. Just as he got the box hooked up to diagnostics, the phone rang.

"Hello? Oh hello General. No, I'm the only one here... the security system is off? Several checkpoints appear to be unmanned? No one released the dogs this evening..." He paused, abruptly distracted by a shapely woman's leg propped up on the crew ladder of the aircraft in front of him[4].

"Sorry General, can I get back to you?" Without waiting for an answer he hung up.

"Patrick! There you are," said Wendy Tork. "What are you doing here? Is there anything wrong?"

Maclanahan showed her the box. "I've been trying to get this to work all day. The weapons submenus consistently choose the wrong weapon parameters for the loadout."

[For my own reasons I've chosen not to write the page and a half explaining how the Multi Function Display is supposed to integrate the onboard radar and IR, as well as external satellite, radar and other information sources along with GPS and inertial guidance with the currently available weapons as well as the current threat and mission parameters to offer the optimum selection(s) of weapon choices.]

"....but it doesn't recognise which weapon is in each position in the CSRL, so it might launch a SLAM as though it were a SDB or vice versa, with an obvious reduction in effectiveness[5]."

"Patrick, that's not important now though, is it? I mean, what are the odds that terrorists or foreign agents are going to break into this highly secure and isolated airbase, forcing us to escape in an experimental bomber, then discover that we're the only ones in a position to make an attack against an immediate threat to world peace?[6]"

"Pretty slim, I guess," said Maclanahan, "but you did ask what's wrong."

"No Patrick," said Wendy, "I meant is there something wrong with you? You've seemed so distant. Is it... is there someone else?"

Patrick looked at her. How could he be so blind? Ignoring the brief flutter of guilt, he took her in his arms and kissed her.

"Wendy, I could never love another... woman..."

As his voice stuttered his eyes flicked up involuntarily to the where the dark nose of his specially modified B-52 stared down at him reproachfully... [7]


[1] Dale Brown in not Dan Brown.
[2] HAWC is also known as Dreamland and Area 51 in Dale Brown's novels.
[3] Maclanahan appears in many of Dale Brown's novels and has his own wikipedia page.
[4] I stole the shapely woman's leg line directly out of Hammerheads.
[5] All real acronyms: CSRL is Common Strategic Rotary Launcher; SLAM is Standoff Land Attack Missile; SDB is Small Diameter Bomb.
[6] This is a rather flippant description of the plot of Flight of the Old Dog.
[7] In my mind this is an inside out and warped version of a joke from Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's chest:
Elizabeth: I'm here to find the man I love!
Jack Sparrow: I'm deeply flattered, lad, but my first and only love is the sea.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sailing the West Indies

As some of you know, my friend Bella is getting married in the British Virgin Islands this weekend. As some of you have noticed, Stan and I have been a bit elusive for the past few days. I can now reveal that these two facts are connected!

Stan and I have been sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, to make an unexpected and probably unwelcome appearance at Bella's wedding. In case anyone doubts this obviously true and accurate tale, here are a few photos.



There we are, about to set off, on a damp day in Falmouth.





The immensity of the ocean. This can get pretty dull after a while, so I'll skip onwards to...


Landfall! Stan thought we were at Antigua, and it turns out we were.


This guy got far too close. We had a good mind to report him to...


The cops! "Now that's what I call a police boat!" said Stan.


We took the afternoon off to relax on the beach...


(Stan may have got a touch too much sun!)


Now Stan, where did you leave the boat?


Stan! What's happened to our boat!


Eventually we found it (actually we'd been drinking rum and ginger beer for the last 4 hours).


And here's the crew, who are all sober enough to set off at first light...


Or maybe a little earlier than that!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blogging about Star Wars, which has never been done before anywhere on the interweb, ever.

After watching Barbarella on Saturday and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones last night I'm intrigued to note a parallel in the most fantastic of each films premises; the politics[1].

The Galactic Republic (Star Wars) has no standing army, but relies on the Jedi to keep the peace (with, it appears, the co-operation of local security forces; the Jedi's skills and leadership act as a force-multiplier).

The President of Earth and rotating Premier of the Sun System (Barbarella) has no armies or police and can't spare the Presidential Band[2], so send Barbarella, a triple-A star navigatrix.

These are both Western and, more generally, Adventure storylines - lone gunslinger has to pacify the town as there's no-one within a hundred miles to back them up - in one case filtered through George Lucas' superior imagination, and in the other, through a french comic book.

(George Lucas wouldn't make Barbarella, and, even if he did, it would probably be terrible. But if it did work...)



[1] That the most fantastic thing in each film is the politics is already a paralell. Good lord, they're practically the same film!
[2] Considering the seriousness of the situation, perhaps he should have tried doing without the band for a few days, but that's just my opinion.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dream Diary 7

I was in a house with some friends. It's a summers day and the garden is a patio with bright flowers. The church behind the house caught fire, and burning debris kept drifting into the garden and onto the house. We had to run around putting out the fires, but our conversation was an important one, so we kept talking while we did so. I don't remember what the conversation was about.

(I recognised the church when I woke up; it was one I saw on TV, on Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. It's St Margarets in Kings Lynn).

More adventures in the 21st century

It's not that C21 to have a film based on a comic book.

It's not C21 to have a film based on the battle of Thermopylae.

It's not even C21 to have a Frank Miller comic book based on the battle of Thermopylae.

But it's a little furture-shock-wierd to have a film based on a comic book based on the battle of Thermopylae. [1]

(It must be the same future where Dave Cockrum, best known for drawing making the X-Men successful gets most of a page for his obituary in the Independent)


[1] Due to the wierdness of Hollywood (and as this post notes that wierdness is understandable and, indeed, sometimes a good thing) the time between wrapping a film and it's release is a good time for those involved to pitch their next projects(s). The director, has Zack Snyder attached himself to Watchmen, which is a film that really should have been made in the 20th Century.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

12 Days of Christmas Script Page 4

Page 4 - 3 tiers, 2 panels on tiers 1 and 2, 1 panel for tier 3

Tier 1 - Panel 1

JIM and AUZ are in an office of some sort.

JIM: Auz, there could be a rampaging horde of over a 100,000 Stan clones attacking at any moment. I need to know what we have in the arsenal to deal with them.

AUZ: The Anti-Stan department has made many improvements recently. Let's see what's available...


Panel 2

There's a whole assortment of things on a table here - Guinness, bike clips, hairbrush, glasses, anything else associated with Stan

AUZ (off panel): Well, we've got badly adjusted specs, the hairbrush of entrapment, a really slow internet connection, a bike that's a bit wonky, Guinness laced with laxitives...


Tier 2 Panel 3

JIM and AUZ are staring at the table.

JIM: All these would inconvenience Stan, I agree. But to scale up to over 100,000 Stan's we're going to need super powers.

AUZ: If you'll come through here...


Panel 4

JIM and AUZ are looking at a toilet.

JIM: It's a loo.

AUZ: Not just any loo. If you step in and pull the chain, you end up in out secret super-headquarters...


Tier 3 Panel 5

It's like the batcave but with more pipes, and the batmobile looks like a giant toilet.

AUZ (off panel): THE BOGCAVE!

Parental identification of comic book movies

While watching Batman (1989):

Mum (entering the room and seeing a newspaper on screen): Gotham Globe? Are you watching Superman? [1]

--

While watching Sin City (2005):

Dad (entering the room and listening to the dialogue): Mike Hammer?[2]

--

But all this talk of comic nooks leads us on to the next post...


