This week, Monday 2nd September 2013

There’s No Business Like Show Business

Fat EyeI have no idea why I put that as the title save that it bounced through my head as I put finger to key, along with Family Guy’s ‘A Bag of Weed’: “A bag of weed / A bag of weed / Everything is better with a bag of weed”. What a jolly afternoon. I’m in a rather perky mood today. I believe it is the commingling of circumstances both splendid and septic.

For that last week (a three day work week) I’ve been struggling with some personal stress and anxiety which on Tuesday erupted in hideous ‘fat-eye’. It’s an allergic reaction of some kind I’ve had once before (almost exactly a month ago) which caused my eyelids to redden, swell titanically and itch and ache just as you would expect. That’s been lovely… Ice, numerous antihistamines and the impossibility of getting a doctor’s appointment unless you have a squalling rat-child or are yourself near death had combined to do little to alleviate my ocular suffering.

Despite that I blundered on in discomfort and hideousness. The week ended well with work (I achieved some things I was supposed to do a fortnight ago… winner) and culminated in a magnificent show I shall babble about in the appropriate section leaving me utterly delighted. A powerful lie-in ensued and then a friend from work dropped off some serious French A-grade pharmaceuticals to pour into my eyes. They have now gone from jellyfish ballooning to mere crabby crustiness. It is good. So yeah, that’s my week…

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankania: The Nation State of Hate Poetry Tongue-lashings of micro verse.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Series 11 Minifigures The obsession runs riot.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 20 “Eye In The Sky” Some days it just doesn’t work out.

Friday Film Review Shorties: Elysium / Pain and Gain (2013) Some films to watch / avoid.

Updates on my thrilling life


We hit episode 20 of The Desert Crystals this week! It’s pretty exciting, for me at least – that’s somewhere over 20,000 words on a single story. I’ve rarely spent so much time exploring the same world over such a long period of time (most of this year). The 1,000 word chapters in serial form seems to work for me. I’ve now got multiple story threads and a dozen or so main characters to juggle; I feel like I’m neglecting some of them. One day they’ll surely get near the Crystal Finches of lore…

I’m painfully aware that I haven’t written a pirate story for ages. But then I’m not performing much as the Captain of late, and I find the two go together. Mebbe get me some more Derby action. On the other hand, I am enjoying the Autofiction, it gives me a licence to talk bollocks, which is helpful as it extracts that self-centred monologue and puts it safely on screen where I can forget about it.

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: I Know Not What You Do Our assumptions about ourselves and others.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Pigs Vs Cows A really exciting Kickstarter I was happy to back.

Thursday The Desert Crystals: Part 19 “Newly Bespecatcled” You can’t just abandon your post and go off adventuring.

Friday Film Review Shorties: Kick Ass 2, The Heat, Now You See Me Good, good, lame.


I have had a good Lego week. I’ve completed my Jabba’s Palace extension and moved on to constructing a version of the droid dungeon from the same. It meant I had to rewatch Return of The Jedi, a terrible chore. I’d selected the Special Edition just in case there was some extra footage of the dungeon. I don’t think there was, but since the set appears to be entirely black with someone mystifyingly torturing a Gonk droid I figure I can do what the hell I want.

I’m rather short of sand coloured bricks but I think I’ve got the gloominess right. Now I need to build some droids! I don’t just want prequel Battle Droids, but I do have about twenty of their arms. I’ve got lots of cool robotic Lego heads, so I’ll try to work some of them in. I may not have left myself enough floor space to get much in though. Inevitably I shall rebuild it and enlarge (this is the second attempt anyway).
I’ve also done a significant reshuffle and organisation of bricks, which makes me absurdly happy.

Improv Comedy

Good lord, what a night! On Friday we had our regular MissImp in Action monthly show in a highly irregular way. Our usual venue The Glee Club had mis-diaried again (apparently failing to grasp the meaning of ‘monthly’) so we fell back on our weekly venue The Corner. We were also painfully short of our usual players (holiday, hundreds of miles away, broken etc.) so I decided to take some risks. We take risks on stage in improv all the time, but we also get used to doing things a certain way and place expectations on ourselves that are unfair and unjustified, partly because of what we think others want from us (in part this is what I was ranting about on Tuesday XXX). In the end we put 14 performers on the stage, including only four of the regular show team. They were a combination of weekly regulars, longtime members and new folk, some of whom have done the odd course with us, some had done almost nothing! Fuck me but it were brilliant.

Here’s the line up:

Monday Mayhem – Geoff, Jamie, Becky, David V, Andrew & Colin (first time on stage ever).

These guys have been playing extra on Monday’s in a free jam workshop that Geoff has been running for a couple of months (it’s on the jam page of They bowled out our opening half-hour of tight, funny short-form games. Their ‘Henry’ was very good indeed and the whole thing was an excellent start to the evening.

MontagegasmTeam 1: David F, Helen, Jamie, Marilyn & David V. Team 2: Rupes, Martin, James, Becky & me.

Two teams firing out incredibly weird and funny scenes from a single audience suggestion. Strong, strange and lovely group scenework.
Then we took a break… and had a nice chat with some of our longtime fans in the pleasant coolness outside. We had a ‘bring your own drinks’ policy that people really took advantage of! Also a lot of lovely feedback about the show and venue.

The Fallen Angels – Eddie, Marilyn, Martin & David.

Eddie’s team were using and fucking with the ‘Armando’ format – monologues by Eddie and Marlilyn followed by three scenes each. They hit films as a theme pretty fast and did a series of screamingly funny scenes – “I’m a cockerney indeed”, and the “moist seat”.

Unspeakable Acts – Martin, David, Marilyn & me.

We did Jaws us-style. The screenplay is endless baffling description which we skipped and laughed at, before using just a single line of written dialogue and discarding our source material. It’s such a loose format and I love it. We bounded out into the audience-sea and fought a shark and giant octopus.

That was very possibly the most fun show I’ve taken part in, and I’m grateful and delighted by the contributions everyone made. I can’t think of any reason not to do this again.

Media Intake

I’m reading Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. I actually started by reading the third in the series, like a twat (I’m positive I checked the dates…) I do wish series’ would be helpfully numbered more often. Anyway, it’s great. It’s like The Bill does The Dresden Files – one young constable’s induction into the magical section of the Met. Funny and surprising.

Films and TV

We’re enjoying a late afternoon Sunday film most week’s now, to go with some close friends. It’s proving fun, but it means I have to re-shuffle all my other activities because we get back fairly late (thank goodness the trains have returned). Elysium was all that I’d hoped for last week and I’m writing this just before going to see Pain and Gain; it may be great, but more likely it will be awful.

We’ve been caning through the Dexter TV series box set. The habit of consuming a disc at a time (3 episodes = 1/4 of a series) is seriously addictive. As a result we’re likely to finish season 5 in the next day… I originally saw season 1 and 2 about five years ago, but it wasn’t on terrestrial TV and I drifted away. I am so glad Dad got me the box set for Christmas. Series 6 is also sitting on the shelf. The combination of family and cop drama with serial killing is brilliant. It’s dipped occasionally but the climaxes and cliff hangers are magnificent. This series has Julia Stiles (who I like a great deal) and Peter Weller (who I also like a great deal) in it. Yay.

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 12th September

7.30pm at The City Gallery, Nottingham.
Improv comedy, bring your own drinks – we’ll let anyone on stage!

Nottingham Comedy Festival: Pub Poetry – Tuesday 24th September

7.30pm at the Canalhouse, Nottingham.
Open mic comic poetry and spoken word for everyone (in a pub).

Nottingham Comedy Festival: MissImp in Action – Friday 27th September

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

Shankania – The Nation State of Angry Poetry

Shankanalia 12I’ve been quite calm of late, it must be the drugs. Those savage spikes of rage are troubling others less at the moment. How nice for them. Not to worry, there’s still plenty in the daily mimble to anger one. Right now it’s mostly about the bland smugness that comes with believing that doing what’s right for you entitles you to treat other people like shit. Yes, I’ve been into town again…

Follow @shankanalia on Twitter for irregular poetic updates.

Shankania – The Nation State of Angry Poetry

Button or Chestnut
Your tiny little words,
Rammed with cuntish ignorance.
Pitiful wanky mind slut,
Ejaculate your brain fungal spores,
Spongiform fuckwits.
Fuck off.

Shank Verse
Oh my god you fucking freaks!
Eyes on backwards,
Up your arse:
Colonic interrogation.
The filthy shitty prose
You dribble…
You stain the world.

Your Face Fills Me With Desire
Stupid fucking knob-jockey.
Punch you in the throat,
Choke you with your stupid face,
Lock you in a box,
Toss you in the fiery sea.
Relish your screams.

Follow Steps 1 Through Fuckit
Your instructions
(Many thanks):
Empty of fucking worth.
My questions are unanswered;
My ire engaged-
Write them with your blood.

My What A Lovely Shirt
A vile stream of gagging trolls
From under the earth
Laying waste to baskets
Shelves and bins.
Hard won gold pissed away on worthless trash.

Consume, Consume
Hideous weeble mass,
Mismatched teeth and feet.
Drawn by the beacon
Screaming sale.
Worthless tat
Complements the fat.

Throwing Shapes
Your spine has a dent in it.
Sorry about that.
It’s because of who you are,
You see,
That I’ve added this deformity:
Your spinal gruel
Makes me laugh.

