... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Block Chop "Sixty-nine, dudes!"

I had attempted to set my alarm for 6am this morning.  At 6.30am my girlfriend’s alarm went off accidentally, fortunately saving me from being late for work on my third day.  She works in the same place so we sometimes go in her car which takes a mere 20 minutes.  I never learned to drive.  Rushing a shit, shower, shave I made it out the door by 7.20am with a spray of deodorant and a packed lunch.

Immediately the grim grey cloak in the sky opened, dispensing watery torture.  The smashed drainpipe at the side of the house caused a filthy spray I had to step through, and the pitted pavement and potholed road served well in soaking my shoes and socks.  The drainpipe is that way after a disturbance involving the man in the downstairs flat.  One night a couple of weeks ago, vicious uncontrolled screaming blasted without warning.  The neighbour was roaring about being fucked up, I don’t know what I might fucking do, fuck off, and his friend was going I’m not fucking leaving you, you’re fucked up, I don’t know what you might fucking do.  The exchange was terrifying in its psychotic rage.  I could not see it happening, but it was below the kitchen window as I washed up. 

The next day the drainpipe was smashed.  We later found out from his girlfriend that he had been drinking and started a fight with his friend.  He tried to kick him out, but was in such a state that his friend was worried about him.  Our neighbour responded to the concern of his friend by emerging from the house wielding two machetes.  Swinging them at his friend he missed and struck our drainpipe.  Now I have wet shoes, cold feet, and an armed psycho for a neighbour.  If he’s reading this: please don’t hurt me.  I only have one machete, and it’s a flimsy wooden one carved for the tourists in Tanzania.  But I do have an awesome oyster knife; come near me with those machetes and I’ll well and truly shuck you.  When I shuck you, you’ll know you’ve been shucked.

Things seemed to have calmed down now, down below our floor, but rotten old furniture continues to pile up in their garden amongst the dog shit jungle and clothes left on the line for days.  Sometimes the dog barks for hours in the evening, or sometimes Eminem or hardcore blasts up in the early afternoon.  Beyond that all seems peaceful.  But who knows what goes on behind closed doors.  Perhaps this is all a distraction from their real activities.  They are intermittently digging a tunnel deep into the ground, to connect with ancient interconnected tunnels and chambers where they will conduct blasphemous rituals to conjure the dead.  Necromancy in the depths of the earth; converting the blood of the slain into fuel for the fire which burns in the place of absent hearts in animate corpses.  Walking dead who will reveal the lost and forgotten secrets of past druids and soothsayers.

Perhaps.  What is certain however is that I have been reading too much H.P. Lovecraft

P.S. Wyld Stallyns rule!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I made a terrible mistake: re-installing Civilization 4 on the laptop.  Now every time I am near it my fingers tingle with the temptation of world domination.  The peripherals want to play, and my armies are mounting near the border, ready to break the peace treaty and steal all those lovely little cities.  It’s so addictive and so boring at the same time.  It’s 4000BC and my tribe settles its chosen lands, building a powerbase and a field of cultural influence.  Trading with the neighbours and competing for control of valuable resources.  Grapes for wine, elephants for ivory, wheat for food and whale for meat.  Soon I discover copper, tin, aluminium, steel, oil, and uranium, putting them all to uses, both peaceful and destructive.  I build the Eiffel tower, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Hollywood and the Internet.  Eventually most of the planet lives in the benevolent grip of Lord Bradshaw, socialist dictator; imposing universal suffrage, free speech and free religion on an unwilling world by shining steel tempered in the fire.  “If you want a picture of the future,” under the rule of the Great Benevolent Leader Kevin, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.”

Back to life, back to reality, and I’ve spent most of the day scrubbing floors and feeling like the boot is on the other face (that felt clever as I wrote it, but it really doesn’t mean anything).  I’ve taken employment in a big kid’s play centre (I mean it’s big, not it’s for big kids), but it’s yet to open to the public and we are currently running around after the builders, sweeping up saw dust and removing stray screws from the ball-pit (100% safe!).  It’s quiet except for the occasional drilling or blast of Robbie Williams from the half installed sound system.  In a day or two it will be full of the sounds of amazed and ecstatic children, running around until their heads burst with pure excitement.  For now, between cleaning, it is just us staff running around and exploding  excitement all over the slide; swimming in the ball-pit and crawling through the tunnels... come on, I’ll race you!  It’s in an industrial unit that was previously a warehouse for some major retail chain.  They left the staff kitchen in the filthiest state I have ever seen.  The bin was caked in a thick layer of mouldy teabag, the floor was black with unspeakable ooze, even the corners of the cupboard doors looked like someone had wiped their arse on them.  I have an image of some fat-cuntish warehouse worker with his pants down, laughing as his sweaty arse envelopes the cupboard door: “Turn my place of work into a jungle gym, will they!  I’ll show them!”  What a twat.  He definitely exists.

Now I’m home (I misspelt that as ‘homme’, which I am also), drinking wine, and racking my brains for a short story idea.  Just a thread I can grab on to, unravel, then spin into a classic yarn.  Actually it’s more like picking my nose and flicking it, waiting to see what sticks to the lamp shade.  But either way it’s a process and I had better get started.  Even though this blog is supposed to be warming up my writing bones, it’s a bit of a distraction.... so... bye. 

Block Chop 67..............

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.
-          Kevin Bradshaw’s blog on a bad day

Ha, ha, a little joke for the geeks out there.  Actually I don’t find it funny that I even considered starting a blog post with the placeholder text.  It seems to be symptomatic of disintegrating brain power.  What’s worse than considering using lorem ipsum, is the fact that I actually went ahead with it.  “Ah to hell with it, just print it, the morons out there don’t read this shit anyway,” is what I might say if I was a jaded 1950s whiskey-soaked editor of a local newspaper with a name like The Weekly Shopper, or some such shite.  But I’m not, so I’ll just have to grin and bear it.  Ok, let’s push on.

Today is the day I posted off my little slip of paper to tell the job centre I’m signing off.  As of tomorrow I will no longer be entitled to government hand outs.  Step two is to sort out re-evaluating housing benefit.  I’ve no idea whatsoever how to do that, but don’t tell me, it can’t be too complicated.  It’s on my to-do list.  Also I’ve been informed by a lucky friend of mine about how to claim tax back.  Gotta be worth a shot.

Over the last few days I’ve got re-addicted to last.fm; playing music I don’t usually listen to just to get it scrobbled onto my playlist.  It is the ultimate music geek website.  Not only can I also get recommendations about music I might like, and listen to it, but I can also create a pointlessly exhaustive list of every piece of music I have ever listened to and generate graphs and pie-charts for my own orgiastic nerdfest.  Want to know what percentage of my music listening has been hip hop in the last 3 months?  No, who could possibly want to know that?  But I do; it’s exactly 8.5%.  Just counting this week, hip hop sees an increase to 13.0%.  6.7% progressive metal, 5.7% 80s music, 4.0% Japanese, 3.5% post-punk. 

