Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Review

About four years ago at the excellent Page 45 in Nottingham, I picked up an innocuous looking digest format comic book. Its title was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Last night I got around to watching the film adaptation of it for the second time so I could write this review properly.

Scott Pilgrim is a slacker. Not the mangy pot-smoking poverty-line kind, but the kind of shiftless, cute, aimless layabout which can only exist in fiction. Scott falls in love with Ramona V. Flowers after meeting her in his head whilst napping. He convinces Ramona to date him, but almost accidentally ends up dating her at the same time as his platonic, 17 year old, rebound girlfriend Knives Chow. Scott soon finds out that seven of Ramona’s evil exes, headed by the villainous Gideon Gordon Graves, have banded together to fight him, all whilst he tries to keep in the good books of Ramona and go to band practice.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a visually stunning film. It is cut like a music video, shot like a CG blockbuster and looks like a videogame, but don’t confuse it for any of those things. Edgar Wright and co. take the worst parts of the soulless Hollywood summer films and makes them a selling point, turning Scott Pilgrim from what could be another quirky teen comedy into something much braver and impressive. Consider a comic adaptation like Iron Man. In Marvel’s recent films the comic inspires the film, which takes the concepts from the books and transplants them into the real world, or at least the celluloid real world. Scott Pilgrim instead presents itself like the comic played on a cinema screen, placing stylish onomatopoeia in shot and even going as far as using frames lifted straight from the book as flashbacks.

These stylistic touches play into the theme of the film, producing exciting, appealing and, most importantly, funny fight sequences. It’s a rare occasion when a battle plays through without a comedic interlude. In-between these scenes are the story of Scott trying to make it work with Ramona whilst being inept and charming, all the while his equally inept, charming friends muddle along with him.

Now let me explain why I had to see this film twice before I could write the review. After the first watching on release day (damn you Little White Lies preview selector bot!) I came out of the cinema with a big grin and happy thoughts. After I let the film percolate in my head for a while I noticed something that bothered me. I don’t think any of the characters have real depth, even as Scott wins the day and the girl we only see a tiny glimmer of character growth. Most of them seem to be the essence of their comic counterparts, distilled into stereotypes; none worse than Scott’s ex Envy Adams, who hardly gets any screen time at all.

This really bothered me, why had this not mattered during the film but only irked me afterwards? The answer came after my second watching. The characters can only be shown as thin slices of personality. The relentless pace of the film basically dictates this, but stylistically the videogame inspired nature of the narrative also supports wafer thin characterisation. These people aren’t Final Fantasy or Mass Effect cohorts, but are Slippy Frog and Diddy Kong. They serve their plot purpose; make you laugh then get out of the way. I have decided I like that.

It’s worth mentioning here that Kieran Culkin as Wallace Wells steals the show completely, some friends suggesting they’d happily watch a Wallace Wells spin off movie. He has the best lines, great timing and just the right amount of charm mixed with lascivity.

The re-watching didn’t help some things though. I speak, of course, of the mind control chip. Whilst I suppose it sounds like a campy-yet-fun plot device it comes across as a last minute inclusion, fixed by a poor deus ex machina. Sure, the third act needed to be kept snappy, but this seemed like an ill-judged contrivance. Other elements of the plot make little sense also, but these come off as charming idiosyncrasies.

Michael Cera as Scott still seems a bit off to me. Film Scott seems a bit too pathetic. We never see the self-confident, impish grin of the book Scott. Don’t get me wrong, I like Michael Cera, I just think playing Scott a little cheekier and assured would have been a better move and Cera doesn’t seem to be able to quite pull that off.

Even with these flaws though, the film comes together as a great piece of work. It tries to be something different, and genuinely succeeds. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World realises the idea of a graphic novel as a film, even better than Sin City did. It’s fast, clever, exciting and most of all fun. Go into expecting a lot of silliness and leave the po-face at home and you’ll get the most from it. Even better take some chums along and have a good old geek-out afterwards.

+7 on the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale (+12 to -12)
+ Geeky, campy fun
+ Genuinely different and engaging
+ Great soundtrack
– Shallow characters
– Some dodgy plot points

AFTERWORD
Don’t listen to Ado. Scott should not end up with Knives. If he disagrees with me I shall be forced to shoot him down with amazing logic. Also Tom Petty’s American Girl should have been the credit music.