[1] But, oh so close. In the films, Gotham City is not as explictly New York as Metropolis is in Superman (1978), but both cities are so obviously New York that the mistake is entirely understandable. Or at least it would be if Mum ever actually watched these sort of films.

[2] This is a much more subtle mistake, because Sin City is indeed derivative of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Not that this is a bad thing; James Bond and Dirty Harry also owe much to Mike Hammer. Also Frank Miller has (apparently) drawn on other 40s crime-noir; it's just no-one remembers anyone but Mike hammer (including me, of course).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mincemeat

Today I've been making mincemeat! We use an old family recipe[1], which I've here made comprehensible by adding the bits that only our family understand without having them written down in red.

1/2 lb Brown Sugar
1/2 lb Currants
1/2 lb stoned raisins (in total 1 lb of currants, raisins and sultanas, in whatever proportion is in the cupboard, is what we use, and have done for as long as I can remember)
1/2 lb Bramley Apples, peeled and cored
2 lemons, grated rind, juice strained.
1/2 tsp mixed spice
6 oz suet
6 oz mixed peel
2 oz Blanched Almonds
Plonk to moisten (I used approx 1/2 wineglass each of rum and brandy. The plonk isn't in the original list of ingredients, but appears at the end of the recipe)

Mince: Raisins, peel, almonds, apples. Mix with rest.
Add plonk to moisten.

Here the original recipe ends. For completeness, seal in a big jar with greaseproof paper and a rubber band and leave to improve for a week or two.



[1] "I think this was my Mum's, as it's not too sweet," says my Mum. Oddly enough, it isn't too sweet.

Fish Stories

Among my brother's upcoming plans are going to Bury St Edmonds to cook Coq au trice. Naturally, this ought to lead into a post on the question that's been bothering us for some time at Night of the Hats - namely is a cockatrice a dragon?

For a variety of reasons, I'm not going to open that can of worms. Instead I have a story which may be a Kyoto folktale, or may have been made up by Gregory Benford for his novel Sunborn. The reason I'm not sure is the very perfection of the zen-punchline; usually I'm either slightly disappointed or completely fail to get the point of zen koans. Anyway:

Two men were watching a beautiful pool and the koi fish that swam just below its calm, clear surface.
'The fish are happy,' said one man.
The other asked, 'How can you possibly know?'
'How can you know if I know?'
'How can you know I cannot?'
'That is not the point,' said the fish.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

12 Days of Christmas Script Page 3

Page 3 - 3 tiers, 1st of 2 panels, 2nd of 3 panels, 3rd of 2 panels


1st Tier - Panel 1

Completely black panel with speech bubbles

DAVE: I guess we've been sent to the spice mines of Kessel as a punishment. I can't see any Stan-clones anywhere. In fact I can't see anything.

ANNE: Maybe if you lifted your visor.


Panel 2

It's a desert scene, maybe Arakis, maybe Tatooine, who knows. DAVE is wearing some sort of desert gear with a ludicrous helmet. With him is, I don't know, let's say ANNE , similarily in desert gear. They're on top of a hill, or dune, or something to give us a panoramic view. Anne is looking through some sort of high tech telescope.

DAVE: I know why I've been sent here, but why did you get this assignment?

ANNE: It's a long story.

DAVE: I'm not going anywhere.


2nd Tier - this is a flashback, so maybe some wobbly panel borders, or a black background - no scrap the black background, we've got an all black panel on the top row, and that'll get all mixed up.

Panel 3

MORPHEUS is holding out two pills.

MORPHEUS: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and you believe whatever you want to believe.


Panel 4

The pills are reflected in MORPHEUS' glasses.

MORPHEUS: You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.


Panel 5

The pills are now in Anne's hands (this could be replaced with what actually happens in the film, or maybe even screenshots.)

MORPHEUS: Remember that all I am offering is the truth. Nothing more.


3rd Tier - and we're back in real time

Panel 6

Back on top of the dune. Exactly the same shot as panel 2. Anne is looking out and really far back in the top right hand of the frame is some dust... is that someone on a bike causing the dustcloud?

DAVE: So what did you do?

MORPHEUS (off panel): Anne...


Panel 7

Now the shot has shifted to one side. ANNE is racing down the dune towards some sort of desert buggy at the base of it, with Stan behind her. It's clear that the dustcloud IS coming from a guy on a bike. Morpheus is on top of the dune, holding out two pills.

ANNE: Quick - it's Stan! Or a clone! Or a robot double! Anyway, it's up to no good!

MORPHEUS: Anne - everything begins with choice. But until you choose, this subplot is going nowhere.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What I did on my holidays

I've been away for a couple of days in sunny[1] Broadstairs and will recap on what happened for anyone joining us late:

1. Our pub quiz team, The Basking Sharks won by 9 clear points! Out of 14 teams!

Sadly the prize money was only £80, rather than the £100 it has been up until recently. Fortunately, Jim's plan of distributing some correct-use-of-apostrophe literature went wrong, so we still have a good chance of not being barred next time we go.

2. I apparently was nearly killed by a plastic bag, but fortunately was saved by Meg, a cat, who tackled it and coincidentally woke me up far too early.

3. I was Anne's assisstant for the day.

4. I went and saw Casino Royale; Daniel Craig does some real acting, placing him ahead of Moore and Lazenby before we even start. Somebody went back and read the books[2]. They brought in the brutality and kinetic violence of the books and put it on screen (yes, yes you've heard that before from a Bond film. But this time, really). And...

If there's an iconic moment from the films, it's in Goldfinger when Connery gets out of the water takes off a wetsuit with a seabird on top to reveal an immaculate white tuxedo. If there's a similarily iconic moment from the books, it's in Casino Royale and it's one that reveals that Bond is tough, not because he's indestructible (as is the case in the previous films), but because he can take a tremendous amount of damage. Which explains why I'm pleased in some ways to have finally seen the scene in which Bond is tortured by having his tackle hit repeatedly.

5. Then we went back and saw the 1967 Casino Royale which to me now seems to be a dream of a Bond movie, rather than a parody of a Bond Movie.

[1] also rainy Broadstairs
[2] not for the first time in the Bond franchise, either. The intruiging thing is that everytime they go back to the books, they find something new

12 Days of Christmas Script Page 2

Page 2 - 3 tiers, top and bottom of 2 panels, middle one of one panel

Panel 1 - ZEB is addressing a darkened room full of mysterious figures.

Caption: At that moment...

ZEB: Thank you for seeing me at such short notice Gentlemen. I'm sure you know that I wouldn't disturb your Christmas for trivial problems.

ZEB: As you are no doubt aware, I have dispatched Stan into the french countryside with a pig to find some truffles. This was a ruse to allow us to meet without arousing his suspicions.


Panel 2 - Really close up zoom of ZEB's face, showing his doubt, fear and resolve, or maybe just a neutral expression, depending on how well you can draw.

ZEB: I have reason to believe that Stan has been cloned and that even now, over 160,000 Stans have been released into the global population.

AUDIENCE: Gasp!

AUDIENCE: Shock!

AUDIENCE: Mr Schnee!

ZEB: First Slide please.


2nd tier - Panel 3

A montage of several different Stans doing various things from previous cartoons, along with things other people have done e.g:

STAN: Lads, I've been sick but I don't know where.

STAN: Someone's vandalised my bike?

STAN: We call it 'the glove'.

STAN: Leave your bigotry in your quarters mister - there's no room for it on the bridge.

