Lego Blog: Minifigure Madness

Wrooargh The Bricks Of Change

Minifig MadnessMinifigs, minifigures, Lego men (and women). They are an amazing complement to the sheer joy that the bricks can bring. They have improved over the years too. I’m sure when I was little there were only two faces (smiling and not smiling), nowt but yellow in the physog department and accessories were either walkie-talkies (still ace) or things that might be guns.

The recent blind bag series that Lego have brought out (we’re up to series 10 now) have made my obsession with Lego acceptable to my partner, who is now in a bag-squeezing frenzy to find Medusa. We don’t dick around by buying tonnes of them – blind bags are an abomination and a vile exploitation of enthusiasm. Screw them – just spend a bit of time in the supermarket fondling the packets.

I’ve acquired a decent little collection of minifigs over the last few years, plus a handful from the decade before (in which Lego purchases were an escape from crippling depression and guided by alcohol). I thought it might be nice to ramble about a handful of favourites. I’ve mostly left out the newer bagged minifigures because I reckon they get enough exposure. 


Fabuland Heffalump

Does anyone else remember Fabuland? It was the Duplo animal headed weirdness of the early-mid ’80s. My mum found this chap for me in the wreckage of my youth. I don’t know why he doesn’t have eyes. There is the suggestion of them though. Perhaps in the darkness of boxes skin grew over his eyes… I’m sure that’s it. I loved these guys. I also have the crow figure but he’s so badly scratched I can’t show him here for  fear of affrighting you.

Space man, I just want to fly away (or something)

The little blue dude here is from a Lego Space jumper I had, he’s got a plastic press stud on his back and came unstuck constantly. Terrible idea for clothing. I had tonnes (maybe four) of these guys and always loved the zip on the suit. It’s nice to see how far spacemen have come in Lego. Next to him is the recent hot pink spacelady. New faces, detail jobs on full front, back and legs. Awesome face, good hair and a quite different helmet.


These chaps didn’t seem to hang about for long, but I adore their faces and the chest images. The interestingly shaped helmets, some of which were transparent have remained some of the coolest things that Lego ever made. They came with a rather nice flying saucer that I must rebuild one of these days.

Increasing Awesomeness

Lego accessories, paint jobs and hats have come a very long way. We’re almost seeing some gender balance in the recent minifigure series. The Bee Lady is one of several brilliant costumed figures Lego have put out (I used the Godzilla costume here). The hat is rubber, like the new Yoda heads and a few other hair accessories (see the Friends below). She also has wings. Wings. Gorgeous all round.

A Nice Bit of Skirt

The new ‘skirt’ pieces for lady figures has made them easily identifiable in blind bags, but it also makes the model rather lovely too. The Wicked Witch of The West is very satisfying, and has a nice broom. The other figure here is a vampire hunter – the lovely garlic clove and ripped clothes add texture and freshness to all of these figures. Her hair is also rubber and has a crossbow bolt in it. She was one of the first figures I saw with two faces – both with a scar.

Just More of Everything

The Ewoks were the first figures I saw with the short legs now in general use for Hobbit, leprechauns and so on. The Ewok paintjob and detail has improved from their first appearance as well. Logray is much cooler than unidentifiable forest shadow. It’s almost like Lego were slow to realise how much everyone would love the Star Wars range. I believe they know now.

Hats On, Hats Off

The Green Goblin and the Apeman Costume show the details improving over the years, along with a sense of humour. The sweaty little ape costumed fellow is a winner, with nice paunch on the front and a splendid helmet. The Green Goblin is from a few years ago and you can see that in the moulded but unpainted helmet. He’s got a great face and armour though (and the back of his head is painted).

Lego Chima – the new Fabuland?

I’ve only got a few of the Chima dudes, but I pulled in when I realised the faces were helmets and they had dual expressions underneath. Everything about these guys is brilliant – detail all over them, plus the faces, masks and they often cool things like wings and weapons you have to assemble. The faces are a bit odd. The croc dudes are genuinely scary and the lion’s eyes worry me.

Lego Friends Reunited

I blogged about Lego Friends last week. I’m still keen, especially once I realised that although the heads can’t be swapped, the hats and hair can be… I could do this literally all day:


The Desert Crystals – Part Six: The Sweet Night Air

Part 6 – The Sweet Night Air

The Desert Crystals

Lord Emmaline Corshorn’s airship The Dove’s Eye raced through the night sky, propellers forcing her forward, in hot pursuit of the creature that had torn the nightwatch mate, Jacob Bublesnatch, from the cockpit while they were thousands of feet in the air. The airship had reached unheard of heights – no one knew what might dwell in such a rarefied and chilly band of the atmosphere. The deck was jammed with men – the full complement of crew and passengers gaping at the sight that offered itself to their curiosity.

To those standing agog on deck it seemed as if a black twisting mass were being vomited upon the airship. In reality it was just the caves of a vast floating cliffside disgorging its armada of winged and clawed monsters upon the airship. That didn’t help with the panic. The presence of the Sky Mountain had already shaken the nerves of a superstitious crew, and the frothing flock of teeth and claws heading their way might have inspired a marine crew to abandon ship. But it was a long way down and aeronauts are of sterner stuff.

Still, the crew dallied; agape and with shaking fingers they muttered, shouted and wailed. Their passengers, by way of contrast were engaged in an escalating argument about the nature of the beasts:

“They clearly have wings of skin – see how their shape is so clearly lined by the moon. Therefore they must be mammalian. How else could they retain their body heat?” demanded Rosenhatch Traverstorm.

“Well, first I’d dispute your assertion by the distance over which you judge them. A closer inspection will doubtless reveal their reptilian nature. Furthermore-” Harvey’s critique was interrupted by a bellow from their captain.

“Man your posts for battle!” cried Lord Emmaline, “Jasparz to the armaments – arm the crew.” His words cut through the nervous confusion, his crew swiftly moved to their places and began handing out the airships weapons. He grimly laid his own pistol on the sill of the cockpit and hardened his grip on the wheel.

The creatures flew directly for the speeding airship. To Traverstorm it seemed like just moments before they met. His eyes were fixed on the incursion, spotting and identifying characteristics, comparing them with his encyclopaedic knowledge of beasts known and rumoured. He cursed under his breath as the first of the swarm approached. Their wings were arranged in pairs, with two pairs of black leathery wings beating in alternate rhythm. Beneath and between the wing beats hung long distended bodies, like the tortured thorax and abdomen of a Gorilla Beetle; hanging off them a thrashing mass of jointed tentaculate limbs, viciously clawed, reaching out for the crew. The face… the head seemed nothing but teeth, slavering lips drawn back taut leaving a ring of fangs to thrust forward, ridged larval tongue lashing out – tasting the air.

Traverstorm hunkered down, telescope in hand, between a pair of burly crew toting rifles and gave them a wide-eyed look, “I’d shoot first if I were you.”

The first wave of winged monsters came within reach of the guns; tattered wings and holed bodies spiralled downwards. The crew were admirable shots, but the flock was undeterred. Thicker and heavier they swarmed the airship. Rifle and pistols discharged, killed, were reloaded and found yet more targets. Presumably drawn by the presence of the men on deck, it took the creatures a few waves before they noticed the balloon hanging above the ship. Dozens of them peeled off from the attack to rush, claws extended at the vulnerable bag of gas. The crew kept their shots away from the balloon. Jasparz, the man who had handed out the armaments watched the beasts begin to alight on the ropes and network that bound the airship together. He waited far longer than Traverstorm was comfortable with before finally calling to the captain,

“Now, sir!”

Lord Emmaline grimaced and flipped open a panel on his console, then flicked the pair of switches beneath. A terrific surge of electricity roared through the cables winding about the balloon, and through the sky beasts clinging to them. They convulsed, then dropped steaming out of the air.

“That should deter them. Keep it up lads.”

The crew continued to fire into the horde, but they were relentless. The first of the beasts gripped the rail of the airship and seized a mate by the face. He fired directly into the creature’s body and it fell back, hauling him over the side. His safety rope snapped out, swinging the hapless man under the airship. His mates moved swiftly to reel him back in, but their action left a gap in the line; the creatures filled it. They swarmed into the space, over the bodies of the men engaged in rescuing their friend. Abruptly they were on deck and behind the crew – as well as in front.

Men began to fall under the clawed onslaught and the crew turned to vicious knives and axes for close quarters combat. A violent stuttering roar filled the air and the wave of crawling stabbing monsters exploded in gouts of gore and chitinous flesh. The crew cowered under the slashing rage of the sound, as their foes were cut to ribbons and hurled from the airship. The roar paused, as did the steady chink of brassy shells that bounced off the deck and out into the void. Harvey had rejoined the crew, a massive spinning cluster of barrels bound to his segmented armour. Firing controls were gripped firmly in his foremost appendages and he clacked his mandibles in satisfaction .

“Apologies for the delay gentlemen, this takes some time to strap on,” the centipede stalked up to the centre of the foredeck and let loose with another pounding salvo into the encroaching pack of demons.

“Captain,” cried Traverstorm, clinging to the glassless hole of the cockpit, “we’ll never hold them off here – they can attack on all sides and their numbers seem undiminished.”

“Once more, my gratitude for your keen observation overwhelms my natural irritation at being instructed in the how best to apply saliva to an egg,” Traverstorm had the grace to at least blush, “that is precisely why we are going there-” the captain thrust his arm forwards. Traverstorm followed his finger. It lead to a vast cave that loomed before them. In the heat of battle Traverstorm had barely noticed that they were still heading for the sky mountain. They were now merely a hundred feet from the cliff – it stretched high above and below them, as if they were falling to earth.

“But captain, we have no idea what lies within!”

“We know what’s out here and we can’t survive it for much longer. In there they will be unable to surround us,” he turned from Traverstorm and bellowed to the crew, “Clear the decks! Prepare yourselves!”

The cave mouth yawned over them and they were swallowed, deck, rigging and balloon all.

Next Week: Part 7 – This Hellish Hole

Beer Review: Three Zero Alcohol Beers

Optimism: The Glass Is Half Empty, But It Can Be Refilled

3 Alcohol Free Beers_headerNot content with finding a few good non-alcoholic beers I was convinced that someone else must do a good one – there’s no way I could have found a winner so fast (Erdinger). Well, I did. Yay me. I’ve found three more alternatives (and no I’m not drinking fruit juice) to proper beer. This is my last week of not drinking alcohol and I cannot wait for whiskey and real beer again.

