Thursday, 14 December 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.10

Betazed gets its first fleshing out this week, so obviously I'm using that as a springboard to put one last boot into the Vulcans.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

No, Virginia, Changes To Language AREN'T A Problem

Some stray thoughts prompted by people I work with arguing it's hard to learn new pronouns or avoid deadnaming those who have transitioned.

This argument always makes me think of my friend Cat. How she doesn't really like it when you call her Catherine. Because Catherine might be the name on her birth certificate, but she much prefers Cat. Cat is the name she chose for herself, like my friend Kat, and my friend Katy, and my friend Katie, and my friend Katey, and Katee Sackhoff, and Kitty Barne.

They all were born with a name that sounds the same, but that's not the name they'd like you to call them. Just like I want to be Ric, not Rik (though Rik Mayall did) or Dick (though Dick Van Dyke does) or Ricky (though Ricky Steamboat does) or Rich (though Rich Hall does) or Dicky (though Dicky Barrett does) or Richard (though Richard E Grant does).

And my question is this. If we get that Cat and Kat and Katy and Katie and Katey and Katee and Kitty don't want to be called Catherine/Katherine/Cathryn, and we get that Ric and Rik and Dick and Ricky and Rich and Dicky don't or didn't want to be called Richard, when why the HELL are so many people pretending new pronouns or the concept of deadnames are so unbearably confusing it would cause society to collapse into chaos if we agreed to abide by them?

When someone calls me Richard and I correct them, they say "sorry". They don't say "But Richard's your real name, isn't it?". They don't say "You just look more like a Richard to me." They just apologise and try to remember my preference.

Is it just MAYBE POSSIBLE that people's gender identity shouldn't be treated as less important than people wanting to be known by their nickname?

Friday, 17 November 2017

Geek Syndicate Review: Seventh Decimate

My review of Stephen Donaldson's latest fantasy novel, the first part of a planned trilogy, is up at Geek Syndicate now.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 4.1.9

The amazing thing about "Move Along Home" isn't that it's a shitty episode based around nothing more than a weird alien board game. It's that the weird alien board game that's central to the episode is also shit.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.9

Q's back, and he wants you to roll up some stats for his awesome new RPG game: French Pig-Men Shoot At You For No Reason.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 2.1.9

Back to the drawing boards this week, with an accidentally interesting look at how new authors can mangle the IP of their deceased predecessors.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 6.1.8

Back to Enterprise this week, as Archer begins his voyages of discovery into the mouths of alien women.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.2.5 - "Oh My Sweet Carolina" (Ryan Adams)



A lot of people (wrongly) cite Heartbreaker as Ryan Adams best album, and (wrongly) name "Oh My Sweet Carolina" as its best song. As conventional wisdom goes this isn't hard to understand. I sympathise, obviously; why else would the track be on this list? There's a lot of button-pushing with this one. It's a melancholy ballad, with great guitar, masterfully-used piano, and the absolute best guest spot any Ryan Adams song has ever enjoyed. The middle eight is a thing of windswept beauty. But it's the subject of the song that really hits me in the feels-box.

"...Carolina" is about how nostalgia and wanderlust fight against each other. About how for many of us the pull of home is ever-present, even if we were desperate to escape it while we were there, and even if we're deliberately putting more distance between us and it every year. The song's narrator spends the opening verses first destitute and then addicted to cocaine, but the possibility of actually going home - as oppose to simply yearning for it - is never raised. It simply isn't who he is. There's something out there he has to find first, and it doesn't actually matter he has no idea what that is. He might recognise the irony of having to constantly change where he lives because of his inability to change himself, but knowing how you're broken and knowing how to fix yourself are very different things.

The result is that the sorrow of homesickness is experienced at a remove. The narrator doesn't want to go home so much as he wants to want to go home. He wishes he was the kind of man who could go back to the place he misses without immediately needing to leave again. He wants to stop being the guy who races newspaper boats in gutters to see which one disappears first. The guy who gambles on speed, in other words, and in doing so mistakes disappearance for a form of success. That need to race away - the specifics never mattering, away the only destination specified - is just bringing him sadness and confusion. Our narrator can't even decide if it's Carolina or Kentucky that's home at this point. The sweetest winds may blow across the south, but he let those winds blow him away, and he doesn't even remember where he started from anymore.

