This week, Monday 3rd June 2013

Lingering Abed.

Sunset WarriorUnbelievably last week was only three working days long, how then could it have felt like six days? It’s cruel and unfair. Never mind, I’ve just had a three day weekend and that has rebalanced things a bit. I don’t seem to get much done at the weekend- mostly we watch TV and sleep (got up at 2 on Sunday!) It’s relaxing, but can get that anxious ‘need to do stuff’ twitch going. It always starts up too late though, and by the time I’m thinking I need to do things it’s Sunday evening.
In truth I have mostly sat with a cat on my lap and stared at things. I could spend the rest of my life like that.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: Anxiety Weaving

The forces that drive us, or push us apart.

Wednesday Lego Blog: The House in the Weird Jungle

Actual pictures this week!

Thursday The Desert Crystals – Part Eleven: The Bleeding Face of Death

The title of the chapter certainly doesn’t bode well for our heroes…

Friday Book Review: Transformers More Than Meets The Eye volume 3 (2013)

A galaxy away from the ’80s toy peddlers.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

I reckon it’s just that work feels so overwhelming at the moment that I’m barely even thinking about writing, other than thinking about how much I’d like to feel like I had time to think about writing… It’s annoying. The weekly The Desert Crystals episode is my life line. While I do feel some anxiety about getting it written in time each week it’s keeping me active and it keeps surprising me. Does everyone feel like this – that almost all we do is actually done by someone else?

I was delighted to be retweeted by George Mann for my review of his book last week. It’s nice when you get a chance to say thank you directly to your heroes.
Last week’s scribbles

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Lego

This has been my principal relaxing technique this weekend. I had a nice lie-in on Friday in preparation for the evening’s show and spent a few hours cheerfully rootling through the dinky black bricks and trying to fit them together in interesting ways. You can get some really weird joints and off-set shapes. They don’t necessarily help me get much further – I’m more likely to construct a bizarre shape that I can’t finish. It’s a bit like building the inside of a Rubik’s cube. Interesting, but not helpful. I ended up with the top half of a rather cool black and bright green robot, which I now intend to set in a vignette.

I was massively excited by the news that Lego are releasing a full 1990 brick Ewok Village… just look at that beauty. It’s huge – far too big for me to keep anywhere and likely to retail at about two hundred quid. Ouch. But oooh…

Improv Comedy

Last week was the break week for the beginners so was mainly playtime for me. Fisticuffs on Tuesday was a tonne of fun even though it was just four of us. We have been playing with the Armando format a bit, trying it out, finding variations that suit us and the way we play. I’ve found with most improv longform formats or shortform games that I enjoy them best when we’ve bent them a little and added our own spin. For the Armando I think it’s growing out of our playfulness and informality. On Tuesday all of the inspiring monologues were given with us standing together in a group, adding occasional sarcastic commentary but more importantly having sight of each other. You get a strong sense of when an idea has tickled at someone’s mind and are correspondingly well connected in scenes. We also started one set of scenes straight from a warm up game and that went well too. Trust and group mind go together. That said, I did cruelly edit a scene just as Lloydie was about to throw down a punchline, to mine and Martin’s enormous amusement. It was mean…
We also had the regular monthly show, Missimp In Action at The Glee Club. We had a huuuge audience, apparently our largest and they were noisy and appreciative. It’s a solid team that I enjoy playing with: Lloydie, Ben, Martin, Marilyn and Parky. In particular I got to play with Parky several times; we did a rather delightful scene between Galileo and the King of Spain that made me happy. I also had a good long mocking rant about Lean and business management bullshit in a Whose Line scene set in Ben’s Hell. Good fun, and plenty of great scenes from everyone. I’m pleased to report that our wholly unacceptable and unshareable warm ups have become more complex and inclusive.

Media Intake

Books

It was one of those weird weeks where I have failed to make serious progress in any book. I have started reading The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart. I very much enjoyed the first story of a mismatched bunch of exceptionally bright youngsters brought together to solve puzzles and defeat evil geniuses. I should emphasise that it’s a book for younger readers, it has a fun way with words, and is witty and clever.
I’ve also taken advantage of Comixology’s Atomic Robo sale and have scooped up volumes 1-4 for a few quidlets each. If you haven’t read them, you should. Robo is Tesla’s awesome automaton and he fights Nazis, an insane dinosaur scientist and many others.

Films

The Purge

Just one this week (we’ve mostly been catching up on our regular television stuff). Gosh, what an odd film. It seems like a not-great remake of Funny Games but in the guise of a sci-fi-ish story. The premise is that America has saved itself and wiped out crime and unemployment by introducing The Purge – for one night each year citizens can commit any crimes they wish (except against ‘level 10 politicians) without penalty. So everyone kills the poor. Or those who they dislike. And so America is strong. Obviously this doesn’t pan out well for the victims in this story. It’s not entirely clear what the film’s message is supposed to be – whether it’s “we need guns to protect us from people with guns”, “fear your neighbours” or “mind your own business” it isn’t made clear enough to make the film worthwhile. Performances are unimpressive, but the kids seem decidedly creepy in mind and action. Maybe that was the message. Who knows.

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 13th June

7.30pm at The Corner, Nottingham.
Mixed show of team longform, a guest appearance by Shannon O’Neill with Fisticuffs and a chance to get on stage.

MissImp in Action – Friday 28th June

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

Furthest From The Sea Festival – Saturday 29th June

11am-5pm in the Market Square, Derby.
Free all day festival – music, comedy and more. I’m performing as Captain Pigheart and with MissImp. I’ll also be running improv comedy workshops.

Weeks That Have Come Before

Autofiction: Anxiety Weaving

I Am In Control

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Imperfect Reflection (Frog)

Odd title, I know. It was just a term that occurred to me when I was thinking about what to write this week. I wanted to write something personal, again. I enjoyed writing about things I loved, and I frequently write about how I feel – always in the negative mind – with poetry. What I rarely commit to is why I feel how I do. It’s much easier to deal with the outcomes of feelings, and sometimes (where clearly identifiable) to deal with the causes, preferably loudly and with many swear words. I do believe that process of expression is one of the most important ways of dealing with that ghastly human complex of emotion. At heart we are not in control of ourselves. There are many fascinating arguments about free will and determinism but it seems to me that the conclusion of determinism and at best the illusion of free will are inescapable.

You Know I Know You Know You, Or I

I think it’s the seeming inescapability of that which hurts the most. I want to believe that I am a free agent, that I act on my will alone (taking into account whatever details or information I have that leads me to act), that I could, admittedly with some trouble, explain my actions to myself and possibly to others. There’s no particular reason why our actions should be readily explicable to others – they aren’t privy to our internal cogs and grinding. One of my favourite things to hear is when we describe others as “acting out of character”. The assumption that we know each other well enough to make that assessment is amazing. All we ever get is the outward signs of internal sentience (and frankly I think those are misleading signs of intelligence in many people), and then only in those contexts that we have had dealings with those individuals. So to say someone is acting out of character presumes so much.

How Well Do You Know Yourself?

It interests me even more to think about whether I would ever describe myself as acting out of character. To do that I need to have a keen awareness of my behaviour, and I guess, some way of evaluating whether my actions are in keeping with the expectations and predictions I would make based on that past behaviour. It immediately begs the question ‘what do I think is my usual behaviour?’ What would I base an answer to that on? It’s difficult to analyse my own actions – I’m aware of external and internal influences on my activity, but can I draw straight lines between feelings and the resulting actions (or vice versa for that matter)? I’m not sure.

Unplaceable Anxiety

I suffer from a species of anxiety; I feel it grow in intensity throughout the evening if I am not entirely occupied in some engrossing and demanding activity. I genuinely am unable to determine the cause of that anxiety. It can follow a good or bad day, with the prospect of tomorrow being bright or dark; at a time when I am otherwise happy and content, or equally enraged and miserable. The anxiety does not appear to follow my mood; it does not seem related directly to the world outside either. So what does generate it? A lack of activity? Perhaps, though it also follows the successful conclusion of activity. It’s fucked up. An unhelpful summary!
I do not know what motivates my actions and decisions. In part I can synthesise a trail of logic in retrospect, but the presence of my anxiety serves only to undermine my faith in that analysis. Tonight proves to be a good example. I have had a disappointing day – just one of those days which started off with a surprisingly bright early awakening (as required for a slightly earlier start), a fairly gay jaunt off to work before it was punctured by the grim, resentful and uninterested faces I was thrilled to spend the day with (that’s somewhat unfair, but fuck ’em; this is about me). So I was a bit dispirited, but then left work to go into town for a little diversion, a spot of writing and to meet up with a friend before planning and enacting the evening’s improv class. That was all excellent. A pleasant drink in the pub, head home which was lovely; a bite to eat, a whiskey. Off to bed.

