The Wizard Turns On...

I do have new music now. First of all I bought Gnarls Barkley's St Elsewhere a while back. This is in the chart right now, in fact. I haven't owned a chart CD in years. I almost feel like one of the normal people.

And now I have the new album by The Flaming Lips. I've always quite liked them, but not too much. They kind of just have a couple of toes in the huge, roiling, shark-infested swimming pool that is My Kind of Music. But when I found out that this album has that tune from that advert with the guy dancing with his computer animated, hand animated and puppet doppelgangers, I knew that I had to get it. Finding out that the title was At War with the Mystics was the clincher. I'm all for mystic bashing, me.

A nice review from the Independent.


Buzz Lightyear Will Cry

I've been having fun with this website today. Look! It's the new Pacian doll action figure! Coming to a store near you soon! (Cats sold separately.) Accessories include:
  • Pacian's Alarm Clock with Throw Across the Room Action™!
  • Pacian's My Little Overflowing Bookcase of Eclectic Books and Comics™ (which makes a realistic Where the Fuck Am I Going to Put THIS One?!™ sound)!
  • Pacian's Public Transport Play Kit with adjustable Don't Look At Me™ pose!
Coming to any (good) toy shop near you, soon! Pre-order to avoid disappointment!

RRP £39.99


Buster Keaton Speaks

Or "It doesn't take much to make me happy."

I went shopping earlier in the week, ostensibly to get my hands on the first instalment, Emergence, of Sin Episodes. Being a casual PC gamer always sucks, because you’re usually stuck buying the games of several years ago. It’s even worse now that almost all modern PC games require hardware T and L, which tends not to be included on the kind of PCs that people like me use to surf the web and process words. In this respect I am doubly indebted to Valve for not only making the best game ever made, but for also making it accessible to computers without the latest nuclear-powered video cards.

I was interested in Sin Episodes, firstly because my degree results should be here within a week and I feel like playing a game with boobs, guns and monsters, and also because it’s been made with the Source engine behind Half Life 2, so it’s pretty much the only new-ish game I can play (except for Half Life 2: Episode 1, which I’m saving for after I find out I’ve failed everything). But while comparisons between Sin Episodes and Half Life 2 are inevitable, they are rather unfortunate. Emergence is in no way blowing my mind as Half Life 2 did, but it is incredibly fun. Special kudos for implementing gibs in Source. BOOM! Splat!

While perusing DVDs, though, something caught my eye. A collection of four of Charles Chaplin’s most famous films, with loads of extras, on sale, down from seventy quid to £9.99. What's going on? From the pile of boxes they had, I can only guess that no-one is buying these things. ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY?!

But added bonus of the year coming up. Gold Rush, Modern Times and The Great Dictator I had heard of (The Great Dictator I had even seen before), but the fourth film is something called Limelight. What’s that about? Read the back cover...

Charles Chaplin’s Limelight is a glimmering homage to what was, a proud look at a bygone entertainment era and a bittersweet tale of an artist passing the torch to a new generation. [blah blah blah] Among the film’s comedy highlights is a musical routine that’s anything but routine in the hands of legend Chaplin and stone-faced Buster Keaton.

If I have not yet made my love for the Great Stone Face clear in the course of this blog, let me do so now. And having only seen his silent films before, I have long been dying to hear his voice. How fantastic, then, to come across it by accident! Skipping through the scenes, I managed to find one with Keaton in it and then paused it for a minute while I jumped up and down in glee. And then pressed play and heard his voice.

It was the voice of a 57 year old Buster, of course. Not the 29 year old Buster, for example, who made Sherlock Jr (my personal favourite of his films), but still. Microscopic pits in a metal disc, transformed into magic, via laser.


One-Hour-After-Friday Frog Blogging

Can't believe I almost forgot to post this.

Drawn after watching Delicatessen. Crazy snail-and-frog man may have exerted an influence.


A Story about a Mechanical Egg, in Three Parts

Part 2:
The Mechanical Egg

Cubi walks up the stairs and out of the mouth of the travelling tube. Behind him is an enormous hole in the ground. Countless tubes disappear over the edge into a snake pit of piping, leading to the city’s central plumbing system.

