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.

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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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ranking Robert E. Howard's Conan stories

I've never been the biggest fan of sword 'n' sorcery fantasy, nor brute violence. Whenever I played fantasy-based video games as a teenager, I'd invariably choose to play as the most morbid or ridiculous character available, rather than the meat-axe warrior who had a much easier ride.

So it was surprising when, at one point, I got a bit obsessed with the 1982 Conan the Barbarian film. The one starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which James Earl Jones turns into a snake. It was around the same time I developed my Manowar problem. Was it the dark, mythic atmosphere? Ancestral memories of simpler, crueller times? The pecs? I eventually recovered... or did I?

I read Robert E. Howard's horror stories a couple of years back, to see where he stood among his pulp contemporaries. Horror didn't seem to be his forte – but then, I didn't like Lovecraft's twee fantasies either. So let's see if reading The Top 28 Conan Stories awakens anything in me, violent, homosexual or otherwise. I'm going to get sick of that soundtrack.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Persians: The Americans of cats?

"Is it a Persian?" the woman at the pet shop asked (presumably not in English), as she scanned the week's supply of kitten food.

"No, a Filipino cat," my wife replied (Ibid).


"What breed is it?" the dog owner at the vet asked, inspecting the cat carrier.

"No breed, a Filipino cat."


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Ranking Alan Moore's Swamp Thing comics

There are still vast tracts of Alan Moore mindscapes I have yet to explore. I could have knuckled down to his 1,000-plus-page novel, or finally ticked off some of his less appealing ventures like Tom Strong and Promethea, but every few years, something keeps drawing me back to the fetid, squelchy, strangely erotic Louisiana swamps.

Moore's Swamp Thing stint is tediously legendary, but for the purposes of this, I'm going to ignore how revolutionary his psychecological sex scenes and feminist werewolves are and just celebrate how much I like these stories, respectively.

It helps that it's mostly episodic, and the occasional contractual crossovers and awkward Batman cameos make ranking The Top 45 Alan Moore Swamp Thing Stories less intimidating than trying to review something immaculate like Watchmen or From Hell. I wouldn't want to show myself up.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wilbur's diary

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