Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A FIRST MOC

It's been over a year since I've MOC'd anything. For those who failed their first year Lego Jargon unit, MOC stands for 'My Own Creation', and it's what adults call that thing I used to call 'playing with Lego' when I was a kid. For the last year I've been on a mission to rebuild all the sets I've purchased over the last 3 years, and having finally completed, photographed, broken up and parted out all 100 sets, I rummaged around amongst my boxes and had myself a play.

It began as a desire to build something with a fully transparent globular cockpit, became an exercise in late night tablescrapping (building something out of whatever random bits and pieces are sitting on your table) one night when Lyn had one to bed early, and ended up as an attempt to build a Vic Viper using only technic pieces as much as possible. The end result is a little shaky, and a little basic, but it's the first original thing of any type I've put together in over a year, and I'm quietly chuffed with it. I've decided to call it the Tadpole for no apparent reason, so here be it:






WHAT, AND LEAVE SHOW BUSINESS?

I've not been writing recently. It feels like a chore, like something I have to get through in order to be finished, rather than something I do for the fun of it. Part of it is my day job: I've just been through the busiest time of the year, where far-too-few staff and I work our arses off to stage a major open-air sculpture exhibition on the local beach (more of that later), but it's more than that. I'm between milestones in a major way: the Corpse-Rat King journey is done and dusted, the publication of Magit and Bugrat is something like 9 months away, and with two novels sitting in my agent's in-tray waiting for him to come out of his coma and notice them I'm a long way from any sort of progress on any sort of front, and frankly, the idea of starting anything new just fills me with a case of the giant whatevers. Be honest, even writing this blog entry is a bloody chore, but then, given I've done fuck all around here in ages, you've probably figured that one out for yourself.

Then Luscious and I went to see Russell Howard at the Regal Theatre a couple of weeks ago. And as brilliant as he was, the former comedian in me took special glee in watching him riff ten minutes of angry material at a moron in the audience who was ignoring the strict 'no photography, no filming' rule, only to realise he'd been starting a fight with one of the floor lights leading to the exit. It was brilliant, off-the-cuff stuff, a spiralling flight of mental fancy that impressed me as much as it amused me.

Then a Facebook link led me to this youtube video. It's Stewart Lee, possibly the most inventive and intelligent British comedian of the past 20 years, and one of my favourite comic thinkers of all time. And he's not being at all funny. He's delivering an address to the Oxford Union on the way writing comedy has changed over the last two decades, and how his own personal evolution has been affected by the changing landscape. It's basically a TED talk for writers, and it's wonderful:




And then one of my work mates sat down and blew out a monster sigh one morning, and we had this conversation:

HER: Anyone get the number?
ME: What number?
HER: The number of the truck that ran over me this morning.
ME: Dunno. I couldn't see it from up in the driver's seat.

And my little corner of the office broke up laughing. Immediately. And told me how quick I am, and how clever, and all that little egoboo jazz it takes for me drag my increasingly weary bones through the day.

And it's all rather crystallised: I miss stand-up. I miss the immediacy of it, the jazz-riffing-rim-running skating along the edginess of it. I'm sick of delayed effect, bored with working for months on a piece only to realise it into the wild and watch it sink without a trace. Make no mistake: I was a shit stand-up comic. But I could write a gag, oh I really could. I could write material. I just have no way to make it all fit, anymore.

Dunno what it all heralds, I really don't. But being halfway between fish and fowl seems to be my way of life. Damned if I know what that means for my writing.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review: DC Universe: Legacies


DC Universe: Legacies
DC Universe: Legacies by Len Wein

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Framed as a DC version of Marvel's excellent Marvels, there's no shortage of talent on this book, from writer Len Wein through to a roster of artists that would be the envy of any company: Kuberts ndy and Joe; Dave Gibbons; Walt Simonson; Keith Giffen; Jerry Ordway; Dan Jurgens; Brian Bolland; Frank Quitely; Bill Sienkiewicz... the list just goes on and on. And in the end, it's that talent that save the book because, really, it's really just not that good.

DC has great characters and no mistake: right down to the third-tier supports they have a fantastic range of powers, costumes, and personalities. But the 'everyman' police officer who fills the role of narrator and his story is pure schlock, and take up far too much of the narrative. Rather than an avenue for readers to view the miraculous workings of the overpeople who populate the DC Universe, it overshadows the narrative to the point that the superheroes become an interruption and a distraction, and what we do see of them constitutes, for anyone who has a passing familiarity with DC's major storylines, nothing more than a precis of the major events. There's no angle here, no spin, just a quick precis of the storyline and then on to the next interminable run-down of this average man's very average life.

