Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ranking the Offspring albums when I was 15

"I saw them live in Manchester in January on their 2001 European Tour, and those guys kicked some ass" - Me, apparently

Bit too busy to compare 100+ short stories this month, so I've invited my more eager, younger self from half a lifetime ago to share his enthusiastic, falsely confident, needlessly long opinions about one of the only bands he's ever listened to. The other band was Nirvana, who are used as the only point of comparison throughout.

This is what the absence of anxiety of influence looks like. I only [cruelly annotated] these when strictly necessary, but I didn't bother proofreading, since I didn't pay me for that. I only earned a few pence from writing these reviews for, and I'm going to need those when I discover angsty nu metal soon.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ranking the Umberto Eco novels

Because I'm a bit of a ponce, I've always found challenging art to be the most satisfying. The more unreasonably complicated and stressful the novel, the more memorable the reading experience.

When I bother to put in the time and effort, there's a high chance I'll be rewarded with a favourite book of the year. Like happened in 2016* and 2015. 2014's was a comic with no words, because you have to sabotage your own arguments sometimes. The two years before that were both Umberto Ecos.

You'd think that guarantee of satisfaction would be motivation enough to read the remaining five-sevenths of his fiction library, but I've only managed another one and a half in the years since. It's a lot of effort, isn't it?

So it's time to stop lazily reading a couple of thousand pages' worth of short stories a month and knuckle down to some grown-up reading. Here are The Top 7 Umberto Eco Novels, with their original Italian covers to make me look smarter than I am. I didn't read them in Italian, obviously.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Kids write/draw the funniest things on Amiga computers in the '90s!

I was eight (I think) when my family got our first computer, so already past the point where my juvenile Deluxe Paint art and Wordworth stories could be considered adorable and unexpectedly amusing. Fortunately, I had younger brothers.

Hard drive wipes, dismantlings and floppy disk deterioration mean it's unlikely that any of our 32-bit digital catalogue survives today. In many cases – such as the case of my "epic" sci-fi animation series The Lost Alien and the exhaustive encyclopaedia I wrote to accompany it – this is for the best. But it was a shame to lose some of the funny kid stuff.

The drawing above is a reconstruction of a drawing by my brother Michael when he was about six. There are a few things I like about it, maybe you can work them out.

The story below is a reconstruction of the first thing my brother Chris ever typed/mashed when he was about five, using the largest blube font they'd allow him. It's about a monster called Chris, the Qeen and the Qeenie (apparently different people, though they both wind up in his oss).

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ranking the William Hope Hodgson stories

I read my first W. H. H. around the same time I read my first Arthur Machen and my first Robert Sheckley. All were experiences of elation at discovering a new favourite author, followed by gradual disappointment when nothing else lived up to that first one.

That's one of the advantages of reading entire bibliographies in strict chronological order, rather than heading straight to the classics; you have to put in the work to earn the highs.

I hadn't read many of Hodgson's short stories though, and since everything of his I had "read" before was in passive audiobook form (probably when distracted by Dizzy or something), I decided to give the novels a fair second hearing reading too. Even The Night Land. People seem to love that one. I must have been mistaken. Why do I do this to myself?

So I don't have to do this a third time, here's The Top 106 William Hope Hodgson Tales.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Ranking Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op stories

Like the western, the hard-boiled crime thriller is a genre I'm regrettably more familiar with through broad animated parodies and holodeck simulations than the real deal. The influence of the good stuff has no doubt trickled into plenty of things I like, I just won't have known.

I'd read The Maltese Falcon, starring Hammett's most famous detective (despite only appearing in a couple of stories) Sam Spade, but I knew nothing about his more long-running, eternally enigmatically anonymous sleuth.

I wonder if I'll be any the wiser after reading The Top 30 Continental Op Stories?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ranking the Red Dwarf Smegazine strips

I didn't collect the official and improbable Red Dwarf magazine at the time ('92–'94 – I was busy collecting my glow-in-the-dark T-rex skeleton). I only caught up on scattered issues a few years later, courtesy of Crewe's sole comic shop. You know, the one tucked away in the back of APS Records & CDs run by the bloke who looked like Garth from Wayne's World.