Maybe he's still out there, looking for whatever it is. Maybe he settled down someplace when he had the money for decent light-bulbs. Either way, that urge to return must still be there, deep beneath the surface. You don't cure nostalgia; you just keep generating it to the point where you forget to feel every pull at the same time.

 I guess that's why I've never stopped loving this song, even though I've lived with it for almost as long as I did my family. Some things never change.

B side:

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 5.1.8

This week's Trek chat is about the Voyager episode "Emanations", which kicks off the venerable tradition of trying to make Harry Kim seem interesting by repeatedly killing him.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Unprovoked Assaults


I'll try to keep this brief(ish) because I'm supposed to be writing up some IDFC right now. There's only so many hours in any given day I can spend on Star Trek before I lose my job and/or my (very patient and understanding) partner.

That said, I did want to offer a little push-back against a tweet thread sent to me by a friend, which takes Star Trek Discovery to task for its racial and international politics. There's not really any way to talk about this without spoilers, so I'm going to put the rest of this post below the fold.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 4.1.8

Another Thursday, another IDFC article. This time I'm taking a look at "The Passenger", a story with the dubious distinction of having held the title of "Worst DS9 episode EVER" for precisely one week.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Two Weeks

It's been two weeks since the boiler broke
I grabbed my phone and I called it in that morning.
Ten days since the landlord called
Said "I'll send a crew to help with no more stalling."
Four days since I chased this up
Found out he'd done fuck all because he's lazy.
Yesterday, his wife sent him round
And said "I can't fix that myself, I am so sorry."

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.8

This week on IDFC, Captain Picard gets both a headache and his old ship back. It's time to re-fight... "The Battle"!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Great Devourer: Extra Hungry

Since I spent some time on Saturday shooing the merciless monsters of the Tyranid Hive Fleets toward an ever-shrinking knot of delicious Space Wolves, I thought it might be time to get some photos of the entirety of the army. It's been a while since I last had them on here, and the horde was both rather smaller back then, and photographed on a far less impressive surface.

Plus, this time round F was kind enough to take the photos for me, which means that as well as being bigger, the army looks a lot less like shit this time! I mean, it still looks pretty ropy in places, but that's no longer the camera's fault. Anything you hate here can now be entirely blamed on my modelling and painting skills.



Thursday, 14 September 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 2.1.8

Another animated episode this week, with all the delirious, defiant weirdness that implies when TAS is at its best.

A Dream Of Peace


Slightly delayed by life and Star Trek, but my piece on the finale of Game of Thrones season 7 is now up.

Friday, 8 September 2017

House Of Penance Podcast

A bit of a return to an old standard here as I briefly dip back into the deep, silty waters of comic book podcasting. I'm joined this time by James Murphy, he of many strong fingers in many delicious pies, as we talk about House of Penance, my favourite comic of 2016, and an absolute high point in comic book horror.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 1.1.8

After a few months off to write up Game of Thrones (and I've almost finished putting together my essay on the finale), IDFC returns with a look at "Miri".

Monday, 28 August 2017

19th February, 1801



A bumper-length look at last week's Game of Thrones episode, in which I continue my standard tactic of disagreeing with essentially everybody.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

"Never Laugh At Live Dragons"



Some thoughts about the odd and sometimes awkward set-up for the events of "Beyond The Wall", which I've cunningly not linked to until after said episode has aired. RELEVANCE!

Monday, 7 August 2017

A Tsunami Of Teleportation



With impeccable timing, my review of Game Of Thrones 7.3 has gone live over at Geek Syndicate.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Monday, 24 July 2017

Game Changer

My review for the first episode of Game of Thrones season seven is up at Geek Syndicate now.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

An Hour In The Life or Computers Make Everything So Much Easier

Ric's Monday morning mission: to have Skype working on his work computer by 11am for a call with a PhD student, TB Falsename.

10:00 Ric searches for Skype in his program files. He finds it! This is going very well.  He starts the program up.

SKYPE: Please sign in.

10:01 Ric signs in.

SKYPE: You can't use this server. Press "Try Another Server" or quit.

10:02 Ric presses "Try Another Server".

SKYPE: There is no other server.