More of The Same

Lego Blog: Series 11 Minifigures

Series 11 - Surprise

They’re Back!

We have been waiting for this with an unreasonable degree of excitement, eyes frantically scanning the shelves of every shop we went into for the last month – ever since we saw what Series 11 included. For me, this is the best series they’ve had for a while; it’s certainly the first for at least three series where we have felt compelled to acquire them all. In fairness to my own obsession it is dwarfed by my other half’s need to have them: that makes me feel slightly more sane. So here’s the gang in all their motley glory.

They’re continuing several running collections – robots, space guys (ah crap! I’ve just realised I’ve missed him, no – three figures –  out of all the cocking pictures – so this is 12/16 of the set!), scientists and beasties.

Brutal Favouritism



My other half went nuts about the Yeti some time ago – he’s got a lolly! Also the elf and the gingerbread man. They are all rather pretty. The Gingerbread Fellow’s head is a biscuit and he’s charmingly freckled all over. There are a lot of arm and feet details in this set – the costume designs are getting increasingly detailed and awesome.

For my part I have a lot of love for the lady robot ((she’s got bubbies, and a key). She looks perpetually surprised which is a bit odd but I’m looking forwards to putting her with Mr Roboto from a much earlier series.


imageimageI’m also rather fond of the British policeman, whose design is from the ’20s or something. Great moustache and truncheon too. The elf has traditional dinky legs and the adorable teddy bear. You get a nice brick with a ‘gift’ plate on top too. Honestly they’re all quite fantastic and have been worth every moment of blind bag squeezing. This time round WHSmith’s got them first (in Beeston), followed by Sainsbury’s. It’s been a fairly thrilling ride! There are some great new bits and bobs – the lady scientist (a weirdly much saner counterpart to the earlier Monster Fighters mad scientist) – she has blue gloves and two vials of awesome.

Huge Colour

Series 11 - NightmaresSeries 11 - DoScienceThe scarecrow and (I don’t know how best to describe this one) ‘tribal guy’? are perfect for supplying nightmares. The mask is rubber and he has a cool paint job on his face underneath too. There is literally no shortage of favourites here. I really like the welder, though it’s a slight shame it’s a full head piece and can’t be flipped up.

Idiocy and Innumeracy

Finally, there’s the last three who I stupidly forgot to include. I’m blaming that on them the last we acquired. More rollerskates, a nice sundae and yet more awesome space soldier fellows. I like that his face is just a set of crosshairs. And we finally have a mad cat lady such as other half aspires to… It’s a great set and I’ve had to order even more minifigure display cases. Ho hum, roll on series 12!

Series 11 - Welder Series 11 - Missing 3



Film Review Shorties: Elysium / Pain and Gain (2013)

Elysium (2013)

I loves me some good science-fiction action. The promise of more by the director of District 9 had me excited a year or more ago. The addition of Matt Damon surprisingly didn’t dampen my enthusiasm, despite the dull posters showing the back of his head and a stack of K’Nex. As with Pacific Rim I studiously avoided all trailers and information, and I’m glad I did; it really does improve my enjoyment of films. I frequently write during adverts and trailers anyway (I’m not paying to see them) and I think I’m going to do it more.

Anyway… Elysium – awesome space-station wheel in the sky for rich folks. Earth life sucks – population explosion, global corporate governments, hideous poverty and all the other awful things we seem utterly bound for. It’s exactly the dystopian future that had me thinking of Neal Asher‘s new series and Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon with a huge poor population envious of their brutal callous overlords, who in this case have fucked off into orbit to have the lives they want.

The story is that of a poor chump, Max who has always dreamed of going to Elysium (ever since being little in a nun-run orphanage). Life hasn’t really worked out and it gets much worse when he gets his arm broken by a robot cop and then takes a tonne of radiation poisoning at work. He has days to live and nothing to lose – cue action. There are some nice twists and painful scenes to watch and I don’t really want to give away the story (be blissfully unaware like me). It pounds by at a satisfying pace, beginning with a flashback to Max’s childhood friendship with Frey and their hopes and dreams. That gets referred back to a lot during the film, which certainly irritated a number of my friends. I quite liked it. For all the action and drama that get packed in this is a classic sentimental sci-fi story that ends exactly as it should.

The supporting cast really makes this work, though it’s unfortunate that once again Frey is shunted into female mother-hostage-victim role, despite being a nurse and having the potential to be a strong character. There are a host of criminal renegades to enjoy, on both sides of the good/bad divide. William Fichtner is the face of corporate evil (complete with skin branded company logos on his face). It’s his character that becomes the focus of Max’s attempts to get to Elysium. To be fair he actually gets there relatively easily, once he’s got his exo-skeleton power suit bolted on (that’s a disturbing surgery scene right there!) Sharlto Kopley plays a very disturbed and disturbing corporate mercenary who is nonetheless rather amusing and very watchable. Jodie Foster is Elysium’s no-nonsense totalitarian minister of defence who has few qualms in blowing up ships full of refugees and sending Kruger (Kopley) after Max and Frey.

Visually this film is beautiful, Neill Blomkamp has created a thoroughly credible, filthy, awful future Earth (his robot policemen are very similar stylistically to the aliens of District 9) and it contrasts extraordinarily with the graceful Elysium. The space station itself has an open, park-filled atmosphere in a huge toroid wheel which I don’t think I’ve seen before. That and the small shuttle craft and general feel of the technology reminds me of ’70s and ’80s sci-fi book covers – loved it. The weapons, when they come out (and boy, do they) are messy and violent. I’m told by teh internets that the film is about the dangers of immigration, but that doesn’t match my feelings in watching it – it’s a great sci-fi action film with a backdrop of massive over-population, corporate political power and privilege of the rich elite. If all yuo get from watching it is “immigrants are bad” you probably should have stayed at home and read the Daily Mail.
Watch it.


Pain and Gain

Now this is a film that most right-minded humans should hate. It has the usual Hollywood “based on true events” crap, as if that justifies taking ‘a thing happened’ and bending it unrecognisably away from reality. It’s also Michael Bay directing it, so no one’s hopes for the film should be set too high. I must admit that I was primarily drawn to the film by two things – the rather jaunty music and style of the trailer and the presence of Dwayne Johnson (aka ‘The Rock’). The trailer presents the film as a wacky caper with a bunch of buff losers who rip off a wealthy criminal and get into predictable action scrapes. I’ve also found Johnson to be quite reliable in films, from Welcome to the Jungle upwards – the guy is huge (though his musculature inflates and deflates alarmingly between roles) and really has presence. His action skills are superb and he seems to have a minor gift for comedy.

So those were my expectations and priming for the film. I wasn’t let down – it bounds along brightly coloured and gaily packed with comic characters who worship the inane egomaniacal self-help gurus of the ’90s (loathsome exploitative scum to a man, easily comparable with the worst of fraudulent mediums and religions). Hilariously they are also body builders – in itself an absurd cult of steroid abuse. Mark Wahlberg‘s voiceover narration is pretty entertaining “I believe in fitness”, sure – why not. But life is unfair and despite their pectastic skill sets, Wahlberg and Anthony Mackie (who’s usually tiny) find that they really aren’t making the money and getting the life of people who y’know, work really hard for it. Wahlberg’s muscle-neck gets obsessed with the prospect of robbing a client at his gym.

This the point at which the film becomes at once highly entertaining but also gradually comes loose from the comedy trailer. The guy they rob is not a criminal at all, he’s just a hard working US immigrant (Tony Shalhoub on fine form) who is quite a bit of a dick, but then he has embraced the American dream… They also recruit The Rock, an ex-con with an ex-drug and alcohol problem (there’s no reason that should cause any problems) to help add more muscle to their top heavy team. They kidnap the guy and torture him for a month in a sex toy warehouse. There is much room for humour, and it is mercilessly exploited. After that, they try to kill him (still milked for laughs) but overall, they’re successful and while Wahlberg becomes a model neighbour, Mackie gets married (to his nut nurse – the always brilliant Rebel Wilson) but poor Johnson gets back on coke and goes fairly crazy. That’s also funny. Then they go for another rich target, while the not-quite-dead-but-broke-and-pissed-off Shalhoub gets ex-cop PI Ed Harris (he and Peter Weller are now twins) to investigate. Then it finally goes horribly, horribly wrong.

It’s only in retrospect that I’m at all torn about the film – during it I enjoyed it immensely. Especially when at the 2/3 point a message pops up saying “this is still a true story” – it seems incredible and it no doubt is. We can at least be assured that the actual thugs were a good deal more ugly than this bunch. However, these guys do awful, awful things to entirely innocent people. While watching it my sympathy was entirely with the bodybuilders and I laughed throughout. It is very clear though that they are the bad guys, and the film is played completely for laughs. It’s quite bizarre and I’m not sure how I feel about it now. It could just be a tribute to the consistently terrible films of (now departed) Tony Scott in its garish style, direction and lack of moral compass. Either way it’s Bay’s best film for a looong time. I think I’ll watch the trailer again.