A treasure trove of interviews, time-capsule fandom and unusable blurry posters, perhaps the Smegazine's least impressive feature was its original comic strips, which are the most fanwanky tales I've ever seen in an officially licensed publication. As well as below-par adventures with the main Red Dwarf characters, we're invited to take extensive tours of  various alternative universes spinning off from specific episodes and to catch up with all manner of minor characters from the series and the novels, including long-running strips based on Rimmer's sock puppet and a Neighbours parody that had already ran its course over a few seconds in the show.

But was any of it actually any good? It seems unlikely, but let's be optimistic. Here are The Top 45 Smegazine Stories.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thieving bastards VIII: Inside job


Someone's making YouTube videos about the same bookish and couch potato topics I've written about here (and there).

Even more coincidentally, they choose the same (often atypical) faves and worsties for every category and even recycle my descriptions word-for-word sometimes, like they couldn't be bothered to write a couple of new paragraphs every week.

What's going on? If someone was looking for content to steal, they could pick something more appealing to the masses and the advertisers than my willfully obscure selections of 100-year-old books and deservedly forgotten TV series.

The fact that their Indiana Jones review was posted the day before my blog about it only confuses matters.

Another possibility would be that I wanted to convert my hefty archive of worthless written opinions to the audio-video medium, but didn't fancy putting my own face and voice on camera. Then realised it might be interesting and funny to have my weird old hermit opinions coming out of a curiously young, attractive, outgoing and bizarrely female presenter, so I hired one.

I already write tons of corporate content that's credited to women, fictional or otherwise, so I might as well go all in on the gender dysphoria.

Who is this mysterious female with the sort of fascinating opinions only a strange man would have? the lonely viewers will hopefully wonder. Why can't I meet girls like that? If I subscribe, I'm basically one step closer to a date. Better leave a creepy comment to seal the deal.

It might even have worked if I'd put some effort into making my scripts readable by the human voice, and if I didn't prefer stories with unpronounceable titles.

Hot Breaking Update 25/04/17

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Friday, March 31, 2017

Ranking the Indiana Jones novels

I'm not the biggest fan of Indiana Jones. Don't get me wrong, I think the films are loads of fun – all three of them – but I've not explored much further than that. I quite enjoyed the Fate of Atlantis point-'n'-click game, until I got stuck in a cave.

But it's certainly a franchise with legs, and I started to wonder if the tie-in novels would tenderly pastiche the style of old pulp magazine serials in the same way George Lucas & co did with old movie serials. I only wondered that for about a second before realising that, no, they definitely wouldn't. They'd be fan fic at best, and that's only if they cared enough to hire a hack who'd actually watched the films.

But even if The Top 13 Indiana Jones Novels are safely pasteurised cash cow milk churned out to deadline three times a year (initially), surely they could still be fun? Who doesn't want new Indiana Jones adventures after all these years? Yes, I did see it.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Absolutely pointless nostalgia: Obscure childhood VHS

I spent a lot of my childhood in front of the telly. As soon as I got home from school, it'd be straight to BBC One for a couple of hours of Children's BBC until that hit the impassable Newsround barrier, then catch up on the last couple of hours of Children's ITV thanks to the magic of home video. No difficult Sophie's Choice dilemma in the Warburton household (plus, that way around you could fast-forward the adverts).

But this was the late '80s / early '90s and children's TV wasn't on around the clock, so I also had a healthy supply of commercial videos to tide me over. Typically, these collected two arbitrary episodes of a popular animated series that would embed themselves in my memory through repeated viewings to the extent that I could still probably recite the scripts verbatim 25 years later ("planetary alignments come and go, but pizza is forever" etc). But sometimes, they'd be a bit stranger.

These underdog videos didn't have the budgets of Hollywood animation studios. Some of their origins are uncertain. Most of them have been preserved for undeserved posterity on YouTube.