Holsten Pils Zero Alcohol Beer

Imagine my relief when I found pubs in Nottingham with an alternative to Beck’s Blue! This seems to be the only other regular alternative. It’s not bad, and they have it in my Thursday regular The Cock And Hoop. Like most bottled pub beer it comes in a 330ml bottle, which I find a pitiful quantity. I realise that groups of men wearing identical checked shirts regard this as the natural accessory to looking like an identikit over-the-hill twat in town. However, for the rest of us who normally drink from glasses and don’t have a bandy legged swagger, this is a disappointing amount to be charged almost as much as a pint of decent ale for.

The price/volume is all I’ve got to complain about when pressing this to my lips. It tastes fine – like most of the poorer pilsners it doesn’t taste of a great deal, but it is quite refreshing. I’m happy to chug a couple in the pub. The next day though – wow. I have never had hangovers like the headaches I seem to get after this stuff. Might just be me, so I’d be interested in hearing if others get zero-alc hangovers. Kind of annoying…
Rating: Highland Cattle

Bitburger Drive Alcohol Free Beer

I’ve been asking for recommendations during this period of self-imposed torture. Remarkably most people offered Beck’s Blue (I now disregard every opinion they put forward) or Bitburger Drive. I finally tracked this one down in the Kean’s Head. Delightfully the barman provided a range of fancy glassware to make me feel better about drinking it.

I like ordinary Bitburger, it’s clean and refreshing. This ‘driving’ version is also a smooth drink, but has a bewildering dehydrating property. I swear this stuff was wicking away the moisture from my mouth even as I drank it. Incredible. If they put Bitburger Drive in sports t-shirts they would actually work. It gives me a slight dilemma, because it did taste fine (like the Holsten Pils) but I was coughing and had to get a glass of water to go with it. Very odd.
Rating: Camel

Kopparberg Alcohol Free Cider

3 Alcohol Free Beers_cleanI know what you’re thinking – that’s not beer. And you are correct. It certainly is not beer. It was the only alternative to the deathbrew Blue at a Wetherspoons and I was feeling experimental. I don’t often drink cider, not after the 12% white cider my Dad brewed when I was a teen, but I figured this would be like Appletise or something. It’s a 500ml bottle so looks sensible in a pint glass and I felt like I fitted in again. It was lovely until I tasted it.

My first impression was that Willy Wonka had produced a drink to kill small children with diabetes. So sugary that my teeth instantly hurt. It has no flavour other than sweetness. If you got a brick of Haribo sweets and threw them at your own face it might replicate the drinking sensation. That’s not fair – it’s more like Swizzels and Matlow’s Double Dipper in drink form. I drank it with a straw.

Sadly I had to abandon this one about halfway down the glass as I couldn’t taste the food I was eating and the sweetness gave me a headache. The aftertaste, reminiscent of Lemon Tango used as mouthwash, stayed with me through half a packet of gum and toothbrushing. Impressive. I don’t know what Kopparberg is usually like so I can’t speculate about how badly, or accurately they’ve converted it.
Rating: Sugar Glider

This week, Monday 6th May 2013

Summertime and Living Is Queasy

Zoetrope1The weeks flash by like crudely animated horses in a Kinder Egg zoetrope. Consequently I can barely recall what I’ve been doing… it was a quiet week in the evenings at any rate and a modicum of progress has been made. A modicum ain’t much no matter how you quantise it. I’m going to assume I did loads and that the sheer weight of effort has overwhelmed my primitive memory.

This has been my last zero alcohol week too… I am disturbed to find that there are a few of those beers that I really do like. The last one I came across was Bavaria 0.0%. It’s delicious. Even better it’s sold at the insane, face-slapping-awake price of £1.50 for 6 330ml cans. That’s cheaper than any other soft drink I can think of. It’s about to become my regular non-beer drink for the summer. Seriously that price blows my mind. It has a creamy smooth texture which I suppose is most like cream soda. I’m sitting in the cinema with two of them set to accompany Iron Man 3

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: Accusation and Prejudice

Context and judgement afflict us all, how should we make decisions?

Wednesday Live Storytelling: A Story from MissImp in Action

When I get to monologise on stage it gets weird, quickly.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Seven: This Hellish Hole

Darkness has swallowed the crew of The Dove’s Eye

Friday Film Review: Olympus Has Fallen

It’s Die Hard in the White House!

Updates on my thrilling life


I’m chasing myself to keep up at the moment. The mornings are a time of blind gaping until shower and coffee are absorbed. Maybe I need to get up earlier… Hmm. But yeah, I spent last week catching up. I didn’t write The Desert Crystals Part 6 until Wednesday evening. I just didn’t manage to start it earlier. I suspect it might be a bit weaker than some of the other chapters. I will do better! Once I’d found the time it wasn’t a struggle to write, which remains encouraging and enjoyable. I fancy the prospect of this becoming a very long running series, though that might make it tricky to catch up with should someone come into it half way through. Sorry!

They say you should write what you know. I’ve never decided if that limits or exposes you – I think it can be both. Clearly what I write about are not events that I have or could have experienced, but I do try to write my characters in ways that I can conceive of. Their feelings are sometimes mine, and their reactions and responses are, as in improv, things that I can imagine doing or saying. Whether another person can know that this this is the case, or guess it from what’s given in stories and these autobiographical bits is unclear to me.

Last week’s scribbles

The Desert CrystalsMinifig MadnessTuesday Shankata – Layers of Hatred Accrued Poetically Just a few more angry rantings for you.

Wednesday Lego Lego Blog: Minifigure Madness A little delve into my Lego heap and some playing with hair.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Six: The Sweet Night Air The beasts in the night!

Friday Beer Review: Three Zero Alcohol Beers  Perhaps the final three no alcohol beers I shall ever drink…


Lunchtime build 1I really enjoyed getting my minifigs out last week (if you know what I mean) and taking pictures of them. Oddly I don’t recall playing with Lego as a child in the same way as I would with Star Wars, Action Force and Transformers toys. It was the building and disassembly I enjoyed. So I think that hour with swapping heads and hair was more than I used to play even back then.

I’ve been taking a travelling case of Lego to work with me for the last week – see the awesome gold Ferrero Rocher box in the picture. It makes for for a very relaxing half hour’s play at lunchtime. I’m not great at relaxing, but the sound the Lego makes as I turn tht case over sparks a flame of joy in my heart. I’m focussing on miniaturisation due to time constraints using a heap of Lego Friends stuff and Lego Chima.

I also watched a couple of Feminist Frequency podcasts recommended by a fellow Lego enthusiast about Lego’s messed up gender segregation. Really interesting and right on the mark. Check ’em out:

Improv Comedy

No Fisticuffs this week, which was a sadness but a blessed night off too. I ran last week’s improv jam though and tried to fuse what Parky and Lloydie have been focussing on for the last month into something new and cool. My aim was sychronisation of minds, that elusive group mind concept which is tough enough to get with people you know well and a step harder with near-strangers. So it was to be an intimate, intensive affair. I was therefore thrilled when we got abruptly shifted out of our regular space (some art installation thing) and into The City Gallery – a tiny venue. Then twenty people turned up. I could have compromised my plan, I chose not to, except for dropping a warm up game that required three times the space for half as many people.

We played a series of familiar exercises. First a form of rope, in pairs identifying the key groundings for a scene – names, activity, place and feelings. There was a lovely energy and the setups were simple, funny and concise. Next came justification and agreement. I borrowed Jules Munn’s simple “that’s because” exercise, in which every exchange begins with justifying what had just been said. These get hysterical and ridiculous quite quickly. I found mine returned repeatedly to hippy attitudes in the ’60s Odd. Finally we moved on to inspiration, patterns and games: word association in pairs again but spread out through the room. The cycle begins with a statement and the association follows that, responding both to the word that you hear and holdng the initial statement in the back of your mind. Tricky, but it produced a lot of laughter and really interesting patterns and wheels of ideas.

Those exercises and the habits of grounding, justification and inspiration lead into three person sets of scenes. Each set was preceded by a quote from one of three books I’d brought. The trio would then word associate (focussing on each other) until they felt ready to begin the first scene. The three scenes were mostly fairly short, but they all got to the point and were set up quickly and smartly. Whatever we did seemed to work!

Come And Learn…

Mebbe you’d like to improvise too? Well, Parky and I shall be running the next MissImp improv beginners course starting on 13th May for 6 weeks. If you’re interested, and you should be – check out the details here:

Media Intake


I finished the second of Terrence Zavecz’ Cretaceous Station novels, Hunter’s Moon. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first, but I still enjoyed the dinosaurs (feathery!) and the lists of scientific articles at the end of each chapter to back up his research. I moved on to a collection of short stories. Still chewing my way through them. I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished it.

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 9th May

7.30pm at The Corner, Nottingham.
Improv for everyone – on stage!

MissImp in Action – Friday 31st May

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Weeks That Have Come Before

Autofiction: Interpretation

This Is Not A Work Related Post


Just wanted to be clear about that. Apparently it’s important. Perhaps to be even clearer, this is a fictionalised account of the sort of thing that might happen to a person. When I reach out for a name, perhaps when I can’t quite remember someone’s name, or when I allocate a default, it’s usually Dave for a man and Julia for a girl. I don’t really know why. Maybe in my head they are everyman names – certainly they’re fairly common, but more importantly they don’t conjure any specific connotations for me. That makes them useful, I can project what I fancy for characterisation when on stage and since they are average-type names I find them empathetic and sympathetic – they are just like everyone else.


Of course, that doesn’t stop other people from having different assumptions. It’s possible that a reader or audience member might think that I thought all Daves were insane skin harvesters or that all Julias enjoyed knitting during stockbroker meetings. They might even assume that since they themselves share a common name that this is in fact a judgement upon them, and respond to it as if they themselves were the focus of the scene. The question, I guess, is which of these opinions is the more important or accurate, and whether we ought to grant the audience member the right to make those assumptions?

Impractical Criticism

I fondly remember the enjoyable pointlessness of GCSE and A Level English Literature in which we were told about the various interpretations there are of characters and themes in Shakespeare, Chaucer, Webster, Austen and many others. We were encouraged to root into those works and dredge up whatever connotations and assumptions we could justify, using the flimsiest or most complex interpretations we could. While we could easily present a case of racism (or whatever) against the author we could equally easily cry post-modern bollockisms and reinterpret the work in the light of the death of a fishing village in Portugal.

Were any of those ideas true? We found evidence, sure, and chose to interpret it along a set of assumptions. Were they what the author intended? We had no way of knowing as the author had not been thoughtful enough to provide a full justification of their work. Even if they had, we were still encouraged to disregard it, interpret their own explanation in the context of the war, the incipient homoeroticism of the age, a letter inn a newspaper that criticised their love of daffodils. So the author’s intent became the least important aspect of their work.