Toy Story 3 Review

When I became a man, I put away childish things. This of course is a quote, as I still play computer games, paint little army men and watch films called Toy Story 3.

Pixar’s latest film returns to the well realised characters from their first feature, released way back in 1995. A subset of the cast from the previous two films find themselves neglected by their owner, Andy, desperately trying to regain his attention. We learn that Andy is going to college and must decide what to do with his old toys. Through various mishaps most of the old gang end up at a daycare centre, whereas Woody has a golden ticket to college with Andy. Of course, the daycare centre isn’t the paradise it appears, and Woody is left with some important decisions to make.

You may have heard that this film is a bit of a tear jerker, and your humble reviewer can report that he wasn’t above having a bit of a weep towards the end of the film. It is genuinely affecting seeing characters I loved when I was 14 struggling to live in a world increasingly hostile to them, a family whose circumstances are changing just like the family of Andy. I challenge any adult to not feel at least a little emotional when Andy’s mother sees his newly emptied room, or when the toys stoically face death together after facing a world filled with betrayal.

Pixar’s talent for layered storytelling takes these emotional themes, more at home in a drama, and mixes them with elements that are fun, hilarious and at times a little scary. The film follows a narrative that is easy to follow and keeps the pace up well with nary a slow moment, possibly at the expense of feeling a little rushed. This pacing ends up burying some of the other toys, Bullseye and Slinky Dog seem to be downplayed almost to transparency, and I’m not sure that Bullseye is actually in the conveyor belt scene at all. It would have been nice to see more of the supporting toys from the earlier films, but I suspect that would have dragged down the start of the film unnecessarily. Saying that, the implied loss of some other toys, namely Woddy’s squeeze Bo, impart the theme of the film early and well.

There is also a confusing romantic subplot happening between Jesse and Buzz which, whilst leading to some entertaining scenes, adds little to the story and seems disjoint; especially if your memory of the second film is a bit hazy. I’d have gladly given this up for a bit more screen time for some other characters. The last real issue with the film is that it might be a bit scary for younger kids, I heard one child remarking that they were scared and I’m fairly sure another left the cinema. Although the level of threat is fairly high, it’s not opressive. The film is a U rather than a Uc and seems secure in the knowledge that kids don’t want an boring happy romp. I for one have much fonder memories of childhood films with a high level of antagonism.

Tom Hanks and Tim Allen voice the protagonistic couple, Hanks has the lion’s share of the work but Allen puts in a great performance and managed to make me forget I was listening to the ‘star’ of Home Improvement. Other characters are well rounded where they are allowed to be. The perennially quixotic Joan Cusack puts in a great performance as Jesse, being both abrasive and endearing at the same time, but not given enough space to really shine. Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) have some good scenes together as well, and are the most active of the supporting toys.

New additions Ken (voiced excellently by Michael Keaton) is the comedic star, providing a lot of the laughs during the middle stretch of the film. Casting Keaton here was stroke of genius, you can almost see the first movie Batman’s face in Ken if you squint hard enough. Ned Beatty as antagonist Lotso never seems to really get to grips with the character though, by turns outraged and friendly he doesn’t come off as the mastermind he’s supposed to be, more two personalities inhabiting the same character.

A quick note on 3D. I tend to avoid it wherever possible, I find it distracting and blurry, but for Toy Story 3 it’s worth investing in the Elvis Costello glasses. If it wasn’t for the fuzziness in near objects I could have completely forgotten the film was in 3D, but Night & Day however, the short before the main feature, uses the 3D effect in a genuinely interesting way and is well worth seeing.

All in all, I adored Toy Story 3. The continuing theme of obsolescence carried through the series from the first film comes to a head, and leaves you with a bittersweet ending to the character’s stories. This is possibly Pixar’s best film to date and the best film I’ve seen this year. Go to see it now, take the kids, friends and a tissue. You won’t be disappointed that you did.

+10 on the Rjandberg-Smythe scale

Twi-Hard 2: Twi Harder! LIVEBLOG!

Well, we’re back! And we’ve brought Twilight: New Moon with us! For reasons none of us really understand we’re here to live blog the second movie in the Twilight saga.

Present is Ado to my left, and Gazz to my slightly further left. The Thai food is here, and two pints of beer have been consumed. Meet us at 20:30, and prepare your loins!