Related articles

This week, Monday 9th September 2013

I’m Late I’m Late

The Future

But I am not, of course, pregnant. This appears to be a blessing, though the superficial benefits of having a few months off work do occasionally appeal to me. It’s high in my mind as one of my colleagues is about to vanish on maternity leave and I shall be covering most of her role. So the next few weeks will be a mad smorgasbord of learning things, attending meetings (which I generally refuse to on the principle that they are worthless opportunities for others to expound upon their own self-importance – get a fucking blog dude, join the club), and wrestling with different ineptitudes and failing systems. Yay me. It has an impact though – I reckon it’s gonna be adding a bit (standard measure of 23 tasks of Hercules) to my workload (and that’s with me aggravating folk by turning down their insane requests) and that will hard to fit in neatly and remain entirely relaxed. I’ve already been experiencing the stomach crawling tension that accompanies unwanted change; I don’t like change.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: Morning Horrors The anticipatory fear of the day.

Thursday Lego Blog: Work in Progress – Jabba’s Droid Dungeon It’s just not right…

Saturday The Desert Crystals Part 20 “Eye In The Sky” Something will happen!

Updates on my thrilling life


The coming work/life balance changes are going to hit my writing, which saddens me. Stuff has to give, for a while at any rate and there are improv-related things I can’t avoid and other social aspects of having a life that I shouldn’t skip. So I’m going to attempt to intentionally reduce my weekly writing plans – I want stuff I can keep up with, without feeling anxious if I fail at what I set for myself. Regular, planned posting of stories has become very important to my sense of internal well being.

Last week was a case in point – various events collided with emotions last mid-week and scuppered by intended part 20. I’m very annoyed with myself for missing it, and I’ve been having some anxiety about failing to write this post until Monday evening!

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Shankania: The Nation State of Hate Poetry Tongue-lashings of micro verse.

Wednesday Lego Blog: Series 11 Minifigures The obsession runs riot.

Friday Film Review Shorties: Elysium / Pain and Gain (2013) Some films to watch / avoid.


It’s really hard to make droids that look like Star Wars droids without having the right minifigures. I’ve spent some time this week staring dully at heaps of intricate Lego pieces unable to find ways to make the droids that appear in Jabba The Hut‘s droid dungeon. Frustrating. However, I’ve made some bits that seem to work okay so I shall press on! I’m running badly out of the bricks that would match the rest of Jabba’s Palace so I’m going to assign it to some darkened corner where architectural influences have been varied… as has paint. I’m loving my new ‘boot’ tray for scattering bits of Lego around, but unfortunately (or unfurtunately as I just wrote), it is also beloved of our cat.

Improv Comedy

Pretty exciting actually – Parky and I have planned our most ambitious season of shows and workshops – you should join us!

Check out courses and workshops here

Check out the awesome show schedule (and my new mini-show icons) here

It’s all genuinely very cool. There’s much teaching to be done and fun to be had! Speaking of which, I’ve persuaded my work to send me off on The Maydays 5 day residential improv festival at Osho Leela! Victory = writing properly on training applications. I’m kinda nervous, partly because it’s next week (I like a run up to knowing where I’m going to be) and I don’t like being away from home. It is however something I want to do and now need to make the psychological effort to look forwards to it!

There’s Gorilla Burger this week too, which is always excellent and I believe we’ll be murdering another film or play at the end of the evening. You should come along!

Media Intake

I finished reading Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. It was brilliant and I’m going to struggle not to dive right back into the sequel. For now I’ve alleviated the addiction by buying new books, including a bunch of short stories by Adrian Tchaikovsky Feast and Famine. I’ve also enjoyed A. Lee Martinez’ Chasing The Moon

Events and Excitement

Gorilla Burger – Thursday 12th September

7.30pm at The City Gallery, Nottingham.
Improv comedy, bring your own drinks – we’ll let anyone on stage!

Nottingham Comedy Festival: Pub Poetry – Tuesday 24th September

7.30pm at the Canalhouse, Nottingham.
Open mic comic poetry and spoken word for everyone (in a pub).

Nottingham Comedy Festival: MissImp in Action – Friday 27th September

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

Autofiction: Morning Horrors

Panic FlowerThe Ghastly Future

There’s something about the morning that just feels rich with the potential for horror. For a start I don’t like the morning. It seems an unnecessary part of the day that, given a choice, I will usually skip. It’s perfectly normal for us to wake up at eleven or so over the weekend. It feels better. I know there’s a slice of the day where no one is around very early on, but I’d rather experience that same peace at say, two in the morning. I certainly perk up again in the evening, or quite late at night. It’s a kind of alertness that I rarely experience before the sun’s at its zenith.
As far as I can recall I’ve always been a night owl rather than an, well I don’t know – morning pigeon? Bloody things hooing down our chimney. I’m grateful for sleeping tablets to shade out that sort of distraction to an irrelevance. As a very small child I was apparently quite prepared to sleep through the night. I never saw that much Saturday morning TV either, and despite the rosy-hued nostalgia they were probably fairly awful. It also means that Operation Yewtree isn’t haunting my memories of childhood as badly. There’s nothing that happens in the morning that couldn’t just as well take place in the afternoon or night. I used to endlessly reset my alarm in the mornings and after showering would huddle in a comatose heap next to a radiator. Thinking about it I had the same problem with swimming, but maybe that was the sheer exhaustion of the activity followed by being suddenly cold and then hot again. It’s a transition that I still despise – again, I can see no good reason why it can’t be pleasantly cool all the time. Bleedin’ world.

Sleep and Drugs and Belly-Aches

Maybe it’s that my mind gets neatly closed up by amitriptyline in the evening, so that even if I go to bed with that unsettled internal sensation of tension it’s only a few minutes until I’m asleep, but when I wake up it can come rushing back. I think it’s the prospect of the future – night and sleep are an end (in my mind); conclusions to the day with no prospect of further waking. I’ve always liked the idea of simply dying in my sleep – slipping from one state of non-existence into another. Before taking the delightful drugs I was plagued for years by awful sleep and heavily involving semi-lucid dreams; I’m grateful to be presently spared those exhausting experiences. It’s possible then that the waking is the awful part that I dreaded most after an abysmal night’s sleep – all that potential for refreshment and rest is now gone and we’re cruelly injected into another endless day.
Of late I’m waking with a gnarl of tension in my belly that I recognise as a vague but very real concern about future events. They don’t need to be serious prospects or problematic ones to generate that tension. It’s something I’ve never managed to resolve. For a long time I wasn’t able to distinguish that sensation from hunger, which seems weird now. Maybe eating can be sufficiently engaging to distract the mind from other worries. Not a good road to go down though. It makes the day hard to look forwards to. If I have responsibilities, places to be – fun, nightmarish or mundane – they all generate that same sense of boding tension. Eventually routine activities do become anxiety free, but I don’t know how to cleanse myself of that. For example, next week I’m going to a five day residential improv course – that’s good right? Nonetheless it’s burning a hole inside me that won’t be assuaged until at least the third train transfer on the way, and probably not until I’m arranging junk in my room. It makes it very difficult to want to do new things or to go to different places.

Lego Blog: Jabba’s Palace Part 2

Jabba’s Palace, Special Revision


FettThe recent Lego Star Wars set for the palace is lovely, but it’s small. I’m glad I didn’t pay full whack for it (thank you ASDA) because I would have been pissed off spending a hundred quid on it. The figures are lovely and the overall design is mucho pretty but you can’t get much into it. I know there’s the Rancor add-on, but that goes underneath and while it’s a clever way to develop the model I have height restrictions (like any good ride) and it just won’t bloody fit.

I’ve already had to reduce the height and while doing so built an extension corridor between the guard tower (and tiny front door) and the throne room. It’s not big enough and the design was a bit wobbly since it could be detached from both sides. It also didn’t really carry the theme of the build – I mean it’s okay and I was pleased but I felt I could do better.

The 1st Revision

See what  I mean? It’s nice but I still can’t fit much more in there (I’m still failing at that).


2nd Revision (not Special Edition)

This time I took a different approach, dismantling the guard tower so I could integrate the corridor (and lose the immense drop and smashability of the model). I figured it would be better to match the throne room’s base design than the tower (they’re at very different heights) and just step up from the tower. Then I hit the usual difficulties of limited brickage, but I wanted to make it look as seamless as possible by matching the corridor heights and doorways that already existed. That forced the use of bricks in some places but freed up enough slopes to make a consistent roof for it. It’s also much more stable than the initial roof which was patched together really messily.



The Future Return of the Jabba’s Palace

One problem I didn’t manage to resolve at all is the weakness of the guard tower’s base which is four plates  held together just with a couple of tiles. Even though the corridor feels like it’s twice as long as before it’s still quite narrow due to limited bricks and the depth of the guard tower. What I’d really like to do next it deepen the whole thing and get a door which is more like the vast wide door in the film (and maybe enable rotation of the whole tower because the front is so pretty but it’s hidden at the back of the model.) Ho hum.

Also ongoing is the droid dungeon project – check out a sneak preview below…

You can see more pictures of the set in glorious colour here on Flickr.

Related articles

The Desert Crystals – Part 20: Eye in the Sky

desert crystals2Part 20 – Eye in the Sky

Another ragged scream tore through the early morning darkness. The early morning darkness was the same as it had been all night and likely would be all day. The pitch blackness of the Sky Cliff was unending, save in the imaginations of the men and women lost inside. It seemed to be darker on waking than on going to sleep, though that itself was fitful and filled with twitching to wakefulness, soaked in sweat with a cry on the lips. The incessant screaming was not helping. There is a limited number of finger tips that can be stuffed into ones ears and only so many pillows and blankets can be wrapped about ones head.

