Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tomorrow Was Another Day...

My Good friend Peter has alerted me to the existence of the blog "Dark Roasted Blend", which collects interesting images, by theme. Some favourites of mine:

Retro-Future: To The Stars!

Retro-Future: Glorious Urbanism

Communist Gothic

Sunday, December 02, 2007

In The Details

We all went up to Gettysburg, the summer of '63: and some of us came back from there: and that's all except the details.

- Captain Praxiteles Swan, American Civil War veteran, quoted in L.A. Tritle's From Melos To My Lai: War and Survival

There's a good chance my thesis is going to start with that quote.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Read

Only the genuine highlights of discussion make it to this blog, but the following, from a "give people good advice" thread, is simply wonderful:

Never, ever punch the air in celebration if there's a lightbulb above you. You will send yourself, or anyone standing near you to hospital.

I like the fact that it's so specific. I also like the fact that it fails to take into account most of the factors which cause the accidents it's trying to prevent.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Recently, while reading Jon Courtenay Grimwood's Stamping Butterflies, I wondered why no-one has ever written a cyberpunk-esque novel set in Athens. On a hill sits the building which modernity took as it's symbol of choice, while below, stretching away as far as the eye can see is the city that modernity built from concrete and ethnic cleansing.

That city is an interzone, where tourists from Europe and Asia with digital cameras and audio guides mingle with cheap immigrant labour from Africa and Albania, selling CDs on the beach and reviving crumbling Ottoman mosques. Small boats with a variety of cargoes make their way across the Aegean, and getting beaten and fitted up by the police isn't unknown.

A month or so ago, I ran into a guy called Phil. Phil used to work as an 18-30 holiday rep in Spain. These day's he's an office worker, but he missed the old lifestyle. Apparently that lifestyle consisted of a maximum of one hour's sleep a night, knowing the moves to every Steps dance routine, vodka-redbull for breakfast, and regularly vomiting blood.

So I think I've got my main character.

Friday, October 05, 2007

What Are The Politics Of Boredom?

Talk of a possible snap General Election prompts thoughts of who I'd actually vote for. One of the problems of being vaguely to the left of Social Democracy is that you don't really have anyone to vote for: the prominent alternative left-wing parties of Britain are either Trotskyists, apologists for Stalin, or a strange mixture including the above.

So Labour are the only real option, although I'm not hugely enthusiastic about it. Either of the seats I'm eligible to vote in are pretty much safe for Labour anyway. I suppose my real plan will be to vote as tactically as possible in order to keep the Conservatives out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


INTERVIEWER: What do you remember most vividly?

REPORTER: The students singing as they were being shot. And a student, a girl, who said to me "What can they do to us? We have our whole future ahead of us, and we've seen it."

- BBC news report, 19 June 1989, quoted in Greil Marcus' The Dustbin of History

Monday, September 17, 2007


On the one hand, I'm slightly ashamed that I've finally succummed. On the other, I'm fairly proud of what I came up with.


Friday, September 14, 2007

An Occult History Of Leeds United

Tuesday saw me in Manchester to attend a book-signing by the novelist David Peace. Not having seen Peace, or any pictures of him, I was somewhat surprised by his appearance. Given the brutality of his narratives, and the fact that they're often set in 1970s/80s Britain, you might expect him to be some sort of hulking skinhead.

Predictably, this is not the case. He's a quietly spoken man, all slender physique and somewhat nerdy Japanese designer glasses (although those glasses are missing for his book-jacket photos).

Peace read extracts from two of his books, "Tokyo Year Zero" which he was here to promote, and "The Dammned United", a novel about Brian Clough's 44 days as manager of Leeds United. It was interesting to note that Peace's writing style doesn't lend itself well to being read out loud - the jump-cuts and repetitions represent the internal monologue of a character, and are much more effective when they're interwoven with the reader's internal monologue.

The question and answer session was interesting. In 2004 Peace released a novel "GB84", set in West Yorkshire during the Miner's Strike. He recalled that he was worried that there would be a glut of books that year to mark the anniversary, or that there would be at least one major non-fiction account of the strike. In the event, his novel was practically the only book to mention the strike that year.