Failure And The Inevitable Failure of Will

It is now quarter to two: I am awake and possessed of that nervous anxiety which allows my mind to drift and busy itself with irrelevance and considerations I would mock during the daytime. I have of course spent many hundreds of nights like this, but since earlier this year I’ve been taking sleeping tablets (anti-depressants) which are frankly miraculous in their general ability to eradicate that anxiety and permit me to sleep. Having had a pint tonight I decided not to take them (I have “wisely” concluded that mixing these things is not a great idea)… so now I am awake, explaining my anxiety to the word processor and taking a late night dose in the hope of knocking myself out. I know that I can survive for weeks on very little sleep, but I’ve grown used to getting a lot more, and I like it.
So where is my agency in this? It seems limited to deciding whether or not to comply with medication – a literal prescription in itself. Am I just choosing the least worst of alternatives? I still cannot tell you from where this anxiety arises. Perhaps I ought to conclude it is the work of some external daemon who dwells in the space between mind and ceiling, working inexorably to stress and frustrate me. Better not – that’s the kind of thinking that sticks.

Lego Blog: Weird House In The Jungle

My problem is planning. One of my problems is planning. I’m an improviser y’know? So I improvise everything. I like to call it organic… I had an idea that Boba Fett should have a house. He’s got to live somewhere right, so I started sticking bricks together. It’s not like I didn’t have a plan. I wanted a structure that looked like it was made of salvaged junk and spaceships bolted together in the middle of a forest. I sort of got that, but then I realised there wasn’t anywhere for a coffee machine, or a bed… he’s tough but he’s got to sleep somewhere. I’m experimenting with using Flickr for me Lego snaps, so if ya fancy checking out the whole set, click here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eric_the_bewildered_weasel/sets/72157633771281390/ and follow me around if you like!

The Approach

    

It began with the ground floor – originally to just be open so I could see inside. It’s approached through the forest at the front. The rock wall opens up to reveal proper doors inside. Disguised and attractive.

   

Round and About

Heading round to the left of the house the lower ground floor opens up to reveal a barely visible interior because I’ve entirely built the damn thing in and I can’t get a camera inside! We have weapon racks, cabinets, computer screens and a teeny-tiny jail cell.

  

Hup, Other Side

Round t’other side Boba’s got a huge mobile cannon for deterring intruders (and possibly attracting bees). You can also see a bit more of the hugely lopsided first floor dwelling business. I rather like the stratification of colour and the mixed textures across the build.

  

Inside… Deep Inside

The roof lifts off in two pieces, the first on the left which reveals the hibernation chamber (currently hosting Princess Leia). The larger roof section conceals the main living quarters, spread over a series of mezzanine floors. I still didn’t get as much into it as I wanted to.

  

I have run out of shelf space sadly, and I can’t even put the roof on the build anymore! I’d love to go up another storey but that might have to wait for another day… I hope you like as much as I do. You can see some pictures of the back and the top on my Flickr photostream along with a load of other shots all the way around.

The Desert Crystals – Part 11: The Bleeding Face of Death

Part 11 – The Bleeding Face of Death

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Guldwych Ryme seethed. The very substance of his being was aflame; injustice and anger licked at his blood, sending it on ever faster loops of his circulatory system. It could be that he was forgetting to breathe, but his rage was overwhelming. He felt lightheaded and his fingers grew numb. Belatedly his physical awareness caught up with him and he exhaled roughly, blasting foul angry breath and petulant spittle across his beautiful desk. A further mighty inhalation caused his head to spin and in a woozy flailing he swept the desktop free of papers and glasses.

Petulant gestures rarely achieve the desired effect and Ryme’s was no exception: the ornate glass globe (a gift from the former chancellor after thoroughly thrashing the man at cards) teetered on the edge of the desk in the slow motion luxury of disaster time, allowing itself enough time to reflect the open mouthed expression of horror on Ryme’s face, before toppling off the edge and shattering on the floor. Continents (known and pondered) scattered across the floor, unknowingly accurately reproducing the continental drift of hundreds of millions of years earlier. Sadly Guldwych Ryme was in no mood to recognise or appreciate the geological quirks that had separated the southern landmasses from the Northern Continent, which academics were only now exploring anew. The potential revelations were to be kicked about the room, trodden into rug and board until finally swept into a waste basket by the professor’s maid in several weeks time.

Ryme contemplated the planetary catastrophe with a gradual lessening of his blood pressure as the violence calmed him. What also calmed him was that the face of that pretentious parasitic pretender Rosenhatch Traverstorm was no longer looking up at him with his smug mocking ignorant luck-sucking face from the new edition of the Journals Biologinary. Not content to grace the bastard’s entirely accidental discovery of the Idolatrous Buttonmole with a whole journal of pictures and articles on the “scientific wonder-man of the age”, they had now given him yet another cover shot and the lead article on his present adventuring into the lost valleys of the Northern Continent. Ryme’s only consolation was that Traverstorm could not possibly know that his face was once more adorning that cursed rag.

The Journals Biologinary had only once featured Guldwych Ryme’s accomplishments so lavishly. The cover image, framed prominently in gilt and glass on the wall of Ryme’s office, displayed Ryme in profile as a much younger man (his profile would now fill the page) beside an image of the Grosser Snatchtiger, its upsetting cheek folds splayed to reveal the gnashing teeth of the terrifying beast. The size of the beast was discussed in the fourteen page article documenting its discovery by Ryme, and its curious familial connections with the Common Shawk, an easily domesticated, larger and less toothy cousin. For many years the journal had been his prized possession (only matched by his wife on especially good days), along with his tenure and the witty blooms of his Perspicacious Tulips. Now though he brooded over the stack of Traverstorm-drenched journals that he kept locked in his bottom drawer. Oh, he claimed to not read them- but in private he would stare at them and grind his teeth, and he took on that aggressive sulking which lies at the heart of all the most vicious enmities.

Meridional University had welcomed Traverstorm in with open arms following his drunken blundering into the tunnel complex of the Host Lizards. His claims of their murderous nature were ludicrous but the attention it drew was all the college desired. His pitiful exit from an undergraduate degree went unmentioned, but Ryme recalled the lad seated almost horizontal at the back of his lecture theatre. If only he had kept the one essay Traverstorm had submitted; Guldwych remembered the infantile tone and ludicrous leaps of logic. It would have been a wonderful thing to publish.

No matter. Ryme smoothed his thinning hair and carefully unlocked the middle drawer of his desk with the small key he kept in his breast pocket. From the drawer he withdrew the note which had been slipped under his door earlier. No echoes had been cast within the corridor by its bearer; the delivery had been silent and unobservable. Ryme had recognised the handwriting instantly; he had been waiting for it. Eslie Chem had written a single word on the paper: “Dawn”. Excellent news – to Ryme it represented hope, hope that Traverstorm’s undeserved reputation and success would soon be brought to an end. Chem had assembled a crew, and transport. Shortly after dawn they would be leaving the college, at speed, with every chance of beating Traverstorm’s party to the other side of the Bane Desert, and there – far from the prying eyes of the journal or the university… Well, there were many possibilities. Ryme hurried home to pack his bags.
Next Week: Part 12 – Hark, The Wings

Book Review: Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye volume 3

MTMTE_vol3I don’t think I’ve tried to review a comic before, so this will be fairly messy… I’ve loved Transformers for as long as I can remember breathing. I got the comics in the ’80s, watched Transformers: The Movie (and adored it) and then I grew up. Wonderfully, after a few years Transformers also grew up. It’s had many cartoon incarnations; the original TV series is fairly awful, as are most of the era’s merchandise cartoons, but they are still what I think of first. Vastly superior was the Beast Wars CGI cartoon, I reckon that was when Transformers developed a clearer sense of humour about itself and a desire to do more with the characters. 10 years or so ago Dreamwave started up a new comic series that was edgier, more interesting and often more beautifully drawn than before. Naturally the company fell apart halfway through a story arc. The whole thing was picked up by IDW who have run with it ever since. I could not be more pleased!

More Than Meets The Eye (MTMTE) is a continuation of a now long-running Transformers comic series. We are now in the post-war period, Cybertron has been reformatted and all of its children, Autobot, Decepticon and those in between have been called home. Only it’s not really home for them anymore – they’ve been fighting for millions of years and old habits die hard. MTMTE is one half of the current series; Robots in Disguise continues the story of post-war settlement on their homeworld, while MTMTE takes a raggedy bag of ‘bots off on a quest across space to find the Knights of Cybertron who vanished aeons ago. These series are both much darker than the old comics (though they did have some pretty major cataclysms) but more importantly remain consistent – the earlier comics’ history is relevant and maintained. When they leave Cybertron in their ship The Lost Light, Prowl the Autobot security officer attempts to kill them all with a bomb for desertion – RID continues with the characters believing that they did all die! Since then they’ve faced a series of adversaries, including themselves and some fan favourite enemies.

