This week, Monday 31st March 2014

Ten Thousand Horrors

Another DimensionSo my week is delayed a few days. This is exactly how it feels – as if the days are slip-sliding over each other in their keenness to escape my grasp. If it should suddenly turn out to be August I’d not be surprised. Still at least it’s deposited us in a sunny chunk of Spring.

I think I need to make some difficult decisions about how I’m using my time, what little there is of it. I’ve a habit of burning my candles from both ends and setting light to the middle to get a bit of extra light, and it’s just not sustainable. I don’t know how to decide what must give way though.

I’ve been giving insufficient time to writing, which is the activity I most regret missing. I don’t feel that my writing serves any purpose other than a pure personal creative outlet which is given extraordinary reward when others do happen to enjoy it. Closely linked to writing is contributing to Flash Pulp’s Flash Cast – being included is a special and deep delight. I would like very much to record more and contribute on a more regular basis. It probably doesn’t help that I’m about three weeks behind in just listening…

Writing competes with improvisation, naturally for time, since improv requires more additional ‘stuff’- people, place (and travel), organisation, expectation, planning, commitment… It’s far more than just turning up and performing, which ultimately is the part I really enjoy. That, and the close friendships that have developed alongside improv.

Obviously there’s Lego too… But that is a mind-cleaning relaxation in which I can give over my brain and sense of time to the glorious schinkling of bricks (I wonder if I can trademark that onomatopoeia?). It’s the closest I’ve come to meditation, since I abhor stillness and inactivity; typically I also crave that complete absence of action. I find it all rather confusing.

And then there’s the tedious necessity of pissing most of the waking life away doing spreadsheet wizardry (the involving and problem solving aspects of which I enjoy a great deal, the appalling communication and outright idiocy less so). How does anyone juggle this? At least I don’t have children – that vacuum of time, money and energy is blissfully absent.

‘Slids, what to do?

Crap – I forgot about reading… when does that get fitted in? Can’t live without reading.

Other Distractions

Showtime and funtime. We hit up the stage at The Glee Club on Friday with the smallest team we’ve fielded for a while, due to illness and other arrangements. Spectacularly weird and quite patiently developed improv ensued. I enjoyed it a lot.

Arkham HorrorOn Saturday, we finally got round to a Lovecraft and whiskey afternoon. A delightfully warm and sunny afternoon tarnished with the scent of insanity. Martin laid out the complex Arkham Horror for us to move round, falling into madness and battle all the while. It’s great! I haven’t played a more complicated game than Lego Creationary for about a decade, and I could feel my brain struggling to grasp the basic (eldritch) arithmetic required.

Nicely we all drew female characters (normally absent in Lovecraft of course), for my part I was Carolyn Fern, psychopathic murderer. I chose to attack everything that moved, with no small measure of success. We were eventually annihilated by Yigg after triggering the apocalypse.

Arkham WhiskeysWe sweetened the unnameable horrors with Crown Royal (it comes in a bag!) and Peat’s Beast; the first’s a maple syrup-tasting blended whiskey, the second has been lost in a peat bog but come out a very delicate pale, yet fearsomely peaty flavour. Marvellous.

Last Week’s Scribbles

This week, Monday 24th March 2014 – modern art or modern toss?

Runes: Martin Findell – an excellent, pretty book by a good friend. Buy!

Lego Blog: A Lego Haul – continuing to document the Lego frenzy, with a trip to the Lego Store.

Events and Excitement

Thursday 10th April 2014

Gorilla Burger – Improv Comedy Carnage

Gorilla Burger2_SQ_SMJam show – a chance for anyone to get on stage and have a go at improv games and scenes for the first time, or the fiftieth!

The Corner
8 Stoney Street
(off Broad Street)
7.30pm – £4

Bring Your Own Drinks

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Lego Blog: Lego City Heavy-Lift Helicopter 4439


I recently had a Lego-acquisition fit in a supermarket on spotting the thrilling yellow clearance labels. When I recovered I discovered I’d picked up a Lego City set. I don’t usually have much interest in the City stuff – it’s very nice, but it all seems to  be vehicles and oddly stereotypical robbers. Perhaps as a non-motorist I just don’t get interested in things with wheels. Helicopters of course have whirling blades, interesting curved shapes and minimal wheelery.

