Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Making deposits in Satan's piggybank

You have a different relationship to effluvia once you're a parent. For instance - when was the last time you had shit on your arms? Those without children might imagine a slight toilet paper malfunction that leaves one finger faecally daubed, but I mean right up your arms, up near the elbow. When was the last time that shit was put there by someone's foot?

At the moment the shit has the consistency, texture, even the smell of cottage cheese. Not a good cottage cheese. Tesco everyday basics, maybe. This makes it less offensive when smeared liberally up my forearms and shirt, but has put us off cottage cheese. As a vegetarian I find this upsetting.

Often the infant will be sitting on one's lap, squirming, squawking, obviously processing a good quantity of Asda own brand. There's nothing to do but egg her on.

'Shit. Shit. Shit, you magnificent bastard! Shit your tiny brains out!'

Eventually she does.

We have avoided any piss-in-the-face episodes, which I have heard are part of the rich tapestry of boy parenting, but piss-in-the-bath is pretty regular. This event causes you to confront your own hard limits. Suppose you were planning to bathe using this water. You are aware that urine is pretty much just water and ammonia - that's practically a cleaning product. If the baby had peed in the bath without your knowledge it would do you not a jot of harm. But you do know. And if you leave the water in now, you are proactively choosing to bathe in baby piss. It's not just icky. It's something a badly medicated celebrity would do in an LA detox retreat

You even treat your own emissions differently. For instance - the baby, after thirty uninterrupted minutes of howling, is asleep, tied to your chest in a harness. You realise that for the last fifteen minutes your bladder has been toiling against the pressure of hot gallons of piss. You attempt to set her down in her crib but no sooner do you unlatch the first clasp on the harness then she is wide awake, shrieking directly into your face. Refix the harness and she is asleep so deeply it resembles a coma. You attempt this a few times, each time unleashing an earsplitting burst of red noise. Several parents and harnessed babies of different sizes could serve as a rudimentary, awful musical instrument. By this point your bladder feels like a car tire is being inflated inside it.

I am not too proud to admit that I have pissed standing up with my baby harnessed to my chest. I plugged her ears with wax, like Odysseus tied to the mast, so she did not hear the siren song of piss hitting pan. But shitting with my baby affixed to me is a motion too far. Her mother may feel differently, given as the infant spent nine months living happily and directly beside her gurgling bowels.

The other great thing about baby shit, besides nothing, is that you come up with all sorts of great metaphors for taking a dump. It's a literary coal mine. For instance:

Opening the Conservative party conference.
Another fine offering by AA Gill.
A lengthy session in the Finnish Parliament.
Giving a Welsh grammar lesson.
Three line whip in the lower chamber.
Letting slip the dogs of war.
Releasing that difficult second album.
Planting flowers at Thatcher's grave.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Strike a pose, vogue

Here are names I have come up with for poses the baby adopts:

Paint me like one of your French girls
Uncle Fester
Victorian suicide
Dead mouse
The plank
Window collision sparrow
Rugby ball
Cartoon drunk
Mister Burns


I finally unpacked my toy soldier painting equipment, only to find I had no worthwhile size 0 brushes. So, a trip.

Two trips, as I made the mistake of buying Games Workshop brushes on my first foray. Avoid these brushes like the plague. After one use they'd begun to fork. I cane my brushes, but even by my standard this is a dismal performance. Cheap glue or cheap hair - everything about them is cheap but the price.

The second time I went to the Art Shop in the York Shambles. These narrow medieval streets with overhanging Tudor buildings are the kind of thing Americans visit the UK for. Super twee. They're cobbled too which is pretty good when you have a pushchair, a nice bumpety bumpety that puts the buggle down to sleep.

Brushes sound like Harry Potter wands - instead of Dragon's Heartstring and Phoenix Feather you're looking for pony or squirrel or sable hair. I picked up a size 1 synthetic watercolour brush with an extra long tip, and splashed on a size 0 Windsor and Newton series 7. These were kept in individual tubes on the counter, to protect them from oxygen, I assume.

'Windsor and Newton, size 0, series seven watercolour. A pine shaft and kolinsky sable bristles. How interesting,' The shopkeeper said. 'The sable that gave the fur to make this brush gave fur to make only one other. Sometimes brushes share a special connection, you see.'

'But who owns the other brush?' I asked.

The wizened brush seller leaned across the counter and looked at me across half moon glasses with a dark expression.

'He who must not be named.'