Rosenhatch was a case in point. He had attempted to bundle his head deep in his bunk, but found it was all too easy to suffocate – not just because of the sheets, but because his cat Maxwell possessed the uncanny ability to balance atop the bundle and dig his claws in with each shriek. That had affected their sleep. Maxwell regarded the sound as a callous intrusion into his preferred somnolence. The cat had grown weary of the lengthy night and had retreated to their cabin until daylight and distraction emerged once more. In between long naps he had batted Rosenhatch’s mislaid glass and stationery underneath the bunk, where they would probably remain.

Until the man had begun his tiresome screaming the whole journey had taken on a restful tedium, though Maxwell would have preferred the earlier sun-baked portion to have persisted; he’d identified an ideally precarious perch on the railing to the rear of the airship to idle away the days. There had been a lot of noise recently, but Maxwell had spent much of that inside Rosenhatch’s coat. Then had come the unnecessarily long night and the constant smell of sweat and meat. When the missing cabin boy fell back onto The Dove’s Eye the crew had been delighted, if somewhat put out by the avalanche of gore that had shepherded him home. Maxwell had perked up a little at that point and successfully acquired a length of sticky gruesomeness to hide beneath the bunk, along with the stationery, for surreptitious gnawing and growling at.

His ears twitched irritably as yet another strangled cry penetrated the thin walls of the cabin. He dug his claws meaningfully into the semi-slumbering heap that shifted beneath his weight. Maxwell jabbed his claws in deeper, warning Rosenhatch that he was entirely comfortable and really ought not be disturbed further. His self-appointed master was destined to persistently disappoint the cat, and peeled back the layers of blanket to stare frustratedly at the ceiling. Maxwell glared balefully at him.

“It’s not my fault Maxwell. The poor lad’s got something awful in his eyes, probably from swimming through all that rotten charnel.” Now that he thought of the vile stuff that had splashed all over the fore deck of the airship Rosenhatch was sure he could still smell it – disgusting, he’d probably never get it out of his nostrils. “Harvey and the captain have the boy tied to a bunk so he doesn’t scratch at them.”

Maxwell elegantly displayed a total lack of interest by stretching to his full length and then frantically grooming his left paw. Once the left was quite damp he began to drag it over his left ear and cheek.

“I don’t know what else we can do with him – they’re frightfully swollen. We’ve washed them out with water and a splash of alcohol. I wasn’t sure about the latter, but that old sky mate with the beard swore by it. It didn’t make much difference. Pouring it in his mouth seemed to work better.”

Maxwell switched to the other paw and applied it to his right ear.

“You know, sometimes I can’t help feeling a little responsible for these things,” Rosenhatch murmured self-indulgently. Maxwell broke off from his important washing to blink slowly at the untidy, tired-looking man. “I suppose you’re right – it’s hardly my fault he was kidnapped from the ship by winged night beasts. Still, we should at least look in on him again. Come on.”

Rosenhatch scooped up the grooming cat and re-ordered his limbs into a cradled position. Maxwell squirmed until he had a paw sticking straight up with extended claws dug into Rosenhatch’s collar bone, and bright eyes peering over the crook of his arm. He shambled out of their cabin and into the corridor containing two haggard sky mates leaning against opposite walls. They were nominally guarding their stricken colleague, but mainly sought to dampen the cries, which explained the waxy cloth sticking out from their ears. The three nodded to each other wearily and Rosenhatch pushed open the door.

Jacob Bublesnatch looked better than he had when they’d taken him aboard; a good deal of scrubbing with their limited water supply had taken much of the filth off him, particularly his face, but he was drawn and exhausted. Some food and water (and the vile rum that Gremble Chank, the bearded patcher, had insisted also be splashed in the lad’s eyes) had been forced into him. But none of them knew what to do for Jacob’s eyes, whose flesh stood out scarlet and swollen, with vivid welts of white and green striping his lids and cheeks. His eyes themselves bulged, splitting even his inflamed eyelids apart to reveal the seamy yellow orbs inside. Worse still, horrid shapes fluttered inside them, like jelly filled with ants. They were a fairly nauseating sight and even Rosenhatch blanched as he drew up a chair to the bunk.

Harvey would be fascinated, but his bulk could not fit inside the cabin – besides, he had quite startled Bublesnatch – perhaps mandibles were not the first sign of friends and family he had hoped to glimpse. The Giant Centipede was up on deck, continuing to map out the caverns of the sky cliff. The captain was determined to leave the place as soon as possible but it had become clear that even with Harvey’s delicate senses to aid them they were quite lost. The topography of the caves had definitely changed since they had glided inside.

The understandable concerns about navigation went some way to explaining why poor Jacob’s dreadful ocular calamity was receiving less attention that it might have done otherwise. Rosenhatch (along with Maxwell) was the only one at the boy’s side when he began to writhe uncontrollably. A long thin wail of despair and pain vibrated up his chest and through his clenched and splintering teeth. Maxwell sharply leapt out of Rosenhatch’s arms and onto the shoulder-high shelf above Jacob’s bunk. Rosenhatch quickly forced a sliver of leather into the boy’s mouth lest he crack a tooth or bite his tongue off and tried to hold the boy down by his shoulders.

As he turned to the door to shout for aid an awful bubbling sound made him turn back. It was a gurgle unlike the worst of digestive complaints and he frowned at thought of its source. Jacob’s left eye bulged suddenly out of its engorged socket and burst in a brief fountain of foul fluid like an unfortunate cheese. Rosenhatch’s own screams brought the men running; Jacob had lapsed into blissful unconsciousness while the ruined eye wept shiny slime and tiny stick-legged maggots crawled out of the hole in his face.

Next Week: Part 21 – Nascent Horrors

In the same series:

The Desert Crystals – Part 19: Newly Bespectacled (

The Desert Crystals – Part 17: Stolen in the Breeze (

This week, Monday 16th September 2013

Droid ShotA Whirlwind of Terror

Alright, that’s a slight exaggeration. Last week was, although relatively quiet, very busy at work attempting to grasp new systems by their hair and slam them into submission against the desk. After all five days, moderate success was achieved, which bodes only slightly less awfully for the future. Oh well. This week at least will be challenging in quite a different way… I’m fighting back against my comfort zone, somewhat to my own surprise.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Tuesday Things I Hate #1: Fucking Adverts I just don’t understand the damn things.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 21 “Nascent Horrors” It’s a bit gloomy in the dark with things in the shadows..

Friday Film Review Shorties: White House Down / Riddick  A pair of fairly terrible films.

Updates on my thrilling life


Aaargh, last week felt like chaos – not that it went particularly badly, I mean I got the three things written that I wanted to, but I do feel bad about writing less. Hopefully this week I’ll have time to write more (I have about ten hours of train travel in my immediate future!) and that I’ll even include some quality… I may blog about my week, if I get time during the day; if not I’ll fill y’all in the week after. We have Pub Poetry to look forwards to on Tuesday 24th September – a glorious opportunity to share and listen to some comic spoken word / poetry / prose. I believe Martin and I shall be attempting some beat poetry…

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Autofiction: Morning Horrors Tongue-lashings of micro verse.

Thursday Lego Blog: Jabba’s Palace Part 2 The obsession runs riot.

Saturday The Desert Crystals Part 20 “Eye in the Sky” A charming bit of body horror.


I’m pleased with the last extension to Jabba’s Palace and I think I’ve put the finishing touches (heaps of droid junk) to my Jabba’s Droid Dungeon – I’ll have to take some pictures for you next week. It also means that I’ve finally emptied the Lego tray that filled one of our sofas for three weeks, so everyone is happy!

Improv Comedy

Last week’s Gorilla Burger show was splendid fun – Eddie is continuing to hurl new formats and ideas at the stage. On this occasion he brought out costume and props to drive Corner House Blues, It was a longform set based around a nowhere land police station and the characters that emerged from the costume choices and changes, and each segment ended in song! It was really good fun and he, Amy, Colin and Jamie did a really splendid job. I may not have told Eddie that yet. Eddie – it was really good.

What else happened there? I was drinking for a change so some of it is a bit of a blur. I do recall dubbing poor Seth in a scene that started with “I’m sorry I fingered your wife”. Well, I had fun! We rounded out the night with an Unspeakable Act – the audience selected Back To The Future II – that’s the one I can’t really remember properly. We got heavily into time travel begatting and singing Dolly Parton songs, or at least Martin did and I made up a song about her enormous breasts, which was also good in Gregorian chant…

This week I’m off to Osho Leela in Dorset for The Maydays 5 day residential improv festival. Exciting!

Events and Excitement

Nottingham Comedy Festival: Pub Poetry – Tuesday 24th September

7.30pm at the Canalhouse, Nottingham.
Open mic comic poetry and spoken word for everyone (in a pub).

Nottingham Comedy Festival: MissImp in Action – Friday 27th September

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

Things I Hate: Fucking Adverts


Why Do You Waste My Time?