Lesser Sun is high overhead. It’s also known as Jaundiced Sun, its yellow light is so feeble a source of illumination. The sky is still black, the streets still shadowed. He can’t help but wish he’d worn a warm jumper instead of a thin shirt.

This is the Industrial District. Home to Perni, and a lot of other stuff that Cubi doesn’t care about. The buildings are functional - consisting solely of right angles and surrounded by chicken wire fences with barbed wire at the top. There are no people around, of any species. A few rusty lorries and vans dot the landscape. Smoke rises from the tall chimneys that jut up from the horizon on all sides. The entire district is supposedly infested with dog-rats, although Cubi has thankfully never seen one.

He walks to Perni’s workshop accompanied only by the sound of humming machinery and his own footsteps.


Perni’s workshop is, externally at least, identical to every other building in this part of the Industrial District. It defies description through its invasive anonymity. Only by the attendant sign is Cubi ever able to identify it. The sign reads, Lot 314 - Owner: Pernicious Blueberry.

It does not take a genius to understand why she prefers to be called ‘Perni’.

Cubi stands where the refracting tube can see him and pushes the button by the large, rusty gate. Perni’s voice speaks, tinny and distant: “Cubi. Come in.”

The gates begin to roll open. Not oiled for years, they protest in a shrieking metallic voice that echoes down the deserted street. Perni’s obsessive mind only cares about maintaining those machines directly helpful to her current goal. The idea that being able to enter her workshop is as helpful as you can get is not enough to move her to care about the rusting gate, or the mouldy speaking tube and scratched refracting tube that watch over it.

As Cubi enters the workshop’s car park (the only things parked there are Perni’s rusty old estate car and an even more decomposed shopping trolley), Perni throws open the door and races out. Her hair is perhaps a little shorter than when he last saw her a few weeks ago. She is wearing a pair of jeans, a loose sweater and a warm smile.

“You’re so slow,” she moans. “Come on, get inside!”

She grabs him by the shoulders and propels him bodily through the door.

Cubi is quite happy to live humbly, realigning a few widgets every day and earning just enough to keep books in his bookcase and food in his stomach. In comparison Perni’s approach to life is feverish and extreme. Two or three times a year she takes on a contract from one of the city’s weirder entities, and fulfils it, by herself, often producing unparalleled and pioneering work, and in very little time. In these periods Cubi has found it best to leave her to her own devices. As much as he wishes that he could convey to her how gruelling it is to watch her overwork herself half to death - and several times now this has seemed all too literal a description - she simply won’t listen. Occasionally Cubi will pay her a visit, motivated by whatever magnetism drew them together in the first place, but he will usually leave after a short while, guilty at distracting her as she stresses, unwashed and unkempt, over something he cannot even begin to help her with. After the contract has been completed, though, she always finds him. These are their best moments together, he thinks. Her workshop will be still full of the detritus of the contract, so she escapes into the city to spend time with him on Argon Hill. They talk, or sit silently, while he does his work. She will move weakly and slowly, squinting at Greater Sun; her face will be starkly thin, cheeks unnaturally prominent; her eyes will be shadowed by dark rings - but the eyes themselves will have returned to what Cubi likes to think of as normal. Brown and calm, roving the world around her and piercing deep into objects and organisms, brightly and inquisitively.

All in all, Perni must work for no more than one or two months a year. But the scale of the projects she works on and the short time she promises to do them in are sufficient to earn her immense quantities of money - probably more money than exists in the entire Nematode Quarter, let alone a year of Cubi’s income. As she descends from her profitable mania, Perni clears out her workshop and proceeds to steadily spend all the money on food, the workshop’s rent, and her own personal (often grossly unprofitable) projects. And Cubi gradually learns to start to visit his friend again. Until such time as he calls round and finds her throwing tarpaulin sheets over her personal work and pushing it all into the farthest corner and realises that the money has run out again, and he will briefly lose her to necessity, to stress and starvation and acerbic pleas for solitude - and worst of all to a painful, constipated perversion of the inspiration and curiosity that he likes so much in her when she is financially stable.