So I think I got somebody else's brush, but fuck it. My prophecy now.

I asked for advice on brushcare, which is why I went to a shop and didn't just buy the thing cheaper online. Her advice: for sable and other natural hair brushes, it's possible to retain springiness and point for longer by conditioning the brush with hair conditioner once a month. To protect brushes from acrylic paint there's very little to be done, the pigment is a bugger for creeping up and settling under the ferule or near the base of the brush. However, preparing the brush by wetting it and removing the water from the tip leaves a protective band of water under the ferrule that should prevent the pigment and its medium travelling up when you actually load it with paint. On a £12 brush I'll take that kind of care.

'And beware the agents of the dark one.' She added. 'They will try all tricks to separate you from your brush. So make sure you hide it, secret and safe.'

'Like in a drawer?'

'Is it lockable?'

'No. Its on an IKEA desk unit.'

'A drawer would do, yes.'

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Suicidal sleeping

The baby approaches 'safe sleeping' like a frat boy approaches safe sex - not at all if there's any hope of the alternative. She will drift off blissfully (no matter how snotty, cantankerous or irascible she has become) when in bed with a parent. This seems quite natural, but cosleeping is a SIDS risk, what with the possibility of rolling over and crushing the bab like a big dumb rabbit.

She particularly likes drifting off in the carseat while wearing her outdoors puffer jacket. Slowly cooking like a foil wrapped beef joint, or perhaps developing irrecoverable spinal deformities from the unnatural jellybean posture the seat squishes her into. Nevertheless it covers the half an hour I need to pack the cans away after we're back from shopping so sod it, job's a good 'un.

If we offered her a plastic bag to shove her head in before bed time I bet she'd take it.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Die Damen von Kaos

The Season's Queen. Demon princess, a Persephone bride to Tzeentch's underworld. Spring and Summer are his seasons when growth and change and the unfurling of seeds bring out new life, renewal, and thaw the bones of winter dead. Then she is abroad in the realms of magic, tending young demons, lambing the damned mutants, tilling and planting fields of warp lilies, spinetrees, spellgrass. In Autumn and Winter she is in the mortal realm, foul mooded, pining for her husband and his gardens of everchange. She builds little models to relieve the tedium out of living souls and their tiresome, slow morphing bodies.

Clothed demagogue. Clothes have a secret language that the wearer does not know but the reader does. Treacherous words: 'Fool.' 'Buffoon'. 'Pauper'. Women more than men must learn their language for fear of wearing the clothes that say 'Victim.' 'Target.' 'Asking for it.' The cruelty of men made the language of cloth, but Tzeentch is jealous of all secrets. Those women who learn the true language of clothes are precious to him, and if they petition him and make supplications he will grant them garments of surpassing beauty and unignorable voice. Clothes that say 'Mistress,' 'Lady,' 'Regent of all who have eyes to see,' in tones too loud to ignore and too regal to disobey.

Nonwomen. A madness that takes over good women and true. The minds of many melt and mingle - they are one person of many bodies, or one body of many parts. Until they are found out they go about their several businesses to one purpose, exalting the lord of the strange in secret fashions, making by nine parts and nine unseeming gestures a single cantation, or building in nine points nine innocent icons that together and apart are of unholy purpose. They corrupt by inches, churn the good sod to foul mud. When they touch they flow together like melting candles.

Scratching beauty. Once, Nurgle wagered Slaanesh that he could make a maiden stare longer into a mirror glass than could his sister-brother. Slaanesh found a maiden plain and gave to her a glass in which she saw herself more beautiful than any other girl abouts. And into this glass she would stare for hours on end, longing for a face that was not real. But in the end she cursed the mirror and cast it down and it shattered to pieces beside her, for she knew the face was not and could never be hers. And to another maiden, beautiful, did Nurgle give a mirror that showed her beauty truly and to great effect - except that it showed upon her a blemish mark that no other mirror showed. And though she could not find it except in the mirror yet the maiden picked at this blemish and plied her skin with caustics in an effort to be rid of it, and in time her skin was damaged sorely and the blemish that was not real became so. And now the mirror showed her ever more awful and terrible ailments and deformities that were not in truth part of her yet fair face, and in her desperation to be rid of them she with lance and scalpel and foul ointment ripped and tore and flensed her own flesh until it was ruined utterly, a hole of sores and flowing wounds that she could not help but pick, pick, pick at. And at last, having won the bet some time ago, and being not overly cruel, Nurgle entered her mind and let her see herself as she truly was, a creature of disease entire, a mouldering beauty fit to host the Lords and Ladies of plague. And she is his faithful servant, and she delights in sharing her gifts with others.