Their Shoes Are The Wrong Size

I personally think that is total bollocks. Sure, you can partly understand a piece of prose in the context that it was written, but ultimately unless you can get into the author’s head (which you can’t) or ask them about it (you probably can’t because they’re usually safely dead before we rip into them), you either like or dislike the piece of art. That’s it. “I like this book because it reminds me of a sheep in a river”. Fine. But “the sheep, stranded in the river represents Nazism stranded at the end of WWII in the faster flowing ideological tide of communism” is just a load of wank.

Incredible Credulity

It gets worse of course. If one abstracts a sentence or two from its natural context and submits it, anonymously (for fear of prejudicing the reading, one can only assume), to some critical body with powers to act upon the content of the phrase – what would we expect to happen? Undated, timeless, free of context and reference – what is the sensible course to take with such a quote? In GCSE history we were taught to analyse the sources of information. Highly prized was the motive in supplying information. Anonymity makes something impossible to check for accuracy (was the phrase written by the named author?), context. Anonymity itself makes the item suspect. Especially if it is possible, or even likely that a remark taken out of context and handed to a prejudiced observer, might seem to imply a criticism or abuse.

Judge. You Must Judge. At Once.

On receipt of such an item what should that reader do? Ignore it? Well, someone has taken the time to draw one’s attention to it. We shall assume the earnestness of that someone – that they are merely trying to be helpful. Without context it would be difficult to judge malice, surely. So this ‘thing’ – with no context, history or evidence of its source, what can we do but assume, assume like banshees shrieking in the wind. It is obvious therefore that the cited phrase is in breach of some agreement, that the unnamed, unreferenced person or organisation that we assume (from the hidden prejudices of our our mind) is in someway ourself, or the organisation that we represent. Therefore the phrase is offensive, and the author (of whom we yet have no proof) must be both blamed and reprimanded.

Our first move must be to censor (admittedly without cause or certainty), to enforce our rules (which we may not have yet read through, to be certain that the quoted offence does indeed transgress those rules, and to thereby attain the moral highground), and to reprimand the individual identified by an anonymous source for an action whose date, context and existence are as yet undetermined.

It doesn’t sound like a great plan does it?

A Polly Oggy

Is it just barely possible that we might have acted inappropriately in our presumption of guilt, of thoughtless credulity at the offered evidence, of ignorance of our own rules, of prejudice in our assumptions about the intentions and meanings of another’s thoughts expressed in ambiguous and non-referential terms. Might we even be considered foolish for such an action, for colluding with the (more likely) malicious intent behind such an action as lifting a phrase out of context and sending it anonymously to one with the power to punish the author (apparently without proof or investigation), for harrassing, bullying and attempting to impinge on the freedom of an individual to express themselves without fear of censure or censorship when they do in fact comply entirely with the rules we failed to check before acting blindly?

Yeah, maybe. Hope that person isn’t really pissed off…

This is a fictional account of something that might have happened somewhen to somebody.

Live Storytelling: A Story from MissImp in Action

Use Your Braaaaaaiiin

Storytelling at The Glee Club
I like making stuff up. Sometimes it’s with pen and paper (keys and metal?), sometimes it’s just with an audience. I find both to be much the same. One of the differences is that if I’m on stage I can’t just wander off and make a cup of tea or play Plants vs Zombies for an hour. Well, I could, but I’d have to justify it pretty hard. I like the live stuff – there’s no possibility of editing it unless I think about the story as I go along, and it’s probably quite clear that I don’t think ahead. What does work is setting the scene. Once I’ve done that I can come back to it again and again. As with everything we begin with words and add more. Remembering what has happened so far is important on stage because I can’t flick back through the story so far for names and places (I fail at one of those in this story!), partly because repetition is important for reinforcing a theme and reminding the audience (and me) what is happening.

Word Lies

I’m not a very visually-oriented person; when I imagine I don’t see pictures often, I mainly see the words I’d use to describe it. Some words seem weighted – “dawn” is one, and it was the first word that popped into my head at the start of the monologue below. From that all sorts of nonsense is drawn forth. The style of monologues we often do during MissImp in Action are what we call ‘insert word’ stories. The audience are given magazines and when pointed to during the story they provide us with a few random words or phrases, we have to seamlessly fuse them into the story. I use them to twist and tilt the stories – I like to use those phrases to justify or explain. That inevitably leads to some mental contortions as the plot changes completely. It’s fun.

Sad In The Rain

Hope you enjoy the story:


MissImp in Action is performed on the last Friday of every month at The Glee Club in Nottingham by MissImp, Nottingham’s improv group.

The Desert Crystals – Part Seven: This Hellish Hole

Part 7 – This Hellish Hole

Desert Crystals1

The night reached out and bit the airship out of the world. The moon’s radiance cut off immediately and even the ship lamps seemed to gutter with the shock. They returned hesitantly, and held a weaker luminance than before. Although Rosenhatch Traverstorm trusted the captain to know the dimensions of his vessel the hole had appeared all too small. He and the crew had all cringed as the captain unerringly steered the huge balloon and gondola into the cave. To his credit he had already reversed the velocity engines while they were some way out and they drifted gently into the waiting maw.

The terrific swarm of clawing monsters that bedevilled their flight were vivid silhouettes against the glowing exterior. The pistoliers and riflemen continued to gun them down; their centipede companion braced his forelimbs against the rail and directed the rotating barrels of his enormous battery gun towards their enemies, exploding them into tatters. The tremendous roar of Harvey’s carapace mounted machine gun slowed and reduced to irregular shouting. The cannon whined to a halt and the crew’s individual pistol shots were distinct once again. They too tapered off till the crew stood quiet and still on deck. The creatures had withdrawn as the airship drifted further from the outside world. The cave mouth had shrunk dramatically – as Traverstorm proved to himself, raising his hand outstretched in front of him. He abandoned the view, leaving half of the crew maintaining their vigilance at the rear, to join the rest peering into the absolute blackness ahead.

The dark was peerless. Nothing was visible. The lanterns shrank from the gloom, which was irritating as that only made the darkness more complete. Nonetheless Traverstorm squinted, in the vain hope that some light might be forthcoming from deep within the sky cliff. Harvey’s heavy tread announced his presence, the repeating monster on his back causing him to sway more than usual.

“Perhaps they are afraid of the dark,” he joked, jocularly jabbing Traverstorm with his right mandible.

“Hmm,” murmured his friend,” I do wonder if we ought to be…”

Jasparz, the captain’s aide, joined them at the rail. “Lord Emmaline requests your counsel gentlemen.” The crew took an automatic step or two backwards as Harvey’s repeating cannon lurched over them, even though the crank handle hung untouched to his side.

Lord Emmaline was busy lighting a cigar. The glowing tip added a fraction more light to the darkness.

“Good instincts Lord Emmaline,” commented Traverstorm, accepting one of the captain’s cigars (which he himself had brought aboard), “we seem to be safe from them for now.”

“Unless they’re now massing within, preparing to come upon us from all directions,”

“We’re not likely to see them coming,” Harvey chipped in, “but this place is curious. It has the most unusual emanations.” His final pair of legs, which pointed directly behind him quivered and twitched gently.

“Harvey’s kind are highly sensitive to vibration,” Traverstorm offered in response to Lord Emmaline’s quirked brow, “his sensitivity is remarkable, and in circumstances such as these will doubtless prove of greater value than our poor sight.”

“The walls, the whole substance of this unusual aerial structure is positively vibrant. Why, it feels as if the whole rock is alive.”

“A roost perhaps? A vast eyrie, like the ghastly shite-spattered cliffs of Grimdown – only within the hollows rather than on the cliff itself. This must be the resting and probably breeding space for the species. Where else could they fly to? This may be the only object of its sort in the sky. A rare species – indigent solely to this bizarre honeycombed mountain…” Traverstorm’s eyes glazed over as the evolutionary possibilities of the curious cliff bedazzled him.

Lord Emmaline was not so blinded and whilst the explorer pondered he stuffed his pistol into its holster and directed Jasparz to maintain their present cautious course.

“Fix the lamps at fullest extension lads,” he called out through his clenched cigar.

The crew unfolded the hidden booms, stretching an extra set of lights out as far as they would go. They seemed even dimmer out there, but the combined radiance produced a faint reflection off the sides of the cavern, just barely enough to be sure they were not on an immediate collision course. With the oppressive darkness held at bay Lord Emmaline grew conscious of the dank heat that surrounded them as surely as the dark.

“So now what?” asked Traverstorm.

“While I was briefly torn between remaining here or reversing our route and facing that endless horde once more, I believe we ought to follow our intent – to find young Jacob Bublesnatch and rescue him from this hellish hole.”

“Splendid. Harvey here believes he can use his sensitivity to the queer vibrations to at least partly map out the warren that we’re presently plumbing.”

Indeed, the giant centipede had unrolled a large sheet of paper and was even now deftly manipulating a pair of charcoal pencils to plot out the network of tunnels. Beside the sketch he added florid tables of personal symbolism depicting depth of vibration, intensity and irregularities he could detect.

“We shall shortly come upon a vertical passage which looks to lead further into the heart of this place. Given the lack of denizens thus far I’d speculate that they cluster tightly as far from the outer reaches as possible. There we might well discover our missing night watch mate.”

“Excellent,” declared their captain, “I want two men on top of the main frame in five minutes. Take your safeties and pistols. Contact us as soon as you reach the top,” the crew exchanged worried looks and a series of surreptitious ‘rock-paper-scissors’ were soon underway. Lord Emmaline turned back to Harvey and Traverstorm, “there’s a platform above the bag’s frame. I’ll have them spot for us from up there.” A pair of men bounded up the rigging and vanished into the gloom.

“I do hope they took lights with them,” remarked Traverstorm.

“They’ll be fine. Capable fellows,” Lord Emmaline’s response seemed dreadfully glib when with a scream, one of the two men plummeted past the railing and into the depths, “perhaps a little hasty with the knots though.”