We’re here, and we’re watching the trailers before the ‘feature’! I have a beer, Gazz has a beer and Ado has a squash.

More ARRPATTS trailers before the film starts. YAY

Crustyplow: The Driest Furrow. A movie about kids watching old folks getting it on.

The URL advert for Eclipse lists a Bebo address. Aren’t they dead?

A yellow moon. That’s symbolism for a weak bladder. Bella sounds prophetic (pathetic). Lots of red riding hoods. Flowers and some old bird. HI GRANDMA!

The sparkles begin! EAT GRANDMA! DO IT EDDIE!

HOLY SHIT; Edward did Bella’s granny. Now bargain basement Jason Leigh brings a sammdige. I’M BORED.

Ado: She only has one tone.
Gazz: You’ll learn to love it.

What kind of car is that. I think it’s a Volvo! Perfectly framed shot of a pretty boy walking in slow motion next to his shiny Volvo. Yea!

Ed is 109, she is 19. ULTROPAEDO! Get off that lass, grandad!

Gazz: We could just fuck in the back of this Volvo?

Best line of the film? ‘I’m just filling out Bella’ and ‘You should come take a ride’

Ado: ‘I saw this hole the other day, and I thought of you. It’s like a wizard’s sleeve!’

Perky girl rots my brain. Ado: ‘Vampires don’t use stairs, it makes sense now!’ Funny ‘don’t trust vampires joke’

Ado: ‘The Keanu Reeves award for emoting goes to…’

Gazz: ‘Previously on Twilight: biting’

PRETENTION!

Shit! Brian Clough is in this film! Nice ruff, Clough!

Best part of the film? Dismemberment by Brian Clough. Clough’s Rough Stuff is Gazz’s Cliff Richard cover band.

‘She’ll come for me soon’

‘Don’t hate the truck. It’s a Volvo’

YOU GOTS BLOOD ON MY BEIGE CARPET BITCH, TAKE IT! Eat her!

Does Ed look a bit disgusted.

Ado: Look at all the blood in you. Time of the month is it?

‘How do you do it?’ From behind with a bag on your head. No two bags for redundancy. You’re a double bagger.

Why do they burn the bandages? It’s so that they don’t go rooting through the bins later for them. It’s like when you throw half a sausage away, then regret it later.

Mumble translation:-
Ed: Bella do you understand my feelings for you at all?
Bella: God told me. How’d you feel about your solo? Ern weewap, so don’t worry about mine
E: Scronsay
[pause]
B: Shitty birthday. Say ass one thing. Kicks me (Gimli?)
E: SCROMF. [pained look]
B: It was a poo
E: Who are you?
–==SCENE==– (Ed only does one take)

Bella don’t use no photoshop. Also Gazz sez they ruining Bon Iver. Ado: Nice titties on the left.

Neil: What’s happened so far?
Ado & Gazz: Nothing

Who the fuck is Jizbert?

Bella: ‘I’m coming!’ Us: From that distance?

Who the hell is charlie? We don’t know but they ARE in the trees.

Charlie says, don’t watch Twilight. Gazz: Oh Stephanie Meyer, how I hate you

MOPE!

Bella still looks constipated. No wait, it’s coming! No, she’s just falling over. WHILE STANDING STILL. DU HAW, I’M SO CLUMSY LOL

Topless action! Man boob. Moob.

Ahh, Charlie is Tesco Jason Leigh. Gazz: ‘I got naked, but I didn’t rape her’

OKTOBER
Mope
NOVEMBER
Mope
Gazz: She’s not even listening to the Cure. Rubbish
DECEMBER
Snow mope. Snope
EMAIL BREAK. Cool, disappearing computer!
Bella: SCREEAPHRAAAGHHHAHHH! Period cramps
Charlie shall now be called Churl.

Beer is gone ūüė¶ GAZZ, GET ME ANOTHER. Now Bella is going to Jacksonville. I hope the movie ends soon.

WE’RE ONLY 30 MINUTES IN! There’s another hour and thirty to goooo.

Hopefully it’s an hour’s worth of credits. Ado: Who for? Mumblor and all the cameramen who offed themselves.

Bella’s truck don’t work ’cause it’s not a VOLVO. I wan’t to drink at ONE EYED PETE’S.

Wtf is with ghost Edward? Really?

Bella: I think I know one eye.

Bella want rough trade. Ed thinks that be a bad idea. None of us have any clue what’s going on here. Now time for MORE MONOLOGUE!