Is It A Bird?

4439 Heavy Lift HelicopterIt’s a satisfying build (easily done while watching NCIS and The Mentalist for example), with the pieces split across four bags and an unnecessary two instruction booklets. There’s nothing especially cunning in the construction, since most of the neat stuff is accomplished with bespoke bricks like the roof of the cabin.

It is quite a large model however (which in some respects justifies the enormous box; I’m rather curious about the ratios of bricks:box size in Lego sets) and is very swooshy. The rotors can be spun with a satisfyingly lengthy free spin. They’re also really hefty things.

There is a large chunk of the ‘copter’s innards which you can’t reach, either from the cramped cockpit (with ace printed control panels) or from the back end where the mini police car/wardrobe fits. Oh, and you can open the back of the ‘copter as a ramp too.  I like it.

4439 closed   4439 open

The Sweet Smell of Fresh Plastic

New bricksThe Lego City 4439 Heavy-Lift Helicopter has some unusual bricks I haven’t come across in sets before. I’ve spotted them occasionally in MOCs but hadn’t realised where they’d come from. The roof panels are a bit chunky but they do give that attractive shape to the piece, and I like how they’re easily flipped up for access.

Similarly the bricks that make up the nose and side bars are new to me. They look like sweets… or Duplo. I’m not sure where else I’ll find use for them – that’s my usual consideration when acquiring new sets: I want reusability because I will be dismantling the set before long (unless it’s the Palace Cinema, which I’m not allowed to take apart). I’m sure I’ll find a use for them somewhere… There are windows, which I always crave and bricks with studs on several sides. I rather like the Technics wheel double wheel axles too.

Here Are The People

The minifigures aren’t especially exciting, although you do get three of them. One’s a sheriffy fellow who can ride the cupboard-van, whose face is quite similar to Han Solo‘s grump-mug in the Microfighter range. The other two are orange-bespectacled clones. I do love their yellow life-vests. (Cave Troll not included)

4439 minifigs
Unwanted Cargo
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Film Review: The Legend of Hercules (2014)

Robin Hood: Prince of Gladiators

In the wake of dreadful ancient history action mythology movies like Clash of the Titans and 300: Rise of an Empire comes The Legend of Hercules washing up onto the tired and formulaic shore of disappointment. Advance warning – this is awful. Hercules is a hell of a hero, with at least twelve great adventures to retell. This version briefly covers only the least fun of them: choking a lion in a dubious WWF hold. The rest of the film is the bafflingly dull tale of how Hercules is conceived (a hilarious windy wank in a storm), betrayed by his dad and boring brother, briefly becomes a super-low rent Gladiator and then returns to take the kingdom from his father, apparently by being Robin Hood. Oh, and also get the princess.


A Snore of Swords

Kellan Lutz occupies the eponymous role with his huge man-tits. It’s probably not a good sign that most of the pre-release press was occupied with how much he’s bulked up since the Twilight finally faded away. His pectoral skills are pretty much his only feature. Certainly the script gives him no opportunity to say anything interesting but he’s completely immobile anyway, possibly the muscle has filled his skull. His relationship with Princess Hebe (Gaia Weiss) is just silly, she’s only given the opportunity to be doe-eyed a bit weepy. That said, there is an amusing scene late in the film where they get it on in a conveniently knocked up forest boudoir, complete with string of sea shells. They also get to swim together.

No one else in the cast gets a chance to do anything either. Partly it’s the appalling screen play with its reliance on clenched jaw dialogue and merciless rehashing of cliches, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s bothering to make an effort either. That all rather reinforces the feeling that this film is far worse than even the ropiest episode of Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules series. That at least was fun, and had some decent action scenes. The fights here are slow, with frequent pauses and gratuitous slow motion sequences (the opening scens offers thrilling snatches of hoofs slapping into mud). Apparently for a laugh they make Hercules and his captain into gladiators where go chest-bump to cheek with a pair of rejects from Mad Max – Beyond Thunderdome, “Humbaba and Half-Face” (I kid ye not). It’s all pulled punches, straining faces and no blood.