Inexplicably and unaccountably I have listened to 2.0% post-revolutionary pop.  I literally have no idea what that could be.  Which revolution could that be; Russian, Chinese, American?  At a push I would say that everywhere is post-revolutionary, and so is everything.  I live post-Industrial Revolution, post-Peasant’s Revolution, and post-untold other revolutions - major and minor - back to the dawn of things.  So do you, and so do Shakira and the members of Judas Priest.  So any of them could account for the mysterious post-revolutionary pop.  I’ll sleep on it.

Signing off.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blck Chp Sxty Sx:

Scanning the news and other online points of interest looking for something to write about.  I’ve had an uneventful day, no explosive surprises or unusual encounters to pique my interest.  No adventures, revelations, or long-lost friends falling down on my doorstep.  I slept off a hangover, woke feeling flu-y, listened to music and played Civilization 4.  All together it makes for a dull day, and has left me with a dull, unimaginative brain.  Last night I learnt the slow-cookers make incredible beef curry, and the new Robin Hood film is boring beyond belief.  Tonight I’ve learnt that the Sun and the Telegraph are jumping on a pathetically prudish bandwagon to voice their uncritical support of a one-sided report criticising the NHS spending a few quid on porn for use in sperm banks.  I’ve learnt that robots can manoeuvre like dragonflies, and soon we’ll all be living in San Angeles or Mega City One.

I’ve learned I don’t know whether to use learnt or learned, and I don’t know the Millibands from the Eds from the Balls (and I don’t really care).  It’s hard to maintain an interest in politics between elections.  There are no clear-cut definite goals (i.e. get elected), no simple plots to follow with set-up, conflict and resolution, no storyline, and no emerging victor.  The day to day runnings of a country seems vague, and even someone like me who considers themselves politically minded, feels distant and unexcited.  I want to be involved but I’m just not.  At a guess I’d say the first step in becoming involved in politics is preparing the mind.  I have my own issues that interest me (mostly secularism), but that is no preparation for the everyday things.  Perhaps simply watching Question Time and Prime Minister’s Questions are good ways to start.  But watching them on my own is like watching comedy on my own.  I laugh out loud when I am watching with other people; the laughs are mostly inside when I watch alone.  As with televised political debate.  I live with my girlfriend who has no interest in politics.  Watching politics with someone who is bored by it is like watching comedy with someone who says ‘I don’t get it’ after every joke.

Unfortunately watching the news no longer seems to be a viable way to learn about politics.  Non-stories are all over the place; the headlines are always things like ‘Family member expresses feelings about something that happened to relative’, or ‘Someone reacts to something that someone else said’, or ‘Public figure apologises to the public for something that is none of their business’.  None of these constitutes worthwhile news, and the important stuff gets buried under piling mounds of shit.  So a footballer shagged someone; why should they apologise to their fans, and why do we need to know about it.  People might want to know about it, but that still doesn’t make it news.  News should only be things we need to know, anything else – pop stars going to prison (unimportant, gossip), Prime Minister’s calling a bigoted old woman ‘a bigot’ (unimportant, cynically-motivated), reality tv star’s sexual revelations (pointless) – should be kept out of newspapers and news programmes.  Any newspaper featuring such gossip, or Rupert Murdoch-style financially-motivated political pestering, should be punished by Trading Standards for their incorrect use of the word ‘news’.

So that’s my plan.  Completely change the world first, including all media outlets, and then get interested in politics, so I can change the world...  before the robots take over. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Block Chop 65:

Staring at the blank illuminated white screen through the vicious fug of on-setting red wine headache...  A paranoid conversation in the car on the way home about houses haunted by oversized spiders and weird insects means inevitable jinx and a causal effect: big deformed earwig sitting on the bedroom wall.  Every speck of dust, imperfection on the walls and piece of fluff looks like a beetle.  There is no milk in the fridge to aid calming creation of a nice cup of tea.  Where does the milk go, and where do the mini-beasts come from?
The only time I ever slowly caress my forehead with the fingertips of both hands simultaneously is when alcohol is dehydrating my brain, causing some mysterious pain inducing chain of events.  I know the brain itself has no nerve-endings and right about now I’m not privy to the details of where headache pain arises from.  But now I’m in pain, so between typing I’m caressing the front of my skull hoping to alleviate my suffering.  As this is the only situation where I indulge in such head touching, it’s also the only time I notice the lumpiness of my skull.  Weird divots and bumps superfluous to design and feeling to my fingertips like Frankenstein’s monster writ large in Braille.  Do these monstrous appendages only sprout when my head aches; are they the result of the pain or the cause of it; does the pain cause extra sensitivity making normal skullish undulations seem like expansive peaks and troughs?  When will these fecking Paracetamol kick in, and why are there no Ibuprofen instead?
Perhaps the pain is not caused by the wine I’ve ingested and the bright screen I’m staring at through my old prescription lenses.  A more likely candidate is the family of my (now dead) earwig friend.  Following the by-name-by-nature instructions, they have entered my ear, and taken up residence behind my forehead and under my wig.  I have to stop, this hurts to much.  Darkness, and bed, welcome me.... 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Block Chop 64?:

In the last two days I’ve been offered the position of Fiction Editor for Blank Pages (more about that when there is more to report), got a part time job in an awesome Jungle Gym-type thing, and been accepted into an elite group on last.fm called ‘We Are Music Nerds’.  All these achievements make me feel nicely included after months of firing off applications into the choking darkness of mass-unemployment.  The benefits of all will emerge at different times.  From Blank Pages they will come as my work is seen in the magazine, and I make contributions towards building the readership and discovering new writing talent.  From the part time job they will come as numbers in my bank account, and from ‘We are Music Nerds’ the benefits come immediately.  Straight away I can join in conversations about obscure hip hop, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, prog rock and the difference between nerds and snobs.  Instant gratification!  I can also view the thread where I was voted as a member with eight yes’ to three no’s.  The result being a renewed excitement in listening to music for the fun of hearing something fresh to my ears, as opposed to the same few favourites.  Already I’ve listened to a good selection of Animals As Leaders, Matmos, Frank Sidebottom, Jerry Lee Lewis, and I’ve finally got around to listening to Red Queen Takes Gryphon Three by Gryphon (Graham the Gray-Lord will be pleased!).
Accepted into three groups in one week makes me feel a little uplifted, as though there may be a chance to be welcomed into the arms and pockets of the BBC or ITV or one of the other big-time employees I’ve set my sights on.  I’m not suggesting I have the ability to sense tenuous causal links between current and future events, but if I was it would be a lie.
I’m going to keep this blog super-mega-minter-short as this laptop is spazzing, my shoulder is killing me for some reason, and it’s late as.  Tomorrow will be a good day in this blog.  I have nothing prepared but if I say it’s going to be a good one, it’ll have to be.  See you tomorrow.  Nightnightt.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Block Chop 63:

I heard shouting in the street and glimpsed out the window, as an amateur curtain-twitcher, to see two adults screaming at each other, whilst swarmed by similar looking children.  I can think of no respectful words to describe this couple, that don’t make me seem middle-class and condescending, and they seem like hideous, vicious, uneducated, breeders of child psychos.

