I like the word ‘marvel’.

I think I should marvel more at things.



Only things that are worth marvelling at, though.

Hmm. What’s good to marvel at, where can marvellous things be most commonly found?

Carolyn Burnham deploys the word to magnificent effect when rowing with Lester in American Beauty. “How dare you speak to me that way in front of her. And I marvel that you can be so contemptuous of me, on the same day that you LOSE your job.”


Star Bollocks – epissoff MCMXXXVII

Just seen Star Wars episode VII with the missus. It wasn’t bad, it couldn’t ever beat eps IV-VI, I’m too old for that, and it was light years ahead of the ep I-III cascading debacle of shit, and Dawn enjoyed it.
All in, it seemed like a massive reprisal/homage/amalgam of eps IV-VI, with a bit of inversion here and there.
Despite having been pretty roundly beaten 30 or wotnot years before, the Empire’s Striking Back (again) reincarnated as this First Order thing, and the one-time victorious rebels, who must have gone back to being ‘legit’ post ep VI, are now rebelling again, while the FO goes around the galaxy zapping problem planets with this Star Killer Death Star (nominal twist being this new Death Star runs off solar power, so it’s an eco-Death Star, if you will).
So the rebels have to blow it up.
Whereupon the Dark Lord, Deja Vu, makes his menacing embrace felt.
There’s even a team briefing with a big hologram of this eco Holocaust machine, to which someone (Han?) says, ‘it’s another death star’, ‘just this one’s bigger’. I think it was Han, came within an ace of saying it to the camera, break the fourth wall to underscore the point that ‘yes, this is the THIRD TIME already.’
Not the only echoes, either. So, overall, what we got? Here’s a few:
Angry bloke in mask, in black, cape, turned to the Dark Side but conflicted by it – tick.
Angry mask man related to leading hero – tick.
Angry mask leads bloody attack in order to retrieve some key data that threatens the Empire/FO – tick. 
People get burned – tick.
Data is put in droid for safety – tick.
Droid is cute – tick.
Nasty Emperor man – tick.
Lots of flying fast through tight spaces – tick.
(Eco) Death Star – tick.
Eco-Death Star blows up planets – tick.
Millennium Falcon used in escape from shitty desert planet – tick.
Millennium Falcon captured by another spaceship – tick.
Bar full of freaks, some of whom are smugglers willing to take rebels somewhere for a price – tick.
Young apprentice from shitty desert planet discovers they have the Force – tick.
Young apprentice from shitty desert planet gets given an heirloom light saber – tick.
Young apprentice has traumatic out-of-body experience – tick.
Rebels have hologram briefing of attack on Death Star – tick.
Thrilling countdown to the heroes’ planet being blown up – tick.
Death Star shields to be brought down by putting mines around the shield generator – tick.
Father-son face off on narrow platform acentre of a cavernous, windy, evil structure thing  – tick.
One of them falls off – tick.
Leads witness death of leading character / role model at the light-sabered hands of the evil one in a black cape & mask, and freak out – tick.
Light saber fights – tick.
Money shot of Death Star / planet blowing up- tick.
Jedi Master buses himself into reclusive exile because of mistake over lost apprentice and slopes about in a beige dressing gown -tick.
And so on.

I did laugh when I shouldn’t. like when the X wing got shot and he says ‘I’M HIIIIIIIIIIIIT,’ and I just wondered if boxers ever said that as they careen into the ropes.

But the biggest beef is, the tortured anti-hero / villain is nothing more than a crappy teenager with anger problems. Ren Solo is an emo. Sweeping around in his black cape and skateboard mask, he doesn’t even need his shitty mask, he just wears it for effect. What does he do when things don’t go his way? He goes and smashes up the consoles – yes, consoles, like it’s a massive X Box – and lo and behold, he commands no respect. If you dissed his granddad, even if you’re an Imperial general in a room full of other imperial big guns, you get strangled from across the room. Emo-boy meanwhile quakes with impotent rage while this prancing neo-SS general berk cuts him down in front of the Emperor, then goes off and has a tantrum. Grandarth Vader wore his mask as part of a life support machine, and yet despite being little more than one great black-clad Frazzle, he still kicked butt. Ren meanwhile knows he’s a pretty boy who needs a spooky voice converter to be taken seriously, and even then it doesn’t work. 

Then the silvery stormtrooper captain sounded like an ansamachine, while the young SS general was just camp, and the whole Nuremburg rally, but really, is it so literally so universal a trait that bad guys have rallies like this, with lots of red banners and black emblem things, and shout a lot, then raise their arms? Yes, yes, we get it, they’re like the Nazis, they’re evil, OK OK. 

Doesn’t make sense either that Finn, a stormtrooper who has this moral crisis brought on by the bloody death of a comrade, shortly after has no compunction about shooting up all his comrades in the TIE hanger on the main base. We didn’t care about the stormtroopers in eps. IV-VI not least when we learned they were clones, but this lot are all children or something dragooned into the armed forces – so should we pity them or not when they get killed? Finn also is a very good shot for a stormtrooper, and seems especially handy with weaponry he’s never used before – like a light saber.

