Category: Uncategorized


Blog news – 2017

I’m amazed (and grateful) that this old blog still receives traffic. I lovingly direct you to my current website, The STP Literary Service, where you can read about proofreading and editing services, my latest works, and articles on literary happenings and tips.

Thanks again!

—db

Blog closed

This blog is now closed, but you can read about my latest exploits on my current blog, Mr Brookes Abroad.

—db

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Long Way Home

Hello everyone!

In a few weeks, my other half Lisa and I will be going abroad to travel for nearly seven months.

As you’d expect, posts on this blog will probably be less frequent until we come back in April 2013.  I suspect that the next “Journal RSR” post will be the last one for good.

Until we return there’ll be plenty of updates on our travel blog:

http://overunderpants.wordpress.com

…Where you can read about our adventures in India, Nepal, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Bali, Australia, New Zealand and California.

Don’t forget to subscribe so that you get your e-mail notifications when we make a new post.

Until then, see you in another life.

—db

A Strange Saturday

 

A strange thing happened to me on Saturday. 

I had been excommunicated from the house.  The girls were having afternoon tea, fifties style, and I peered over my shoulder at the array of sandwiches, scones, cupcakes and a dozen other delicious things as I left the ladies to it for the afternoon.

Outside was overcast.  My satchel weighed heavily across my back, loaded as it was with a long novel, my netbook, an umbrella and a sandwich.  They were to entertain me for the next six hours or so.

I took a trip to the town centre, hoping to catch a few hours of solitude-amongst-others in the Peace Gardens.  I’d only read five pages before a Sheffield City ambassador in a brightly coloured vest asked me to get up from the bench and leave.

  Image

 

I’d been prepared to unleash maybe 30 or 40 percent of my wrath at this rude and unexplained order, when my eyes met the strangest sight.

Moving slowly along the circumference of the Garden was a group of young men and women, single-filed and expressionless.  A Chinese boy with a short ponytail; a guy who could have been a young Hugh Jackman; two or three ladies with a quiet grace; a young woman with close-cropped blonde hair, looking pale and elegant in a slim sequinned dress and ballet pumps; and strangest of all, a petite character perfectly normal but for the masked face, which bore the sculpted likeness of a ferocious bear.

realising that I’d been swept up in some weirdness, I gathered my things and moved aside.  I perched on a step a few yards away and watched the serene dada-esque performance that began in and amongst the Saturday crowd.

It seemed it waas a sequence of mini set-pieces, strung together with dreamlike fluency.  In one, two girls performed a solemn dance astride a bench.  They entangled themselves with one another, in one moment lovers, in another locked in struggle, the first compelling the second to assume a different position each second. 

Meanwhile, the pale ballerina tip-toed across the low wall behind them, the most elegant of wraiths, almost unnoticed.

The girls leapt aside.  Two young men swooped onto the bench and performed a surreal tango with the legs, supporting themselves with their hands, all the while staring impassively ahead.

The ballerina described a gentle arc around the edge of the Garden, deep into the crowd, almost forgotten.

Occasionally one of these individuals acknowledged a member of the audience.  A number of times the bystanders were required to step aside as the performers mounted the elevated grass platform or followed the line of the narrow streams of chlorinated water that form the spokes of this wheel-shaped Garden.  They would crack a smile at the young mother who was bemused to find herself enmeshed in this faceted performance.  As an elderly gent walked through the performance area, unaware that a troupe of dancers were turning circles behind him, the petite bear-headed form took his arm and led him away, prancing.

The troupe lined up by the stream.  It was only when one of the young men bent at the waist to scoop something out of the water did we observers realise that a huge chunk of ice had been floating in it for some time.  The man lifted it dripping from the illuminated stream and brought it, like a newborn baby, to his chest.

Carefully, oh so carefully, he passed it to his partner, who cradled it in her arms for a moment.  So it went down the line, passed from embrace to embrace, blue-white and dripping.  Then the performers suddenly took their heels and strode through the crowd, out of the Garden and onto the street, leaving the performance area.

But the performance wasn’t over.  Some of the more engaged members of their audience realised this and followed; I emerged from the opposite side to witness clusters of men, women and children trailing after these departing surrealists. 

The ice left dark spots on the paving outside the City Hall.  I ran alongside the fleeing dancers, taking the high road in front of the Hall’s gates, and rejoining them at the corner of a side-street sixty yards away.  The crowd had thinned, perhaps losing sight of this strange troupe.  The ice was still being passed between them, safely as though it were a precious glass sculpture. 

Then they alighted some steps and vanished from sight.  I looked up to find myself outside the Montgomery Theatre, a local community arts space.

As engrossed as I had been in this sudden and surreal show, it hadn’t escaped my notice that a man with a video camera had been recording as much of this as possible.  At least two men with SLRs also looked too serious to be there by happenstance, and captured the other elements of the entertainment that occurred away from whoever held the floor at that point in time: the handsome wandering ballerina, or the bear-headed mascot who mimed silent enjoyment at all the proceedings from the sidelines.

I got the feeling that this hadn’t meant to be recorded, but to merely be experienced: a show that would be put on record, if the crowd made it possible, so that it might last longer than the eight or nine minutes it took to enact.  I have no doubt that the performers will be studying the results for a little while.  Certainly they seemed pleased – and tired – by the time the doors of the Montgomery Theatre swung shut on them.  There were more than a few hugs and grins.  They seemed pleased with the engagement of the audience – at one point an unknown chap in a cap decided to join them for a sombre dance – and to warm themselves after the cool proximity of their frozen prop.

I wasn’t able to catch any photos myself, but if anyone happens to have any, or know who these young entertainers might be or the name of their troupe, please drop me a line so that we can praise them together by name for their guts and imagination.

