“Oh Globbits!”: It’s The Bradscribe Video Show!

“Where The Blazes Has That Brad Got To?!”

“He’s Stuck In An 80s Vortex!”

“What, AGAIN?!”

“Eighties – I’m living in the Eighties
Eighties – I have to push, I have to struggle
Eighties – get out of my way, I’m not for sale no murr!” – Killing Joke.

Yes, again!

Welcome to my very own neon sanctuary, which – not that surprising to all those who know an’ love Bradscribe oozes with positive 80s vibes.

A cavalcade of classic 80s pop can get me out of any daggy, uncreative mood. After a few weeks stuck in a rut – unable to make ANY of my writing dance, or fly, in my usual inimitable groovy style – various vids were activated and bingo! – it has worked! My reviews, articles – even my fiction! – are now back on track.

Instead of banging out that intense piece about dystopian SF – besides, it’s a wet and dreary Bank Holiday Monday out there – thought it best to spread this feelgood factor. In this Age of Outrage, we could certainly do with MORE FUN and nostalgia!

This is not the first time this site has delved into Neon Nostalgia and it won’t be the last!

Not only could you listen to the best pop music – on your own Sony Walkman of course! – the 80s also offered the best videos, the best movies, the best telly shows, the best candy etc. etc.

For those of you too young to remember the Golden Age of the music video (or never around then) no worries! Let this selection of some of my faves – with my blessings – be your gateway. 

No need to get your deely-bobbers in a twist! Help yourself to a Curly-Wurly!

Just pull your jacket sleeves up, stick your ghetto-blaster in the air and away we go!

“You’re too shy shy hush hush eye to eye
Too shy shy hush hush eye to eye
Too shy shy hush hush eye to eye
Too shy shy hush hush hush” – Kajagoogoo. 

One of the most distinctive synthpop groups of the 80s was Ultravox – always been fascinated by that snazzy sci-fi name!

They had several classic vids, but this was the best ‘cos it was the most exciting.

Great camaraderie among the group in this highly adventurous vid; plus, the director has even wrangled a way to include Midge Ure’s addiction to hang-gliding as well – huzzah!

You do realise that between 0:30-0:39 you will witness the Greatest Moment in Pop Video History:

“Say, we can act if we want to
If we don’t, nobody will
And you can act real rude and totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile” – Men Without Hats.

And they say that back in the day this fella was a heartthrob? Wild Boys? Too wild fer me, man…

Still, a darn sight better than the talentless cretins the “music industry” foist upon us nowadays, but hey! Promised there would be NO argy-bargy on this Post.

The only mildly offensive material you may encounter here is a very dodgy shoulder pad or two.

You really couldn’t get anyone less offensive than Kate Bush.

Despite being perceived as a tad uncool back in the day, this video has always affected me in a good way. Part of the charm here is a wonderful cameo from Donald Sutherland, and guess what!

Managed to accompany this vid with a gif from cult classic teen vamp shocker:The Lost Boys, which features Donald’s son Kiefer.

Ha, Brad amazes even himself sometimes!

“You spin me right round, baby
Right round like a record, baby
Right round, round, round” – Dead Or Alive.

Look at this!

With spiky blond hair and bum fluff, THIS is EXACTLY how Brad looked in 1987!

Seriously!

Even at college, the most common thing people in the street asked me happened to be: “Could I have your autograph, Kiefer?”

In 1985, the Sisters of Mercy were a standard dark Goth band, but with the breakthrough Floodland LP in 1987, they became a bigger and better phenomenon. With a steady stream of hit singles, each came with its own elaborate video.

Here, with Dominion, we see what 80s videos excelled at: amazing photography, exotic location shots and iconic moments. This is the most unlikely place to find a saxophone! But then again, anything and everything could work during the 80s.

Here, Andrew Eldritch never looked cooler.

And Patricia Morrison never looked hotter. 