I couldn't think of any questions at the time, but did wonder afterwards if he'd seen Life on Mars, and what he'd think of it's somewhat cosy view of police coruption.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"And They Won't Let Me Forget It."

William Gibson begins his "UK mini-tour" (read: he's doing a couple of dates in London) today, so it looks like I'll have to catch him another time. To mark the occasion, however, here's a spectacularly uncomfortable cameo by Gibson in Oliver Stone's delightfully mental cyberpunk mini-series Wild Palms, from 1992.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Now The Party's Over

I have protected myself from ever having to sell out by having nothing to sell out.

- Tony Wilson, Twenty-Four Hour Party People

I'm not usually that upset when famous people pass on, but this, somehow, is different.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Victim Of The Art

Some art unquestionably makes the world a better place in which to live. As an example, I give you these two pieces by painter and author Harland Miller:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

To Lead, Not To Read

Well, I saw The Simpsons Movie last night, and the verdict's OK.

It basically is an extended episode, and in some ways that's a disappointment. They don't do what I thought they probably would, which is have lots of jokes about it being a film, and lots of star cameos. Perhaps that's a good thing.

At 90 minutes long, it also felt a touch short - another 15 minutes or so might have made it feel a little more meaty.

All that said, it was funny enough, and it was interesting watching the Simpsons with a big crowd - you get to see all the diferent types of audience the show has, and the different types of joke they laugh at.

However, it's hard to escape the feeling that the Simpsons is finally reaching the end of its run.

Monday, July 16, 2007



The cover of the September 1956 issue of "Man's Life" magazine.

There isn't an element of that cover that isn't brilliant in one way or another. If I had any talent as an artist, I'd render incidents from my own life in the same style.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Normal Service Is Resumed

OK, back to the normal pop-culture references. Over at The Simpsons Movie Site they have a character generator which you can use to make a Simpsons version of yourself. Here's how I might look in the Simpsons world:


It's not a terrible likeness, if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Coming Soon

As it's now up on the website, I think it's appropriate to publish the abstract for the session I'm co-organising at the TAG 2007 conference. We're after papers for it, if anyone's interested.

Chance, Choice, and Catastrophe: An Archaeology of the Unpredictable

Stephen O’Brien, David Smith, Helen Murphy (University of Liverpool)

Archaeologists, regardless of their ideological stripe, have a tendency to look for recognisable patterns in the archaeological record. In many ways this is unsurprising, given archaeology’s origins as part of the Modernist project (Thomas, 2004), and the manner in which the western world is emerging from a period characterised by the two competing determinist schools of thought provided by Marxism and Free-Market economics (Ferguson, 1997). The question must be raised, however, as to how well archaeology deals with the random unpredictable event.

This is particularly relevant in light of recent scientific developments such as non-linear systems theory, which implies that the unpredictable is in fact a highly relevant factor in any complex system, which human culture certainly is. Such developments create a tension between the paradigms of the unpredictable event and gradual development, and those of individual agency and group dynamics. This session will therefore seek to present papers analysing the role of the unpredictable in archaeology, and how archaeology may incorporate such thinking into its work.


Ferguson, N. 1997. “Virtual History: Towards a ‘chaotic’ theory of the past”, in N. Ferguson (ed.) Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals. 1-90. London: Papermac.

Thomas, J. 2004. Archaeology and Modernity. London: Routledge.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Thanks To YouTube

Sometimes there are bands that go beyond producing songs that you like. Sometimes there are bands that do the things that you think you'd do, if you were to be a band.

Case in point? This 1978 performance by Devo on French TV , doing their cover of The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction":

Sunday, June 24, 2007

26th Birthday

'I'm thirty', I said. 'I'm five years too old to lie to myself and call it honour.'

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1926)


It occurs to me that my birthday was last Sunday, but I hadn't actually mentioned it here yet. I actually spent it in London with my sister, who noted that she never seems to feature here.

We had tickets to two days of the Wireless Festival in Hyde park , which allowed me to see The White Stripes and The Kaiser Chiefs headlining. The foirmer were predictably good, but the latter actually sold me on them as a band - I'd liked some of the singles, but as a live act they were really excellent.