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What draws me to the series is that these are not the main Transformers characters – most of them are minor, incidentals, those toys you never really wanted or the ones that popped up in the background shots. I like that. It gives the writers a chance to expand on them in a way that never really happened before. We have fully psychopathic, paranoid, merciless, idiotic characters – including a psychiatrist who features quite heavily. Well, he did until they accidentally blew his head off in volume 2. He’s still back though in volume 3… The comics are also funny. These are often the loser characters, certainly they’re wildcards – they fight amongst themselves, get drunk in the illicit bar, take unauthorised action and put themselves and everyone else at risk. Much of the humour arises from the pompous and reckless Rodimus Prime who leads them, and his clashing with the utterly humourless and rigid Ultra Magnus (intergalactic peace-keeper), the horribly earnest and devout Drift (ex-Decepticon / Cybertronian Knight) and the rest of the crew. The psychology of the players frequently takes centre stage, especially the post-traumatic conditions of fighting for millions of years and now there’s… nothing they have to do. It’s interesting.
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MTMTE volume 3 collects the 2012 annual and the comic series’ Primus and Shadowplay. It’s a good mix of a genuinely amusing short story and two longer stories in which they first finally reach Crystal City (the series is in no hurry to complete the Autobots’ quest) and get in trouble with inter-galactic peace keepers and includes an awesome chunk of fan service by introducing the metro-titans including Metroplex – vast city sized robots. The second story takes place in the bar and uses a device of attempting to restart their psychiatrist’s brain by telling stories from the distant past. It’s a tale of early pre-war Cybertron and the exploits of Orion Pax (the one-day Optimus Prime). It’s detailed, dark and filled with action. Quite a volume!

The art is consistently stunning, featuring some of the best comic book artists to draw Transformers ever: Alex Milne, Jimbo Salgado and Emil Cabaltierra. The flashback art is drawn by Guido Guidi who has drawn many of the recent comics and the alternating style gives it a lovely feel. James Roberts has written some of my favourite Transformers comics and continues to give the characters warmth, individuality and humour. Thank you! Bring on volume 4.

More Than Meets The Eye

IDW Publishing

Get More Than Meets The Eye Vol 3 at Amazon.co.uk

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This week, Monday 10th June 2013

Hyper Lazy Beast Go!

10-06-13I like three day weekends – I achieve no more than I would during a two day weekend so technically I waste more time than usual, but I sleep more. I’ve always been a bit torn on whether sleeping is a good use of my time, but since I do actually sleep these days I am increasingly fond of it. As such I have had three nights of lovely ten hours sleeps. Happy. Each day I have woken up with the crazy purring of my Merly sitting on my chest or hip (having successfully ignored her earlier attempts to wake me up) and can gently begin the day.

I am fairly relaxed now and tentatively ready for an exhausting fortnight to come – more about that below.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: Softly Panicking

The beautiful anxiety flowers, pretty and terrifying.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Work in Progress

Steampunk leanings and likely failings.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – The Journals Biologinary #1

The first of our zoological interludes – the Greater Toothed Grundle Bear.

Friday Film Review: -After Earth (2013)

Will Smith blows his charm into space.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

Huge apologies in advance. The next two weeks of work (and social life) are going to be a little hectic and for my own sanity I’m going to ease back a bit on the scribbling. It’s something that feels very important to me and I’m very happy to have maintained 5 posts a week since the start of the year. I shall try to hit all 5 this week, but don’t be shocked if one gets skipped. I’m going to aim for writing less each day though which hopefully means only a minor revision of service. For example, this week’s The Desert Crystals will simply be an excerpt from the Journals Biologinary rather than a full chapter. Enjoy!

Last week’s scribbles

Lego

I have had a few days of disassembly because Lego objects and builds had seriously taken over our living room to the detriment of the jolly folk who ought to live there instead. My Lego boxes are now re-filled and freshly sorted! Very exciting. Not that I’ll get a chance to tinker this week or the next but I can rattle them and feel the love instead. There is a huge satisfaction in just schinkling the bricks back into colour order. I do have plans for the future builds – such plans!

Improv Comedy

Parky and I resumed the beginners MissImp improv course last week. They’re a marvellous bunch. I’m really impressed by how well the basics are lodging in peoples’ heads. Next we need to give them that shove of confidence to experiment and express themselves. I think they’ll be delightful.

Last week’s session was about commitment. Maybe that should be Commitment with a capital C. It certainly deserves to have one. So much of improve succeeds or fails depending on how well you can commit to the part you’re playing and to the likely ridiculous things your character is saying. I don’t mean “selling it”; I don’t really like that phrase. To me it implies you are bullshitting the audience – sales is all about passing off your crappy product to a sucker. Occasionally I see people doing that – it just shows a desperation in their performance. Mostly the salesmen are trying to convince the other players that they know what they’re doing – you’ve probably seen that too – an over-earnest sweaty look at the other performers. It’s poor. It reduces the confidence of your team mates and is obvious to the audience. Confidence and commitment achieve the opposite, they are what allows an improviser to say nothing, do nothing and still have the audience rapt. You gain trust by being trustworthy, not by pretending to be trustworthy or begging for it. Simply doing is the objective.

We’ve been telling our group that the audience assume you know what you’re doing – they have no idea what you’re going to do next. So, if you do it with confidence – no matter how absurd – the audience will believe it. As an audience we want to see it happen, we will fill in the gaps between speaking and action with meaning. You have time on stage to make decisions and to take risks. No one in the audience really knows what decisions you are making or quite what you intend. But we will assume intention and we will see it when you lose confidence in what you say or do – the audience notices irregularity and disparity far faster than we do as players. Crazy logic is fine, but it has to be consistent. It only stays consistent if you commit to it and take it as far as it can go. Then the audience will be thrilled.

This week is pretty exciting – Monday has the next beginners class (sweet), on Wednesday we’re doing some training with Shannon O’Neill from UCB. Then on Thursday we have Gorilla Burger in which (assuming the week has not defeated me) I’ll be playing with her and the Fisticuffs crew.

Media Intake

Books

I’ve been tootling through the dozens of Avengers and X-Men comics I downloaded months ago and am finding it hard to figure out what the hell’s going on. It seems to have become insanely convoluted and there are just too many new people in spandex for me to care what’s happening. I’ve gone back to Atomic Robo.

I’ve also been trawling the ebooks that I occasionally download en masse from the Amazon free sci-fi and fantasy lists. Sometimes there are real winners there and sometimes not. I suppose it’s a natural result of being able to self-publish without editing or acceptance – the amount of appalling grammar and spelling in Kindle books is really disheartening. It might sound overly fussy but I do find it very distracting if the author can’t distinguish between ‘breech’ and ‘breach’ or ‘peek’ and ‘peak’. I know it’s a right bastard to proofread our own writing, but if you’re going so far as to stick it on Amazon or Smashwords it does deserve that attention.

Films

Terminator 2 Judgment Day (1991)

Obviously I’ve seen this dozens of times, but it was on TV last night while I was making birthday cards and it remains really good fun. Some of the effects are looking a bit dodgy now, but not half as bad as Avatar does on TV… One up for the nineties. Arnie is still a terrible actor and half the time he can’t even do wooden (metal?) as the robot. At least it wasn’t the special edition with the awful gurning scene of the terminator learning to smile. It stands up well as a magnificent popcorn action movie. Hurrah!

Quatermass and The Pit (1967)

I can’t tell if this is the only one of the Quatermass films I’ve watched or if I only think it is. I guess I’ll have to dig the others out. It is glorious – the Martians are marvellous once we get to see them and remind me very much of the Harryhausen Moon insects. It’s a fairly cheap Hammer production, so the alien devil insects are clearly papier mache (and maybe even finger puppets in the memory sequence), but the colours look amazing; I love that lush period of cinema colour. I found it really quite tense and genuinely creepy in places.

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 13th June

7.30pm at The Corner, Nottingham.
Mixed show of team longform, a guest appearance by Shannon O’Neill with Fisticuffs and a chance to get on stage.

MissImp in Action – Friday 28th June

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

Furthest From The Sea Festival – Saturday 29th June

11am-5pm in the Market Square, Derby.
Free all day festival – music, comedy and more. I’m performing as Captain Pigheart and with MissImp. I’ll also be running improv comedy workshops.

Weeks That Have Come Before

Autofiction: Softly Panicking

Panic FlowerPanic is a curious sensation. It flowers in the stomach as if some ghastly plant beast has had its wicked way with you when you weren’t looking. I can feel that unfurling of petals, each exquisitely sharp glassy knife slicing through my calm and reason. Its bloom is entirely internal and it raises my heart rate, makes my fingers vibrate and breathing shudder. Its a hot flowering and its heat infects my mind which revolts at the sickly internal sensation, sending thoughts in a scattered shower; unfocussed; leaping.

Will stillness help? A deliberate peace to action, soothe the mind with inaction, bring the whole body to rest, relaxed and yet solid against the petalled intrusion. The flower beats against it, seeking a weak point to thrust its tendrils through, tearing open the fault and escaping. The slightest deviation from immobility permits it, the least distraction of sound or light gives it room to grow.

