Friday, January 25, 2008

I've not been following the weirdly complicated opening rounds of the insanely complicated American Election process with any great attention despite the coverage it is getting over here. The distractions of children who do things like announce, as they did tonight, that they aren't going to have their regular ration of evening TV because they want to perform a short ballet called 'Bringing the Happiness to India', and piles of cruddy movies to be watched get in the way of following the blow by blow, handshake by handshake, money pissing competition that is happening over there but one thing has left me bewildered.

Why is Barak Obama black? He's always referred to as the 'The first black candidate for... ', or 'The first African-American to... ' etc. As I understand it his dad was Nigerian his mother an American 'Caucasian'. Which if you want to start labelling people by their skin colour makes him the proud possessor of one 'white' parent* and one 'black' one. So why whenever his colour is referred to is he always 'black'? If he had had only one Grandparent who was black would he still be 'The first black candidate'? or only one Great-grandparent? At what point does this weird notion that Blackness outweighs Whiteness in this way stop? Or maybe it doesn't. The whole notion of the 'one-drop rule' seems utterly absurd to me. Because, apart from playing the racist game of thinking the amount of melanin in your skin has got ANYTHING to do with your character or value as a person, when it comes down to it we are all descended from a bunch common ancestors who lived in Africa 140,000 years ago. Ethiopia, Kenya or Tanzania. Somewhere round there.

We're all black!

The first 'black' president of the United States was George Washington.

*I hate that word 'white'. I'm not white. 'White' people aren't white - unless you paint them. Whenever someone asks me what colour I am I reply, "a sort of dirty pink."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Another cartoon tonight. A stupid thought I had at tea time drawn, redrawn, tweaked and fiddled with, printed out and shown to Merriol who, after pointing out a previously unseen obvious physical impossibility of a part of the drawing, didn't laugh at it.

Back to the computer.

More drawing to correct the now glaringly obvious obvious physical impossibility and swithering about a hyphen in the caption - put it in, stare at the screen, take it out, ... funnier with? funnier without?... funnier with?...

Fifteen minutes later I finally convince myself it needed the hyphen (I may take it out tomorrow) and then, with great care and ceremony, I placed my handcrafted baby in its own special little niche in the Hall of Bright Cartoonings, where no human eye has ever set foot, to gather dust unseen forevermore.

I was giggling myself stupid all the time.

I am very easily amused.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gog a go-go!

Tonight I watched Gog. Gog has been sat on my computer for months waiting for me to watch it. As part of the Let's get the computer cleaned up and backed up blitz I watched it tonight (well that was my excuse).

As you may well have gathered by reading this blog if you don't know me (or just know if you do know me) : I love bad movies. Really bad movies are often so much more rewarding and fun than a good film for many reasons. One of them that has just occurred to me in that when I enjoy something. I mean really enjoy it I just want to savour it. Enjoy it. I don't really want to start picking it to bits to find out how it worked and why I liked it so much - and to tell you the truth, if something IS good I get lost in it and my critical faculties get forgotten about till it is over.

And I like taking things to bits and seeing how they work.

Or don't

This film, like most others, has three acts. In the first act a scientist and his assistant are killed by a mysterious unseen hand, they are frozen to death. Frozen so cold in fact that their bodies shatter when they fall over which, because of budgetary constraints, they do off-screen. An undercover security officer arrives to investigate. This part isn't too badly done, a little slow maybe, but not bad for a low budget movie of the period.

For act two the security officer and his undercover girlfriend security agent take us on a guided tour of the base meeting a mixed bag of identical scientist types who lecture at great length their experiments, show us short clips of stock footage by way of illustration and then explain and why they could not have been the mysterious killer and, to tell you the truth the film almost grinds to a halt with tedium. This procession of (not too outlandish) ideas may have been pure "Gosh-wow! The future is going to be so Cooool!" at the time it was made but it all looks dated and plodding now.

Act Three. Action! - slowly segueing into hilarious ineptitude. (Paydirt!) More people get bumped off!

The chemist who was analysing some mysterious 'atomic powder' found in a suspect device is poisoned by a pot plant so radioactive that simply putting a glass dome over it cuts most of the clicking of the hero's Geiger counter.

The acrobats in their anti-gravity vests made of a 'new alloy of aluminium' are spun to death in their space-suits.

The head of base security is somethinged to death by sound waves, "Get out! Sound waves at this intensity can kill!" Actually I'm not really sure WHAT happens to him, his shirt sort of explodes while he is trying to cut the cables to a set of electric tuning forks and then he falls over.(Just why he is trying to cut the cables to a set of electric tuning forks is not really clear either, but as he was such a terrible actor I was actively willing him to die by this point, so I wouldn't have to look at him any more, and didn't care about the details).