When the film finally crawls into its climactic action scenes (sorry to give stuff away if you’re still planning to see it), Hercules spins some polystyrene boulders around and gets a lovely lightning-whip from his real dad, Zeus. Yup, he gets the weapon Mickey Rourke has in Iron Man 2 and it knocks people over, but doesn’t electrocute them. I don’t know why, he’s the demi-god. Then he beats up his brother’s dad. Oh yeah, and Hebe stabs herself and the wicked brother, but you can’t possibly give a toss other than to be slightly surprised that she survives.

At no time have there been any monsters, nor gods except for a briefly white-eyed oracle of Hera and the previously mentioned stormy toss. Herc is just quite strong, though he can only really get his action bulges on once someone’s been killed.

Putting The ‘End’ In Legend

Renny ‘studio killer’ Harlin has previously delivered two films I really enjoy – The Long Kiss Goodnight and Deep Blue Sea. They’re very different films and while they’ve got their own hints of so-bad-it’s-good (more so for the Parkinsons’ healing giant mutant sharks) they’ve also got a great balance of characters, action and drama. It seems that gift has utterly deserted Harlin. Hercules is devoid of character, action, interest and appeal. It’s amazing to so completely avoid making a story about Hercules so terrible, this looks worse than a BBC Robin Hood show and has all the style of a school play. I’m pretty sure you could make it entirely out of discarded footage from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Gladiator, which might offer more diversion than suffering through it at the cinema. It’s possible that Renny Harlin has just killed the mytho-buster. I hope not, I still believe someone will make a decent Ancient Greek film one day.

Don’t watch it – it’s a very long way from ‘so bad it’s good’. Watch Xena instead.


In rather more cheering news, looks like someone’s tossing a few real coins at Hercules later in the year. Plus it’s got The Rock looking a bit more like one of my favourite incarnations of Herc – the old Hercules from Jason and The Argonauts.



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This week, Monday 7th April 2014

Sweet Sweet Sleep

Sleeping MerlyI’ve spent most of the last week catching up with sleep and relaxation. I’ve done very little else, which in this rare case is actually a good thing! I did have genuine intent to get a load of writing and Legoing done, but the muse was just not with me. Rather than get frustrated with it I embraced my brain deadness and invested in lying around, reading and going to the cinema.

There have also been important things like my other half’s birthday. I take a great deal of pleasure in wrapping things just to see them get unwrapped later. It also provides an opportunity to make birthday cards, which I love. So we’ve also spent a lot of time together ambling around and of course indulging in our love of cinema. The new Cap’n ‘Merica film was a suitable birthday delight.

This week I get to judge a mini-Lego movie competition!

Improv Foolings

On Saturday I was grateful to be invited to play at The Same Faces birthday gig at The Criterion in Leicester. They’re a fun bunch and I now have an enjoyable reputation of spreading chaos and horror. It’s a straight up short form improv gig in the mould of Whose Line? and I’ve been finding that very relaxing and satisfying to contribute to. It’s nice to be so warmly welcomed. Their next show is on Saturday 3rd May.

We had fun with Shakespearean and musical scenes at last week’s improv jam, finishing off with mini-musicals and Shakesey plays. I was pleased on April 1st to spot our man Martin in the Nottingham Evening Post‘s Robin Hood story!

Last Week’s Scribbles

This week, Monday 31st March 2014  – Arkham Horror + whiskey

Lego Blog: Lego City Heavy-Lift Helicopter 4439  – a satisfying build.

Film Review: The Legend of Hercules (2014)  – Even worse than I thought it could be.

