Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Austerity Budget.

So... we had our austerity budget....

I think we got off pretty easy.

I should probably explain this to North American readers - in our lands we have to suffer and such. Truly. Actions have consequences...

So... austerity budget... nett result.... nothing.

Under these budget conditions, unless I am a billionaire ghost, I am better off under the new budget. And I am a ghost, so fuck you tax collectors.

Realistically I should suffer. But no... I can still choose whether to pay tax or not. Genius.

Truly. We had a chance to fix this thing, but instead we decided to enjoy it a while longer. Nice.

I'm calling the World Cup.

The winner is...

South Africa.

The Chatterley Affair

I've mentioned Desperate Romantics before.

But, what I didn't realise was that one of the main characters in a different BBC production, one I'd seen before, was one of the Desperate Romantics.

There was a recurring theme on BBC Four recently - Rude on Four. 

The BBC had a heyday of depravity in the 70s. Easily the best time to watch TV here. Sure, we get the sexy, violent US show now, but.. but, it's not the same. Forty, thirty years ago we had I, Claudius, The Borgias, The History Man... some of the best TV ever made. We had Play For Today, and Dennis Potter.

BBC drama has dried up, so to speak, recently. With a massive yank of the chain, it has been brought to heel by it's master, the government and select media opinion.

There have been co-productions, like Rome, which I've talked about.

However, obsessed with dreary costume drama, the BBC had abandoned cutting edge work.

In general.

Desperate Romantics was a great show. Really.

But that's not what I'm talking about.

The recent show I watched was "The Chatterley Affair".

Rafe Spall, then 23, plays a juror on the original court case, drawn into an affair with some upper class totty, played by then 36 year old Louise Delamere.

In 1960 Penguin books published the novel.  They had to go to court to defend it.

This particular DH Lawrence work was banned in the UK for over thirty years. The rest of his work is golden. You should pick it up. Seriously, you should. Ahem.

You didn't pick up any of his other work, did you?

Of course not. But he is thought to be one of the best writers of his generation. However, strangely, NOT for Lady Chatterley, which is considered one of his weaker works.

Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall, played William Holman Hunt in Desperate Romantics.Timothy Spall is just epic. Rafe's performance wasn't universally appreciated, but I think he tried very hard. He may not have been good, but at least he was trying.

The Chatterley Affair, confusingly, had an upper crust juror flirt with and finally bed, lower class juror. Um, that's, basically, the book. The back story is different, but the same.

I liked it, but... it should have been a better, more wholesome story.

Or a really trashy one.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I've been watching, and enjoying, Spartacus Blood and Sand.

I'll let that sink in.

It is, possibly, one of the most derided shows of recent years. It comes from the same stable that gave us Xena and Hercules, but with more curse-words.

I consider myself to be a fan of both Xena and Hercules. I've huge respect for Raimi, no matter what he does. Well.. you know what I mean. THAT was bad. But apart from THAT he's been righteous.

What's wrong with Spartacus:

1. Too many curse words.
2. Too much violence.
3. um...

But what's RIGHT about Spartacus?

1. Curse Words
2. Violence
3. Cursing violently - describing a god as a bloody cock-sucking shit with cocks for eyes and a bloody, vomiting ass, full of twisted, diseased whores with bloody eyes for cocks.

I LOVE the dialogue. As I've said before, I'm a huge fan of the HBO/BBC co-production Rome. I have it in my Amazon Wishlist in case the blu-ray becomes ridiculously cheap. Or under twenty quid.  Spartacus doesn't QUITE match the dialogue in ROME, which features local star Ray Stevenson.

To be fair, nothing about Spartacus matches Rome. I recall a post about the budget for the show on imdb.com, but I can't go back there to check out what was said, because when I saw it, I was curious about the show but had no intention of watching it. Now I've started to watch it, I love it and do not want to absorb spoilers by accident.

To summarize, the post about budgets claimed that Spartacus had roughly a tenth of the budget of Rome. Whoever the guy was making the post, he said a lot of smart stuff about budgets.Seriously, someone has to go back and find that budget post... Long story short, Rome destroyed itself.

Rome was an incredible show, but you all know that already. Ray Stevenson's Titus is EXACTLY the best friend we want, worst enemy we don't want.

Rome? Naked Polly Walker.

I'm throwing that out there.

But Rome was supposed to have three seasons. Unfortunately the budget got eaten after two seasons. They could have made more shows, but it would have taken TOO long to earn the money back.

So, Spartacus made me go check out Wikipedia for gladiators.

There were, basically, two types of gladiators.

Good gladiators. And...

Effeminate gay gladiators.

Those, appear to be my findings.

The more armour a gladiator wore, the manlier they were. The less armour, the less.

So retiarii, with naked chests and tridents for weapons, were considered to be squealing gay boys. Seriously. This isn't my prejudice, this is ancient Rome at work.

Yeah, I know. Logic. You'd think that the guy with no armour would be given at least SOME credence!