Man and woman, at least bodily, although I suspect not intellectually; obviously the parents of these poor numerous children.  As they screamed they set off in opposite directions; him in one, and her with all the children.  She screaming about fucking dick this, and stupid twat that; he yelling about fucking murder this and getting away with that.  Her response to this accusation of leniency toward the children was to grab one of her boys by the wrist and slap him eight times across the hand.  Not firm but gentle taps; they were swinging stinging forceful whacks.

She turned around to walk away and the number of children seemed to multiply, as though she had just birthed a couple more during the exertion of her psychotic slap attack.  This disgusting, pathetic display of hate, swearing, and physical violence was obviously par for the course for these children.  They were not fazed or upset by any of this.  To these children shouting, swearing and hitting are normal ways of communicating.

The mother was out of control.  In way over her head, with way to much responsibility, and entirely uncomprehending about the pathetic job she is doing, and the damage she is inflicting upon her children.  (...or as Richard Herring would put it, her sexcrement.)  The children are learning that words are punctuated by fucks and shits, minor disputes are settled by screaming, and misbehaviour is punished by rage induced violence.  They are not learning how to behave, or be civilised; they are learning how to punish and torture.

If being a snob means I don’t want that as my family life, don’t want to see or hear that, and don’t want my children at schools with kids who learn like that; then I am a snob.  My kids, the ones who haven’t been born yet, are unlikely to get battered at home.  I won’t be teaching them to communicate with spit, and hate, and fists.  My kids are likely going to be nerds and/or, knowing their mother, dancers and drama queens.  Drat!  My kids are going to get bullied by the children of irresponsible and unready idiots.  The only remedy for this is to somehow ensure one of my kids is Hit-Girl from Kick Ass.  Then it’s her job to look after the others.  Problem solved.

The storm has passed, the rumbling thunder and dousing rain have subsided, and the sun has shown itself to dry up the puddles.  I’m off out now for my first haircut in I don’t know how long.  I hate getting a hair cut.

Block Chop 62:

The test of my writerly fortitude is almost upon me.  Tomorrow morning I have a job interview which in all probability will lead to instant menial employment.  At that point this blog will become my worst enemy and greatest ally.  On some days I will return from work loath to the idea of writing; on others I will appreciate that the commitment has kept my mind alive, and my fingers tippy-tapping.
Must not allow a day job to take over my life; I am not a , I am a writer/illustrator/general creative type (who by the sound of this wittering is teetering on the brink of pretentious, “I am an artiste...”).

I need to get a trade under my belt.  I’ve even considered carpenter and glass-blower; both awesome things to be good at... but my thumbs hurt when I use a saw, and I can barely blow up a balloon let alone a searing hot orb of molten glass.  I’m thinking the best way forward is getting NCTJ accreditation.  That’s the National Council for the Training of Journalists.  A really good looking company News Associates runs an accredited course in Newspaper Journalism.  I’ve just missed the start of the current intensive 20 week course; the next full time doesn’t start until March 2011 (part time starts Jan 2011).  I might already have something great by then, but I’m going to start the application process anyway.

Newspaper Journalism training looks to be the best way into various other media, including broadcast.  With the technical craft skills to be gained from NCTJ accreditation, coupled with my creative writing, I will be a successful feature writer/script writer/novelist before you can say yeah right.  From then it’s on to making millions writing movies, or novels that get made into movies.  Huzzah.  But in between then and now is the whole going to sleep, getting up in the morning, going to a job interview, remembering to phone the job centre to let them know I will be signing on late, doing a dull job thing.

And all that means that, in essence, today’s blog is not going to be the best.  I have boring things on my mind, and even though I’m not tired I must force myself to go to sleep.  Now where did I put the chloroform?  Ah, here it is; right by the bed where I always keep it.  On the shelf next to my notebook, hacksaw, Vaseline, Toblerone, anti-venom, cycling helmet and small nodding statuette of the Pope (all the essentials).  Pull out the stopper, poor a little chloroform on the rag, apply rag to my face and as I pass out into a deep restless sleep, hope that the rag falls from my face before it kills me.  And so arrives a dark ending to a mundane blog post.  Don’t blame me, I didn’t write it.  It was my evil twin brother.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Block Chop 61: am i a writer?

Could I ever be a writer?  I mean, I am a writer, in the same way I am a walker, a breather, a shitter, and a sleeper, a sweater(?), a laugher, a shaver and a sitter.  They are all just things I happen to do, whether as a necessity of life, or as an incidental and occasional sort of... thingy.  As is writing; it’s just a thing that I do.  What I’m obviously really saying is will I ever be a professional writer?  Will there be a time when I can fill in a form with the occupation ‘writer’ without lying to myself?  Nobody knows, least of all me, and anyone who claims to know otherwise is simply offering platitudes and cheerleading.  Unless of course they claim to know that I will definitely never be able to call myself ‘writer’.  If that is you, thanks for offering balance, and thanks for fucking off.

After all that it turns out I may not be a writer after all.  That first paragraph came flying out in one long exhaled pitter-pattering of the keyboard, but immediately followed by a crashing wall of inactivity.  The moment I stopped typing I stopped thinking, and that quickly allowed my eyes to drift towards the TV remote control.  I should have yanked my eyes back to the screen, but instead my fingers followed, and before I knew it that little red button was pressed and I was staring at a 32” vision of Stephen Fry’s face.  As the national treasure continued his US tour south of the Mason/Dixon line, my hand clasped the mouse and minimised the Word document.  After that it’s a downward spiral into twitter, facebook, wikipedia and various news sites.

I’m certainly not the first to make this observation, and there will be an unending chain of others ahead of me sprouting the same, but it seems likely that the very procrastination that prevents me from the physical act of writing, is what classifies me as a writer.  Can I convince myself that when I am not writing, when I am scratching my arse and sniffing my finger, or making a cup of tea and watching repeats on TV, I am actually making the mental preparations needed for some future writing session?  As it is I am spending more time on this blog than I am on other writing projects.  The last few days have seen me make some major headway on a radio script, but the habit of starting projects and coming nowhere near to finishing them is one I suffer heavily with.