Media Intake


I received my advance review copy of Combat Camera by Christian Hill. I shall be reading it this week, just as soon as I’ve finished my current tome…

Deadhouse Gates

Deadhouse Gates

Steven Erikson’s second book in the Malazan Book Of The Fallen, Deadhouse Gates is just impossibly, audaciously epic. It’s also an astonishing 960 pages. It burns slow and hot throughout, with staggering battle scenes, action and deep detailed mythology, races and history. It’s just the second in a series at least 11 books in length… I’m utterly gripped and can scarcely turn away from it. The main story line in this one is the heart-rending retreat of an army attempting to protect up to 50,000 refugees over hundreds of miles of desert, constantly harried and vastly outnumbered by a brutal enemy. It’s brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions. There are numerous other story strands, each of which high enough in stakes, motive, character and action to stick your heart deep in your throat. If you’re looking for a fantasy series to read, this is it.


Hellboy II: The Golden Army

We’ve watched some terrible cack this week, and a couple of good ‘uns. I re-watched Hellboy II: The Golden Army on DVD and am pleased by how well it stands up. Like all of Guillermo Del Toro‘s work it is immaculately designed, especially notable in the Troll Market and the fabulous beasties throughout. It’s also a good sense of humour and monster smash after smash throughout.

Of less quality note… The Legend Of Hercules is absymal and Noah is just a shoddy, boring mess. Even as the science fiction film it’s trying to be it still comes across as absurd with a big dose of ham and stupid.

However… there have been good ones: Divergent turned out to be a pretty faithful adaptation of the Veronica Roth‘s novel. It’s that rare thing, a Hollywood movie with strong female characters who aren’t there solely to be punished for being female. The overall theme is that of choice, and your choices being valid. I enjoyed it.

Even better – Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It deserves a proper review at some point, but for now I’ll just say that it leaped out of the slightly disappointing shadow of the first film and turned out to be as much fun as Avengers Assemble.

Events and Excitement

Thursday 10th April 2014

Gorilla Burger – Improv Comedy Carnage

Gorilla Burger2_SQ_SMJam show – a chance for anyone to get on stage and have a go at improv games and scenes for the first time, or the fiftieth!

The Corner
8 Stoney Street
(off Broad Street)
7.30pm – £4

Bring Your Own Drinks

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Lego Blog: Minifigures – The Three Oddnesses

The Three OddnessesThe Sound Of Adults Giggling

Of the many wondrous things at the Lego Shop is the build your own minifigure heap in the middle of the store. We spend most our extended visits clustered tightly around the boxes, rooting about and giggling. Partly it’s the delight of matching / mismatching heads and bodies, but also the fun of delving deep into a pit of accessories, hair and hats. The main contest is to find the coolest bits. I’m always especially keen on things I don’t have, and I’ve an unintentional obsession with prosthetic limbs.

It’s just like all those card books we had as kids where you could swap the head, bodies and legs to hilarious effect. Lego’s a million times better. To demonstrate that I found the most unusual body and leg combinations I could. The results are marvellous.

Count Sossiford

I’ve got a fondness for the aged faces Lego have been bringing out for the Ninjago ranges, and I’m pretty sure that’s where the Count’s head comes from. The hair is nice, and I’m sure I’ve seen it before. It is one of those that fixes rigidly over the body so you can’t really adjust the face without hiding it.

The body is of course Luke Skywalker’s award ceremony jacket from the end of Star Wars (found on the Star Wars Visual Dictionary). There were loads of them so maybe they were breaking down a bunch of remaindered copies. Either way – ta.

As I said, I cannot resist a good peg leg and a metal one’s even better. I first saw these on the natty hunting gent in the Monster Fighters Vampyre’s Hearse 9464 set. I’ve got a few of them now, and I love them very much. I may have swapped it onto a different coloured pair of trousers.

Ah briefcases… one of my favourite accessories and I cannot get enough of them.

Countess Ice Cream

Gosh I love this vampire ice cream gal so much. I’m struggling to identify the hair source, but it’s a lovely pale blonde. It looks like it might be from one of the new princess sets. Either way, it’s great. I’ve matched that with a lady vampire face, and a pair of charming gold epaulettes.

