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


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: 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!


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.