Next Week: Part 8 – Running Blind 

Film Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Olympus Has Fallen I love the Die Hard films, except for the most recent one because it was terrible, dull and contained none of the traditional wrong place, good man doing what has to be done themes (they actually list those in Die Hard 4, perhaps that’s why they thought they couldn’t do them anymore). Why am I on about Die Hard? Because Olympus Has Fallen is a Die Hard movie. Since we saw the trailer we’ve been calling it Die Hard in the White House. It makes the film even more fun.
Our main dude (Gerard Butler) is an ex-Secret Service presidential bodyguard who becomes ‘ex’ after saving the president (Aaron Eckhardt) but not his wife from an icy death. All very unfortunate, but told concisely and well enough that you begin to give a damn about the characters. Fortunately he now works at the Treasury next door to the White House. This will come in handy.
Terrorists! Koreans! Hurray. American gung ho movies are at their most amusing when picking on their Oriental foes (almost as good as having Brit bad guys). It’s so full of hatred and relish in their ultimate defeat. It’s fun to cheer on the bad guys too. Especially in this as they are vastly more competent, prepared and likeable. We are delighted by the vision of a plane strafing Washington DC with machine gun fire (though it’s oddly bloodless, especailly compared with what comes later), a coach load of tourists pulling guns out and shooting the utterly inept Secret Service guys, cops and anyone else nearby. Their insurgency is swift, slick and increasingly bloody. There are lots of head shots to enjoy.
Thank goodness we have Gerard Butler. He’s able to sneak in the back, shooting folk in the head, during the takeover of the White House. He’s gruff, tough and best mates with the president’s kid. There’s no particular need to dwell on the rest of the story – the bad guys are holding the president hostage in his bunker, nuclear weapons, techno-blinkie-thing of doom etc. The action is fast and fun – as I said before, it gets pretty bloody and there is also the sort of beating up of women that Hollywood films are really keen on at the moment. All that aside the action is well choreographed and grim. Butler gets some amusing quips in, as does the baddie played by a glacial Rick Yune. It plaays out predictably and no doubt receives applause in the US cinema.
Personally I never get tired of seeing the White House blown to pieces, and that’s in this a lot. I’m sure it’s supposed to be gritty realism, but the main message is how incompetent the president’s top staff and everyone in the military except for that Scottish guy who used to be mostly naked and oiled. Oh no, that’s 300. Oh well. What I was most consistently amused by were the accurate and critical comments of American foreign policy and selfish wealthy attitudes. These come up several times and are just laughed off. There are also the usual terrible decisions of their military commanders, and the general wickedness of America’s enemies.
There are a whole series of perplexing judgments, not least the decision to withdraw the Seventh Fleet and pull out of South Korea. The USA’s responsibilities apparently end with preserving the life of their figurehead. That same commander in chief tells his colleagues to give up their super secret codes without a fight and praises them for their strength. Weird. It’s very entertaining bollocks and I chuckled along happily throughout. Watch it, enjoy.


This week, Monday 13th May 2013

I Tawt I Taw A Busy Cat

Pudding MittensMy mistake – now I am busy! Last week was filled with the stressful misunderstandings that employment seems intended for. As such – not a lot of fun. Boo and tits to that. Next week looks to be far more full of activity, in addition to whatever diurnal nonsense transpires. I start teaching the next MissImp Improv Beginners course on Monday (with m’pal Parky) which will be ace but does further compress the week’s free time. I shall maintain my schedule!

What with all that marvellousness I’m saddened to say that I am already returning to a largely zero alcohol existence in order to remain sane and healthy. I am disappointed by this, not least because I adore the bottle of Singleton I opened this week. Oh well, at least the Bavaria 0.0% alternative I’ve settled on is only 25p per can…


Something that did sadden me this week was news of Ray Harryhausen’s death. It’s rare that I use the word tragedy, but that’s how his death feels. Although I have not one skill in common with the great man, his films have always inspired me and when I think of monsters, they are his.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankicide: Shivving with Death Poetry

Back to a few poems of gentle frustration.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Lunchtime Building

Some people relax at work by going outside; I have a travelling Lego case.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Eight: Running Blind

Darkness has swallowed the crew of The Dove’s Eye

Friday Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Ron’s back! And he has friends as well as splendid new enemies.

Updates on my thrilling life


I like a good old rant and normally I turn to Shankanalia to achieve that, but the week before last some stuff happened that really crawled up my urethra. What I found pleasing about ranting in this case was how diverse the subject felt. Before I knew it I’d banged out a thousand words on the stuff – hence last Tuesday’s sort-of-essay on Interpretation. I’m concerned that continuing to find space even for the little writing I’m doing at the moment is going to get harder – how do other people keep it up?! (And why is there no interrobang key on my keyboard?)

This week I hope to steer The Desert Crystals more or less back on course. This nasty skywards turn was never part of the story! I guess that’s why people plan ahead. My stories always feel to me much more like the stuff I do on stage with MissImp.

Last week’s scribbles

Desert Crystals1Storytelling at The Glee ClubTuesday Autofiction: Accusation and Prejudice Context and judgement afflict us all, how should we make decisions?

Wednesday Live Storytelling: A Story from MissImp in Action When I get to monologise on stage it gets weird, quickly.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Seven: This Hellish Hole Darkness has swallowed the crew of The Dove’s Eye.

Friday Film Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013) It’s Die Hard in the White House!


Lego Boxes1As I mentioned last week I’ve been mostly fingering my bricks at lunchtime. Well, that and having a jolly good re-sort over the weekend when I found another suitable box. Categorising your Lego really does bring out the OCD in a person.It’s insanely satisfying to sift through the boxes, removing colours and shapes to whatever insane demands your organising brain screams at you. I go mainly by colour, or utility of colour. I’m very fond of woodland stuff, so greens and browns all get mixed in together. Blacks and greys (all 20 shades) get separated out, as do white and tan. I also segregate little fiddly bits that I think might come in useful, and when I’m building that can become rather full. Primary colours I use least of all and am least fond of so they get heaped up together.

I have much more time for the pastel stuff of Lego Friends, but I don’t have enough to justify a separate box. What shall I do?! Oh, there’s a missing box as well – I keep oddments of minifig accessories, transparent parts and well, things I like in another box. I’m limited to what I can stuff under the sofas, although a worrying amount is currently in models at present. And Jabba’s Palace and a LoTR set remain unopened upstairs…

Improv Comedy

Due to rage last week I missed Fisticuffs – probably for the best as I wasn’t fit for company. We did have Gorilla Burger though which seemed to go well. It’s evidence of my broken mind that I couldn’t tell whether it was going well at the time. I am now better. Excitingly we begin the Improv Beginners course this week. We have a dinky group of 7 so far, and it would be nice to get 8 or 9 but if not, those delightful 7 will have a lot of attention lavished on them. Woop. I’ve taught lots of introductory workshops and endless weekly jams but I’ve never had this particular intensity of time with a group. I’m looking forwards to it.

Media Intake


The_Air_WarI could resist no longer. I tried to, but I could not. I finally succumbed to the allure of The Air War. I’m so glad I did, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s eighth book in the Shadows of The Apt series is heartbreakingly awesome. The battles are magnificent and the emerging weaponry is terrifying. I’m very afraid even more of my favourite characters will die. I’m also afraid that I’ll read it too quickly, so I am absurdly limiting myself to only reading it in the evening. I recently acquired the first book Empire in Black and Gold on Kindle (I have all of them in paper) so I can re-read that at my leisure.


I saw Avatar again on TV this weekend. God, it’s awful. Not only did its effects appear to have dated really badly, but it was quickly evident just how shallow and weakly done the story is. The characters are of almost no interest and it’s so predictable and so much a muted rip off of many other films – Pocahontas being the most notorious comparison. Personally I think Ferngully was better.

A much better rewatch was X-Men First Class. I loved it at the cinema (in quality it managed to achieve somewhere between X-Men 1 and X-Men 2 – we shall not speak of X-Men 3), and I think it’s maybe even more enjoyable at home. It was very pleasing to see young Professor X and Magneto hanging out in bars. It’s shot like a ’70s movie but with modern pace and sensibilities, which really makes it pack a punch. I believe the next one is just around the corner.

Events and Excitement

Knickerbocker GloriousKnickerbocker Glorious – Saturday 18th May

11:00am – 3:00pm at The Fountain, Cathedral Quarter, Derby.
Music, pirate tales and more. All free, all outdoors.

MissImp in Action – Friday 31st May

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Weeks That Have Come Before

Lego Blog: Lunchtime Building

Packed Lego

The best lunchtime activity I’ve found is Lego. Reading is okay, but the phone rings. Writing is what I want to do, but the phone rings. Lego however… Lego drowns out the noise. That gentle shake of the case and the consequent rattle and shickling of the bricks gives me a very pleasant warm sensation. It’s nice. So for the last few weeks I’ve been toting a nice metal Ferrero Rocher tin with an assortment of Lego Friends, a bit of Chima and some other random bits and bobs. It’s a nice mix of odd bricks and colours and is proving nice to build and dismantle from.

An Idle Beginning

Without really intending to, I’ve been developing a story of sorts from my random buildings…

Setting the Scene

Going Hunting

This one seemed at it’s best out in the wild. The Lego Friends heads are frustrating to fit into ordinary Lego funtime. They fit well on a spike though. Our brave hunter has succeeded. He also has a bucket of water. Victory!

The next set became a bit more complicated. I’m pleased with the water section – it’s something to do with all those weird crystal Chima things. I just want to take them apart. But it gave a pleasing depth with the tall tree adding to the effect.

I’m looking forwards to further building, it’s good fun and very relaxing. Next I shall build robots again!

The Desert Crystals – Part Eight: Running Blind

Part 8 – Running Blind

Desert Crystals1

The scream, when it came, echoed limply from the damp walls and squeaked back into Jacob’s ears. He had awoken, as if from a terrible dream – bound tightly in sweat-soaked sheets, the stench of his own fear and clammy limbs as oppressive as the nightmare from which he’d escaped – into a darkness that even the cellars of his grandfather had never conjured as punishment for misbehaviour. It was when he recalled that he was a man, a man lost in the air, kidnapped by a frightful beast and stolen away into this lightless place in the heart of an impossible mountain that the scream began to work its way up his throat. As the memories flashed forwards he retched, remembering the sensations that immediately preceded his flight into unconsciousness.

Discovering that he could not open his mouth, nor tell if his eyes were open save by scratching at them with sweaty fingers, only urged on the screams so desperate to escape from his tortured throat. Jacob convulsed with fear, snapping away the bonds that held him kneeling in place. Brittle edges scraped his shoulders and knees as he staggered upright and promptly fell backwards, landing on what felt like broken branches. He reeled back from that and fell. He did not fall far, but those few moments stretched into an eternity before he smacked down on a hard, dusty surface.

Jacob gasped for the breath that was knocked out of him and clawed at his face. A thickly congealed layer of awful viscous slime lay across his mouth. Jacob tore it shudderingly from his lips and teeth, gagging as he ripped gelatinous stalactites that had formed inside his mouth. His breathing ragged he peeled the stuff more carefully from his eyes, easing the jellied tears from under his eyelids and casting it as far from where he crouched as possible.  He just squatted there for a minute, catching his breath.

Whatever had bound him before forcing it’s ghastly droolings upon his face had released him, or he had broken past it somehow. Were it not for the gooey skin he’d found on his face he might have been able to convince himself that he’d imagined the leathery wings and clawtips holding him down, that he had just snared himself in a bush (assuming there were bushes in these caves) and panicked. He certainly had had good reason to panic.