Our hero has an idea what is going on and gets the head scientist, played by venerable ageing actor Herbert Marshall, to phone the Air Force and get them to scramble a squadron of jets, which by the mysterious power of limited stock footage, transmogrify from one type of aircraft to another in mid air (then into small models of possibly another kind of aircraft altogether). Gosh! This is all so exciting!

More action!

One of the Scientist's robots goes on the rampage in the computer room. Our hero shoots the robot with his pistol but it is invulnerable to bullets.
"Can you use a flame thrower?" asks its creator in an impenetrably thick German accent while keeping the rampaging metal monster at bay with a short stick.
"Yes!" cries our hero.
"Melt him down! It'z the only vay to stop him!" Then, in the heat of the moment, the scientist's accent goes into hyper-drive and I have absolutely NO idea what he says next. I have played that section of the movie over and over again and it still sounds like:
"Time bext zoim - in demzoim down ze hall - hurry up!"
Anyway, whatever he does say our hero understands and he rushes off - that or he'd figured the odds had just turned against him. 'Killer robot AND insane babbling German scientist? Stuff it, I'm off!'.

But no! He returns with the flame thrower. Unfortunately while he is out the room the mad German scientist has tripped over a claw hammer lying in the middle off the computer room floor and been strungled* to death by the robot.

Suddenly the alarm sounds! "The reactor!" The other killer berserk robot is in the reactor room removing the control rod.

That's right. THE control rod. This atomic pile has a control room with a little, lidded wooden box mounted on the wall. Open the lid and you can pull out THE control rod which starts a carbon arc...

(like you used to find in old cinema projectors)

...and throws the 'Nuclear Indicator' dangerously into the dark beige.

They're doomed! Unless...

Our heroes arrive, set fire to the robot with the flame thrower, and replace the rod. Whew! Saved! But! What's this? Coming through the door is killer robot number ONE who has busted out of the other lab after strungulating Dr Stranglelove and followed them down in the lift! - and the heroes' flame thrower is out of gas!

But, just when things look really bad... (for the heroes I mean, the movie has been looking really bad for ages) through the doors bursts aged, venerable, head scientist, Herbert Marshall waving ANOTHER flame thrower (every nuclear power plant should have at least one). Unfortunately his flame thrower doesn't work so well. Just when... etc. The stock footage of USAF planes we saw taking off earlier shoot down a mysterious fibre-glass aircraft which has been flying about overhead eavesdropping on the supercomputer and hijacking it to commit the murders.

The End (apart from a brief love scene between radioactive hero and heroine "I feel radiant!" and an optimistic speech from Marshall how about how everything is going to be all right because America will get it's Killer Mirror Death-Ray device into orbit tomorrow morning, "When the sky is clean." Which they do by using that other bit of stock footage of a V2 rocket taking off. Movies that finale with stock footage. The mark of quality )

Scored high on the crapomoter and, because of it, may well not get deleted in the great Let's get the computer cleaned up and backed up blitz.

*Strungled v. To simulate the act of strangulation by clutching the stranglator to your own throat, while pretending to struggle to be free. An act commonly seen performed in any cheap movie containing a giant octopus.

Danger! Danger!

Monday, January 21, 2008

M&M's computer is back on its feet again after a large quantity of money were thrown in the general direction of India this morning and someone talked him through the re-installation we singularly failed to get anywhere with yesterday. Last I heard all pictures and other irreplaceable stuff was still in place. Huzzah!. Mike has been burning discs all afternoon.

Another cartoon
this evening as a respite from the dire movie watching marathon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mike and Morag's computer has thrown a complete wobbly. Won't boot won't do anything except go round in small circles. Won't even let us reinstall XP. Last time this happened they ended up paying people to get the thing back on its feet and working. Luckily most, if not all, of their unbacked up stuff was still there when it was bought back to life. Mighty oaths were sworn about backing up EVERYTHING before it happened again.

It's happened again - and they'd never got round to doing it.

Last time this happened to Mike and Morag's computer Merriol and I swore mighty oaths that we would immediately go home and start backing up all the photos of the kids and all the other never-to-be-lost stuff on our computer. We've never got round to it either.

We've started tonight

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finally! The true difference between the sexes is found!
(...and I finded it!)

Boy DNA:

Girl DNA:

'nuff said.