Other highlights included seeing The Only Ones playing their herointastic "Another Girl, Another Planet" (currently to be heard selling mobile phones), beneatha rival mobile company's logo, the lead singer of The Cribs biting off far more than he could chew when he dived into the crowd, and the fresh faced youngsters of Mumm-Ra experiencing a positive reaction to a new song ("Did you like that? Ooh, we'll use that one!").

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


From the online comic Shortpacked. I often find the occasional superhero jokes like this to be better than the regular comic, but that could just be me.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

God Save Your Mad Parade

Suddenly you didn't have to be alone. You submerged. You had a good time by having a bad time. You were full of poison.

- Jon Savage, England's Dreaming (1991)

Yes, it's now 30 years since punk's high point - causing there to be no Number One single in the week of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, because the top selling single was the Sex Pistol's "God Save The Queen" and the BBC didn't want to cause offence. That week, the charts ended at Number 2.

Why my favourite musical era is one which happeded a few years before I was born is an interesting question. I suspect that Jon Savage nailed it with that quote, however.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Circular Chess

I really don't have a tactical brain. Therefore, no-one was more surprised than me when I won a game of "Cirondo" at RPG.soc yesterday. Cirondo is a sort of four-person circular chess with only three types of piece: pawns, bishops, and queens.

Admittedly, when two of the players had been eliminated, the third forgot one of the cardinal rules of the game: you lose when you have only one piece left. Still, a win's a win.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Director Did It

"This film is based on actual case files."

Most of the problems with David Fincher's Zodiac can be traced back to that sentence, which opens the film. Zodiac is the story of the investigation into the "Zodiac killer" who operated in California in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The problem, however, is that having made the decision to be fairly factual with the case, Fincher is left with a standard police procedural story that wouldn't look too out of place on evening television. And as with real life, people fade in and out of the story. We are presented with four principle characters, two detectives and two journalists, but their narratives are insuficiently interlaced. It's almost as if two different films had been made and then cut together.

The attempt to stick to facts means that Fincher is unable to play to one of his strengths, the psychological aspects of the investigation. It's fairly obvious that Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a fairly creepy and obsessed individual, but, perhaps because the screenplay is based on Graysmith's book, this is glossed over, often being presented in comic terms.

Further problems are brought in when Fincher attempts to make the story more "Hollywood" bu introducing some standard thriller elements, which appear far-fetched and melodramatic.

The films strength is perhaps in giving a sense of time and place, with the fashions and soundtrack envoking the 1970s without descending into the over-the-top cliche version of the decade that we see all too often.

Overall, Zodiac isn't a bad film, it's just a solid, by-the-numbers film, but that's a disapointment, given the director and the subject matter.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

South Atlantic Wind Blows/Ice From A Dying Creed

People who know me well may have heard me talk about how, a few years back, I worked with a formed skinhead. He'd been the stereotype, even down to a swastika tatoo on his shoulder. He was a big fan of skinhead films (Made In Britain, Romper Stomper. Also Scum because he'd been in Borstal, but that's another story). As such, I wondered what he'd make of This Is England, which I saw at the cinema only the other day.

The film focusses on a small group of skinheads in the north of England in 1983, and attempts to show how what was originally a non-racist movement (starting with white working class kids imitating the fashions of hard Jamaican lads in the 1960s) was infilitrated and overtaken by Neo-Nazis in the 1970s and 1980s. More than that, it tries to show why membership of a group (whether of a "gang" or a Fascist party) can become so central to someone's life. This is the most successful aspect of the film, helped greatly by some excellent performances, both from the young cast, and from Stephen Graham as the sympathetic-demon "Combo".

Where the film perhaps falls down is its attempts to use the early 1980s as an analogy for the current state of the nation. Skinheads as hoodies is perhaps appropriate, but the presented ideology of the National Front seems a little too contemporary. The analogy of the Falklands War (sorry, "Conflict") with Iraq seems strange, too. There's no doubt that nearly 1000 people dying for some rocks inthe South Atlantic was a terrible waste (Borges famously described it as "Two bald men figting over a comb"), but it was also a response to an unprovoked invasion by a military dictatorship with an appalling human right record. Iraq somehow manages to make the Falklands look good.