Bella: If i need a rush of danger to see him, I’ll have to drive a HONDA.

Is it that Ed actually turns up when she’s in danger, or that she’s gone mental and sees him when she’s high on adrenaline?

Why do they keep making jokes about Bella’s age. Is this a theme?

Wolfman (Jacob?): Do you not like that song?
Bella: I don’t like things I enjoy

First time I’ve seen Bella turned on by is man fighting.

I remember this on time I broke up with a lass and woke up screaming every night. Supportive Churl is supportive. And not funny.

Churl: Sometimes you have to learn to love what’s good for you. [Later he is arrested for incest]

Gazz about Jake: Is that as close as you can get to being female whilst still having a ballsack?

There’s still a damn hour left.

Is Ed really scared of her driving a dirt bike. Isn’t that a mite overprotective. YES FACEPLANT INTO A ROCK! MORE OF THIS SORT OF THING!

GREAT LINES IN CINEMA:
Jake: You’re apologising for bleeding?
Bella: I guess I am.

More random topless! ‘Here smell my shirt. Mmm’

Why can’t we see the tigers being killed by bears?

Bella: What about ‘Face Punch’ have you heard of that?
Rando #1: No
Bella: You have now! [Smek]

Let’s Do This! Face Punch. I wanna see that more that Twiglet. Rando is a pussy. We also wanna see Parking and Gambling, Gods and LSD, also Pontypool, Mike Zero.

BOO RALPH! You’re rubbish. We see you’re online, you’re just hiding from this amazing film!

Bugger! Jake made her feel feelings again. Now we go back to mopecore mode for a while. STOP MOPING! SHUT UP! FUCKING TEENAGERS! ‘I’m not like a car, you can’t just fix me. But I do have a spacious boot and wide exhaust’

I honestly don’t know what’s happening now, except that Ed has gone and Bella’s a bit mopey.

Topless!

Why does Bella go for angry assholes? Ginger rando was OK.

‘Hey Jake, come and hang out in the woods with us guys in tight shorts with no tops on in the pouring rain! It’s totally not gay!’

We think Bella’s trying to find a cliff to jump off. We want that! DO IT BELLA.

Oooh, Bella on her knees again! Who’s this guy? I think his name is Orwan, Rowan or Woyan. His accent is great and randomly dropped. Actmaster!

Ado: MY EDWARD SENSE IS TINGLING
Gazz: Who the fuck are all these people?

Why would any vampire be afraid of Ed? He’s a goit.

Growbag: I can’t help but kill you, so mouthwatering
Bella: Please don’t

There’s totally a wolf! Werewolves vs. Vampires is more boring than I thought.

Twilight rules of vampires:
A) You’re immortal
B) You’re pretty
C) You’re sparkly
D) Don’t really need to drink blood
E) Get a bit angry around blood sometimes but not a lot
F) BASICALLY NO DRAWBACKS!

Ado and Gazz are on Team Jake. I’m on Team FOAD.

Jake can’t work shirts anymore. Cutting his hair cut his IQ by all.

WE DEMAND VAMPIRE, WEREWOLF, MOPEY BINT THREE WAY! IT SHALL BE AWESOME!

Bella: Come back and talk, Jake! I have not moped enough! (Falls over)

Plot is actually happening! We’re on tenterhooks!

Ado: It’s all about the dialogue. The dire-log

SLAP! Anger! Wolfywoo! Let’s hope those shorts grow back!

Ralph, you’d like this. They keep talking about feelings. You’re into that, right?

Wolfmen: Hey Bella, wanna come inside? there might not be any nobbing.

Ado is taking his top off to show TEAM JACOB solidarity. Bella is a total whore for supernatural bastards.

BEER 3!

I watched Inception before this. I don’t know if that’s making this worse, or if it really is this tedious.

BITE HIS FACE OFF! Jamaycahn vampire’s face was delicious, B. You know, the main villain in this film hasn’t been seen by the audience yet, but is always talked about. Is that good filmmaking? NO!

Ghost Volvo! Golvo! Ginger, there in the trees, old man! Dumbass. Now she’s after Churl! OH NOES! Get the ginger, Team Jacob. Do you think she’s leading them into a trap? I THINK SHE IS!

Twilight vamps can not only cross running water, they can swim like motherfuckers.