The purple body is very odd, but I can’t place that either. It’s got a hint of Chima or Atlantis about it. Anyhoo, it seems to go perfectly with Princess Leia’s naked legs (from choking Jabba…)

The ice cream bricks are lovely and come in a delightful range of colours. Naturally it must be stuffed into an icecream sundae.

The Bone Knight

An accessorised piece de resistance – the new shiny chromish helmets from the Castle / Knights sets are very pretty. I chose the shiny hat over a variety of matte greys. And the new tiara fits in it too! Perfect.

The head is another of the vampire range. I can’t afford either the amazing Haunted House 10228 or the Vampyre’s Castle 9468, so I’m contenting myself with seizing their noggins elsewhere.

Damned if I can figure out where this body’s from either, but it looks knightish to me. And I found a rare cape (well rare to find them in the Lego Shop body bins anyway).

My prediliction for pegs legs is already conceded, and I was unable to resist one in silver. Finally he wraps up by toting a pair of bones taller than he is. What a dude.

A Killer Team

They work well together… sort of.


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Slightly Broken – Back This: Rewind To Fast-Forward by Sasha Joseph Neulinger

Living with horror

Slightly Broken3I’ve written before about my own experiences of sexual abuse. It’s not fun reading and not much fun writing it either. At the time I was receiving support through counselling and it was the right time to aggressively punch the past in its memory hole. Those holes in memory are both good and bad – our memories are incredibly fragile; they fade, disappear or are renewed by re-remembering. All of those things change our perceptions of what happened and it affects how we feel about them.

I knew that I had significant gaps, and twenty years of simultaneously being haunted by those memories and trying to ignore them (distraction, drink, drugs – all the usual stuff) served to confuse and diffuse those memories to the point that I no longer really understood what had happened, or what effect it had had on me… and consequently didn’t really know how I felt. The weird grey anxiety and unhappiness that formed was all the more distressing for not knowing why it was there. I’d thoroughly tied my mind in knots.

During counselling I used my teenage diaries, letters from my abuser and the few photographs that I hadn’t destroyed (but had securely bound so I wouldn’t accidentally open). That was all fairly harrowing and traumatic, but ultimately cathartic and has left me in a much better state mentally (and physically I think).

Rewind To Fast-Forward

Backwards To Go ForwardsHow I approached my own journey to understand my past simply pales when compared to Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s plan. Sasha’s making a film using home video footage of himself while growing up – film from the same time that he was suffering sexual abuse at the hands of members of his own family. The situation is horrific enough (though tragically not uncommon), but the idea of trawling back through those films to look for the impact of those hidden events actually makes my skin crawl.

It’s a tremendously brave project, as well as inspirational for those who may have suffered similarly. I urge you to back his Kickstarter campaign to get this documentary made. I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to watch it, but I feel it should be made, and shared. We can all learn from this. There are 19 days to go – let’s help them hit their stretch goal of $200,000.


Director Sasha Joseph Neulinger spent his childhood in front of a camera. His father Henry, also a documentary filmmaker, shot over two hundred hours of home video capturing every aspect of Sasha’s young life. But within the footage of birthday parties, family trips, and hockey games, something dark was hidden.  Sasha revisits his father’s videos and the painful secret of his early years—a secret that would shift the course of his life. Between the ages of three and seven, Sasha was sexually abused by two of his uncles and one male cousin. After Sasha came forward and spoke up about the abuse, his father Henry shared a secret of his own.  Henry’s brothers, the same men who had abused Sasha, had also abused Henry as a boy.  Sasha spent a decade entangled in the criminal justice system—and struggling to find his identity in the aftermath of his stolen childhood. This autobiographical film will unearth a historical case of multigenerational sexual abuse and by doing so, it will also give intimate and inspiring insight into one survivor’s healing process.

From the Director

In my first feature length documentary, I will share my experience of overcoming child sexual abuse, a journey from victim to survivor. My goal is to shed light on what it is to be a child abuse victim—from the first moment of abuse, through the process of reclaiming and rebalancing life. I want to expose the causes underlying the destructive multigenerational cycle of child abuse in my own family.  And I hope that as I share my story as a case study, we can have a more open conversation about the importance of an uninterrupted healing process for child victims and reduce the numbers of children who are abused.