—db

Mega Jump

Hi folks. For those of you who play “Mega Jump” for the iPhone, enter this code to get 500 free points: 9srx8.

NOVEMBER CHALLENGE 2010

A story a day, for thirty days

_______________________________________________

Getting tougher to turn my concepts into ideas into stories. This one’s shorter than I would’ve liked, but hey.

It’s pronounced “Cash-kye” by the way (depending on who you ask).

Moved into a new place yesterday. Still got to update the website, I’ll do it tomorrow. Moving is a bitch.

The .pdf is here to view, or download to your PC or e-book reader (you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader).

[Edit:  Sorry, you are too late to read this story.  Some stories may be retained on the website.  Some e-mail requests for copies of the stories are being granted (spinning.lizard@yahoo.co.uk).]

The stories will remain available for a minimum of 30 days but no later than 30th December 2010.  I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the stories either on this blog, or via the website’s forum.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading,

db

EDIT — I’d like to point out that I clicked PUBLISH at 23:59 on November 6th!

How I Feel About Bus Drivers

How I Feel About Bus Drivers

People who play video games love Yahtzee Croshaw, the sardonic bringer of wit and shit of ‘Zero Punctuation’ fame.  If you don’t know his style, you can visit him here:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation

And the Facebook group with to-the-minute updates here:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Zero-Punctuation/7546255825?ref=ts

Yahtzee released a novel this month, “Mogworld”.  I was all prepared to do an amusing Flash video review utterly slagging it off, but as it happens I wasn’t up to the challenge (or rather, my mic turned out to be rubbish), and so I’ve given up and posted the script as a review on Amazon instead.  It’s here in all its not-very-funny glory–

— It’s in the delivery, mostly.

——————————————————————-

Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw is best known for his scathing Zero Punctuation video reviews of computer games, routinely ripping out their innards and squeezing little poo-nuggets of ironic humour all over them, although apparently he’s done other things including actually writing for games, so he’s at least partly vindicated for slagging them off so thoroughly and then moving onto writing his first novel.

“Mogworld” is an easy slice of light fantasy, although it crosses genres regularly like a tram-hopping college-droppout.  You’d have to be a bit of an idiot not to realise that the GAME-REVIEWING Yahtzee writes a book about MAGES and NECROMANCERS and LEVEL 60 SPELLS and NOT realise that this is set inside a VIDEO GAME, so I shouldn’t be spoiling anything for you here.

The twist is that not all the character necessarily realise this.  It’s a sort of ‘edge of the world’ scenario without the benefit of the readers undergoing this revelation WITH the characters, leaving you disappointed that they were too stupid to figure it out sooner.  In fact it couldn’t have been more obvious if he’d stapled it to the side of a stegosaurus and paraded it through Hull on a market day.
The inclusion of pirates into this gameworld early on in the book seemed a bit strange, until they all started talking about becoming undead pirates and then it begins to come together.  It’s like Yahtzee is DELIBERATELY prancing along the fence of cliché, with the unoriginality goblin beckoning him in  and his proper writer/critic self occasionally shouting NO YOU IDIOT and hurling his mighty boot of common sense.

The characters might be flatter than Paper Mario’s credit card, but at least they’re proper characters with individual personalities instead of blandly merging into one another.  This would be great, but one major problem is that they’re all so ANNOYING, and the fact that the protagonist acknowledges they’re ANNOYING doesn’t make them any less ANNOYING.  The first half of the book is like sitting on a bus surrounded by  half a dozen people all with their iPods on too loud listening to boybands, Slipknot and ASWAD.  There’s the jaded main character who, like the best and worst of web-comics, is the only one who acknowledges how strange everything is while everyone else blithely slither through the linear plot; there’s the chirpy one who comes down to reality at the end; a fire-and-brimstone religious nut who never shuts up; a sneak-thief who constantly talks in the third person; a villain with his own silly dialogue-related idiosyncrasies; and a smack-talking wise-cracking mutated otter-weasel sidekick … Okay I made the last one up, no-one would create a character is THAT annoying.

In the interest of fairness they DO develop some depth as the story progresses and as a direct result of the events of the story, not just something insipid like ‘falling in love’ or just through a sequence of trials like the laziest storytelling.  The best characters come with the best gags about a third of the way in, being closer to real-life people than the zombie/mage/blah-de-blah hacks, but sadly only get a few lines here and there in amusing e-mail or instant messaging format which made me SAD because they were actually very GOOD.

The writing is hardly spectacular, but this isn’t a literary venture so it can be forgiven, and apart from the odd atrocious lines like ‘We descended into a sort of disused basement-sewer type chamber’ he manages to not to COMPLETELY mangle the almighty English language.  In fact there are a number of cracking sentences worthy of Douglas Adams (or at least an unworthy rip-off sequel), and it definitely has a more Hitchhiker’s feel going for it than a Terry Pratchett one, which is a good thing in this case because I prefer my humorous fiction WITHOUT the bland caricatures, but this brings us back to cliché and it’s a sticking point with me that with this kind of semi-parody is the laughs derive from the archetypes – Doctor Evil’s cat wouldn’t be nearly as funny if you hadn’t expected it to be fluffier than a fledgling barn owl.  But unoriginal is still unoriginal, even if it IS trying to be funny.

Maybe it’s out of his system now and he’ll go back to doing what he does best; you always know you’re in the wrong part of town when the bus shelter’s been kicked in and you’re standing in someone else’s orange vomit.

——————————————————————-

If anyone shows any interest I’ll update with some screenshots of the nearly-finished video review, in the Zero Punctuation style.

Incidentally, the book is alright really – about 6.5/10 if you’re into his humour … and shit fiction about video games.

– db

Help the old farts understand what video games are really about