Thursday, 18 February 2016


Deadpool is better than it should be. It's a Fox produced underfunded adaptation of a b-list superhero who nobody had heard of five years ago, whose last movie appearance was royally fucked. It's the first all-out comedy in the superhero genre, the first Marvel movie to acknowledge cussing and humping, the first superhero film to break the fourth wall (narration aside). It's funny, exciting, and surprisingly touching. I thought I was going to like it - I never expected it to be good.

The cinematography, pacing and construction of 3d space and time through montage are considerably more competent than in Star Wars VII. I use Star Wars VII as a metric because you've probably seen it, as opposed to, say, Spring Breakers (which has far better cinematography and pacing and a consciously problematised construction of space and time that make it unsuitable as a comparator when talking solely about the competence, rather than the merit, of a director's work.) The fight scenes are the equal of anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least for legibility and thrills if not spectacle. The jokes are ribald, surreal, peurile, sharp, self aware, visual, verbal, physical, all that good stuff. I didn't kick the seat in front of me while laughing, but it was a close run thing.

The love story at the heart of the film is really well scripted and acted. Two funny, active, believable, likeable protagonists. Like all romcoms the romantic drama hinges on failure to communicate, but unlike most romcoms neither character is an incompetent, an ice queen, or a simpering child.

So yeah. See it in the cinema. Being surrounded by laughing people is a great experience. It doesn't hit every note, the plot is straight-line simple, but who cares - it's a buzz.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

That internet

Our new home is on a campus - lovely, but the process of arranging internet (a fuss in the UK at the best of times) has stretched into a two month drudge. For all of January I eked out my monthly mobile data allowance, regularly sneaking into coffee shops to scrump for WiFi, in anticipation of hitting the 2GB cap and incurring godawful fees. The cap came and went and I clenched my buttocks in anticipation of the bill.

Instead, I got an SMS from Vodafone.
'You are now halfway through your unlimited data test drive.'

Oh yeah. I'd renewed my mobile contract and Vodafone were doing that whole, drug dealer, first month is free thing. There were just two weeks left before Plusnet attached the internet anyway, but I felt it behoved me to abuse this data to the fullest extent.

Obviously the 4G went on and has stayed on since. I changed my various apps to 'download over 4G', and doubled the size of my downloaded Amazon music library, audible book collection, and backed up all my photos to Google. This only consumed a few gigs of data. I needed to do more.

I had received for Christmas a boxed copy of the game Metal Gear Solid V. I knew from various internet sources that the disc in the case contained only an autoloader for the Steam videogame store, a download code, and no actual data, so this case remained in its shrink wrap - a meaningless fetish representing the death throws of highstreet retail.

Metal Gear Solid V is a 27GB file, and I downloaded that sucker through a mobile phone tether. It took less than three hours. At 50%, when I realised that it was working, a mad grin overtook my face.

My Steam library contains hundreds of games, most I've never played, almost all I've never downloaded, purchased in bulk in bundle deals, steam sales, received as free promos. My secondary hard drive has two terabytes of room left on it.

The question is, what will run out first? The hard drive? The time until Plusnet connects us? The phones's physical integrity? Vodafone's 'unlimited' data?

Someone's going to blink... But I'm just sleep deprived enough that it won't be me.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


On Sunday 7th I left best beloved in charge of bugglesnuff and went to Vapnartak, a wargames convention at the York race ground. It's far from the biggest con in the country, with less than two thousand visitors and only lasting a day, but situated in the five story race track building with vast glass windows overlooking the expanse of grassy track (turned by recent weather into a flat of glassy ponds) it is perhaps the most opulent.

Though I would ordinarily spend a convention leisurely drifting from stall to stall abusing the plastic in my wallet, I was taking part in a wargames tournament. I'll save the details except to observe - if you are a UK Warmachine player, Vapnartak is a one day event well worth travelling for, brilliantly organised and judged, with great tables and a broad standard of competition for players new and experienced. I lost three games, won one, enjoyed them all immensely, and to Greg from Newcastle - that last game was a blast. A well deserved win to you.

(Of further note for UK Warmachine players - Guildball, the English designed skirmish minis game made by former Warmachine tournament veterans, had at least as many players, maybe twice as many, and I would be very interested to know whether this pattern is repeated across the country).

Shopping wise, I picked up some new airbrush paints, cleaning fluid, cleaning pot, and some tiny wee flowers to make my models' bases all pretty. Only the very best for my metal dollies. The trade halls burgeoned with demonstration, participation and show games on a huge scale. Recreations of the battle of the Alamo, Stewart pacification of the Scots, a French foreign legion siege, dozens more, all on tables 10 feet or longer lovingly layered with miniatures and terrain. The sort of thing that would have a formative impact on a child.

Two weeks from now I'll be in London for the epic Smogcon tournament. Thank Christ for grandparents. Best beloved, you're a star.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Sunset Yellow

Best Beloved likes her some children's cereal. Frosted Boulders, Sugar Blimps, Crunchy Cinnamon Pillows, stuff that's essentially a crunchy pudding to lure children into eating first thing in the day. I include Cheerios in this - adults who think you're eating adult food when you have a bowl of Cheerios, you are mistaken. Likewise Crunchy Nut, which is Frosties for people who don't own their vices.

So in the international aisle at Tesco I spot a little cluster of American cereals. I love the boxes of American cereals as they perfectly embody the earnestness of Yanky packaging, proclaiming their health benefits like a Victorian pill bottle, while perfectly executing a pop-artistic gaucheness and naivety of design that you don't see outside action figures and waterslides in the UK. My eyes were drawn to the Apple Zings. These have many ironic virtues - they're made by 'mom brands' cereals, a name that could only be born in the hell cauldron of uncriticized capitalism. Some diligent importer had overstickered the ingredients list to match some European edict. At the bottom of the list was the proviso 'May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children'. They're a children's cereal that causes ADHD. Obviously I bought them.

A little later in the week my parents were visiting and I decided to show the Zings to my dad. 'Read the ingredients list,' I said. He used to be a special educational needs teacher. I figured that ADHD brekkers would give him a chuckle.

'Jesus Christ,' he said, 'Where did you find these?'


'Tesco? Why did they have these at Tesco?'

'They were in the international aisle.'

He called my stepmum over. 'Have a look at these love.' She was a midwife.

'They've got Sunset Yellow in them!' She said. Sunset Yellow is an E number. 'Isn't that banned?'

'They did ban that,' My dad said, 'Back in the 80s.'

'Why did you buy this?' Asked my stepmum. 'You wouldn't want children eating this. This wouldn't be safe for breastfeeding. Who's eating this?'

Best Beloved, who is breastfeeding the Buggle, had been eating it for the last three days.

'I am eating it.' I said. 'I am the only person who is eating this.'