These two faces of Perni - manic and stressed; calm and questioning - are almost all he has ever known of her. Although he cares for her unreservedly, he easily understands why Perni has many acquaintances, but only one friend. The unrepentant, grinning idealist he saw exposed to him for that brief moment shortly after they first met never reappeared, and the memory, when it surfaces on certain rare moments, has acquired a dreamlike unreality to it. And yet here she is. Perni the idealist has returned. She has her hands on his arms, pulling him forward.

Her workshop is brightly lit, making the bare concrete walls seem all the more stark and cold. It is the little office in the corner that Cubi has come to think of as Perni’s home, and when he visits he enters into it directly through the workshop’s side door. It will be an enormous mess, as always. Through the windows he can almost make out the heaps of laundry and dirty dishes. In there things are soft and warm. Out here, everything is cold and hard - and each object, even the tiniest screw, has its own labelled drawer or hook.

The floor is almost bare, but in the nearest corner a great mass of something lies underneath a white sheet, thrumming softly.

“Is that what you want to show me?” Cubi asks softly.

Perni releases his sleeve and races over to one corner of the sheet. “Ready?” she asks.

“Uh, yeah. Sure.”

She whips the white sheet from the thrumming mass. “Ta-da!”

“Wow.” Cubi nods approvingly. He waits a few seconds and then adds, “What is it?”

Perni lets her arms fall to her sides, dropping the sheet in a little puddle of fabric. “Isn’t it obvious?”

Cubi scrutinises the thing before him. There is a structure rather like a tent without the canvas. Wires and hoses snake around the metal poles, becoming denser around the centre, where many of them are plugged into a metal ovoid.

“Oh yeah,” Cubi says. “It’s obvious. It’s a, um, a widget?”

Perni develops a crooked smile. “That would be an achievement of a different quality. I thought the fact that it’s egg-shaped might have been a clue.”

Cubi stares at the thing but can’t make any connections.

Perni laughs. “It’s a mechanical egg!”

She seems immensely pleased with this revelation, and Cubi tries to play along, not wishing to shatter whatever fragile balance of humours has made her so happy. Eventually, though, he has to ask, “So, what does it do?”

“It loops through one command over and over again. ‘Be an egg.’”

Cubi steps up to it and looks at it from a few different angles.

Perni looks down at Cubi warmly (although he’s only a few centimetres shorter) and smiles. “You’re not convinced are you? Well don’t worry your little head about it. Trust me: this is the start of something big.”

“Is it going to hatch?”

Perni shrugs. “Maybe.”

“You don’t know?”

“If eggs have to hatch, then it will hatch. But conceivably it could wait an infinite amount of time before it does hatch, which would be the same thing as not really hatching at all.”

Cubi scratches his head, his hand disappearing into his curly, dark blond hair. “I really don’t understand.”

“It’s much simpler than you think it is,” Perni says, slowly walking around the structure that holds the egg. “And much more profound as well. I’m talking about life. About the germ of artificial life. Why start from the top with complicated ‘auto-people’? It’s the process of development that I’ve started with. Successfully, I might add.”

“Artificial life,” Cubi says, weighing the words on the tip of his tongue. “Wow. That does sound pretty cool.”

“I know!”

Perni laughs and grabs Cubi by the shoulders again, this time jumping up and down ecstatically. Unsure how best to remain dignified in this situation, Cubi decides to start laughing and jumping up and down as well.


Cubi wakes up in Perni’s armchair. The last thing he can remember is confessing to how tired he felt while she span a breathtaking tale of synthetic abiogenesis and elegantly delicate machinery. He was sprawled out in this armchair, trying to keep his eyes open while she jumped on her already half-broken foldable bed.

In his dream, a windblown leaf was constantly brushing against his ear. He sees now that it is in fact a stripy green sock that has been draped over the chair back (more likely thrown). Perni’s office home is as cosily messy as ever.

The inventor herself is lying spread-eagled on top of her bed, mouth wide-open, snoring like a power tool.