To top it all off there is the impending danger that I will soon be enduring the distraction of a day job, which promises to be enjoyable, but will certainly threaten my evenings and weekends while providing slight financial reward.  A bit of money in the bank, even that provided by a paltry minimum wage, is welcomed, but when unsatisfactorily employed I always arrive at the conclusion that my time is more valuable than money.  And there lies the reason I want to be a writer.  Time spent writing is time well spent.  Time spent earning in an office or shop floor is time very poorly spent.  There exists somewhere a world in which I am writing, enjoying it, and being richly rewarded for my happy efforts.  Can that world be this one?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

60: Lovecraft, Cthulhu, and Other Weird Stories

H.P. Lovecraft is the terrific and terrible ancient dark lord of horrific texts, shuddering and bizarre nightmares writ large upon bound sheets of boundless terror.  Often described as the greatest horror writer of all time, Stephen King called him ‘the 20th century horror story’s dark and baroque prince’, his writing is leaden with adjective, repetition and unsettlingly long sentences.  At times I find myself on the precipice of excruciating, torturous boredom, only to be wrenched out of it by some unspeakable monstrous creature from the depths of space and time.  Imagine how it feels to try making sense of a hundred pages like the following sentence, at two in the morning, tired and a little drunk, but unable to put the book down and accept sleep:

"Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes – vicious agglutinations of bubbling cells – rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile – slaves of suggestion, builders of cities – more and more sullen, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative!  Great God!"
At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft, 1931

As his sentences are populated by twisted descriptive runs of imagination and blasphemous desecrations, his world is populated by a dark pantheon of extinct, sleeping or clandestinely massing hordes of gods, monsters and winged alien creatures.

His human characters are usually adventuring academics writing of their terrifying discoveries as a dire warning to future wanderers who may inadvertently stumble upon similar unfathomable nastiness.  They write their stories in descriptive prose with eidetic recollection of vast speeches and letters from past companions and victims of the oppressive undersea daemons, unlikely happenstance occurrences providing detailed exposition and impossibly complex historical background, and allusions to the mysterious ramblings of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred in his forbidden voluminous Necronomicon.  Despite the Necronomicon being forbidden many of his characters just happen to have a passing or detailed knowledge of it, and the whispered tales of Nyarlathotep, Mighty Messenger, the awful creatures said to haunt remote hillsides, Great Old Ones, and expansive abandoned nameless cities.

Claustrophobia claws at you from one direction, pulling you in to its tight breathless grasp, as agoraphobia yanks you by the hair and throws you into gasping chasms and cities older than the dawn of the dinosaurs.
At times it is impossible to take it seriously, as when he writes:

"There was a terrible fight up there and I hear a frightful buzzing which I will never forget.  And there was a shocking smell.  About the same time bullets came through the window and nearly grazed me.  I think the main line of the hill creatures had got close to the house when the dogs divided because of the roof business.  What was up there I do not know yet, but I’m afraid the creatures are learning to steer better with their space wings."
The Whisperer in Darkness, H.P. Lovecraft, 1930

I laughed for what felt like, and I do not exaggerate - for in my current mindset which I suffer under duress from forces I do not understand, I can only speak literally – a hundred thousand everlasting moments.  That is how long I laughed, and that is how they found me; laughing at the tense story of a man, trapped in a remote house, being harassed by indescribable whispering creatures in the darkness.  A story which unravels unintentionally hilariously with the sentence ‘I’m afraid the creatures are learning to steer better with their space wings’.

Lovecraft is the man who, in all seriousness can end a story thusly:

"The end is near.  I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it.  It shall not find me. God, that hand!  The window!  The window!"
  Dagon, H.P. Lovecraft, 1917

No one in a state of mental functionality could ever consider that a serious and chilling way to end a story, but it is loveable nonetheless.  However compare that accidental silliness to the clammy terror of a story The Shadow over Innsmouth.  It tells a tale of a darkness that has befallen a remote coastal town of the Eastern USA, and a loan explorer who feels drawn to explore the desolate streets, the terrifying cults which have conquered the churches, and the grotesquely deformed locals.  Its premise, which I shall not reveal for fear that the accursed figures with their fishy odour and unusual gait will exact their intolerable revenge, is weird, but its language is remarkable and its atmosphere is cold and addictive.

And we haven't even got to Cthulhu yet...

"The aperture was black with a darkness almost material.  That tenebrousness was indeed a positive quality, for it obscured such parts of the inner walls as ought to have been revealed, and actually burst forth like smoke from its aeon-long imprisonment, visibly darkening the sun as it slunk away into the shrunken and gibbous sky on flapping membraneous wings.  The odour arising from the newly opened depths was intolerable, and at length the quick-eared Hawkins thought he heard a nasty, slopping sound down there.  Everyone listened, and everyone was listening still when It lumbered slobberingly into sight and gropingly squeezed Its way into the tainted outside air of that poison city of madness.
...The Thing cannot be described – there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immemorial lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force, and cosmic order.  A mountain walked or stumbled.  God!  What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mad, and ... raved with fear in that telepathic instant?  The Thing of the idols, the green, sticky spawn of the stars, had awaked to claim his own.  The stars were right again, and what an age old cult had failed to do by design, a band of innocent sailors had done by accident.  After vigintillions of years great Cthulhu was loose again, and ravening for delight."
The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft, 1926

What man with love for the written word can fail to be caught up by the overawed account of the awakening of Cthulhu, the great old one; descriptions ripping at raw nerves and overturning urns of unwanted expired emotions?  Or whatever.  And so Cthulhu returns.........

H.P. Lovecraft, by  Cyril Van Der Haegen, 
all credit to the artist - http://www.tegehel.org/

Vision of Cthulhu, by Nick Patterson
all credit to the artist - http://nicktheartisticfreak.deviantart.com/

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu 
R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

Sleeping Cthulhu, by Rob Stanley
all credit goes to the artist, http://www.redbubble.com/people/robstanley

Cthulhu in the Lost City of R'lyeh, unknown artist

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Block Chop 59: Imaginary Neighbours 1, Random character idea

Imaginary Neighbours 1
Random Character idea.