Looking around himself now, into the total darkness and feeling the dank heat of the place release moisture from his pores Jacob figured he still had good reason to panic now. He was lost, untold tunnels separated him from the outside and the outside itself and thousands of feet of air kept his own world at bay.

Still, Jacob was a practical lad – the Bublesnatch clan were of good stock in his home town of Ortheria and his grandfather’s strict discipline had encouraged him to learn many things (avoiding being caught was not one of them, and this most recent experience would scarcely have surprised the old man). Although he would probably not enjoy such sport in future, he had taken some pleasure in exploring the warrens of Host Lizards in the foothills of the Corrigible Mountains in whose shadows Ortheria prospered. They were a curious species who dedicated much time to digging holes and burrows with small cairns at surface level to indicate that the space was available for use. Many travellers took advantage of the beasts’ benevolence and used them as waystations or hostels. Some of the Guest Burrows were linked with a tunnel complex and Jacob had lost and found himself many times.

He tried to ignore the fact that he could not see and that unknown horrors lurked in the shadows. He closed his useless eyes and focussed on what he could hear. That deep breathing sound which his speeding heart had blurred was back, like the whole place was one huge rocky lung. It came and went, was louder and quieter as he turned on the spot, crouching and standing to get some conception of the space around him. Eyes still closed Jacob took a cautious step forwards, and another. A faint draught licked at his damp skin and encouraged fractionally swifter perambulation.

As he held closed his eyes he became aware of their continued irritation. He must have failed to extract some portion of that vile substance that still gummed up his eye lashes and brows. Damn but it itched. Absently he rubbed at his eye with a closed fist, but the itch only grew. Jacob tutted to himself and slapped the aggravating hand with his other, his grandfather’s chiding in mind. Instead he blinked heavily, attempting to force out whatever strand or sliver of ooze was caught round the ball of his eyes. His stepping faltered with the effort until he found himself pressing both palms to his eye sockets to squeeze out the prickling and prevent his further scratching. It felt like his eyes were alive and writhing within their skulled cups. He swore he could feel them like a bag of worms under his palms, rippling inside his squashed eyelids.

The distraction never quite prevented him from staggering in what he thought was almost a straight line. Each step was slow and wavered before touching the ground, as if through increased height he could relieve the pressure on his lidded orbs. Had he not been so abstracted he might have noticed when his right foot failed to find the floor in its usual place. If anything, beginning to fall forwards mashed his eye with greater satisfaction against his hand, and it was when the rest of him followed his foot over the hidden edge that he realised the error.

Next Week: Part 9 – The Abyss She Cries So Sweet 

This week, Monday 20th May 2013

Spain? That’s A Different Country.


Last week was pretty hectic (for me) – Monday evening teaching improv, Tuesday evening doing improv, I don’t remember Wednesday, Thursday evening doing improv and Friday evening I was in a TV coma. Saturday I got up early to go and compere Derby’s Knickerbocker Glorious event. Then returned to a TV coma. Phew. This week will be slightly less busy, which means might even get some stuff done.

The long awaited training phase has kicked in at work, although I’m delivering the least because of my other mind-numbing, stress-inducing tasks. It’s a relief to finally be approaching the end (of the beginning). At the very least, training is time out of the office and away from people driving you insane because of their own solipsistic narcissism. In the training room, you mine bitch (sorry, it’s a film hangover). We had quite a lot of fun in Fridays’s event, so it was a good end to variably shitty week. I find that I lead two lives – daytime and evening and I become very resentful when the day bleeds into night.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Gig Report: Knickerbocker Glory #1

I love the fabulously talented people I get to work with, so I figured you’d probably like them too.

Wednesday Things I Love: #1 My Marmalade Badger

We have a cat, she is adorable.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Nine: The Abyss, She Cries So Sweet

In the darkness there’s always something listening to you breathe.

Friday Book Review: The Air War (Shadows of the Apt Book Eight) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2012)

This is one of the best series I’ve ever read.

Updates on my thrilling life


My increased day and evening activity is doing nothing for my writing productivity. I am having to be very disciplined just to get the next chapter of The Desert Crystals done. I am pleased to note that it’s now at part 9, which makes it the longest thing I’ve written in a very long time. It is also sooooo far off course right now that it’s going to take at least that many words to get it back on track.
Last week’s scribbles

Desert Crystals1Tuesday Shankicide: Shivving with Death Poetry What’s a little angry poem between friends?

Wednesday Lego Blog: Lunchtime Building It’s a good way to fill the middle of the day.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Eight: Running Blind  Lost and alone in a cave. Doesn’t sound promising.

Friday Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013) Brilliant fun.


Aaaaaah, the sweet schinkle of Lego bricks. I have finally roofed the ‘Boba Fett’ house I’ve been tinkering with for weeks. It now does not fit on the shelf. This is an annoyance. However I am now able to move on with the general decoration and camouflage I have in mind. It’s still going to be some weeks of half-hours before it’s fit for presentation mind.

While in Derby on Saturday, we took our pal Martin to the toy shops in the enormous labyrinth that is the Westfield centre. I have previously become entirely lost within its perplexing mirrored shapes. There’s a decent The Entertainer in there (as there is in Nottingham, but since we usually only get into Nottingham on a Sunday we can’t go in as they have a rather backward religious attitude to being open on that most useful of days). That has a decent range of Lego, including the new Lego Friends series 2 animal sets. They have a Lego hedgehog! Awesome. We also went to the more impressive Toy Planet which packs a metric fucktonne of stuff into a very small shop. We stared at the Lego wall for some time…. Eventually I emerged with just the Lego Monster Fighters ‘Swamp Monster’ who has great eyes.

Improv Comedy

On Monday Parky and I met the 9 brave souls who are doing the MissImp Improv Beginners course. They’re ace! And also one of the most awesomely diverse groups I’ve worked with. We all very much enjoyed the first session and it was really interesting to see people begin to emerge from their shells. I was also impressed by the speed with which folk assimilated ‘yes and’. We’ll see if it’s stuck during the week…
Incandescent rage on Tuesday meant that I could only attend Fisticuffs for a little while, but we did some lovely scenes off a monologue by Ben about Warhammer “bear me aloft” is my new catchphrase. In any event it did a good job of chilling me out.

Media Intake


I finished The Air War which is why I’m reviewing it this week. I’ve moved on to a really peculiar little tome by Louis Sachar called The Cardturner. It is very much about Bridge (the card game) and the need to inherit money from one’s richer family members. I’m finding it intriguing although the Bridge talk is blowing my mind. I really struggle to learn and remember how to play any card game; I’ve no idea why – I suspect I just don’t care enough to; but Bridge is well, gosh… complex. The author has a lovely device of a whale image preceding a long description of the game (read it yourself to find out why) so you can skip it if you wish and just read the summary at the end of the chapter. It’s a clever way to keep the reader (me) engaged by colluding with my intellectual laziness.


Well, Star Trek: Into Darkness was awful. I tried to enjoy it while it was on, but it made me cringe throughout. It’s dialogue is scarcely better than Fast and Furious 6. Seriously. Both are terrible, but the latter made me laugh a lot more (which seemed to upset the very earnest teens watching the film at Cineworld Nottingham). To fully explore why the new Star Trek film is so bad would take me several hours. I think for now I’ll just go for painfully lazy, disappointingly predictable and well, disappointing.

Chris Pine is still a strikingly poor actor and (unrelated to the film) you can see the future fat man already breaking out of his face. Oh, and Simon Pegg. I usually like the chap, but he is a terrible Scotty. Oh, I’m ranting. Oh well… The entire cast is outacted by Benedict Cumberbatch who plays the largely emotionless but occasionally enraged (oh, it’s going to be Khan isn’t is? It can’t be. That would be too fucking stupid and lazy. Oh no.) Khan. It’s alright though, he’s swiftly defeated because he’s not really the villain (that’s Robocop) and sigh… Finally it ends and the credit sequence shows lots of more exciting and interesting planets.


Extreme exhaustion pushed me to stare at the TV on Friday and Saturday nights to catch up to only a week or so behind with our favourite brain-killers. I’m enjoying the current series of Doctor Who. The more alien Matt Smith’s character becomes the more I like him. We saw Neil Gaiman’s Cyberman episode with the lovely cyberworms and cybermind – it was a nice version of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Best of Both Worlds with the Borgified Jean-Luc Picard. Funnier though.

We’re also catching up with our crop of US crime ‘dramas’: The Mentalist is still ticking over well as the search for Red John continues. I do love watching Patrick Jane destroying any chance at conviction due to entrapment and manipulation. It’s a nice skeptical programme which challenges a lot of magical thinking and parasitic frauds. NCIS now has Jamie Lee Curtis in it! We were surprised, but pleased to see Gibbs maybe get a new ‘head of PsyOps’ girlfriend. Most wonderfully, Justified is back with numerous bangs. This is series 4 I think and it still delights me as much as Deadwood did – having a similar cast helps, but mostly it’s the delightfully lyrical dialogue that I love the most; rarely have shootouts and gang bosses spoken so poetically.

Events and Excitement

MissImp in Action – Friday 31st May

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Weeks That Have Come Before

Gig Report: Knickerbocker Glorious #1

Derby Needs Music and Comedy

Furthest From The Sea, a record and promotions group in Derby has started up a monthly live, free arts and entertainment show in Derby Market Place on the third Saturday of the month. Matt McGuinness, the insanely busy front man for Karl and The Marx Brothers dragged me into it. I was originally due to perform a series of Captain Pigheart’s pirate stories throughout the day, but the unfortunate illness of the compere, Tony ‘BigIssue’ Peppiatt (a splendid man) meant that I ended up compering the whole day! It was excellent fun, once I’d consumed a mammoth quantity of caffeine (thank you Caffe Nero for filling a large mug with espressos).

Derby Evening Telegraph 20-05-13

I got the chance to rail at drunks, berate children for asking foolish questions (we’re performing where there is usually a fountain, hence “where’s the water?” I suppose), fill gaps by chuckling at the other performers, terrify some kids who wanted to be chased by a growling pirate, and see a bunch of friends! We’ve also received a decent amount of local press coverage. I have a picture with the lovely dancing ladies and everything!

The Acts


I’ve done a couple of gigs with Harriet, and excepting her appalling youth (18!) she is a wonderful singer. She also peppers her act with dreadful jokes which still make me laugh and she can endure me improvising about her pineapple juice addiction.

You can find her gigging constantly in Derby and Nottingham. I see her photograph everywhere I go. It’s a bit creepy.

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Lily Gornall

I like Spoken Word (it’s what I do after all) and poetry has a fascinating effect on audiences. It’s a nice break from music and means people have to pay attention.

