This Week, Monday 4th August 2014

It’s My Birthday, Pity Me

Birthday 2014Yay! I’m on leave for a whole week. Sure that may not sound like a lot, but when you slice it into hundreds of frantic activity / inactivity segments it last for aaages. This is only the beginning of the month-long celebration I plainly deserve at least once a year. I don’t have enormous plans for my birthday tomorrow. In fact, I don’t yet have any plans, barring almond croissants for breakfast. They are surely the pinnacle of food evolution and may in fact be proof of a fat deity guiding mankind. I’m mainly looking for a recharging of the ol’ batteries this week, and I’ve so far had three satisfying lie-ins followed by ambling. There will undoubtedly be more Lego-ing, writing, cinematising and drinking.

Yesterday my other half and I celebrated sixteen years together. Hurray! We went to see Guardians of The Galaxy. It is brilliant, very funny all of the way through with a beautifully minimalist approach to backstory (the usual bane of the superhero/comic book film), tremendous chemistry between the whole case with a hell of a pace, extraordinary sights and endless surprises. It really lived up to that first trailer.

After that we tried out Bill’s  restaurant. It opened a few weeks ago and we keep walking past it. This time we went in. They do a very enjoyable burger but their drink prices are just thievery. £4.50 for a 330ml beer ain’t a deal. The staff however are excellent and coped very well with us moving tables initially to avoid the squalling of children (if we wanted that we’d have bought our own) and then so Lady M could stretch her arm out without smacking her pinched ulnar nerve on anything. A nice meal.



think that I’ve finished my space cube. I was dissatisfied with the initial greebling and felt it needed more… here’s a sneaky peek. I am as yet undecided about whether to populate it with Skulltron or classic Space-men. Making a cube out of Lego proved to be insanely complex. I’ve no doubt that there are much, much more straightforward ways to achieve it, but it’s been an excellent challenge that’s taught me quite a bit about Lego tolerances and brick dimensions. Let’s hope some of that sticks in my noggin.


I’ve also begun a small diorama. We got about a dozen newspaper tiles from the Lego Shop on our last trip the Sheffield – far more that we could ever normally require. I guess it’s a good example of how carried away by the plastic frenzy the Lady M and I get. The only possible thing to make is a news stand, so that’s building nicely. I really want to make it in a beguiling simple and brick-light way. I very much admire the fiendish creativity of Joesidon’s Lego builds. Check out the amazingly complex Lockers for an example of why I keep staring at this guy’s Lego pictures:

So I’ve made an initial version and am going to make a new version and see if I can do anything clever with it!

Media Intake


I’m still harvesting cheap titles from Comixology whenever they become available. They recently had the Transformers: Regeneration One series at somewhere less that half price, so I couldn’t really avoid buying them. They pick up directly after the US Marvel run of comics in the ’80s. Now that’s a bit tricky to follow for me, because in the UK our run went up to 300+, so I’m kinda confused about the overall narrative. The series we read over here became far more complex and I think, better, than the US run. But it is refreshing to be chucked back into that world. It’s also reminded me that I did rather dislike the style of art used for many of those US comics, and they are a stark contrast to the beautiful art done in many of the other recent IDW comics. Still, they’re fun to read even if the story does literally feel stuck in the past.

I’ve also just bought my first Guardians of the Galaxy comic. I thought it would be fun to read it before seeing the film, but I ran out of time…


Last week I read Charles Stross‘ remarkably horrible Laundry novella – Equoid. It’s great fun, The Laundry being a division assigned the challenging task of protecting the realm from cosmically horrifying monsters. This is about unicorns. They are not the unicorns you see in My Little Pony... there were actually a few parts that made me feel slightly ill. Stross is, as ever, funny to read as well as clever and dark. It is a super-short read but it’s only a quid on Amazon. Stross has a bunch of other shortish tales for very few pennies up there too. Tor’s been really good about getting novellas and short stories by the authors up and available on the webbitubes.