“Oh hello, good morning.  I’m Mrs Daley from number forty-eight.  You can call me Margaret.  I live down the road.  I watched you and your young lady friend moving in to your new home.  I hope you’ve both settled in well.
It’s ok, don’t invite me in.  No, no, no; I was only joking.  I just wanted to stop by and introduce myself.  Have you got a light, I’ve left mine at home?  Oh wait, silly me, I’ve found it.  It was right here in my coat pocket.  Do you mind if I smoke; would you like one?
So how old do you think I am?  45! Oh no, don’t be silly!  Do you really think I look 45?  I can see why that young lady fell for your charms.  I can barely remember being 45.
See these shoes?  Our Maureen, that’s my daughter, bought me these shoes in Mauritius.  She said the blue reminded her of the hand bag she got me the year before last.  I’ve stepped out in these every rainy day for the last year, and they are as comfortable as you wouldn’t believe.  She bought me a big bag of blue shoelaces from a young Arab.  I think she said he was an Arab, or maybe she said a coloured boy.  My Frank would know, I’ll have to ask him when I get in.
She still talks about it too!  If you ever meet our Maureen you can bet your hat she’ll tell you about the young Arab or coloured boy who sold her the shoelaces.  He lived near the hotel and could get you anything you need.  Maureen says he was lovely, so polite like you wouldn’t believe.
And he... oh, ha ha; what am I thinking?  I’m not even wearing my blue shoes.  I’d forget my hands if I didn’t keep them in my pockets!  These slippers are a lovely shade of yellow, don’t you think?  Cornflour yellow... no, that’s not it.  Wait, don’t tell me, it’ll come back to me... Chartreuse!  A lovely shade of chartreuse yellow.  At least they were when I got them.  Looks like they could do with a bit of a clean.  I suppose that’s what I get for wandering about down the street in them, isn’t it!
I don’t like to put those shoes on when I’m just popping out.  I’m not as flexible as I used to be, and there’s a lot of laces to do up.  My fingers ache, and I can’t stretch, and my bunions are throbbing like you won’t believe.  Listen to me talking on; you don’t want to hear about my bunions, do you?  My Frank get’s enough of it, but do I get any sympathy off him.  No I don’t.  All he ever wants to talk about is his bloody haemorrhoids.  He doesn’t like me telling people about them, but he doesn’t half go on about them.
I hope you’ll be a gentleman and look after your young ladies feet when you’re both our age.  And if you’re lucky she’ll be kind enough to rub a bit of cream on your sore nether regions, God forbid!  Oh, listen to me will you! Margaret the poor lad will think you’ve gone do-lally!
I just stopped by to give you this welcome present.  It’s a cake, I baked it myself.  Our Cheryl had a bit of milk left over after giving her Terry a feed.  She’s trying to wean him of breast feeding, so she uses one of those pumps to relieve the pressure.  She’s just like her grandmother!  I couldn’t stop producing the stuff when I was nursing.  I was so swollen and tender, but you didn’t talk about things like that in those days.  Not like now where you can’t keep anything private.  Young women telling the world about their private doings like they have no shame at all.  I hope your young lady has a bit of decorum; I’m sure she does, she looks lovely.
So if you’re ever in need of a spot of milk, just pop round to ours.  We’ve usually got a drop or two of our Cheryl’s to spare.  I’ll leave this cake with you.  Hang on to the box and I’ll pop by and get it next time I’m here.  It’s been lovely speaking to you; you seem like such a nice young lad.  Ta-ra!”

Block Chop 58: Walking after midnight

Walking home after midnight on Sunday morning.  I step out the door and am immediately greeted by speckled slug, the most sell dressed mollusc in Emperor’s new clothes.  A tabby pattern adorns the wet surface dweller visiting the door mat.

Feet disappear into dark puddles, visual voids; I pray away the dogshit.  Prayers not answered and I step in something.  Fortunately the next patch of street light assists in my discovery: clean soles.  Wet leaves.  I turn the corner.

On the other side of the road a woman walks in the same direction as me.  I have to cross, but the thought crosses my mind: what if she thinks I am charging, making a sudden and unexpected lunge across two lanes in the quiet deserted night.  I consider remaining on a forward trajectory and taking the long route home, but no – I make the lunge, into the abyss, and I cross the road.  She has the same idea and we almost crash heads in the middle of the road.  All along I was worried she would think I was the night stalker, and it turns out I had the lucky escape.

Another corner turned; two down, three to go.  Sound of dry leaves rolling in the breeze.  Behind me at a mounting speed.  They accelerate yet the air is still; I feel no breeze to account for the advancing debris.  Just as the sound is upon me I approach another corner, turning as I feel an unthinking life form bear down heavily.  It’s a dog; the sound of leaves is its terrible claws teasing and scraping the foetid ground.  The unexpected arrival of a lone creature startles me, and as it inspects my person with its monstrous nasal prying I look around for help.  No owner in sight.  Then as I step out into the quiet road to cross another dog is in front of me.  I am surrounded.

Which one is the leader?  If it comes down to a bloody fight for dominance I must identify the leader, bear my teeth and aim for its throat.  I choose my target, casually scratch a flea from under my collar, and as I raise my hackles and prepare to strike, the two mysterious hounds duck into a garden never to bother me again.

The nerves have got to me and a constant rotating tune pervades my psyche.  Over and over and over, its accursed melodies taunt me.  The theme tune from Curb Your Enthusiasm haunts my every step; speeding up as my pace quickens, slowing as I slow. Diddly di di-di-di di di-di-di-di.... from now until the untold and infinite future.

A white hire-car taxi with yellow signs slows down beside me and stops.  The driver makes no sound, no movement, not no indication of sentience what so ever.  My confidence returning I walk tall and onwards, and the taxi remains fixed in its position.  Further corners turned, snails underfoot, a man sleeping in the cab of a van, and a house party winding down.

Home.  Blog.  Bed.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Block Chop 57: Mr Ratzinger

When you passionately disagree with someone or something it’s easy to get carried away and resort to childish insults, so in order to get it out of my system:  I think the pope looks like a gremlin having a shit.  Now I’ve said it I hope to be able to complete the rest of this lecture as objectively as possible.  He does though, doesn’t he?  Oh, and he’s an old virgin.  I promise I will try to be objective (but to be honest I’ll probably struggle, after all I’m not writing for the BBC so I have no reason to be impartial).

Remember years ago when Snoop Dogg unsuccessfully attempted to come here.  It was during the aftermath of a murder trial he was involved in.  His bodyguard had killed someone and Snoop was implicated.  He was cleared of all charges and is now allowed to enter Britain again.  Back then the British press were up in arms about this young American man, implicated in a death and rapping about violence and misogyny to the world’s youth.  How dare he try and visit our sacred isle.  During the presses hysterical fit they repeatedly insisted on calling him by his real name Calvin Broadus (except in headlines), as opposed to the name he chose for himself Snoop Doggy Dogg.  He later adopted the title Dogfather, then shortened his pseudonym to Snoop Dogg.

The British press, particularly the BBC and The Mail, are currently exhibiting unthinking double standards by playing sycophantic host to another man.  His name is Joseph Ratzinger.  One day five years ago Joe Ratzinger got a new job.  He was successful in his application for the role of Pope, Bishop of Rome, God’s representative on Earth, Vicar of Christ, head of the Catholic Church, and King of the smallest most pointless country in the world.  To celebrate his new job he adopted the title Pope, and changed his name to Benedict XVI.  The rest of the world happily allowed him his whimsical name change.  I’m currently applying for a job as a researcher on University Challenge.  If I get it I might celebrate by changing my name to Paxman II.  Or would I?  No of course not; that would be mental.

