Friday, December 30, 2016

Substantialreads: Faves and worsties 2016

I imposed limits on my reading this year, to avoid things turning out like last year when my non-working life was consumed by the typed/spoken word. Due to basic probability, I didn't discover so many new favourites this year, but nor was I bored and irritated anywhere near as often.

I started out by trying to restrict myself to one (hopefully) good, substantial book a month, taking the time to savour its flavours rather than rushing through as many as I possibly could. But that was just too restrictive, so after sneaking in an extra book each month (two for February, three for March), I decided to make that the new thing (four for April, five for May, six for June, seven for July, eight for August, nine for September, ten for October, eleven for November, you get the idea).

I themed each month around whatever I felt like at the time. But because moods can change, I cheated and read them in whatever damn order I felt like. I even read some other things, for review purposes or just because I wanted to. I didn't even make myself write fastidiously image-wrapped paragraphs about some of those, I do sometimes allow myself to enjoy things without turning them into chores.

On that note, here are the obligatory year-end time-wasting stats.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Substantialreads: Black Christmas

It's the festive season! As if you're allowed not to notice. If your heart's as black as mine, and all that ceaseless commercial chirpiness is getting you down, nothing dulls the pain like chucking yourself into the yawning abyss and literally confronting your demons.

Way to step outside your comfort zone, Dave. Give me a break, it's Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Schrödinger's pet

I wasn't going to write about this publicly, in case it doesn't go according to plan when I have the chance to open Schrödinger's can of worms in a couple of weeks. But making bold promises online can be useful motivation. No one ever goes back on those.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Death of the West, or Once Upon a Time in Shipley, or Was The American Adventure Theme Park Doomed to Fail?

There are some things you probably don't know about me. For instance, you probably don't know that I spent a disproportionate amount of my childhood growing up at theme parks. Particularly The American Adventure theme park, a once-proud, now largely forgotten outpost on the Derbyshire frontier.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Top Ten Websites 2003

A bit less than half a lifetime ago, I started my first "job": writing consumer reviews for at a few pence a pop (and other supplementary, miniscule rewards) to fund the obsessive DVD boxset collecting that was my primary preoccupation in life.

Being under 18, I was technically too young to be earning money through the site, but that didn't stop me. I just lied about my date of birth on my profile and assumed my writing would be mature enough to convince the grown-ups that I was one of them.

See if you can spot the telltale signs that this ranking of websites from the Victorian internet was penned by a teenage virgin. What's depressing is how much still applies, at least on a thematic level. Includes [explanatory notes] and updates about how those sites are getting on today.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chicken tale

Our neighbours raise fighting cocks, at least that's what I deduce from the fragments of virile-looking feed packets that occasionally blow into our garden. It's one of many wholesome pastimes that make them fine examples of the species.

The cocks' raucous dawn chorus wakes me up earlier than would be ideal most mornings, but when I look out over the unkempt field and see them crying out from solitary confinement in enclosures that amount to little more than rooster cosies, I can't feel anger towards them. It's directed elsewhere.

Time for another of my uplifting stories.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Substantialreads: Novirginiawoolfember

I make no apologies for taking affirmative action and dedicating this month to a woman author to help boost my sexist stats. However - you'll want to prepare yourself for a shock - it's an author I wanted to read more from anyway (and to properly read the ones I lazily skim-read at university, despite liking them. I found it harder to read three books a week back when I was actually supposed to).

Anyway, I love the modernists and Woolf is less heavy-going than Joyce. Or seemed so back when I wrote this optimistic intro anyway, I'll see how it goes.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Guest post: Your Boss Won't Believe These Mind-Blowing Floor Hacks 2016! [Weblog]

There's more to floor than just standing on it.

Shh! The floor industry doesn't want you to know these top secret floor hacks for 2016!

Check out the image gallery below and subscribe now so you don't miss content!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Guest post: Your Girlfriend Won't Believe These Mind-Blowing Bread Hacks 2016! [Infographic]

There's more to bread than just eating it on it's own.

Shh! The bread industry doesn't want you to know these top secret bread hacks for 2016!

Check out the image gallery below and subscribe now so you don't miss content!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are grooming our children! #Pizzagate

In light of the revelation that "pizza" is actually code for trafficked children, I had to confront my own troubled past and cast a critical eye over one of the defining cartoons for the Millennial generation (and possibly subsequent batches): the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (or Hero Turtles if you lived in the molly-coddling EU).

