[ occasional pirate ], [ scribbly fellow ], [ hat devotee ], [ improviser ], [ cat dad ], [ sometimes unhappy in the brain ], [ AFOL ], [ consumer of eye-candy ], [ beer drinker ], [ enraged cyclist ], [ please talk to me about Transformers ], [ very bad at DIY ], [ enthusiastic duct-taper ]
Steampunk still delights me in all of its variations in literature, toy and film forms. It still has a way to go in film I think, though Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow, Hellboy and Pacific Rim certainly rock the stylistic elements (I admit Sky Captain lacked something in the acting department) but we still don’t get enough airship and brass for my tastes.
There’s cool steampunk stuff throughout the Lego world though, plus there’s the advanced builders range coming out soon (which I shall never see in the UK), especially in the minifigures. I’ve been gathering minifigs for a while, and the older Lego Adventurers and newer Lego Monster Fighters have everything I could want. It was time for me to toss them into a bucket together.
Heroes in a Cartridge Shell
We’ll start off with the human components of my intergalactic steampunk team. Introducing Carruthers Bonaparte and Captain Constance DiLegend:
Added brutal air support provided by Jane Doe (and yes, that is a double-ended chainsaw borne by a jetpack-toting heroine), and tech support from Doctor Ivander Gechslort.
The Full Nine Quadzoots..?
Diversity’s good news for everyone and this team is no exception… AermandFeyr and MisterHexx:
The series Spaced was brilliant, everybody loved Shaun of the Dead and most people quite enjoyed Hot Fuzz and so I went in for the last of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s ‘Cornetto Trilogy’ with enthusiasm more or less balanced by trepidation. Unfortunately I’d seen the trailers, so there weren’t to be many surprises in store. What you do get is a nice retelling of The Stepford Wives with an awful lot of naturally funny dialogue and trademark sharp editing.
Simon Pegg is far better in this stuff than the Hollywood films we’ve seen him in for the last few years (do not get me talking about Star Trek), he comes across as genuinely funny and charming, despite playing a habitual loser who drags a bunch of old friends he’s largely fallen out with to return to their home town and complete the pub crawl. Great set up, and I really wish I hadn’t seen the trailers because it feels somewhat drawn out waiting for the ‘wives’ to show up. Once again the film revolves around the relationship between Pegg and his real-life best friend Nick Frost – they play very satisfyingly together.
The rest of the cast is also splendid, from Martin Freeman in the first role where I haven’t hated him, to Pierce Brosnan representing the villains. The special effects are gory fun (while being very PG and clearly a tribute to Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and it features a number of surprisingly great fight scenes – dudette with legs instead of arms and a pub brawl being my highlights. I also laughed all the way through and left content. Watch it.
Sequel sequel sequel… Pixar have decent sequel form with Toy Story 2 & 3, although they did also do Cars 2 which was, incredibly, even worse than the initial awful premise. Oh well. I loved Monsters Inc. so bad and never really felt it need a prequel, but we have one now and it’s impossible to resist. It’s alright – the story of college competition and friendship is well worn and so is reliably told. I can’t say I cared much at any point though, which for a Pixar movie I think is something of a failure. Obviously it looks gorgeous and once we finally get to some action scenes (the competition for the most terrifying monster team) it gets good, although it also slides rapidly in montage and lovable loser territory. I’m not sure I’ve got anything else to say – there’s nothing new here, and it’s a bit slow in places,but I’d rather watch this than any sequel to Shrek.
And I’ll cry if I want to… It’s okay, there’s no cause for tears. I’m only turning 35, so it’s just half of my likely 70 years over now. Phew. It is however a good reason to have a week off work, so I’m just beginning to enjoy that as well. It was a fairly manic three day week and I’ve been using the break to do almost nothing so far. Happiness is a relief from activity. I am now of course getting twitchy with too few planned activities and things to do. Not that I have nothing to do, far from it, but the lack of schedule is potentially going to make me crazy.
Being an organised sort I’ve already had my birthday party. It’s an excellent occasion to make a pile of people I like and make them talk to each other. Birthday parties seem to be the times we get to see a number of folks whose daily lives no longer intersect well with ours. I suppose we’d best keep getting older.
Delightingly, this weekend was also the 15 year anniversary for myself and Marilyn – no mean feat eh? As she’s fond of pointing out, she would have gotten less for murdering me. Sweet. There’s no escaping me now. In five years time we’ll have been together for a full half of my existence. That’s either a scary or thrilling thought – possibly both. Either way I feel lucky and happy. I never really thought I would be all settled and contented with another’s proximity and life. Now it’s hard to imagine us as separate beings.
TuesdayAutofiction: Growth and Confusion Is there really value to the introspective babble a new year gives rise to?
Wednesday Lego Blog: DemolitionI only have so much space – when I build a new thing something else must go...
Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 16 “Look But Don’t Touch” Switching story lines on you – we’re aboard The Viper’s Eye.
Friday Book Review: Cages (Book One) by Chris Pasley An excellent YA horror story.
Updates on my thrilling life
Victory! Targets achieved and with it an enormous sense of well being. Last week was work mental, with running and answering questions, solutions, problems – a really hyperactive and stimulating few days that completely turned my mind on and made writing possible. I was actually ahead of the game so I was able to swap Weds and Thurs around when Flickr uploader failed me. That was cheering! I think I’ve established enough story threads in The Desert Crystals to keep bouncing between them without introducing anything new just yet. I am finding the few weeks where I didn’t have time to write full episodes to have been most helpful in expanding my ideas about the world of the Northern Continent and it’s all beginning to feed back into itself very pleasingly.
I went to Pub Poetry in Burton on Friday. It’s one of my favourite nights out ever, and since we’ve failed to sort any out in Nottingham so far this year, was a much needed evening of relaxation and laughter. As ever the array of talent was varied and bizarre, with readers offering their own work and favourites by others. I always feel very welcome and delighted in retelling Captain Pigheart’s The Booty Adventure and The Eldritch Entertainment.
Wow, I have great friends – even though it’s not my birthday yet properly, I did receive a number of charming gifts on Saturday, many of which were Lego! It’s partly for that reason I have to dismantle a whole load of things, just to have the space to permit further building. It’s thrown me into a mild panic actually, as I also have Jabba’s Palace to build this week. Where the fuck am I going to put that?! Aaaagh, anxiety ought not to come from Lego. I also have some great beers from the Isle of Wight and Irish whiskey to enjoy while building and destroying so it looks to be an ace week. I’m still basking in the warmth of the steampunk Lego I built last week and I have some pretty cool ideas about steampunk mechs…
Just the ole jam last week and though I was suffering terribly from the heat had a very fun time. We sang and played scenes which ended in song thanks to Lloydie and the musical talents of Calum Hems (who I first met when we performed at The Maze last night – he being the banjoist for the band In The North Wood). Excellent fun and a new thing to try for some of our newest recruits, all of whom leaped into it with aplomb.
This week we have the incessant joys of Gorilla Burger. We’ll have a number of teams filling the performance slots, including The Fallen Angels and hopefully Atomic Budgerigar and the return of Segway.
I have myself a new Kindle, smaller and shinier than the old one which now contains only my pirate stories and stuff for performance. It feels like a nice extravagance to have a Kindle just for shows. Of course, that didn’t stop it breaking down on Friday! I took it apart, slapped it, threw away a handful of tiny screws that fell out and plugged it into my Prime. Then it worked again. Obviously.
Anyway, with typical enthusiasm for a fresh device I’ve been downloading and shuffling books from my Kindle caches, rediscovering oddments I’d forgotten about such as Jim Butcher’sSide Jobs – a collection of short stories mostly set between the novels of the Dresden Files. Some are a bit rough but I enjoyed returning to the world. I then went and bought Changes, thinking it was the next in the series only to open it and discover that I’ve already got it on Kindle. Arsebadgers. Not to worry, I’ve acquired Ghost Story now, which almost certainly the one I wanted to buy. We’ll see.
I got Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test for Christmas for my Dad having heard the guy talk about his book on several podcasts (including The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe and Little Atoms). Then I found it cheap on Kindle (always a powerful motivator for me to try new things) and I’ve devoured it in a few days. It was brilliant – a weird journey through the judgement of madness by way of peculiar characters with ambiguous stories. It certainly reinforces that old fear of psychiatrists as well as how difficult it really is to make sweeping judgements of others.
Ageing is a confusing business. There’s an assumption (I think) that we should be changing, improving, progressing and developing as human beings, or in some imaginary chart of life. Having chosen not to have children, to get married or to invest personally in a career I lack some of the milestones that many people identify with and use to mark their life progress. Instead I find myself at 35, and at the beginning of a new year (screw the end of December nonsense- who starts a new year a third of the way into Winter?) and I have that odd sense that I should surely have accomplished something by now.
I reinforced that by talking to my Mum last night who was also having to remind herself that I was now 35 – it tends to be accompanied by a lot of ‘gosh’ I guess when your first born hits such an age. I have a similar problem when I realise that makes my little brother (third in line) 31 – a terrifying notion. It’s very hard not to compare myself against my siblings, both now married, one with a pair of miniature humans. Good jobs all round, with some career path in mind, well travelled, fairly adult (I exclude my brother from that description with the exception of work)… and both younger than me. Hmm.
So What Have I Done?
I’ve been with my other half for fifteen years now, that’s the entirety of my adult life (I don’t count time at university as being adult, for I think obvious reasons). We’ve bought a house together, which we’ve partly decorated but mainly filled with the fruits of our kleptomaniac obsessions, and with a cat we adore (the second we have loved deeply since being together). I have never felt closer to another human being – I like the phrase “living in each others’ pockets”; I can’t tell whose pocket or their contents belong to who any more.
My job which I’ve had for almost as long, in various evolving forms does not fill my heart with joy or fulfilment, though at the right times it does tickle my brain and I do it very well. It does pay for everything though, and surely that’s what it’s for. I’d love to have a job that filled all of my creative ambitions, that energised me intellectually but I can’t imagine what that job would be. Oh well. I have emotionally drifted far from old friends and from family, as well as physically and communicatively. I never know why.