Ratzinger is repeatedly referred to respectfully as Pope Benedict.  I’ve yet to see Broadus respectfully referred to as Dogfather Snoop.  Even Michael Jackson was largely unsuccessful in his weird bid to make the world refer to him officially as King of Pop Michael Jackson.  And as far as I’m concerned this is a massive double standard.  They are all just men, people, equals.  When Prince Nelson, better known as Prince decided he wanted to be called "squiggly logo" the world rightly laughed at him.  I believe we should be treating all these people the same.  Fine, call him Benedict if you want to, but it’s still not his name.  He’ll always be Ratzinger to me J

Ratzinger, like Snoop before him preaches violence and misogyny.  But Ratzinger’s violence comes not from the mean streets of the LBC, but from the sadism of the Old Testament and the fires of Revelations.  His misogyny is expressed not by hosting his own Doggystyle porno, but by denying women the right to work as priests and have abortions, and denying the men who work for him the right to sexual relations with women.  They both pursue dreams of greed and power, living in palaces surrounded by infinite wealth and flattering hangers-on.  They both crave to stand astride the planet, and believe they have the right to do so.

They both occasionally happen across a positive message.  Snoop can present beautiful morality tales such as his songs Murder Was The Case and Lil' Ghetto Boy.  Ratzinger while flicking through the Bible must sometimes consider the golden rule. 

On the charge of murder they differ.  Snoop was only implicated in one death, and he was acquitted.  However Ratzinger plays a constant and daily role in the death of millions.  Across the globe millions of people living in disgusting poverty and ignorance are taught that their misery is part of God’s plan, that they should accept their lot, and do their duty by having as large a family as possible.  And above all they should never give in to the greatest evil of all: using a condom.  No.  Protected, normal, recreational sex is the greatest evil of all.  If God wants you to contract an incurable virus and die leaving your massive family to fend for themselves in the worst conditions known to humanity, then that is what you must do.  It is God’s will.  God is making you suffer so that others may have the gift of feeling compassion.

Ratzinger is the one man in the world who is in a position to affect the attitude of millions, perhaps billions, of people.  By issuing a direct and unqualified statement that condoms are the single best way we have of preventing the spread of AIDS, and using them is not evil, he could positively affect the entire world.  Instead he clings on to his dogma, his power, his big hat, and his privileged status.  What right does he have, a man who by his very definition must have no knowledge at all of sex, to be condemning people who do chose to have normal sex lives.

Instead he saysthe problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it,” and offers dim platitudes such as:

“The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practise self-denial, to be alongside the suffering.”

Which is all very lovely and poetic, but when you consider what it is actually saying it is incredibly dark.  He is saying that condoms make AIDS worse, and that the only cure is to join the Catholic Church.  Also he is saying that there is no practical preventative measure, and all we can do is befriend those already suffering.  I don’t know about you but I would not want to be friends with someone whose idiotic advice lead to my prolonged and painful death.  He denies there is a practical solution in blind defiance of the facts. 

I’m not even going to mention his criminal harbouring of child rapists and his unwillingness to hand evidence against them over to the proper authorities.  Nor will I mention his disgusting views on abortion.  Nor the fact that his so-called country’s borders do not even expand beyond the city of Rome, and he therefore only holds legal jurisdiction over a few thousand square metres and not over a billion people worldwide.  I won’t mention that the two of the most important people to me were both brought up Catholics, and both despise what the church stands for.  I won’t even mention that his ‘country’ makes agreements with other totalitarian theocracies, and repeatedly blocks international attempts to unify human rights.

I won’t mention any of those things.  Nor will I mention how thoroughly and completely un-objective I have been.

Block Chop 56: Cool or dickhead

“I say I work in Media, I’m really on the dole.  
I’m the coolest guy you’ll ever know, woh-oh-oh! 
I love my life as a dickhead, all my friends are dickheads too.”
-          Being a Dickhead’s Cool, TheGrandSpectacular

It’s the song that all my friends and I are laughing at, humming the tune and reciting the words like kids in a playground the day after the latest crappy sketch show.  But we are all laughing because we are self aware.  We see ourselves in these dickheads.  I know people who have worn glasses with no lenses, people with silly hats (I was wearing silly hats before it was cool), people who write blogs, people who say they were doing things before they were cool, people obsessed with their own balls.  Basically doing things that our dads sneer at, and perhaps that should be the ultimate arbiter of whether or not you are a dickhead.  If your dad thinks you are a dickhead, it must be true.  I’ll need to find out what he thinks; you know, to get closure, or whatever.

As a result of forcing myself to write this daily blog I fear I may appear to the outside world to be developing dangerous levels of self-satisfaction.  I may not be writing a magazine about my balls, but if this discussion carries on in this vein any further I may slip into ball-themed blogging.  I’m not talking about my balls because I think everyone should pay attention to them, it is merely an inherent function of this discussion.  Having to commit some form of idea to the written word every day could soon exhaust all interesting subjects.  After that it’s only a matter of time before I start proclaiming to the world about the flavour of my farts, the circumference of my hairy orbs, and the adhesive strength of my nasal mucus.  If that happens bring on the apocalypse, it’s time to call the whole thing off.  Not just the blog, but the whole failed project of reality.

It’s probably only the accident of not having lived in London that kept me from being a full blown dickhead of the type in the youtube clip.  I have in the past repeatedly fallen in that direction.  There’s been the time when I tried to look good with dreadlocks.  It seemed like such a good idea; Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry is cool, I think I saw a cool guy with dreads in Kerrang, I saw an old guy with a dreaded beard.  The reality of it is spending a day getting my mum to put knots and wax in my hair, followed by a couple of months of looking like a dickhead and stinking of old sweat as my weedy little dreads unravelled.  Is that cool?

Then there was the time when I wore army trousers and a blue fleece pork-pie hat.  Or the time when I thought carrying a pocket-watch on a chain was the way to go.  Or when I got my eyebrow pierced.  Or when I... no wait, that’s about my balls, I can’t say that.  There’s been a long string of silly hats, and the pull they have on me has not gone away.  If I went to Texas I’d probably come back with a ten gallon Stetson, and insist on wearing it at any opportunity.  No scratch that.  I’d definitely come back with a Stetson.