Blister sisters. Peat cutters and charcoal burners for the fire beneath the pot wherein Nurgle brews novel contagion. Their affliction begins with a single blister on the forehead which soon grows down the face, claiming the eyes and nose, and back over the scalp, loosing the hair. The cheeks split at the corner of the lips so that the grin grows idiotically broader until it reaches the ears, which then fall off. Buboes swell their groin and armpits, their limbs bloat with water and bad blood and their skin cracks and spills. They are slow to notice intruders but relentless with their peat mattocks and splitting axes.

Midden maidens. Infinite cruelty in the punishment of witches, adulteresses, infanticides. When a woman, drowning in a midden, forsakes all - her family, God and soul - for the mere hope of revenge, then is she Nurgle's. He changes the savour of dung to wine, and she lives in sewers and privies, and spits cholera in wells.

Hunt bitches. The God of the Hunt is a loutish oaf who rejects womankind from his band. Khorne has no compunctions such. Sleek skinned, long legged, great distended jaws and teeth sharpened to points or capped in brass. Run in packs and delight in running huntsmen to ground, then tearing them apart.

Blood widows. War begets widows and orphans. Those who harbour rage more than grief, desire revenge more than peace may tread the path of Khorne. He lends them the strength they desire, and seeds in their heart a blood hunger that will only grow. The mightiest follow the Wronged Queen in her scythed chariot, her mane of flowing fire.

Brass Spiders. Male Brass Spiders exist, piddling small demons of no consequence. The females are giantesses, armoured greatly, eight limbs speartipped, mandibles like spiked mangles, eight jewelled red eyes. They topple fortresses and build funnel webs of human bone.

Saturday, 16 January 2016


We took the buggle to a board game club today. Not to show her off or anything, it's just illegal to leave them chained up to a bike rack until they're at least seven and know all the words to 'Mr Blue Skies' by ELO. Amazing stuff they cover in prenatal classes now.

We made it through a game of Takenoko (a game about the futility of human endeavour in the face of the natural world, or perhaps a coded message about Chinese foreign policy) before she started to grizzle, so I wheeled the pushchair into the board game cupboard and started showing her the bright, primary coloured box covers.

'Look, it's Vasco De Maya! It's a game about a man who likes pointing at things. He's got a strong look. Hasn't he? Aren't puffed sleeves a strong look? And that beard, he's really pulling it off. I earnestly distrust that priest, though. He is not presenting positively.

'Oooh! Ora et Labora! The game of competitive monk farming! Can you see the monastery? Can you see the Trappist beer? Look at the monk's tonsure!.

'A German edition of Augustus, yes. Look at him on the cover. That's a Roman Emperor. The second Emperor, daddy's pretty sure. He may have the coiffeur of a used car salesman, but he was one of the saner Roman rulers. Except for the low level incest. He's playing bingo.

'And this is... Oh wow, this is a really early edition of Hive. This thing is made of wood. And stickers. Did they get this at the Essen trade fair or something? Wow. Wow.'

I've taken to calling game pieces 'Sweeties' because it's not like we can convince her they're anything else.

Friday, 15 January 2016

The other women of Chaos

Zak S wrote a good article about gender representations in Warhammer (and fantasy in general). Short version - it's not a problem that Slaanesh's female followers are all seminude pink punk succubi, it is a problem that Khorne, Nurgle and Tzeentch haven't employed women. So here's some more Chaos.

The fates. A coven of sorceresses. A mother, a maiden, a crone. A single eye shared between them that sees the strands of fate. Iron shears that sever the ties of destiny. Iron needles to pin prophecies into souls. A loom of air, vast as a castle, across which they crawl spiderlike and work, twist, weave. One knows, one cuts, one binds.

The twisting one. Appears as a little old woman carrying some great load on her back. A peddlar or a refugee. Always on a road between cities. She is like a snail - she is part of the pack, curls up inside it. She keeps the memories and secrets of the people she has devoured in it and treasures them all. She can be traded with but she is impatient.

The Canny women. Knowledge is male or female. The Canny women preserve all that is of woman and not of man. For this they are persecuted. Those who fear for their lives Tzeentch will not listen to. But those who fear for their secret cunning, for the death of women's lore, these Tzeentch will answer even to the witch hunter's pyre. Carried aloft on a column of smoke and goose feathers. Turned to hunt out secrets and unmake the works of men.