I am bad at looking back and bad at looking forwards. I am quite good at the present. I have embraced improvised comedy as something I feel passionate about and it has shifted from hobby to source of joy and reward. It is good. I’m one of the people who has enabled MissImp to keep advancing and to be on the verge of being very special indeed. The friends I have and those I socialise with I feel close to and intensely interested in, even if I may seem to never remember anything about them. I still love to read; I read hundreds of books a year and each makes me feel happy. I love my Lego. I enjoy the creativity and destruction involved in it. This is the 443rd post I have published on this site. I write several thousand words a week on diverse subjects, including myself. It is rewarding.
Slightly Broken, or Ace With Cracks?
I have shared more emotionally in the last year than in the decade before that. I guess that’s what feels most significant about the last year. Last August, just after my birthday I started to attend counselling sessions, which I made myself refer myself to. They followed a period of CBT I’d ended up in after deciding to do something about my appalling sleep patterns. The counselling finished in January this year – a fairly short, but intense dose of person-centred therapy. During the ten months or so that all this was going on I maintained an erratic blog about how I felt and what was going through my mind. They are intensely personal, and terrifying to me in content. They deal with sexual abuse, fear, obsession, anxiety, depression, self-harm and who knows what else. They were tough to write, but for me, epically important. I have previously shared them with a few close friends and that was pretty difficult, but helpful.
This August I’ve made the decision to move those thirty or so posts from their previous anonymousish home to captainpigheart.com. I’ve come to realise that although I started this website to write pirate stories, it’s actually about me and my thoughts, feelings and interests. Sometimes that means piracy, other times it means panic attacks. I started the Autofiction series so I could write about myself in this public-ish domain where I don’t have to hide, pretend that everything’s okay and through the absence of personal horror imply that none exists. The honesty of it is important to me. As is the absence of shame. Pride and shame are peculiar concepts – I have never understood excessive pride in simply being what you are, and similarly there is no reason to feel shame for the things we are not responsible for.
Don’t feel you have to read those posts (it really isn’t for everyone), but they are in the archives under Slightly Broken. I’ve put the Autofiction in there too because they are kind of the same thing. I’m proud of how far I’ve come – if I had made different decisions in life I probably would not be here now. I owe that to very many of the people around me, but most especially my other half, Marilyn. I may not have kicked over the traditional milestones by the age of 35, but I’ve found some different ones and I reckon I’m doing alright.
I decided to take apart one of the first things I stumblingly built when I bought a massive box of second hand Lego – Boba Fett’s House which I wrote about building here.
It was fun to build – one of those rambling creations that emerges organically without intent. It was equally enjoyable to take down. I got a chance to see how I could have done things differently and still to be pleased about how unusual bricks fit together. I thought I’d record the demolition in poor quality video for my own amusement, and possibly someone else’s. It is of course, sped up – no one should waste an hour watching me and my cat separate bricks!
My delightful other half has been taunting me for a while about having visited Lego Shops in Manchester and Leeds this year. She filled a milkshake pot with Lego and hid it from me until my birthday. Now it is mine, all mine! Apparently the staff in the shop were genuinely impressed by how much she managed to pack into the tub – it is dense and barely moves when shaken.
Marilyn knows how much I love the stuff and especially the lovely pastel colours of Lego Friends, so there’s tonne of the lime green, pink, orange and yellow. I should have enough to actually build something now. The base of the tub is cunningly filled with beautiful pink and green tiles and lots of those 2×2 tiles with a centred stud. Oh, and grey 2×1 tiles with dials on!
There are also a few dozen bricks with studs on all sides for SNOT joy, random flowers, transparent orange 1×1 slopes (!), column pieces, foliage (in lime green) and a gazillion round studs at the top. Hidden in there too are a black witch hat, a lollipop and some other irregular pieces.
I shall take great pleasure in using these birthday bricks prettily. Marilyn also made me nine very cool custom minifigures! I believe they deserve a showcase and post all of their own – probably next week.
Oh yeah! Almost forgot – I now have the awesome DK The Lego Ideas Book (Now You Can Build Anything) – it’s wonderful. I shall have to build some of its suggestions just get practised in the techniques. Lego Ice Cream van here I come…
The ever-present tremble of the walls grew into a jagged judder that bounced along the narrow table which Ryme had unfolded between the bunks. Crockery and books leaped in an enthusiastic dance across its jouncing surface, narrowly escaping Guldwych’s desperate fingers and diving to the floor in an orgy of pottery and paper. Ryme cursed and shuffled back on his bunk so he could push the table back up to the wall. Then he awkwardly knelt and squeezed his bulk into the gap between the bunk racks and kneeled on a jag of tea cup. Unable to move further, he flinched from the cut and his calves cramped up. He writhed in agony, banging his head repeatedly on the wooden edge of the opposite bunk.
A hydra-mass of dreadlocks emerged over the lip of the top bunk, some extending almost as far as Ryme’s throbbing scalp. “Y’aright lad?” Tosser idly enquired.
She had been enjoying her rest period, having spent the night furiously tending the engines, lovingly greasing them and coaxing continued life from the highly-strung machines. Though Ryme was often ill-tempered, and simply ill, he was a relatively quiet cabin mate – the scratching of pen on paper and sips of tea had drawn Tosser into a day of pleasant dreams. The wingship’s natural shuddering was all the skymates’ lullaby and its change of tone had pulled Tosser out of sleep. Ryme’s hijinks had persuaded her to peel back her eyelids. The fat man was endearingly stuck between the bunks, straining like a Goat Tortoise to expel its single enormous egg.
Ryme mumbled something about legs and heads and crockery. Tosser unhitched her metal cup from its hook and filled it from the canister on the wall. The sky was dry and hot and all the mates were on water rations – despite the speed of The Viper’s Eye it was still a long and parching flight over the Great Bane Desert. Only the air whipping past them offered breezy relief. She rolled the water around her mouth, enjoying the fleeting moistness. With a small sigh she heaved herself off the bunk and landed neatly, straddling the moaning professor. Tosser’s Amazonian build was something of a liability in the engine room but her size was an asset for the wingship’s other enterprises. Equally, it allowed her pluck the portly professor from the floor with a minimum of further scrapes and place him gently back in his bunk.
Ryme was unsure if an apology was truly due, given the humiliating resolution to his troubles. He sprawled on his bunk and nodded acknowledgement to the hulking engineer. Tosser grinned and darted out of the cabin. Guldwych sighed and rubbed at his aching calves. Then at his slightly gashed knee. He had slowly become used to the routine on board The Viper’s Eye.
Against his expectations and those prejudices of which he was aware, he had fallen into a fairly comfortable relationship with his cabin mates, Tosser, who had so recently aided him in her nonchalantly powerful way; and with Knocker, the brutal, tattooed pistolier, or Master Of Arms on board the small wingship. Ryme was quietly proud of himself for this state, knowing that Eslie Chem (of whom he now harboured a greater suspicion and a cynicism normally directed towards Rosenhatch Traverstorm) had anticipated a journey of great discomfort and entertainment at the professor’s expense.
The wingship still juddered alarmingly and Ryme’s stomach as ever gave clues as to the pitch and yaw of the craft. He was now well attuned, if not acclimatised, to the changes in direction, speed and rise of the vessel. The daily thrum and bump of The Viper’s Eye was, he hoped, becoming homely – at the very least he had joined Captain Flame’s crew in being lulled to sleep by the ship’s vibrations. To his yawning belly they were turning hard to port, the engines straining to make good their course change and bounding in their harnesses, ever-eager to pounce at their fresh destination. This was a long way from his comfortable office in academia – the halls of the wingship soon lost the whispers and clomping of boots. It was refreshing to be away. Ryme had begun to forget the stresses of university life, the constant battle for scientific ascendance and the grinding of one’s foes into discredited mud.
There was something in the urgent but abstract nature of flight that soothed his mind and his otherwise intensely stressed soul. Being merely a passenger is a freeing experience; his bunkmates came and went, their entrances and exits marked by grunts and the pungency of engine oil. Ryme’s time simply passed – his notebooks and tea punctuated the day, and odd diverting conversations with a crew he would barely have acknowledged in the street. Guldwych had been ensconced in the rarefied atmosphere of Meriodonal University for thirty years. His every interaction in the college was a fight for prowess, contesting grants, theses in an unending quest for the academic average. Mavericks such as Traverstorm presented the only genuine threat to a life of petty disputation and apologetics. As such this traverse through the air, despite Ryme’s vicious desperation to ruin Rosenhatch, was proving to be a therapeutic tonic for the ageing academic’s frayed nerves.
The pain in Ryme’s legs eased as he lay stretched out on his bunk, cautiously extending one leg then another until the cramp had passed into that curious state of pleasure. With it returned the general sense of relaxation which he now associated with the journey (aside from the bouts of airsickness, which despite their horrifying urgency were reducing in frequency). That calm was torn away when Knocker wrenched the door open and bellowed at the recumbent gentleman. He was wild-eyed, the tattoos on his hands ablaze with excitement, hands gripping the doorframe with twitching fingers.
“A ship! We’re to battle lad. We’ll take our sharp points to their throats and bear forth their jewels for glory and joy.” With that he vanished, hurling himself down the wooden corridor for the deck, feet planted firm and hard slapping upon the floor.
Ryme didn’t know exactly what to make of that, though it dimly dawned on him that perhaps they had caught up with Traverstorm and his airship. With that thought he leaped to his feet, narrowly scraping his head against the bunk once more and diving into the hall. Surely the end of his foe was at hand, or at least at the point of The Viper’s Eye’s harpoons and gutting cannonade.