“Karma Karma Karma Karma, Karma Chameleon
You come and go, you come and go
Loving would be easy if your colours were like my dream
Red gold and green, red gold and green” – Culture Club.

Dominating BBC TV schedules every Thursday night used to be Top Of The Pops.

If a pop group wanted to boost sales they could do no better than be featured on this show. Sure, all appearances were mimed, the presenters would sometimes bombard audiences with the most appalling puns, and the audience invariably consisted of morons who believed that hogging the cameras was the ONE aim in life, but it became – undeniably – a National Treasure.

Loved the exotic Eastern sounds of Blancmange’s Living On The Ceiling. Fondly remenber this as one of my all-tive fave TV moments, and feeling aggrieved that (being, at that time, without a VCR) there would never be another chance to watch this ever again…

“Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six foot four and full of muscles
I said, “Do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a Vegemite sandwich” – Men At Work.

Now, something to enrich your viewing pleasure!

My American friends will be unaware of this lil gem – the main reason why Brad hardly did any of his school homework! Or his chores! (Whatever they were…)

“Cthulhu for kids” as one bright spark remarked. The narrator: Willie Rushton was a talented writer/satirist and his distinctive voice worked perfectly.

Who needs CGI  when you can do wonders with plasticine?!

With the revelation that Drut spelt backwards is turd, the hilarity lasted for WEEKS – aah, happy times…

“I feel peculiar…”

“Hold a chicken in the air
Stick a deckchair up your nose
Buy a jumbo jet
And then bury all your clothes
Paint your left knee green
Then extract your wisdom teeth
Form a string quartet
And pretend your name is Keith” – Spitting Image.

With film reviews, comic round-ups, fiction, and now 80s Club Nights (WAHEY!!) you can’t deny that Brad is one groovy gaff at which to hang out!

Whatever lousy mood you may find yourself in, trust me, put on this next vid by the Thompson Twins (hey, there’s three of ’em, ha!) and a big, contented grin will always be guaranteed.

“Dance, boy; dance, boy!”

“Wake me up before you go-go
Don’t leave me hanging on like a yo-yo
Wake me up before you go-go
‘Cause I’m not plannin’ on going solo” – Wham.

 

And how could we end this Post without including Bill Murray?!

Honestly, it was either him or Molly Ringwald… 

“I ain’t afraid of no gif”

 

Well, what vids did you/do you enjoy the most from the 80s?

 

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The Zandokan Supremacy And The Rebellion Of Rajendra

The Mighty Galactic Federation Has Finally Fallen To The Rotten Zandokan Hordes – Who Will Save Our Cake Now?!

A Standalone Bradventure. Which Means That Brad Ain’t In This One…

“What the-?! If not, why not, eh?! Uff, typical… NEVER invited ta anyfink. Especially at this time a’ year… Can’t even wrangle me way into me own blog?! Jeez, the ‘ole galaxy’s gone NUTS…”

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“Well I could call out when the going gets tough.
The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough” – Ian Curtis.  

“The cosmos is in chaos…” Ajaan Rajendra uttered in grim realization. “That much is certain. We could see, helplessly, how wracked with turmoil the Federation had become, but to learn that it has indeed crumbled under Zandokan might is… unbelievable…”

The warrior-monk-turned-Rebel Leader sat cross-legged, having meditated in twilight on a rocky promontory overlooking the Amethyst Sea. 

His most trusted officer: Commander Alda Vareldt kept an impatient watch, a few yards opposite. With him, a few other bedraggled Rebels waited anxiously.

Behind them, the towers of Dhoby Ghaut Spaceport – its bars and canteens once brimming with noise and good cheer – stood eerily silent that evening.

“We came to collect you, Ajaan,” Alda spat agitatedly. “It’s only a matter of time before the Zandokan fighters arrive. Sorry, sir, but we’ve got ta pull out, pronto.”