STAN: Hey Dave! We're caught in a time loop!

STAN: Too Dangerous!

etc.

Caption: Artists' impression


3rd Tier - Panel 4

ZEB behind a podium, with a picture of 87 STANs simultaneously falling over while carrying a tray of drinks behind him.

ZEB: I think we can all see how serious this situation will become if left unchecked. Are there any questions?

DAVE [off frame}: Yes.


Panel 5

Close up on DAVE

DAVE: Does anyone know where the toilets are? I didn't see on the way in?

12 Days of Christmas Script Page 1

This year I'm going to script the 12 days of Christmas cartoon, here, live on the internet. If anyone feels like drawing any of it, feel free, and when I find it looks better than mine it will be incorporated into the final cartoon. If you don't want to put speech bubbles in, don't and the magic of computer image-enhancement will take care of it!

Page 1

6 panels, in three tiers.

Panel 1 - Titles - 12 Days of Christmas 2006. A Cartoon. By [names]. This cartoon contains scenes of poor plotting, characterisation and artwork, and consequently should not be shown to small children or people with a nervous disposition.

Panel 2 - STAN is riding a pig named GERTRUDE down a path through a forest.

Stan: Faster Gertrude, faster!

Stan: We can't let Captain Smug and the USS Hare beat us!

2nd tier - Panel 3 - On board the USS HARE. CAPTAIN SMUG and FIRST OFFICER SPONG are looking at a screen.

Caption: Several hours earlier on board the USS Hare.

Spong: We've located the truffles using our sensors and beamed them aboard, Captain. Elapsed time: 4.6 seconds.

Smug: Good work Mr Spong. All we have to do is beam them straight to the kitchen, and we've won!

Panel 4 - We're now looking at the screen, which is framed by the back of SMUG and SPONG's heads and shoulders, perhaps in silhouette. On the screen, Stan is pulling a pig along a path by a lead, or maybe poking it with a stick.

Smug: How are Zeb's crew doing?

Spong: They've nearly got their pig into the forest.

3rd tier - Panel 5 - Close up on Smug.

Smug: I can't believe Zeb challenged me and my crack crew to THIS challenge. How can a pig be more efficent at locating and transporting truffles?

Smug: In fact, we're so far ahead, lets go to for a steam bath.

Panel 6 - Spong looks concerned as he watches Smug leave.

Spong: Captain, we can beam them now and win and THEN go for a steam bath.

Smug: Steam bath Spong! Now!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Anagram Fun

It turns out that in anagram land, my name is Will Lexicon. I guess this is in some kind of Renaissance style flintlock-fantasy and I'm the guy who knows everything!

Or maybe I'm the guy who can read.

(In SF, of course, I'm Clone Xi Will who is either Chinese or the 15th clone of Will).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Adventures in the 21st Century

A few weeks ago I spent far too much money on a new pair of glasses. As the optomotrist put it, I'm very short sighted, and previously I've had thick bottle-ends. But my Mum had told me of the new glasses stuff that had a refractive index of 1.71 [1].

I mean, it's not the 21st century we expected, and it's certainly not the one we wanted. But it's definitely the 21st century.

What next? Materials with a negative refractive index of course! This will of course allow me to convert my glasses into invisibility goggles.

[1] Only me, my Mum and Stan have been impressed by this. So sad.

Of Bananas and Men

As we all know, 50%[1] of my DNA is the same as that of a banana; the odds are good that 50% of your DNA is also the same as a banana (assuming all three of us shared the same common ancestor). I've referred to this elsewhere.

The thing is, this is true of all fruit, vegetables[2] and plants. So why are bananas singled out?

There's something about bananas that people identify with. If I said "You share 50% of your DNA with a potato", it sounds like an insult. Bananas are yellow, funny, hold easily in the hand, come with their own wrapping and have a long an honourable history in slapstick. It may not be a compliment, but it's not derogatory.

When I was younger I couldn't get enough of bananas. I was served mashed banana as pudding all the time as a baby, and later I loved bananas in custard. Plus, you can use it as a gun, or shake hands with a bunch. There was a garden centre with a greenhouse somewhere in Scunthorpe, which we went to all the time and it had a banana tree, which was always growing a bunch of bananas. That greenhouse was hot, steamy, exotic and had a banana tree in it! I also loved monkeys at the time, and my ambition was to be a monkey and live in a greenhouse with a banana tree.

Since then I've gone off bananas[3] a bit, but I still have some affection for them.

Update: I meant to mention the Marvel What-If comic mentioned in the linked to comments thread which was "What if the Fantastic Four were fruit?". The only what-if[4] I'd rather see is "What if Bruce Wayne were bitten by a vampire hat?"

[1] -ish
[2] Maybe not mushrooms.
[3] Also monkeys.
[4] Or, as this would be a DC comic, an "elseworld".

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Conversation on a street corner in Soho

Woman: Hello. Hey you're really tall. Don't worry, I'm not going to stun you or anything - I'm like a midget compared to you. Anyway, I wondered if you'd like to know about the catalogue of ladies we have in the area.

Me (trying not to smirk at the idea of a catalogue of prostitutes): No thanks, I'm not interested.

(I turn and walk away)

Woman : We have boys as well

(For some reason I find this hilarious. and spend the next thirty seconds trying not to snigger)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My dreams elsewhere on the internet

It's like they took my life and put it on the internet for everyone to laugh at.

(But with a bit of effort I'll be able to get ahead of them in the putting-my-life-on-the-internet-for-people-to-laugh-at stakes).

More real content soon. Honest.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dream Diary 6

I had a Doctor Who dream last night. It had a Dalek and there was a lot of vegetables being harvested. There was a terrace of houses and the sun was late summer/early autumn late afternoonish.

I don't remember many details, but I do remember we were stuck in a time loop, with the problem being that that was the only way to stop the Dalek winning. The wierd thing was that the first loop was the one where the Doctor figured it out and beat the Dalek and broke out the timeloop - then the dream kept repeating itself but with him steadily coming up with worse solutions.

Billie Piper kept making the same mistakes every single time.

Monologue overheard on the White Bridge

The Scene: Four middle-aged Ladies are on the white bridge watching a duck.

Lady: She said 'You'll love the flowers'. I said I'm not going to South Africa to look at the flowers. She said 'You'll love the flowers'.

Overly-long and overly-detailed description and examples of iambic pentamter as blank verse and sonnet

So what is iambic pentameter?

The building block of a poetic metre (or rhythm) is called a "foot". An iamb is the foot of iambic pentameter. And an Iamb is a short syllable folowed by a long syllable (de-DUM). As it's PENTameter there are 5 iambs to the line, so a line of iambic pentameter goes de-DUM/de-DUM/de-DUM/de-DUM/de-DUM. If you write iambic pentameter without any rhymes,that's known as Blank Verse. Here's Shakespeare to demonstrate:

I would give anything to have your gifts.
Or more than anything to give men dreams
that would live on long after I am dead.
I'd bargain like your Faustus for that boon.


But why would anyone be interested?