From exhaustive analysis of the opening title sequence, supplemented by memories of scattered episodes that I used to have on video, it's now clear that this series' twisted agenda was to brainwash children into being willing slaves for the Satanic paedophile elite.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Donatello is purple now? WTF!!! #MandelaEffect

A couple of weeks ago, I reposted an attack I'd found on some stupid conspiracy website accusing my blog of promoting... some kind of inconsistent sinister agenda or other. I don't know. It looks like whatever twat wrote it got bored fairly early on and reconsidered how he was spending his life. Good, hopefully he won't be wasting more of his time and ours with similar tinfoil hat nonsense any time soon.

But when reading through his drivel, I was surprised to see that my otherwise attentive six-year-old self had used the wrong colour on Donatello.

Everyone of my generation (I can't speak for the reboots) knows Donatello's bandana and arm & leg bands are blue, not purple. The Turtles were one of the biggest things in my life back then, and Donatello was objectively the best one. So how could I make such a mistake? It doesn't seem possible. It isn't possible. Something else is going on.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Spooky tale

This is a tale I call...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Substantialreads: Doctober

Ten books about Doctors, Drs. and other variants on the spelling. You might expect the results to be tediously repetitive or colourfully diverse, but it's pretty much business as usual. Try as I might to challenge my horizons, I've got pretty good at gaming my own systems by now.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dangerous subliminal messages in

Today we are looking at dangerous subliminal messages hidden in plain site on ``

Friday, September 30, 2016

Substantialreads: Nine

Sod substance, this month I read officially licensed fan fiction chronicling the further adventures of a TV series I used to love. Books I didn't bother reading even when they were current and I was young and easier to impress. This is going to be great!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bleak tale

I've been contemplating mortality recently. Can't imagine why. And I've spotted a flaw (add it to the pile) in the way people traditionally think about souls, spirits and the like, which they sometimes decide are bound by the laws of physics (those who mistake Nigel Kneale's classic drama The Stone Tape for a serious documentary), but other times decide are exempt. Where do you draw the line?

It's the same fundamental flaw I spotted in time travel a while ago. I could have gone with either time travel or death for this fictionalised demonstration, but since the former would have turned into the latter pretty sharpish anyway, I plumped for the macabre option.

I hope this unsettles you as much as it does me. Winking out of existence is surely preferable to this horrific eternity you've created.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Substantialreads: Augasms

I'd over-optimistically decided to work through Neal Stephenson's eight-volume Baroque Cycle this month, but I only made it an hour into the first audiobook when the prospect of sitting through another 113 interminable hours where that came from became too much to bear.

In need of a hasty replacement, I committed to the first August-based pun I could come up with and embarked on a perilous voyage through "classic" erotica. Enjoy. Not like that.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Damnant quod non intellegunt

Pretty devastated at my blog getting a bad review from Patrick K. Phillips of Patrick's Place.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Painstakingly planning pretend paperbacks for Sonic the Comic even though it's 2016, I'm 30, and these won't ever exist

Sonic the Comic was my favourite comic as a child. Some people had American superheroes, others had mischievous 1950s British children, I had the licensed adventures of a console mascot.

Sure, when I picked my first issue off the shelf at Dillons (#21, 5th March 1994), it was because I loved playing those Sega games where you hold down right and occasionally press a jump button to move the hedgehog sprite from one edge of a themed landscape to the other. But I stayed for Nigel Kitching's thrilling stories and Richard Elson's captivating art.

A few years ago, when I was spending a week by myself in a wooden hut overlooking the sea in a secluded corner of a Thaisland, I downloaded some STC scans for nostalgia kicks and ended up wasting the next few days puzzling over how these various overlapping yet diverse stories might be best represented in trade paperback collections, should that situation ever arise. After much redrafting and frustration I gave up and had to settle for going on boat trips and enjoying my time in paradise instead.

Fortunately, I've now managed to make my life so unexciting that the prospect of returning to this problem and finally nailing it doesn't even seem that much like a waste of my precious, dwindling time any more. So without futher ado, here's the unofficial, definitive guide to how you can fit every single story* from Sonic the Comic into 13 x 200-ish-page paperbacks that won't ever exist for multiple reasons.