Kickstarter project – Rewind To Fast-Forward

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Mini Lego Movie Competition Winners

Lego Mini City
Lego Mini City

Stop Motion Action

Last week I had the privilege of being an absent judge for the South Holland Centre’s mini Lego movie competition. That immediately involved most of my favourite things – Lego, films and being at home (absent judging is great!) It’s the first time they’ve run such a competition and they had eleven entries from children aged between four and fourteen. That’s a pretty wide age range and made for a wonderfully weird range of films.

Judging them was even more difficult! Scoring was based on originality and creativity, which I think are positive criteria requiring positive and encouraging feedback. Personally I’m rather envious of the imagination and patience that has gone into making them. I’m certain I couldn’t cope with the the laborious constraints of stop motion animation.

All of the entrants had something excellent about their film, whether it was a clever script, ingenious animation, funny jokes, wild experimentation, great Lego building, an eye for camera angles, foley work and soundtracks or all of the above. I’m glad for the two winners (in the under and over fourteen categories) – they’ve done excellent work and will be shown before the South Holland Centre’s screenings of The Lego Movie. It’s an awesome prize.

Under 14 category winner: Sam Maxwell, Age 13, Mayhem at the Movies

14+ category winner: Jack Howard, Age 14, Lego Movie Audition

A Chase Up The Bookcase


A Little Bit Chorlton and the Wheelies


Old School Lego Robbery


Lego Olympians


A Classic Pile Up


Batman vs Spade


It’s A Chase


I Feel Like Dancing


Dancing Bricks


The Whole Shebrick

I think they’re all splendid and I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate and offer feedback and encouragement to the videos’ creators. Excellent work everyone.


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This week, Monday 14th April 2014

That’s All Folks

TrufflesSorry – this is a very short this week post. I’m busy innit? Well, busy and already back to a state of extreme stress and weariness – only one week out of being on leave. So that sucks. On the plus side, my darling other half made some extraordinary cakes at the weekend, including a remarkable almond tart and these terrifying but delicious chocolate truffles. So I’m going to go and eat those now and make happy fat noises.

Last Week’s Scribbles

This week, Monday 7th April 2014  – oh so very little activity!

Lego Blog: Minifigures – The Three Oddnesses  – a parade of fresh and gorgeous minifigures

Slightly Broken – Back This: Rewind To Fast-Forward by Sasha Joseph Neulinger – a tough but very deserving Kickstarter campaign to support

Mini Lego Movie Competition Winners – I helped judge these children’s awesome stop motion Lego films!

Events and Excitement

Saturday 19th March 2014

Knickerbocker GloriousKnickerbocker Glorious

A sweet layered stack of free live Entertainment, an abundance of Acoustic Music, a generous measure of Performing Arts. Topped off with a liberal sprinkling of family friendly Comedy. MissImp are bringing the improv to the street!

The Fountain
Derby Market Square
Cathedral Quarter
11am-3pm – FREE

Saturday 19th April 2014

Interrobang – Improv Comedy Crash Course

With our venue sadly still ruined by fire, instead we’re running this workshop to introduce participants to improvised comedy in a fun and friendly setting. Then get ready for Interrobang the show in June!

Proudly presented by Furthest From The Sea and Derby Live.

The Guildhall Theatre Clubrooms
Get Tickets NowCathedral Quarter
7.30pm – £5

Friday 25th April 2014

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

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Book Review: Combat Camera by Christian Hill (2014)

Combat Camera – from Auntie Beeb to the Afghan Front Line

May 2011, Afghanistan: Camp Bastion is under attack, the Sun’s Defence Editor is about to catch the wrong helicopter, and a famous TV war reporter is missing half his kit and wants his trainers back. Amid the chaos, Christian Hill is preparing to lead his Combat Camera Team on the British Army’s first big operation of the Helmand summer, inching through the IED-riddled fields of the notorious Green Zone, very probably getting shot at. A captain in the Media Operations Group, his job is to promote the war to the British media – and make it look like things are under control and getting better…

Combat CameraI’ve never been to war and I’ve never been to Afghanistan with a gun or a camera. Thankfully Christian Hill’s account of his tour in Afghanistan as a team leader for a Media Operations Group (MOG) in 2011 covers it nicely. The compact non-fiction book starts with Hill leaving university and wasting a decade in an action-free army stint followed by soul destroying gutter journalism and then ending up the ‘desolate wasteland’ of local BBC Radio. More or less on a whim he applies for and soon joins the Territorial Army’s PR team and with an endearing ambivalence is sent off to Afghanistan for four months.