I can breathe, deep steady breaths that begin and end at the flower’s bud – bending and contracting around the panic – gifting it extra room and then crushing it. It is too strong; the will to life and existence of the flower overwhelms the rhythmic tides and it is carried forward on the crest of breath. Breath hastens in response, thrusting the panic throughout the body and into the mind.

Neither tactic works, both only hasten the flower’s prickling growth and set the panic rising up my body (never down; I don’t know why it won’t bloom into my thighs). As it spreads, a cancerous ivy growth that digs its claws into my chest and face, I can feel the rise of heat, fear and anxiety ready to burst out in a glorious colourful wail of despair. My mind is consumed by the busy business of synthesising panic out of nothing but uncontrollable internal sensations. It is the same gnawing hollow horror that rises up in me as the sun goes down and possesses me in the evenings.

Perhaps it is those quiet times that permit this growth in me, the downtime; the peace – and I, foolish and unwitting have a cynical harbinger seeded inside that sprouts dismay and despair as soon as all is well.

All I can do is act. I can allow myself to be consumed and constrained in jaw-clenched stress (truthfully pulling away from it is harder, but I allow myself the illusion of strength), and become ever stiller, ever more tearful as the awful thing takes root in my chest and constricts me in body in mind. Or I can do something. Action slows its spread; distraction tugs its roots out one by one. Decisions, once made, are strength – poisoning the soil that allows the flowering panic to flourish. It can be hard to choose to do anything at all.

Lego Blog: Steampunk In Progress

Steampunk Funk

Steampunk Aliens 5I’m pleased that Lego are bringing out some specific master builder steampunk sets, even though we’ll probably never see them on this side of the Atlantic. It feels like a style that Lego leans towards anyway – the recent (awesome) Monster Fighters sets have a very retro steampunk vibe. Especially those hats… It’s inspiring. I read quite a bit of steampunk fiction and I do enjoy the period details of George Mann‘s books and the insane steampunk world of Jackals created by Stephen Hunt. I do, of course, want my own steampunk – I suppose The Tales of The Northern Continent I’m writing have some leaning in that direction, and having recognised that it’s liable to grow stronger.

Steamy Lil’ Lego

I’m partway through building some robots and stuff and while I’m between thoughts, thought it might be fun to share where I’m at. It was randomly sticking hats on different minifigs that I discovered just how brilliant the space ork figure looks without his armour and wearing a top hat. Instant awesome. I had to play more. Since I’ve got a reasonable heap of parts I dismantled all my Chima guys (who have utterly terrifying expressions) found some nice trousers (from the Rock Raiders stuff) and a bowler hat (from the smug looking Monster Fighters guy with the moustache and bionic leg) and voila – he also looks amazing. Admittedly his eyes are quite high up the head, so his hat is just resting there rather than being firmly affixed, but it looks… perfect.

Steam War

The pair of them will be leading a charge through a semi-destroyed city, though by ‘leading’ I fancy our gents will be standing idly by observing the carnage. I’ve also made a start on the big ass robot who will be the primary agent of destruction. He began as an exercise in unusual joints but has bulked out rather nicely with weaponry on the right and digitation on the left. I’m pleased with his legs – I’d played with wheels and I just don’t like ’em. Maybe when I get my Kickstarter reward of caterpillar track links I’ll think about a rebuild of them. The colour scheme of black and green may not survive, though I do like it. I may re-build the fellow using greys and browns with tactical highlights to better reflect the steampunkery; I am as yet undecided and can be influenced should you so choose…

The Desert Crystals – The Journals Biologinary #1

An excerpt from The Journals Biologinary’s accounts of the curious fauna and flora of the Northern Continent.
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The Greater Toothed Grundle Bear

The Greater-Toothed Grundle Bear is not a true bear at all. It was mis-named by its discoverer, the renowned aquatic botanist Arthur Hablerstock. Being better versed in the taxonomy of pondweed, Hablerstock saw the rounded ears and lengthy claws and called “bear” both sooner and louder than he ought to have done. Subsequent surveys revealed that the Grundle Bear has a preference for frogs and newts but will stretch to a noisy primate if provoked.

The creature is in its adult form approximately one and a half metre tall when standing on its three hind limbs. The middle limb is an external womb which extrudes from the body when in the third trimester of pregnancy. The wombing limb’s “fist” opens like a hand with a terrible hole in its palm enabling the beast to funnel its three young into a dark hole. During the period of pregnancy, which appears to be a self-willed act (further study required) as no one has yet witnessed the mating ritual of the “bears”, the Grundle Bear collects live frogs and toads and stores them in the nest-hole as a food source for its young.

Their diet is almost exclusively the amphibians that live in the ponds of the Allwright Marshes. It is rare for their hunting grounds to overlap, though younger bears may share very large ponds. It is advisable to avoid the creatures while nursing their young due to the particular savagery of the infants – the Greater Toothed aspect applies solely to the juveniles which they use to spear the still-living frogs that are dumped into their nest-hole. The parent stays as far away from them as possible, but can occasionally be witnessed tossing a newt into the hole. The teeth are lost during adolescence which also sees their single forelimb growing out of the side of the neck and the pronounced mound between their hindlimbs where the wombing limb will appear as needed.

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Film Review: After Earth (2013)

I’m really torn about whether to write this review or not. It’s scarcely worth wasting words on, and yet they feel like they need to be extracted from my brain. I also keep hearing “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. But that’s total bollocks of course, it’s exactly that anodyne mentality which permits others to be racist and do terrible things to one another: I don’t have anything nice to say about Mr David Cameron so I’ll say nothing about his selfish bullshit lies and political destruction of our economy, freedoms and infrastructure. Or I can just call him a monstrous twat and move on.

Ah, we seem to have begun this review without intending to. Judge me then by my actions.
After Earth is the freshly excreted crappuloid effort of director M. Night Shyamalan. In his defence (or to at least explain my bias) this is not the only grossly disappointing, stupid and inane film he has made. With the arguable exception of The Sixth Sense (which had a fairly clever twist that I failed to spot until the intended moment) his films are abysmal – in dialogue, concept and execution. Unbreakable is almost unwatchable drivel (“I read a lot of comic books and I realised that the world must be exactly the same as things we write about” fuckwit; thankfully the world is not like the dire minutes that someone allows M. Night to inflict on us), The Village filled me with frustrated pain, Signs I had to turn off for fear I’d be forced to hunt him down and kill him and Drowned Girl or whatever he called it was a bridge too far – I could not allow more than the eye-clawing trailer to enter my mind. So I was ready for this to be perhaps less than brilliant; I was right.

So the concept: father and son get marooned on future Earth, have to find a doohickey to get help and avoid being killed. Fine. Execution: a totally emotionless Will Smith directs his gurning son through the medium of a dull video game while bleeding out. Son encounters mild, irrelevant threats and finally achieves what he believes will earn him respect in his father’s eyes; they are saved. That’s a quick summary that I’d like to complain about in greater detail.

It is THE FUTURE, mankind fled Earth after ruining it (as we are now) and go to live on other planets. Those planets are also populated by terrifying aliens who unleash monsters on the humans. The humans stay on those planets. Their culture, all architecture, spaceship design and clothing are based on tissue paper and latex sheets. Their scary monster enemies (like someone played some games and shat a lump of memory into a bucket) are only able to detect humans by the smell of our fear pheromones. I’ll skip the science aspect of that and just deal with how stupid that is, and how awful it’s done in the film. They can literally only find humans by the smell of fear, so if you can master your fear you can walk right up to them and cut their legs off. They can’t see you – that would be too easy and if they could see you they wouldn’t need to smell your fear and there would be no reason for Will Smith to be weirdly estranged from his own son because he has no emotions because he has no fear and also his daughter got killed by the monster and Daddy wasn’t there and his son is really scared of them but wants to be like his Daddy but can’t be because he gets scared so he can’t ghost so his Daddy doesn’t love him so a stupid fucking story is contrived to make them love each other again.

Basically, the beasts are unable to hear you, infer your presence from movement, foot marks in the gravel, your violent actions towards them, or realise that you’re killing them. The notion that one could pursue Jaden Smith up a volcano (which are fine and easy to run up, no noxious gases here) is ludicrous. The thing might be a threat if you were stuck in a room with one, but how the fuck it would figure out how to get into your room is a mystery. It does however provide Shyamalan with the opportunity to torment young Smith and the audience repeatedly with the beast torturing his sister for no reason other than because he needs young Smith to be even more afraid of the creatures than would be normal.

All of this only matters because as a crude plot device Daddy takes his son on an apparently military day trip to a training planet (or some bollocks, it doesn’t matter) in an attempt to rebuild their relationship. He is chided into doing it by his purposefully bland and unimportant mother (Shyamalan really does loathe women and relegates them to plot points and victims) – the painfully stilted dinner together made me wish I’d brought whiskey to the cinema. They fly a bit in their spaceship made of bog roll and beige and show us that there’s one of the beasts in a cocoon (again, or something – it doesn’t matter). Uh oh. Yep, they soon hit a field of asteroids, which Daddy notices because he can feel gravitons (don’t think about it, you’ll want to scream), and by jumping suddenly into magic space they crash into long lost Earth. Everyone else dies.