All in all, though, it's well worth seeing given the current debate about Britishness (and, by extension, Englishness), and I certainly can't fault it for trying to talk abotut he consequences of being socially end economically isolated from the rest of society.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Because far too many people are still unaware of Arrested Development, which might just be the funniest American sitcom ever:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

This Machine Kills Icelandic Management Lecturers

Yesterday my arsehole of a housemate (see previous posts/e-mails) left the house for the last time. The landlord finally lost patience with him a month ago and suggested that it might be better if he left.

The landlord wants to sell the house, so I shall still be moving before September. However, this is a huge victory for me and the other people in the house.

Champaigne will be drunk.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

In Your Face, Ahmadinejad!

I recently installed the free StatCounter software on my blog, so that I could see how popular it is, and where people are viewing it from. The results were surprising. I'm predictably popular in Britain, although I'm not sure who keeps viewing from Birmingham. I've had views from as far away as Brazil and Mexico, too. What pleased me most, however, was the two visits I'd had from the Islamic Republic of Iran. What they made of it is anyone's guess.

The software also allows me to see what search-engine keywords have brought people to the blog. My favourite was the person who was looking for "Ladyboys of Bangkok in Nottingham". I can only assume that they were disappointed with what they found.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The House That Jack Built

Battlecrease House, Aigburth

In many ways, it's amazing that it didn't occur to me sooner. Some of you may remember, about 15 years back, that a man in Liverpool claimed to have found Jack the Ripper's diary, implicating a Liverpool cotton merchant named James Maybrick as the murderer.

It occurred to me to wonder where Maybrick lived in 1888, and it turned out that it was at Battlecrease House, just up the road from where I live now. So on Saturday I went to take a look (Yes, I felt that finding the house of a possible Victorian serial killer was a perfectly normal way of spending a nice spring afternoon. Why do you ask?).

The diary, of course, is a fake. However, we can be certain that one Victorian murder case did involve Battlecrease: Maybrick's wife Florence was convicted of poisoning him with arsenic in May 1889, in one of the most famous murder trials of the era. As Alan Moore noted in From Hell, Maybrick being the Ripper would be like Sharon Tate turning out to be the Boston Strangler.

Of course, the diary being fake doesn't rule Maybrick out as a suspect, and while there's nothing to place him in London at the time of the murders, there's also nothing to establish that he wasn't. There are also a couple of curious details.

A few years back, interviews with elderly Liverpool residents indicated that, in the early years of the 20th Century, children used to run past Battlecrease and shout "Look out, look out, Jack the Ripper's about!". An urban legend about Maybrick may go back quite way.

There's also a detail of a letter that Florence Maybrick sent to her lover shortly before James' death, in which she reports that he is "Delirious...perfectly ignorant of everything", before going on to say that "The tale he told me was a pure fabrication and only intended to frighten the truth out of me."

There is, however, no indication as to what that tale was.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


So, a list of names of terrorist suspects is being used by banks and car-dealers to vet clients, and is causing problems for people who have names similar to those of terrorist suspects.

Look, having things from William Gibson novels come true is one thing, having things from Brazil come true is quite another.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Rage - Goddess, Sing...

Achilles. You're a good person to have around on the rare occasions you're ready to do some work, but you have volatility issues. Your willingness to enlist the help of your mum won't win you any friends, either

Which Homeric Hero Are You?

Crikey. I mean, it's accurate enough, but Achilles? Surely I should be someone who's more of a wuss, like Paris.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

THIS! IS! sorry, which city am I king of again?

It was inevitable that I would go and see 300 with a group of archaeologists, so it was no surprise when that happened last night.

I was particularly interested in seeing it, because an epic battle has recently been waged in the pages of over the question of subtext. On one side are those who think that, given the current world-political climate, making a film in which Resolutely Heterosexual Spartan Manly-Men Who Don’t Wear Armour (all played by actors of solidly north-European ancestry) slaughter countless thousands of the Faceless Asiatic Hordes Who Are Led By A Ten-Foot-Tall Effeminate Bisexual (all played by extras who are distinctly either black or brown of skin-tone) might just be a bit troubling.