Whereas Marvels was a brilliant distillation of the Marvel Universe's ethos and philosophy, this is little more than a primer: well-written occasionally entertaining, but ultimately little more than an expertly illustrated Wikipedia article in drag.



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Review: Thunderbolts Classic, Vol. 3


Thunderbolts Classic, Vol. 3
Thunderbolts Classic, Vol. 3 by Kurt Busiek

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Thuddingly average book about a group of third-string characters without any depth that even a writer of Busiek's skill can't bring to life beyond momentary interest in the narrative twists that occur within the text. Not even the addition of Hawkeye-- in the midst of one of his least interesting character turns-- and an interesting side-adventure with Captain America (in the midst of one of his least interesting narrative arcs) and a reborn Citizen V can lift this above the very pedestrian.

There was a period when Marvel was so desperate to create any kind of successful team book that they threw characters together like spaghetti strands at a wall, praying that something would stick. This is a classic example of their approach, and notwithstanding their current attempts to cash in on any random collection of masks by slapping 'Avengers' somewhere in the title, serves to show why, when the Avengers really works, there is no better team title in print.

One for completists or a very rainy afternoon. Not bad, just incredibly average in every way.



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Review: When the Wind Blows


When the Wind Blows
When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Beautifully sad and whimsical fable about the effects of a nuclear conflict upon a retired pair of typical Little Englanders. Filled with gentle humour and deft characterisation, it's a wonderful parable of the dangers of trust in authority and the imminent threat of worldwide conflict. The message is from another time, now, and some of the jokes float more towards the nostalgic then the classic, but the sadness and tragedy at the heart of this bittersweet tale are still strong enough to make it a classic example of graphic storytelling.



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Thursday, May 22, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY REVISITS ITS VOODOO YOUTH

Real content in the next few days, I promise. I'm only just emerging from the busiest time of my year. But in the interests of keeping you amused:

"Then I make bullet holes by heating up this pin and poking it through the plastic..."
 
An unbelievable amount of my teen years was spent in the production of plastic modelling kits. I can make flight wires from sprue, create fencing from left-over bits of frame, all the tricks and wizardry to turn a series of plastic shapes into a realistic diorama featuring some crashed WWII aircraft in some imaginary Scottish Highland. Hours and hours of diligent practice, to produce perfectly represented plastic models.
 
Surprisingly, I also lost my virginity at 15. Who'd have thunk it?

 


Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: The Lord of the Rings


The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Not always a good book, but always a *great* one. There's nothing I can say that will persuade you to change your mind on it, which is perhaps key to its greatness. This is, simply, one of the iconic books of the 20th century. I read it annually from age 10 until the first movie came out, and hadn't picked it up since: time has not dulled its impact, scope, and breathtaking ambition (nor, should I add, has it limited its flaws).

One of the great works of modern literature.



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Friday, May 02, 2014

THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT or HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BLOG


Ye Gods. Where does the time go? Busy busy busy. There’s been a 2 week holiday in there, somewhere: two weeks where I kept the hell of Facebook and the internet and writing while I bent my back over exercise and gardening and house maintenance tasks that needed doing—and lost 2 kilos into the bargain—and entertained myself with my Lego addiction. And damn it if I’m not happier for having done so.
So. What’s gone on in that time? Bits and bobs, my friends. Bits and bobs.
DAGGER, DRESNIA, ONE THEREOF

Swancon happened over Easter, and I wouldn’t have paid much attention this year except that, for reasons known only to her, the lovely Satima Flavell-Neist asked me to say a few words in her defence as she launched her debut novel, The Dagger of Dresnia.

Satima’s a fantastic inspiration to anybody who feels like they’ll never achieve their publishing goals:  The Dagger of Dresnia is the result of 11 years of hard work, faith, and perseverance, and it’s pleasing that she’s managed to partner with an aspiring press like Satalyte Publishing, who are looking to stake out a permanent place in the Australian publishing landscape. It’s a bold venture, and I’m hoping that both Satima and Satalyte receive the very best of fortune, not to mention sales.

If you can judge a person by the quality of their enemies then Satima must be rubbish indeed, especially if you can get the likes of Juliet Mariller and Glenda Larke to speak at your lunch. Or maybe that just speaks to the quality of your work, and of you as a person, non?