10:03 Ric goes and fetches Phil, one of our tech support guys, for some assistance.

PHIL: Fackin update wannid, roit?

(Phil's dialogue is being spoken by an actor to protect his identity. SHIT I SHOULDN'T HAVE CALLED HIM PHIL!)
CURLY: Fackin update wannid, roit? Gizzit update, gizzit restart, maat.

10:10 Ric reads emails from terrible students complaining about their terrible marks whilst the update bar crawls upwards.

10:22 The updates end. Ric goes to make coffee whilst his computer restarts. Then, back into battle!

SKYPE: Please sign in.

10:26 Ric tries to sign in with his usual password.

SKYPE: Incorrect password. Please sign in.

10:27  Ric tries to sign in with his usual password.

SKYPE: Incorrect password. Please sign in.

10:28 Confused, Ric selects "I've forgotten my password", even though he's sure he hasn't.

SKYPE: Would you like to be reminded by email or phone?

10:29 Ric selects "email reminder".

SKYPE: An reminder has been sent to your email address.

10:30 Ric spends twenty minutes trying to write a reference for one of his most racist students whilst waiting for the email to arrive. Eventually he runs out of patience.

10:51 Ric selects "I've forgotten my password".

SKYPE: Would you like to be reminded by email or phone?

10:52 Ric selects "phone reminder", and receives text. He pushes in the seven-digit code.

SKYPE: Please enter new password.

10:54 Ric enters his usual password.

SKYPE: New password cannot match previous password.

10:55 SWEAR BREAK. 

10:57 Password reset email arrives, extending break by a further minute.

10:58 Ric enters new password.

SKYPE: You have two different Skype accounts matching this username. Please choose one.

10:59 Ric chooses work account, and the account page opens automatically in Firefox. He plugs in the ten-inch microphone with built-in tripod he sourced from the departmental secretary since the IT lads don't have any headsets for internet communication because why would they? Ric selects "test call".

SKYPE: Skype cannot operate in this browser. Choose an alternate browser.

11:01 Ric opens alternate browser and goes to Skype homepage.

SKYPE: Please sign in.

11:02 Ric signs in.  He is immediately taken to his private Skype account, but at this point hasn't the energy to care. Instead he goes straight for test call, and is pathetically pleased when his microphone records his voice and his iPod headphones relay the sound back. He's finally home free!

SKYPE: To add contact, search for their user name.

10:03 Ric types Falsename's user name into the Skype search engine.

SKYPE: User not found.  

11:04 Ric CTRL+Vs Falsename's user name into the Skype search engine.

SKYPE: User not found.

11:05 Ric phones Falsename on their mobile.

True story.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 6.1.7

When your own writers are telling you you're sucking with new approach, maybe you should listen to them.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

WW v WWI I:VI


Wonder Woman is a film with much to recommend it, both as a film and as a political statement. I have therefore written four thousand words on why it really annoyed me.

(Wonder Woman spoilers throughout)


Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 4.1.7

Hooray! Dax finally gets an episode all about her! Sadly, it mainly involves four men arguing about who she is.

Bums.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Geek Syndicate Review: Genesis Fleet Vanguard

Jack Campbell's back with more big dumb space shooting fun. Not big, not clever, but for a lowbrow holiday read one could do worse.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Geek Syndicate Review: Rebels (These Free And Independent States) #3

So this is ultimately turning out to be at least slightly clever. Still not actually all that effective, though.

Friday, 19 May 2017

No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.2.4 - "Me Vs Maradona Vs Elvis" (Brand New)



A song I am ashamed to love.

This might be a good time to talk about guilty pleasures again. To restate my case: fuck guilty pleasures. Not the pleasures themselves, obviously. What I despise is the idea of the guilty pleasure; the smug, self-satisfied insistence of self-appointed gatekeepers that there are some slices of entertainment that you should actively feel bad for enjoying. "Oh, that's so cheesy, you should feel bad for liking it!". "Man, that's so manufactured; don't you feel awful having such fun with it?".  Sod off and hang out with that Portuguese prick who pissed away his Eurovision victory speech on "fake music" rather than the plight of refugees.