And here's that thing about the dickheads, in case you haven't seen it yet.
(I was watching it before it was cool.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Block Chop 55:

Hello, and welcome to the show; tonight we got some excitement for you... We’ve got Canadian bouncing bogeys and awesome flying iguanodons; ecstatic elastic electric eels and exploding and corroding kangaroos.  Step right up, step right up, for the greatest show this side of Zanzibar and that side of Ecuador.  Roll up, roll up; get your ticket, only two bits of silver.
Hear the magic men expounding the virtues of the extraordinary supercilious super-special sword-slinging Sylvester the Strange.  Feast your ears and gather your eyes.  Pour your senses over a steaming hot mound of mystery. Mount up and ride alongside the king of kings, the archduke of ...
I’m just going to have a little nap.  Ride the sleepy train to blah blah...
Too tired to finish this.  I had to write a description of my favourite fictional character for a application for a potential job.  I asked on facebook for suggestions and got loads of great answers.  However they all came too late, and I had to run with my own idea.  Perhaps not my favourite, but a great one none the less.  Here is what I wrote (I had a very limited word count, and other questions lead the direction I went in):

There are so many compelling characters.  Michael Corleone in the Godfather goes on an exciting and disturbing journey from young husband embarrassed by his family, to vengeful and protective son, to Richard III steeped in blood.  The masked vigilantes from The Watchmen graphic novel all have well constructed back stories, and even their most outlandish and insane acts seem consistent with their own internal logic.  Sarah Connor from the first two Terminator films is a young carefree woman who suddenly becomes aware of her own impending motherhood, and against exceptionally tough circumstances rises to the challenge of raising her son.

Choosing a single character I would have to go for Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.  He is an extremely complex character and it is often hard to tell where his allegiances lie; with Dumbledore or Voldemort.  Often Dumbledore’s faith in him seems like fallibility, especially when Snape appears to murder him.  The depth of his character is revealed over time, such as his dislike for Harry stemming from being bullied by Harry’s father, and his eventual loyalty being due to his lifelong love for Harry’s mother.  He is a tragic yet heroic Judas-like figure living out his fate; playing his part in the martyrdom of Harry for the benefit of all mankind.  Eventually it is Snape who is martyred, and his redemption comes after death.  Only then is it revealed which side he was on, and the terrible risk he lived under whilst spying on Voldemort.
Furthermore his portrayal onscreen is exceptional.  Alan Rickman has made the character his own, with his careful pronunciation, sneering remarks, and his condescending glances.  The character and the actor who plays him will forever be linked, making him seem even more alive than he appears on the page.

Call back tomorrow for less of a cop-out blog. Night.

Block Chop 54:

I’ve just spent the last hour reading about the misfortunes of a blogger called intermezzo who suffered uncalled for bullying by a legal jobsworth at the Royal Opera House.  The long and short of it is she regularly writes hugely popular articles about opera with particular care and attention given to the ROH.  It seems that amongst opera lovers this blog is best.  Here posts are sometimes illustrated by official press photos and curtain-call snapshots, but that she never claims copyright were she does not hold it, and credits the original source whenever possible.  She is doing the ROH a massive favour.  

However, someone in ROH legal department with no common sense and oversized internet-balls fancied throwing their weight around.  They sent her legal threats unless poorly specified conditions were met. The legal status of the claim is confusing and contested and no precedent exists, so it’s hard to tell if she really was breaking the law and stealing intellectual property.  But that is not the issue; the issues are of common sense and gratitude.  Common sense tells us that she is not gaining financially as a lone blogger, and the ROH are not suffering any financial loss.  In fact her actions are free advertising and likely result in financial gain for ROH, for which they should be grateful.  They are a publicly funded bastion of elitism, which pretends to court new, younger audiences, but seem confused about what this actually means.

There seems to be the beginnings of a plague of twattish behaviour relating to social media resulting in public embarrassment for public figures.  I recently enjoyed in real time the cuntish antics of Gillian McKeith Dpl (Disgusting poo lady) on twitter, as she fucked and farted about with her slander and self-aggrandising.  She obviously surrounds herself with fawning idiots who refrain from pointing out her lunatic claims about basic science, her medical ‘degree’ and the efficiency of her snake oil.  

So when someone entirely unknown to her mentioned they were looking forward to reading a chapter about her in Ben Goldacre’s fantastic book Bad Science, Gillian began tearing her hair out with her poo stained fingers.  She accused the author of the tweet of being gullible and (bizarrely) anti-American, then libelled Ben by calling him a liar.  Then Gillian attempted to claim her official twitter account was not really hers, despite the fact that it was clearly linked to from her official website and facebook account.  Even after she deleted the twitter logo from her official website the link code was still visible in view source.  The whole thing took about twenty minutes from start to finish and made Gillian look like a bellend to thousands of people who may have only been loosely aware of the extent of her bellending.

Then there was the recent case of Councillor John Dixon (Lib Dem, Cardiff) who innocently, and quite correctly, tweeted “I didn't know the Scientologists had a church on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.”  I have had similar thoughts myself, such as when walking down Deansgate in Manchester.  And it seems a fairly self-evident truth; their stupid does rub off.  In fact with their effective brainwashing techniques and megalomaniacal litigation, I would say they actively seek to rub their stupid onto others.  Especially celebrities.

As a result Cllr Dixon is facing (or may have already faced) disciplinary hearings.  Apparently some twat, who is obsessed with the sci-fi writings of L. Ron Hubbard, was offended by the comment.  Scientology is not a religion, it is more like a gang of rich sci-fi nerds who have reached insanely dangerous levels of obsession.  How the said twat even became aware of the tweet is a mystery to me.  I guess he was searching twitter (or someone at Scientology’s Ministry of Litigation was) looking for something to twist his knickers into.  

So what if it was a religion anyway.  What’s so special about religion that makes it free from jokes or criticism?  What if he had worried about the human sacrifice obsession rubbing off on him from a Christian church?  Or the praying way too much rubbing off from a mosque?  Or the being a bit posh rubbing off from a Conservative office?  Or the being a bit liberal rubbing off him onto an innocent bystander?  Or the racist rubbing off from a BNP rally?  Or the having a good time rubbing off from a Pride march?  Or the eating birds fatballs rubbing off from a pet shop.  Or... ad infinitum replacing religions with political and/or social groups.

Anyway... scientology is not a religion in the UK, is a cult in France, and is a business in Germany.  In other countries it is classed as a religion, but what does that say about religion?  It says, “hey you Christians, Muslims, and all the rest of you.  Yes, you.  You’re all in the same category as the Scientologists. Ha, yes, I know!”

Where am I going with all this?  I’m not sure, but perhaps I will court some negative attention from a Scientologist, power crazy because of the gang of well paid fantasists who have his back.  If I was a public figure my flippant and hastily cobbled together remarks might cause some bad press or trouble for someone (me or whoever got upset).  In reality I haven’t said anything that bad, don’t think I’ve libelled anyone, and in honesty just want to finish today’s blog so I can go to sleep.  Sleep; wondering and worrying about what can and can't be done and said as a blogger.......

Good night. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

53: Competition time! Original art as a prize!

For reasons which I shall keep quite (for fear of getting my hopes up too high) I am practising question writing, and oiling my researching cogs.  These are not pub quiz questions; some are intentionally designed to be rather complicated to understand, others require obscure or specialist knowledge.  Some of them I have tried to make as google proof as possible (not easy!).

There is a prize which will be a piece of original art, by me, and perhaps something extra like an old toy or other random article.  Out of all the entries the prize goes to the person who gets the most right and supplies the most convincing blag as to why I should believe they didn’t get the answers from google.