Typhoid Mary. Rot all through her but on the outside fine, healthy. A smooth appleskin over puffed, waspblown flesh. Nurgle spared her death and gave her the gift of skintaking - she dresses in the finest. Carries a flenser's blade. Spreads the blight where she walks. Quiet as cholera, persistent as consumption. She has lived many lifetimes.

Plague mothers. What would a mother not risk to save her child? Nurgle speaks, warm as rot, close as the rattle on your lungs. 'Little one, she need not die, though I love her so dearly. Little angel of mine, she may stay with you yet, if you do this little thing I ask.' The plague mothers accept Nurgle to their heart. Milk of pus flows from their breasts. Poison brews in their wombs. They birth contagion. Their infants sick, but not fading. Strong with sickness. They will be his tallymen.

Bile Queens. Whore and Madonna alike curse man's name when they are impregnated with poison, cursed to rot for mankind's incontinence. Some, brimful of rage do not accept their fate. Come to an old wise one who knows they cannot have their health but they can have their vengeance. A rite, an offering, they open up - a portal of flesh - they channel bile, sputum, sickness, wet decay. A vengeance upon mankind.

Cult of the Bacchae. Men rule the world, and women must carve a piece of it or fall into madness. The Bacchae carve it of men's flesh. They meet in secret, share knowledge forbidden of blades and democracy and contraception. Wear false beards and trousers. On the chosen night they claim the city as their own. Any man then is game, their flesh to claim and carve and consume.

Mirror harridans. Go into battle naked except for a disc of polished brass over their heart, their skins daubed in blood signs of Khorne's favour. When they are cut to bleed the wound opens also on their foe's flesh. To fight them openly is suicide. Poison, strangling, drowning, starvation. Or wash them clean of blood before you lay a finger on them. Otherwise best first to dig your grave and fight standing in it.

Valkyries. Chosen of Khorne. Their steeds' hooves of thunderous fire and brass trampling the clouds, sulphur trails in the air. Wield axes, wear armour of runecarved brass. Headtakers and skull splitters. They return once the battle is won and claim the skulls of the worthy fallen to add to their master's throne.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The urban nomad

This is how the modern dad blogs. Baby asleep in gruffalo costume draped over one arm in the pose of a Victorian suicide, scrumping WiFi from a cafe. I've spent £2.20 on a latte and I'm downloading about 5gb of audio books. Sorry, cafe in Acomb. Hope you're on unlimited.

Riding the nostalgia train from Warhammer World I bought a copy of Warhammer Visions. With its glossy centrefolds and tiny text boxes rendered in four different languages, the parallels with a European pornomag are pretty clear. The 'Readers models' section further accentuates this. After about ten minutes I realised that, as the baby does not understand anything she sees but does like bright colours, I could 'read' Warhammer Visions to her by describing the pictures.

'Look, darling. That's Archaon the Everchosen, riding a chimeric steed imbued with the power of three of the chaos Gods. Can you count the heads? There's the hellbull head of Khorne, and the head with the feathers is Tzeentchian. And the green frog thing head is Nurgle. Can you say Nurgle?'

She can't say Nurgle, though it would be a good way to literate some of the noises her tiny arse makes. Despite being a creature the size of a housecat she shits like a dump truck unloading five tonnes of hardcore.

When I explained the new picture book in the house to Broodmate she surprised me by being delighted by a photograph of The Glottkin.

'It's beautiful!'

I had to check if she was being serious. The Glottkin is a giant, ambulatory, diseased nutsack covered in spines and mouths.

'Yes I'm serious. Look at it! It's even got tiny skulls coming out of it.'

Here's hoping the bab has her mother's taste.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Battlemallet Planet

We’ve not finished moving house and this last weekend called for a trip to the Midlands to collect things. You can do this all on the M1, but I decided that was for wusses who are also wimps, so I took the A1, got lost and ended up in Nottingham. No big pain – I went to Warhammer World. Think of it as a tiny museum that is 90% gift-shop, 100% Warhammer.

There’s an exhibition. £7.50 for five rooms. For a lifer like me – nose pressed against the Games Workshop window in Colchester aged six – that’s incredible value for money. It’s a mixture of miniatures and dioramas. Big dioramas.