I’m only growing angrier as I write this.

Sadly Smiths Senior and Junior do not die, though Will is pretty fucked up, having surprisingly failed to die. Sigh. Will promptly sends Jaden off cross-country with some inhalers and a colour changing suit. I have no doubt that you will join me in praying that they both die quickly. You will be as disappointed as I was. Earth, apparently, is a place where everything has evolved to kill people. Except we left it a thousand (or ten thousand – I can’t remember or give a shit) years ago. So… animal and plant evolution would have evolved to have no clue what humans are. Anyway, only two animals are a threat – level 1: baboon monkey things and level 2: some cat-hyena things. Big birds from Lord Of The Rings are initially dangerous, but once all their babies are killed and you fail to prevent it, then they’ll give up their life for you. All plants are fine. But it gets crazy cold at night, except for in teeny tiny hot spots conveniently placed a video-game level apart. It’s tedious and they’re both dicks about survival.

None of that is dangerous enough. Will has a horribly broken leg, though he’s mostly man enough to cope with sitting in a chair bleeding while telling his son to “take a knee” and watch him running through a jungle. Jaden is just a sulky little twat, but that’s not especially dangerous. What is dangerous is the alien monster – an Ursa (that’s right, a bear…?) that was roughly forced into the plot, and managed to survive the crash. It displays peculiar Shrike like behaviour, pinning corpses to trees (how does it know where they are once they’re dead?) to freak out young Jaden (how does it know Jaden is coming?) and is obviously going to be the level 3 boss. Luckily Jaden’s got a magic nano-sabre which is an ugly unconvincing stick that changes shape – Darth Maul weapon or ice axe. In a different film it would have been awesome. In this film I wanted Jaden to trip and stab himself.

There’s a fight at the end, after Jaden defies his father, nearly freezes to death (bird saviour), loses a stick, finds a stick, gets lost, draws a map over some cave paintings, finds the beacon, loses his connection to Pa, goes up a volcano, fights the Ursa, launches the beacon thing and they get saved. Thank fuck for superluminal communications. It’s utterly worthless and has no value in its presentation or repetition of clumsy father-son themes. Oh, and in some way Moby Dick is a metaphor for something in this ghastly train wreck of a film.

It’s possible that there is only one redeeming moment in the entire film since we’re denied the joy of either character dying or being beaten to a pulp. During the last viewing of Jaden’s sister being beaten and stabbed to death by the Ursa that got into their house, we see that she hides young Jaden in a terrarium. It’s hilarious – he’s all bundled up looking like he just needs an apple between his teeth. I was wrong – it doesn’t redeem the film but it did make me laugh.

You remember Will Smith – the charming, funny guy from Men In Black (not the awful sequels), that actor who I instinctively like and am drawn to? Well, he’s totally absent from this one. What makes it worse is that this appears to be a vanity project – he wrote this futuristic failure as something to do with his son. They don’t spend any time together in the film, at least not until the dreadful bit at the end where he salutes his son and we all squeeze the trigger and blow our brains out. He was the only reason I gave this film a chance yet he has no chemistry, not even with his son. Fuck.

And that is why you have to say something, even if it’s not nice. All we need is for film makers to take a stand, to say something and make sure that M. Night Shyamalan never makes another film.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZIt20emgLY&w=560&h=315]

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This week, Monday 17th June 2013

I Believe My Soul Is Dying.

kitten and cheese souffleAgah! Despite the sleep I’m getting I appear to be exhausted. Today it’s from overdosing on family (in the nicest possible way) – I’m not used to being with eight other people for more than a couple of hours. It’s been fun, but gosh… they do make a lot of noise.

I also just had a ghastly train journey home with the joys of rail replacement bus service. I get appallingly travel sick, so a trip to my sister’s house and back to the train station already had me fairly queasy, so half an hour on a coach added headache and further nausea. I hate that sensation of travel sickness – like my bones are being pulled up out of my skin. Horrid.

My wonderful other half prepared cheese souffles, which both soothed my stomach and made our Marmalade Badger rather excited.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Improv Blog: The Openings of Shannon O’Neill

A great week for improv, largely revolving around the lovely Shannon from UCB.

Wednesday Lego Blog: A Little Bit Robot

He’s small, but he’s got a chainsaw.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – The Journals Biologinary #2

The second zoological interlude – the Chiverley Hermit Beetle.

Friday Beer Review: Two Zero Alcohol Beers 

There can’t be many more out there – these have become my regular beverage.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

Last week seemed to go okay. I surprised myself by actually hitting my writing deadlines. It was a close run thing though! I had fun with the Journals Biologinary mock article and have cheerfully penned another. The film review on Friday was the hardest to fit in. The week had become a total bastard by that point and I was quite unwell. It brightened me up considerably to do a 1600 word hatchet job on it when I got home… Enjoy! This week we’re going for some shorties again. I hope that works out alright.

Last week’s scribbles

Lego

I haven’t been in much this week, but I have had a splurge this weekend! I was at my Dad’s for his 60th birthday party and my cousins from Sweden were over, along with Christian’s boy Atle. He had some nice Star Wars Lego and, feeling inspired, I raided my old attic for a tonne more Lego. I’ve found all my Lego Space stuff and a load of my brother’s Castle Lego too. It’s all very exciting. We had a lovely time Atle and I building endless spaceships and the old Light&Sound helicopter. Very nice. I then packed it all into a rucksack and brought it home… I’ll do a post next week or so about what’s in the bag.

“Be quiet or leave.” We take our Lego seriously.

Improv Comedy

Much to say about last week – so I’m doing that tomorrow. In other splendid improv news we’re doing spot on Tuesday at The Bag O’ Nails in Lenton with Nottingham University’s Improv! night. Zehr cool.

Media Intake

Books

Reading seems to be one of the things I struggle to fit in when I’m busy at work, so I’ve only really read Stephen Hunt’s fun adventure mini-trilogy Sliding Void which is available in three novella slices as eBooks. They’re really good fun, and I think volumes 1 and 3 are free at present, and volume 2 is just a couple of quid. Fine rambunctious space opera: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sliding-Novella-science-fiction-ebook/dp/B005V2H54G

6 CDs

Music

I’m not deeply involved in music, though I have a lot of friends who are and sometimes I feel a bit left out. I mainly listen to music in the shower, and I like to get a good mix of… stuff. Recently I’ve been listening to Gangstagrass (who I found through the marvellous TV series Justified) and Reggie Watts. This is probably the most recent music I’ve enjoyed in a decade. To ensure I wasn’t bucking my own trend too brutally, I picked up a lovely 6 CDs for a fiver at That’s Entertainment. Talk about blast from the past… Brand New Heavies “Brother Sister”Now Dance 2001Reloaded 2 (2001 compilation of poppy stuff), Kylie “Fever”Moloko “Things To Make And Do” and The Shamen “Boss Drum”. I’m looking forwards to that lot!

Events and Excitement

Improv! – Tuesday 18th June

7.30pm at The Bag O’ Nails, Nottingham.
Fisticuffs doing our thing in the Student Improv show.

MissImp in Action – Friday 28th June

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

Furthest From The Sea Festival – Saturday 29th June

11am-5pm in the Market Square, Derby.
Free all day festival – music, comedy and more. I’m performing as Captain Pigheart and with MissImp. I’ll also be running improv comedy workshops.

Weeks That Have Come Before

This week, Monday 3rd June 2013 (captainpigheart.com)

This week, Monday 10th June 2013 (captainpigheart.com)

This week, Monday 10th June 2013 (captainpigheart.com)

Improv Blog: The Openings of Shannon O’Neill

Improv Splendour

Now I am a bit stressed with work and all, but nonetheless it seemed insane not to take advantage of the proximity of some top drawer improvisers in the UK last week. I’m too busy to get to London for Slapdash but we were able to spend some time with the delightful Shannon O’Neill from The Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. Lloydie’s expensive improv whoring about has been highly advantageous for MissImp. We’ve been playing with Armando style formats of late in Fisticuffs so we sought some advice and commentary on our scenework and play.

Personally, I find it hard to take direction well – I have a well developed dislike of being told what to do (though this is mainly the result of being told to do things by people scarcely admissible as sentient). I was delighted to find Shannon friendly and easy to engage with. I also get a little shy around people who I regard as having authority (note – that’s not someone in authority. It’s funny the things that make one bashful. So we did a few Armandos and played with each other as we’re wont to do. It’s especially nice to do so in front of an amiable stranger with great experience. She was able to point out some improvements but I guess it was very clear how used to each other we are and how nicely we can play together with our improv toys. Then we moved on to new stuff.