The counterpoint made was that the subtext is actually critical of the Spartans, and that the battle is really presented as a suitably Frank Miller tale of anti-heroes against villains.

Having seen the film, I can now tell you that the latter argument is complete bollocks.

I promise you that I’m not using hyperbole, or just being a shrieking lefty arts-student, when I say that 300 reminds me of nothing so much as Nazi propaganda films. It’s all here: the worship of the leader figure, the elite of perfectly sculpted male warriors, the idea that the enemy may not actually be human at all, and, of course, the Dolchstoß by corrupt politicians and sub-human mutants. It all reminds me far too much of Spinrad’s novel The Iron Dream. And sadly, this isn’t a satire like that novel, or like Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. You are quite explicitly supposed to identify with and admire this film’s Spartans.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’ve seen this film and liked it, I’m not saying that you’re a Nazi: the visuals are quite spectacular, although I’m not sure I liked them as much as the look and feel of something like Hero (another film with some troubling politics). It’s just that for me, the visuals don’t disguise what is, in fact, a very troubling subtext.

It will still be worth your while seeing it if you’re interested, if only so that you can e-mail me and tell me that I’m completely wrong. Of course, if I am wrong, then 300 is two hours of vacuous macho bullshit, nonetheless.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Spectre Haunting Europe

What's a picklock compared to a share certificate?
What's robbing a bank compared to founding a bank?

- Bertolt Brecht, "Happy End" (1929)

Well, I now have an ISA, which I think makes me officially bourgeois. On the other hand, I was kind of born like that. Either way, Trotsky wouldn't be too pleased with me.

On a not-completely-unrelated point, I've recently been looking on ebay for a bust of Marx. I should be getting desk-space in an office next year, and I need something to mark my territory. The interesting thing is that Marx is pretty hard to find, and is much more expensive than either Lenin or Stalin. There's almost certainly an incredibly clever joke about the market in there, but I'll be blowed if I can put it together.

The question is, what will people think the meaning of a bust of Marx is when they see it? Am I referring to myself as a Marxist, and if so, what does that mean? I agree with large chunks of the Marxist critique of Capitalism, but generally disagree with the preposed solutions. I like the democratic process, for a start, and I'm not a utopian, so I don't think you'll ever achieve a perfectly equal society. But that doesn't mean I can't believe in a more equitable distribution of wealth, and be somewhat doubtful that Free-Market Capitalism is going to deliver a good standard of living on a global scale.

Of course, there's a good 150 years of evolving Marxist thought, some of which is more in line with my way of thinking. I've got a lot of reading still to do. I suppose the bust of Marx would be similar to a psychologist having a bust of Freud - it's recognition that he started something important, rather than complete agreement with everything he said. You can't rely on people to magically realise that, though.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Judge Judy And Executioner

With the enormous wave of goodwill that Shaun of the Dead generated, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have produced Hot Fuzz, another British comedy, this time spoofing the overblown cop-antics of Lethal Weapon et al. Will it live up to its predecessor?

The setup of Hot Fuzz is fairly simple, with Pegg playing a “supercop” in London who is posted to a small rural village because he makes all the other policemen look bad. While there he runs into a murder spree and mentors a bumbling rural police constable with dreams of being a proper cop (played by old Spaced and Shaun of the Dead stooge Nick Frost).

The interplay between Pegg and Frost is probably the film’s strongest point, as they use it to play up the homoerotic undertones that usually feature in buddy-cop films. Also good are the inevitable references to The Wicker Man, Straw Dogs, and Bergerac. I was the only person in my cinema who laughed at the Chinatown reference, which made me feel all special.

There is a feeling that the film is really just a build-up to the big action-sequence of the last half hour. This is pretty good, and you suspect that in many ways, this was the moment that Edgar Wright has been waiting for his whole life. Certainly it’s hard not to be carried along by the sheer exuberance with which Wright proceeds to fuck up rural England using automatic gunfire. There’s a nice subversion of the “cop as Fascist vigilante” archetype going on here, too.

