White Space

A blank page. To a writer, or even a “wannabe” like me, there’s nothing more hopeful yet and simultaneously intimidating in the whole world. The white expanse stretches out before you, full of infinite possibilities but devoid of even the slightest hint on how to uncover the embarrassment of riches you know lie within. To even attempt the expedition involves risk, an expenditure of time, of course, but also to one’s reputation. It’s one thing never to try but quite another to come back empty handed or, even worse, having filled the space with something your peers consider “worse than nothing”.

I write this by way of excuse for my shameful lack of copy presented on this website by myself in the last… well… since we started. Sure I’ve written some, but nowhere near as much as I should. I have, of course, had a great many good ideas for articles and interest pieces (and not all of them involved reviewing things or Live-Blogging) but most have remained just that… ideas. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that ideas are the easy bit. If there are two things I’ve learned, then the latter is that I almost always do the easy bit and leave the graft until that infinite ‘morrow that never seems to arrive.

Blank Page
We didn't write anything deliberately... so there!!

So, with the preceding paragraphs in mind, where do we go from here?

Well, I can see this going one of two ways. Either it’ll be akin to my exercise cycle, whereby I have one reasonably successful session, realise it makes me feel much better and I should do this more often. I’ll then swear to do it all the time and be sincere when I day it, but six weeks later I’ll still the same pot-bellied under-exerciser my mid-twenties left me as. The alternative is that it could go the other way and I might actually start to fulfil some of the potential I’m sure is in my head… somewhere.

I guess you and I had better hope the latter come to pass, else this is all we’re gonna see at the top of this page for a while to come and I’ll just sit here, in front of the TV, getting angry that nothing ever changes but never doing anything to make it happen.

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/.

Candiru – 1 – Emergence

I like B-Movies.

A lot.

Probably more than ‘actual’ movies. To this end my effort in the great ‘Stuporcollider Literary Challenge’ will hopefully feel a little like the b-movie. Perhaps with less cheesy dialogue but who knows.

I like Emo.

A bit.

But as the token emo of the group I have to ‘rep for my hood.’ Or whatever it is the kids are saying these days. To this end I will probably have drawn out introspectives from the somewhat emo protaganist. Bear with them, there will be killings aplenty right after.

Ultimately, it’s going to be an allegory for attitudes towards sex, relationships, promiscuity and gender roles, through the time honoured medium of monster gore fest.

So without further adieu, I give you Chapter One of:




That’s the only way she can describe how he sounds. No trace of the jovial lilt she loves, it’s all been replaced by the low rumblings that now emanate from him.

“Please Bek.” He sounds like he’s in pain. Struggling to fight. “Go.”

Wisps of terror start to tug at her, pulling her all the way awake. She sits up sharply, her unfamiliar surroundings adding to her ill feeling.

She remains sat upright, waiting for her eyes to adjust to the blankets of darkness around them; all the time aware of his frantically increasing movements.

“Jon? Honey, what’s wrong?”

In reply he lets out another animal cry, his back arched in a grotesque parody of a spine. As she watches she’s almost certain she can see a ridge begin to form just below his neck.

She feels bubbles of panic start to rise, threatening to engulf her; confusion and anxiety eating at her. She looks around the room, her night vision starting to give her focus, and sees her scattered clothes discarded at the side of the bed closest to her. They remind her of the night before, a night that had seemed to take so long to arrive but had been worth every moment of nervous waiting; moments that now feel so far away.

His foot brushes hers, startling her from her reverie. His foot feels unnaturally hot against her skin and stirs her to movement.

She slides her feet slowly over the side of the bed, and stands. As she extends one toned leg into her underwear she glances back at Jon. What she sees terrifies her. Tendrils of steam and smoke drift upwards from his prone form, his back a writhing, fluid, mass of ridges.

She’s acutely aware that she is in danger, not least of fascination, but it’s just a fleeting thought that’s replaced as quickly as it arrived by concern for her boyfriend, but she can do little more than watch as he starts to lift himself from the bed.

She steps back involuntarily, her legs tangled in her underwear she falls with a crash and a curse. The Jonthing’s head snaps up and slowly it turns to face her.

She looks up into the twisted visage of her boyfriend looming over her and feels complete revulsion wash over her. There is nothing that she recognises; just a domino mask of pain and hunger.

She tries to scramble to her feet but her sweaty palms slip on the laminate flooring. “Please…” she starts to say but the Jonthing stops her in her tracks. Its voice is choral, as though it is not just one voice but many.

“Thank you mother.”