I’m sure I’ve babbled about much I like post-apocalyptic fiction many time – well, it’s still true. Chris Pasley’s Cages treads a similarly violent and terrifying future as Charlie Higson’s The Enemy. They’re both Young Adult horror stories with zombies, and I imagine (not having children myself) that they’re both going to give parents nightmares about whether to let their children read them. I would, but that probably doesn’t help. Cages follows Sam Crafty, only just into his teens (and critically just into puberty) so he is, naturally, locked up with all the other teenagers. This future America has seen the country descend into anarchy and violence as the Bitten (adult zombies) and the very scary Beasts (teenage victims) tear society apart. They are all infected with a parasite which lies dormant in the body. About 10% of teens have their parasite triggered by the hormone soup that is adolescence. From that point they mutate swiftly into a ravening monster with spines, teeth and wings that rips everything nearby to shreds. The emergence of the creatures is genuinely tense and frightening in the book. To deal with this serious health problem all teenagers are placed in Quarantine for their adolescent education, guarded by heavily armed adults and locked into cells and classrooms.
The story presents a harsh teen school drama – Sam’s the new kid and has to try to fit in (taking a radical trouble-making climb to the top of the peer tree) – but the school is permanently on lock down and everyone knows their closest friends could turn into monsters and kill them. That makes friendship challenging. It’s also a vicious political thriller – the guards are just as afraid of the kids, and their job is to kill them if they turn. The warden, or principal is a cruel thug, also trapped in the nightmarish Quarantine, with no control or leash on his decisions and actions. It’s also a horror story, and a good one, using the metaphor of change during puberty in a much more literal way, covering the fear of youth and what they might become.
I very much enjoyed the outside paranoia and difficult relationships that parents have with children who have every chance of turning into monsters and being killed. The characters are engaging, often desperate and fearful living in a bleak world of disaster where the future promises to be even worse. It’s a fantastic environment that Pasley creates, one which feels ruthlessly pragmatic and brutal. It would be difficult to read it without thinking about the issues of guns in schools in the US, as well as lots of other troubling issues which Pasley includes, but leaves it to the reader to think through. Cages kept me rapt and tense throughout – I can’t wait for the second in the series. Read it.
So I shall certainly be weeping. Ten days off has also gone by with terrifying speed. I have not done a great deal with it… but then I was supposed to be relaxing and recuperating and I think that’s mostly been achieved, save for a little last minute stress and irritation. Isn’t that always the way though? You get right to the end of a nice chilling out and someone just tosses in a load of bollocks. Oh well.
It’s been a lovely quiet week with my Marilyn and Merly-Boo. We’ve been to the cinema a lot which has been fun, except for having to catch the rail replacement buses each time. After more than a week I am fervently hoping the Nottingham station works finish on time – I hadn’t realised quite how bad my travel sickness has become. Shuddery.
I’ve slept a lot, which is certainly a good thing. I have a rather nice heap of birthday things – from soft Star Wars beanies (they talk!) to Lego and books and badges and beers from the Isle of Wight, whiskey and necklaces. It’s great! I’ve done some rearranging of stuff in order to fit new things better into the stacked mass of boxes we live amongst.
TuesdayAutofiction: Reflection and Regret Not all decisions are permanent; life is fluid and so is identity.
Wednesday Lego Blog: Birthday Minifigure GalleryI got custom minifigures for my birthday!
Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 17 “Stolen in the Breeze” Piracy in the open sky.
Friday Film Review: Only God Forgives (2013) It’s not a good film.
Updates on my thrilling life
I’m remaining slightly ahead of my week, though I of course have not done as much writing as I’d like to have done in the last week. Well, I slept instead… It was worth it. I’m halfway through the next chapter of The Desert Crystals and it’s going nicely. At some point I need to catch up on all the films we saw last week, especially the HP Lovecraft night we went to!
Last week I made a pretty big move personally when I wrote Autofiction: Growth and Confusion. I’ve previously kept the details of counselling I’ve participated in quite private, but last week I moved the contents of another website, Slightly Broken into Captain Pigheart. They go into rather painful personal detail about abuse and recovery. I was grateful to have received messages of support from some good friends and I’m content (I think) that I’ve made the right decision to incorporate them into my blog and life. It’s about acknowledging reality and change and feeling able to be honest with myself and others. Big stuffs for I. It feels like it makes sense to continue that self-exploration, so you might end up reading more (or skipping more) of that kind of writing. It’s not my intention to upset anyone else and if any issues are raised that you might want to talk about further I’m happy to engage.
I finally built my Jabba’s Palace! That was one of my few aims last week and it was a very satisfying construction. I discovered on completion though that it was slightly too tall to fit on the shelf. Disaster. I then spent aaaages modifying the build to reduce the tower by three bricks without affecting how it fits to the throne room. That was quite difficult! It’s hard to keep the style. I then went on to expand the model – I wanted a bit more space to be able to include other minifigs. You do get a fabulous selection of figures, but there’s no Boba Fett in there, and the Desert Skiff model has a bunch of other familiar faces. I guess I don’t have the space for the cool-looking Rancor extension – the shelves just aren’t tall enough. I suppose that will save me fifty quid though!
Not too much to report from last week, other than that Gorilla Burger was lots of fun. I played with Marilyn as Atomic Budgerigar and we did about twenty minutes that felt quite unlike improv we’ve done before with three (ish) elongated scenes, trying to get into the characters and roles rather than finish them off with a gag or punch line. I think it was successful! It certainly felt different. We’re still absorbing much of the new stuff and it’s proving confusing in the noggin hole. Nice to see Lloydie and Parky playing together as Segway as well. Hopefully we’ll get to see that again soon. Eddie, Martin and Amy bravely sang their way through The Fallen Angels, ending each scene with song. Very cool, and accapella.
Mwah ha ha! I finished Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story far too quickly, but was entirely satisfied! I have now moved on to Alan Campbell’sSea of Ghosts. I really loved the Deepgate Codex and this is already being enticingly odd and intriguing.
Any period of introspection seems to invite everything else in the world to be dodgy metaphors for how I feel about myself. It’s rather annoying and I suspect it’s the sort of egomaniacal habit that religion and superstition have been bred from. I suppose it’s because any introspection makes you vulnerable and so the whole universe is potentially oppressive. ‘Course it could be a positive thing too – like when you’re really happy and the sun is shining and butterflies burst into your path and it feels as if the whole world is supporting you. It’s especially nice to ignore all the awful things happening to other people at that point, but how bad can the world really be if there are butterflies? See, they just aren’t looking hard enough for the good things. Isn’t life always better when the sun is shining?
Well now, that’s called confirmation bias. We do it automatically, associating memories and feelings with our environment. In fact we twist and distort our own memories routinely, creating the narrative that we want to believe in. It’s what allows us to do terrible things to ourselves and each other, yet reinforce our own insane behaviours with narrow recollections that appear to support the story. It’s not always intentional mind. I guess I’m phrasing it with a sense of intention because it seems to me that we could surely do otherwise. Maybe we can’t.
Once Upon An Imaginary Time
In any case my point is that we depend on the stories we create about ourselves, where we place ourselves within that story defines our attitudes and outlook. It also strongly affects how we view others, and therefore how we’re prepared to treat them. Remembering and misremembering actively reinforce those narratives, and we’ll selectively analyse and appropriate the behaviour and actions we observe in others – especially where they could be seen to support those narratives. We mindlessly ditch the anomalies or the inconvenient facts, statements, truths and arguments of others. They are too much of a threat to a narrative to which we have become committed and accustomed. So what if the narrative that I have constructed is at odds with someone else’s narrative? Well, they will likely ignore anything I say that conflicts with their picture and respond with outrage and denial. It’s a problem.
Thing is, those narratives are all false. I don’t say that lightly, but it is astonishing how much we misremember. It’s very hard to check back though – when you recall a memory you’re only reinforcing the memory of recalling it, not the original memory. There have been so many psychological studies into how easy it is to create false and distorted memories it’s actually embarrassing. It suits us to recall some things and not others. Most of the time all you end up debating with someone is who has the better memory of an event neither of you recall fully enough to justify the inevitable claims and rebuttals. Makes it difficult.
The Man In The Mirrored Time Tunnel of Whirliness
When I finally dragged myself into proper counselling I did so knowing that my recall of events was partial – both in quantity and attitude. When you want to reflect on events that happened nearly twenty years ago, separated not only by a gulf of time, but by trauma, fear, drugs and alcohol (yes I know it’s a drug but we Brits are daft and consider them separately…) it’s frankly a bit of a fucker. All I’d really remembered on their own was a nightmare zoetrope strip of images I stamped out as fast as they appeared. Of course, in so doing I was editing those memories down to just flashes, and then remembering the flashes. Multiply that by twenty years and well… reconstructing memories without prompts or supporting material is almost impossible. That’s where the distortion comes in. We can fill gaps so easily and fluidly and once you’ve poured those ideas in they don’t go away and you can’t tell them apart from the “real” stuff. Yeah, inverted commas of doubt mofos.
I was lucky enough- I think lucky is the right way to put it… Lucky enough to have been an introspective teen who found his main outlet to be in writing about himself. And now describing myself in the third person – I think this is okay: I am not under the illusion that I’m the same person I was at 14, or 18 or 30. I think it’s a serious mistake to take that continuity of identity for granted. It allows narratives to vary – some stories end or bleed into new ones or into new genres, or something. See what I mean about metaphors? They’ll stab you in the back with their vagueness – and of course they imply and push a narrative of association themselves. You can’t win. Anyway… what I was saying was that I had maintained a diary of sorts, which described in well, pretty hurtful and plain language some of the major plot points (Jesu-fuck) and character motivations (I’m sorry, really, but I’m stuck on this). By no means was everything there, but it was more than enough to properly recall and see how I actually felt at the time. Remembering feelings is so much harder than ordinary dates and places (though I’m probably even worse with those), and the value of being able to see them for what they were was incredibly beneficial.