Holly is suffering from the Dreaded Lurgi at the moment - or rather, as we established tonight after a trip to the doctor's - a cocktail of them and, in addition to the mountain of creams and potions we have been given for her, one of the things Dr C has suggested we do is to pour a few drops of warm olive oil in her lughole twice a day to deal with a horribly clogged-up with earwax ear.
As I was doing dripping oil into her ear tonight I had this huge rush of Deja Vu by proxy. I suddenly, for a moment, knew exactly what Holly was feeling, because I remember having the exact same thing done to me as a child when I had earache.
When I was a kid olive oil went in your ear. That's what it was for. The only place you could get olive oil was in the chemists. Small glass bottles full of this thin clear yellow stuff (none of your Premier Cru First Cold Pressing Virgin, dark-green sludge at the bottom, shake the bottle before use stuff, just industrially filtered yellow oil with a medical label). Merriol who is 11 years younger than me had never heard of the practice. Somewhere between me growing up and her growing up a decade later, olive oil had stopped being a medicine, and had become a food.

All I have to do is remember to pick up the right bottle and not fill Holly's ear full of salad dressing.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I am turning into a total housewife. The other day I was in the Co-op looking for suet. I had run out and was wanting to have dumplings to go with the stew I was making for tea. I was standing there on the aisle staring at the place on the shelves where logic dictated the suet should be - but plainly wasn't - doing that odd, pointless thing that perfectly rational adults do in those circumstances. I was saying "Suet?... suet?... suet?..." over and over again in the vain hope that it was going to get fed up and yell

"I'm over here!"

from wherever it was hiding, when a friend, a woman, passed by.
"X," I said, "any idea where they keep the suet in this place?"
"What do you want suet for?"
"No idea," she said "I just buy them frozen."
What? Probably the second easiest thing on the entire planet to cook and she buys them frozen!
I was, I realized, scandalised. Oohhh I was proper shocked I was, you cold have knocked me down with a feather...

- actually her name really is 'X', her parents were spies, or maths teachers, or both. Actually, now I come to think of it I suspect all maths teachers are spies. It would explain some of the weirder problems I got at school:

  1. If it takes 15 men three days to dig a hole three furlongs wide and eight furlongs deep - how many men does M have in the field?
  2. If a train travels west at 65 mph with a following wind of 25 mph then how fast does the goose flying east this winter?
Perfect sense. They weren't maths problems at all, they were passwords. My maths homework book was being used as a dead letter drop by KGB agents. It would also explain a note on my 5th year school report that confused me at the time:
Liam is a diligent and attentive pupil and a hero in the prolotarian class struggle against the imperialist oligarchy.
Mind you, it was the 70s - so maybe that sort of thing was normal.

Following this train of thought makes me suspect that the famous German Enigma Code of WWII wasn't broken by the boffins at Bletchley Park at all - but really cracked by hundreds of spotty Molesworths in prep schools up and down the country, each working on a tiny bit of the problem on ink-splattered jotters like some prehistoric version of Seti@home as any fule kno.




Monday, January 14, 2008

To continue my love letter to all the enthusiasts of the world that litter the web with their obsessions, may I introduce you to: The War of the Worlds Book Cover Collection a site which the owner describes like this:
The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, has been continuously in print for over 100 years. Collected here are the covers of many of those editions, submitted by generous fans from around the world.

All lovingly cross indexed by publisher, date, design elements and no end of other criteria. All sorts of wonders. It's a labour of love and I spent ages browsing it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

My slide into total domestic oblivion is complete. The other day was sitting flipping through a copy of Prima (a particularly vacuous 'Women's' magazine with no article longer than 150 words of less than three sylables) when I saw a recipe for a sticky apple cake thing.
'Mmmmm, I thought, 'That looks yummy.' So I made it for tea.

And it was yummy.

I'm such a girl.

I spend far too much of my time poking about the web finding, listening too, and watching long-forgotten crud that would have (should have) happily slid into oblivion if it hadn't been for the dedicated enthusiasts that litter this planet.
This is one of the reasons I love the web so much. The world is full of nutters and the web gives them their space to say, "Look at all this amazing crap I find so fascinating. Isn't it great?"
A lot of the time it isn't that amazing or great, but for every spotty nerk who is building a working model of The Starship enterprise (Third Series) out of matchsticks, or frame-capturing every time Milla Jovovich blinks in every one of her movies, there is another dedicated weirdo slogging away posting obsure Canadian disco tracks, complete spoken word records* or peppy little bits of Yé-yé music like this: Ann Christine - Odota en.
I love this bit of music. It is the most perfect bit of 1960s Finnish pop music - and I just can't stop playing it.