The advent of the VCR was a wonderful thing, followed in time by the DVR and latterly the TV recording box in all its near-identical flavours of branded recording boxitude. Partly it’s the sheer unadulterated convenience of being able to set a thing to record and then watching it whenever I want to, especially nowadays when I don’t need to swap a tape or fight through the irritating Video+ codes or menus (thank you Mr Box Tied To My TV), but it’s really because I get to see the show I want to, not the idents that make me want to scream with their dull repetition and particularly not the advertisements every fifteen minutes for products that make me want to end the human race. I can just… skip them. It’s wonderful; it renders television almost as good as a DVD box set, depending on my availability for eye-gorging.
My enjoyment of TV has increased in direct inverse proportion to the amount of advertising I absorb. I wonder if companies realise just how much their adverts can make someone want to burn down their headquarters rather than purchase their tat. I’ll allow that there are some beautiful ads out there, with gorgeous direction and animation. If I want to see those, I’ll look them up on YouTube. I will still skip through them, because I can remember them. I don’t need to watch the fucking things nine times during a single programme to decide I never want to buy your product. Perhaps I am abnormal in my response… It’s always possible. I do know that advertising slides off me quite well. The chances are pretty poor that I’ll remember what shitty car or deodorant you’re pushing. Sorry. Maybe that’s why they annoy me so much – they don’t really have much of an impact on me, still less now that I don’t watch them. It’s a kind of empowerment.

Once Riled, Twice Enraged

Since I don’t watch the things at home, the only time I have to endure them is at the cinema. We get there bright and early you see, so we can sit exactly where we want to. We then give the impression of hostility to ensure that we have a reasonable twat-free zone around us. Sure, we then have to sit through twenty-five minutes of ads and trailers, but I don’t usually watch them. Why would anyone? It baffles me. I just whip out me tablet or phone and either play games or get in nearly half an hour of writing time. I’m certainly not going to stare at the screen just because it’s there. I’m not a complete sucker.
Anyway, we see a lot of films and although I’m generally busy, sometimes we see films with friends or I’m feeling uninspired or weirdly sociable and maybe we’ll watch the ads too. There’s not a lot of variety. It’s also amazing how much more you can hate the ads before a film when you suffer them twice in a single day. This happened on Sunday, and I found myself growing increasingly angry with the adverts. Partly it’s that every advert is a lie, a manipulative, deceitful string of stereotypes designed to make you feel worse about yourself and envious of others. That alone sends me some way along the emotional spectrum. It’s also how fucking inane they are. The examples below were furiously scribbled while snarling at the screen and mocking the universe in which they exist. It’s a fair representation of the string of ads you’ll get before any 12A or 15 film.

What I Learned From The Adverts Before My Film

Vodka, the notably rather flavourless drink is actually exciting / suave / like taking acid. It isn’t; it’s a decent mixer and a handful of brands are quite nice straight. If your vodka makes it seem like I’m in a forest or surrounded by snakes you have not given me vodka. I’m confused about why being in a room full of snake people represents a good night out.
We are young and stupid (with terrible hair) – especially you boys. You are so stupid that you are prepared to trade your skateboard / pet / car for a bland orangey drink. Girls will take everything you have and then mock you by demonstrating how a vending machine works. This is a bad example of economics.
A well shaken can of dyed, sugarless carbonated water is as thrilling as watching a gardener ejaculate over himself. Women like this, though their pupils notably fail to dilate with excitement. Also, it is an hilarious jape to toss a semi-pressurised metal container towards a ĺawn mower – nothing could go wrong here. I’d like to see the alternative one where his legs are taken off by shrapnel and the picnicking diversity squad is questioned by police. (The “reverse”-sexism doesn’t concern me in the least – this is one shit advert versus a million that denigrate women.)
Selling the scent of a product is admittedly difficult. Perfumes get around this by showing us something totally unrelated to the product. Perhaps the young people with crap tattoos shot in black and white is what this product smells like. But I’ve been into McDonalds… they don’t smell all that good. I wish I could be skilled just at walking in slow motion and being adored by other airbrushed and emaciated people. Maybe if I smelled like a celebrity I would be slower.
Hurray! A bank! Some banks, I’m sure will enable me to have a happy balanced home and work life, just by holding my money and investing it for their shareholders and rewarding me with an interest rate mocked my the change I can find on the street. Even more reassuring, a bank has returned from the brink of doom (all those other mean banks bullied it) and it still has all of its original values about financing the common man and woman which aren’t even slightly compromised by spending millions of its customers’ savings on an exploitative (if beautifully animated) advertising campaign.
A range of inferior beers and lagers are actually not drinks at all, but embody the creative spirit of the age, and I too can be part of it if I just swallow their terrible pissy beverage. I’ll make an exception here and name the brand because it is utterly disgusting. Carling lager – this is an indisputably poor beverage most comparable to lining your mouth with rusty water and then encouraging someone to shit in it. The taste of further Carling will make this slightly less awful. The current spree of witty little ads tells us that nothing beats the sheer perfection of Carling, and should you somehow fail in life you will be denied the drink. Remarkable, I would sooner fail at every endeavour than stoop to sip from the puddle next to the urinal that the brewery gathers it from. It’s a mark of shame against my home town of Burton on Trent that such utter shit is excreted where once was brewed Bass and Ind Coope. If I know you, and see you drinking Carling I shall be forced to put it to its only proven use: encouraging violence.
Also, aeroplanes are like horses.

Oh, and that I’m on the verge of cancelling my mobile phone contract because of their patronising and expensive adverts. Give me fucking bandwidth instead of pouring money into the man whose face looks like a forearm stuffed in a scrotum.

The Desert Crystals – Part 21: Nascent Horrors

desert crystals2Part 21 – Nascent Horrors

As the first grub popped up into the air accompanied by the gush of septic ocular juices, Rosenhatch was turning to the door and bellowing for aid. Maxwell, his cat, was better placed to enjoy the prone man’s erupting eyeball. He had decamped from Rosenhatch’s arms onto the shelf placed at shoulder height between the tiny cabin’s twin bunkbeds, irritated by the noises made by the distressed Jacob Bublesnatch. Those screams had earned him a cabin intended for four, though he was not in a position to appreciate it. Being a cat, Maxwell was quite uninterested in the human’s suffering, he just twitched an ear with displeasure at each ragged breath. However, a growing sound of wet scratching had perked his interest, though he suspected it would be rather unpleasant for Jacob. He was entirely correct, and hunched in readiness when the horrid hatching occurred.
With a curled paw he batted the highest of the grubs out of the air, straight into the wooden window frame which it struck wetly and fell to the floor. He ignored the rest of the splattering spawn and leaped spryly under the bunk to pursue his prey. The two guards burst in moments later, one stopped to stare at Jacob’s ruined eye, the other immediately bolted to vomit copiously. Rosenhatch’s yells died away in his throat as the eye maggots slowly climbed out of the boy’s face. The sight was transfixing and he was completely unaware of Maxwell’s below-bunk activities.
“Quickly, jars – boxes, anything we have,” Rosenhatch declared to the pale gentleman who had entered the room behind him. Shalk Tarmain gazed around him in sudden urgency, hands in a state of curious readiness to assist – anything to avoid looking directly at Bublesnatch. The crew cupboards held a number of small tins and a jar of sweet liquorice. All were swiftly upturned and emptied on the shelf. Shalk passed the heap of containers to Traverstorm. The equally pale explorer seized the first tin (with a charmingly naive painting of a Ver-rabbit at play), flipped it open and scooped up a tinfull of gruesome filth and maggots. He snapped the lid shut and placed it on the shelf, “don’t just stand there, we’ve got to get them all.”
Shalk looked appalled, but hesitantly extended the jar with a shaking hand. It was like gathering an exploded yolk with a spoon, it sought escape with a slurring, bubbling consistency, but once over the jar’s lip slid suckingly inside, drawing along the insectile worms in the foul paste. Once the first few were in, and Shalk had seen that he could avoid touching the disgusting mess, he was more help to Traverstorm and in just a moment the pair had filled all the tins with all the squirming, rank creatures they could find.
“Is that them all?” Shalk asked, laying the last of the tins down and placing a heavy leather folder on top. Traverstorm eased open the folder to see his own face looking back at him from the cover of The Journals Biologinary. It was the famous issue with his profile cheekily regarding the skull of an antpostle, almost no one had been hurt on that expedition. He sighed and closed it firmly.
“I hope so, I don’t think we should let them crawl about the ship. We’ve all got to sleep after all”.
Shalk shuddered at a vivid imagining of the things sliding across his face as he slept. Not that sleep had come easily these days since they’d been within the Sky Cliff. The dull warmth and faint scent of blood might have been described as ‘womb-like’ by the old bag patcher, but Shalk doubted babies slept as badly as this. The whole crew was running on empty – it’s hard to keep peering into the dark without hallucinating monsters and strange shapes. None of that was helping the airship navigate through the vast caves that riddled the cliff’s innards. Learning about the fate of the cabin-lad’s eyeball would hardly settle the crew…
A knock on the door drew the men’s attention away from the pile of monster-filled tins. The knocker entered shortly after. It was Tarin, Lord Corshorn’s granddaughter who usually tended the engines lying in the aft belly of the airship. Her long black hair was bound in a wreath around her neck which rested on the leather armour that covered her from throat to ankle. Traverstorm had never seen her in the rest of the ship before.
“Captain wants updating on the boy, if you’ve a moment-” she began before catching sight of Jacob’s shivering silent body, “ah. What the tarber happened to his eye?” Traverstorm recounted the lad’s misfortune as briefly as possible. She kept her calm well, he noted.
“Not dead yet then? Strong lad.”
“He is, and I’ve hopes it’ll not come to that,” replied Traverstorm, laying a protective hand on the boy’s shoulder, “though I’ve grave concerns about his other eye.”
They all turned to inspect Jacob’s remaining eye, from a judicious distance. It was still swollen and wracked with scarlet lines, slow ripples ran under the eyelids to round the cheekbone. None of them wanted to discuss it further.
“I need to consult with Harvey, I think. And also to clean out this wound.”
“Your centipede’s still on deck feeling out our way. I’d say he’s as lost as the rest of us.”
“These caves can’t be endless, he’ll find us a way out.”
“Might not matter – we’re going nowhere.” Tarin grimaced as she spoke and Traverstorm realised what was missing.
“The engines – what’s happened?” He’d been so distracted by the revolting grubs that he hadn’t noticed the ever-present hum and burr had ceased, and the ship hung silent in the night.
“Don’t know. They seem fine but they just aren’t going. I’m taking a party under the ship after you’ve talked with the captain.”
Traverstorm didn’t envy her that. He turned to Shalk, “stay with Jacob, I’ll be back shortly.” He took one of the tins and left the rest with Shalk.
Shalk was less than thrilled to be left alone. He pulled himself up to the opposite bunk – as far as he could get from the restrained youth. The silence of the ship was eerie and unnatural for a skymate. Not as unnatural as what was happening on the other side of the cabin, but still. A sudden yowl and hiss from the shadows beneath Jacob’s bunk made Shalk jolt upwards, banging his crown on the top bunk. He sprang to his feet, knife immediately in hand, then kneeled to peer carefully under the bed. A growl preceded the flight of a whitish lump which came from the shadow and slapped against Shalk’s cheek. It fell to the floor and began to scramble towards him. Shalk let out a panicked shout and dived out of the cabin, slamming the door behind him.