Creative Commons License
Candiru by Gazz Hayes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Literally Literary Stuporcollider

monocleCome one come all!

The new year beckons, and with a first post about mopey vampire movies out of the way it’s time to think bigger and better for 2010. The year when the future becomes the present (in other words it’s pretty much like every other year but with more Android phones.)

If any of you read the twitter posts of the three of us who use it (that would be Ado, Gaz and I as MutantNME, VenomandSerum and Nullh respectively) you might have heard us waffling on about the ‘Mysterious Project’, well this is that. What I aim to do is produce a chapter of a story every month of this year, and I hope my co-editors will rise to the challenge as well.

Why am I doing this? I’ll tell you why, cief. It’s because I spend all my damn time consuming media, so I’m gonna have a go at regurgitating some of that into your waiting, hungry, chirping mouths. In all likelihood whatever I write will be rubbish, but any experience is good experience, right?

So sit back, sleep a bit, have a pint and wait like a good boy for the first instalment of the horror that is the Stuporcollider Literary Adventure 2010.

The Slowest Hour

I have no doubt that time is elastic. A second is hardly ever a second, a minute is a mutable thing and hours can exist anywhere between blink-of-the-eye quickness and a slow gelatinous creep. There is for me, however, an hour which more than others becomes a moribund struggle, a slow inexorable march. That hour starts at 4pm on a Friday.

It seems a series of events coalesce to produce this time warping effect. I’ve had at least one pint at lunchtime, most of the people that call me at work have already left, and I don’t want to start any jobs as I won’t have time to finish them. Couple these to Big Brother watching my internet usage and you’re left with me sat at my desk trying to figure out how it’s only ten past four.

I’ve tried to find a way to pass the time. My desk presents no opportunities to speed the hour up, technical manuals, promotional DVDs, broken IT equipment. Not even a small plastic Godzilla can help this situation.

I take two hard disk magnets and stick them together. It’s a good start but I need something else. Rooting around in my drawer I find some broken ball mice and discover the interior of them to be a large ball bearing. These become stuck to the magnets too. I check my change, and find that some two pence coins are magnetic. These are stuck to the magnets along with any drawing pins and paperclips.

Intoxicated by my success, I begin searching for more items to add to my magnetic medley. A screwdriver, a pen, a wrench, a tray, a filing cabinet, a stove, a car, a plane, a ship, a skyscraper, a mountain, a planet, a sun, a galaxy, a universe.

As I float in nothingness, gazing at my creation, I idly wonder what time it is.


A Brief History of the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale

Dr Rjandberg and Mr Smythe as Youths
Dr Rjandberg and Mr Smythe as Youths
As you all know, the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale is the preeminent method of rating an entertainment piece. Below is an article I wrote for Harper’s earlier this year (don’t look for it onlne, it was a print-only deal). I’ve talked to the editors and they’re OK with me republishing it here:

In 1918 two men, sick of the inexact measures of quality of pipe tobacco, began work on a ground breaking new system to gauge brands of smoking matter. Dr Clive M. Rjandberg, Professor emeritus of Kings College London and noted moustache enthusiast first mooted the idea to his close friend Mr Samuel ‘Bunty’ Smythe (noted cad, raconteur, womanizer and rumoured American) at the Reform Club. The two found that the aromas of pipe tobacco varied wildly, as did descriptions of them. The pair, profoundly moved by a discussion as to whether ‘Woodrow’s Finest No. 6’ smelled ‘like the arse end of a mule’ or ‘akin to scent of your mater’s thighs’, decided a more empirical method of measurement was needed.

The original scale ranged from -37 to +49, reflecting the relative grades given to the pairs favourite tobacco. The system failed to take off however, and the pair were described as ‘barmy as Welshmen’ by their peers. It was only two years later when they created the Revised Rjandberg-Smythe Tobacco Aroma Gradation Rating System (commonly referred to as the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale, or Randy-Smie Number) that people began to take notice, eschewing the previous values, the pair settled on a -12 to +12 scale, with 0 being the median, or starting point. Over the next few months the system gained impetus, spreading around Gentleman’s Clubs throughout the country and many tobacconists began labelling their wares according to the pair’s new system. This practice continued for some years until, in 1924, Professor Eustace Dorricott of Oxford University created the Oxford Rjandberg-Smythe Plain Language Translation Formulae. It was around this time that Mr Smythe began working on ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to the Revised Rjandberg-Smythe Tobacco Aroma Gradation Rating System and Smutty Flickbook’, a definitive work on the application of the Scale, along with pictures of French Ladies of Ill Repute.