* Spoken word records are particularly weird 'must buy on sight' compulsion of mine. I have loads, not that I see than many in the charity shops of Fort William, but over the last couple of years I have added the speeches of Winston Churchill and Basil Rathbone reading Edgar Allen Poe to the albums I never listen too. I bought an LP of TS Elliot reading The Wasteland the other week for no other reason than it was a spoken word record and Merriol wasn't looking. I'll never listen to it either. But I had to buy it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Another cartoon! Jings! Crivvens! Help ma boab! Two cartoons in a week!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It was windy last night. Very windy. I was woken up at 4 by the roof creaking and groaning. We have a big roof with a wooden plank ceiling nailed to the underneath of it. In high winds it moves and creaks and groans and sounds like the effects soundtrack of a fifties Pirate movie. Last night about 5am there was a gust that hit the roof like a solid wall of something a lot more solid than mere air. The house shook. I don't suppose the stupidly thick granite walls shook but the roof and upstairs floor shhok. Most of my sphincters tightened. Your bed isn't supposed to move if you are just lying there being terrified. I've only ever experienced a couple of minor earthquakes when I stayed in LA but that's what it felt like. One or two on the Richter scale.
Holly woke up scared and climbed into bed with us.

This morning we woke up to find a couple of trees down in my mum and dad's garden, chunks missing off our barge boards and our shared satellite dish pointing at Norway instead of somewhere above the equator.
Getting my priorities right I ignored everything else and phoned the nearest TV satellite dish repair person. I could get to the dish all right, it's not that high up, but I would have no idea where to point it when I got there. The sky is an awfully big thing.
I'm not expecting the bloke to turn up any time soon, or even call me back until the evening but he turns up at 4ish in the afternoon and takes a look. I point out we have ladders to hand so he doesn't even need to get his off the top of his van. He gets his tools. Shins up the ladder, fiddles for about 5 minutes comes back down, signal restored, and says he'll send his bill. I ask him how much it will be.


Sixty-five fucking quid for five minutes work PLUS VAT!

When I'm up there in a few days fixing the bargeboards I am going to do some serious measuring and marking of angles on that thing. I'll fix some fucking guy ropes to it too. Sixty-five quid. Needless to say that is the last time we will be using him and I am so tempted to send him a bill for the hire of my ladders.


Fuck. I need to go to bed. I am loosing it. I'm sitting here at the computer writing jokes for my new never to be finished screenplay when I think, 'I know I'll listen to some music'. Not wanting to disturb Merriol who is asleep in the room next door I find the headphones in the tangle of cables down the side of the desk. I pick them up, realise they aren't plugged in and trace the cable till I find the plug...

...and shove it in my ear.

I'm sitting there with the headphone in my hand and a jack-plug stuck in the side of my head.

You might want to do the same after enjoying this: The Laurence Whelk Orchestra plays The Velvet Underground.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Stuff me! I managed to get a cartoon done. It's not very funny (probably even less funny if you know what the hell it's about), and it took my all bloody night but it was nice to get playing with Illustrator again. Amazing how much I had forgotten in the couple of weeks since I last played with it.
The kids are back at school after the Christmas holidays, the house is slowly, descending into the normal realms of chaos (which is same realm of chaos as we've been living in for the past couple of weeks but with less tinsel) which threatens to get deeper by the minute as we rearrange everything to make enough space to get the upstairs toilet built. By this time next week the plumbers will be in! Knocking holes in our walls, digging up the garden, and drinking vast amounts of tea. A week after that I will be building walls and cupboards and doing all sorts of woodworky things to hide all the pipes again. It's so long since I built anything I hope my hands remember what to do because my brain sure as hell doesn't. All the bits of my brain that used to be able to work things out, and measure things semi-accurately and then make something vaguely like I intended, are now totally occupied with, getting the kids to school, and wondering what we are going to have for tea, and packing school dinners, and hoovering etc. etc. (actually that part, the hoovering part, used to be devoted to thinking about nuclear fission and schemes for global Domination. I don't do a lot of hoovering - but when I do, I get some really dangerously great ideas about how to make the hoover suck more powerfully). I hope the knack will just come back to me like the Illustrator skills did after a while. We'll find out. If I post pictures in a couple of weeks with I MADE THIS! written all over it, you'll know it did. If I don't, you'll know it didn't. And if this post vanishes you'll know I really fucked it up and had to get someone else in to fix it all.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hey look! There's Phoebe and Tyler sitting on their porch! Wave to Big Brother, Phoebe and Tyler!
I can't work out if this is really really really scary - or very very very cool.

Missing CD? Contact vendor

Free CD
Please take care
in removing from cover.

Copyright (c) 2004-2007 by me, Liam Baldwin. That's real copyright, not any 'creative commons' internet hippy type thing.

(this copyright notice stolen from

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