Well, I have a confession. I've mislead you. The above is SPOKEN by Shakespeare, but it's actually written by Neil Gaiman in Sandman #12, where Shakespeare is one of the characters. Imagine my satisfaction when I figured out what it was about the way Shakepeare was talking that made him sound like Shakspeare. (Shakespeare reappeared in Sandman #19 which was about the first performance of A Midsummer Nights Dream. Neil Gaiman won the World Fantasy Short Story Award for it. They then changed the rules so that comics couldn't compete for the award)

Anyway, here's some blank verse really written by Shakspeare, chosen, not entirely at random, from Henry V:

King: Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more;
Or close this wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war bloes in our ears
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;

And so on. The first two lines split up like this:

once MORE/ unTO/ the BREACH/ DEAR friends/ once MORE
or CLOSE/ this WALL/ up WITH/ OUR eng/lish DEAD

Note that the 4th "foot" in each line has got the long and short syllables the opposite way round to normal. Meter is a tool and a guide, not a strict rule.

Shakepeare uses blank verse for a variety of reasons; as a rule of thumb, the posher the character the more likely to use blank verse rather than prose; the more formal the occasion, the more likely to be blank verse; the longer the speech (esp. sollilquies) the more likely to be blank verse.

But why is he using it at all? Well, the rhythms of blank verse are very similar to normal spoken english; one reason why it's such a popular meter for english poetry. But it has a definite and regular rhythm to it, which makes it sound formal and important; not just people saying the first thing that comes into their head.

Talking of english poetry, the "classic" english poem is the sonnet. The english sonnet usually has a meter of iambic pentameter and consists of 4 quatrains and a concluding couplet. I'm not going to go into an explanation of what that means, because it's much easier to just give an example. Shakepeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets. Logically enough, I'll demonstrate the classic english poem with an example written by an Australian (this is (c) 2002 by Cecilia Dart-Thornton incidentally). I'll also stop here, as, after reading this poem, I don't really have anything more to say.


Sonnet for a Swanmaiden

With skillful elegance she skims the sky
And rides the foam like wind upon the sea,
Yet mortal men for love of her would try
To steal her, in their bold effrontery.
Their fleeting hands of clay should not endeavour
To smirch the likes of she who treads the ground
In eldritch loveliness, unchanged forever,
While flowers spring like fallen stars around,
Or glides, spearheading chevrons on the lake,
Reflected there in lucid symmetry.
No lover nor true artist could mistake
This paragon of femininity-
Where else is such ethereal beauty twined
Than avian and damsel-shape combined?

[Note:Previously sent by e-mail on 29 December 2004]

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Top Gear style challenge

I've failed to talk about Samhain[1], but frankly there's plenty of good information about it else where on the internet, and even more bad information. Instead I'll present something almost certainly unique:

Top Gear-style Truffle challenge. The challenge is to find truffles in a forest in central France and bring them back to England (where some sort of truffle recipe will be whipped up by the Night of the Hats resident chef). One player (Jeremy Clarkson) has a Ferrari. The other (my friend Stan) has a (female) pig.

Obviously, once he finds a truffle, Clarkson is going to be travelling a lot faster in a Ferrari than Stan will, whilst riding a pig. What makes it a challenge is that the pig will find truffles very much quicker than a Ferrari. Who will win? Stan on a pig? Or Clarkson in a Ferrari? Keep watching to find out!

[1] Too busy fetching the livestock down from the hills.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mythology strikes back

I'm keen on mythology and folklore for my own reasons. Sometimes, knowledge of legends do more than than just tell stories.

Case in point: In the 18th century there was an architect called John Woods, who built a lot of Georgian Bath. His two most famous areas are The Royal Crescent and The Circus. There's some more pictures of Bath; note that if you're not big on sandy bathstone Georgian buildings, you might not get too excited about it. Anyway, there was a belief that there was a temple to the moon nearby, which is echoed by the Crescent; the Circus (which is big and round and, thanks to the trees in the middle, has an atrocious joke associated with it) echoes a temple to the sun. But which temple of the sun?

Well, it seems that about 840 BC (or so John Wood believed) there was one Prince Bladud, who was heir to the throne[1]. Unfortunately Bladud caught leprosy[2]. This disqualified him from his current job as heir, and in fact from every job except swineherd.

Bladud's misfortunes continued; it seems his pigs caught leprosy too. Then, one morning, he discovers that his herd of pigs have all gone into a slough (a swamp) and refuse to come out.

Bladud lures them out with their favourite food, acorns. Here we get the first echo on John Wood's buildings; see what's on top of the facade of the houses in the Circus. He washes them off in the spring that feeds the slough, and their leprosy is cured! He washes himself off and his leprosy is cured as well. Bladud goes home and gets to be heir to the throne once more.

But Bladud isn't finished. He returns to the spring, which is obviously sent by the gods (for a start it's hot - how mad is that?) and builds a shrine and a town, a town that the Romans later call Aqua Sulis, and we call Bath.

Bladud, now a keen builder, heads south onto Salisbury Plain, where he discovers a bunch of stones lying around[3]. He goes ahead and has them erected into a temple of the sun, which we know by the name of Stonehenge.

Do those blocks of stone remind you of anything? What? All of classical architecture? Well done! It seems that after this, Bladud visited Italy and Greece, where he taught them about putting stones on top of each other, and also the classical architectual values of balance, symmetry and proportion. Thus, as we can see, classical architecture had it's birthplace in Bath. Not entirely by coincidence, John Woods built in the Georgian Neo-classical style which held up balance, symmetry and proportion to be the principle virtues of architecture.

Now this would all just be an interesting story, except that John Wood really believed this stuff. He believed in it so much that if you picked up Stonehenge and put it down in the Circus in Bath, it would exactly fit; the acorns, an unusual feature, were another nod to Bladud, but also a declaration - after all, what's more English than an oak? The Circus is certainly his way of saying that this was the birthplace of architecture.

Of course, all those Old Testament and Freemasonry symbols on the frieze give it an entirely different meaning, but that's another story.


[1] Bladud later had a son, Lear, who had a play written about him.
[2] Although in the 18th century, the term leprosy covered a whole host of skin diseases; thus the miraculous recoveries to come in the story become merely unlikely.
[3] Note that this is a myth - the best evidence suggests that the following sequence of events is very wrong.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Plug Time

Siobhan, my brother's regular companion, does quite a lot of work for charity. Her latest project is a charity gig. Since everyone involved is a volunteer, and anyway the plan is to fill the place by word of mouth, the flyers[1] aren't ready yet, so I can't just copy the details off one. [Update: Flyer is now available and can be seen at the Gig website] However, before I forget, here's my blog-flyer[2]:




Holierthanthoudogooders present

A bunch of Kunifunts
featuring:

Threewheeler - (Have had a decent write up in Time Out and I'm now assured are this band)
DJ Vinyl Ritchie - (Has also had a decent write up in Time Out, and has a very cool name - my brother tells me that he is worth the entry fee alone)

At: Ad Lib,246 Fulham Road, 11 November 2006.

Doors Open 1900. £6 Entry, of which every single penny goes to
charity.




It's also Siobhan's birthday, so if you go and see her, don't forget to go over and wish her a good one.

Note: This will pop up to the top of the blog nearer the date, and also if I make any changes.

Update: In the interests of full disclosure, I'm putting the text of my brother's invite below:

Afternoon Geezers and Geezettes,

If you don't want to spend eternity
having your bits roasted by Satan then you should redeem your sinfullness by
coming along to Siobhan's charity gig night on Saturday 11th November. All the
details are on the e-flyer and it is on the King's Road so those of you with a
nervous disposition don't have to come to the ghetto where i live. It is a
genuine charity and they do lots of good work with blind kids and people with
less limbs than is good for them.

The first band are reasonably popular
but i find them a bit dreary however Vinyl Ritchie is worth the entrance fee
himself. It is only £6 which doesn't even get you an African orphan these days.