They piled into their Stalwart Land Ranger and it passed swiftly through the wastelands of Gundagan…

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“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders” – Lao Tzu.

“BEHOLT! ZE POWAIR COZMEEC!” Zan Doka cried manicly as he cradled the stupendous intensity of galactic brilliance between his bionic hands.

Recollections of that regrettable last encounter flooded back to Ajaan as the monotony of the drive set in.

“Duzn’t eet thrill you, Ajaan? Zuch powair eez now rightfully mine! At ze vanguard of our all-out azzault, may army veell be eenveencible! Finally! Ze rotten Federation veell fall unto ME! …Durn’t tell me you’re not imprezzed, Ajaan…”

“Very well. I shall spare you that little victory. But there is something from you I need to know: all that talk of enriching the well-being of the galaxy, why suddenly blight such worth with despicable endeavours and this deplorable empire-buildingWhat makes you think you can succeed?!”

“Mark may wudz, Ajaan of Hygge! Nurbuddy praizez ze goot soul-“

“I would – I would be there to encourage you to do so much more good-“

“Nur! Crush ze Federation and squeeze all eetz corrupt gnats within may totalitarian rule! Then, all those lezzer beingz who zought to mock me would cowair end grovel! THEES eez whut Ay aim to create! Wunce may Empah eez complete, Ay veel veezeet you urn Hygge, end show you how ze grandezt zchemes KEN be accurmpleeshed!

“Mark them… end mark them well. Ay shell be zeeing you egen zooner then you theenk, heh heh…”

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“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe” – Marcus Aurelius.

On the verge of the ancient Bodhi Temple, their transport came to an abrupt halt. Their cruiser stood in the compound at the rear. While Raj’s group squatted on its age-old steps, Kelly tried to open a comlink with the Calista Blockhead.

“We need Brad Company right here! Right now!”

A hologram materialized, but in place of the fabled cake-scoffer, his right-hand man: ‘Arris Wrench appeared in his stead.

“Blazes, ‘Arris! Where’s Brad?!”

“…Er, not ‘ere. ‘E’s ‘ad ta skedaddle back to his homeworld for a ritual that most of his planet’s population must observe this month every year for the foreseeable future.”

Wha-? I thought that idiot Brad was too cool for hokey religions…”

“Look, we’re all stretched at the mo. The Zandokans launched offensives on FIVE fronts, all at once. Me an’ th Co. barely scraped through that skirmish at Dork’s Drift!”

“Okay, we need immediate evac! Can you-“

The Calista Engineer’s deflated sigh said it all:

“Soz, Kells, but there is NO WAY we can get there in time! Ya’ll just have ta-” 

At that moment, the signal crackled out.

“They’ve cut us off!” Deke Dolmec cried in dismay.

“Blazes…” Kelly frowned. “Observe? What could he be watching?!”

“Gah! He’s the original loose cannon. NEVER there when ya need ‘im,” Alda growled disconsolately.

 “Yeah…” Kelly smiled wryly. “Bit of a rogue one, isn’e…?!” 

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“The Empires of the future are the Empires of the mind” – Winston Churchill. 

“That’s it,” huffed Alda dejectedly. “We’re gonna havta get past the Imperial Lightning Field… on our own-“

“Ah no!” Kelly cried. “We’re gonna ‘ave company anyway! Sensors detect THREE Zerpent Kruizers are closin’ in on this sector!”

“LANDO’S TEETH! That’s not all!” Deke blurted as his quadcorder flashed ominously. “It’s the ‘Ead ‘Ombre ‘imself! The Imperial Zentinel is comin’!”

“As I anticipated – ’tis Zan Doka – none of you are a match for him; I must face him… alone. You must go now, my friends; proceed to Kazjgar. Do as I command and rally our disparate rebel factions. Co-ord the counteroffensive-“

“But what about you, Master?!” Yala, one of his brightest students, was not ready to let go.  “We will not leave you at the hands of this… this merciless-!”