I’ve not taken photographs. Partly my temperament, partly because other people have done it, partly because it’s like dancing about architecture. The point of a diorama – of any sculpture – is its three-dimensional solidness and the implication of frozen time and intercepted movement. Photographs are cool – sometimes really cool – but the real things are sublime. I was reeling, howling, giggling. Literally dumbfounded. The largest diorama is 20’ x 10’ and two storeys tall, made with easily £50,000 of toy soldiers. Patrick Stuart's articles on the aesthetics of toy mans are top reading – treat them as a lecture series, take a trip to the Warhammer World exhibition space as primary reading for your end of term essay.

The macro diorama is viewed from a balcony stairway that goes around the outside of the exhibition space. You enter on the higher storey to divinely survey a battlefield of immense proportions. This is the right place to start you – that cinematic, scenic vastness can only be experienced once and any prior exposure to the diorama would diminish the impact. But this confounds the dramatic tempo of the piece, because you then encounter the most significant conflict – between this guy and this thing – at the very highest spire of the diorama, very early into your exploration. Atop the highest spire is the dramatically correct place for their conflict to take place, but as you descend and circle the piece you are guaranteed not to encounter any single event as dramatically significant again.

With that said, the macro-diorama (and others, one depicting an underground conflict between ratmen and dwarfs, another a mountaintop battle between space Vikings and bugs) makes excellent use of verticality and terrain features that obscure sight-lines to create sub-scenes: what is the background to one area becomes the foreground in another. It invites a three-dimensional exploration, revealing an extended moment. The simple semiotics of warfare makes the interrelatedness of these scenes and the possible consequences of different moments immediately apparent (a Genestealer crawling from a vent while the ground-crew of a Thunderhawk make final flight preparations: dwarf miners with candle-topped hats emerge into a chamber filled with Skaven broodmothers.) Inevitably this puts me in mind of the sublime level design of Dark Souls, multi-tiered, infolding, nautilus-like, secretive, though some older games – Shadow of the Colossus, Prince of Persia– have the same tease and reveal visual journey, the same solid understanding of 3d space. Or Romantic landscape architecture, where gentle undulations of the land would reveal and obscure different features of the grounds as visitors 
walked towards a country manor.

Before the first exhibition room proper are a few cases of history. The first models cast by Citadel, the first Warhammer rules set. Ancient dioramas that were used in White Dwarfs of old, a time when entire universes were defined by the whims of hairy Midlanders. They are miniscule in comparison, expressionistic – a single scene, the moment of crisis. Undead breach the dwarf fortress gates. Elves ride forth from the woods to slay the lichmaster. Sanguinius lies broken, the Warmaster leers, the Emperor ascends to destroy him. That scene is less than a cubic foot. The seed within a crystal forest.

Aged seven, I press my nose up against the window of Games Workshop. There are two dragons, one white, ridden by an Elf lord, another Green, ridden by a goblin shaman. The goblin dragon has purple warts.

Aged eight, my birthday, a card from my parents. The illustration is the box art from Titan Legions: an Emperor Titan makes war against an Ork Mega Gargant while armies of millions clash in the ruins of a city larger than is possible. Inside is a gift voucher for Games Workshop – just enough for a box set. I buy the Warhammer 40,000 2nd edition box set. The cover art is by John Blanche – a red and yellow armoured Blood Angel brandishes a primary blue power fist and a boltgun against hordes of onrushing Orks. He doesn’t meet our gaze – he’s looking for things to kill. Inside are twenty Space Marines, twenty Orks, forty Gretchin, a cardboard Ork dreadnaught. I grasp the rules, though I hardly play with them. The books, referencing twelve sided dice and Electoo monks and John Blanche Gothicism are portals.

Aged eleven my mother dies and, without understanding that I’m doing it, I focus myself on things that I can control – homework, computer games, learning a future history that has never existed. There’s no internet yet, really. There’s White Dwarf and conversations with friends, and over-excitement in the store with the elder-statesmen employees, venerable at the age of eighteen.

Recently my father returned a selection of my possessions long since forgotten in his house. This included that eighth birthday card. Now I can see how crude and ridiculous the fighting machines are: the phallic plasma cannon of the Emperor Titan, the distorted perspective that means the warring armies are discharging their weapons over the viewer’s left and right shoulder rather than at each other. I’ve framed it, and it will go up somewhere in the new house.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

I live! I die! I live again!

This is a post about having a child.