Next Week: Part 22 – Dead Air

In the same series:

The Desert Crystals – Part 20: Eye in the Sky (
The Desert Crystals – Part 19: Newly Bespectacled (
The Desert Crystals – Part 18: Cut and Dried (
The Desert Crystals – Part 17: Stolen in the Breeze (
The Desert Crystals – Part 16: Look But Don’t Touch (
The Desert Crystals – Part 15: Blood’s The Thing (
The Desert Crystals – Part 14: A Timely Intervention (
The Desert Crystals – Part 13: A Chamber of Horrors (
The Desert Crystals: part 1 (


Film Review Shorties: White House Down / Riddick (2013)

White House DownWhite House Down (2013)

I was drawn to White House Down by its dreadful poster which seemed to depict the president of the United States (or ‘POTUS’ as I understand he’s known in the trade) played by Jamie Foxx holding hands with a vaguely military-looking fellow, Channing Tatum. That seemed quite amusing, and I also liked the suggestion by my other half that this was the sequel to Black Hawk Down; sadly it isn’t but it’s quite fun if you maintain the pretence. This is another film about American incompetence and blowing up the White House. The other one was Olympus Has Fallen earlier this year which was also entertaining. This is almost a remake of that film with various features slotted into the painting by numbers screenplay. I’m not certain I can tell the films apart even now.
Most of the set up is just silly, but who cares because Roland Emmerich is going to blow up the White House again. “Blah blah I want to be a Secret Service agent and my daughter hates me but loves politics and the president” – Tatum’s backstory. “I am a black president who wants to pull out of the Middle East and upset all those big money military companies” – Foxx’ backstory. So far, so yawn. Tatum has quite an engaging relationship with his daughter but it’s all bland sentiment, as is Foxx’ remarkably one dimensional president. Thankfully we don’t have to wait long before the “plot” kicks off with a man obviously masquerading as a cleaner detonating a bomb in the senate building (I think- they all look the same to me and it doesn’t really matter). From there the White House is quickly stormed by a gang of well organised military types and complete morons. Very soon father is separated from spunky daughter, lots of people are dead (it is incredible how incompetent films consider all American police, military and clandestine agencies to be) and the president is being betrayed by trusted advisers (hurray for James Woods). Outside the White House Maggie Gyllenhall is busy looking pensive and worrying about what to do.
Skip the story and character stuff and you do get a reasonable amount of explosions and gunfire. There’s a fun chase round the estate in bulletproof cars and some silly scrapes and stunts. It is so far beyond predictable that you can likely tell the story just from the poster. Foxx and Tatum are best friends forever by the end. That does skip the “highlight” scenes of the film though which are just sick – I’m not sure how many times the eleven year old girl is slapped, threatened or has a gun screwed into her head to make her cry. It’s not an appealing sight and is frankly rather troubling. But it’s okay – by waving a flag on the lawn she makes fighter pilots abandon their mission to bomb the White House and everyone is okay (except for those shot at point blank range with a spinning gun thing).
Fairly dreadful, but entertaining enough on the way to the inevitable conclusion. Will Emmerich ever make something as fun as Independence Day again? Doubtful.


Ah Vin Diesel, a man moulded from a clingfilm-clad lump of lard. He is distressingly pasty and shapeless, and that’s from someone whose idea of tanning is a sprinkling of freckles. I fear his finest work was the voice of the giant in Iron Giant, although Pitch Black was an excellent little sci-fi thriller. It’s that specific legacy that made me want to see Riddick, even though I’d watched the catastrophe that is Chronicles of Riddick which undid any good work done by the first film. Riddick is a pleasing anti-hero – a psychopath cannibal with eyes that shine in the dark. They played it well in the original, made him tedious in the second and I really thought this could be a return to form. Unfortunately it’s mainly a vanity piece for Diesel.
The first twenty minutes, possibly more (it could easily be half the film) are spent following a badly injured Riddick limp about punching alien dogs in the face. We get a voice over explanation of how he fell out with the Necromongers (y’know, like fishmongers) and got dumped on another crappy planet. He gets better, befriends a zebra-mutt puppy, poisons it and him until they’re both pretty tough and he can amble about punching other aliens in the head, or with his hilarious bone-axe. He does have a quite crappy time of it. He’s not really strong enough to hold that much film on his own though; I was quite enchanted by the puppy-beast – it’s like One Boy and His Dog. They go off and find shelter from a coming storm which will inconveniently wake up hordes of two-legged scorpion things – tsk. Thankfully it’s a mercenary station, a bit like a cabin on top of a mountain, but for mercenaries: this is not really explained, but it seems that mercs are like the Red Cross – somewhere on that planet there was also a big dog with a barrel of rum round its neck. He calls for help so some mercs will come to nab his bounty and then he can nick their ship. Perfectly good plan, which is complicated by the first crew, who are a pack of rapist arseholes (with a religious kid, for luck, and presumably other uses when their imprisoned rape victims die) and the arrival of a second, much better put together crew with Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. There’s a lot of bickering between the merc crews which is fairly enjoyable until everyone starts threatening to rape Starbuck. She’s a tough lesbian so she can take it, and she gives some good hard punches of her own. Honestly, this is exactly how the film progresses.
There’s a bunch of betrayal, shooting at shadows and the killing of Riddick’s pup (sadly inevitable) followed by his capture. That’s mainly an opportunity for Riddick to also threaten to rape Starbuck (though to his vague credit he does say that she’ll be begging him to be “balls deep” in her – by the way, her character is called ‘Doll’). Finally the storm arrives and a new round of betrayal and punching aliens can begin. After a while it ends and the survivors are all pals and Starbuck does indeed ask nicely for Riddick to be balls deep in her, after rescuing him from his endless punching of aliens. Isn’t that nice?
It’s a perplexing film that completely fails to recapture the delights of Pitch Black. It’s more fun when he’s on his own because at least then the misogyny wasn’t the main feature of conversation for everyone. The aliens are quite satisfying, if rather derivative. I liked the alien zebra-dogs a lot. More of Riddick and His Dog would have been nice. They utterly squander his character and murky charm by the end of the film, but by then you’ll have lost track of who’s dead and who still wants to rape Starbuck. Very odd, entirely missable. I’m hoping it hasn’t retrospectively ruined Pitch Black.

Related articles

Pub Poetry – comic spoken word joy – Tuesday 24th September 2013

Open Mic Poetry Karaoke

A fun, free and informal night of lighthearted and downright comic spoken word and poetry in pubs with Real Ale: without beer, literature is nothing.


Bring your own poems, short stories, songs – whatever you have, as long as it involves words and might be funny. If you don’t want to read your own, bring someone else’s. Or you can just come and listen, have a drink and a giggle and meet some new folk.

There’s beer, there’s spoken word and there will be a limerick competition.

No need to book a slot in advance (it’s much more casual than that!), but if you’d like to contact us beforehand, feel free to email Nick at

So far we believe we will have pirate stories, improvised beat poetry, maybe a song or two and fine, funny poets. Join us!

Starts at 8pm with periods of reading, drinking and writing limericks. All jolly good fun. See you there!

We’ll have some poetry books lying around, so if the urge takes you…

Price: FREE

at The Canalhouse, Canal Street, Nottingham NG1 7EH

This week, Monday 23rd September 2013

Marvels and Improv Magickings


Gosh, I’m back in the real world today, quite exhausted and wild-eyed from a week away in Dorset. It has been an incredible five days of improvisation in a place I would never normally visit – a very strange culty place (oh yeah, literally a cult -check out the dude who set it up – I have no faith in rich gurus) – but all that was quite avoidable since we were doing improv with sixty other amazing people.