Learning and Doing

For most of us our improv training has been ad hoc and although influenced by other schools of improv thought, has lacked the structure and development of that taught in an established school. In many respects I’m just fine with that; we’re all the product of our experiences, and we might not have ended us as marvellously weird without our informal process. What I haven’t had is anything like the UCB introduction to longform and such things as the Harold. I’ve read about them, but I haven’t found the descriptions of openings and pattern games terribly useful or insightful. That’s what we got from Shannon – new ways to get our ideas generated; many of them taking us that desired hop skip and jump away from the suggestion. As is often the case, being shown and instructed in a task is easier than reading about it.

Pattern Games

We’ve played simple pattern and memory games before; word association and disassociation. Just a few weeks ago I ran a workshop on inspiration getting pairs of improvisers to start with and return to their suggestion. I was pleased to get more of that with Shannon. The classic pattern game they play is to start with and return to a suggested word three times as a group, relating ideas, concepts, phrases and short exchanges. They build up beautifully and we did some nice fast scenes from them with far more content in our heads and so far more to get into fast and funnily. Next we tried out invocations: describing a thing using “it is”, making it personal with “you are” statements, advancing to “thou art” – fancily describing the thing’s essence in metaphor and finally to “I am”. It feels a little theatrical (which is my preferred improv style I think/at the moment), and I’m curious about what an audience might make of being presented with such a stylised introduction, but I loved doing them – especially the clarity of concept and issues that we were able to start our scenes with. It pushed us even closer to being on the same page than we normally are, but with almost no effort. Pretty cool.

The last form of opening we tried was the documentary. It works as a series of pairs describing each other to camera; offering huge gifts of detail and personal qualities to each other. Once enough has been done they get tagged out and we have another pair. It’s fun to do on its own, let alone for bouncing into scenes afterwards. It’s seems like a great way to set up a dozen or so characters for further use, or just as a way of ripping through ideas and getting a huge amount of inspiration. Very, very cool. We were also pretty good at them, which was satisfying and an indication that the closed nature of the team and time we spend together has paid off. We also had a good time in the pub afterwards!

Shannon’s great – you should follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/spotastic

Gorilla Burger

The night after was Gorilla Burger – our seventh monthly show/jam all on stage and drinking funfest. I was unfortunately a too ill and fucked up to participate fully, but I could at least collect money before phasing in and out of consciousness! The show opened with Lloydie’s most recent Intermediate class doing the class show – they were great. I’m so pleased and excited to have another ten improvisers enjoying themselves and getting applause and laughter from the audience for inspiring each other and generating lovely short scenes. After that the rest of Fisticuffs took to the stage with Shannon for another string of marvellous invention. I was very satisfied to see our players working so well with one of New York’s finest. I deeply resent my shitfuck day for removing me from the team. Never mind, I did enjoy the scene I had later on, with one of my beginners – a filthy but snappy scene about unicorns.

Monday Was Soooo Long Ago

An ace night, and a great week (evenings only). Oh crap – I forgot to mention mine and Parky’s Improv Beginners on Monday! Damn but they’re getting good. We encouraged them to give each other huge offers and indulge in patterns and switching off their minds while playing. They do some mean pimping. Very funny though. I think teaching is making me into a better improviser. I’m really happy with their progress and rather proud (with brood-mother Parky) of our little bundles of comic chaos.

Lego Blog: A Little Bit Robot

Blocks and Bits

Now I keep my Lego separated by colour, but there are many many dinky tiny pieces that vanish amongst the vast mass of larger brickery. I need to find a compact solution to this problem because I’ve tried taking all the little oddments out and keeping them together, but that only makes it worse! Then there are millions on millions of one stud shapes and I can’t find any buggering brick when I want it.

Finding the Right Brick

It’s from that mass of squares and circles that this little chap emerged. It can take a while to find enough highlight colour – I love the bright orange, but there’s never much of it about. I feel the same about the bright green; oddly I dislike the yellow. I don’t know why. I’m fond of the handle piece as a neat hip joint, especially how it turns the legs out at unusual angles. It makes for a more natural pose. Plus I’m still struggling with hinging knees and elbows properly. I should spend some more time tinkering I think.
Saw Droid 1

Vrrrzzzshm and Kaboom

There’s something rather satisfying about this scale of robot; they’re almost twice the height of a mini figure, so they could be pleasantly threatening to the smiley little buggers. The head shape pleases me a great deal – there’s something of Shockwave or Whirl from Transformers about the glaring eye… Well it made me happy anyway. A chainsaw and drilling gun seemed the ideal tools for a black and orange droid.
Saw Droid 2

Retro-Fit Story Telling

I greatly admire the back stories that many of the amazing Lego builders have on the vast Lego Flickr community. Being physically in touch with the material of fiction when assembling any build certainly makes stories and situations spin round in my mind. I see the Saw Droid locked in storage for decades, power trickling into him just enough to keep him available and operational at a few moments notice but never activated. The mining ship is decommissioned, sent to be scrapped for parts, the remaining Saw Droids included; built but never used; on the cusp of functionality… Accidental activation may not go well for the salvage crew as disconnecting the power cables from the droid storage trips the power-up sequence. The Saw Droid is hurled into full awareness as the side of the mining vessel is torn apart and he’s sucked out into space. Drifting alone, further and further from the only home (or prison) he’s ever known.

The Desert Crystals – The Journals Biologinary #2

An excerpt from The Journals Biologinary’s accounts of the curious fauna and flora of the Northern Continent.
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The Chiverley Hermit Beetle

Amongst the distressing mega-fauna of the Western Plains, which lie predictably west of the Great Bane Desert, are the diversity of enormous insects. The culture, architecture and nightmares of the plainsmen are very much influenced by the creatures they live with. A notable example of the near-symbiosis that can exist between humanity and insect is the Gypsy Beetle, a creature with an unusually large and almost hollow abdomen.

For many centuries the peoples of the caravanserai have cut doors into the great slow-moving insects’ chitinous shells and have lived inside them. There are many examples of the marvellous art work and ingenious design features on the Deathbirth Plain. This is not as terrifying as it sounds; it is simply where the Gypsy Beetles both begin and end their lives – the hatching grounds. It is here that a family home will be abandoned after up to ninety years of the travelling life. With great sadness the occupying family will seal up the entrance into their beetle’s shell and await a fresh larvae, whom they will nurture and protect until it is large enough to return the favour.

An insect at the opposite end of the spectrum is the Chiverley Hermit Beetle. While still huge compared to an insect of the southern end of the Northern Continent, it is more closely related to grasshoppers and crickets, though it stands vertically and attains the approximate height of a man. The Chiverley Hermit Beetle is a solitary creature in its natural habitat and loathes its relatives even through the act of mating.

It is thought that the insect had almost become extinct before people drifted onto the plains, and provided the species with a solution to its self-abhorrence. They discovered that humans are easy to kidnap, and then strip of their bones (including spine and skull) making just enough space for the beetle to squeeze inside the still-living skin and take on the mantle of their victim. They then participate in the somewhat solitary existence of a plains hermit, able to imitate human speech and pass for people in social meetings when they arise.

For many years the ‘knee-talkers’ as they were known to the tribal clans were considered mere folk tales. It was only when Traverstorm Rosenhatch took a team of explorers onto the plains in search of the elusive Hermit Beetle that the truth was fully uncovered. One Alastair Chiverley, the group’s quartermaster went missing one night but returned a day later somewhat stiff and giving the impression of perhaps having had a stroke. The exploration was considered a failure and the team returned to Meridional University. A year later, Chiverley was given a routine medical check (routine for Rosenhatch expeditions) and his ghastly status was uncovered. One of the insects had un-boned the man and successfully imitated him; his wife and children were reportedly embarrassed.

Since the man was technically dead his name was conferred upon the insect. The college was in something of a quandary but eventually employed Chiverley as a research associate, for purposes of keeping it close for study. The beetle lead a short but successful career directing the college’s comic musical theatre group, but left after a spat with the costumier. As far as is known, Chiverley returned to the Western Plains and has not been heard from since.

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Beer Review: Two Zero Alcohol Beers

Living With A Reduced Alcohol Intake

It’s been a while since I last posted a low alcohol beer review. That’s not because I’ve leaped back on the beverage bus, but there really are only so many zero alcohol beers widely available in pubs and supermarkets. I have continued to drink the best of the zero alc stuff I’ve found though. I’m very disappointed to find that a better balance of drinking and medication is better for me. So I’m mostly not drinking Sunday-Wednesday night, but might have a drink or two Thursday – Saturday nights (but frequently don’t drink then either). I know, it’s like something awful has swallowed my soul!

The Final Findings?

I’d heard rumours of another zero alcohol beer that I might find in a supermarket, tales across the zero alcohol void from other travellers in uninebriated despair. I’ve been slightly suspicious of the alarmingly cheap beers in the supermarket aisles, in exactly the same way I’m sceptical of the quality of the cheapest Basics lager. Generally this has proven wise, but I swallowed my fears and picked up the following marvels.