Then I read Nexus (Mankind Gets An Upgrade) by Ramez Naam. It’s billed as a technothriller, but it felt pretty cyber-punky to me. It’s the evolution of the mind with nanotech integration, software, AI, genetic meddling and all manner of fun stuff. It bounds around at quite a pace, taking us from the emergence of Nexus 5 and its mind-sharing powers to the meditative monasteries of Thailand. It’s at once hopeful about the future yet besieged with governmental fear and violence. The book has been heartily lauded by the sci-fi community and though I didn’t think it was amazing I certainly enjoyed the book.

Since I’m now on holiday I’ve embarked on House of Chains. Blindingly excellent as were the previous three in the Malazan Book of the Fallen

Last Week’s Scribbles

This Week, Monday 28th July 2014  – no excuses… no writing.

Lego Blog: Shelob Carriage

Spiders: Horrible, Horrible Things

I’ve never entirely overcome my childhood fear and loathing of spiders. There’s just nothing I like about them and everything that I find creepy and disturbing – how they eat, move, live, reproduce. It’s all ghastly. Even the solitary vegetarian spider is no less repellent. Sure, they eat flies and stuff, but they do it in the most horrid way imaginable. It could all be done far more easily with geckos.

The bit with Shelob in The Lord of The Rings: Return of the King was easily the part I was most dreading, and I hid behind my hands for it. When they released the Lego (Shelob Attacks 9470) version I averted my eyes and shuddered away. Then they slashed it to about a tenner in Tesco on one of our late night supermarket wanderings. Then I had no choice. Even in Lego form, and even when winking, they made her really really creepy.

Spiders Make Good Carriages

Now you could argue correctly that I should have dismantled her immediately and spread her parts far and wide, but I had no choice. It had to be done. It gave me nightmares. The only way I could escape that atavistic horror was by taking control – make the spider monster into whatever I want. Like a pumpkin…

Shelob Holiday_SM

I suspect it was one of those nightmares that prompted the idea of travelling in a spider’s abdomen. It seems over-large and ideal for putting a chair inside. I made very few changes to Shelob’s front half, other than beefing up her thorax and face a bit, to try to compensate for now huge abdomen. I had to replace the back legs with rigid Technics poles to stop her from collapsing to the floor.



I think she came out with quite an endearing aspect in the end… it does look like a fun way to travel or go on holiday.


More pictures, as ever:

Another Good Haul

A Bran Tub of Discs

Disc BargainsI like recorded music. Live music is great if the event is dedicated to listening to the band, but if it’s just there as well as everything else then it doesn’t really get listened to and at its worst detracts from the evening out. But a nicely recorded studio album can be for my ears only.

I’ve been very much taken with That’s Entertainment and their big boxes of sleeveless CDs, DVDs and games for 49p each. Before watching Guardians of the Galaxy we ambled in for a mocking flick through the discs. We decided against the endless discs of Friends (a show I have come to truly loathe) and 24 (the innovative split-screen gave me appalling headaches in season one), and emerged with an eclectic £13.50’s worth of discs…


  • Pearl Jam – Vs   Dammit, I already have this one.
  • Madonna – The Immaculate Collection   From before Madonna learned how to sing, but these are classics!
  • Jim Kroft – Lunatic Lullabies   I have no idea what this is but I liked the album name.
  • Gwen Stefani – Love. Angel. Music. Baby. I adored No Doubt‘s Tragic Kingdom but am unaware of anything Stefani has done since. This might be good, or dreadful I suppose.
  • Michael Jackson – Bad  I need to find Thriller and Moonwalk as well to properly revisit that part of my childhood.
  • Drum and Bass Assassins (2 disc) A surprisingly excellent collection – Dillinja, Shy FX, Ram Trilogy…lots of classic D&B.
  • Black Grape – It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah   I seem to remember this being ace, but am assured by friends that my recollection is incorrect.
  • Adele – 19  She has a lovely voice and I look forwards to hearing more of it.
  • Men In Black – the Soundtrack   Aww, back when Will Smith when charming and funny.
  • Ian McShane – From Both Sides Now  OK, somewhat a joke purchase, but the man who was Lovejoy and Deadwood deserves a chance. It doesn’t look like there’s a song called ‘Swidgen Cocksucker’, but I live in hope.
  • Toploader – Onka’s Big Moka  I know…
  • Mark Snow – Soundtrack from Millennium (2 disc)  I only saw a few episodes of the show but I liked it. Hurray Lance Henrikson! I’ve been enjoying film and TV soundtracks while working lately.
  • Queen – Greatest Hits I, II, III  All three for £1.47! A bargain of wondrous proportions.
  • Fun Lovin’ Criminals – Mimosa  From the era when they were just adorable.
  • Daft Punk – Discovery  They are the only good thing about Tron 2
  • Forrest Gump – the Soundtrack (2 disc) I hate the film of Forrest Gump – Hanks at his most insipid with such a platitude-riddled script that I want to vomit chocolate. Gah. The soundtrack though is great.
  • Texas – The Greatest Hits Does exactly what it says on the tin.