Ado: Not vampires. CAMPIRES!

Bella’s going to be killed by the sea! Yay! Shark ginge! Kill her, end this damn movie! At least Ghost Ed is around to watch.

Grey Shorts Guy: Hey A-Hole ar going to horrargh ver place. Have you seen the financing available on new Volvos?
Bella: [Mumbles]

All the dudes Bella likes are the Hulk. Imagine if she met Bruce Banner. SPAFF!

Bella is such a ho bag. ‘You’re so special! Also, I hallucinate about Ed like all the time. Lets knob and I can hallucinate his face on your piece!’

Ado: Abstinwhore did done goned did a breathe!

Psychic vampire is not a character. Sometimes I wish I was a walking deus ex machina.

Psychic lass: #Bella, what is that awful wet dog smell?’
Bella: ‘MY THATCH!’

Better wolfvampbint threeway! Psychic vamp is a better Ed. Me: What month is it now? Gazz: Mopetober

Shit, this is the first time in an hour we’ve seen Jake with his shirt on! 5 to 1 that he’s topless in the next film. Bella should knob Jake, he’s much better.

Stuff happening! Psychic: He wants to die too! Us: SO DO WE!

Is that a Volvo? WHY YES IT IS! Bella has her own plane. It’s a Virgin Atlantic. FNARR!

Brian’s back! Get in there, Brian! Camp, camp Brian Clough. Are the folks in Engerland? They’ve nicked our road signs. It’s apparently italy. With Brian Clough. They’re also driving a Porsche, so you know it’s Italy.

FUCKING CLOWN SHOES! None of this makes sense! ‘You go, because he can read my thoughts! Even though he saw you dying half way across the globe!’ Ed’s suicide plan is gash.

SHUT UP YOU MOPEY TWATS! You make no sense and we can’t tell what you’re saying.

Bella – still a virgin whore. What are we betting that the little girl vamp is like 800 or something.

WORST MUZAK EVER! I bloody hate these damn boring vampires. BRIAN CLOUGH IS BACK! Brian: ‘ANwo Anctante!’

Ado: This is the best bit of the film! Look at Brian emoting! I’d forgotten that people could do that! He actually changed the tone of his speech! Amazing!

FIGHT! It’s fast in slow-mo. Nobody knows why they’re fighting. Probably for ratings. SMASH HIS PRETTY FACE IN!

For a soulless vampire, Ed is one depressing bastard.

INTO THE CLOUGH EYE! What’s in there? A crap scene where Bell and Ed have a nice run in the woods. We know Bella is a vamp because she FAILS TO FALL OVER.

Ed: Sorry I fucked off forever. It were for your own good
Bella: …
Ed: Whormble wardhe
Bella: …
Ed: …
Bella: My donna wo change me
Ed: [waffle]

Gazz: If you become a vampire, you automatically lose your hymen. Incidentally Bella is more of a son than you ever were, Ed

Woop! Jake and Ed meet! Jake has lost his shirt again. Jake has introduced an exciting contrivance that will stretch this out for another movie at least. Bella tells Jake she’s been stringing him along. I’ll bet Jake keeps sniffing around her though. Damn Bella’s fickle heart! So many hot dudes want to do her, and she can’t decide who gets a ride.

Ed: Wait five years, then I’ll make you a drawback free vamp.
Bella: No
Ed: Marry me then

END. Thank fuck that’s over!

No wait! There’s a stinger after the credits! It’s Brian Blessed as Ghengis Khan! He’s come to set all the main characters on fire for being boring mopey assholes! Look at all the blood! best stinger ever!

That was bloody awful. I hate you all. Goodnight.

VIDEO DUMP:> Part the DEUX

Welp, I got nothing to write, so I’m gonna dump a load of videos found by people that aren’t me.
That’s right kids! You too can be a huge slacker and achieve nothing! YAY!

How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking:

Courtesy of the lovely Ectoplasmosis

The rather marvellous MC Frontalot’s track First World Problems:

Courtesy of the happy mutants at the Boing Boing

A Crab:
Look it’s just a crab. I can handle this. It’s fine, just sitting there. No it’s OK, this isn’t freaking me out at OH MY GOD! PUT IT BACK! GHAAAA! MAKE IT STOP DADEEEEEEEEE!