Lily’s poems are funny and modern in content, so there was much for the crowd to empathise with.

She has a book! Buy her book from Amazon. Villa of Pain and Other Funny Poems/

Josh Kemp

I had completely forgotten that I already knew Josh because he played one half of ‘His N Hers’ a creepy brother-sister double-act in Lloydie’s play An HR’d Day’s Night. He’s one of those magical people who uses pedal-powered loop things to perform as a one-man band. Every time he stops singing or playing yet the music continues it blows my tiny mind…. He’s got a great pop music thing going.

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Arjana Dance

Ignatius and Anjana DanceBelly dancers! In Derby, barefoot and (seemingly) barely clad with nothing but a carpet to separate them from the ground. They dance beautifully. I have no meaningful descriptions for dancing, but their delighted grins captivated the audience. I have only once before performed with dancers, I look forwards to doing it again.


Leo Swarvett

Another poet, loud and demanding on the audience! Leo has lots of fun wordplay which I enjoyed and he bounds about most dynamically. He has some very strange poems… well worth catching if you see him around (just remember to release him back into the wild).


Captain Pigheart

I almost left myself out! The fool… Since I was also compering I switching between personas which I always find slightly confusing. Still, I feel that the frantic babble-o-tron is my primary USP as a compere: I will fill every gap, whether it’s with a list of the medical benefits of pineapple juice or a lament on the literacy of youth (both from Saturday). I read a few different stories, with a mediocre effort to edit out any specifically family-unfriendly references as you can tell from the list below. It’s hard to edit out whoring, greasing large wenches or fisting whales once you’re in full flow…

The Cetacean Adventure

The Blundering Buccaneer

The Gastronomical Adventure

The Missing Metacarpal Adventure

Next Show

Furthest From The Sea

The next Knickerbocker Glorious is on Saturday 15th June

Even better – the full Furthest From The Sea Acoustic and Comedy Festival is Saturday 29th June in Derby Market Place – ALL day, ALL FREE

Things I Love: #1 My Marmalade Badger

Life With Felines

I have always loved cats, and except for a few years of my life I’ve always lived with one. They are wonderful creatures: selfish, lazy, honest, demanding, inattentive and beautiful. In many respects they succeed in traits normally considered despicable in humans. On reflection I strongly dislike most humans (I am being gentle here) and find the company of cats infinitely preferable. This a shameless post about our beloved cat.

Merlin or Merly

We’ve had our little Ginger Angel for a few years now. She came to us after our previous cat Spats died (giving every impression that she died doing what she loved – killing smaller animals. We were devastated and found it very hard to live without her. To those who do not share their lives with non-humans I realise this may seem somewhat ridiculous, but I’d trade you one of your humans for a kitten any day of the week. Merly was then living with my step-mum’s sister, but due to work arrangements was becoming rather lonely living with just a mental dog. We took her in and have since indulged her indolent, noisy lifestyle. Her original name was Merlin, but she’s a lady-cat and something about her rather sweet nature suggested the diminutive ‘Merly’ instead. She has subsequently acquired many names: Marmalade Badger, Picklemoose, Bookin, Booxunamoon (her Egyptian name), Booclid (Greek), Squeaklepurr, Bumblebear and many other likely nauseatingly sweet names.

She Sleeps All Day, She Sleeps All Night

Merly sleeps for about twenty two hours a day, or at least has a damn good go at doing so. She’s slimmed down a bit as she’s gotten older, but not through resisting food.  When she’s awake she is very noisy, and exhibits the widest range of odd purrs, chirrups and squeaks I’ve ever encountered. I shall record some of her weird sounds for a future record. She also has deep, plush fur. That seems to be common with gingerbeasts, but Merly’s the first ginger kit I’ve lived with so it’s new to me. She’s fond of stomping over us when we sleep, and I find her purr (loud and deep) will send me straight to sleep if she’s lying on me.

Happiness Made of Fluff

There are two people there when I get home and Merly is one of them. Between them they make my life worthwhile and bring me a sense of peace and happiness I have rarely known.

Cuddling Time

The Desert Crystals – Part Nine: The Abyss She Cries So Sweet

Part 9 – The Abyss She Cries So Sweet

Desert Crystals1
Footsteps echoed up and down the corridor, leaping from wooden floor to cold stone walls only to be rebuffed by the glass ceilings; rejected, the echoes returned the way they came, confusing and distracting those using the corridor. The curious acoustic phenomena of the Meridional University’s interconnecting corridors was frequently commented upon by visitors who suffered badly from its disorienting dopplered echoes. It was not uncommon for residents and academics to collapse in confusion. The echoes had been known to reverberate for hours before finally dispersing. Countless ghost stories were spurred on by the regular sound of footsteps in deserted passages.

The only clear solution, as adopted by the forthright scholars who stalked the halls was to slap one’s feet down as hard as possible, and so dominate the echo effect until one reaches one’s destination. The result was one of auditory chaos. It was rare for students in their early years of study to brave the university’s corridors; they tended to use the windows that opened into the auditoria and lecture theatre that ringed the vast inaccessible quadrangle at the heart of the college. This greatly satisfied the already self-satisfied professors and ranking officials: the lengthy hallways became their private striding domain, suited to their status; cynics commented only on how much they enjoyed the sound of their own voices.

Two such gentlemen pounded along the polished planks, their footfalls oppressing a trio of undergraduates who cowered in a doorway. The broader of the men sneered at the students, driving them back into the room from which they had blundered. The gentlemen exchanged not a word, for fear of their conversation rebounding in the air long after they had departed. Lesser schemes than theirs had been pierced by a casual ear. They rounded the next corner (being briefly bombarded by echoes ricocheting from the next leg of the quad) and, pausing only for a token tap of the door, turned the handle and strode into the richly carpeted office behind it.

“Brelton! This is an outrage,” declared the larger, and sad to say, sweatier of the two intruders, “I demand that you recall that imbecile Traverstorm. This expedition has not been approved by the committee, this is unacceptable… this is – unsanctioned.”

Brelton, the accusee sighed and laid down his pen. “Hello Guldwych, how nice of you to drop in.”

“Don’t you dare brush me off with your friendly platitudes. You well know the committee’s stance on these outrageous adventures. How many more have to die before you finally ban that man from the university?”

“As I imagine you are aware, but choosing to ignore, Rosenhatch goes forth with my blessing, but not my permission – or the university’s funds.”


Without further debate, Guldlwych Ryme (Professor of Zoological Curiosities  swept out of Brelton Name’s office and stormed off down the corridor, “outrageous” bouncing out of the office and up the hallway away from him. The much smaller man, Eslie Chem was swept up in his wake, though he at least gave a departing nod to Name as he tugged the door closed behind them. The offices of the more decorated academics were conveniently placed near each other to encourage discourse and collaboration. Naturally they enabled feuds and inter-disciplinary violence to break out equally readily.

Ryme tore open the door to his own office and hurled himself into the battered leather chair squatting behind his desk. He grasped moodily at the chair’s arms and then launched out of the chair into vigorous stomping about on his own plushly carpeted floor. Chem entered the professor’s office and took a seat. He waited patiently for Ryme to calm down. Their long association assured Chem that he had time to prepare his pipe before further discussion would be profitable. Ryme puffed and grumbled as he paced, growing shorter of breath with each angry ejaculation.

Chem lit his pipe and tapped the match into the empty ashtray on Ryme’s desk just as the larger man wheezed heavily and dropped back into his chair. The two men faced each other through a freshly blooming cloud of smoke.

“He’s right you know. Traverstorm’s got the backing of Corshorn and the Journals Biologinary. It doesn’t matter what Meridional does now.”

“You think I don’t know that? How many has he killed now – twenty, more?”

“And think of the articles he’s had published…”

Ryme’s face bulged with fury. As ever, Eslie Chem had depressed the appropriate buttons. He sat back and enjoyed his pipe.

“We cannot permit him to continue these ludicrous expeditions, that harm the name of the university, and rob real researchers of funding,” spluttered Ryme.

“Don’t forget the dead,” Chem chipped in.

“Well yes. There’s them too.”

“We know where they’re going. And we do have funds available.”

“You’re right. We can get there first, and give a truly scholarly account of the failings of his expedition.”

“By we, I presume you mean me?”

“Quite. No – not this time Eslie. This time I’ll be there to watch him fail.”

Ryme’s loathing of Rosenhatch Traverstorm had reached legendary proportions in the university’s community. A quite reasonable distaste for the upstart’s luck in uncovering the Tooth-Furred Gambimole was doubled, tripled quadrupled in each successive exploit. Not only did the man have few, and dubious qualifications but he was popular. Popular in spite of his incompetence and carelessness. And the Journals Biologinary had done a whole issue on Rosenhatch and his bloody cat.

“Find me an airship Chem, and some men. It’s time we killed his reputation once and for all.”

Chem emptied his pipe into the ashtray, shook the man’s hand and left Ryme’s office with a grim smile on his narrow face. He knew just the men for the job.

Next Week: Part 10 – A Grisly Adventure

Book Review: The Air War by Adrian Tchaikovsky


The Air War is book eight in this planned series of ten (I’m weeping in frustration that book nine isn’t already in my tear-soaked hands) so I can’t tell you much about the specific plot unless you’ve already read the previous seven. I’ll assume you haven’t. Tchaikovsky writes big epic fantasy- these are your proper 400-500 page chunks of story each time, each one adding to what has come before and propelling you hysterically towards the (argh only two books left!) conclusion. I’ve actually managed to delay reading this one for quite a while – I’ve been holding it ready for when I really needed something fantastic to chew through. I even tried to read it slowly, but I didn’t have a chance and inhaled it within a week.

The series The Shadows of the Apt is very different from your average fantasy story. Sure, there are swords and heroes, empires clashing, magic, good and evil – but it’s all cleverly subverted and converted into something new and brilliant. ‘Aptitude’ is the key – magic has waned, being replaced by technology and those who are ‘apt’ and can conceive of and work with tools and machines. The apt civilisations have rapidly outstripped the magic and ‘inapt’ cultures who once ruled the world. We have war, huge battles and brutal skirmishes throughout the series, charting the rise of new weapons and instruments. So far we’ve gone from swords and bow and arrow, through nail guns and snap bows to full blown aerial bombardment. The Air War sees this new and terrifying development as the Wasp Empire casts the shadow of its bombers over the Lowlands and their independent city states.