I had huge gaps in my story, missing whole chapters and subtext and context. I was able to put some of that back in, to re-craft the narrative that I believed myself to be in. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t fun but it was very important. I think that we frequently define ourselves as martyrs, victims, heroes and survivors entirely in error. It’s easy to label ourselves – it appears to help, and it probably does sometimes, but those labels trap us. It doesn’t matter if you’re discussing philosophies, sports teams or sexuality – we get lost in the label, draw it over ourselves and get locked in to it. Once we’ve labelled our narrative as ‘the hero who overcomes opposition’ it’s really hard to get out of that story and find that well, just maybe, we’re not the hero after all and that opposition – well, it was support after all.
It’s also easy to get stuck in the victim role and not realise that the story has changed – nearly twenty years of the story have gone past. The victim ending would have come much sooner, so this must be a different story. Maybe a better one.
Of the many cool things I received on my birthday from kind friends and family were these marvellous custom mixed up minifigures from my darling other half. I think they are dandy and in need of sharing. In the course of working with 2.8 Hours Later Marilyn’s been able to visit Lego Stores in both Leeds and Manchester. I have not been able to visit such glorious catacombs of wonder myself and am bitterly resentful. In part to spite and in part to delight, Marilyn made me nine minifigures during her visits. Apparently selecting the accessories and body parts took up more time than you would imagine possible. I am grateful for that investment in time!
Ooo-oo, You’re In An Army Now
Or something, probably. This fine selection of guardsman, dwarf ninja and sextant wielding explorer are magnificent. I haven’t seen the epaulettes or the sextant before. I adore the dwarf ninja. Most of the minifigures have faces on both sides of their heads so these guys are doubly, or even trebly awesome.
Come Get Some
I am reliably informed that the visored fellow on the left is a sword-wielding minifigure of me! I am the sheriff and my helm will shield me from your blood. The guy in the middle is clearly a mob boss -dapper, fabulous hair and a saw. The lady here is a steampunk-bodiced goddess with a tommy gun. That’s her sad expression, but she has a nice smile too. Or maybe that’s the face you get when you fire a tommy gun one-handed.
Even more steampunk folk! A great pair of faces for the leading lady here and an unusually revealing top. Peg leg pirate + turban = The Misadventures of Ali Ba Ba. We also have a sardonic eye-browed gentleman, also bearing a circular saw which has now been established as the weapon of choice in our house (even Merly‘s got one)
You can see all these pictures and individual minifigure shots in glorious colour here on Flickr.
Guldwych Ryme hurried down the narrow corridor of The Viper’s Eye. The wingship’s constant shakes and judders pressed him against alternate doors and walls. He could feel the ship wheeling about- was she flying in circles? In taking the feminine pronoun Ryme only meant the ship, though on a moment’s whimsy he pictured the ship’s captain – Captain Flame holding the wheel down hard to port, making them circle like a Valley’s Hung Eagle ready to dive upon its prey. A shiver of anticipation ran up the man’s spine, tickled his neck and wetted the inside of his cheeks while sucking his tongue dry.
He had been assured by his… assistant Eslie Chem that The Viper’s Eye had every chance of catching up with the expedition that Rosenhatch Traverstorm had rashly initiated nearly a fortnight earlier. The wingship was fast and would outmatch the airship whose use Traverstorm had conned out of Lord Corshorn. His envy of that patronage had long turned to bitter jealousy in Ryme’s heart. Five years ago he would never have considered such a radical course as pursuing the man across the Great Bane Desert. Merely venturing into the desert was common suicide but the valleys and ranges beyond its sandy clutches were rumoured to be even more dangerous. Yet here he was. Racing to catch up with his academic rival and hated peer. Had he gone too far? It wasn’t his fault Traverstorm had goaded the scholarly presses into hero worship of him, not his fault that Traverstorm’s catastrophic exploits got him more attention and more funding than any real researcher. He had gone as far as Traverstorm had made him. Resolve settled in his stomach like whiskey.
He emerged on deck into a scene of chaos. The wingship was violently tilted, the port wings held rigid and near-horizontal while the starboard pair still flapped aggressively. The sky whirled around them and Ryme clung to the doorframe to avoid being hurled into its blue waste. Huge hands seized him and spun him about. He heard a click and tug as Knocker bellowed at him “A lifeline’ll keep your soul tethered to the Eye but still – you’ll want to keep your feet planted firm.” Knocker released him and seemed to fall away, his own lifeline whipping slackly through the air before snapping taut as he landed at the prow.
More of the crew swung about the vessel’s stubby deck and wings. They landed precisely and seized brass handles screwed into the thick ledge that ran the length of the wingship. Muscles stood out along Knocker’s back and shoulders as he heaved out the first of The Viper’s Eye’s formidable assault cannons. The brass and iron construction levered up, twisted and snapped into position. Second and third clunks followed as Malk and Chagg erected their own weaponry. A second concerted heaving brought up chains which the crew hooked onto the cannons. Ryme watched with interest, keen to ignore the forces threatening to push his face into the wood. How the trio remained standing with the deck tilted almost at ninety degrees was beyond him.
Then their quarry appeared. She rose over the false horizon of the wingship’s railing – a squat mid-range airship, the canvas of the balloon a dull grey green. The Eye’s spin suddenly settled, though the momentum squeezed Ryme’s face into the door frame. The three skymates held their stance at the guns, only their flexing knees and whipping hair acknowledging the jarring change of direction. They flew down the side of the balloon and as soon as the gondola was in sight each gunner released their charge, mere seconds apart. Chain rattled over the deck and lanced across the gap between the ships, before punching into the wood and metal of the opposing gondola. Another jerk tossed Ryme into the air; the hooks had caught somewhere deep inside their prey.
A further twist to the rudder sent The Viper’s Eye corkscrewing around beneath the punctured gondola, hauling the violated airship behind them with momentum and beating wings. The gondola’s guide lines crossed each other as Captain Flame forced the larger vessel to follow her winding course. The first of the guides tore away, snapping loose with a scream of tortured metal. The rest of the ropes took the weight, for now, but Flame kept the wingship in her spiral, pulling the ropes tighter and twisting the gondola to its limits. Ryme watched as men and women staggered about the deck of the beleagered airship, tripping stumbling and flung over the railings. Those crew fortunate enough to be roped in swung in wide arcs which occasionally intersected violently with their craft, or with The Viper’s Eye. Ryme flinched at the thumps of the roped crew and screams of the untethered. He cowered back inside the doorway, unwilling to admit himself to this act of violence.
Their spin slowed out into a steady line by veering heavily to port, allowing for the buoyancy and drag of the captured ship. The tangled mess of gondola and balloon sagged in the air, heavy and wounded. With the course steadied Ryme emerged once more and read the name of the vessel “Golden Zephyr“. It certainly wasn’t the name of Traverstorm’s transport – Lord Corshorn’s ship was The Dove’s Eye, an altogether sleeker and brighter airship. He was shouldered aside by another pair of skymates who emerged bearing multi-barrelled rifles and thick-bladed swords. Knocker and the others settled some anchoring mechanism Ryme couldn’t see, drawing the two ships to only a few tens of feet apart. Then they unholstered ready weapons of their own.
A man appeared on the deck of the Zephyr, waving a handkerchief at them. Knocker promptly shot him. The man fell back and lay still on the deck. Malk and Chagg hefted a pair of hooked ladders out over the gap – a thousand feet of air hung between the rungs. Ryme gradually realised that perhaps this journey to put Traverstorm in his place wouldn’t be quite as straightforward as he’d hoped.
There are a whole bunch of fun activities I’ve utterly failed to document of late; I apologise to you o great internet for depriving you of yet more trivia.
One of my birthday treats, now sadly in the past was attending the rather grandly titled Justin Woodman introduces HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos at the Nottingham Contemporary. I don’t know who Mr Woodman is but he talked for a while before a Lovecraft double bill. I do enjoy a spot of HP. Despite his curious racism and sometimes terribly purple prose he undoubtedly created a magnificent universe that many of us have had fun playing in since.
We were treated to The Call of Cthulhu (2005) by the HP Lovecraft Historical Society (whose cast and crew includes the makers of theH.P. Podcraft podcast which is great fun, and also the creators of the wonderful A Very Scary Solstice Cthulhu carols and songbooks which we enjoyed last Christmas). It’s a very loving treatment, filmed in Mythoscope silent movie style. It’s funny and nicely done, though it did look a bit odd blown up to full cinema size. The stop motion Cthulhu at the end is marvellous and I loved the effects when they’re sailing through the fog. It certainly seemed like a masterpiece compared to the second film we were shown.
Dagon is shockingly bad. The opening credits seem to have been the most expensive part with their wibbly wobbly watery letters and quite cool dream scene of swimming into a mysterious hole in the ocean floor (possibly made of bones) and getting a near-snog from a mermaid. It goes downhill pretty rapidly. I was wondering how long it would take to get the female lead’s baps out and was surprised how long it took. She is remarkably orange. An ill fated sailing holiday leads to a longer stay in a Spanish coastal town filled with fishmen. The make up is fun and the weird whale noises, clicks and barks of the staggering morphing town folk. Thankfully there’s a crazy and incomprehensible drunk to explain it all and lead our young “hero” (he does grow less wooden throughout the film) to his final encounter with his fishy half-sister “you are my brother, and my lover” and setting fire to lots of people. It’s very silly.
I had a great evening, but it it’s rather sad to think that these two films are probably the best and most authentic films to have been made of Lovecraft’s work. Surely someone can do one really, really well. I’m gutted that Del Toro is no longer on the cards for The Mountains of Madness, which would surely have been awesome.
Wednesday Lego Blog: Jabba’s Palace Unavoidable ModThe damn thing won’t fit on my shelf.
Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 18 “Cut and Dried” Blood falls like rain.
Friday Film Review Roundup: Lots of Films! (2013) I am getting too far behind to do them all justice.
Updates on my thrilling life
Aaagh I ran out of time last week to finish my film review… Only God Forgives is such a bad film that I actually lost heart and interest while slating it. Sad. Never mind! I shall bounce back this Friday with micro reviews of the seven or so films in the queue.