All that said, it is kind of clever in that they’ve taken Han and Leia, Luke, possibly considered as peers for the demographic of children and teens who saw the original trilogy at the time, who’d have been asking themselves a la Luke, ‘shit, who am I, who the fuck are my parents within, what are they really like?’ … then 30 years later these now grown-up viewers, married, children, etc, see their own doubts and failings as parents reflected from Han and Leia, ‘look at the shit we’ve brought into the world.’

Couldn’t be parkier

17 jan 2016 beach beastah

Beach Beast-ah at Tynemouth with the wonderful Clive and Angela Gibson & F.I.T Club. Bloody -1 C with the sea unusually warm at 8.5 C. We’d already done the situps with the log, so followed it with up-and-overs. It’s the ultimate way to welcome Sunday!

Then went to OpFit and met the missus and PT instructor Gavin Baxter, who I’ve done 10 sessions with, and I knocked out the triathlon in 6:45, beating the record of 6:48 and my own PB of 6:49. The block run was surprisingly fast at 0:50, and the transition times were way below what I expected, … even so there was only three seconds in it. Shouldn’t have put a hand in the ski loops nor lost 2, 3 seconds by glancing at my watch and losing rhythm, plus had had no food and had spent an hour on the beach.

I think there’s another 10 seconds to be found, and yet I shaved in with three seconds where I’d accounted for at least 10 seconds from the run and transitions.

Sod it. As comebacks from surgery go, two records in a week is a haul, along with two Sunday mornings in the sea.

Fuckin’ A


PS: The triathlon record stood for only five days, was beaten by Adam Cooke who clocked an astonishing 6.33, which takes 15 seconds of his previous PB.

Le me gusta

Spends 5 weeks failing to retake the rowing record, so takes the skiing instead – Rob be like …


Took the gym record on 500m on the ski erg in 1.39.5, having done it in 1.49.5 just two days before. Also: Got myself new work ghost writing at one company, and I hope tomorrow to get more work proofreading for another company, as well as churning through the North Korea stuff for NK News and on the back of a recommendation from Barnsley Skeptics, I’ve been invited to do York in February.

I could complain it’s all a bit busy, what with an audition this Monday which needs a 1-minute monologue what I’ve not even started… plus ambulance training doesn’t look likely this year, not with the lovely lot I’m in with, but … other things come along, other long-forgotten boats come back from their voyages laden with riches. And there are always unforeseen surprises.

We only did the ski erg today on a whim, I’ve been gunning to do the 1,000 m row record all these past 10 PT sessions, and never considered the ski erg as something I could do, but while I couldn’t get the row, I got the ski! Maybe that’s the secret, I over-focussed on one thing and forever kept falling short, then for something you’re under no pressure to succeed at, you succeed at. It’s pressure.

North Korea tour talk … on tour

I just got back from Barnsley where I did my illustrated talk on touring North Korea for the Barnsley chapter of the Skeptics in the Pub network. The Skeptics is a brilliant idea, a nationwide network of open but informal lectures by experts talking with interested punters in a jolly pub setting. Ostensibly the subjects are of the kind that a scientific approach could discuss or dissemble, like the recent talk on the origins and tricks of Victorian psychics and seances. But my North Korea tour talk fits by way of being in essence about what you really can see on a tour, beyond the pervasive, skeptical perception and criticism that it’s all just a la-di-da Potemkin illusion, and all you see are automaton actors reading approved scripts in these pristine locations, all as part of an epic feat of open theatre that fools everyone into believing this is truly a Socialist paradise. Well … no, on the contrary.

Of course you do not see the worst vestiges of poverty, but if you think all along “we’re seeing the best,” you’d have to be deranged to come away thinking “well these people are well-off – or at least, they’d like to fool us so!”. It is a blatantly poor country, a highly technically educated and developed country for sure, but for the most part the infrastructure is, at best, 1980s Soviet technology, and is desperately worn, while the country still has a precarious food situation, an appalling lack of potable water, a terrifying deficit of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, and so on. These things are very, very obvious.

anyway, the talk went down very well, a really nice and interested audience and a really good gang of hosts as the Skeptics. And even though the talk came, what, one day after the North tested a Big One underground, and the world waits for the sky to fall, nobody asked about that, because … it’s kind of not interesting. DSCF4128.JPG

I’m just reminded though by this picture, the first time I did this talk, at the Newcastle Lit & Phil, this was the image at which point in the talk the chap from the UK-Korea friendship group (Korea as in North Korea, this was a Kim Il Sung-pin wearing hard-core Communist), took umbrage at my wondering as to the incongruousness of the fertiliser factory, and the political posters on the wall, to which he began his rant ‘they’re just the same as adverts selling stuff like we have all over here,’ and then he went off on one. It’s only just occurred to me, in that case, what are these posters advertising? Do adverts in this country exhort people to go take out some Imperialist foreign devils? Maybe I suppose, the army does advertise. Are these North Korean versions of ‘Join the TA!’?

To come: Edinburgh, Leicester, Bedford, Aberdeen, York, Cambridge, Newcastle, Newcastle Univ politics society, Goldsmiths. Yay!