Yep, more from the Mother Boing

Hitchhiker’s Guide to Daleks:

Courtesy of Topless Robot (via, -sigh- Boing Boing. Sorry)

Hitch is my hero…

Hooray!
Courtesy of Coilhouse

Arseface:
Not really the character from Preacher, but a new dance craze called ‘Surra de Bunda’. Probably NSFW, but you wanna be fired, right? So you can live your life like me? Your new god?
Hello?

If you watched that to the end, I pity you.
Another from Ectomo

Linky Roundup

OK, it turns out that I’m way too busy prepping D&D and playing Battlefield to spare brain cycles on you lot for the minute, so here’s a load of other people’s stuff for you to read and watch and enjoy.

Enjoy!

Trolocat!

Care of Das MutterBoing

Terrifyingly, Awfully Brilliant Harry Potter Fanfic

Lib Dems are Behind Debate on #DEBill

Odd Russian(?) Children’s Cartoon
Not sure about this, but it appears to be about an abusive relationship between a wolf and a rabbit. It has robots and a fantastic soundtrack.

Thanks to Coilhouse

Robot Unicorn Attack! Play this!

Deus Ex 3 Trailer

Squee!

The Mesopotamians

Yeah, updates. I remember them. They were awesome.

Turns out my brain only functions in the sun. In that one tiny respect, I am just like superman. To tide you over, here are TMBG being great. The basts.
For additional greatness, see The Doctor

This Sceptred Isle – Chapter 1

You all thought I wouldn’t do it. I know you did, don’t deny it! But I did, and I’m only a day late.

What is this? This is chapter one of a novel I’m attempting to write by publishing a chapter (or two) a month. Here I’d normally tell you what the story is about, but it’s not all planned out yet. What an adventure, eh? I CAN tell you This Sceptred Isle will be about technology, protest politics, geeks, makers and Canadians (well, probably only one Canadian). This is my first attempt at creative writing, barring Transformers slashfic (Oh, Bumblebee! was my favourite), so I need feedback. I need it now, if not yesterday!

All this stuff is going to be collected in that little link above. See it? No? Clicky here for it. You can also download this as a fancy txt file.

For your delectation I present chapter one of my attempt at writing a novel. Settle down children for This Sceptred Isle…


Ward lay on an unfamiliar bed, staring at an unfamiliar ceiling. His friends had told him plenty of different mind hacks to overcome the jet lag, but he’d decided to ignore them and sort it out the old fashioned way; sleeping and misery. It turned out he should have listened to them.

The travel alarm clock on his bedside table hovered the digits 20:04 in green above its little plastic shell, however Ward’s body still told him it was two in the afternoon. People were still walking the corridors of the hotel and the traffic noise outside the windows hadn’t clamed down any. Giving up on the idea of sleep, Ward decided he’d try going out for something to eat and wobbled the few steps to the bathroom. The bright fluorescents sputtered into life as soon as he set foot in the bathroom, Ward groaned loudly. He hadn’t seen how the lights knew he was in the room yet but figured there must be a small passive secreted somewhere. As soon as he found it he’d introduce it to a roll of duct tape.

Ward showered, dressed and walked out the door of his room. He’d taken four steps before he realised he’d left his keycard inside. He stopped, shut his eyes, raised his head and shouted incoherently to the universe in general.

He hadn’t had a very good day. The buses, taxis and flights from Moose Jaw to London had sapped the little goodwill he had remaining, even then he wasn’t even sure why he really needed to be at the Technology Industries UK conference. It was the same old sales corporate sales pitch but he’d been asked to go along ‘To take care of any questions the geeks might have’ about their new P2P enterprise documentation system, FogUP. Admittedly he’d sat in on the planning meetings when the software was still a gleam in a designer’s eye and seen the code through to its release, but he drew the line at actually having to sell the damn thing too. But that’s how MautiSoft worked, they liked to show how ‘joined up’ and ‘synergistic’ their business was. Ward had been working with them for six years and knew the difference between what impressed the suits and the people that had to implement their ‘ware and that’s the real reason they had asked him to be there. Assuaging the fears of the guy who actually had to sit down and plug FogUP into an already complex system.