Nope. Apparently, the hardest fought battles were between heavily-armoured secutors and almost naked retiarii. And the retiarii were the, often derided, favourites. Wearing armour, and wielding a deadly gladius was the equivalent of being the fall guy. Stepping onto the arena sand against a man armed with a pitchfork and a net, with nothing but heavy body armour, a massive shield and one of the most efficient killing devices ever created made you the probable loser.

Give a man a fish and he'll eat fish for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll slay gladiators until he gets bored. Apparently.

It's quite fascinating.

What's worse than an almost naked fisher-guy? One that wears a tunic.

Yup. Apparently retiarii tunicati were the worst of the worst.

Instead of facing an armoured gladiator, with net and bare chest, as retiarii tradition demanded, they wore a leather tunic.The bastards!

It gets even better.

The retiarii tunicati might be dressed up to look like women.

Often this wasn't a fate for some poor soul condemned to a gladiatorial life, instead it was a punishment for a criminal who had, clearly, pissed off some big wig.

Honestly, like a woman!

From what I can tell, Spartacus is an accurate depiction of gladiatorial life in ancient Rome.

It is violent, profane, and funny.

Violence abounds.


No-one has been killed while wearing a tunic, having been derided for their effeminate gladiatorial skills.

See? Progress..

At least one of the Spartacus gladiators is fond of cock. He doesn't make a big deal of it.


Sunday, June 20, 2010


Baby owl meets lion.

Enjoying the World Cup

Shockingly, I'm quite enjoying the World Cup.

I haven't followed any team sports since my teens, when I decided I was a Washington Redskins fan. American football appealed to my wargaming nerd heart, and was only shown on Channel Four, whose other stable output was bizarre European sub-pornographic movies with barely there subtitles and clothes. Subtitles will make you go blind. Or something.

A combination of things turned me away from the spectacle of American football. For one thing, most of the live matches were broadcast at four o'clock in the morning here, and I had to get up for school. For another, it became apparent that American footballers are a bunch of girls who have to wear body armour to play rugby.

I've not followed team sports since. I will actually watch a rugby match if it's on and I suppose I watch Formula One from time to time, though the team work there is often as unifying as a Borgia family get-together, but in general I prefer sports where one person is pitted against another or the field. Tennis, gymnastics and, until recently, mixed martial arts. I'm still , in theory, a fan of MMA, but recent shenanigans have soured the sport for me, and top level competition is eye-bleedingly dull . When they introduce a K1-esque action rule, or the Pride yellow card system, I may be back.

So why am I enjoying the World Cup?

England is getting humiliated.

There has never been a rational reason to follow a Premier League football club. In the twenties, the local club may well have been composed of local people who worked in the local mill and drank in the local pub, but in the modern game everything is changeable. The players aren't local, and are little better than mercenaries for hire, with millionaire lifestyles and a sense of decorum that hasn't been seen since the fall of the Roman Empire.

Seeing these cosseted tycoons embarrassed by equally talented, but hungrier and leaner teams has been quite entertaining. I don't particularly care who wins when Australia is pitted against Japan - the gladiatorial equivalent of matching a kitten against a lamb - but when England, France and Germany, preening European decadents one and all, are getting beaten or held to a draw by "lesser" nations, it's quite satisfying.

I'm even prepared to sit through 90+ minutes of a game, and endure the sorry sight of grown men falling over and begging for attention from mommy, I mean the referee, when two players stray within a few feet of each other. Seriously, people watch this sport without irony? I pity the fools.

There's a popular New Zealand t-shirt - "I don't care who wins, so long as Australia loses".

With the World Cup I don't care who wins, so long as it's nobody I've ever heard of.

Is Cameroon in it this year?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ye Old news

I have pretty much wasted an hour here: Ye Olde News.

Clippings from old newspapers, and such.

Part of my fascination is the way old newspaper men would write an article in an endearingly homespun way. It's a treat for the brain.

Friday, June 18, 2010


There's an old saying, "always be nice to people on the way up, they're the same people you'll meet on the way down."

There's another saying, "Who dares wins".

One is the motto of an elite British military unit, the SAS, founded during WWII and one of the most decorated specialist units in British history and the subject of epic urban folklore. The other is about not causing ripples when you get lucky.

When you're trying to make a dent in an industry in which 99% of the population can DO what you do, ie write, what's better?

Try spectacularly and fail? Or not upset anyone?

Or, the third option, upset everyone spectacularly and fail?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


So I infiltrated the forum for that writing course I was interested in.

Did not go well.

There's a 12 week introductory course (level 1), and two higher level courses (levels 2 and 3) of about 30 weeks each. As far as I can see the two higher level courses are all I would need for a diploma, and then another 30 week course could get me a degree.

So I wondered if I needed the introductory course. Hey, I've been throwing words at a screen for over a year now, maybe I'm ready to mix it with the level 2s...

Then I went to the Level 1 forum and saw the exercises that people were posting for review. Now I want to take up making pipe cleaner figurines as a hobby.

I locked my cheque book away again after that. Going to have to think about this some more.