A lot of this is quite old stuff (I’m heading that way too), but I like shuffle mode where I’ll get blistering jungle followed by songs from my childhood.


  • John Carter  This was a bit of a let down at the cinema, but I think it will improve on a TV viewing.
  • Let The Right One In (original Swedish version) I read the book recently and it was amazing, I have heard similarly splendid things about both film versions.
  • Sunshine  Another one I was disappointed by at the cinema, but for unknown reasons I feel obliged to try again. Maybe it’s just Cillian Murphy’s pretty eyes…
  • Big Trouble In Little China  Is there anything not to love about this film?
  • A Scanner Darkly  I reckon this is the best faithful adaptation of a Philip K Dick story (including BladeRunner)
  • Save The Last Dance  Inspirational dance movie! My favourite genre.
  • High Society  Another dance movie from a more glamorous era
  • The Royal Tenenbaums  Why am I buying films that disappointed me? This is another one I maybe believe is better than I thought it was

Eclectic is good.


This Week, Monday 18th August 2014

I Have Aged Well

Birthday CandleI had an entirely delightful week off for my birthday (thank you, you’re too kind – I do look ten years younger than I did before). I really didn’t do a lot. I find that difficult to accept – my brain only slowly grasps that “relaxation” is achieved mainly when not rushing around doing things. I am not very bright. I’m really struggling to recall what we did do… there was much Legoing, we cinema’d a bit (not a great week for new films) and did a lot of reading and spent much time with a Marmalade Badger on my lap. Oh yes, I ate pastries for breakfast every day. I was also presented with much love, cakes and happiness.

For the main event I got a huge heap of books (only further troubling our book storage problems), pretty jewellery, a loom bands loom (!), Lego (massive shock), more toys and and a delightful array of odds and ends. I have embraced my new age of 36 because I seem to have received more playthings for my birthday than I did when I was 9. This is only getting better. The Lego itself is now stacked to a terrifying height and I’ll have no choice but to tug out the lower boxes first and enjoy the subsequent carnage.

New Birthday 2014 Books

I accidentally erased my entire tablet which is pretty fucking devastating and discovered that since it doesn’t support the right kind of Mass Storage mode you can’t restore the deleted files. Oh how I laughed. Motherfucker. Sigh… Reckon I’ve only really lost a handful of irreplaceable documents and in-game data. Also discovered it wasn’t backing up to Google Drive. Grr. Hilariously I’ve also just this minute discovered that my external HP harddrive has fucked itself up and now believes it needs to be formatted again. Bye bye world… I’m now looking into full cloud back up of everything (BackBlaze, Copy or Jottacloud right now).


Of course, I did have to return to work and it was a devastating change of pace. Working in an organisation while it is being privatised and the managers work in a range of exciting silos is just great. Unhelpfully stressful. By the end of Monday I could only drown my sorrows and regret ever having gotten out of bed. Just achieving that was tough for the rest of the week.

That’s not entirely fair – I went to an improv workshop with our pal Klaus Peter Schreiner from lovely Germany. It was a very welcome evening, and served to not only distract me from the day but went some way to re-delighting me with improv. He is an excellent fellow in all respects

It was a great shame that I then crashed massively while on the train home and failed to go to bed until after 2am. That kinda set the week’s precedent. Fortunately/unfortunately I then wasn’t really back in the office until Thursday afternoon due to various meetings, briefings, shitstorms and a team conference… Sigh. I really want this next week to go better.