The Dagger of Dresnia is book one of a trilogy, and you can purchase it from the Satalyte website here. I managed to snaffle a few quick snaps of the launch in between talking-type duties:



A formidable 'Dagger of Dresnia' cake, baked by local author Carol Ryles



Satima reads an excerpt



Busy at the signing table



Guest speakers Juliet Mariller, Glenda Larke and Michelle Drouart wonder where to stick the knife, while Carol Ryles stands by and lets them kill her cake.



STEPS FORWARD, SAYS A FEW WORDS

Rockingham children’s author Teena Raffa-Mulligan has started a new blog, In Their Own Write, dedicated to writing advice and experiences from the mouths of established authors.

In her wisdom, she’s asked me a few questions, and I’ve told the world to milk cows and have sex. And some other stuff. Go here and read my interview, and catch the rest of her line-up here while you’re at it.


THE BOY IS BACK!

Almost a year to the day ago, Master 9 came down with a mysterious illness that caused him to vomit more than 40 times a day. School quickly became impossible. A normal life became just as impossible. Luscious withdrew him, put her life on hold, and set out to home-school him while she and the medical profession set out to determine what was wrong.

A year later, with a diagnosis of Rumination Syndrome under his belt, a year of the hardest emotional work I have ever seen a parent put into a child paid off. His vomiting has diminished to the point where he can go entire days without vomiting, and generally, if he does, it’s once or twice a day at worst. He and Lyn have battled every step of the way: against the illness, against despair; and against a medical fraternity that couldn’t give a shit about doing anything more than convering their own insurance premiums. They’ve never given up, never taken negative advice at face value. Bit by bit they’ve dragged GPs, specialists and surgeons in their wake, and changed both our lifestyle and environment until this week, for the first time in 12 months, this:



His first day at school in a year. For now he goes back one day a week, under the care of a teacher who is so understanding of his condition she has organised special care and infrastructure to ensure he has a safe space to retreat to should he be unable to stay in class, and coping strategies for when he can. But even one day is a victory, and he’s already talking about how soon that one day can become two, and two become three, and on until he’s back at full time.

I am so proud of them both I can barely find the words.



STUFF YOUR LUFTBALLONS, I HAVE LEGO

A year ago, a chance remark from Luscious prompted me to embark on a scheme of grand stupidity. I would build all of my Lego sets once more, and when they were built, I would photograph them, because reasons, that’s why.

Naturally, that didn’t take into account the umpteen set I would buy over the course of what I dubbed The Great Set Rebuild of 2013, because things go better with 1950s Hollywood titles, so that, eventually, it became the Great Set rebuild of 2014 and, finally, the Is This Frigging Thing Not Over Yet of It’s Never Going to be Bloody Finished.

And yet, here we are. 99 sets, in all. It would have been 100, but for an incomplete set that arrived last week with filthy, unusable parts that I’ve had to source from third parties. However, sets were built, photos were taken, and here, for what it’s worth, you can wallow in the glory that is my Set Rebuilding Fu.

I’ll tell you this for free, though: I can’t wait to get back to building bloody MOCs…..








99 sets. Count them.... or better yet, don't count them, I already had to.... 99.


And theme by theme:

Classic Space, Alien Conquest and Star Wars


Atlantis



City



Creator and Racers



Various themes, all celebrating the power of flight...



Possibly my favourite of all themes, Galaxy Squad


And proving why it's my favourite, each of the sets separated into their playable 'second mode'.



Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Kingdoms and Fantasy Era



Monster Fighters



Ninjago, Chima and Pirates of the Caribbean



Pharoah's Quest



And lastly, proving that themes may come and go, but my love of insane spaceships will never die, Space Police III




RIP BOB HOSKINS

Sad news the other day, with the passing of the immensely talented Bob Hoskins, at the age of 71 after a short bout of pneumonia. Hoskins had retired from acting in 2012 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, but he was one of the most talented, varied actors I've ever had the pleasure of watching, and the film landscape is immeasurably poorer for his passing. A short, tubby, genial-looking bloke, his capacity to play anything from doltish mook (Who Killed Roger Rabbit?) to vicious killer (The Long Good Friday) to sweet romantic lead (Mermaids) and all points in between (The Dunera Boys, Mona Lisa, hell, close your eyes and throw a dart at IMDB and you'll find a brilliant performance in something) placed him at the very top rank of actors, in my opinion.

See ya, Eddie.









Thursday, May 01, 2014