Even the phrase itself is terrible. It might not be so bad if it were "embarrassing pleasures"; profoundly uncool songs and shows and movies that you love but would rather not admit that in public. There's still all sorts of issues around the concept of "uncool" that would need unpicking, but at least "embarrassing pleasures" is a more accurate framing. It's about you going against conventional wisdom and public opinion. "Guilty" dare to suggest you're actually doing something wrong.

And the thing is, there really are things you should feel terrible about liking. This song is a case in point. I hate that I love it so much. I think my feels for it say something unpleasant about me as a person. This is after all a song about a man who goes to bars, gets women drunk, lies to get into their underwear, and then sleeps with them when they're on the verge of unconsciousness. If the narrator isn't actually a rapist, he's so close to the line that quibbling over whether he's actually crossed it would be an act of supreme ugliness. This is some full-on Roosh V shit. How could I not feel guilty taking pleasure from this?

I tell myself it's just the music that gets me. And for sure the tune is genuinely wonderful. It's sad and slow and yet still heavy with barely-restrained power. Melody and riff both descend across each line of the verse as the narrator drags unsuspecting drunks down into his "unadmirable plans", making them focus on him instead of the football on the TV or the music on the jukebox.  The instrumental break at 3:21 is rather lovely, and just under a minute later the song stops holding back and finally erupts into a squall of self-loathing, or sex, or probably both.

But that's the problem, isn't it? The song is so cleverly structured around this horrifying tale of a calculating predator that every part of it simply further underscores the ugliness on display. Every part of it is shot through with the vileness of this stalking monster. This would be the best, saddest song on the soundtrack to a Ched Evans biopic, but how much can the quality really matter with something as villainous as this? I know I'm really just describing the idea of a problematical fave, but rarely has something so earned so much of my favour despite being so problematical.

But it works for me. I don't know why. I don't know why, and I'm terrified to interrogate myself on the subject. Better to not know. Better to just shoulder the guilt.

I certainly can't see any argument that says I shouldn't have to.

And now the B-side, which is at least a little less Rape Culture The Movie, if nothing else. It's also interesting to see how Mae builds the song up via changes to the harmony to compensate for not being able to tack on the full-tilt emo ending.




Thursday, 11 May 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 5.1.6

In which Voyager finally does something new, and does it by making use of something old.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 4.1.6

Back to the station this week, where we're forced to deal with a most unwelcome visitor.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.6

We're on the Enterprise-D this week, as are a bunch of weird snake-dudes and Gul Dukat pretending to be a dog. No way that can be boring as hell, right?

Well...

Geek Syndicate Review: Rebels (These Free And Independent States) #2

In which Brian Wood's frustratingly-titled slice of historical fiction continues to not really know what it wants to say.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Six Things I Learned In Berlin

1. Berlin Zoo is a good time, especially its collection of big cats. Some of the enclosures are a bit on the small side compared to zoos I've visited elsewhere, but - from my entirely uninformed standpoint - nothing seemed particularly unhappy. It was especially nice to see polar bears having fun; the only other one I've seen was back in Edinburgh years ago and it was clearly suffering. These two bears have about three times the space, and it seems to be doing the job. The biggest concern I heard anyone raise while I was there was the danger of the polar bears catching a cold if their pool wasn't heated, which I guess demonstrates that brain-swivelling stupidity is truly an international concern.

If you're going for the full afternoon, it's well worth getting a combined ticket for the on-site aquarium too. It's filled with a massive array of fish - too many in some tanks, actually, though again what do I know? - but also houses every cold-blooded animal in the zoo, so it's not just aquatic creatures.

They also have a common tern, presumably as a replacement after a much more impressive bird cancelled last minute. I foolishly didn't think to take a picture of the resultant colossal misfire of an exhibit, so I have used the magic of Microsoft Paint to reproduce the effect.

(Original photos (c) Birds of North America Online & Australia Adventure)
Thrilling.

2. I'm officially adding nackensteak to my list of tasty German treats. It's meat from the nape of a pig's neck (hence the name) with a taste and texture halfway between a pork chop and well-done bacon, with the faintest hint of crackling. At least in the place where I bought it (a street market on Kurfurstendamm) it's a bit more expensive than sausage, and frankly not quite as good, but if you've already filled up on wurst and want to eat some flatter flesh, this is a fine choice.