Illegally download the digital hatchet jobs here to share the fruits of my pointless labour (or just download the original comics here like I did, occasional bad scans and all). It's not like the creators get any royalties when these are sold on eBay (you'll need a .cbr reader too).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Substantialreads: Insubstantialreads

At least I made it to the second half of the year before falling back on comics. And at least it's another comic writer being a smart-arse, weaving a dense interdimensional web that he apparently genuinely believes was dictated to him by beings from another realm during a magickal trance, so it shouldn't be so much light reading as perplexing and off-putting. We can only hope.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Penelope: A confessional memoir

The following is a true story that I have to get off my chest.

It's up to you whether you think it's an actual experience from my life or the authentic transcript of a dream I just had, fuelled by reading some messed-up horror stories, listening to a radio discussion about dreams and an undigested bit of beef fajita.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Substantialreads: Djune

Growing up, my brother was the household Dune fan, and you don't need two of those. I preferred the less time-intensive role of household Hitchhiker's fan, those books are much thinner.

I already know much of what happens in Dune - the top end of the saga at least - thanks to my brother's enthusiastic prattling, a famously inept film adaptation I never sat all the way through, a low-budget TV miniseries I did and a succinct musical synopsis by Iron Maiden, but maybe I'll get more out of it now that I'm no longer too young and pre-undergraduate to recognise the obvious allegories about them Catholics and them Muslims.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ranking the Manowar albums, even though it's 2016 and I'm 30 years old

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things"
- 1 Corinthians 13:11
"May your sword stay wet, like a young girl in her prime"
- Manowar, 'Hail and Kill'

If it's not an arrogant assertion, I'm fairly sure I hit maturity this year. There weren't any physical signs, like there were for that other substantial transition (I didn't spontaneously sprout any hair this time), but there were more subtle indicators.

Settling down in a physical, literally concrete way rather than merely being anchored by flimsy concepts like "love" and "contracts." Deciding that I might actually be prepared to be 50% responsible for a human life after all (still, give it a couple of years). Looking at a multipack of Fudgee bars in the fridge and having no desire whatsoever to cram that sickly goop into my mouth. Noticing Manowar in my music library and realising I was never, ever in the mood for non-ironically self-aggrandising battle hymns any more.

Manowar are a hilarious band, especially when you read enough interviews to finally realise they're 100% serious about the whole metal warriors shtick and lack the self-awareness to realise that posing in their underwear for a greased-up album photoshoot might not be received as intended. Their terminally cocky anthems and moronic lyrics are fun to play for a laugh, but if you're enough of a classic metal snob to accidentally discover the genuine merits in their early work, and realise you're duty-bound to defend them as classics of the genre, it can get a bit embarrassing.

But I'm done with the lot of them now. These days I don't listen to much of anything with lyrics, cheesy or otherwise, and all that shouting and guitar soloing is much too energetic for an old man of 30. So before I triumphantly delete these album folders to make space for boring symphonies and non-ish ambience, let's give them the Viking funerals they deserve - join me as I blow my speakers to the rousing battle cries of the Metal Kings! (And stream the later stuff on YouTube because I don't have it. I may have shit taste, but I still have some standards).

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Substantialreads: Silent Disco

Time for some non-fiction. But it's not like I was going to read anything useful. Bachelor of Arts here.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Substantialreads: Space Chicks

It's not like I haven't read sci-fi by women before. This isn't an apology or amends, it's just me clutching at a theme for the month that doesn't involve cracking open a dreary tetraology.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The further adventures of self-indulgence: All my British homes

We've finally secured a reasonably good internet connection, so before I'm inevitably thrown back to the dial-up ages I've been making the most of those advanced, high-bandwidth services that you lucky people in the developed world take for granted, like YouTube videos above 144p, non-HTML Gmail and Google Street View, which enables less fortunate people to imagine they're wandering the real streets of wealthier countries in 2009.

I've thought for a while that when I finally make it back to the UK and visit the family, I might also take a tour of my childhood homes and haunts in search of overwhelming primal nostalgia or crushing existential despair about the transience of our brief lives. Any emotion would be fine really.