Anyway i realise it is a bit late in the day to send it out and i only
really expect Leon and Dave to attend as they have a long history of charity
work.

See u then and forward on to anyone that may have been missed
etc...,

Wilxxx
I apologise for his dubious theology.


[1] Which will be created by a real life artist!
[2] Yuck. I hope noone uses that word again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Roast Pigeon

This is even easier than the previous pigeon recipe, but requires you baste it to keep the pigeon moist. Pigeon, like all game, dries out very easily when roasted.

Per Person:

1 Pigeon
1 Rasher of streaky bacon
1 Knob of butter

Heat the oven to 200C and heat a roasting tray. Spread the butter on the breast of each pigeon. Wrap the pigeon and butter with streaky bacon. Put the pigeons on the heated roasting tray and into the oven. Baste the pigeons every 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the temperature up to 230C, take the bacon off and cook until the skin is dark brown and crispy.

Serve with leftover vegetables and roast potatoes; note that the roast potatoes have to go in before the pigeons if you do it this way.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Pot Roast Pigeon

For 3 people, which is what fits into a large Casserole:

3 pigeons
4 Potatoes sliced
9 or 10 shallots peeled and cut in half (2 Onions roughly chopped would do as well)
3 Carrots cut into chunks
1 Bulb of Fennel sliced
2 stalks of Celery cut into chunks
3 Large Mushrooms quartered (or a whole bunch of small mushrroms would do to)
Handful of Thyme

2 cloves garlic sliced
Several knobs of butter[1]

Some stock (mine was left over pork gravy padded out with vegetable stock, but chicken stock would probably do better).


Heat the oven to 200C. Heat a knob of butter in a big casserole. When it's melted, brown the pigeons on all sides. Take the pigeons out and put them on a plate, preferably somewhere warm.

Heat another knob of butter in the casserole. Add the shallots and garlic. Cook them until they're about to go brown, then throw in the celery, carrot and fennel. Again, cook until they're about to soften, then turn off the heat, stir in the thyme, some salt and pepper and the mushrooms[2].

Layer the potato slices on top of the vegetables. Pour in the stock; it should not quite get over the top of the potatoes. Put the pigeons on top. Try and get the lid on; you may need to shift things around a bit. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes, then take the lid off and cook for a final ten minutes. Serve. It really wants some bread to mop up the juice, which is a little thin, but delicious.


[1] Sorry, didn't really pay attention to how much I used
[2] I actually forogot about the mushrooms, so they had to sit on top with the pigeons

Monday, October 23, 2006

How many heads?

Now I have no comment on the new Gillette Fusion razor, which has five blades on one side for comfort and to spread pressure and one blade on the other to do the "tricky bits"[1]. However, in conjunction with this, Gillette have introduced Hydra Gel.

My first thought was is that what I think it is? as, after all, like all mythological beasts, the Hydra would be very heavily endangered. On the other hand, when you cut off one head, two more[2] grow to replace it, so, assuming the gel is made from a head, a near limitless supply would be available.

Nevertheless, two objections spring to mind; cruelty and the fact that the hydra's blood (or venom or gall) is hideously poisonous. No, really, really poisonous. The fish were unfit to eat for twenty stadia downstream of it's lair. Hercules used the Hydra's blood as poison on his arrows to kill Nessus, who tricked Hercules' wife into smearing some of Nessus' blood onto Hercules' tunic, and this killed Hercules; that's how poisonous.

So, anyway, if you're wondering why I've not leapt at the chance of using the latest developments in shaving technology, now you know.



(What? You don't think that's what Hydra means in this context? Perhaps so, but I'm keeping this blog a Lost-free zone.)

[1] Although it does seem as though half my face is a tricky bit most days.
[2] In some versions, merely one replacement.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Conversation overheard in Waterstone's formerly known as Ottaker's in Canterbury.

(The Scene - three student types are in front of the Horror section)

Student: "She hasn't any patience. When she comes round and I'm playing a game, and I only need five minutes to finish it, she's always distracting me. 'My tops off.' Okay, just finish the game... 'Bras off.' Must finish game. Once she ended up naked before I finished."

Girlfriend (sitting next to him): Giggle giggle.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Dream Diary 5

I'm in a posh hotel. It's full of public school boys. I'm going to be sitting a public school exam. Somewhere in a parallel set of rooms are the public school girls, as I keep catching glimpses of them through doorways. I'm not as tall as I normally am.

I'm served overcooked roast beef with black forest gateau sauce. The "sauce" is just a piece of gateau. Except it's the black forest gateau I baked for Vas' party, damn it.



I'm watching Pride and Prejudice except, as always, there have been many many changes. Most of the action is taking place on top of a hill which has a manhole to a tunnel leading back to the house. Two of the characters are black. Mr D'Arcy[1] calls at the house and everyone is shocked that they aren't there to greet him. The script just has people saying "Mr D'Arcy! Mr D'Arcy!" for many, many pages. Eventually I get bored and wake up.

[1] That's how it was spelt in the dream

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dream Diary 4

Dreamt I was a wave. I broke on at least a thousand different shores.

Circular Story part 1

A couple of notes: This is none of the stories I intended to put up here. I know how the story ends, but not how it gets there, so this stuff is likely to be gutted and rewritten when I've finished. That's also why it has a work-in-progress name. And this is just the introduction.



When the Great Boar came from the West, and all the weapons of the kingdom broke on it's flanks, Terisen went to Ardigan the steelsmith, and asked him to make a sword. Ardigan promised him a sword of such superlative strength that nothing, even the Great Boar, could withstand it.

Ardigan worked for 20 days and 20 nights, using 5 cartloads of charcoal. The steel was folded a hundred times, and the sword quenched in blood...

Ardigan couldn't control himself any more and the laughter escaped him. Putting down the book and lifting the hood of his gown, Mikis gazed back at him.

"What is so amusing, young sir?"

"Blood!" said Ardigan. "Noone uses blood to quench a blade. It would just boil away, and the steel might crack. The impurities would get into the metal. Oil is what you use to quench a blade. The steelsmiths would beat me if I suggested using blood to quench a sword!"

"Nevertheless" said Mikis, "that is what has been recorded. The records of other lives are written so we can know what has happened. This is what the Order of Records does."

"But blood..." said Ardigan.

"All of life is a wheel," said Mikis, "but the road it turns on changes. There are fashions in all things. The Book of Ardigan is written in prose as it was updated a century ago. But three hundred years ago it would have been in blank verse. And five hundred years it would have been written how?"

"In hexameter couplets" said Ardigan. "But that's writing! If you use a different form, it doesn't break the page."

Mikis snorted. "Have I taught you nothing? Hidesplitter, The sword Ardigan forged to kill the boar - what pattern was it?"

"A straight sword, a horseman's sword"

"Do we use them any more?"

"No..."

"Before Hidesplitter Ardigan, what pattern of swords were used?"

"Short swords"

"And why?"

"Men fought from chariots using spear and bow."

"And now?"

"Men fight from horseback with sabre and lance."

"Yet, men still fight. The fashions change, but the wars continue the same. Before the Great Boar, men would fight their wars by dueling against their enemies, but killed their rivals by stealth and ambush. Now we overcome our enemies by any means we can, but duel with our friends over trifles. The wheel turns, and we live our lives again. The seeming is different, but the meaning the same."

"Is that where your scars came from?" asked Ardigan "From dueling?"

The bell rang for the end of the study hour. Mikis sighed.