It’s really very nice to be home with my Marilyn, Merly and stuff though.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Wednesday Slightly Broken: Soul Searching with John Cremer A great week but fuck me, some of it was tough.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 22 “Dead Air” There’s something out there.

Friday Book Review: Feast and Famine by Adrian Tchaikovsky A fabulous book of short stories.

Updates on my thrilling life


Well last week went really well, mainly because I got to have a good old rant on Tuesday and did all the rest of my writing on Wednesday on the train to Gillingham (Dorset – apparently that’s important). I love writing on the train, and I love that we have the technology to do it. Brilliant species, providing we agree that my tablet is better than bears. I’m back in the swing of Desert Crystals after that catastrophic week or so ago (it feels like I’ve been away for a month) and the story is cruising along horribly/well.

This week is already almost devastated by my total lack of planning over the weekend. I made lots of notes on improv workshops though… in a notebook. Yes, I used a pen for the first time in ages. It’s a particularly lovely little moleskin notebook with a Lego brick in the front (happy present!) and my handwriting in it is truly appalling. I’m going to try to write about the improv wonders…

Writing? Read it – we have Pub Poetry tomorrow – Tuesday 24th September – which will be a grand chance to read your funny stuff and listen to comic spoken word / poetry / prose. Martin and I shall beat poeting…

Last week’s scribbles

Tuesday Things I Hate: Fucking Adverts An unnecessary rant about how offensive I find advertising to be.

Thursday The Desert Crystals Part 21 “Nascent Horrors” It’s in his eyes…

Friday Film Review Shorties: White House Down / Riddick (2013) Two bad films.


Zero activity. Sadface. Well, I did talk at length about Lego with a very nice chap called Josh from Bristol’s improv scene.

Improv Comedy

I almost have no words for how exciting and terrifying the last five days have been with The Maydays down in Dorset. A five day residential improv festival is exactly as awesome and knackering as it sounds! Four workshops a day with shows, jams and a showcase. I’met so many really funny and creative people who I’m desperate to play with again that I’ve become rather overwhelmed by it all. I’ve done things as diverse as improvised Shakespeare, singing in the dark, doing a show with a man wearing nothing but one of my socks, staring in a man’s eyes for an hour, consuming a lady’s wombmeat, fighting off daddy longlegses and bellowing mock-Nazi songs at night (I blame new merchants of the grotesque Necrotic Sausage buddies Sam and Jules).

It’s been one hell of a week and I’ve no idea when I’ll manage to document it all or track everyone down on t’web. I can do little right now but thank The Maydays and friends for their fine workshops, comedy and companionship.


As you might imagine I’ve not really done much reading either… but I am most of the way through the first of Jim Butcher‘s fantasy series – The Furies of Calderon. It’s not as fun as the Dresden Files, but it’s got a rare fantasy vibe that I’ve been loving under the duvet at night.

Events and Excitement

Nottingham Comedy Festival: Pub Poetry – Tuesday 24th September

7.30pm at the Canalhouse, Nottingham.
Open mic comic poetry and spoken word for everyone (in a pub).

Nottingham Comedy Festival: MissImp in Action – Friday 27th September

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

The Great Nottinghamshire Show – Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th September

Smithy Row, The Market Square, Nottingham.

11.00-11.30am on the Main Stage
12.50-13.30pm on the Mini Stage
3.15-4.00pm on the Main Stage

Slightly Broken: Soul Searching

Outside My Comfort Zone

Slightly Broken3I spent most of the last week in Dorset with The Maydays and some fifty-odd other improvisers for their fifth residential improv festival. It’s a hell of a thing! For me it felt like an especially big deal for a number of reasons that may seem quite trivial: I don’t like being away from home, or rather, I really like being at home with my other half, our cat and all of our things. It’s also where the people I know are, and the routines that make me feel comfortable and that gently circumscribe my life with familiarity. I’m not… great with strangers.

I find it very difficult to make the transition from stranger to person. Frequently other people help with this, by introducing someone or being in a group activity in which interaction is unavoidable; if it can be avoided, I’ll avoid it. There are degrees of knowing people too – generally I can babble quite happily if we have a shared interest, or if I’m in a position of responsibility (like being in charge of a workshop), or playing a role such as compere. Since I’m perfectly content to just slope off and spend time (hide) on my own reading or something (avoiding human interaction) it’s easy for me to do so.

Last week I knew I was going somewhere that was likely to be a little odd (the place is a kind of spiritual retreat) with a lot of people I didn’t know. I knew a few: Lloydie (one of ours), two of The Maydays quite well (Heather & Joe) – though not especially socially (see previous workshops and avoidance of personal interaction…) and another two (Jules and Katy) having met them a couple of times. It wasn’t looking promising. Nonetheless, I went. Travelling anxiety subsided once I was on a train and further when I’d actually arrived and been shown my hidey-hole. Then came the horror of meetings. Sure, there’s got to be some adjustment – it took Wednesday night and into Thursday afternoon before I stopped wanting to run away and go home.

Beginning To Adapt

The first afternoon session (of the four per day) was ‘Meisner’ – I signed up because I didn’t know what the word meant (it’s some guy’s name); I also had a decision making process that selected it. It turned out to be about intimacy and observation, making connections with people. In this context that’s connection for improv of course. We were odd-numbered so I ended up being paired with Steve Roe who was running the workshop. I’d heard of him in relation to Hoopla and the London scene so was quite excited anyway, and getting paired meant that we did all of the demonstrations and all of the exercises. He’s a delightful facilitator and teacher and I enjoyed the workshop enormously. It sounds very strange to tell it now, but it was essentially an hour and a half of looking closely at another person and describing them, beginning with general clothing to appearance, habits and feelings.

It works through repetition, eye contact and physical intimacy. For example, we started with “you have a black and red jumper” “I have a black and red jumper” “you have a black and red jumper” “I have a black and red jumper” and extended to “your smile quirks down before going up” “you have a darker patch of skin on your forehead” “I do have a darker patch of skin on my forehead” (something I was once very sensitive about – thanks teenage friends) to “you are confident” “I am laughing” “you are sad” “you are disappointed”.

It sounds weird but it is strangely hilarious and very personal. I’m fairly good at not making initial judgements about people (they’re all robot monsters) and this was an incredible way to meet someone. It forced and imposed an intimacy with a stranger that I would never have contemplated and served to ground me in the reality of being with people, especially Steve, and I think fixed me for the week. There were moments when I felt that peculiar liquid juddering tension in my jaw that I know is indicative of some emotional state I can’t quite describe or access. It was moving, perhaps because I was permitting myself to open up and accept where I was and what I was doing. That sense of approachability and connectedness allowed me to deal with the people and fully take part in the festival.

There were other emotional challenges that I discovered throughout the week – singing and Shakespeare both moved me in ways that I found unexpected. Partly it’s the beauty and surprise of the language and the way you express yourself when given freedom to expand without conscious control or direction. It made for an exciting week of extending myself into other people’s lives.

Surprising Joy

On the last day we only had two workshop slots. I started with part two of Shakespeare which was magnificent – people said such stunning things, surprising themselves and everyone else. For my part I adore improvised Shakespeare, the language, the floweriness and emotional content feels intense and intensely satisfying. To follow that I signed up for ‘Animal Vegetable Mineral’: a workshop in which you could play anything but a human. Sounds great! But not enough people signed up… so I had to join the other already full groups. I chose John Cremer‘s ‘Soul Searching’. I hadn’t been able to get in any of the others and this one sounded appealing; I also liked the diminishment of choice and having to be there – gives it that lovely sense of ‘fate’ (a concept I do not believe in). This turned out well since it gave the group an even number of participants which was probably essential.

I’m a little fuzzy on the very beginning of the workshop, but we were mixed into pairs and asked to briefly describe the hardest part of the week for ourselves. For me it was meeting strangers and engaging with them; for others it was the challenge of Shakespeare or singing or just performing at all. Then we did super-short scenes with our partner based on them – they were uniformly hilarious. For my fears the scene was simply being greeted and then seized and hugged, while nervously shifting out of the way. My partner’s was the start of the Shakespeare class with me speaking in iambic pentameter “everyone can do it – except you”. Subtle… Funny though, for their truthfulness and the escalation. It was rather lovely to see everyone’s fears on display like that – they’re good things to laugh at.

Second, John switched us around again and we talked about the part of the week where we succeeded, that we overcame that fear or worry. Again, we did scenes of them afterwards: for me it was Meisner (as above) and we swiftly escalated from “you have a t-shirt” to “I like you” and then on to “you’re a real person and I like you”. My partner’s was the liberating experience of finally stepping out from back stage and being confident enough to perform “you can be both kinds of people”. It was already proving to be a rather more moving experience than I had anticipated, and I could feel the relief and joy in the room as the scenes were played out.

Making It Real

We were swapped round again and asked first to think about why we had those fears – what was it that made us hold back, to remain within the magic circle that stopped us from acting. Then we talked about them with our partner. I’m not going to reveal what my partner shared with me, because I don’t have their permission and I’m writing about me. Suffice to say that what they said shocked me. I realised I had a choice to either find something I could use to account for my feelings, or I could just bite the bullet and say what was real. I shared that I hold myself back from others because ultimately I feel that having been abused as a teenager I’m terrified that I’m going to repeat and pass on that harm. The best way to protect others from it is to avoid that contact. I’m immensely grateful to my partner for their support, generosity and comfort during this exercise.