Cubi stands, his legs protesting, and wanders over to the narrow window. He fumbles with the dusty blinds as quietly as he can, sliding a scientific textbook aside. He looks out at the neglected tarmac yard by the workshop’s side, inhabited only by overflowing dumpsters and a single moribund tree that looks more and more like a rotting broom each year. A decrepit ladder is bolted to the wall and leads to nowhere in particular. Greater Sun shines azurely down from the sky.

Cubi sighs. No work today, it seems, and so no income either.

He wanders out of the office to stand opposite the egg and ponder it for a while. It remains where it is, humming softly. He almost expects it to hatch at any moment. Staring at it proves to be mesmerising. He feels as if he might miss it doing something interesting if he only takes his eyes off it for a moment. And as the present moment morphs seamlessly into the one that follows, it seems that this transition must surely be the one that heralds action - although it does not. Perhaps the next?

Instead, Cubi merely has a prolonged opportunity to study its stainless steel surface, noticing for the first time the rough seams in its smooth surface where the shell has been welded together, until Perni appears suddenly at his side in a dressing gown, a mug in each hand. She hands Cubi the mug with the question mark on it and keeps the one with an exclamation mark for herself. Milky tea for Cubi, black coffee for Perni.

“Still smiling, I see,” Cubi says.

Perni nods wordlessly. Her expression speaks for itself.


It doesn’t last, of course.

Cubi is again woken by the hooting of the speaking tube at an unpleasant hour, not long after he left Perni. Her voice spouts, stressed and angry, from the tube as he lifts it from its hook. “Cubi, I need your help. I need you to come over.”

It’s not in Perni’s nature to say please or apologise for calling at such a time. Cubi doesn’t mind. He can tell from the tone of her voice that this is no time to mess about, to joke or complain. “What is it?” he asks. “What’s happened?”

She starts to answer but he can’t help but interrupt her to ask the obvious question he should have asked in the first place: “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she replies. “Well, okay, I’m not fine, I’m furious. Something’s nicked my fucking egg, Cubi.”

“Oh, crap. Have you called the police?”

“I’m not getting them involved yet. You’ll see when you get here.”

And then she disconnects.

To be continued...

Part three can be found here.


Director's Commentary

This story is likely to amount to between six and eight thousand words of plotless, phantasmagoric nonsense.

To borrow the words of someone (slightly) better at writing than me:

At length, starting to his feet ... Orlando swore one of the most remarkable oaths of his lifetime, for it bound him to a servitude than which none is stricter. 'I'll be blasted', he said, 'if I ever write another word, or try to write another word, to please Nick Greene or the Muse. Bad, good, or indifferent, I'll write, from this day forward, to please myself'[.]

(Virginia Woolf, in Orlando)

Which of course begs the question, Why am I posting this story on my blog? Typically, I am very shy, about my writing perhaps more than anything. I generally do write for myself, and then keep those stories to myself. But on the other hand, I have enjoyed the odd online collaboration in story writing, and have found it fun to mess around with words, settings and characters. Yes, like any hack, I have Important Stories that I am burning to tell, but I'd also like to have some fun.

So that's my goal with this story, and any future stories I post here. I just want to mess about a bit, posting stupid stories on my blog.

Also, you can't stop me. :-P

A Story about a Mechanical Egg, in Three Parts

Part 1:
Cubi met Perni

Cubi is asleep when the speaking tube begins to hoot. He staggers out of bed, casting the blanket aside and banging his shin against a table leg. He slaps angrily at the light switch, but the fluorescent tube just flickers endlessly and, as he lifts the speaking tube from its hook, he switches it off again.

An unfamiliar voice rises from the mouth of the speaking tube. In this pitch darkness, it feels like the woman speaking could almost be in the room. “You have to come over here right now! It‘s amazing! I can’t believe I did it!”

“What?” he asks groggily. “Over where? Who is this?”

“It’s me, Cubi.”

“You can’t be Cubi. I’m Cubi.”

A frustrated sigh floats up from the speaking tube. “I know that. I’m saying: Cubi, it’s me: Perni.”

Cubi breathes a sigh of relief as the prospect of a female doppelganger is shattered. “Perni. You sound different. I didn’t recognise your voice.”

“It must be because I’m smiling so much.”

“Smiling? What’s happened?”

“Come over here and see.”