—–

Stephanie had been working at the Ibis for eight weeks and was still enjoying it. She’d been in the country a lot longer as it had taken her three months to prove her fitness to work. She’d had three physical exams, two written exams and a supervised skills audit, as well as having to write her abridged life history, which had been sent back to the US to be verified before being granted a long term visa. She was glad she’d stayed the course though; she’d recently been promoted to front desk duty during the late booking out hours and prided herself on progressing so fast. She had just finished checking out an elderly Spanish couple as a young, thin man walked up to the desk. He was wearing a thin coat for this time of year, jeans and a black t-shirt all topped off with a poodle perm.

“I’ve locked myself out of my room” he said in an almost familiar nasal whine.

“Sir, that’s not possible” said Stephanie in her most helpful voice

The young man’s expression visibly darkened. She felt a little sorry for him.

“Oh, I assure you it is. Card on bed, me outside.”

“Sir, our card keys are RFID enabled. If the card is still in the room the door will not lock. There should have been an alarm to notify you as you left your room.”

“Oh” said the man, shaking his head. “Sorry about that. Epic jetlag, you know.”

He paused and looked off into space for a second. After a beat he said “So my room is unlocked right now?”

“That’s right Sir. Would you like me to call an engineer to check the status of the alarm?”

The man’s eye’s widened, his jaw dropped then he turned and ran back to the stairwell. Stephanie stood blinking as the door to the stairs slowly closed itself. She felt a little bit bad for being so glib, but she hadn’t even had a chance to ask his room number. She should get a security guard to the room to make sure everything is OK. After a couple of seconds thought she turned to the computer, deftly typing on the key membrane she pulled up a list of unlocked rooms. 217, 130, 412, boy, people were cautious around here. She checked the room numbers against the EUID they’d booked the room under. 412 and 130 were both verified IDs for the EU, whereas the resident in 217 had a different looking code. It wasn’t one she recognised, but Stephanie was sure she new the man’s accent.

Stephanie touched the icon on her terminal’s screen for the Government ID Database. The screen filled with a sparse green and blue login prompt. She filled in her ID, her passphrase and pressed her thumb to the biometric reader spot on the keypad. A second later the login screen was replaced with another equally sparse one asking for an EUID or Foreign ID. She pasted the ID for room 217 into the field and pressed submit, the screen froze for a second or two and then brought up the personal records for a Wade Matthew Everett; Age – 26; Residence – Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada; Employer – MautiSoft; Previous Employer – People4Work.com; Marital Status – Single…

The list went on, but Stephanie could see that the photograph attached to the file was the same man who had just been at the front desk. His picture was getting close to expiry and his hair had changed a lot but it was clearly him. She closed the ID Database and picked SECURITY from the list of VoIP numbers at the side of her screen. She was sure nobody would have broken in, but being helpful cost nothing.

—–

Wade rushed up the carpeted stairs, funny how hotel corridors all smelt the same he thought. He arrived at the second floor panting, half through exhaustion, and half from the beating the dead tree novel in his coat pocket had given him. He heaved the fire door to the corridor open, narrowly missing an Asian man in an aggressively cut business suit and pink shirt. As he barrelled past Wade shouted an apology, but if the man replied he didn’t notice. All he could think of was his laptop. Yes it was turned off and encrypted, yes it was secured with a 150 character passphrase and biometrics and yes it was stuffed behind a pile of un-hung clothes at the back of the closet, but if that laptop was stolen he was here for a trade show with nothing to show. It would definitely cost him his job, and Wade decided it would probably end his career as a software engineer too. Word travelled fast through the professional net.

He overshot the door a little, still thinking about what to do if the laptop was missing, skidded to a halt and paced back to room 217 and tried the handle. Stupid! The door swung open and Wade surveyed the room for signs of a break in, nothing seemed out of place. Warily he entered the room and slid open the cheap closet, a few seconds of panicked rummaging produced a gloss black brick no bigger than a magazine. Wade clutched the laptop to his forehead, shut his eyes and breathed out deeply. Shortly he became aware that someone was knocking on his room’s door.

He could tell it was a security guard by the way the man stood, arms crossed, legs apart. His plain white shirt and black tie emphasised the guard’s huge build and proclaimed his function louder than any vest with SECURITY stamped across it ever could. Compared to Wade this man was a mountain.

“Hello?” said Wade. It was half question, half statement.

“Good evening Sir. We had a report from reception that there were concerns about the security of this room. I have been asked to check the accommodation and ensure there is no problem.” the guard had a thick London accent but appeared to be consciously suppressing it.