3. Trabant wing mirrors come off really easily.

4. U-Bahn construction companies pay for some interesting artwork.


YES! Rock on, gay motorcycle gang members! I'm glad you'll soon find it even easier to get around Berlin.


Um, hi, Mark Wahlberg with a ponytail and also on a pony. I'm... not sure they'll let you take Scottie Gee Gee on the U-bahn, actually, but I'm delighted you're pitching in.


I didn't think this was legal, but maybe King Bear has issued a royal decree about lady-kissing. YOU SLY SCAMP, ROYAL BEAR.


IT WILL NEVER BE POSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON HERE LIKE IS THE EAGLE IN A POLYAMOROUS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TWO ADULT HUMANS OR IS HE SMUG DAD'S ADOPTED BROTHER OR IS IT A LADY EAGLE HOW DO YOU TELL AND ACTUALLY IT MIGHT BE A GRIFFIN.

5. Museum Island sounds like a terrible sequel to any one of a dozen horror/monster films, but in fact, it's a rather pretty and awesome grouping of, well, museums. F and I checked out the Pergamon Museum there, and it's filled with some absolutely breathtaking reproductions of ancient locations, including the Ishtar Gate (which makes me wish we hadn't so totally devalued "awesome" as a word) and a section of an ancient market place. The collection also contains a large number of examples of Islamic Art, which is both lovely on its own terms and tremendously satisfying when you think of how many people must be appalled that it even exists.  The place is huge, too; there were three exhibits closed for renovation and it was still three and a half hours before we decided we needed to leave, with maybe another half hour's worth of stuff still to work through.

Two tips: first, if you don't speak German, make sure you borrow one of the (free) audio guides to take round. Only about two thirds of the material has been translated into English, and the translations themselves are occasionally patchy.  Second, make sure to book in advance. We didn't get around to doing so and ended up in a queue for seventy minutes. Considering there's a sign outside the museum marking an average two-hour waiting period, we got lucky, but still.

Oh, and one more tip, actually. Don't touch the handrail around the floor mosaic in the antiquities section. There's a guard there who gets really annoyed if you do. There's no sign or anything asking you not to; they've apparently decided to hire a guy pretty much entirely to whisper "NO! NO!" furiously into your ear if you touch a bar that's at exactly the right height for you to grasp it. I think half the people who went in just took hold out of habit; some Pavlovian response conditioned into us by decades of riding the subway or going up escalators or grabbing for iron coshes when shit goes down.

Anyway, go see this guy if you visit the museum. He'd probably appreciate human contact that isn't handrail-related. Just make sure to engage him in conversation from an angle that allows him to see every inch of his wrought-iron charge. It may not be much of a job, but it's his, and he's very proud of how well he does it.

6. No jokes for this one. The Topographie des Terrors is chilling, and horrifying, and profoundly upsetting, and something everyone really should see. You'll find it hard not to cry and harder still not to punch the giggling American tourists - "I'm touching Gestapo bricks ha ha!" - but the exhibition does excellently at the almost impossible task of rendering the entire story of the Nazi Party and its legacy into something short enough to read in two hours without feeling like anything has been ignored or skirted over.  Every time I read about the Nazis I find some new reason to fucking loathe them - this time it was discovering they would have murdered both my siblings for their medical histories - and every time I find some new way in which the contemporary right is inching towards the same sickening ideas. "Work-shy Reich" sounds like something IDS would suggest after his second whisky.

Monday, 10 April 2017

No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.2.3 - "See You Soon" (Coldplay)



I've never been much for Coldplay in either their arena bombast or overly earnest modes, but I'm a total sucker for their quiet ballads, and this is their best. It's stripped down to almost nothing - a guitar riff that stretches out like a telescope, backed by slow, expansive keys. It's not until the final moments that anyone even remembers percussion is a thing.

And it works wonderfully, not just on its own terms, but in how it meshes with the song's story; a sad tale about a friend no-one in your social circle ever talks to anymore. Pretty much all of us must have been here; watching someone once loved at ever-greater distances as they drift away, or as they cut ties one by one in a seemingly calculated campaign of unprovoked viciousness. Watching as they coat themselves in more and more layers of armour for an attack they're convinced is coming, and thereby blocking out anyone who still cares. You still see them around, but as observers, watching someone who once meant the world to you pass by on the other side of the street, their gaze studiously avoiding yours.