I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with all the primary coloured Lego that I’ve inevitably ended up with. Red yellow and blue are undoubtedly my least favourite brick colours (at least to use in bulk), but they take up a lot of space. So I’m going to do what I originally bought a load of random Lego to do – make display shelves for the squillions of minifigures we keep acquiring. It is a good plan. I’ve also got some smaller boxes so I can indulge my love of sorting bricks even further. Now browns and greens are in their own boxes. The world is correct.
We had a wonderful jam last week – an intense and hilarious run through most of the head fuckiest short form games we play. Twas a Martin jam and everyone had a very good time.
We were back in Derby on Saturday with the Furthest From The Sea gang at Knickerbocker Glorious – Martin, Marilyn, David and I performed three Unspeakable Acts for the public’s amusement. It’s a fine afternoon of music, poetry and us. We started with Alien Vs Predator – Christ, it’s a terribly screenplay with two pages of description instead of story at the beginning. We skipped through that and got to the far better storyline, you know, the one with nuclear chickens (Martin and me) with cyber weapons in Sector 12. We moved between the chickens and the Weyland Industries office (I love touch screen miming) before sending out a team of incompetent soldiers who were all killed in short order. Oh, then Sector 12 got nuked. It was fun. Then we got lost in time with Credit and Debit, a time paradox philosophical marriage story ending in South Africa with Brummies. Also splendid. The last one was Titanic – already one of the worst films I’ve watched (excepting the beautiful design work). It’s another film with a tedious pointless beginning of submarines before getting to the made up story. We went straight to the giant squids that destroy the big ship, and the undersea office they work in. We also got in mention of Hentai and prawn cocktail crisps.
Most definitely the best Saturday afternoon one can have. Oh, and we discovered that you can fit ‘narwhal’ into most songs.
I polished off Alan Campbell’sSea of Ghosts this week. It’s wonderful, a dark complex tale of a world drowning in poisonous Brine – a substance leaking in from another universe. It’s full of telepaths, bizarre technology, weird science, different races of man and all manner of craziness. I loved it and can’t wait for book two.
Thirteen was when I first remember being unable to sleep. I suppose it coincided with the onset of puberty and all the biochemical hell that our ridiculous genetic heritage unleashes on us. If there were any doubt about the truth of evolution, suffering through adolescence should be the final nail in the doubter’s coffin. So yeah, thirteen-ish, and sleep began to elude me. I don’t recall doing anything differently. I’d already been at ‘big school’ (or secondary school as we used to call it, just before they renumbered the school years – first year secondary school became Year Seven… which was the eighth year someone would have spent at school. I never got it.) for a few years, so the grind of occasional study and the hassle of being near other humans was well established. My parents had been divorced for two and a half years which was admittedly stressful but normal.
Then I stopped being able to get to sleep. I know that’s a cliche for teenagers but I found it brutal. I would go to bed and it would take two to five hours to get to sleep. After a few days I’d get tired enough to crash out and get a full night, but it never compensated for the loss. I’d read, in hopes that it would somehow wear me out (that’s when I picked up my lifelong couple of books a week habit): it didn’t. Maybe the radio would help. Nah, I just listened to it. I became familiar with the Shipping Forecast. The music from Desert Island Discs makes me angry to this very day – its aural existence in my life meant that I still wasn’t asleep. Exercise – nil effect (I played rugby and hockey back then).
That went on for years…
It’s hard to recall the full period leading up to going to university. It’s a time that overlaps with drink, drugs and abuse. I’ve no idea which, or what combination of factors might have perpetually fucked my memories, but whichever it is, I do struggle to remember. Never mind – I like to live in the present anyway. Or rather, I live in the present and have chosen mostly to like it. Some things helped with sleep over the years:
Drinking. You can always black out, it’s a bit like sleep. It’s a traditional recourse for not sleeping, but not a very good one. The relaxing aspect of it is great and it can definitely take the edge off. Sadly I needed more and more to get dopey enough to sleep. And then I tend to wake up in the night or really early. Not a great fix but a very easy one to acquire.
Weed. The wonder drug. Definitely not addictive (just a very hard habit to break, y’know- like an addiction). This I liked much more and was indeed extremely hard to kick the stuff. I realise now that it made me more tense and less likely to sleep, but I didn’t care and so wasn’t worrying so much about not sleeping. Aaagh.
The first two were easily combined at university after my sleep got even worse. I partly blame the incredibly noisy doors in the halls of residence. I could have killed people over that. I should have killed people over that. They got even worse after I started reobsessing over the abuse and all that bullshit.
Thinking seems to be the problem overall. Information gets me twitchy, and sets off that familiar mouse mind in a pointless maze. Any stress or anxiety in the evenings usually destroys a night of sleep, or at least makes it much more difficult to nod off.
Progress and Punching Sheep
Naturally I learned to live with it. My coping mechanisms of getting up at three in the morning rather than lying bed to have some whiskey and codeine in hopes of then being relaxed enough to doze off were not great. That’s all they were though – coping mechanisms. You do get used to having very little sleep and it’s amazing how much you can do without really being conscious or having time to refresh your skull sack. There does appear to be a lot of research into how badly insomnia, and the anxiety that may help encourage it are really very damaging. Memory seems to be one of the things hit hardest. Oh well.
Eventually, after more than twenty years of terrible sleep I went to the doctor’s about it and got referred to a cognitive behavioural therapy course. I have despised/feared psychiatry for many years – this is an excellent avoidance strategy. It was helpful, I learned a lot – about myself, about anxiety and depression which are likely one of the causes or strands in my sleep disorder. From that I developed a structure for the evenings – everything goes off at ten. In theory that gives me an hour of information-free downtime to read and potter about. That structure, along with getting up at the same time every day and trying to make space for scribbling or exercise in the morning was very effective for a few months.
The routine gave shape to my sleeping habits – sleep was the thing that fits into the gap between going to bed and getting up in the morning. It sounds silly to write it like that, but really that’s one of the most significant things I’ve learned. I also learned not to get frustrated when I couldn’t sleep. I was always aware that the anger, the sheer burning rage I get when something costs me sleep, also compounds the problem. I know I can survive for a fortnight on three hours a night; I just don’t want to.
Pushing It To The Next Level
The routine worked for a while, but life is busy and requires adjustment of routines. After the CBT sessions ended I referred myself on for some more serious counselling – I had realised or accepted that I had some deeper issues to resolve or figure out. That was a rollercoaster of brain-fuck-adocus. Somewhere in the middle of the CBT I got prescribed Amitriptyline as a relaxant – the counselling was stirring up too much (inevitably) and I was self-medicating cheerfully. I just added Amitriptyline to the mix. It goes down well with whiskey…
There’s no doubt that this is a bad cocktail, and it was making me really sludgy in the mornings and had trouble with affect (it’s so hard to care sometimes) which was scarily like the weed had become. After I finished my counselling in January I found my brain quite clean but I was having trouble sleeping again. So I went back to the doc and went back on Amitriptyline. I negotiated a deal – I’d stop drinking entirely for six weeks in exchange for taking a larger dose.
Well, that was a bitch. It was however and excellent opportunity to taste test a load of alcohol free drinks. It was also very good for me. The higher dose of Amitriptyline (50-75mg) taken at about seven in the evening has me relaxed and starting to feel a bit sleepy round about ten thirty. I’ve adapted to it – as long as I get between seven and a half and eight hours sleep that dosage works fine. If I get too little sleep, or take the higher dose later in the evening, or if I have an alcoholic drink before I take the early evening dose then I’ll find waking up tough. If I’m smart though, and space these things out it works really well. Most nights I don’t drink alcohol at all. Maybe a late evening whiskey and certainly a pint in the pub after improv jam, but generally my routine has changed, and for the better.
Something else that’s good – a cat. Having a cat sleeping on my bed is delightful. I find the little monsters ever so relaxing. So, a cat and drugs. And being generally happy with other things in your life. I’m happy with my partner, I’ve got stuff to do, and after twenty-two years I am finally getting more than seven hours sleep a night, almost every night. It is amazing.
I bought the Lego Jabba’s Palace set as part of a general Lego obsessive spree about 6 months ago. It has been the defining act of will power for me this year, to not tear it open in a brickspasm. I saved it for my birthday and I’m glad I did. It’s not a very long build but it is pretty cool. I love the sandy colours and as a model it certainly beats the crap out of Lego’s previous effort. Once I’d built it and gloried in its Tatooiney wonder it was time to nestle it on the Lego shelf. Bollocks – the tower was three bricks too tall…
Fix, Where’s My Goddamn Fix?
Apparently, carving a chunk out of the shelves is not the best solution (though it would be perfect) and an alternative was required. Reducing the tower by three bricks is quite difficult – the first storey (in the top picture) is a single piece and the ground floor connects to the throne room with connector bricks. As you can see below I ended up taking a brick out of the second storey and reshaping it slightly and taking two out of the ground floor. It required a rebuild of the gate (and I think I prefer mine) with extra tiles to make it fit.
That left me with some bricks left over (including a nice wall piece with a window, which I’d managed to reduce in the rebuild), and I already had some sandy Lego (mostly from the Desert Skiff and Sarlaac set). So I started expanding…
I ended up with a corridor (as I recall tonnes of the things from Return Of The Jedi) joining the two parts of Jabba’s Palace together. There are all sorts of awkward heights and limited parts that caused me difficulty matching the style of the rest of the model, but I think it’s turned out quite well. I’m not completely happy with the darker sand bricks, but I’d need to demolish some other builds to do much about it at the moment.
It does provide some extra space – the Palace is a tight little model and there isn’t really room to fit the supplied minifigures! This way I get roof space for the odd figure and I may squeeze a Bo’Marr Monk or two in. I’d really like to expand the model even further, extending the depth of the corridor and tower. I’d especially enjoy crafting the droid torture dungeon! The torturer droid was included in the original Jabba’s Palace so he makes a good start, and I got gonk droids in the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendars!