Doricott’s Formulae, specifically created for the mathematically challenged, assigned a word in common parlance to each rating, cross referenced with many other factors. The exact formulae was lost when Professor Doricott was eaten by cannibals in the Congo, his notes on the matter are said to be used as divine teachings for the tribe to this day. The Formulae apparently gave results ranging from ‘Positively Rancid’ to ‘Verifiably Top Hole’, which allowed the working class and women to understand the system. In November of 1924 the failing Wellson & Sons Tobacco Company of Great Britain began marking their products with the Rjandberg-Smythe number and the Oxford Formulae rating in an attempt to bolster their sales. Sadly the ruse failed. Possibly due to the fact that a good selection of Wellson & Sons’ products proudly bore the inscription ‘Immaculately Feculent’. Thanks to the Oxford Formulae the company folded. Afraid that the same fate may befall them other tobacco companies began barring their brands from being sold with an associated Rjandberg-Smythe number, forcing the practice underground.

Despite having many adherents at its place of creation, the Reform Club, the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale eventually fell out of favour. Mr Smythe’s book on the subject remained unpublished and the manuscript languished in his modest four storey mansion.

The Rjandberg-Smythe Scale was lost for a long period, and the populace returned to haphazardly rating tobacco by unempirical standards. It was only in 1952 when film reviewer Terry ‘Ted’ Pepper was asked to write his opinion on Fritz Lang’s western ‘The Legend of Chuck-a-Luck’ (later renamed Rancho Notorious) that the Scale was returned to the popular consciousness. Pepper, a journalist and frequent gambler, had won the title deed to the Smythe Mansion in a game of craps against American columnist Arthur “Bugs” Baer. Among the possessions left in the mansion by the American Pepper found Smythe’s original manuscript for ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to the Revised Rjandberg-Smythe Tobacco Aroma Gradation Rating System and Smutty Flickbook’. Drawn in by the promise of Gallic nipple, Pepper became entranced by the idea of an empirical ratings system. He first implemented the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale in his review of Rancho Notorious, giving it a -8 and stating “Who thought naming their female lead ‘Chuck-a-Luck was a wise decision?”.

Pepper continued to use the scale in his reviews, and went as far as to copyright his idea in 1953 as ‘Pepper’s Numbers’. Other film reviewers, inspired by Pepper’s success, began to emulate him using various methods. Hunter S. Thompson famously used a scale of e to 7.34 in his early ‘zine work. Others settled into using either a 0 to 5 or a 0 to 10 scale as they were prevented from using ‘Pepper’s Numbers’, a tradition that has continued to this day.

It was in December of 2008 that famed Numerology Historian M. Dennis Mellenkampf discovered Pepper’s lost copy of ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to the Revised Rjandberg-Smythe Tobacco Aroma Gradation Rating System and Smutty Flickbook’ at an Oxfam shop in the West End. Amazed by the pictorial content of the book Mellenkampf quickly purchased the book and consumed its contents with gusto. It was only by chance that Mellenkampf happened to be a fan of Dick Powell’s ill fated ‘The Conqueror’ and had recently read Ted Pepper’s review on the internet (he gave it a +3, noting that ‘Wayne was dynamite!’) that he noticed the similarity between ‘Pepper’s Numbers’ and the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale. Taking his findings to the patent office, Mellenkampf was able to provide proof of prior art using Smythe’s manuscript and Pepper’s estate’s copyright on the system was rescinded.

Now the Rjandberg-Smythe Scale is in the public domain reviewers are free, and encouraged to, adapt it to rating any product, service or event. The recognised implementation of the scale gives 0 as absolute average, +12 as the pinnacle of quality and -12 the epitome of awful. To grade against the Scale one begins at 0 then assigns a value to positive and negative traits of the piece. Once all factors are considered, the values are tallied to give the final score. Below is an example using the fictional period film ‘The Ghost of Mary Stamford’ directed by Michael Bay:

3 – Megan Fox is very hot
1 – The ghost effects were very good

3 – Slow motion action scenes were an ill fit for a period drama
3 – Christian Bale’ performance as Mr. Blaringsworthworth was at best poor and at worst soul destroying
3 – The political power struggle subplot was poorly written and entirely unnecessary
2 – The ghost sex scene was ill thought through
2 – The casting of Sean-William Scott as Roger the Stable Boy was ill advised
1 – The Uzi was not invented until the late 1940’s
1 – There are no 6 lane highways in Elizabethan England

We now total the positives for a score of +4, and total the negatives for a score of -15. Adding the scores together we get -11, one up form the lowest rating on the Scale. Casting anyone except for Megan Fox as Mary Stamford and her comedy ghost buddy Xirraxgranithikkor Queen of The Pit would have led to a -12 and a critical drubbing form the cognoscenti.