“Should I bring a doctor?”

“No, and you can leave your sense of humour behind as well. Oh, you’re going to love this! Get over here as soon as you can.” And with a click, she disconnects.


When Cubi met Perni, it was friendship at first sight.

There was nothing about that morning that marked it out as different. No hint that by the end of the day he would have made the best friend he would ever know. He rolled out of bed at eight, forced a breakfast of processed oats down his throat and took the travelling tube to the Nematode Quarter.

He walked lazily down to his usual spot, meandering down narrow paths that themselves meandered between the higgledy houses - houses whose red bricks were now more a faded khaki. Daisies and weeds poked out through broken concrete that crunched occasionally underfoot, and dense foliage curled over onto the path from either side. The air was cool and humid, tinged with the smell of nematode pheromones, a smell not unlike the seaside.

He carried a folded table and chair under one arm and a small toolkit under the other. When he reached his usual spot he set up the table and chair, and sat with his toolkit open between his feet.

Cubi’s usual spot was at the top of Argon Hill. Nice not only for being a busy thoroughfare for the nematode residents, but also for the gorgeous view it afforded of the rest of the city. The glass fronted skyscrapers of the Human Quarter in the misty distance, looking not nearly as huge as they really were, competed for attention with the earthy spires of the Insect Quarter, the black mineral smokers of Sludgetown and the helium buoyed balloon-plant habitats of Airphibian immigrants.

As Greater Sun rose higher into the air, shining blue rays through the green haze of pollution, the nematodes began to slither out of the baking soil. They emerged like toothpaste squeezed from a tube and then lay across the concrete paths, thousands of them, tying up the whole district like fat, living ropes. Basking their two-metre long, transparent, wormlike bodies in the sun, algal symbiotes photosynthesising busily. A few of those that emerged at the top of Argon Hill brought their widgets with them, and began to lazily coil and thrust towards Cubi’s table, pushing the ovoid machines along the ground with their noses.

Cubi pulled a small object like a perfume bottle from his toolkit and set it on the ground in front of his table. He pressed a button and it began to periodically spray nematode pheromones into the air. The message they carried was simple, ‘Widgets realigned, two hundred rupees’, but Cubi’s never needed to sell himself much. He’s practically famous. Among the nematodes, that is.

From the top of Argon Hill, he could see Perni coming from quite a way away, although he didn’t yet know who she was, of course. Realigning a widget is complicated business - especially when your species isn’t capable of understanding what they actually do - and Cubi has always found that frequent breaks are necessary for his best workmanship. He leans back every so often and looks at the city, composing poetic sentences to describe it and then either rejecting or forgetting them. His customers certainly don’t mind, as they sunbathe all day long, tangled up with one another, lazily rubbing against their widgets’ clicker pods.

He noticed Perni when she was at the end of Xenon Avenue, watched her follow the twisting route of Nitrogen Lane, smiled at the way she took such care stepping over the lethargically squirming nematodes that littered her path.

She was tall and bony, moving much more gracefully than the ungainly angles of her figure suggested she should be able to. She wore dark jeans and a grubby raincoat, similar to Cubi’s attire, and very sensible clothing for the Nematode Quarter. Was she a tourist? Well-informed enough to dress well, but ignorant enough to come while Greater Sun was in the sky. It was possible.

As she clambered up Argon Hill, in places crawling on all fours to avoid stepping on the locals, it was clear that they were both aware of one another, and that she was going to come and talk to him.

“Hi,” she said, when she finally stood by his table, dusting bits of concrete and faded brick from her jeans. “You’re the human who realigns nematode widgets.”

“And you are…?”

“I’m just curious. I heard about you and thought it sounded cool.”

Cubi shrugged.

“I’m Perni, by the way,” she said, looking down at the widget in front of Cubi, its western panel unscrewed and various tools sticking out of it.

Cubi nodded and returned to pushing and twisting at the tools. “I’m Cubiform Judge. Call me Cubi.”

“Right. So…” She looked down at the widget again. “Do you understand how it works?”