Bavaria 0.0%

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I rather like the standard Bavaria lager. It’s a clean easy-drinking Dutch lager (I’ve no idea why it’s called Bavaria), so I was prepared to give it a whirl. At first I was deterred by the £3.99 for 6 330ml bottles in Sainsburys. It just doesn’t seem enough to pay for a drink. Then I found 6 330ml cans in Tesco for £1.50: an insane price, but one I could cheerfully toss away without weeping. It’s delicious. It doesn’t really taste like beer I admit, but I’m finding it eminently drinkable, to the point where it’s now my default drink at home.
Rating: Starnosed mole

Bavaria 0.0% Wit Beer

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I like a good wheat beer. In a pub something like Hoegaarden leads the way in well branded, drinkable but not exciting white beers; I hadn’t really expected to find anything that tasted so similar in zero-alc land. But this cheery can by Bavaria is the leader of the zero alcohol wheat beer pack. It’s also the only one I’ve seen, apart from the superb Erdinger. Again, this was in Tesco for £1.50 for 6 cans. It is truly delightful. To properly appreciate these beers you have to give up on the concept of beer I think – consider them the discerning drinker’s Coke. This is like an ice cream soda, and I can drink it perfectly happily. It doesn’t have the lighter notes of the Erdinger, but I love it just the same.
Rating: Jerboa

Cheaper Than Any Other Liquid

I can’t honestly say that these Bavaria beers have a great deal of beery flavour. They have none of the richness of a porter, or delicacy of an IPA. But they both have the clean and refreshing taste of the best European lagers (note that I’m excluding the vile domestic abuse piss of Stella and Kronenbourg 1664). And the price? Well, outrageously they’ve now put the price of both up to an insane £2 for 6 330ml cans. That’s less than 50p a can. Less than any soft drink, less than water. I’d be a fool not to drink them! They have become firm favourites of mine – I drink tea and coffee in the morning and Bavaria 0.0% in the evening. I have no choice but to commend them to you. I have saved both money, and very likely years of my life by switching to Bavaria 0.0% beers.

Related articles

This week, Monday 24th June 2013

Singing On The Edge Of Sun.

CaptainPigheart6I are going bonkizz. I’m writing this while at work, during a brief gap between crises. Sadly this will necessarily be rather abbreviated – apologies. The last couple of weeks have been a struggle to get stuff written, but it looks like this week is about to kick those experiences in the nuts. For reference, it’s 10 past 5 on Sunday afternoon and I’ve been here since before 8 this morning. This is not a good Sunday. Update – I left at 7pm in the end. Not a victorious day…

It’s an awesome week ahead though – MissImp in Action on Friday at The Glee Club and The Furthest From The Sea Festival on Saturday in which I’m hitting the comedy stage in character and out, as well as providing free improv workshops.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Gigs Ahead: Furthest From The Sea Festival Sat 29th June

An amazing array of acts and free entertainment this Saturday in Derby.

Wednesday Autofiction: Anxiety Games

The downright weird experience of feeling unreasonably anxious.

Thursday The Desert Crystals – The Journals Biologinary #3

A third zoological interlude – the Tooth Furred Gambimole.

Friday Lego Blog: Lego Memories 

A flashback to my Legoline joy of the 19’80s.

Updates on my thrilling life

Writing

Oosh, long week; little writing. I’ve written a couple of bobs this week, but they’re no longer suitable for posting – very frustrating! The review I wrote of After Earth seems to have gone down quite well with a nice re-blog by BMJ2K – thanks dude! In case you were wondering – it is a terrible film. It’s nice to let of some steam on a thoroughly deserving subject. The Journals Biologinary are amusing me greatly, though I’m looking forwards to getting back into the main story next week.

Saw Droid 3Last week’s scribbles

Lego

Sadly little to report this week. I’ve barely begun sorting the tonne of Lego I brought back from my Dad’s last week – a bit more about that on Friday I think. I did reward myself for a long week with the Attack on Weathertop Lego set. It’s a clever little build, especially the curving castle wall. Lots of fun to make, and I do love the new rearing horsies.

Improv Comedy

It was the penultimate beginners’ session last Monday and we had a very cool time. The gang are becoming very sharp and growing satisfyingly in confidence. I’m not sure what I’ll do on Mondays in future… Also a superb jam on Thursday from our youngest performer, wee Ben. The very interesting mix of MissImpers gave some wonderful group scene work and great hilarity.

Media Intake

Books

Well, as with everything else there has been no time. Sad faces everywhere. I have dug into Stephen Hunt’s next Jackelian adventure – yet more bonkers but brilliant steampunk in Jack Cloudie. We’re off in airships against the Dune Tleilaxu-like Cassarabians. It’s very exciting and I hope to finish it this week.

Events and Excitement

MissImp in Action – Friday 28th June

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

Furthest From The Sea Festival – Saturday 29th June

11am-5pm in the Market Square, Derby.
Free all day festival – music, comedy and more. I’m performing as Captain Pigheart and with MissImp. I’ll also be running improv comedy workshops.

Weeks That Have Come Before

This week, Monday 10th June 2013 (captainpigheart.com)

This week, Monday 10th June 2013 (captainpigheart.com)

This week, Monday 17th June 2013 (captainpigheart.com)

Gigs Ahead: Furthest From The Sea Festival – Derby – Sat 29th June

Derby Gets Awesome

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Coming up this Saturday – from 11am-5pm an entirely FREE festival sprawling over Derby’s Market Place with music, comedy, dance, arts and more! It’s the Furthest from the Sea Festival !

I’ll be there on the comedy stage as Captain Pigheart sometime between 11 and 1.30, then later we’re closing the gig as MissImp with Martin and David. In between times I’ll be running free improvised comedy workshops – drop in and have some fun. The workshop schedule will be available on the day, but they’re likely to be about half an hour long and lots of ’em.

There are too many acts to list easily but many are friends and family of the gigs I’ve done in Derby and Nottingham with MissImp and the Captain. Karl and The Marx Brothers, Misk Hills Mountain Rambler and The DH Lawrence Skiffle Show, Eleanor Lee, and MILLIONS more, including about half the folk who were at Knickerbocker Glorious and even more comedy folk playing for 6 hours continuously than you can shake a stick at. Even a big stick.

Follow on Twitter @furthestfromthe and use hashtag #ffts2013 to talk about it!

Did I mention it’s free? It’s free. More incredibly varied entertainment is also available: Belly Dancing, Capoeira, Poetry Tree, Bling Up Your Bike, craft stalls, merchandise… it just don’t stop.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_3byFilnl0&w=560&h=315]

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Autofiction: Betrayal

Failure On A Hurtful Scale

betrayalOnce more disappointed; once more betrayed. Ever am I fooled by camaraderie and sense to do the right thing, to commit to a thing. I do what is required, not what is asked of me, for those who ask do not know what is required. In the gaps of their ignorance lie duty and value. And yet we are betrayed by the blind stupidity that comes with ignorance, fear supplanting reason, caution superimposed over the faint outline of purpose. Without a grasp of the stakes we are betrayed by a fawning authority, irrationally bound to its masters.

Fear and hope only pierce the veil of self-interest with vain, glancing blows; easily diverted to further an imaginary cause of ego.

Twisting In The Wind

Where does it leave us? We lay our case, annotate the quiddities for the simplest of readers, only to find it rejected under the banner of baseless dread and supposed authority. If we are failed, ought we not protest? If we are misled, ought we not seek direction? If we are betrayed, ought we not rebel? Apparently not.

Our craven leaders fear leadership, revealing the cowardice common to their kind – keen to rebuke, batter and bully their dependent serfs; faced with a righteous cause to lead they fail, fall twisting; pathetic, in turmoil of servitude to a loathing cause that cares not for their supplication nor their pretended service. In desire to offer a shiny apple they undermine their position, reveal themselves rotten and worthless, unable to assert their strength or support their servants, and so we are left adrift; unsupported; abandoned.

Cut Out Your Tongue

Our silence is expected, demanded; demeaning. The incompetence, the cowardice, the prejudice lie elsewhere; not with us. Yet who bears the brunt of idiotic action? Why, us of course. My fears are not your fears, my pretence is not yours. You wear a mask which colours you foolish, not resolute, not brave, not wise – in opposition to your clear belief.

You are weak; broken; pitiful – yet I have not the pity to spare you. Contempt wells within me, its expression lost in a fugue of bewildered shock – every action you undertake shows you failing; a constant at last in your behaviour.

Every strength you imagine you possess is a weakness, a failed stand supplanted by trite and banal betrayal of those whose loyalty you demand.

This is a fictional account of something that might have happened somewhen to somebody. Or not.

Autofiction: Anxiety Games

Panic Flower

What Is Anxiety To Me?