As he gave her a reassuring hug, the great Ajaan Rajendra addressed his Followers: 

“Fret not, Zan Doka comes to gloat… only,” Rajendra blinked his bulbous eyes. “I sense that he will not kill me… at least, not on this visit…”

They all looked dejected. 

“My friends – remember: do not let your hearts… and minds… be troubled. Be aware; be mindful through space. And time. Do not dwell for too long on the sufferings of the Federated Planets. You are… all blessed with great resilience! Now, you must leave. There can be no delay!”

They filed out, some smiling nervously at the Rebel Leader, afraid to accept that this could be the last time they saw this beloved ol’ Yanduri alive. 

Ajaan started to move into the temple; Alda lunged forward, whispering: 

“Why don’t you come with us, Ajaan… now?! I am lost without y-“

The Leader smiled sweetly, and clasped his hands on Alda’s shoulders.

“I know you, Alda… it is most unlike you to despair. For all your talk of great leaders…”

Ajaan’s grip tightened. 

“Be one!!”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles” – Sun Tzu.

The infamous buzz of the Zentinel’s ion engines shattered the dusty air above the Bhoja Temple. 

Rajendra knelt beside the fountain in the courtyard… waiting.

Draped in his priestly hooded cloak, he observed the vessel’s descent and a battalion of Shokk troopers disperse. Down the ramp, borne on a wave of suffocating arrogance, the new Ruler of the Universe marched forth. A malevolent grin emerged from beneath elaborate Imperial headgear as the Zandokan Emperor recognised the Ajaan of Hygge. 

Rajendra rose to his feet and shifted back his hood; Zan Doka strode in, rubbing his bionic hands together in glee.

“Hail thee, AjRaj – Defendair of Ze Lozt Cauze! Ha ha, how ya doin’?”

“I was having a good day…” the Yanduri moaned and beckoned the Emperor to follow him back into the temple.

“Ya, uv courz! Yo really hef to sharpen yer inzults eef yo weesh ta eemprezz yer Nemezzeez!” 

Ajaan abruptly halted; Zan Doka stopped to gleer at his archenemy.

“By the Silver Shards of Callifrax, Zan, what have you done? You and your accursed empire – the galaxy is tearing itself apart,”

“Urn ze contrairy, fool, unlike uther would-be zupairveellainz who could only brag about what they would do with great power, Ay hef achieved whut Ay zet out to do!”

“Nay, the Power Cosmic has driven you mad… Why come back? You detest this planet – you said so, many times. What, getting cramp lounging on your misbegotten throne for too long?” 

Zan Doka halted, staring up at the bewitching ceiling of the Inner Sanctum. 

“Cunning old toad! Ay come beck to tell you WUN theeng: Ay tuld yo zo! Yo ken muztair a thouzand zquadronz, conzolidet dozairns uv mavereek worldz AGENZT ME – warp ze Powair Cozmeec – heh! Eef you ken…! But from the perilous heightz of the Moggadorr Mountainz to the zcintillating shores of the Crystal Zea of Izmeer, mah Empah shall ENDURE EETERNAL! Heh… I tuld yo zo….”

“Uff, spare me your insufferable monologuing, dotard,” Rajendra bowed his head in shame. 

“Ah…! Ay zenze… yer beetternezz – end… mebbe a pen that gnaws et ze vairy core uv yer being… What eez eet, Ay vonder? What ailz thee…?”

Rajendra slowly looked up, his eyes ablaze with mystic fury:

“I cannot believe we had the same mother…”

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May the Sovereign Of Our Universe save us all… 

Lingua Extraterrestria: What Would First Contact Entail?

When We DO make Alien Contact, What Will We Have To Say? And How…? 

And By What Means Can We Begin To Comprehend What THEY Want?

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“What the hell are we supposed to use, man, harsh language?” – Private Frost. 