Cubi stopped and looked up at her. “You’re a businesswoman,” he said disappointedly. “Look, I’m not interested in going into business. And even if I was, I don’t understand how they work, what they do or how they’re made. I just realign them. Two hundred rupees. If you have a widget you want realigned, I can help you. Otherwise…”

“I’m not trying to sell or buy anything.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“I’m just curious,” she repeated. “How can you realign them, if you don’t know the first thing about them?”

“That’s not true. I do know something about them.”

Her eyes widened. “What?”

“I know how to realign them.”

She laughed, took a step back, almost tripped over the nematode behind her, found her balance again, laughed with embarrassment. Cubi laughed too.

“Here, sit on this patch of grass,” he said. “You really shouldn’t try and go anywhere in the Nematode Quarter while Greater Sun is in the sky. It’s impossible. Even two steps backwards is impossible, as you just found out.”

Perni sat down, folding her gawky limbs as she did so. “Oh! I get it now. I was told that you were here when Greater Sun was up, and it was because… So I should have come earlier?”


She bit her lower lip and ran her fingers through her short black hair. “I’ll remember that now.”

“Told by who, by the way? Where did you hear about me?”

“This guy I met in a pub who’s working on nematode pheromone translators. I’m an inventor. I’m interested in anything like that. Anything unexplained or difficult. He told me about you. He said you’re the only human who realigns widgets, and you can do it better than anyone else in the city - even any of the nematodes. I thought it was worth a look, for inspiration.”

Cubi wiggled a screwdriver in the widget for a moment and then stopped. He handed it to Perni. “Invent me some better tools for realigning widgets, and maybe we can do business.”

“This is a screwdriver,” she said, as if she thought he expected it to be strange to her.

“Yes. And it’s hard to use. All the nematode tools are designed to work with widgets, but they’re also designed for creatures with no hands. I’m sure someone can do better than that. But I’m the only person in the city who needs these things. There’s not much of a market for them. I’ve thought about getting something custom made, but, it just seemed a lot of bother. Then you landed in my lap. So to speak.”

“Sounds slightly interesting.”

“Only slightly?”

“What would be more interesting,” she began in a tone of voice that he would go on to become very familiar with, “would be making a machine to do all the realigning for you.”

“I don’t think you could.”

She leant forward and looked at him intently. “Why not?”

“I don’t think it’s something that you can do mechanically. It’s not about numbers and procedures, its about examination and exploration, sometimes even guesswork. If you made a machine that could do all that it, it wouldn’t be a machine. It’d be, I don’t know, some kind of mechanical person. An autonomous machine. An auto-person, say.”

Cubi likes to imagine that he created a brand new phrase in that moment, that will ‘catch on’ sooner or later. In his more honest moments, he will admit, however, that he and Perni are the only people he has ever heard use it.

“Well, I tell you what: I’ll make the auto-person, and you teach it to realign widgets.”

“And put myself out of a job? No thanks.”

“You’d have a job. Chief trainer of widget realigning auto-people. That’s a grand job. You’d win friends and influence people with a title like that.”

Cubi laughed and turned back to the widget on his table. Greater Sun was high in the sky. He couldn’t afford to waste any more time. “Sorry. I like my work just fine as it is. If you want, make an auto-person anyway, and give me a percentage for coming up with the idea.”

Perni looked extremely thoughtful for a moment and then grinned. It was the only time Cubi ever saw her smile so boldly and openly. Her face seemed to open up and show him the sincerity of her idealism, for just the briefest moment. “You know what,” she said. “I think I will.”


Perni takes the longest time to answer the speaking tube.

“Hello,” she sings, “I hope you’re having a wonderful day too, whoever you are!”

“Do you know what time it is?” Cubi asks irritably. “Do I really have to come over now?”

He can hear the sound of something rattling. He imagines her fumbling with her workshop’s perpetually closed blinds. Eventually she says, “Is it night time?”

“Yes Perni, it’s night time.”

“Oh. Well I suppose you can come in the morning then. If you want.”

Cubi sighs. “I’m already dressed. I’ll come right over.”

“Great!” she laughs. “Hurry up!”

To be continued...

Part two can be found here.


Whose birthday is it anyway?