In some ways the baby is like a drug. I am addicted to her. The high when she smiles, or coos, or gurgles, or looks surprised, or does something new (no matter how trivial, banal, or derpy) is just magnificent. It's a rich, mellow high, like a great wine, a Christmas dinner, seeing a friend after a year apart and picking up where you left off. It's a high you feel good about enjoying. The crash, of course, is brutal. I don't know why the NHS doesn't just automatically diagnose all new parents with postnatal depression: even if you have naturally robust neurochemistry and a cheery demeanour, the combined assault of sensory abuse and sleep deprivation will shatter you. Then there are the other similarities between a child and drug abuse. You stop seeing your friends. You stop taking care of your other needs, like washing yourself or getting dressed. All your money and energy goes into feeding your habit.

Then there are the ways that having a baby is cosmically weird. This entity, which wears a human face but bears no resemblance to any human I have interacted with, wriggles and writhes and gurgles with an animal sentience. My relationship to her is profoundly strange. Sometimes she is an abusive, bipolar partner, alternately granting me affection and then horrible, nerve-shattering emotional abuse. Most of the time she is like a patient, and a prisoner, and my beloved. Basically she's like the writer from Misery. I am Nurse Wilkes. (Now it is I who is the metaphor for heroine). Eventually my baby will stuff a burning manuscript in my mouth and beat me to death with a typewriter. Teenagers, amiright?

Can I recommend having a child? Honestly, no. No. All the things that come with having a child - you're not ready for them. You would hate them. The loss of freedom and the vertical escalation of responsibility is not something you are ready for. It will unmake you. It will dissolve all your certainties and grind your life into paste. It will kill you. It will resurrect you. Rebuild you out of your splintered remains. The new you will be happy. It doesn't matter if the new you is more or less happy than the old you - the old you is dead, dust in the wind. They cannot be compared.

If you think that you are ready to have children, you're wrong. You're no more ready to have children than you are to be dead - because after death and children, you no longer exist. Something new does, that thinks it is you.

I enjoy the memories of the thing that I was. And I love my baby. I'm getting used to the person I am now. It's all a bit much.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

We saw Star Wars

*Here be spoilers*

Seeing films in the cinema is more complicated now. The baby is not the best moviegoing accessory, prone as she is to shrieking like her legs are being sawn off, and projectile vomiting (a good three foot range.) We deposited her on the grandparents, and she spent the duration of the movie happily asleep, lashed to her grandfather.

My thoughts having seen it:

Episode VII is like drinking a pint of Speckled Hen after lent -  it doesn't matter that it's a thoroughly average example of the form, it's exactly what was missing, so it feels brilliant. The best and worst I can say for the film is that "it does the job." It's a workmanlike retread of Star Wars tropes, the Hero's journey, magic samurai and World War 2 dogfighting. Turns out that's enough.

It's a kid's film. The morality is black and white (with the concept that a person can change from one side to the other, rather than exist in a grey area), it runs on narrative causality, and the geopolitics are at the level of complexity a Trump voter could understand. That's all great. The last time a Star Wars movie had believable geopolitics it was a right dog's arse. Space fairytales are rad.

JJ Abrams style is more readable than I thought. +Zak Smith had a good discussion thread that identified some of the signs - travel is so easy and communication so fast that space is functionally very small, and locating a person is only ever a matter of knowing where they are, not undertaking a journey to get to them. (I wonder - is that something an iPad and Satnav child would even notice?) I don't think Abrams is good at incidental texture either - while the plot clips along at a fantastic rate and much more happens than in any of the original trilogy movies, the incidental and often banal details of the OT (things like briefing scenes given by unnamed military personnel, the many different technicians failing to repair the Millenium Falcon in Empire, the multi-stage ritual of entering Jabba's palace) act as narrative greebling, suggesting a scale to events that extends outside the bounds of the movie. Abrams manages it for Rey, but fluffs it completely with the Resistance and the New Order.

Kylo Ren is really beautifully portrayed. Top scenes - removing his helmet, and trying to pray the lightside away. He reminded me of Malfoy trying to be the man who can kill Dumbledore in Half Blood Prince. Hotvader is definitely in. The concept that being bad is also a lot of mental effort, that people are naturally inclined against, is a very nice one to see added to the lexicon of villainy.

Starkiller Base is nowhere near as cool as Death Star. Dieter Rams would hate Starkiller Base.

I think that's the extent of my original or semi-original thoughts.