“Thousands have taken to the streets amid growing unrest at the perceived “alien invasion,” reads the Breaking News banner.

“Governments across the globe have declared a state of emergency urging residents to remain in their homes until meaningful contact can be made.”

What do they mean by “meaningful contact”?

The exciting, yet cautious, notion of first contact with (intelligent) extraterrestrial life has often popped up in movies, books and essays, but they all – frustratingly – fall short of supposing how such a landmark event could be achieved.

The most prominent SF extravaganza to tackle this premise (refraining from military antagonism) and emphasize attempts at establishing connections with alien visitors happened to be Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977), in which initial connection transpired through exchanges of musical motes. 

Groovy – fortunately, variable tones possess the same harmonics elsewhere in our galaxy!

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“I really misunderstood that linguistics was closer to being a translator… When you’re approaching language, you look at structure, anthropological, sociological… how it exists inside of that. It’s got very complicated” – Amy Adams.  

Just opened in cinemas this week is Arrival, a most-welcome package that dares to offer something more cerebral rather than just aiming to be visually spectacular. 

After twelve ovular smooth and shell-like spacecraft appear in skies at various locations around the world, answers – rather that action – is called for. The military (led by Forest Whitakerenlist the services of leading academic linguist Dr. Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams) to try and work out why they are here, and what do they want. 

Curiously, every eighteen hours, a section of the craft suspended above the plains of Montana opens up, allowing Banks and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to try and facilitate a basic exchange of communication.

The new Arrivals are revealed as seven-pronged starfish-like creatures dubbed “heptapods.” Intriguingly, these visitors do participate in contact, but only by emitting a highly sophisticated form of non-linear orthography – rings of swirling black “ink.”

How can Dr. Banks hope to suss out something like this?:

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“Some supporters of linguistic relativity think that the cognitive benefits of language helped spur its evolution. This is relevant to the movie, as the fate of humanity depends on us understanding their language” – newscientist.com

Among the earliest systems of writing, wedge-shaped cuneiform tablets were produced by the Sumerians in the Ancient Near East five thousand years ago. 

Having had the privilege of studying this bewildering civilization at university, one could not help but observe that they seemed so incongruous to World History – the notion of extraterrestrial origins should not sound so fantastical.

Incidentally, their religious texts quite categorically describe “the Ancient Gods who descended from the Heavens…”

Since the Phoenicians developed the first alphabet, scripts for Indo-European languages – of which English is just one member of that family – generally run horizontally from left to right, but with the observation that Arabic runs from right to left, should the heptapod circular “language” be read clockwise or anti-clockwise? 

Moreover, at what point on each billowing ring should Dr. Banks begin to decipher these messages? So many syntactic and semantic aspects to consider in such a fascinating and – considering what is at stake – frightening voyage of discovery!

As Dr. Banks wonders:

“They use non-linear orthography. Do they think like that too?” 

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“Are you dreaming in their language?” – Ian Donnelly.

Having already notched up five-star reviews and an encouraging string of superlatives from a wide range of film magazines and websites, Arrival looks set to be the phenomenal, thought-provoking classic that gives SF a good name.

Ultimately, this movie sets out to be more about human understanding, memory, love and fortitude than just delivering yet another tiresome alien invasion CGIfest far beyond the sensationalist reach of such dumb, inconsequential fare as Independence Day: Resurgence (which we were so kindly subjected to earlier in the year).

To find out how “distinctly original” and “truly exceptional” Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival really is, Brad will be checking it out this weekend. Therefore, a Review is sure to follow!

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Keep watching the skies… 

Komikaze!: The Cutting Edge Of Comic Book Culture

Is It Still Possible To Create Original Comics In The Age Of The Comic Book Movie Blockbuster?

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“Where once comics were summarily dismissed as light entertainment for adolescent boys, there are now comics for everyone by everyone. In many ways, there has never been a better time to read comics” – Eric Stephenson.

Konnichiwa, my comic-guzzling friends! 