I like it when the Queen has a birthday, because all the fighter jets she gets as presents fly right over where I live. She and her family may be busy gawping at them on the balcony of Buckingham Palace five minutes later, but I saw them first thank you very much.

Braaaaaazil… Da da da da da…

I hadn’t watched Terry Gilliam’s Brazil for a good couple of years when I put it on yesterday. I bought it ages ago on DVD for a few quid*, but when I haven’t seen it for a while, it starts to seem like a daunting prospect. I become convinced that watching Brazil is a folly that can end only in despair and insanity.

And then I bite the bullet and actually watch it, and spend the rest of the day humming the catchy theme tune and pondering its utter brilliance. Quote of the week:

Doesn’t it bother you, the sort of things you do at Information Retrieval?
What? I suppose you’d rather have terrorists!

That seems to be an impossibly prescient portrayal of a frightening proportion of contemporary politics. But it only seems that way because the IRA have been erased from our collective memory lest we recall how alienating their community with violence and detention without trial only created more terrorists. In actual fact they blew up Harrods while Brazil was being filmed (well, I embellish a little).

Although comparisons with 1984 abound - and it certainly can be thought of as an update replacing communism with capitalist bureaucracy, and the perpetual war against Eastasia and Eurasia with a perpetual war against nebulous terrorists - to me, the most important part of Brazil is its focus on reconciling the drudgery and horror of everyday life with the happy and idealised world of the imagination. As leading man Jonathan Pryce put it, many movies are about the real world and a dream, but Brazil is divided between a nightmare and a dream. And unlike in 1984, you may be able to escape from the former into the latter.

*At HMV, but it's now cheapest at Amazon. I think I got it for about £3.99 or something. :-)


Coming Soon!

Next on Space Cat Rocket Ship...

A Story about a Mechanical Egg, in Three Parts
by Pacian

The critics are already going crazy about Mechanical Egg! See what they have to say:

"I wrote a story and then I posted it on my blog."

"I was not paid to endorse this product or event."
The Disillusioned Kid


Pretty Pictures

Now that I don't have to sit around thinking I should be revising now I should be revising now I should be... I've been able to catch up on my webcomics, and also to read through the archives of a few that I've been meaning to check out for a while.

Naturally, the whole world wants to know what I'm reading - and the whole world can now find out, as I've added a section for my favourite webcomics in the sidebar of this blog. It's tentative at the moment. I'm torn between including all my favourites and not wanting to either take up too much space, add too many images to my template or drown out my absolute favourites. I've also rearranged all the icons about three times now.

If I wanted to direct you subtly to the most impressive, I would do it by demanding that you try Scary Go Round, Gunnerkrigg Court, Stuff Sucks and Bolt City (especially Copper). Then, if you did not, I would hit you with my shoe.

Anyway, there it is. It will change. Probably.


Friday Frog Blogging

Stupid frog, this is Italian wine!


Three Books

I am seriously spaced out at the moment. But it has now been one week since my last exam, so onward we march. These are the three books I’ve read since Light on Snow. I haven’t done much reading this past week, but I’ll try to change that now so that, you know, I can have lots of pretty book covers making my blog look nice.

Serenity: Those Left Behind - Joss Whedon et al.

This short comic details the events that occurred between Joss Whedon’s television show Firefly, and its movie adaptation Serenity. Basically, Inara and Shepherd Book leave, and the guys with blue gloves are replaced by the Operative. And you don’t really need this book to tell you that. But the artwork is lovely, and the script is spot-on in terms of capturing the characters‘ banter (it was written by Whedon after all). This is a nice book to keep and thumb through, even if it is unlikely to take up much of your time.

The Year of Our War - Steph Swainston

Now this I really liked. Supposedly this is part of the New Weird movement, which is all about creating decidedly non-Tolkien-esque fantasy. To whit, out with the elves and the dragons and the swords and the sorcery and the poetic heroics, and in with, well, whatever the hell you want.