"Again, you miss my point. But that time is over, go now, down to the river to swim with the other students. Perhaps tomorrow we will learn something."


Ardigan couldn't remember a time before he knew who he was. The spring after Ardigan's first birthday the priests of identity had come to his village. They tested all the children who had been born since they last climbed the mountain. Ardigan showed that he had been reborn, his spirit knowing things from a previous life. The priests took him with them when they left.

Before he was three, his aptitude for metal, his quick growth, and other, subtler signs showed that he was Ardigan, swordsmith to kings and heroes. His entry to the Academy of the Reborn was assured.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Dream Diary 3

First Dream: I'm in a mansion. Some kind of fairy/folk-tale competition is taking place, with ludicrous challenges to win a prize; it's probably a princess, but at other times it's something magic or a pirate's treasure chest.

The competition(s) makes no sense. One challenge I remember is a room full of contestants, and someone holds up a lemon. "This is a lemon" he says. We all stare at it. After a moment he says "Good". In another challenge, I'm in a room slowly filling with water and I have to do something. I'm not panicing at all, even though I have no idea what I'm supposed to do. But then it's not me, and I'm watching, and then I'm not watching anymore either.


Second Dream: A play is taking place in a hall, that later is a courtyard, of a junior school. Many of my friends are taking part in the play. It's suggested that the play is The Princess Bride although it clearly isn't. A swordfight takes place. The Princess spends an entire scene rolling on the floor, naked but covered in white makeup. Her acting is excellent[1]. A stand-up comic does a scene. Many speeches are made.

I find myself outside on a lawn, on a warm summer's evening. We're gossiping about our friends who were in the play. Someone notes that it had needed to be toned down for the schoolkids. Apparently it made a lot of money for the school. The actors, despite giving extraordinary perfomances, can't get work, partly it seems, because they only play that one role.

[1] For reasons of dream logic only, she reminds me of an actress I saw playing Ophelia in Hamlet about 17 years ago, and fell three-quarters in love with by the end of the play.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dream Diary 2

After the two most worthless posts in blogging history I managed yesterday, I do now have some dreams:

I'm wearing a mask of some sort. I'm filing out of an office as part of a fire drill. (I also remember that this is the merest edge of the dream).


It's early morning and I'm standing somewhere that looks like the path to the bay. There's a mist that greys the green fields. I can see waterdrops on a hawthorne with almost preternatural clarity. I breathe in and smell the scents of winter.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The only information on Star Wars anywhere on the internet.

Having finally got around to watching the last bit of the Star Wars sextet[1] I hadn't seen (the first two-thirds of Attack of the Clones, if anyone is interested) I'm still left not knowing the cover story of why the separatists rebelled against the Republic[2]. This, of course, is how it should be; AotC and RotS are mostly seen through the view of Anakin (who's not really interested in politics), Obi Wan (the closest he comes to caring about politics is to state that he doesn't like politicians) and the droids (??!?).

Additionally, it never really makes sense why Sidious is trying to kill Senator Amidala - no, scrap that, it's because she would be replaced by Jar-Jar Binks, and after the hard work of plotting to overthrow the Republic he'd add some "comic relief". Anyway, there was slightly too much talking and not enough action already, so on balance I'll give this minor complaint a rest.

[1] Or sexology as we might call it if we were feeling a bit smutty.
[2] The Trade Federation had previously displayed it's opposition to taxes. The closest Count Dooku gets to a political statement is unhapiness with the corruption of the Republic. Obviously the whole thing is a set-up, but wouldn't it be obvious that it would be more profitable to bribe a corrupt government to ignore owed tax than, for example, spend all your money and resources on a desparate war? Or: is this really the best cover story that Darth Sidious could come up with?

Non-Dream Diary

Woke up today with no memory of any dreams.

Curse my unconcious for sabotaging my create-blog-content-while-sleeping plan.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dream Diary 1

Dreamt I was a hedgehog. A two-legged cartoon hedgehog.

Also I had a dream about a small town in Soviet Russia with a military display team made up of dead children. Their uniforms' were the most peculiar shade of grey-green. I can remember thinking that there was a lot more to the dream, but I forgot it while fumbling for a pen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Intermission

Slightly too apathetic to do anything to the story I'm working on. Instead, I'm going to do something that requires slightly less work.

The idea (not a new one) comes from Claire asking me what she should be looking for on my chin. She thought that someone had told her to look. When it became clear my chin was unremarkable, she thought that maybe she'd dreamed that someone had told her to look at my chin.

So anyway: dream diary. I'll be putting it up for a few days. Since this will undoubtedly be dull, uninteresting and/or too self-revelatory, you might want to come back at the weekend when there will almost certainly be brand new fiction.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A thought on spam

While glancing through my spam trap, I realised that all the scams were trying to take advantage of fear and/or greed. The greed motivated ones interested me most. I had the feeling that the designers of these scams were assuming that the people they were sending them to were just like them - greedy, open to a slightly dodgy deal - but not quite as smart.

Obviously these will never work on me. Not because I'm smarter than them - although, lord knows, I surely am - but because my greed is not a motivating force for me. A scam to trap me would be better aimed at my vanity.

In fact, were I to design some kind of internet scam, it would be designed to assume that people are just like me - vain, always wanting to find out something to make me look clever - but not quite as smart. Since I'm motivated by vanity rather than greed, it wouldn't be aimed at their money, but instead to make them look like fools, while making me look especially clever.

It would probably be bits of writing that looks like it's telling them something they don't know, but is actually a waste of their time. And if they didn't figure it out, even when they were told about it, I think I'd have made my point.

Fortunately I'm too apathetic to put this plan into action.

Update: Within minutes of me posting this I started to get emails offering me handmade silk embroidery from China, which I have to say was a good try. The spambots are evidentally monitoring, analysing and adapting to us, and I for one welcome our new artificially intelligent and virtual unsolicited advertising overlords.

Friday, September 29, 2006

English as a foreign language

Siobhan, my brother's lady companion, is learning to teach English as a Foreign Language. It can't be that hard, can it? I mean, she already speaks English, right[1]?

(Ignoring the self-evident facts that teaching is a discipline that requires talent and hard work to learn and that all her students will, by definition, have bad or no English).

Anyway, tell me what's wrong with this sentence:


Look at that big beautiful Italian red sports car!

(say it out loud if you can't see it. If you still can't hear it, swap sports with big and try again)


Ah, adjectival order. We don't get taught grammer in school anymore, so you can't tell me what the order is without looking it up, but you know when it's wrong. If you want to know more about adjectives, this site, which is American, is pretty good.

First person[2] to send me the sentence with correct adjectival order wins their choice of a bucket of beer[3] or one free range egg.

Update: Note that adjectival order is different in other languages, which is why you have to teach it to people who don't speak English. Foreigners who have not learnt English to an advanced level will often get it wrong. You can use this to try and spot them. Watch out! Foreginers are everywhere! (Especially in other countries)


[1] Having spent several years living in Vermont as a child, she occasionally speaks American, but foreigners mostly can't tell the difference.
[2] To handicap Stan, who has too much time on his hands, he will have to send me an illustrated version.
[3] In this case, bucket means pint glass or bottle.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Yet another post about violence and profanity

Warning: This post contains graphic descriptions of injuries (and one two swearwords), and the Vas Internet Preview Board has classified it as "Slightly Gruesome".