Wasp Empire? Yes – perhaps the most awesome conception of the author is the people themselves. They are insect-kinden – each group of people has specific social and physical attributes of the insects which long ago humanity somehow became bound with. The ant-kinden – militaristic, hive-minded, suspicious of outsiders; wasp-kinden – violent, empire-building; mantis-kinden – shadowy, moody warriors. The list goes on, and we get introduced to new kinden across the world. They all have some ‘art’ – this is in part the waning magic of the age, but is also a gift of their kinden – wasps and fly-kinden can fly, physically manifesting their art, others have empathic bonds with the creatures of their kinden (huge in this world). It sounds incredibly odd, but once matched up with the compelling characters, heroes, martyrs and villains in the series it works perfectly. It’s perpetually intriguing and gripping.

The Air War is a relatively compact chapter of the series, primarily covering the fresh advance of the Wasp Empire now that it has settled following the assassination of its emperor. We switch between story lines and locations: the ancient moth-kinden infiltrating a new assassin into the empire – of the Empress Seda, herself a terrifying character, newly steeped in ancient magic. Our main character Stenwold Maker – a teacher and now war-master from Collegium is still striving to defend the peoples of the Lowlands from the Wasp threats but he witnesses the destruction of cities and the second assault on his home city. We also follow Taki, the pilot in the aerial battles, and receive dark hints of wheels within wheels.

So much has been set up by this point that whole casts of characters have died, or whose paths will return in a later book. The action switches deftly between actors and places. The characters are very well-rounded – even the villains and one-act heroes are credible, interesting people. I still miss some of the fabulous players from the first three books, and many who we last saw two or three books ago! It’s a fantastic fantasy series with unique twists and features that lifts The Shadows of The Apt out of its genre and makes it something completely new.
Read them all.

Adrian Tchaikovsky – The Shadows of the Apt

Get The Air War at

This week, Monday 27th May 2013

The Incredible Value of a Long Weekend.

Space PeopleWhoosh. I have been pressured into taking time off work. I am happy about this. I left work on Thursday and don’t have to go back till tomorrow. I have, naturally, squandered the time granted me. Until this morning I have done little except for sleeping, going to birthday parties and making birthday cards for those birthdays. So it’s been nice – I’ve seen lots of my favourite people, even had a few drinks and had much silly chatter. It has been lovely.

Today though I have to pull my scribbling socks back up – get this, and the rest of the week’s posts sorted and hopefully grab some Lego time later on.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankerrific: Poems of Despair

It’s good to let it all out isn’t it. Isn’t it?

Wednesday Lego Blog: The House in the Weird Jungle

It’s taken ages to build. Was it worth it? Yes (for me).

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Ten: A Grisly Adventure

The plight of the airship intensifies.

Friday Book Review: Ghosts of War by George Mann (2011)

Thrilling steampunk / horror fiction.

Updates on my thrilling life


I have realised that some folk may take me for a pessimist, as what I write does tend towards the bleak and angry. (Does it? Please say no…) I hope last week went some way to reassure you! The Gig Report: Knickerbocker Glorious and My Marmalade Badger got more readers than almost anything else I’ve written! I suppose the internet is about cats. I feel like an optimist who is surrounded by darkness; I’m certain there’s a light switch somewhere nearby, but I’m damned if I can find it. I did enjoy writing about my Merly-boo; a friend commented that he thought I’d been hacked. Bastard. I shall write more Things I Love, but I shall likely add a Things I Hate to balance it out.
Last week’s scribbles

Desert Crystals1


I need to return to the book on advanced building techniques because I keep sticking bricks together, making nice arms or legs and find myself unable to sensibly join them. It is annoying. I did make a nice robot…

More importantly I have spread the adult love of Lego further. Hold on, that sounds really weird – in a non-sexual way. Mind you, there must be someone out there with a brick fetish; I shall resist the immediate allure of Google. So, yeah. For a friend’s birthday present from her work colleague I ran off with the pennies and got as much Lego as I could for it. The result? One of the new Lego Friends bags with the hedgehog (awesome, is so at the top of my must-have list) and a vastly reduced Gandalf Arrives LoTR set. Pretty sweet. Oh, and she was also pleased.

Improv Comedy

The MissImp Improv Beginners course is going well. We have a week off with the bank holiday so I need to send them some homework later on (!). Parky and I have fallen into a natural complementary rhythm of teaching; I’d forgotten just how much you can find to say about a scene and about improv in general. I find that slightly challenging because I am not a cognitive improviser at all. Some of the gang do a good deal more thinking during scenes than me, but I just can’t. We re-blogged a post by Heather from @MusicImprov this week which talks about ‘being in your head’ – that familiar experience of trying to work out what to do with a scene rather than just doing it. It also talks about ‘rolodexing’ as a way of flipping through your related thoughts and ideas. I can’t do it, which makes me abysmal at warm ups which rely on relating concepts.

That’s okay though, as a trainer and learner I’m very aware of how I learn and it’s not through Q&A, or formal learning. For me everything comes alive when I’m talking – discursive’s where it’s at baby. Damned Parky continues to mock me for being unable to do the Pointless questions “words ending in -ice” (for example). I tend to say something like “ice” or “spice”. It would take me literally hours to get to his daughter’s instant answer “prejudice”. The more I think about anything the harder it gets (no, not like that). If I stop thinking about it (which is difficult once he’s put the bloody thing in my head) and just talk, or write I’ll find one pretty quickly. Have you ever tried concentrating really hard on breathing and thinking about how you actually do it? It makes me struggle to breathe at all. Autonomic functions do work best when you don’t think about them. I need to kick back, relax my brain and let it run out of my mouth (or fingers) – the silt it dredges up often proves useful.

My experiences of ‘rolodexing’ are awful. I get the first word, then the next sheet is blank, and the next one, then the next. After a few of those I’m panicking and my mind is now associating with ‘blank’, ‘failure’, ‘doom’ and so on. I find it hard to plan rhymes. A lot of musical improvisers are able to plan out their rhyming schemes and then fill in the lines as the sing. I envy their joyous mental fluidity. As soon as I start to do that it fucks me up. I doubt I shall ever be able to do a Hoedown. My preference for dealing with suggestions and ideas is to bury it in my mind and leap into action. Once the mind is primed with a suggestion, which we then kick away from, it’s bound to come back to it, or at least inform the consequences.

Something that I’m finding I emphasise while teaching the beginners is opening ourselves to the range of possibilities. Many questions and situations appear to be black or white – yes/no are the instinctive answers. For beginners the instinct is often to say no. It’s easier, it shuts down opportunity and it feels safer. But there are a literal infinity of possible answers or responses for any situation. Making those available to us, and quickly, can for me only be accomplished by thinking as little as possible. Everything I think of shuts down a thousand alternatives; everything I do opens up a million possibilities.

Media Intake


I finished Louis Sachar’s The Cardturner last week – I liked it very much but I still have no comprehension of Bridge; I feel Ihave failed the author. I’m having trouble choosing books – I just don’t know what I want. I maintain a small heap of books I am really looking forwards to and I pace those out with books I either know nothing about or fall into an enjoyable but undemanding category of reading. The Cardturner was in the “umm, what’s this?” pile.

I then remembered that I’d downloaded Transformers More Than Meets The Eye volume 3 a few weeks ago. That made everything better. The writing is pretty snappy, the stories are almost unrecognisable from the merchandise comics of the ’80s and I like the clean art from most of the contributors. They are also funny, consistently funny. I’d recommend ’em. The story is split into two parallel comic runs: More Than Meets The Eye and Robots in Disguise – the first adventures in deep space with a misfit crew, the latter remains on post-war Cybertron where maintaining the peace proves… tricky. Terrorism, despotism, assassination, religion, politics, mental health – all subjects up for grabs and used in both series. Transformers? Hell yeah.

I’m about to finish George Mann’s Ghosts of War, a steampunk horror series. It’s great – I’ll review it on Friday.


We’ve hit the cinema in the few waking hours I’ve had this weekend, though nothing has been particularly good.


Not epic. Very much blah throughout. I hear it’s based on a book series which suggests to me that they’ve taken the first and last books and crudely hammered them together, which would explain why it doesn’t make much sense. The comic characters were the most enjoyable – wise-cracking slugs, although that’s only in comparison to the deadly dull voice talents of Colin Farrell and Steven Tyler. Oh, and Beyonce’s was terrible. The voices frequently seemed at odds with the style of the film. It didn’t even look that pretty. When we saw the trailer in 3D it gave me a headache, and seeing it in 2D was weird and fuzzy. One to skip.

The Hangover Part III

It’s incredible the series has made it to a trilogy. Sadly they should should have stuck with the sequel. The well-practiced formula of starting with a night out and cutting to the wreckage of the morning after and having to retrace the chaos of the night before is abandoned. This is a huge mistake. Instead they turn the previous two films into the story of Alan’s (the tubby, bearded loon) mental breakdown and invent the crime related consequences of their previous misadventures. No one cares. It wasn’t particularly funny. Oddly, they end the film with the carnage following another wedding night: a huge machine gun in the middle of the room, a motorbike embedded in the wall, a guy with breasts… Now that would have been a great start.

Welcome To The Jungle

I re-watched this while making cards. It is splendid. The Rock (Dwayne Johnson – it’s hard to know which name is sillier) and weasel-faced Sean William Scott spend 90 minutes getting beaten up and smashing things in the jungle. There is nothing to dislike here. I’m fond of the opening scene where The Rock takes on the whole ‘defensive line’ (or something, American Football is less important to me than cucumber) in night club. Inventive fight scenes, good action, comedy banter (plus punching in the face) and Christopher Walken’s diamond mine owner/lunatic make a good film, substantially better than either film we saw at the cinema this week.

Events and Excitement

MissImp in Action – Friday 31st May

8.30pm at The Glee Club, Nottingham.
High energy improvised comedy show.

Weeks That Have Come Before

Shankerrific – Poems of Despair

Shankanalia 11It’s not that I’m an especially bitter or negative person, but I am severely troubled by the blind incompetence and stupidity of others. That inability to perceive the world around oneself, to reflect, to empathise is just terrifying. Not having those abilities must be wonderful – the world is just a series of errors that only you can resolve. They must feel superhuman – time for the roof test I think.

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for poetry tears.

Shankerrific – Poems of Despair

The Terms Of Your Demise
Strangulation is too good for you.
Don’t wanna stop you breathing,
Wanna steal your breath-
Put it to a better purpose
Than flapping your lips.

There’s nothing wrong with stabbing your staff,
Stabbing your staff.
Cut ’em, slice ’em, dice ’em
Find some fat then chuck it out
Got owt left?

The Idea Of You
Made of sticks,
Made of stones;
A horrible jumble of broken bones.
Fading will,
Weeping soul;
My words
Are all that hurts me.

Just get some numbers.
We need some numbers.
They’ll show us the facts.
How many numbers?
What do you want?
Just some, just do it.