Their Faces Are So Beautiful
The re-designed Jabba looks gorgeous. I did not know he had a tattoo previously. The original was just a green lump (though I loved it at the time). Same goes for the new Gamorrean Guard, Bousch’s amazing helmet and the carbonite Han Solo. Oola – she so pretty… Bib Fortuna’s almost the same, and Chewie’s the standard Wookie. I really ought to build and post up the original Jabba’s Palace too I suppose… guess that’s next week’s post! Then we can do a side-by-side gallery.
You can see more pictures of the set in glorious colour here on Flickr.
Guldwych Ryme’s foot slipped as he stepped gingerly off the ladder and onto the other ship’s deck. He slewed faintly to the side before his weight corrected the error and ground the dead man’s blood into the grain of the wood. He drew out the already damp handkerchief from his breast pocket and dabbed at his perspiring face. A light slap at his waist made him jump, but it was only Eslie Chem, following him across from The Viper’s Eye jerking his safety line off the ladder so it hung neatly over the rail rather than underfoot. Chem shortly joined him. The small man smirked maliciously at Ryme’s discomfort and nudged him onwards.
“Chem, what the devil is Flame playing at?” whispered the larger gentleman to the smaller, “This isn’t Traverstorm’s airship!”
“No? It’s awfully difficult to read a ship’s name when it’s spinning round and about in the air.” The much louder response came from the immaculately dressed woman casually skipping across the laddered bridge, her safety line held loosely in one hand, a large and well-oiled pistol held in the other. “And I’ll remind you once more, for the sake of amity, that it’s Captain Flame.” She hopped from the final rung onto the captive vessel’s deck and tapped Ryme lightly on the side of the head with the pistol’s barrel, “for aiding your fragile memory.”
Ryme recovered from the threat with impressive speed, his bureaucratic demeanour returning to the fore in a moment of stress. “Forgive the slight Captain Flame, I am ill accustomed to the sight of blood, or indeed the sight of piracy.”
His blustery nature foisted that special bluntness and lack of consideration which appear to be requisites for a certain type of office dweller. Another man in a similar position might give more thought to tactful enquiry rather than outright accusations. For a man such as Ryme, those realisations arrive mere instants after such an ejaculation in the form of a chilly sweat from shoulders to skull. Fortunately his remarks found the volatile airman in good humour.
“Piracy?” she exclaimed, turning incredulous upon him, “You think us pirates? The very notion. Lads, mates, our professor would label us, drop categories upon our ways, define our character by our actions. Have you no regard for intent? Seems to me my dear book-nuzzler that you leap to conclusions wild and divisive.” With a wink to the crew she completed a second turn and eyed the distressed professor.
“I’m sure what old Guldwych here means to say,” chipped in Chem, “is that he would express surprise at this act, knowing not its cause, intent or purpose.”
“Well indeed,” said Ryme, pedalling at any available speed in any direction available, “that is to say this has all the appearance of an unlawful attack upon and boarding of an innocent vessel.”
“Oh, well now we touch upon the finer details of such activity. I thought you scholars shrewd and scientifical in your observations. You call us out for the mere semblance of piracy?” The Captain’s retort held a playful tone to her airmates, though the waggling pistol offered more than mockery to Ryme.
“I intend no offence by my statement, I am somewhat ruffled by the gaping chasms between the rungs of the ladder.”
“So you say now, though I myself noted the rungs bowing with your great passage, and draw from that conclusions of your breakfasting grandeur,” a rumble of amusement came from those of Flame’s crew standing on the captive decks, guns and axe in hand. “Further, with regard to assumptions taken from the mere shape of a thing, the intent behind your labelling us poor airwaifs as pirates was entirely hidden to me. I’d no clue but your spitting of the phrase. Say you then that I should take your pejorative to be premature, based on naught but your discomfort?”
“I-” began Ryme.
“Shall we then conclude, in temporary measure – pending further evidence of course – that you are not rude merely thoughtless and I am but the captain of a trading vessel unusually well equipped for the more… turbulent currents of the skies?”
“Excellent. Then we’ll be about the day shall we?” Flame directed her crew by her head inclined to the forward hold of the airship. Malk opened the hatch, allowing Tosser to fold her hulking frame into the space, shortly followed by Knocker and his enormous cutter-cannon held across his shoulder. Flame raised a sardonic eyebrow at Ryme who looked impassively in response. A series a thuds, shots and brief yelps came from below decks.
“That’ll be the turbulence the Captain spoke of,” commented Chem, “you seemed curious enough to be blocking the gangway earlier.”
“I thought we’d happened across Traverstorm already.”
“Shouldn’t think so, he’ll be days ahead of us yet. Plenty of time to catch up with some old friends first.”
“Old friends? Who you cripple in the air?”
“Ah that, well yes – that one I’ll grant you. It’d take a Vein Spider to unravel those lines now. Oh yes, old friends – the Golden Zephyr’s an acquaintance of old.” Captain Flame leaned lightly on the twisted rope pulled taut across the side of the gondola’s cabin, “allow me to introduce you.”
Tosser and Knocker emerged from the forward hatch, bundling a long thin man ahead of them. Knocker turned to deliver a fearsome blow at some unseen presence behind him, then kicked their ward onto the deck.
“Gently now Knocker. Captain Irmleigh’s grown frail in years of such rarefied air. We’d not want him prematurely broken by your mighty boots. Captain Irmleigh, may I introduce you to a passenger of mine, one Professor Guldwych Ryme of Meriodonal University; a learned fellow of some biologinary repute. Professor: Captain Irmleigh, extraordinary thief and backstabber.”
Irmleigh sneered at both Ryme and Flame in answer. He dusted himself off as he rose, to show himself nearly as tall as Tosser.
“Now I believe, Ryme, that we were earlier discussing the drawing of conclusions while lacking evidence. Allow me to offer you some further.” So saying, Captain Flame extended the pistol in her hand, smiled at Irmleigh and shot him in the heart. “Now that, I’d agree, lends to a cry of piracy.”
Ryme staggered somewhat at the sight of the man so recently named, falling back with sneer intact, quite dead on the deck. “But why, what could you hope to gain through such torment?” Ryme meant of course, the captain’s earlier taunting but Flame simply winked and stalked off towards the forward hatch.
She turned back at the last. “Well, their things of course,” and vanished belowdecks.
This is a long film, unnecessarily long. That’s a fair warning that ought to be on the posters – 149 minutes long. It feels it. Not really in a bad way, but it’s a 100 minute movie stretched out with origin stories. The framing device is Toto as an old man telling a kid dressed as the Lone Ranger about the real Lone Ranger. It’s okay, but it gets annoying really fast as whenever the film gets confused it snaps back to this kid watching an old Indian feed peanuts to his dead bird hat. Still – ignore all that stuff and the usual Hollywood treatment of female characters (ooh but she gets tetchy when they threaten her child) and you’re left with an enjoyable, if devastatingly predictable light Western.
Arnie Hammer has a shocking number of teeth, and that’s all I took away from his performance; he has no chemistry whatever with any other character. Depp’s Toto is less racist than expected but is just another slightly crazy character with inconsistent syntax. The bad guys (Tom Wilkinson and William Fichtner) are good fun, especially Fichtner as the facially scarred sadistic outlaw. There’s some nice montages of every train-based stunt you’ve ever seen in a film (nothing new though) and some fun firefights. A lot of them happen at a silver mine… I don’t know why Helena Bonham Carter‘s in it, although her scrimshawed artificial leg is lovely.
It ain’t bad, it just ain’t very original or good. It’s this goddamn obsession with origin stories – I don’t care, it wastes half the film chasing down four characters’ origins. Just tell the damn story. He’s a ranger right? So he’s some kind of cop, in Texas. Got it. And he’s alone – so he’s some kind of rogue renegade? Got it. And he’s got a cool horse (who they don’t name until the end and you will want to punch yourself) and a racist stereotype sidekick? Splendid – get to the action.
RED: Retired and Extremely Dangerous. An excellent premise for a comic book, which survived the film transition pretty well the first time round and returns for a fun sequel. Sure, some quality has gone but this is the kind of film where I want to judge it against the competition: The Expendables 2. Yeah, now RED 2 looks amazing. The difference is style – The Expandables has none, whereas this has Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Antony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones (well…), Brian Cox, Byung-Hun Lee (cruelly uncredited on the poster despite being splendidly mean, kick ass and funny) and Bruce Willis.
Willis is possibly the only one of the ’80s action stars to make a genuine leap into any other genre and it shows in a film like this. The age of the actors is not ignored (oh god the half-naked Stallone) but used for character and comedy. Not that this is genius film making, but it’s fun. The action scenes are well choreographed and shot (bringing Lee in makes for great scraps – there’s a fight where he’s handcuffed to a fridge door!). I laughed out loud when they did the classic slow mo car spin with Mirren firing out of both car windows. There’s a love of the genre tropes and they play them well.
I really enjoyed this at the cinema. The chemistry between the cast is delightful. Malkovich is less nuts this time (shame) but plays nicely with Mary Louise Parker and Willis. Brian Cox’s amorous KGB agent and Mirren also pleased me greatly. I think it’s a film that will be best watched back to back with the original so that you don’t really notice the story gaps or lament the brief enjoyment of the cast.
The days of the week are whipping past with indecent haste, but at least that spurs us on to evening time and the weekend. Saturday brought me a nice heap of Kickstarter rewards – the awesome Pigs Vs Cows custom Lego (more to be said on Wednesday) and a roll up Musgard mud guard for my bicycle. I’m looking forwards to trying that out with the inevitable rain next week. It also came with stickers and a pin badge, so I was of course delighted. I do enjoy supporting some of these campaigns. I have no particular interests but I’ve backed the two above, plus a few comic and book projects as well as several improv shows. It’s very satisfying and I do like getting the rewards as well as knowing that I’ve helped someone do what they want to do.