Somewhere in my mind (and in the back of one of my many notebooks) the third and hopefully last part of the Trial is growing, and it's also cross-pollinating with the third Claire Parker/Life on Mars post for another blog I operate; there's a post on something that happened a couple of weeks ago that I should really write; and I'm still grinding out my novel, one bloody word at a time.

So why do I feel now's the time to write a new story?[1]

Let me talk about why I've not put up the first chapter of my novel yet, as it may give you some idea of what I'm thinking. I'm cribbing fairly heavily from Xenophon's Anabasis, a historical report of an expedition by Greek Mercenaries into Mespotamia as part of a civil war in the Persian empire. Now, if you've chosen to write about a war, you need to address violence; if you're loosely basing your soldiers on Greek hoplites, you need to write about melee combat. Melee combat is messy, hard work, dangerous and horrific. To write honestly and well about it, you need to squeeze some of these characteristics into your narative; to write about violence so well and so graphically, it is truely shocking.

People tend to swear at times like this, which is where the profanity comes in.

The first chapter of my novel is an attempt to write a violent action scene that is powerful and shocking. (I'm not quite there, but there would be another draft before it made it's way here). There's also just a touch of the whole honour, glory and exhilaration thing as well - the characters are mercenary volunteers, slightly in love with the romance of war. The problem is that that's all it is. No context. Just a long scene of fighting, mutilation, exhaustion, breaking bones, faces tearing open, hands being cut off, blood spurting from necks and groins, skulls caving in, legs being crippled, a magic sword and people saying "fuck" a lot.

Yeah, yeah, now you all want to read it.

[Update: I gave the first chapter a re-read after writing this post and made this note: More shit and piss; also blood, sweat, tears and other bodily fluids.]

Now I could give it context by putting more chapters up or I could jump straight to Chapter 2, but I don't feel up for redrafting any character-centred scenes right now (not until I have some idea how the characters are going to turn out later in the story).

As I said in the footnote, the story that keeps creeping into my notebook is related to the novel, although not part of it, as a character in the story can't appear explicitly in the novel. I might need to write the story to understand what happens in the middle of the novel. Also, as a complete story, the violence and swearing will be in context, or as much context as they're going to get anyway. So I'd really rather post that, except I have to write it first.

Of course, this is also a way of putting off writing the novel (and the other stuff mentioned at the top). Worse still, while writing this post, I'm putting off writing the story itself. Blogging: Self-centred, self-referential, narcissistic procrastination for the 21st Century.

[1] It's not very new; I've had the idea for some time, and it's a spin-off from the novel. But you get the idea

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dark Tower

I'm probably the last person who cares about this to have their say [1], and everyone else has said it better. But say it now I will, rather than waiting ten years:

I'm with Sai King; I'm not keen on the ending, but it's the only one that make sense. Once the story becomes metafiction, and we know that ka is a wheel; when it becomes clear that the Dark Tower is The Dark Tower, then what else can Roland find in the last room?


[1] If you've not read it you'll probably saying "Seven books? Seven? You expect me to read seven volumes? That first one is really thin - but look at the price! And the last four are really thick - how do you expect me to get through them?"

John M Ford

John M Ford has died.

This means that, as well as being 10 years late with this message I'm also too late.

Go out and buy The Dragon Waiting. Go now. Buy it. Read it. It's about the War of the Roses and Alternate History and Religion(s) and Vampires. You'll like it. Go. Go now.

Other things by John M Ford can be found online by going to this post at Making Light; I like the poem Cosmology, but I'm into that sort of thing.

Would you like chips with that?

Ah, I'm getting a heavy spamload from the email address I use for this blog (and associated stuff). Nice to see it's all phishing spam[1] of some scam or another too. If any real humans want to contact me make sure you aren't congratulating me on winning the lottery or complaining I haven't sent you something you bought on ebay; you will be deleted.

On the offchance that spambots have attained self-awareness and are wasting their time parsing this blog:

I insist you ask for my consent before putting me into a lottery;
This address isn't used for any credit card, Paypal or bank accounts;
The item number for the "package" I haven't sent you comes up as a Ford Cobra on ebay;
Sending the ebay security "your account is being used for fraudulent trading" message a couple of days after the missing package complaint is a nice touch but I don't have an ebay account associated with this email.

[1] No Jim, this is not something that would appear in your tinned fish collection.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Well it amused me...

Last night, for my Mum's birthday we went to a Hungarian restaurant that was on Greek street! Hungarian food, served on Greek street! Hilarious! Even funnier were quite a lot of pictures of various old-style left wing figures such as John Ruskin, George Bernard Shaw, and Trotsky. Also many slightly outdated cartoons and several pictures of cavalrymen.

Well, if you're not laughing yet, I guess you won't crack a smile when I tell you it was the Gay Hussar.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sticks

For a little while now, my default suggestion when people are being slow, stupid, or ignorant has been to poke them with a stick. Usually I've not go to the stage of actually finding a stick and poking them with it, but the poking people with sticks idea has certainly appeared a lot in my recent dialogues.

This links in with my Dad's theory of weapons development; that all weapons are variations and improvements on the pointy stick [1]. Improvements are usually either to make the stick more pointy (put a metal head on to make it a spear; make it entirely from metal and shoot it out a gun; essentially making it better at putting holes into people) or longer (pike; also shooting it from a distance).

My usual counterpoint is to point out weapon's that are clearly descended from the blunt stick. Today though I'm thinking about people with long pointy sticks; Macedonian Phalangites armed with sarissas (for reasons that regular readers may appreciate, here is Dr Victor Parker holding a replica sarissa).

For a long time I was terribly impressed by the fact that they marched with these enormously long pikes all the way from Macedonia to the Indus valley. Also, although the shafts do grow on trees, a 15 foot straight pole needs either some pretty industrial coppicing, or you're using trees that you'd otherwise want for ships or buildings. And if your shaft breaks while crossing the Hindu Kush, where do you get a spare?

Sadly though, when I finally got around to doing some research I found out that sarissas are made from two shafts, held together with a metal collar. It's just as easy to carry as a standard hoplite spear[2], so marching across most of south west asia becomes merely extraordinary rather than ludicrous. Also, for the hill fighting in Bactria[3] and Sogdiana[4] they were almost certainly rearmed, so once again my visions of men with stupidly long pikes charging hill forts go to show why Alexander the Great was a great general, and I just blog about great generals.

I'm still puzzled about why the Swiss, who's country is filled with mountains, would want to carry enormously long spears around, especially at just the moment when pikes became obsolescent, but until I get around to spending some time looking into it, it'll have to stay a mystery.


[1] In Dad's theory, the primeval weapon.
[2] If any hoplite army actually had standard equipment.
[3] "Northern Afghanistan"-ish
[4] "Ukbekistan"-ish

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Yet more Astronomical News

2003 UB313 has been given the name Eris.

The BBC have pointed out how appropriate this is.

Everybody else on the internet is saying "Hail Eris!" "All Hail Discordia!" and "Kallisti!". If you don't know why then this slightly po-faced wikipedia page may assist you.

It also means the free solar system chart I got in Tuesday's Independent is already out of date. Welcome to the 21st Century!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Links, Links, Glorious Links

I've finally got around to putting my series of "Unlikely Links" into the link field on the right. Any future ones will go there too, unless I forget, or can't be bothered or something. If you'd like your site to get a link there and gain the outside chance that one of my three readers will click on it when they're bored follow these simple steps:

1. Come up with something interesting and entertaining
2. Use this idea to create an interesting and entertaining webpage
3. Wait for me to stumble over it while I'm looking for cake recipes or pictures of unicorns or the text of the Genva Convention or whatever

Easy! Although in the interests of full disclosure I should point out that's not how I get linked to; that was due to an aggressive email-and-comment[1] campaign on other peoples sites. You could try that too, I guess. But then you'd be like me, and no-one wants that.