Just Don’t Do It: an inspiration
Don’t innovate,
Don’t think,
Don’t fix,
Don’t remember
That it’s all your fault.
Close that gate –
You waited too late.

A Polite Request
What a fucking clusterfuck
Of mother-fucking fucks.
For fucking fuck’s sake,
Can’t you fucks
Fuck up some other fucker’s day?
Fuck’s sake.

Underwhelming Performance
To me,
Already you were the lowest
In my esteem.
Seems you’ve dug a basement
With your incompetence shovel;
Sub-human fucktotage.

More of The Same

Lego Blog: MiniBot

MinibotMy over-enthusiastic intention was to bring you glorious images of the house in the weird jungle I’ve been fiddling with, seemingly forever. I took the pictures but they are terrible. I am a horrible photographer, and likely a bad person (which explains the watermarks of daemons when I develop them). Please accept my hirsute apologies.

Plan B

Mantid Droid 2I’ve also been tinkering with mini robots again. With the use of just a few hingey bricks and sometimes unlikely combinations of parts you can get rather sweet little fellows. This is my Mantis Droid (I considered spelling that with numbers M4NT15, but that looks stupid). He’s another lunchtime build that spilled into the evening as I sought out a combination of bricks that gave him an expression.

He seems slightly downcast in the picture on the right, and I feel bad for putting the neck hinge where I did.

Mantid Droid 1

On the other hand, on the left he looks rather chipper but chinless – like an undergraduate Tory.

Ideally I’d rebuild him in a strict two-colour scheme I think – I was constrained by the Lego in my travelling case. I may consider a change of colour entirely- green and dark red perhaps.

I continue to be very fond of the grilles and I have always always always adored the lever pieces that I ended up using as hands / prehensile manipulators.

He’s a satisfying little fellow – half butler, half preying mantis rrobo-killer. No, I can’t see him killing anyone either…

A Quick Tease

One of the few not-entirely-awful-pictures-which-also-doesn’t-show-you-too-much:

Oooooh, it’s quite tall.

The Desert Crystals – Part 10: A Grisly Adventure

Part 10 – A Grisly Adventure

Desert Crystals1

Although it could not possibly have been any darker, the deeper The Dove’s Eye plunged into the perpetual night in the heart of the Sky Cliff, the heavier the darkness hung upon the airship and her crew. It felt as if they were barely moving; the fragile meniscus of light hovered about their lamps. The warm velvet blackness threatening to smother their faint reminders of daylight stretched the nerves and tempers of the crew. Only the creak of the airship’s controls, deftly spun and tugged by Lord Corshorn gave any sense to the crew that progress was being made. Even the turnings and passages which loomed above, beneath and to their sides were invisible until pointed out by Harvey, who navigated them using his subtle senses, far greater than those of mere men.

The great centipede had cleared a space in the foredeck. Extra lanterns cast weird shadows of his numerous limbs that tricked and tickled at the minds of the crew. He himself was balanced on his fore limbs, holding much of his body upright so that the legs of his last segment were able to wave in the air. They spiralled and unfurled themselves, tasting the faint movements in the air and shuddering faintly under the impact of tiny echoes. With his senses keenly pressed into service, Harvey scribbled at the sheets of paper pinned under his forelimbs, his maxillipeds sketching out the general space around them while with his forpicules he added notation of depth, directions of current and any other commentary he thought useful.

“Good lord, the place is endless,” declared Rosenhatch Traverstorm, leaning over the centipede’s cartography with a carelessness born of familiarity, “what’s this here?” The explorer pointed to what resembled a pit in Harvey’s drawing, with six different tunnels opening above it.

“Intriguing isn’t it?” replied the centipede. ”The tunnels appear to emanate from this single chamber.”

“Or they all lead to it,” suggested Rosenhatch.

“Ah! A puzzle,” cried Harvey, delighted to add another intricacy to their present challenge of mere survival, “with luck we’ll run into young Jacob Bublesnatch along one of these paths.”

Traverstorm knelt beside the centipede and lowered his voice, “I fear, old chap, that Master Bublesnatch is likely dead.”

Harvey regarded his companion with a look that only Traverstorm would have taken for sympathy.

“It’s entirely possible that he lives still; I suspect he will have been taken to this central hollow.”

“For consumption and the rending of his flesh!” Traverstorm’s earlier whispers peaked into a strangled cry.

“Rosenhatch, take a hold of yourself man.”

“It’s this darkness Harvey, can’t you feel it? It’s like being in something’s stomach, all damp and foul tasting. God, the shadows are everywhere-“ Rosenhatch’s desperate jabbering was interrupted by a sharp slap from the centipede’s left maxilliped.

“Hey! Watch the damned poison gland!” he cried in surprise.

“I am perfectly in control of my venom thank you. You, on the other hand are scarcely in control of your tongue. You’re making the crew jittery.”

Indeed, Traverstorm’s panic had drawn the attention of several of the crew. The tough men and women of Lord Corshorn’s crew were used to the heights at which an airship flies, used to storms, rain and wind, used even to pirates and conflict in the air. Not one of them had travelled deep into the heart of an impossible mountain hanging in the sky, into which one of their own had been dragged screaming. Their attitude so far had been admirable but Traverstorm was not the only one suffering from their conditions. The last thing they needed was to see the renowned adventurer breaking down on them.

Rosenhatch pulled himself together and patted the centipede kindly on the shell of his third segment (the segment usually reserved for such gestures of affection). If his hand shook as he patted his friend, Harvey did not comment upon it.

“Fine work everyone,” declared Rosenhatch, turning to face the staring crew, ”we must be wary of our fears here, deep inside this cave of darkness,” Harvey jabbed him lightly with another part of his mandible, “but fear not – we are all together and together we shall hold back the night.” With a reassuring smile and a gently encouraging shaken fist, Rosenhatch left Harvey and headed off to his cabin.

To Harvey’s surprise, Rosenhatch’s impromptu rally mollified the angry looking man hefting a rifle at the rail, and the pair standing close beneath the lantern even smiled; it was doubtful that he would ever fully grasp human psychology. To him, every quiver of Rosenhatch’s hand and quaver of throat were painfully obvious. He was paying far too much attention to the tremblings of his companion, and far too little to the vibrations coming from above. Had he been focussing on his previous task, the mapping of the tunnel network and the navigation of them he would have noted the rush of air and heat that came from a cave above and before them.

Rosenhatch closed the cabin door behind him with a shaking hand and dabbed at his forehead with the handkerchief he had been wringing in his pocket. Maxwell yawned and stretched on the bed, digging his sharp claws into the blanket with a shuddering arch. He immediately set to grooming the whiskers displaced by his yawn. As ever, the cat’s utter indifference to their present circumstances did Rosenhatch a power of good. He smiled wryly at the cat and poured himself a restorative glass of whiskey. He sat down on the edge of the bunk and fondly kneaded the little cat’s ear. Maxwell purred contentedly and sank back into a doze.

A second later Maxwell was tossed into Rosenhatch’s chest by a sudden lurch of the airship. To make himself feel safe he embedded his claws firmly into the shirt and flesh of his landing site. Rosenhatch reeled backwards across the small cabin, the glass of whiskey smashing, untouched, on the wooden window frame. The outside was still black – no help there. Cries from above drove Rosenhatch back to the door. He was unable to detach the frightened feline and he decided to simply button his jacket over the beast. As he staggered up the declining stairs, slipping as a series of small blows shook the length of the gondola beneath him.

Bodies were falling out of the darkness ahead of them, a tangle of torn corpses, limbs, heads and gore fell like a grisly waterfall, striking the front of the balloon and either sliding slickly around the inflated bag or bouncing from it against the walls and back onto the prow of the gondola. The fall seemed endless and had caught the very tip of their craft in its flow and caused it to tilt forwards, allowing a mound of the bloody refuse to spatter onto the wood. Corshorn desperately fought to reverse The Dove’s Eye but the weight of the dead was just pulling her forwards.

Next Week: Part 11 – The Bleeding Face of Death

Book Review: Ghosts of War by George Mann

I first came across George Mann with his fabulous Newbury & Hobbes novel The Affinity Bridge – I preyed upon the sequels as they emerged, so delightful were they to consume. Ghosts of War is follow up to Ghosts of Manhattan, this series is set on the other side of the Atlantic from the splendid British steampunk detectives. (I know, I’m sorry I’m reviewing a sequel again…) It has a correspondingly grittier feel, exuding a much harder boiled atmosphere and dialogue. This makes it a very satisfying companion to the Newbury & Hobbes series. We haven’t yet seen the dramatic events of one series bleed into the other, but it feels inevitable and I’m rather looking forwards to it.
Ghosts of Manhattan reintroduces us to the vigilante character The Ghost – by day a wealthy playboy with a traumatic history, by night a cloaked vigilante with rocket boots and none of Batman’s wussier toys. The Ghost kills when he must (though he does usually make sure the enemy shoots first) with his flechette gun – a vicious tool. He exists in an interesting period of Mann’s alternate history – this one is set in 1926 (only a month after the last one) and the world is subtly changed from ours: Queen Victoria has only just expired, her life extended by the steampunkish technology prevalent throughout both series. The events of WW1 are unclear, but Britain and America are deep in a Cold War and tensions of all sorts are rising.
Much of the book deals with Gabriel Cross (The Ghosts alter-ego) and his rather distresses mental state, in recovering both from his own actions in the war as a pilot and the disturbing events of the previous book. Mann fuses steampunk with demonic occult horror; big splashes of Lovecraftian beasts from an alternate dimension unleashed by wicked men intent on profiting from the fallout of unleashing them on Britain. I really enjoy the horror slant Mann has taken (zombies or ‘revenants’ featured in the first Newbury and Hobbes book), it shakes the steampunk cliches up and gives no shortage of shocks and death. Cross is, naturally, a little shaken by the monsters he’s encountered and he bumps into even more in this one. The first enemy he faces are enormous brass raptors which are snatching people off the streets; the second is his dissolving identity. It feels as if Cross is warring with The Ghost for dominance, never quite himself in either guise. He has few confidants other than a noble police detective (I also rather like Mann’s embracing of the superhero conventions) and maybe, just maybe a lady…
Ghosts of War is a great story with tonnes of breathless, bloody action (poor Gabriel takes a hell of a beating on almost every page). The background and struggle of the protagonist matters – I like the guy and want him to succeed. The steampunk / hardboiled / occult mashup are very satisying, I always enjoy it when someone brings machines to life using the soul of a blackbird. Crazy and awesome. The spectre of huge events hangs over both of Mann’s series – something is directing or encouraging the demonic activity and I can’t wait to see it revealed. Oh – and there are airships, which ought to make these books essential reading for everyone.
Read it.

George Mann
(he has some fun Newbury & Hobbes short stories for free!)

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