The overall sense is one of space and distance, a story of old wounds that still ache from time to time. Martin sums the situation up early on:
Don't break your back if you ever see this.
Don't answer that.
Yes, this song is about how we used to be friends. We're not any more. Don't @ me. This isn't reconciliation. It's pathology set to music.

It just happens to be beautiful, too.
B-side:

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Geek Syndicate Review: Rebels (These Free And Independent States) #1

Brian Wood's back with another American history lesson. Features Alexander Hamilton for no real reason other than he's popular now. I wonder if he's ill, though; he's all pale and totally off-rhythm.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 5.1.5

In which Janeway needs to try new things, Chakotay needs more respect for his sense of humour, and Tom Paris needs to be banned from contact with anyone until he's sorted his shit out.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 4.1.5

Wanna see me rant about capitalism and pretend I'm talking about Star Trek. You know, again? Of course you do!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.5

Shut up, Wesley-worshippers.

(Also: 75,000 hits on this website as of today; just half a week shy of eight years since I added the counter. So that's nice.)

Friday, 3 March 2017

Friday, 24 February 2017

Friday Talisman: WTF Is Up With Her Face?

This is frustrating as hell. I go to the (minor) trouble and (equally minor) cost of getting myself a light box to show off my painted miniatures in all their glory, and the first figure I photograph looks like she's been attacked by a facehugger. I have absolutely no idea what's gone wrong here; she looks fine in both natural and electric light. Put her in a light box, though, and she looks like the Slenderman sucking a mustard lozenge.


I spent some time tonight looking at her face, trying to work out what to do to help, but the truth is there's nothing I want to change. I thought redder lips, but her face is too small for that; it'd look ridiculous. I think I'll just have to keep experimenting with the box and my camera.

Alternatively, I could stick to painting miniatures with sensibly-sized heads. The Vampiress' face is absolutely minute. I include the Warrior from the base game in the photo below for comparison. You could fit her entire head inside his nadsack.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 6.1.4

In which I am forced to try and sort out a colossal mess left for me by Enterprise.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.2.2 - "Movies" (Alien Ant Farm)



I'm not sure there are many songs that tie my musical journey down to so precise a time period as this one. Alien Ant Farm are not a cool band anymore. They barely were at the time. They dropped from the cultural radar so quickly after the lumbering mess of the "Movies" re-release that I assumed they'd broken up. Maybe it was because of the rumours of how much the rest of the band hated their lead single that gave me that impression, or how boring everything they did after their first two singles was. Hell, even their debut album name suggested a band with a short lifespan: you don't name your first album on a major label ANThology unless you don't believe you'll ever get the chance to slap that pun over a singles collection (what I learned today: they called their first, independently-released album "Greatest Hits").

Looking back, things went wrong for AAF almost immediately. It's never a great sign when you reach the height of your fame with a cover version, especially one which gets talked about more for the video than the arrangement (which for the record is basically competent). With "Smooth Criminal" by any measure a massive success, and with no unreleased tracks on ANThology that could possibly reach those same heights, there was only one obvious move: re-release the debut single, but with a new and much more expensive video. The second video for "Movies" is a fucking horrific Day-Glo nightmare:



I hate that video for all sorts of reasons (ha ha ha he had his dick hidden in his popcorn HA HA HA!) but my main objection is the the degree to which it totally misses the point of the song. "Movies" isn't a song about films, it's about the moments in your life that feel like a film. Or at least, the kind of moments that feel like perfect subject matter for a film's closing moments.

Specifically, the song is - obviously - about a dying relationship, and the decision to kill it off for good. To slay a gigantic, lumbering beast that belongs to the past, as the original video takes pains to point out. It's a hell of a job, but it has to be done. That's why you need all that scruffy-ghet noise from those electronic guitar devices: taking down Godzilla requires a soundtrack with some bite to it. To the extent the term ever made any sense and wasn't just a warning label for a creatively bankrupt genre of leaden un-rock, this is the template nu-metal should have followed. Same riffs, less irony.