By the time Hill gets out there his job is to report positive stories of British troops working with the Afghan people to rebuild the country. It’s a bizarrely conflicted role – confronted with the day to day reality of soldiers getting their limbs blown off by IEDs and distant clashes with the Taliban, the only stories they can report are puff pieces about training the Afghan police and army. The resulting real experience of being over there is all the more interesting because of it.

As I started reading Combat Camera I found myself expecting that Hill would follow some Apocalypse Now immersion, have his personality destroyed and rebuilt into a warrior. It’s possible I read too much fiction; the beginning of the book reminded me strongly of Germline (by T.C. McCarthy) and weirdly set up my expectations. Instead Hill’s tour is full of boredom, the strange anxious stress of being near combat and desperately spinning minor good news stories into floggable media products.

In many respects this is just a surprisingly light and readable account of the continuing Afghan war. Hill never actually gets mixed up in any serious action. I’m glad he didn’t, but on the other hand the book really feels like it’s leading up to some hideous and dangerous encounter. Initially I felt this was somehow a failing, like I’d been let down, but it’s counter-PR work the book does best. Hill lists the daily casualty and action records with admirable restraint in judging his employers or politicians. It’s a shocking day in day out parade of death and maiming. It made me realise how unaware I am of what we’re doing in Afghanistan – the media has entirely lost interest in the war and I’d stopped noticing its absence from the press.

One of the most chilling parts of the book is at the very end, when Hill recounts two “quiet days” in June 2011. Before I’d have even gotten up for work, IEDs are being struck, soldiers wounded and civilians killed. And that’s quiet…

Hill writes briskly and the naturalism of his observations of daily life with the troops and other news crew is funny and sad. The humour is dark and the commentary barbed, both of which I found satisfying. I enjoyed the book more than I expected to, and it’s reminded me that we’ve got soldiers killing and dying for reasons that are quite unclear and whose success or failure is even more blurred.

Get it straight from the publishers, Alma Books here.

Buy it on Amazon here.

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This week, Monday 27th April 2014

Time Slips

How Last Week FeltI missed a week. I know, I am a dreadful person both inside and out. That’s sort of why I missed a week. I’m not great at balancing life’s stresses and excitements and y’know, sometimes they can tip me over. Like off a cliff. I’ve been over-stretching myself (to no visible creative effect) and had myself a mini crash. So – a week and a bit to do as little as humanly possible and I can return (more or less) to the normal order of things. I’ve had some rare nights in, skipped some regular events and caught up a bit of sleep, allowing the stretched bubble gum of my brain to snap back into its cratered bottle.

BBC Radio Derby 26-04-14
Me and Matt McGuinness looking old next to Amy and Lily – @amyandlily1

Obviously when I say do nothing… I meant do slightly less. So the Saturday before last I hung out in Derby all day: first up a quickie about improv on BBC Radio Derby with Mr Matt McGuinness and frighteningly young and talented Amy and Lily. Then more quality Knickerbocker Glorious action and finally hit the pubs of Derby with Parky. An excellent day. I couldn’t avoid some further insanity the week after, but I’ve rebounded more effectively. The picture above falsely represents well how I felt at times in the last fortnight. In reality it’s me loving the 10 seconds of sun we got in Derby whenever the Derby Rock and Pop Choir were doing their thing.