This is my Friday: I’ve had a nice day. Nothing outrageously awesome – just nice. I’ve scored a day off work prior to working a weekend to implement a new system, following nearly 8 months of frequently stressful planning, training, mapping and a hundred other incredibly dull, detail-laden things. I got up late after a superb improv jam the previous night in which I did good stuff, almost destroyed my voice and got a big chunk o’ hope for the local improv scene. Spent the morning (what little of it I was awake for) with my adored pussy cat and a good book. Had a relaxing breakfast, shower and stuff. Fiddled on Facebook. Neil Munro (an excellent gentleman) from Clockwork Prism came round to record a bunch of promotional voice overs for next weekend’s Furthest From The Sea festival in Derby Market Place. We did that and spent a few hours geekily chattering about Lego, Marvel, arts and film. It was very enjoyable. My other half is in Manchester working on 2.8Hrs Later’s new zombie chase game Asylum, so I’m on my own now. She’s staying with my brother and having a good time. She is perfectly safe. I have a quiet evening ahead of me, probably made of a cat, Lego and The Clone Wars: Animated Series; I’m looking forwards to it.

Why Am I Telling You These Things?

This isn’t supposed to be a diary account, but I wanted to set up the context for how I feel right now. There is something clawing its way out of my stomach, its every strike vibrating through my limbs and mind. It’s a horrible, yawning sensation – I am seized and cast into nervous jittery frenzy by it. I cannot decide what to do. Every option makes the hollowness grow wider and deeper. It throws the night into a terrified shadow. This is fucking insane.
I have maybe three things I need to do tonight – do some food shopping, assemble Attack on Weathertop, remember to eat something. That’s it. I even have my beloved Merly on my lap – everything, everything is fine. I have a couple of pain in the arse days ahead of me, but they will be punctuated with laughter, relief and will be the end of a long frustating process. The week that follows will be somewhat stressful, but I’ll be running around doing a hundred things at once – I love being like that. Then I have the Glee Club show, and then the festival the day after. It’s good. The future (at least short-term, which is the furthest I can look) is bright. Yet here I am, riven with a sudden panic like steel butterflies raving in my belly.

Gotta Do… Something

Action, action is required. I go out. Sainsbury’s. We need maybe five things; I have not made a good list – so tense I was incapable of seeing what was in our cupboards. I’ll figure it out when I get there. Cycling is a bad idea if you’re being hammered by anxiety. I am not paying attention. I manage not to die. Sainsbury’s is unpleasantly busy (I think: in reality it probably wasn’t); I race around; I miss half the items and go back round. The place is a fucking maze full of moving meat walls. I have my podcast in my ears. I cannot remember it save the soothing voices. I leave. I leave. I leave. Tesco is calling. They have Lego and space, so much space so much space. I look at no one. I leave with things I don’t need.
I cycle slower on the way back. I feel safer. The weight-lightness in me is healing; I feel calmer. Everything goes into its place. I laugh at myself. I avoid alcohol. I write about how I feel and I am… better. I pause and the panic lurches up through me like a dog in a pit.

Fix

Some time later…
…It seems to me to be a condition without reason. It’s at its worst when I am still, completely inactive. I think maybe it comes along because I feel I ought to be using my time, doing a thing. I don’t think I always should be doing stuff. I’m now taking me pills – the lovely amitryptyline which has me sleeping better – for longer and more regularly than ever in my life. It is wonderful. It also calms me. I try to take it only in the evening since it’s ostensibly for sleep (both anxiety and depression make it tough to sleep – for me), and it does leave me open to drowsiness. I guess I just left it too late tonight. It’s steadily kicking in now. I can feel it. I can feel my muscles unbind and the desperation eases away. The giant tension headache produced by my jaw clenching for fear of gibbering will slowly fade away too. It’s better this way.

The Desert Crystals – The Journals Biologinary #3

An excerpt from The Journals Biologinary’s accounts of the curious fauna and flora of the Northern Continent.
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The The Tooth-Furred Gambimole

As with so many creatures of the Northern Continent, this animal’s name is both descriptive and utterly belies its nature. Gambimole’s have been observed in a variety of continental locations, and range from the tiny shrew-sized Minor Gambimole up to the horse-sized Queen Gambimole. The chief trait of the Gambimole, and the reason that possibly diverse species are connected under this umbrella term are their curious eating habits. Few other animals have been found able to turn themselves inside out at will, but all forms of Gambimole use this ability in either offence or defence.

The Tooth-Furred Gambimole is a horrid-looking specimen, approximately the size of a large cat. What features are distinguishable are covered in a thick mat of teeth. The appearance of fur is only maintained at a distance, when the observer could be forgiven for thinking the beast camoflaged for snow. On closer inspection, the teeth are firmly embedded in a gum like skin which flexes in odd directions as the animal stumbles about. It is a lumpen brute which displays little intelligence or intentionality.

Its locomotion is legendarily poor. This is considered a natural result of having a spine distributed in bands around one’s body. The spine holds the Gambimole together and on contracting, allows it to entirely turn inside out, placing the teeth on the inside, usually clenched around its prey. In actuality the Gambimole, once killed and stretched can be seen to be a rather thin beast, with all of its organs spread around inside to avoid too much stress upon its inversion. It is unclear whether Gambimoles are able to see properly; their eyes are half buried in folds of skin, so that they are popped up whichever way out the animal is. Their legs are short and stumpy, allowing for a hip joint that support a stunted jointless limb to protrude and jiggle it along the ground. It is not capable of leaping. Dissection is again interesting – then it can be seen that the Gambimole has eight legs, four on either side.

Undoubtedly the most intriguing and upsetting aspect of the Tooth-Furred Gambimole is its accidental predatory nature. Carnivorous, perhaps only because of its limited senses, it responds to touch by immediately rolling itself over and around the toucher. This a highly effective strategy when it has encountered a small animal: its teeth are now inside and vicioulsy grind its prey to pieces and swallows the remains through what previously appeared to be its anus, but when properly inverted is in fact the throat.

Observational studies in the field and laboratory suggest that up to eighty-five percent of the Gambimole’s predations are failures, either because the Gambimole has been struck by a branch, run into a rock or seized the appendage of a much larger animal. The latter selection is sometimes effective, if the Gambimole is able to sever the appendage before being battered to death by its victim.

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Lego Blog: Lego Memories

Unearthing Lego

Lego MemoriesI can get terribly excited about excavating old Lego from attics – specifically the one above my old bedroom at my Dad’s house. I knew there was a tonne of stuff up there (as well as Heroquest, Space Crusade and many other marvels) and we extracted it. We played with a lot of it last weekend when my cousin’s son was over (my second cousin?) and it was good.

I brought most of it home in a rucksack. Here’s me emptying that rucksack out. I chose to leave a few things behind – mainly old Fabuland and the monorail track / boat bases / thousands of wheels as they aren’t things I have the space to use.

The Good Stuff

All of it is good stuff, obviously, and it filled two large boxes which I’m still sorting out. I may be running out of Lego storage space (don’t tell my other half I said that). There’s heaps of black and white Lego, largely from the awesome (and questionably named) Blacktron series. Including the crazily large chunks from the Star Base. You can see all the photos below in biggenation on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/eric_the_bewildered_weasel/sets/72157634375474976/

I even have the instructions for building it which is pretty exciting. I also adore the black-visored space men. I have uses for them I think… There are lots of cool bricks in these sets. I’ve always liked the monitor display panels and now I have many, many more.

 

I’d forgotten the occasional weird logos found on Lego bricks – I’m rather enamoured of the planet-killing Shell tile. I’m sure I can find a use for it. Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt spot the Light & Sound bricks and power box in the red picture. Bless Lego, it used to be a 9 volt battery to power two flashing lights and a siren. We have come a long way. I’ve also now got more awesome transparent yellow and blue bricks. Even more eagle-eyed Action Man types will have spotted the power unit and bases for the Lego Space Trak Monorail… yup, I have that! It’s an awesome construction (although I have left the tracks at Dad’s – I’m now wondering why…) and even without building the whole thing I’m pretty psyched about the strut pieces that come with it in white and black. Maybe now I’ll do what I originally intended to do – build a display unit for mini figures.

Lego Space Trak Monorail

This was one of my favourite ever toys, though I’m slightly ashamed by how much it cost – even back in 1988! (the pics are taken from the 1988 Lego catalogue – an item I jealously prize). One day it will rise again! I have many, many fond and near-identical (so possibly the same) memories of assembling and disassembling this monorail. I always wanted to get extra track, but never did. Hello eBay… mmm, maybe not; the prices are crazy.

Best of All…

Always the minifigures – these spacemen evoke such strong happy memories for me. Even all the ripped open helmets (I blame my brother) make me feel happy. There’s a fair chunk of Lego Castle mixed in which I shall no doubt find diverse uses for, but it’s the Lego space fellers I want to do something with next, once my steampunk progresses a bit anyway.

I’m sure someone can correct me, but I think this stuff came out just before Lego added new expressions other than the bland creepy smile. I’d also forgotten about the amazing metal detector thing in the hands of my blue spaceman. I guess the zipped uniforms are also a slightly different set but I haven’t looked into that yet. So yeah – that’s all my current joy!

I was thrilled to see the blue Spaceman figure in the trailer for the Lego Movie – I think it’s going to be great!