The Year of Our War is about a flying drug addict called Jant. Jant works as a messenger for the Emperor, who was, apparently, charged by god with preventing giant insects from taking over the land. As one of the Emperor’s Circle, Jant is immortal, which is nice, but he’s also required to be the very best at what he does. Since he’s the only person who can fly, you’d think that’d be pretty easy, but Jant gets involved in all sorts of infighting and backstabbing within the Circle, while seeking respite by taking dangerous quantities of his drug of choice and travelling into the Shift - a strange place where creatures from many different worlds mingle together uneasily. The parts of the book that take place in the Shift were actually among my favourites. Swainston’s already powerful imagination clearly goes into overdrive in these sequences, with the hideous Tine growing people into gory trees as a method of torture and a castle being guarded by a rather unthreatening fibre-tooth tiger (“He can’t bite you, it’s like being mauled by fluff”).

The Year of Our War is pretty insubstantial on the plot front, but Swainston has repeatedly emphasised that this is intended to be only the first part in a much larger story, and in that respect I can say that my appetite is well and truly whet. The Year of Our War embodies in equal parts imagination, drama and character, with a light dose of passion, friendship and romance.

The second book in the series is coming out in paperback this month. Me happy.

There’s a nice interview with Swainston here.

Eden Close - Anita Shreve

You won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve read another book by Anita Shreve. But while I loved Light On Snow, I have a few reservations about Eden Close. The lovely prose, the compelling characters, the palpable emotions - they’re all present in this book, as they were with Light On Snow. But they were accompanied by some slight unpleasantness.

In a sense, Eden Close is a little like The Year of Our War - both are books by women who are exploring the possible positive and negative aspects of a masculine protagonist. But while Swainston’s portrayal of Jant is compelling, if unflattering, Shreve’s portrayal of Andrew starts out as merely unimaginative, and goes on to become slightly disturbing. Then that makes you notice that, as well-crafted emotionally as the story may be, it really is just a story about a psychologically injured woman who needs ‘the right man’ to come along and fix her.


God's Next Army

I don't know if I'll actually be able to watch this. This kind of thing always makes me cringe. On Channel 4, God's Next Army, about Patrick Henry College, where a few select rich kids have been chosen to be spared from the sins of the world. Sins such as compensation for asbestos poisoning and a proper understanding of geology.

Why do we care? Is this just a case of godless Europeans laughing at the hicks across the Atlantic? Well...
Helped by the institution's friends-in-high-places, PHC has already provided the current White House administration with more interns than any other college in the USA, and more are in the pipeline – on the way to becoming 'key players in a Christian republic'.
Harvard? MIT? Yale? These are what colleges are in America right? But, no, you want interns from Patrick Henry College, with a whopping 300 students in attendance. As the Radio Times puts it:
It's hard to believe that people who are being taught that geological strata were all laid down by the Great Flood may be taking control of America's levers of power, but that's the way it looks here.
Yes, let's be glad that America has its present, relatively moderate administration!


I Am Jack's Mediocre Qualification

I would’ve posted this last night, but blogspot apparently decided that it needed a holiday.

I've finished my exams. Kinda wasted, I have to say. My last exam should have been one of my best, but it actually turned out to be a great annoyance and semi-upset. All the past years' papers for that module had been very qualitative. So I prepared to answer a lot of qualitative questions, which wasn’t easy for me. I always say that I hate exams that expect you to know the answer. I much prefer exams that expect you to know how to work out the answer.

Anyway, I opened the exam, and it was three mostly quantitative questions and one qualitative question on a subject area that I specifically looked for in the lecture notes, but did not find. So, my exams are over. Fuck.

On the plus side, I did collect my coursework. All through the year they’ve been telling me to collect my coursework when it's been marked, but I naturally left it until the last possible moment. I got my come-uppance though. The mark I’d been emailed for one of my pieces of coursework was 70%, which annoyed me because I knew I could’ve done better. But on collecting it I find that I actually got 89%, which is much better. It had been recorded correctly, so where the 70% came from, I have no idea. On another piece of coursework (that I got 52% for and which was covered in red pen), I found this little comment, which made me smile. I should perhaps put this in my CV:

With my exams done, I took a wander through my university town, and found this poster for just £1.99. Colour me almost happy.

You might be able to make out some of my books if you click and enlarge it. They all look very high-brow from this angle. You can't see all the comics and manga that are just to the right...