The problem is that this build-up leaves the rest of the film a bit bereft of purpose. Also, the plot feels a little too over-egged, making the finale seem a bit too far-fetched even for a send-up of Jerry Bruckheimer. Having said that, you will laugh. I did. And those of us who remember the bad days of British comedy cinema (for my sins, I saw Guest House Paradiso at the cinema) will take that any time.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Over at N.A.O.W.F.I.T. there's another snippet of writing by me, called "Hello, Goodbye, London". I'm pretty happy with it. Generally I always seem happier with the results from writing about stuff that's actually happended to me.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Made From Moulded Plastic

See them on the TV screen
Looking back with electric eyes,
Razorblades and Vaseline, what I see is synthesized
Photographs in magazines will accept no compromise
Refueled on nicotine, all of them are synthesized

- The Epoxies, “Synthesized”

It’s been far too long since I was last at a live gig, so last night I remedied this by going to see The Epoxies at Roadkill in Liverpool. As usual, I’ll start with the ritualised slaughter of the support acts. First up were The Exorsisters, who had the air of a sixth-form band who’d fancied dressing up as The Ramones for the night. Completely standard three-cord punk songs followed. The highlight of their set was, predictably enough, a cover of “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker”.

Much better were Liverpool’s own Zombina and the Skeletones: if “Undead New Wave cabaret” wasn’t a genre before, it is now. Plus they released a pack of tame zombies into the audience before their set, so what’s not to like? They’re supporting GWAR at the Academy next week, but even Zombina isn’t enough to make me put up with the main act there.

The main act are a band I picked up via the internet a few years ago. They seem to come from some sort of alternate-1984 in which punk didn’t die after 100 days in 1977, but instead took on board the emergent synthesizer technology of the day. The result is a sort of X-Ray Spex/DEVO/Sigue Sigue Sputnik mash up, and I mean that in a most positive way. Like those 80s electronic bands, they’re also unashamedly geeky, with plenty of songs having a science-fiction-y feel. Much like Zombina and the Skeletones, they get extra points because, during the encore, the keyboardist announced that he was quitting the band in order to join the mosh-pit (or to be more accurate, given Roadkill’s small size, the mosh square-metre).

They’re out and about around Britain this month, and I think you should go and see them, lest I come round your house and smite you, Old Testament-style.

I know I’d know the difference somehow
If I was being rearranged
I’m sure if I had been reprogrammed
Something somehow surely would seem strange

- The Epoxies, “Radiation”

Saturday, February 17, 2007

"I'm BATMAN!" 'Yes, But Which One?'

You're Bob Kane's Batman. You're a dark, mysterious vigilante who often kills his villains, and uses a gun. Your girlfriend's Julie Madison, an aspiring actress who thinks you're nothing more than a playboy millionaire. At this stage, you're fighting foes such as Dr.Death and the Monk, but they're only the beginning.
Take this quiz!

I was hoping for either this or the Adam West Batman.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gissa Job

It feels like getting ahead of myself, but I am starting to think about getting a job. And for the first time in years, I actually saw an advert today for a lectureship in Archaeology that I could apply for (Edinburgh University). I wouldn't get it, and the closing date is at least a year too early, but I still choose to take it as a positive sign.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

The fact that is currently having an honest-to-god flamewar about the death of Anna Nicole Smith illustrates everything about why I read it. Particularly when it produced the following line:

"A fitting end to a life of extravagance"? Who the fuck are you, Martin Luther?

Anyway, thanks to those who posted titles for the thesis. The Surrealist Compliment Generator wants me to call it:

Optical Delusions Still Themselves When You Pass By in Convexing Pomp and Sacral Trance: Warfare and Society In Mycenaean Greece

Hmm. Might be a bit long. The Greeks don't appear to have had a god for society or anything, so that's out. I don't have access to cats, which is a pity, because the cat-selected version sounds fun.