For a moment I honestly thought we were going to do scenes off that, but no. We remained with our partners and John spoke for a while about how people get trapped by beliefs and conditionings that are placed upon us by family, education, culture – all without our consent, sometimes without that intention and without regard for what our futures might be. I’m inclined to agree – we’re told what we should be doing, what we’re bad at and that we ought to do such and such, whether we care about them or not. I sweated blood to get my GCSE Maths because it was made to feel vital, but I’ve never done more with it than figure out the dimensions of a room. Often it’s one person in particular who has made us feel this way, one person’s actions or inactions that has branded itself on our minds and made us feel that fear.

Jesus Fuck Why Am I Here?

This is when the workshop really skewed into something utterly different from anything I’ve ever done before. It’s quite possible that I’ve got this bit mixed up and in the wrong order. John asked us to look into our partner’s eyes and recognise the hurt, the pain that’s in their eyes. And you can, you really can see it there, just where the eyelids fold down over the eyes and in the colour. John asked us if we could identify that person who placed such fear in us. At this point we were sitting down in our pairs, mostly cross-legged only inches apart. I think that’s when I felt everything twisting around me, a freakish surreality and I realised my hands were shaking. I guess this was about an hour into the workshop.

Next we formed a standing arc a fair way back from the stage area. John talked about how people fail us and how actions are revisited upon the next generation – that the people who hurt us may well have been hurt themselves. We so rarely know their stories – be they teachers, family, friends or strangers. We don’t know what happened to them, we don’t know what they felt or thought. The exercise was for the pairs to come to the front and sit down and say just a few simple things – addressing their partner as if they were the person who had hurt them:

“You are X, you were my Y. You did your best, but I don’t have to listen to you any more”

Our partner’s role was to accept this and simply say “thank you”.

I’ve rarely had such a visceral reaction to a suggestion before and for a moment I thought I was going to throw up, or burst into tears or just refuse to take part and leave the room. But I didn’t do any of those things – we watched in silence as several other pairs went first. The naked emotion on people’s faces as they named family members, old school “mates”, teachers was heart-breaking. I didn’t want to be last (or first), and when we felt we were next we went ahead and did it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done. I think I went second, so I was addressed first and given the power to accept my partner’s statement. Saying “thank you” and (at least temporarily) releasing them from that burden almost stopped me breathing. I’ll admit I wasn’t doing a great job of remembering to breathe anyway and John did keep reminding everyone to breathe, which sounds absurd, but it was necessary.

The Hardest Thing in Life Is That Other People Are Real

Then it was my turn and right up until I spoke I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I said “You’re Ric, you were my friend. You did your best, but I don’t have to listen to you anymore.” What I wanted to say was “you were my abuser” but I’d grasped, despite my head furiously disagreeing that the point was to accept people as people, instead of just demonising them. I was pretty shaky by the time my partner said “thank you” and we returned to our place in the arc. That’s when the shock of it kicked in and I felt that liquid shuddering up the side of my face and I started crying. I wasn’t the only one… but it’s probably the first time I’ve cried at all in many years. Again, I’m grateful for the arm round my shoulders – I don’t think I could have gotten through that without someone to touch.

Everybody did it. As a final exercise we sat in a circle and spent thirty seconds each in silence while everyone else told us what qualities they saw in us. That reduced (that’s not the right word – enabled?) plenty of people to tears again.

It was an extraordinary experience, liberating I think, not just for the confronting and dismissing the people who hurt us, but for being able to recognise and celebrate those transcendent moments where we overcame our fears and felt that bright joy of success or belonging. John’s point was not that we had now fixed ourselves, but that we are now open to stepping past those boundaries we’ve ended up with – the experience and memory of having done so shows that we can be free of the past and its constraints. I’m not sure what else I can say about the event right now, but it felt deep and powerful. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do something I never imagined I could do.

This week, Monday 30th September 2013

It’s A Needlessly Exhausting Life

RoboLadyI’m not entirely sure how I’ve just slept for twelve hours; it’s a good job I’d taken the day off work… I didn’t really take a break after getting back from The Maydays residential improv course and the following week was well busy like! In fairness, it would have been even busier had not a couple of things been rearranged. Even so… I got back at about midnight and headed off to work in the morning. I think that’s the point where I should have taken a day off really. I’ve spent the week fairly mindfucked as a result and have not succeeded in acquiring the necessary chunks of sleep to catch up. Not to worry…

Tuesday night heralded the return of Pub Poetry. It’s always a delight to compere and I forget just how pleasing it is when people who have never read before get up and perform something. We also had lots of the regulars back with their poetry and even better, I’ve just managed to recover at least part of the night from my H2 Xoom recorder (like an idiot I managed to unplug it before turning it off and got one of those 0kb files that so terrify me. Fortuitously I discovered a wonderful free data recovery app called TestDisk which has turned it back into a real file!) so I should be able to dig out some amusing bits, including Martin and I having a stab at improvised beat poetry. I’m not sure it was very good but we did enjoy it.

I took Wednesday afternoon off, in theory to be able to get some sleep, but in reality I had dire need to create a birthday card and to write the only thing I managed to scribble last week… we’ve had shows, birthday parties and god knows what else to do this last week.

♥ This week’s scribbles

Wednesday The Desert Crystals Part 22 “Dead Air” There’s something out there.

Friday Book Review: Feast and Famine by Adrian Tchaikovsky A fabulous book of short stories.

Updates on my thrilling life


A total disaster. I had to concede that I was just too tired and busy to write anything last week. I’m struggling with the sense of personal disappointment – I have let all of myself down. The post I did write, about John Cremer’s workshop and my personal experiences of meeting and interacting with many interesting and fun, but undoubted strangers, was a tough write. I’m glad I’ve managed to document that workshop, and the Meisner one with Steve Roe as well.

Realistically I’m going to have to face the fact that I cannot write as much as I want to at the moment. Work and improv both are just going to be too manic and involving to permit me to manufacture extra time. Maybe I should get up earlier – but that might just kill me as I’ll doubtless stay up just as late as usual…

Last week’s scribbles

Wednesday Slightly Broken: Soul Searching The harrowing, but enlivening experience of improvisation and group therapy slammed into one.


Nil. We have plans however to take a pilgrimage to a Lego shop in November! Also (I say ‘nil’ but I don’t mean it…) we got our Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar in the post this morning: we are ready for Christmas.

Improv Comedy

Adding to the knackering week has been much improv activity – jam on Thursday as usual but with a slight change as lovely Calum brought his guitar along which let us do some love ballads and scenes into song. We had lots of fun, I especially enjoyed a song about Enid Blyton‘s Faraway Tree that I had with Andrew. Charming and racist.

Showtime! It was also the last Friday of the month again and we were back at The Glee Club for another MissImp in Action. We continued last month’s experimental format which split the show into four equal segments – starting with a half hour of short form from some of our newest improvisers followed by two very fast action-packed montages. It was a great first half, with a very supportive and clap-happy audience who tugged fabulously weird, funny and sweet scenes out of our players. The second half started with an Assssscat (or Armando or whatever you want to call it) which I was the monologist for. Then we finished with Unspeakable Acts – mangling The Fellowship of the Ring in our inimitable style, killing off key characters and destroying plot points with abandon. It was very good fun.

On Saturday and Sunday we took to the street, performing with Little Wolf Parade as part of the Great Nottinghamshire Show. It can be very odd performing improv to a passing public but we did our usual stuff, mostly ignored the audience and had some fun. Thanks for including us!


Along with everything else that I’m not getting done, I’m not reading enough either! I have now finally finished The Furies of Calderon, the first in Jim Butcher’s fantasy series. I enjoyed the ‘furies’ – the elemental spirits that people are somehow teamed up with, and the epic scale battles. I still wish it had the humour of the Dresden books though. I also got through volumes two and three of Atomic Robo – a comic I adore which fuses science fiction, science, silliness and action into a near-perfect book.

Events and Excitement

Friday 4th October 2013

Consenting Partners_SQ_SMConsenting Partners

We’ve taken some of our most entertaining improvisers, teamed them up with each other and are letting them loose to perform a series of unique, uncontrolled and unpredictable  shows. First up we’re serving weird and wonderful two player improv followed by a dessert course of three-way fun. Make no mistake, this is an intense experience requiring teamwork, Vulcan mind-melds and a six-pack of Pandora’s Boxes of imagination.

The Corner
8 Stoney Street
(off Broad Street)

8.00pm – £3 on the door only

Thursday 10th October 2013

Gorilla Burger: improv comedy carnage

Gorilla Burger2_SQ_SM

Jam show – a chance for anyone to get on stage, plus special show slots!

The City Gallery
14a Long Row
(off Market Square)
7.30pm – £4

Friday 25th October 2013

MissImp in Action – live improv comedy show


Thrilling all-action end of the month show sporting the best of MissImp inventing scenes and playing games.

The Glee Club
The Waterfront
Canal Street
8.30pm (doors open at 8pm) – £4.50 in advance/£6 on the door (£3 students/MissImp)