[1] I continue to comment at Monkey Fluids, partly because it seems to me to be a kind of competitive literary martial art. You can find my comments easily - I'm the one who isn't funny.

Baking

Doing the good guest thing, I brought my brother some Rock Cakes when I went to stay over the weekend. Here's the recipe, which due to the original dating back to 1955 is kind of Imperial (I tarted it up ever so slightly for 21st Century tastes and labour-saving devices ):

Rock Cakes

8 oz self-raising flour
pinch of salt
teaspoon of baking powder (I'm paranoid about cakes not rising, so if you're confident you can leave this out)
3 oz hard margarine
3 oz sugar
2 oz currents
2 oz cut mixed peel
Zest of 1 lemon
1 egg
3 dessert spoons milk

Prepare a baking sheet by smearing it with margarine. Turn on the oven to 400F (Gas Mark 6, 200 C).

Sieve the flour and put it into a food processor. Cut the margarine up and stick that in too. Turn on the food processor until the margarine is mixed in (the mixture looks a bit like breadcrumbs). Beat the egg and milk together in a bowl. Add the milk and egg mixture to the food processor along with the sugar, fruit and zest. Whizz the processor again, just long enough to mix everything together, but not so the fruit is chopped entirely up.

Put little (dessert spoon) heaps onto the greased baking tray and put in the oven for about 15 minutes (this was a fan-assisted oven, so it may take a little longer) when they were nicely brown (also nearly double in size).

This batch were just a touch dry, but that's okay for rock cakes anyway. My next baking trick will probably be a cake in the style of a black forest gateau - I just hope mine doesn't turn out like Antony Worrall Thompson's (check the picture).

Monday, September 11, 2006

Things to do in New Zealand

While in London this weekend, I was caught up in a conversation of all the things we've never done in London, despite living in the South East. There'll probably be a post on this later, but it will be a collaborative effort (I'll take other peoples ideas, put them into a list and take the credit) and so will need a bit of time to organise. However, I've been picking up some New Zealand traffic recently, so here's a slightly patronising list I call:

Tourist Traps in New Zealand that are so interesting, even New Zealanders ought to visit them:

The Sky Tower
Did you know it's the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere? Well, you ought to as I was told this ever-so-many times. But it has a magnificent view, and you can prove how fearless you are by walking on glass floors that are over 200m of empty air. Also, you can spy on people in the sky city hotel pool.

Tongariro Crossing
It's a magnificent walk, even when it looks like this. Coming from a flat and tectonically inactive part of the world, crossing a mountain pass between two volcanoes is a really exciting thing to do. Note that older guidebooks refer to this area as the Tongariro National Park, rather than it's modern name of Mordor. Don't believe me? Tell me that isn't Mount Doom[1]. (The crossing is the low bit between the two peaks, above and to the left of the kiwi sign). Note: This activity has been awarded the Vas seal of approval.

New Plymouth
Admittedly, the reason I pick New Plymouth is because of the Wind Wand. But it's a nice place to visit for other reasons; you can climb Paritutu for a view of the Sugar Loaf Islands; Puke Ariki is an interesting museum; plus, if it happens to be your birthday, you can round up a bunch of people from your hostel and go out to an Irish Bar and dance around to a covers band (there's a story here which I may tell later, when I've made up a few bits to make it more interesting).

Fox Glacier/Lake Matheson
If you can't be bothered to get up at dawn, you can get a professional shot of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman reflected in Lake Matheson for NZ$49. On the other hand, you can just hike down there and shoot off a few pictures of it. Plus - a glacier! (Remember, from flat lowlands in a temperate climate...)

Stewart Island
Go to the South Island. Keep going south, until you run out of land. Then hop on a boat to go a bit further south. Stop! You're there. It's not quite as remote as it sounds (although it does have New Zealand's southernmost pub) but it really is on the edge of wilderness, and is absolutely full of wildlife. I'm not sure exactly why I liked it so much, but, despite good facilities for visitors, it felt as though it would get along happily in just the same way without us. Note: As well as the Vas seal of approval, Stewart Island was given a questionable shake of the head by a man I met in Auckland who invited me to a meeting of the Church of Christ (New Zealand)[2].

[1] I mean, that is Mount Doom, without all the CGI make up it had for the filming.
[2] In the interests of full disclosure I should also point out that he recommended the Sky Tower.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Trial Part 2

Stan: So, to recap, you were married by fairies, or, as 'politically correct' people call them, the sidhe, at the Glastonbury Festival, for a year and a day, which has now passed, thus lapsing your marriage.

Jim: Well, yes, but it wasn't quite like that...

Stan: I think we've heard enough of what it wasn't like. Perhaps you could explain why you didn't attempt to adjust the sidhe calender to extend your marriage.

Queen Mab: As a point of information, I would like it noted that the sidhe calender is the turning of the seasons, the motion of the heavens, the growing of the trees and grass; as we are part of the fundamental nature of the universe, our measure of time is time itself.

Stan: So the question I put to you, Jim, is this; why did you make no attempt alter the flow of time, when you knew that, unadjusted, the unidirectional nature of the time continuum would inevitably lead to the end of your marriage?

Jim: Change time? I don't know anything about this...

Stan: Did you even go to school? Why do you think course such as Introductory Cosmology and Basic Quantum Chronodynamics[1] are on the curriculum? For precisely this kind of situation! Why, can you even tell me how many dimensions there are?

Jim: Ten! No, Twenty Six. No, Ten. No...

Stan: Quite. Time is merely one of these dimensions; by leveraging one of the other dimensions, you could stretch time to allow you to consult with a professional dimensional engineer. I have an expert witness here, who may clarify the situation...

Professor Stephen Hawking: Thank you Stan. By swapping dimensions, Jim could have travelled in time by travelling in space, which would...

Jim: Professor, if there are Twenty Six, or maybe Ten dimensions, why can we only see Four?

Professor Hawking: You can actually only see Three, Time is perceived by it's effect on objects in the other Three...

Jim: Right, but what about the other Twenty Two? Or even Six? Wouldn't we notice? I mean, wouldn't monsters burst out of other dimensions?

Professor Hawking: They are all rolled up very small.

Jim: So small that we can't see them, or indeed detect them? So small that they only have existence within the high energy density of a Chromatic Bond between quarks, where their particular configuration leads to the fundamental constants and constraints of the univers?[2]

Professor Hawking: Not that small. Small enough to store in Stan's cellar.

Stan: Yes, I have Twenty One, or sometimes Five dimensions rolled up in my cellar.

Jim: So One dimension is missing?

Stan: Not so much missing as lent out...

Jim: One of the fundamental elements of the universe and you lent it out?

Stan: Sure. How else could people alter time, space and the nature of the universe to avoid, for example, being embarassingly chatted up by their sister's friends?

Jim: [inaudible]

Stan: Hey, it's not too late, I could get it back from Neil, who is even now rescuing himself from a toilet in 2000.

Jim: Just to clarify - what's the charge again?

Queen Mab: Clerk - please read the charge.

To be Concluded...




[1] This is a fairly bad physics in-joke. Sorry.
[2] Yeah, yeah. I haven't really looked into this for nine years, so I may edit this section later to include new developments and remove my confusion and ignorance.