I’d no idea that being allowed to stay in this country was either so expensive or such a pain in the arse, but one of my very best friends has just attained permanent resident status (which is awesome). There was a party to celebrate his outpourings of cash to the government and successful completion of the ridiculous quiz they have to pass. We were all quizzed ourselves on Saturday and I’m relatively proud to say I got 19/23 (23% higher than 60%) as a combination of guesswork, sarcasm and dimly recalled history. They weren’t terribly relevant to living here… I don’t understand why we make it so damn hard for educated useful people to stay here. Great party though, I suppose we might not have had that if it were easier…
♥ This week’s scribbles
TuesdayAutofiction: I Know Not What
Wednesday Lego Blog: Pigs vs CowsKickstarter custom Lego stuff.
Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 19 “Newly Spectacled” Adventure in the dark.
Friday Film Review Shorties: Kick Ass 2 / The Heat / Now You See Me (2013) Films! Films, I tell you.
Updates on my thrilling life
A victory week of hitting writing aims alongside basic human survival – satisfying. I’ll be swinging back towards Rosenhatch and company in The Desert Crystals this week. Probably. It is very much its own man as stories go and I don’t seem to have much control over where it goes. It’s like being tied to a wounded buffalo. Confusing and bloody. I am so far behind in even remembering what films I’ve seen I have almost lost hope of catching up with filmic scribblings. I shall try, honest. I’m finding the folding of Autofiction and Slightly Broken blogging to be quite satisfying, as well as self-indulgent. “It’s good to talk” and all that.
So I broke my Jabba’s Palace extension. Yep, almost immediately. Arse. Not to worry- I’ve expanded it and made the replacement more in keeping with the general style, and slightly less likely to be broken further.
Very importantly, Lego Minifigure Series 11 is out! This gives my other half the chance to use her super-powers of blind bag fingering. This set has none of the aggravation of Mr Gold’s exploitative approach to the already money-grubbing aspect of blind bags. Instead Lego have turned out a genuinely delightful set of figures – the Yeti, Gingerbread Man and Elf all look amazing and there’s a wealth of print detailing on all the figures. We have half of them already…
We have a show this week! This Friday in fact. We’re doing a near-cabaret mix of styles and players and I’m really looking forwards to it. Shortform, longer stuff, fun and foolishness. Join us! I’m also looking forwards to teaching improv comedy as an enrichment course for New College Nottingham this Autumn. It’s an exciting opportunity to excite more people about improv. I’ll be teaching with Parky and Marilyn – fun ahead.
I’m into the second in the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko – Day Watch. Like the first book, it’s a series of long interlinked shorter stories, this time with a focus on the Dark Others (who make up the Day Watch – watching the Light Ones). I’m still confused by why The Daily Telegraph thought this was “JK Rowling, Russian-style”, it’s nothing like Harry Potter. The magical world of the Watches is much darker, more adult and more interesting.
We’re still hitting our Cineworld cards pretty hard – we’ve seen Two Guns and We’re The Millers this week. Two Guns was fun, but I’ve already forgotten most of it – Wahlberg and Washington do lots of punching, shooting and running. We’re The Millers was just funny and undemanding, with plenty of silly and fine situational comedy emerging from the mismatched fake family falling into family habits and fights. I haven’t seen Clueless before, but it’s on right now. It’s quite annoying – there is far too much squealing coming from the TV. Merly and I are not amused.
One of the relatively few things I enjoyed about studying Philosophy (I capitalise it to ironically reflect how little I have capitalised on it in life) at university, apart from the six hours of lectures in the final year, was that it occasionally struck me as an exercise in science fiction. It is incredibly difficult, perhaps even wholly unknowable, to get a sense of another person’s mind. We generally work on the assumption that other folk are much the same as us. This is quite reasonable, and is totally backed up by our being practically the same biologically. It works most of the time perfectly well – people do more or less what we expect them to do and they respond in recognisable ways to similar triggers.
We get really lazy quickly though, and before we know it someone has ‘acted out of character’ – that’s essentially stating that the lazily compiled model of another person has shown an alarming degree of free will and done what they wanted to rather than what we thought they should do. I suppose it’s a kind of arrogance, to imagine that we can profile another in such a way. I’ve always found those moments on television where a neighbour says “they were such lovely people, I can’t believe that they…” very strange. Why would you think that you know someone else at all? Do they so rarely oppose your expectations that you feel utterly content in their presence, never fearing that they might suddenly come at you with a knife?
I’m Hiding Behind The Bottle, Waiting To Shank You
Aren’t you crouching inside your own mind, intentionally displaying only that set of feelings and actions which you expect will conform to the model that you believe another person has for you? I remember lying awake almost all night when I was about thirteen and a friend was staying over, crashing on the fold-up bed in my room. I had convinced myself, utterly, that he was going to turn into something else (a werewolf I think) in the night and savage me. It lead to the somewhat creepy watching him as he slept, in case the change was sudden and would literally happen in the blink of an eye. The fear of turning back and finding a slavering man-wolf face looking at me was surprisingly strong. I knew this guy well (as well as you know another thirteen year old) and yet had the complete expectation that he was hiding something; or rather he was not all that he seemed. It’s not that he was hiding something, he just hadn’t told me he was a werewolf.
That’s fair enough – we don’t tell each other everything. We give enough that other people’s models can predict our behaviour and responses well enough that the part they themselves play fits into our model and we attain a nice balanced relationship. We usually avoid the especially volatile and unpredictable. Not because we don’t like them, but the difficulty in modelling their behaviour is frankly too much effort. It’s also hard to imagine how they might reflect upon us. Perhaps that apparent volatility (and ‘apparent’ because if we knew them better we would find it less volatile) is an indication that they struggle to model us inside their minds. Their activities then are less random than they appear – having only a partial grasp of someone it’s difficult to behave in a consistent way.
You’re On Trial In Everyone
We constantly test out new acquaintances with ideas, preferences, jokes and physical offers to see which are appropriate, and in lucky cases, just how far the “normal” boundaries of each can be stretched. Some people can take sarcasm, others just cannot (tiresome I know) and we find that out quite quickly. I suppose we also show to some extent how much we value those individuals by whether we then stick to those boundaries. It takes effort to model others and remember what behaviours suit them. If we don’t care about them, why would we restrict our actions to what they expect.
That sounds exhausting. Thankfully we seem to do a lot of it automatically, but then that also makes it harder to figure out what’s gone wrong when people don’t act as we expect, or they get upset because we’ve acted out of character. Both of those states are the same of course – their model of us has been found incomplete, and (assuming we were intending to act within perceived boundaries) our model of them has been found incomplete. The whole thing is science fiction – we pretend that we’re normal, disguising our weirder or less socially acceptable aspects in order to ingratiate ourselves with a group that we perceive to have the characteristics and behaviour that we desire, ignoring that each individual in that group is doing exactly the same thing and hiding their unacceptable selves.
Inconclusive, Punch The Mirror
That’s quite a mess – sounds exactly like Replicant or clone or alien attempts to infiltrate our society. Except we’re infiltrating our own society at a one-to-one and one-to-many level, establishing intimate relationships as well as professional and social ones where the complexity of masks, mirrors and guises overlaps into a multi-selved cloak of imaginary intentions. Are we really all spies in each others’ lives? It feels like it sometimes.
I don’t know how we should feel when someone’s subterfuge is revealed and we glimpse the more complex beast they are underneath. I feel confused, as if I’ve been deceived. Perhaps I’ve just been protected from the worst – my image of them is a reflection of how much they were willing to share, or thought they could safely share. On which of us does that reflect? On them for hiding, or on me for not allowing them to be themselves?
I’ve only recently participated in Kickstarter and IndieGogo. I’d heard of it, largely because of a few friends who seemingly back every conceivable role-playing card game in existence. I suppose I’d just never really found a project to back that interested me personally. Now Lego… well, Lego would make me do anything. I’d swap food and children for Lego. I’m not certain how I came across Guy Himber’s Pigs Vs Cows Kickstarter. I think it might have been The Brothers Brick which I keep an eye on for a daily fix of beautiful Lego models.
Guy was proposing to design and manufacture a series of custom cow and pig heads. They struck me immediately as Evil Fabuland and I knew I had to have them. I didn’t go crazy (after all these are tiny Lego heads!) but I loved the guy’s enthusiasm (no pun intended) and the design that was going into them. I loved Fabuland as a kid, and I was delighted to find some of my original toys. They are profoundly creepy with their over-sized heads which tend to roll loose with use and have eyes that wipe off over the years… I can properly appreciate the weird now that I’m a proper adult (who plays with Lego).
I wrestled with the Kickstarter rewards but eventually settled for a simple set of pigs and cows in two colours: brown and flesh. They struck me as the best for general use and for future painting fun! I haven’t done any model painting since the heady teenage days of Games Workshop Space Marines and the Citadel miniatures for Talisman. Right at the end of the manufacturing process Guy added the option of getting a set in gold or glow in the dark! I opted for some gold, and they look really classy. I want to use them as gods and statue icons I think.
It’s a fantastic to get a bag of heads in the post!
I’d completely forgotten the set came with this beautiful printed custom Lego crate – now the pride of my Lego collection, and two rather nice Studs cards. I haven’t done anything with them yet, but the anticipation and sense of possibility are thrilling! Thanks Mr Himber.
You can check out all the pictures, and more as I start using the heads here on Flickr.
“He’s done what?” The loud, sharp words shot out of the chancellor’s office and darted down the corridor, angrily bouncing from wall to wall. The echoes pounced upon a pair of timorous students who were just trying to find their teacher’s tutorial session, driving them back out of Meridional University’s infamous halls and into a room sub-divided by pens of Shrieking Mice; the startlement continued. The violent question paraded the halls for hours, leaving the faculty in no doubt whatsoever that Doctor Filiglee was engaged in some quiddity or other.
The subject was already the sole topic on the lips and tongue tips of the assorted professors, beast-wranglers and administrators whose hand-whispered voices haunted the halls. The chancellor was (of course) the last to hear the news, and none of her staff had taken the courageous decision to tell her. Whether the telling would have been a gloating confidence or a confidential aside would not now be known, though staff rooms would vibrate protestations of proper and professional interest. Mere gossip is below the academic. Anecdote, well that’s a form of evidence, though requiring additional scrutiny – a mention from a reliable source, why that’s practically a fact. And academics deal in facts. Also factions… Besides which, Professor Ryme would surely have left a note.