My real problem is that a course that aims to teach me how to create believable, fully-rounded characters, may not be what I really need. I aspire to writing humorous pulp fiction. Perhaps all I really need is an enhanced vocabulary and someone to teach me where the commas go.

Here's the problem as I see it:

Military Dude: Major Hero, I'm sorry we had to drag you out of your daughter's violin recital; I know you hardly get to see her since you broke up with your wife. It must be tough having your own brother take a case against you, but I suppose it was inevitable considering the unresolved anger he feels because he thinks you swindled your father out of a fortune after he gambled his disability money at that Native American casino you helped your friend Chief Lazy Knees, and his boy friend, set up. But it's urgent and we need your help, just one more time!

Major Hero: Dude! Are you fucking nuts? Don't you see what I have going on in my life right now? Sorry, but no. Now if you'll excuse me, my mother has wandered off again and if she doesn't get her diabetes shot soon, she could lose her foot.

So no adventure, just a spiral into despair and alcohol abuse.

And that's no fun.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


You ever have so many ideas and plans bubbling in your head that, ultimately, you get nothing done?

When I was a teenager I did a lot of angsting about this and that. I got into the habit of buying self-help books. Dealing with anger (a lot of good that did), how to make friends and influence people (good book that. Everyone should read it), building self-confidence (that may have worked a little too well) etc. etc.

When I want to learn something, or start a new project, my first instinct is to get a book about it.

Right now, I have a lot of books laying around with bookmarks in them.

Every day for the last couple of months I've quit writing forever. I've also been buying a lot of short story anthologies, six in the last three weeks alone. In between quitting writing forever, I've been trying to analyse what makes a good short story. It's a bit like the proto-humans trying to come to terms with a black monolith, but with even more chest-beating and jumping around.

I bought the Vanessa Gebbie edited collection of essays and article on writing short stories, "Short Circuit". Vanessa used to a have an endearingly daffy site on blogger, but she lost the keys and now seems to have that flash monstrosity. Flash-based websites were never a good idea but the iPad is well on the way to rendering it obsolete.

From the introduction to the book, is a quote from William Faulkner.

"Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him."

Pfft. What does he know? There is a shortcut and I will find it. Muwhahahaha.

In the last couple of days I've been trying to sign up for an Open University course "A174 Start writing fiction" but it keeps spitting my application out at the last stage. Maybe that's a sign?

I'm a great believer in continuing education. As a concept for the mass of humanity, if not for me personally. With the Open University you can study up to degree level, with the vast majority of the work carried out at home. I think there are some residential courses that become mandatory at higher levels but I doubt I would ever take it that far. I think it takes around six years of part-time study to earn the points for a degree. I do actually already have a degree in electronic engineering, but it didn't take. Turns out silicone doping wasn't what I thought it was at all.

On paper, I like the idea of being forced into studying a subject. I've often felt at a disadvantage with my writing, because I have zero formal education in writing. Well, nothing since I was forced to write a diary every Monday morning in class, when I was six or seven. We never did anything interesting at the weekend, so I wrote an awful lot of diary entries about playing with Lego and toy soldiers. Eventually I started making stories up, but pushed things too far when my weekend adventure was suspiciously similar to something that had been on the Onedin Line that week. Ah, never resort to the truth when a lie will do. Wheels within wheels, remember.

So in theory study seems quite attractive to me, but in practise my contempt for other people's opinions will surely get in the way.

I've been trying to teach myself HTML and CSS in 24 hours, but became disruptive after two hours and was told to leave the class to think about what I'd done. I did, and it was awesome. I'm going to go back on that and press on. I really enjoy the site layout jiggering you can do on Blogger and I'd like to build my own website some day. I've been looking into hosting choices and became comatose from options-overload. It'll wait.

If I'm going to write a book someday, it'll not be anything commercial. I'm resigned to the fact I'll never write anything with mainstream appeal. Or appeal. But the indie, self-publishing route looks doable, if desperate. For that I'll need to design a cover.

I haven't actually bought a book to teach me how to use GIMP, but I have been eyeing these online tutorials. I came up with this recently, so as you can see, I really need some help.

Which takes me to last year's NaNoWriMo. I really like the concept I came up with, and I've been meaning to re-write it into something more-polished, pretty much since the day I closed the file at the end of November. I was going to start yet another site to blog my progress but I abandoned that idea pretty swiftly.

You see, as well as completely re-writing my NaNo, I also want to edit a bunch of my old flash pieces into more rounded stories, put them into an anthology and upload them to Smashwords, for the experience as much as anything else. Smashwords seems to be hammered most days, probably from the explosion in e-book reading devices that's happened over the last year.

I'm drawn to chaos, which may explain my love of Elric, and what's happening in the stock market on a daily basis is super-enticing. I bought a rather thick book on investing (significantly, on sale at half off) but will I find the time to invest in reading it?

So many books and bookmarks to deal with. I'm sure you can guess what I'll tackle first.

None of the above.

Oh, why do I have an 85 year old picture of Louise Brooks up there? Why not.