But since we just built a house, and that rules out travel for this year at least, I settled for a synthetic virtual substitute and spent an hour or so clicking along familiar routes to schools, playgrounds and newsagents where the latest issue of Dinosaurs! magazine with another free bit of glow-in-the-dark Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton isn't waiting for me any more. I didn't feel much of anything.

If you're ever in South Cheshire, Lancaster or Edinburgh and you feel like paying tribute to my life, here's where to light those candles.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Substantialreads: Goth Girls

Three potential terror tales by women, of all creatures! I'm seeing a pattern here. It wasn't intentional, but I can't abandon it now or I'll look pathetic. Hopefully there won't be much in the way of work come December.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Best of 2015, in March 2016

I'm not overly concerned with keeping up-to-date with the zeitgeist, which includes writing end-of-year lists around the end of the year in question.

At the end of 2014 I did a round-up of things I'd enjoyed that year that were unfailingly made in other decades, but this time around I've endeavoured to be more current. Apart from writing this in March, obviously. And a couple of entries from the last century. I'm getting better.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Substantialreads: Transformers

Does antiquity add length? In case that's not substantial enough, I added a supplementary shortie to keep you/me/the Gods satisfied.

Ovid, Metamorphoses

8 AD / E-book / 480 pages / Italy


This seemed to get referenced more than any other text whenever I've read anything classical-themed from A-level onwards, so it was about time I got around to it. I would have done that a lot sooner if I'd known it was basically a Roman/Greek mythology anthology. The theme is transformation, which barely narrows the field at all since that happens absolutely all the time, and the segues between otherwise unrelated stories are as amusingly flimsy as those in an Amicus horror film.

Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

1915 / Audiobook / 96 pages / Czech Republic


I'm surprised I never properly read this one either. I did try to tackle it in the original German once, which probably put me off. It's less challenging having Benedict Cumberbatch read it to me like I'm blind or a child.

It seems that people have interpreted its metaphor for the socially repulsive, downtrodden Other all over the place, but that doesn't make any sense unless those minorities are associated with climbing up the walls. He's an insect, you idiots. Did you really not get that?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Substantialread: Ain't Nobody Here But Us Conveniently Symbolic Chickens

I read a lot of books last year. Too many to really take in, but some of them stuck with me - usually the ones that were already certified as classics by popular approval, and were more involving simply by virtue of them being considerably longer.

This year, rather than not reading any books at all (which was the only other option available, obviously), I've decided to read exactly one good (I hope) book a month, like a normal person or something. And to rectify the sins of the past by reading more women authors and proper, paper books rather than this extremely convenient digital nonsense, ransacking the used book shops at Davao's malls in the flimsy hope of finding some decent titles amid the posthumously fake V.C. Andrewses and Millennium Bug survival guides, then working out exactly how to get rid of them since those places inexplicably don't accept donations unless they're shipped in from abroad.

Since I only decided all this a few days ago, this month's book isn't especially long. And it's an audiobook. By a man. You don't have the power to fail me, only I can do that.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

1851 / Audiobook / 344 pages / USA


I related to the architectural focus, since we're currently building a house (right, like I've hammered a single nail myself). I also appreciated the open-minded narrator who's sceptical about the fanciful superstitions built up around the real macabre happenings, but still baits us with an undeniable pattern. It hardly even mattered that as a non-Christian I find its core tenet of ancestral guilt being passed down the generations offensive.

With its richly symbolic prose, it's not a book you can passively listen to while playing Slam Tilt, and after falling asleep and having to find my place twice in chapter one, it became a book for lazy mornings rather than atmospheric nights. It wasn't because I was scared, right?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tom (1998-2016)

Another legend has passed. Tom lived the kind of spoiled, indulgent life from start to finish that would be embarrassing in a human. He was a mass murderer who picked off small mammals indiscriminately for pleasure. But you couldn't help but love the guy.

I won't forget the time we played fetch with an elastic band for over an hour to test each other's patience, though I forget who eventually gave in. Or the time we ran out of cat food and he followed me all the way to One Stop and back, skulking under cars, to make sure I bloody well bought some. Or the time I walked in on him "cleaning" himself and visibly enjoying it a little too much.

Thank you to my mum for looking after him during his reign of terror, especially after I left for university and abandoned my duties. Nantwich's mouse, vole and rabbit populations can sleep easier now.