I think I might go with :

Beyond The Sharp Bronze: Warfare and Society In Mycenaean Greece

Which is a bit Homeric and does actually represent what I'm trying to do. Failing that, there's always:

Who The Fuck Are You? Martin Luther?: Warfare and Society In Mycenaean Greece.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Titles Are Hard

Well, the thesis approaches 30, 000 words, and I'm starting to think about what to call it. My titles usually follow a set pattern with the set pattern being "Poncy Bit: What It's Actually About". I know that the "what it's actually about" bit will be "Warfare and Society in Mycenaean Greece", but a good poncy bit is hard to find.

Some ideas:

I'm Gonna Git You Sucka: Warfare and Society in Mycenaean Greece

"You know, like Kane in 'Kung Fu' ": Warfare and Society in Mycenaean Greece

This Is Not The Truth: Warfare and Society in Mycenaean Greece

Feel free to vote for these ideas, or suggest some of your own, in the comments section.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I Love The 70s

I've never seen the BBC series Life On Mars, although I'm reliably informed that I'd love it. Certainly, this promo video for the new series is brilliant in several ways.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Secret Names Of Streets

Listening to Simon Mayo's show on Radio 5, there was some discussion of a new film called The Lives of the Saints, a "magical thriller" set in Green Lanes.

I'd suggest that the Duckett Road folk organise a reuninion where we go and see it, but it doesn't sound like it'll get much of a release.

Monday, January 15, 2007

"You’re terrified, but you feel for the characters, even though they are only sugar."

Sometimes what geeks are capable of surprises even me. Take this for example: a man who has re-created the battle of Helm's Deep from Lord of the Rings using confectionary. I suppose it counts as outsider art. Certainly it appeals to me, given that on one level it is quite brilliant, while on another, quite similar, level, it is a sure sign that its creator has Gone Wrong in a major way.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Someone over at has created a randomiser for game settings. The favourite ones I have had so far are:

Premise: Demonic penguins try to find true love in a transparent ripoff of/respectful homage to Tolkien's Middle-Earth.
Genre: Romance

Premise: Transhuman ducks kidnap hapless livestock on the high seas.
Genre: Romance

Premise: Odious angels fight crime in the ruins of post-apocalyptic New York.
Genre: Noir/Action

Premise: Rock star androids evolve beyond human limitations in Tokugawa-era Japan.
Genre: Horror/Alternative History

Premise: Cynical vikings try to get laid in the world of competitive cooking.
Genre: Cyberpunk/Dungeon Crawl/Drama

If you want a go, the generator can be found here (if you get a result including the phrase "fish out of water", it was included at my suggestion).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mystery Archaeology Theater 3000

Well, it's been a while since I posted. This is because the normal post-Christmas depresion has been a bit compounded by the fact that I'll be moving house shortly. I don't really want to move, but one of my housemates is an arse and the landlord won't do anything about it, so I've not much choice.

But no-one comes here to hear about that stuff, so here's a film review of Apocalypto.

Apocalypto actually holds together very well on the level of an action film. As you might have guessed with a Mel Gibson film, however, once you get beyond that level things get quite problematic.

I'm fully aware that Apocalypto is in one sense not to be taken literally, as Gibson is using Mesoamerican history to offer a critique of contemporary western society. However, if you're going to use a historical allegory, you should do your best to get the history right, or your allegory will be pretty poor. This is actually the main problem with Apocalypto: it uses various features from over 1000 years of Maya society and throws them together into a pseudo-culture. The pyramid-building Classical Maya society was gone for a good 600 years prior to the arrival of Europeans in the area.

The portrayal of the pseudo-Maya is also a problem. To believe the film, the Maya were a society of bloodthirsty psychopaths who had no redeeming features. Is that a valid way to treat the ancestors of a group of people who are still very much with us (there are still 6 million Maya living in Mexico and Central America)? The Classic Maya did practice limited human sacrifice, but then so did the Romans, who tend to get a much more positive portrayal in film than the Maya do here.

The negativity of the human sacrifice in Apocalypto is ironic, given the manner in which Gibson's personal interpretation of Christianity seems to be all about the torture and sacrifice. The film is certainly heavily influenced by Gibson's beliefs, with the attempts to Christianise the beliefs of the hero's people also being somewhat jaring.

All in all, Apocalypto is interesting, possibly worth seeing, but ultimately badly flawed.