Vikings Live

Last Thursday we went out with our dear Doctor Martin to go and actually learn something. Brilliantly he’s recently been involved with the British Museum who have published his book Runes. It’s all for their massive new exhibit Vikings Live. On Thursday they took the country on a tour of it in a live feed to the cinemas. Martin’s one of a panel of experts talking about Vikingy things. That certainly justified food and mangaritas (it’s the masculine version of a margarita – it comes in a different shape glass) straight after work before hitting up the big screen. I go to the cinema a lot, but this was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had. Partly it was the wonderful count down to the live broadcast. Partly it was the insanely enthusiastic presenters and experts. Man – Vikings! I discovered that all I really remembered from school was that Vikings were from Scandinavia, and that they’d made it to North America. The range of artifacts and exhibits really fleshes out my paltry educational recollection. And – Dr Findell and his colleagues were a genuine delight to see. There were numerous amusements from it being live as well – the guy wandering into shot, the ominous black helicopters circling before the live burial ceremony, the hilarious unintentional out of shot sex-noises of latex gloves being squeaked into while we see a gorgeous bit of loot… Well worthwhile. Luckily it’s being encored (I’m sure that’s a verb) on Monday 9th June – check it out. [youtube]

MissImp in Action

Of late I’ve been feeling the strain of aiming for grounded in improv. It’s an excellent thing to strive for, it brings emotion to the fore and allows focus on character. But… I like the explosively weird situations, places and characters. I just do. And I’ve missed it – I’ve not felt free to get into that space on stage. Yeah, well we sorted that shit on Friday alright. Straight from the beginning we got weird, dedicated and committed. We had a great show at The Glee Club – me, Marilyn, David, Martin, Amy and Colin. A hundred minutes of people trying to burn away the sea, wreck charities, spin Die Hard into Shakespeare, laugh, mock and revel in the dark stuff. It made me deeply happy. We also saw a few friends there we have missed recently, and went drinking. Yay. Speaking of improv, me and Parky are joining The Same Faces mob this Saturday at The Criterion in Leicester. Should be good fun (again)! Here’s a scene from last time: [youtube]


Last Week’s Scribbles

This week, Monday 14th April 2014

Book Review: Combat Camera by Christian Hill (2014)

Events and Excitement

Saturday 3rd May 2014

The Same Faces – Improvised Comedy

The Same Faces More fabulous improvised comedy from the Same Faces! With Mike Brown off on tour, remaining regulars TOM YOUNG and ALLAN SMITH will be joined by their talented friends (me! and Parky!) from across the country, as we provide you with some top quality, hilarious improv. The Criterion 44 Millstone Lane Leicester 8.30pm – £4

Thursday 8th May 2014

Gorilla Burger – Improv Comedy Carnage

Gorilla Burger2_SQ_SM Jam show – a chance for anyone to get on stage and have a go at improv games and scenes for the first time, or the fiftieth! The Corner 8 Stoney Street (off Broad Street) Nottingham 7.30pm – £4 Bring Your Own Drinks

Saturday 10th May 2014

Interrobang – Improv Comedy Crash Course

image With our venue sadly still ruined by fire, instead we’re running this workshop to introduce participants to improvised comedy in a fun and friendly setting. Then get ready for Interrobang the show in June! Proudly presented by Furthest From The Sea and Derby Live. The Guildhall Theatre Clubrooms Get Tickets NowCathedral Quarter Derby 7.30pm – £5

Saturday 17th May 2014

Pulling Your Cosmic Trigger

Pulling Your Cosmic TriggerSpoken Word – Performance – Comedy – DJ featuring:

  • DAISY ERIS CAMPBELL Adapting Illuminatus author Robert Anton Wilson‘s cult autobiography for the stage
  • JOHN HIGGS Author of The KLF: Chaos, Magic, and the Band Who Burned A Million Pounds
  • ADRIAN REYNOLDS Press When Illuminated – magic, madness, medicine and mesmerism
  • ANNA REYNOLDS A Modern Fairy Tale presented by the Storyteller and Performance Coach
  • MISSIMP Improv Comedy Nottingham

The Corner 8 Stoney Street (off Broad Street) Nottingham from 5.00pm – £5 (suggested donation)

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