This past week saw both the 80th Anniversary of The Phantom, the archetype for the costumed comic book superhero (created by Lee Falk), and the record gross for Deadpool, the latest Marvel character to get a solo outing on the big screen. So, a comics-related Post here seemed sorta inevitable.

It’s unbelievable now, but during the 1990s, comics looked to be on the way out.

No, really!

Video games were surging in popularity; an upcoming medium called “the internet” was predicted to transform our leisure time; indie comic stores were struggling to stay in operation: how would/could comic books survive?  

Fast forward to the here and very much geeky now.

More comic book titles than ever before are in regular production. Encouragingly, more original titles than reboots are appearing on the shelves. Movie producers eagerly scan the most popular titles to see what will make the most successful strip-to-screen conversion. 

Fortunately, my first phase of comic book-collecting (198o-1983) occurred at what most people considered the “right age” to immerse oneself in such products. With the emergence of “mature” titles during the 80s, the age range significantly increased. Nowadays, comic books are no longer the province of youths; guys in their 40s – even 50s – scour comic books. And no one bats an eyelid. 

When “analysts” state that it’s a “new kind of culture” they invariably tag on such annoying terms as “more free time” and “disposable income.” They overlook the inescapable truth that if modern twenty-(and thirty!)somethings do have an income, it is too darned miniscule to be disposable! Somehow, though, they are the demographic most likely to have made Deadpool the new record-breaker at the cinema.

“Merc With A Mouth,” eh? 

Well, Brad is a Bunny With A Bushido – ha, TOP THAT, juves!

What The Fiddle-Faddle?!

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“When I was at Marvel and our newsstand comics were on spinner racks that touted them as wholesome entertainment for kids, I wouldn’t allow profanity” – Jim Shooter.

Thankfully, this week saw the most-welcome return of childhood Marvel faves: Power Man and Iron Fist. Especially chortlesome is the ingenious way in which this series gets round the age-old swearing bug, as you can see above!

Perhaps the most heartening trend in this recent comic book popularity resurgence is the remarkable increase of female readers. As such characters as Gwenpool and Squirrel Girl – not to mention Jessica Jones – have clearly demonstrated, yes, it is quite possible to have popular – and original – female-orientated titles. 

Of course, there should be more to comic book creativity than just rad and contentious race/gender switching. As Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson mentioned at ComicsPRO’s AGM last week, the comic book industry is doomed to repeat the same old mistakes that brought Marvel Comics to the brink of bankruptcy twenty years ago:

“We’ve gone back to gimmicks, to variant covers and relaunches and reboots and more of the same old stunts disguised as events, when really all our readers want are good stories.”

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“Mortimer Hill is a veteran officer who has busted his fair share of criminals, but when mechanical monsters start causing trouble he’ll need to use all his wits (and brawn!) to get to the heart of the mystery” – all-comic.com 

Ah, the wonders of Steampunk! 

It’s amazing how this site has not done an appreciation piece about this unique genre much sooner. Trouble was, you could never tell the best place to start.

No worries: The Precinct – published by Dynamite – seems like quite an intriguing prospect worth pursuing. Through one major comics blog, its striking covers have regularly appeared on my Reader these past few weeks. In the sprawling, steampunk metropolis, only the officers of The Precinct can maintain law and order!

With so many new unknown names in the script and art depts these days, it is admittedly difficult to keep tabs on all of them. Some legendary names from yesteryear would be nice…

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“I find most superhero stories completely meaningless… So long as the industry is geared towards… the same brightly coloured characters doing the same thing forever – you’re never going to see any real growth” – Garth Ennis.

‘Allo, what’s this?!

These two names leap out at me – or anyone who savours comic book talent of the highest order. Garth Ennis is an award-winning writer, responsible for DC Vertigo’s The Preacher, and the best issues of Hellblazer (John Constantine’s solo series) during the ’90s; the name of Carlos Ezquerra, meanwhile, will always be synonymous with Strontium Dog, one of the best stories to appear in legendary, ongoing British comic: 2000AD. 