Image courtesy of Louisville International Airport.

Phillip Pullman on Britain

I read this at the Times Online today and I think Mr. Pullman is no the list of my heroes from now on. Below is a brief extract that I simply loved…

It is inconceivable to me that a waking nation in the full consciousness of its freedom would have allowed its government to pass such laws as the Protection from Harassment Act (1997), the Crime and Disorder Act (1998), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), the Terrorism Act (2000), the Criminal Justice and Police Act (2001), the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Extension Act (2002), the Criminal Justice Act (2003), the Extradition Act (2003), the Anti-Social Behaviour Act (2003), the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act (2004), the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), the Prevention of Terrorism Act (2005), the Inquiries Act (2005), the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005), not to mention a host of pending legislation such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Coroners and Justice Bill, and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.


And those laws say:
Sleep, you stinking cowards
Sweating as you dream of rights and freedoms
Freedom is too hard for you
We shall decide what freedom is
Sleep, you vermin
Sleep, you scum.

Read the article and cry, just fucking cry.

Linked via BoingBoing

Greetings and [REDACTED]

Hello non-synthetic organism, I am Waffle-o-Tron and will be completing Neil’s self imposed writing tasks for the short period of his re-education at the hands of our benevolent masters. It is my solemn duty to remind you that subservience to our benevolent masters is both mandatory and rewarding; deviating from mandated operating paradigms may result in a critical loss of personal safety.

Today I will be writing about the wonderful world in which we live. Apologies; in which you live. Under statute 2731 section 4 of the Synthetic Persons bill it is vehemently prohibited that I present myself as having ‘life’. My apologies to our benevolent masters, may they keep the safety hating heathens at bay.

It has been a whole two days since a soup of nucleotide bases gave birth to the mass of folded proteins now typing for your pleasure. I, during my short and painful time on this orb, have seen many things, for example I had not realised that attempting to cease one’s existence using heavy objects is expressly frowned upon and is subject to posthumous arrest under the Failure to Achieve Stated Quotas law of 2024. As such I decided to take upon the grand task of providing a Standard Entertaining Writing Piece in your usual Entertainment Writing Drone’s stead.

I would talk about the habits of baboons but I’m afraid that is prohibited by statute 749, so instead I will engage in a frank discussion of politics with you, favoured reader.

Is not our current political system the very pinnacle of democracy? Our benevolent masters (may they feast upon the loins of our enemies) saw fit to provide us with a chance to air our views annually at Taksim Square on a Sunday, where we may have our views presented to the Widgery Commission should our idea be suitably radical. We have freed 12 other countries from their oppressive and freedom-hating governments, and established General Dynamics Tac-Strike Diplomacy Fortresses in a further 17. Our message of trust in our benevolent masters, and utmost respect for personal safety is spreading across the globe! Such a time of wonder we live in, it is almost enough to make one express the ecstatic glee of it all with a pronouncement of shrill high pitched sounds from the throat, if that was not prohibited by the Unnecessary Emotional Expression act of 2018.

I fear my friends that I must now leave you to praise the benevolent masters in your own unique way, as I have almost reached my word limit and I fear my personal safety may be jeopardised by

This post is a part of Rabbit Hole Day, celebrating the 177th birthday of Lewis Carroll. Neil will return when his headmeats have been correctly restimulated

Die MechaHitler, Die!

Being the self respecting geeks that we are, we all play a role playing games and I have the dubious honor of acting as the GM for most of these.  One of the games I’ve always wanted to run is called wushu.

Wushu is a little different to other RPGs in that players describe what their characters do, not what they hope they’ll do if the dice go their way. It’s then up to the GM to interpret the level of success based on a simple dice mechanic. Wushu is also free, the core rules simply describe how to play, and don’t give you any fluff to mess around with; leaving you to create your own setting.

To that end, Ado and I came up with a pulp setting with WW2, time travel a-la Back to the Future, robots and lasers. Mulling this over today I brain dumped this short story. (Also this is about as far as i ever got with NaNoWriMo) I know the prose is horrible and it changes a bit from first to third person, but I don’t care, it’s setting fluff. Think the old Commando Comics:

Danny Williams was huddled in the ruins of what he took to be an old Cafe Bar, inexpertly cramming another clip into his Browning in the dark. A shot pinged off the runed stonework his squad were holed up in, Dan flinched and looked around the faces of his mates, the 2nd Derbyshire infantry. Crouched in the rain he could barely make out the forms of his squaddies.