Wade, thinking back to the conversation with the clerk in the lobby, couldn’t remember telling her his room number. Still, having a security guard come by to check the room was a good idea. He made a mental note to thank the clerk later.

“Oh, well thanks, I guess” said Wade “There doesn’t seem to be anything missing.”

“You will have to provide me with some identification before I can let you continue.”

Something about the way he phrased the statement bugged Wade. Who was this man to prevent him going out, especially from his own room? What if this guy was some scammer trying to skim his ID? Wade glanced at the man’s belt and spotted his ID badge, he looked like bona fide hotel guard.

“I gave my ID at reception, haven’t you got my picture on file already?” he felt a little silly arguing with this guy, but we wasn’t going to hand over his credentials without a reason.

“I’m afraid the picture we have on file for the resident of this room does not match your appearance. UK law dictates that all identity photographs must be updated if a person’s appearance changes significantly. In these cases we have te ensure the identity of a resident with your EUID or visa in your case.”

Wade remembered the picture on his CanID; it was taken five years ago just before he’d started at MautiSoft and still wore his hair long. Long and greasy. It was amazing how a lack of income could affect your shampooing habits.

“I can see you’re trying to make sure everything is OK, but I don’t think I have to surrender my ID to you.”

The guards demeanour changed almost immediately. While he was polite but threatening before, his body language became hostile.

“I am a Police approved Warden, Sir” the guard spat the word out “and as such I am granted stop and search powers the same as any Police Officer. If you fail to verify your identity to me, I have the power to detain you until an Officer of the law arrives and places you into custody. At that time you will be fined and prosecuted if it is deemed necessary. Is that clear, Sir?”

The speech was rehearsed, they probably had little Miranda cards they handed out to these guys and this one was just waiting for a chance to use it. Wade wanted to list the stupidity on show, complain about the day he’d had and how he’d just gotten over being terrified that his laptop might have been stolen. Who was this trumped up doorman to come and tell him what to do?

“Sir, if you cannot verify your identity to me right now you will be detained.”

Wade sighed. He just wanted to get out of the hotel. He fished out a beaten leather wallet and found his Canadian ID card, along with his UK visa which translated the CanID into one the EUID systems could handle. He handed them over to the guard.

The guard scanned the card with a miniature handheld, and asked Wade for his password and thumbprint. With a perfunctory “Thank you, Sir” he headed off to the elevators. Wade closed the door, leant against it and shook his head. He felt weak, like he’d caved in under pressure. Like he’d been bullied into surrendering a tiny bit of his freedom. He found his card key on the bed, stuffed his laptop under his arm and left.

The girl who he’d spoken to before wasn’t on reception, so he left his laptop with a smiling, white shirted Indian guy manning the desk. Suppressing the urge to berate the man, he charged the cost of a safety deposit box to his Visa, making a mental note to claim it as an expense. Minutes later he was out, storming across cold, busy streets replaying his encounter with the security guard over and over.

It was more than a month until Christmas, but already lights had been strung across smaller streets and every shop or bar was playing the same Christmas songs. Wade didn’t mind so much, he hadn’t heard some of the songs before and the Christmas decorations brightened his mood, if only a little. He stopped for a strong Americano and an over priced sandwich at a coffee chain, tried to read some of the novel he was lugging around but found that he couldn’t concentrate on it. Still restless, but much calmer, he decided to go and find a way to trade his jetlag for a hangover.

—–

The George and Dragon was little more than a corridor squeezed between an Italian restaurant and a solicitor’s. The bar was made of some old, age blackened wood, heavy with bronze fittings and ran the length of the narrow pub. Wade had ensconced himself at the seat furthest from the door, keeping himself apart from the clique of regulars, nursing a warm, flat, bitter ale that was a far cry from the ‘Crisp clean taste!’ of his usual drink. Just as he was about to give up on the pint and ask for a Coke instead the door to the pub opened, bringing with it a blast of bitter cold and a figure in a thick winter coat and military gas mask.

The newcomer strode over to the last unoccupied barstool and unceremoniously dumped herself onto it. She pushed the mask up from her face, where it sat pinned to a clutch of bleached dreadlocks.

“White wine please George.”

She turned to Wade, shooting him a brilliant white smile. Offering a strong, calloused hand she said “Hello, new friend.”


Creative Commons License
This Sceptred Isle by Neil Holmes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://stuporcollider.com/this-sceptred-isle/.