Knickerbocker Glorious

My week was rescued by stopping being at work on Friday, followed by further indulgence in Warehouse 13 on Netflix- happiness. Then the splendid humans of Furthest From The Sea. Sure, I missed my train to get there (which really fit the week’s theme nicely), but then I got to cycle at high speed past pedestrians and still get to the venue on time. I was pleased with my self-correction.

Compering the show in the middle of Derby is immense fun. We had Streetlight Theatre Arts banging out showtunes (a lovely bunch), Alice Macy with her lovely honeyed voice, Black Cats & Magpies , for their first ever gig, Andrea from Cabaret Theatre School dancing with classics like Michael Jackson (!) , Matt McGuinness and our own Josh Beardsley to play us out, and round off his year on placement as an all round excellent human being.

This time Jamie and Josh gave me a wireless mic – with a Britney Spears headset and everything! I wasn’t sure if I’d like it at first, but if I’m close enough to the speakers I sound like Megatron. It proved entirely natural to wander around, and pursue our missing musical theatre act into Walkabout. I’m looking forwards to playing with it more.

Events and Excitement

Saturday 23rd August

Knickerbocker GloriousKnickerbocker Glorious – Northampton

I’ll be compering again – in a new place dead centre in Northampton (I have never been there), plus me and Martin will be springing MissImp improv action on the crowd as well!



Lego Blog: Mini Office Block

Tile Your Kangaroo Down Sport

A Cubicle WorldI just adore the shiny little things. This love is in ironic opposition to our actual bathroom tiles, who I despise and am in a sticking-to-the-wall battle with, which I have lost. I’m determined to make use of the hundreds of tiles I obsessively gather and stroke whenever the opportunity arises. I also get very excited when I get a spare of a really pretty printed tile, like the oven dial from the Parisian Restaurant (lovely) or the thermal detonator from Jabba’s Palace (I am given to to understand that the appropriate expression is “squee”).

Right now, for example, I have a tray of them out and I’m dipping my toes into them: it’s lovely. They don’t need to be any particular shape (although 1×1 round and square tiles do feel quite special.

You Know That We Are Living, In A Cubicle World

We all hope for a better workplace, so I built it… This little set started as just the ground floor and messing about with patterns of green and red tiles. The walls grew from that. I’d just acquired a heap of the lovely grey masonry-faced bricks and was determined to put them in everything.

It stayed like that for ages and I enjoyed giving it some decoration. I couldn’t bear to populate it with office workers though (one of the saddest subsets in society) and it ended up as the office for the robot sheriff from the Lego 70800 Getaway Glider set. It made sense to me… I had a lot of fun in finding pretty office decorations, especially the really old Lego tile as a picture(maybe even Fabuland?)

Lego Mini Office Block   Lego Mini Office Block

 Movin’ On Up

Eventually a second floor became necessary, because… well, we got some new coloured tiles and they needed somewhere to work. The heroic office worker here is Count Sossiford, one of the monstrous fellows we assemble from the build your own minifigure box at the Lego Shop. He has a briefcase, he is a proper office person. By this point I had a very different number of masonry bricks and window pieces, so he got an office with less light, but more attractive wall decorations and lights. I am however rather fond of th Shell calendar on the wall…

Lego Mini Office Block    Lego Mini Office Block

As always these things spin out of control and I found myself trying to make an attractive/office ceiling for the ground floor that would allow me to stick the next level on top. It’s largely a failure as far as inverting bricks goes (the aim was to get studs on both sides) but I did manage to put some duct/pipe things in which seemed appropriate. And of course, you can’t do it without finally bunging a roof of sorts on top.

Now that I’m looking at it again I do appear to have missed a method of attaining the first floor… Still, I rather enjoyed making late ’70s-early ’80s light fittings for both floors. It may have been that requirement which caused me so many resulting problems. One day I will learn to plan. Maybe.

Lego Mini Office Block  Lego Mini Office Block

Lego Mini Office Block  Lego Mini Office Block

As ever, you can see all these pictures in glorious Flickr colour either by clicking on ’em, or going to this link.Related articles