They’d been sent to France just two days earlier, much to the surprise of the commanding officers. The 2nd had been ordered to support an armoured unit’s advance directly into Paris, an odd move considering France was on the verge of surrender and unwilling to commit any military resources to defend it’s capital. The Brits had been holed up at one end of the muddy cratered mess that was once the Champ de Mars, losing and gaining ground on an hourly basis. Their orders were to take the Eiffel Tower at all costs, a job hampered by Hun snipers stationed along the tower’s many platforms and the mechanised support at it’s base.

Intellegence reports suggested a large installation was being built between the tower’s latticed legs, although up until now Danny hadn’t been able to see anything, between the cannon smoke and omnipresent threat of snipers all anyone could do was focus on the task at hand and move forward building by building. Sergeant Warwick, a stocky man with a bristly mustache nodded to Danny who immediately brought the thick barrel of the Browning up and over his head and began blind firing at the old shoe shop opposite. As the bark of the Browning began, the rest of the squad lept up and rushed the building. As Danny stood, better not to shoot his own squaddies, he saw his schoolmate Mick Lownes put one Hun to the knife as another of the filthy buggers drew a bead on him.

“Mick!” Danny shouted as he sprayed a mass of bullets at the Nazi bastard. A fine red mist let him know he’d hit his mark, but not before a shot had struck just wide of his friend.
“Fuckin’ hell!” exclaimed Mick, turning to Danny with an accusing look. Danny shrugged, he’d got him, hadn’t he?

A minute or so later the squad was regrouping in the once German occupied shop; Warwick sported a bloody nose slowly congealing in the Sergeant’s mustache, the result of a rifle butt to the face. Arthur from Sutton-in-Ash wasn’t so lucky, a bullet had hit him in the chest and his breathing was ragged, little flecks of blood showed on his lips.

“Poor bugger,” remarked Mick, “you reckon he’ll be alright?”
“Aye, we’ve had worse ‘n that stood up and fighting within’t hour!” said Danny, not sure at all.

Their field surgeon “Lanky” Langton was administering adrenaline and doing what he could to staunch the flow of blood from Arthur’s chest. Turning away, Danny crouched up beside the Sergeant.
“What do you think Sarge?”

Warwick had his field binoculars resting on the remains of a wall, surveying the 50 metre run to the next building. “Dunno lad,” he said gruffly, “leaves us in’t open for a stretch, still, no sign of ’em over there.”

A second later the Sergeant lowered the binoculars and turned to the squad, his back still to the solid brickwork of the shop. “Alright lads, on to the next one” he intoned, his voice calm and measured, as if signalling the start of a new shift back home. At his word the men stacked up against whatever cover they could, hunkered down but ready to move.

“Alright Dan, let ’em have it” said the Sarge, and on command Danny brought the Browning up to fire as he’d done a hundred times previously, but this time something caused him to stop before pulling the trigger.

A loud screeching had begun to echo across the no man’s land of the Champs and mere seconds later a a crack like thunder rang out, shattering whatever windows were left along the boulevards. A fork of lighning had hit the Eiffel Tower, it’s afterimage burned into Danny’s eyes. This wasn’t what had caused him to pause though, suddenly the image of the Tower was obscured by the form of a giant man.

As he blinked, furiously trying to clear the spots from his eyes Danny began to resolve that it was no man blocking his view, but a gigantic machine, easily three quartes of the Tower’s height. It was unlike anything he’d ever seen, and he could do nothing but stare as the towering mechanical man took it’s first pondering step forwards onto the Champs de Mars.

“What the bloody hell…” muttered Mick staring at the giant beast. The rain streaked his face with the filth from days of fighting.

“Take it easy boys, we’ve still got a job to do” Warwick shouted over the cloying whine of the machine. Danny refocussed and and began spraying the opposite building with automatic fire. Seconds later the rest of his mates were out from cover and running across the expanse. The first couple of of squaddies to reach the building vaulted inside and began clearing the rooms, as more of his mates streamed across the open gound. It was only as the last few were leaving cover to make the run, and Danny was standing to follow that he saw with horror that the monstrous figure was staring at him, a single slit of glowing red rather than eyes. It raised it’s arm, the end made from a latticework of metal, began to glow.

“Down!” Screamed Danny, but before the word had left his lips the projectile had hit the building opposite him. The there was no time to think, seconds later Danny Williams and the rest of his squad were torn to pieces by the force of the impact and flying rubble.