But what really makes this track special - aside from that juicy-as-hell descending bass riff at 00:18 - are the hints of calm acceptance that pepper the histronics and chugging guitars. It captures perfectly that period at the very end of a soured relationship in which the sudden release of obligation and restrictions makes the person you've spent days/weeks/months/years (delete as applicable) barely able to stay in the same room with seem not that bad after all. Like a president leaving the White House, nothing boosts your approval rating of a terrible partner like the act of disentangling yourself from them.

The feeling never lasts, obviously. But that's a different song.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 5.1.4

The Vidians this week. I like the Vidians. Shame they didn't get the chance... TO BREATHE!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Friday 40K: A Solid Wall And The Ground To Build It On

Following my New Year's Resolution to get some actual games of 40K in this year (think I've managed two at most since I moved to the West Midlands in early 2011), I've been hard at work expanding my scenery collection. Below are the results of January's efforts; the completion of a Tau shield wall I started painting in 2015(!), and a third Realm of Battle board for it to lie upon.


I rather like the design of these things, and I'm happy with my paint job. It's quite simplistic compared to the sort of drybrush-heavy stuff I put out these days, but then it needs to match the Tau army I started in 2003 (I have to stop saying stuff like this), when my abilities were far less developed.

If there's a problem here, it's that the shield itself is too high up for my Tau to shoot over. You'd think the Earth Caste would have thought to measure their cousins at some point during the design process. Still, maybe the energy field allows shooting from one direction. That's just the sort of underhanded trick you'd expect from these sneaky xenos. Still, my mate Dave promises me his Space Wolves will be eating my entire cadre fairly soon, so I guess it doesn't matter all that much.



Thursday, 26 January 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 3.1.4

Donald Trump and Daimon Tarr. You never see them together, do you? Here's why.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 2.1.4

The Animated Series once again, with some of the worst stuff about women the original crew ever gave us. Which, as I'm sure you know, is really saying something.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Limerick Of Grond

There was a door-knocker named Grond
Of whom Sauron was very much fond
'Cos to Denethor's place
Did Grond apply his face
'Til that strong door of Gondor was gone!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Geek Syndicate Review: Children of Lovecraft

In which I commend a Cthulhu anthology for finally including more female writers than it does racist piece-of-shit stories.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 1.1.4

It's back to the original series once more, with a look at "The Naked Time". This is where it first became obvious to me that Spock is suffering from a serious case of depression.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

No Apologies For The Infinite Radness 1.2.1 - "Uptight" (Green Day)



A song about holding yourself together as you're charging forward.

There's a tremendous sense of tightness about this song, as the title would suggest. A tension born not from self-restraint, but from imprisonment. Almost every section of the track sees the guitar part oscillating wildly between two positions, like a bullet ricocheting down its own gun barrel. It's not so much that the song can't move - indeed it has a surging momentum to it that fires me up every time. It's that the route it takes as it barrels forward is horribly narrow.  Last week I went on a boat ride into an abandoned lead mine. We coasted down a tunnel maybe five feet across as we passed under a Peak District hill, slamming against rock walls as the boat drifted from side to side and back. That's what this song remind me of; that claustrophobic, echoing trip into darkness, only played back at eight times the speed.

As a result of this closeness, neither song nor listener is given a chance to breathe. The standard verse-chorus-verse structure is replaced with two verses in succession (themselves filled with reversals) which lead into a chorus we never really escape. The only structural change we get after that point - right up until the song collapses in exhaustion and is swept away after just three minutes - is a middle eight in which we'd expect Billie Joe Armstrong to burst into one of his snotty solos. Instead, though, the song snap back into the same riff repeated throughout, just with more muscle. The song coils tighter rather than unwinding, pulsing more fiercely, the way your thumb does when you squeeze it harder. Things don't become faster, the direction doesn't change, but the song gets thicker, somehow. More laden with weight. The bullet gains mass as it rockets from wall to wall.

The end result is a standard Green Day trick - to make bleak cynicism seem buzzing and vital - performed with a level of panache they seldom reach. Sooner or later we all find ourselves in tunnels we can't escape except by running their entire length. This is the best soundtrack possible for working your way deeper into the dark.

B-side: This. Because we always need more cowbell.



Thursday, 5 January 2017

Infinite Diversity, Finite Combinations 6.1.3

We reach the end of the third IDFC cycle with a look at "Strange New World". Just like the cave system it takes place in, it's surprisingly deep.