Sadly for the inevitable eavesdroppers, chancellor Filiglee’s door swung violently shut immediately afterwards. The ensuing conversation was known only to her, and to her secretary Trevel Wingworn, the fortunate recipient of that note from Guldwych Ryme.
“He’s supposed to be invigilating – ” Filiglee flicked through a stapled stack of papers on her tidy but very well filled desk, ” – good gjods – he’s supposed to be in the caterwauling anatomy examination!”
“I’ve asked Doctor Pelfing to step in, with luck he’ll keep the maulings to a reasonable level.”
“Well, good. So when did you get this letter then?” Filiglee pushed the offending missive back across the table. Trevel’s thin fingers received it and expertly unfolded it with one hand.
“It was sandwiched between last month’s Indulgence Minutes and this month’s issue of the Journals Biologinary. I would assume that is some comment in itself.”
“What does the man think he’s playing at? We’re halfway through term- he’s got responsibilities and classes to teach.” Filiglee snorted with annoyance and opened a desk drawer, apparently at random.
Trevel sighed and re-folded the letter. “As far as I can make out (in itself a feat of no mean scholarship) Ryme has taken umbrage at the attention afforded to young Traverstorm. He rails at length about the unfairness of it all. I believe it has been some time since Ryme has received such adulation.”
“Well it is a rather bewildering matter. The boy’s not much of a researcher, though he has a remarkable talent for capitalising on catastrophe. And the press do love him.”
“Indeed they do. The edition laid on top of the note is the one announcing Traverstorm’s rather surprising joint venture with Lord Corshorn.” Trevel spoke with an appropriately disapproving frown.
“Corshorn seems to be paying the lion’s share of the funding. In light of that I could hardly see any reason to prevent the venture. It’s costing the university little more than the cost of those new cups we had to get for the refectory after Traverstorm brought back those ghastly Friggle-Weeds. At least he’s not poking sticks into Home Burrows while he’s out in the field.”
“But still, I expected better of Ryme than to just run off.”
“Oh, well it’s not that exactly – he hasn’t resigned. He’s – well, he’s gone after Traverstorm.”
“He’s done what?” This time Filiglee’s bellow had nowhere to go.
“Yes, it’s here,” Trevel flipped the letter open again, “on the third page – after a page of complaining that his proposals were all turned down and he wasn’t getting to do the research he wanted, he finally gets around to that.”
“But we haven’t apportioned funds, there’s been no proposal. How on the two continents has he managed to follow him? Traverstorm left two weeks ago.”
“It’s not clear from this… babble quite how, or if he’s planning to do anything. Frankly it’s a bit of a mess. I do wonder if Ryme’s quite alright…”
“I think we’ll judge his mental state after we haul him in front of a disciplinary committee, Trevel. This is not how the university conducts her expeditions. Haring off after an airship. Whatever next?”
“His intentions seem somewhat suspect. He claims he’s off to ‘prove who’s the better scholar once and for all’ and that he’ll stop ‘that upstart Chaincow youngling if it’s the last thing I do’.” Trevel eyed the note sceptically and re-folded it again.
“I’m loathe to expend any further resources on this fool’s errand he’s bounded off on. I’d imagine Rosenhatch will actually offer his best chance of survival out in the field.”
“Or perhaps not – Traverstorm has a remarkable aptitude for being the only survivor of those expeditions, except for his cat and the Giant Centipede.” Trevel commented as he tucked Ryme’s letter back into his jacket pocket.
“What a quandary. A professor gone mad and charged off into the unknown on a self-appointed mission of revenge? I don’t think we have much option really Trevel. Clearly the university can’t commit to a third expeditionary force – that would be ridiculous. However, and it does pain me to say so, strike me as an excellent story for one of the journals, don’t you think?”
“I’ll drop into their offices later this afternoon then.”
As the door closed behind Trevel a single amused snort escaped the chancellor’s office and chased him down the corridor. Next Week: Part 20 – Eye In The Sky
I may be bucking the trend, but I didn’t really like the first Kick Ass film. I should have loved it really – I have no problem with children swearing or the violence, but it just didn’t hit me right. I feel shame. The comic book is great though, and it may just have been the Kryptonite effect of Nicolas Cage in a bad wig. He’s not in the second one though (which brightened my attitude considerably), and goodness me the whole thing gave me such a chuckle.
In Kick Ass 2 they seamlessly merge the violent vigilante superhero action with coming of age school drama, romance, father-son moments and a weird Secret Seven vibe into a thoroughly enjoyable punch-o-rama. The cast is great (keep your eyes open for British actors) with the delightful ‘Justice League’ characters / failures who Kick Ass teams up with. For me the story is still about Hit-Girl. Chloe Grace Meretz is fantastic. She nails the school/bitchy girls storyline and delivers beautiful action scenes. Kick Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has grown up a bit (pecs to bounce cars off) but is still heroically geeky. They’re pitted against a revitalised Red Mist (or ‘The Mother-Fucker’ as he becomes known) in bondage gear and a degree in sociopathy, with his superb team of racistly-named mercs and assassins. Mother Russia is simply wonderful…
Continuous gory violent action scenes, very funny dialogue and characters with satisfying character arcs made this great for me. I know Jim Carrey (who is unrecognisable, and very good) has since complained that he hadn’t realised it would be so violent and that it’s inappropriate in the light of yet another school massacre in the States, but you’d think he would have noticed when he sics his dog on a man’s genitals and gets a sword through his body. It seems like trite backpedalling. School shootings are horrible but have become commonplace in the US – whining about violent films is pointless. This film has a strong sense of the consequences of the characters’ actions (and they are pretty bleak consequences), whereas the issue of violence in schools appears bereft of any sensible discussion of causes and consequences.
The Heat (2013)
Finally, another decent buddy-cop film. It feels like it’s been a while. It’s a classic genre and should be easy to get right – Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock nail it as the cops from two different sides of the street thrown together despite hating each other. Alright, so Bullock’s a feeb, but at least to me that’s just another kind of cop, one with a (possibly undeserved?) reputation for incompetence but a lesser scale of corruption than notorious villains the CIA. That’s entirely irrelevant I’m afraid, though there are of course some bad cops in here.
One version of the story is that it’s about which cop is best and what is the best way to be a cop – clearly the answers are ‘both of them’ and ‘there are many ways to be a good cop’. Hollywood can’t handle nuance so in this case one is an uptight neat-freak career-minded FBI agent who her colleagues hate (as you would any strong woman- thanks movies) despite her success record and the other a slobby scruffy violent possible menace to society feared by her colleagues and boss (as you would any strong woman- thanks again). So these two terrible women have to work together for reasons that will become apparent when you watch the film. It genuinely seems like the film is set up to make you hate at least one, preferably the ‘superior’ neat one, because that’s worse than someone being a slob. Weirdly then, you end up loving both and enjoying the film.
This is a comedy, and a funny one. McCarthy’s performances are genuine and she stands out to me from so many other Hollywood actors in how she portrays fearless and strong women. Obviously she’s too fat and unattractive to possibly head the bill but she is undoubtedly the star here. Bullock delivers her fine straight-man role and together they spark, grate and achieve the exact character arc demanded by the genre and the audience. Yay them! The comedy between the leads is deeply enjoyable, especially as they get to know each other instead of threatening and stealing from one another. It is quite violent, which has predictably upset some people (imagine policing involving any violence), but it’s well handled, well choreographed and timed for comic effect.
The supporting cast is great too – Mullins’ (McCarthy’s character) humiliated boss sets the scene very nicely, Marlon Wayans may finally have done a film he shouldn’t be slapped for, and Mullins’ ghastly car-crash family are all very good too. A lot of the family humour seems to be because they’re Irish, and I must confess myself fairly baffled by inter-American racial/national stereotypes but I think it’s because Irish-Americans stick to the poor and stupid stereotype, and they drink more than the darker-haired Italian Americans. Perplexing, but funny.
I loved it and laughed pretty much constantly, though the impressive gag rate does slow a bit when they get into the final action scenes (still satisfying though).
Now You See Me
I quite enjoyed this slick crime caper with conjurors a while ago, though thinking back I can’t actually remember much about it. Oh yeah… it’s essentially a hollow film. Films about real magicians, i.e. people who are tricking you, are problematic, especially when they make a point (over and over again) of telling you that they’re lying to you and trying to misdirect your attention. If you are paying attention, what they tell you right at the start is that what you think you’re seeing is a lie. The effect is that you immediately detach from the story and the characters, knowing that whatever they now perform is untrue and that they’ll just whoosh out an explanation at the end. Unfortunate… particularly when the end is total bollocks (no, magic is real. Oh fuck off.
Okay, now I’m irritated by it again. The performances are pretty slick, although most of the lead magic people spend the most of their screen minutes striding smugly from one side of a stage to the other while giving each other knowing winks and having CGI instead of magic tricks. The best scenes come early in the film as they’re being interviewed by the FBI and the magicians are being dicks about it. It swiftly descends into absurd chases and escalating magic show heists that it’s a struggle to care about.
Morgan Freeman is on standard form as a James Randi-style debunker of magic who we’re supplied with as a failing bit of misdirection. Nice to see him and Michael Caine together again though. Most of the cast are criminally under-used (save for the afore-mentioned smugness) despite being reliable enough actors. That said, they do come across as exactly the kind of glib egotists who make money by pretending they aren’t using a mirror (and then showing it to you) that you’d expect them to be. Maybe they do a better job than I gave them credit for.
It looks nice, but it’s disappointing that there’s so much CGI – creating the physical illusions would have been vastly more impressive, but it is somehow fitting that even the tricks are fake. And if you don’t want to punch everyone at the stupid ending there is something wrong with you.