Over the next day or two I will decide what the prize will be and post pictures up on here.  In the meantime, get answering the questions and writing your “I didn’t use google because...” blags.  Email entries to me or IM me on facebook.

  1. Which US state is apocryphally said to have been discovered by Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León while searching for the mythical Fountain of Youth?
  2. Born May 2nd 1929, which guitarist pioneered the use of distortion and feedback, and is widely credited with inventing the power chord?
  3. What is the word, formed from a portmanteau of two others, created after the fact from the initial letters or syllables of a phrase, and is often used in urban legend to create false etymology?
  4. It is a Brazilian art form combining dance, music and martial arts, and is said to have originated as an activity in which slaves could secretively practice fighting skills.  Name the art form, and the traditional musical instrument most closely associated with it.
  5. His name is given to a style of graphical representation of the movements and relationships of sub-atomic particles in quantum mechanics.  Besides physics he had a wide range of interests including playing the bongos.  Who is he?
  6. Formed from a block of fermented pecorino, it has the eggs of a fly intentionally introduced so that its larvae hasten the fermentation process.  Considered to be an aphrodisiac, by the time it is ready to eat it contains thousands of the live larvae.  What are its actual, and colloquial, names?
  7. What name is given to the process of intentionally creating short circuits in toy musical instruments and other low-voltage sources of digital sounds, in order to create unique musical instruments?
  8. What is the name shared by a Benedictine monastery in Devon, England, a tonic wine brewed there and a honey bee bred there?    
  9. He is a character from a 1984 comedy film, who claims to have “a PhD in parapsychology and psychology”.  Name the character and the film.
  10. What name is given to the deadly sin which the Catholic Encyclopaedia describes as happening in the following ways: Prae-propere, laute, nimis, ardenter, studiose?
  11. She was a popular Cambodian singer during the late 1960s and early ‘70s.  She was honoured with the title Golden Voice of the Royal Capital.  Nothing is known of her life after the fall of Phnom Penh to the Khmer Rouge.  Who is she?  
  12. Opening in Manchester, England on the 15th September 1830, it is a Grade 1 listed building and the world’s oldest surviving railway station.  What is it called?
  13. What is the term coined by Max Müller, editor of the 50-volume set Sacred Books of the East, meaning the concept of worshipping one single god whilst still believing that others exist?
  14. Which Russian mountain range is often considered a natural boundary between Europe and Asia, and whose highest peak, Mount Narodnaya, elevates to 1,894 metres?
  15. Which Norwegian city and region shared the title of European Capital of Culture 2008 with Liverpool, England?
  16. Name the town in Milton Keynes which is the home of the Marshall Amplification company, and is best known as being the location of Britain’s World War 2 code breaking efforts.
Good luck. :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Block Chop 52:

Well, it was 9/11 yesterday.  Yes that’s right; the 9th of November.  Yesterday in 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers anchored Mayflower in the New World.  The Meiji Restoration began in Japan in 1867; Imperial rule returned as the Tokugawa shogunate were defeated.  Jack the Ripper kills his last known victim on the ninth of November, 1888.

09/11/1967: NASA launches Apollo 4 and Rolling Stone magazine releases its first issue. 
09/11/1997, and Vince McMahon betrays Brett ‘Hitman’ Hart; the so-called Montreal Screwjob.
These are the events we are remembering today on 9/11, the ninth of November.

Of course I am joking; today is actually the one day we show solidarity with our American cousins by adopting their backwards month/day numbering designation.  So 9/11 bizarrely becomes the 11th of September.  Ho ho, those crazy foreigners; so similar, but so different!

Flippant, watashi?  No, I’m being satirical... or something.  I think I am attempting to be funny; yes, that’s it.  I’m attempting to avoid the horror of nine years ago yesterday by being silly.  Actually that’s not entirely correct.  If truth be told I had completely failed to notice the significance.

Yesterday was a hung over morning and a drunken evening arguing the toss about science and religion and watching the shockingly unfunny film Big Money Rustlas.  I spent the majority of a lazy Sunday afternoon reading articles on the Vanity Fair website, while my girlfriend watched endless episodes of My Sweet 16 on channel Viva.  Clearly a weekend well spent.

Pastor whatever-his-name-is from the good ol’ U S of A apparently gave up on his stupid book-burning idea.  You can all thank me one at a time.  He obviously read my blog from a few days ago, or at least word got to him.  I entertain the idea that he might not actually be able to read and so a slightly more evolved acquaintance enlightened him.

With any luck that will be the last time his funny moustached face ever disgraces our news channels and column inches.  I’m already forgetting who he is or why he bothered us... What am I talking about?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Block Chop 51:

I’ve got religion on the brain today.  I woke up with the idea in my head for a series of educational kid’s books looking at world religions and important religious figures from a sociological, cultural, historical, objective view point.  The more I think about it the more complex and ambitious it seems, but also the more it feels like a really good idea.  Despite undergoing hints of the slight gradual drift from the political left to the political right that comes with the aging process, I remain an idealist.  I see a better world where segregation is gone; children are not indoctrinated (they are taught how to think, not what to think); religion or lack of is a personal matter and is taught as sociology and literature; and humanism, environmentalism and innate human morality affect politics replacing theocracies the world over.

If science fiction has taught me anything (and it has) it’s that these dreams will only be fulfilled after 2063 when Zefram Cochrane builds and successfully tests our first warp drive engine.  A passing Vulcan cruiser detects the warp trail and initiates first contact.  This starts a chain of events leading to the eventual unity of humanity; huzzah!  Ninety years later the first Earth star ship, Enterprise, will set off to explore space.  At this point no rules for space diplomacy have been codified, so Captain Archer and his crew must improvise based on their own intuition.  As a result of the first Enterprises mission humans, Vulcans and a number of other species form the United Federation of Planets, a socialist utopia dedicated to protecting the galaxy.  100 years later the Enterprise is captained by James T. Kirk whose official mission is to ‘explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before’.  His personal mission seems to be to scrap and shag his way across the galaxy while disregarding as many Starfleet regulations as possible.  Seventy years later and now Jean Luc Picard captains the Enterprise.  Times had change and Captain Picard always strove to follow the principles of diplomacy and tact, while not being afraid to fight to defend the values of the Federation when necessary.

And there we have it: a future utopia where religion is a personal thing (like in Voyager when Commander Chakotay visits his Native American ancestor spirit guide), diplomacy rules interstellar relations, and science and exploration are the prime goals.  Although we rarely see the lives of normal, non-Starfleet, humans I would assume that their Religious Education is part of Cultural Studies or Alien Befriending, or whatever they do at school.  Maybe when the real future gets here my books will be stored on their futuristic educational devices and the Starfleet database, to be studied by generations of eager new recruits and experience Tactical Officers alike.  

Yes, that will definitely happen.