Published by Image Comics, Bloody Mary – “set in a world only slightly worse than our own” –  looks like those far-out comics me and me mates used to dig during school lunchtime. It’s due to hit the stands next week.

Come on! 

Mary Malone, a gun-totin’ nun: surely not your run-of-the-mill fiddle-faddle?!  

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“Home. It feels so good to be back… I left a monarch. Yet I return naked, alone… Hungry. Weakened, I clutch a passing dream…” – The Sandman. 

If anything, my second phase of comic book-collecting (1989-1994) was motivated primarily by the release of Neil Gaiman’s classic, game-changing title: The Sandman: Master of Dreams. Alternating between enchanting and unsettling, but always inspirational, this title – along with Swamp Thing and Hellblazer – helped establish a darker, more mature, more sophisticated side to the medium.

To celebrate its 25th Anniversary, Gaiman agreed to return to his outstanding realm of dreams. That classic premier issue (dated January 1989) told how, in 1916, a British magician: Roderick Burgess intended to entrap Death, but instead caught Dream, her little brother. Sandman: Overture is a Prequel, chronicling the events that led to this complicated member of the Endless getting into that predicament. 

Originally released in 2013 as a six-part miniseries, with particularly sumptuous artwork by J. H. Williams III, it was published as a complete graphic novel just in time for this Christmas just gone.

It would take a real sourpuss knick-knack-paddy-whack not to be impressed by this!

Couldn’t let you go without slipping in just one page of awesomeness: 

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As you can see from the striking image above, it is imperative that this mesmerising book gets – by hook or by crook – into my collection. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman really is the pinnacle of graphic magic.

Any Collector would want it to grace their shelves, because – quite simply – it is:

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“In Your Face, Neil Armstrong!”: The Martian: A Review.

Help Is Only 140 Million Miles Away…

THE LONE RANGER:
THE LONE RANGER: “I wonder how the Cubs are doing?”

“Log Entry: Sol 6. I’m pretty much fucked – that’s my considered opinion. Fucked” – Mark Watney. 

There are three important facts you need to know about Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi opus, based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir.

The Martian offers a rollickingly good yarn on how to survive on our nearest neighbour in the solar system; also, the curse of woefully-underwhelming movies set on Mars as featured in a previous Post has – for the time being at any rate – been expunged; and thirdly – and perhaps most vital of all – this blogger would NOT be watching the movie alone! In a last-minute dramatic twist, Mrs. B noticed the seat next to me on the big-city-bound-bus was vacant. She bungled in and paid the extra fare. We were off to Mars together after all, and this blogger was already over the moon.    

Mrs. B loves Matt Damon; Mrs. B loves Matt Damon topless; Mrs. B loves botany. Yes, folks, my beloved has found THE PERFECT MOVIE. Watching Matt Damon – sorry, Mark Watney – fiddle with his seeds, Mrs. B pursed her lips in admiration. She leaned over, nudged me in the ribs and whispered: “I wanna go help him!” 

Should have known she was going to say that. Don’t mind Brad: he’ll be Terra-bound, blogging away, looking after the cat…

THE SEEDS OF DOOM:
THE SEEDS OF DOOM: “Hell yeah I’m a botanist! Fear my botany powers!”

“The Martian atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, so a Mars wind of 100mph… would only have the dynamic force as a 10mph wind on Earth. You could fly a kite in it, but it wouldn’t knock you down” – Dr. Robert Zubrin. 

So, when Watney determines to “science the shit out of this, how accurate is The Martian’s science?

Or is it just shit?

The most glaring gaffe is the “fierce storm” – the integral plot device that causes Watney to be stranded on Mars in the first place. As the atmosphere of Mars is less dense than Earth’s, such a storm would be extremely unlikely – even Weir was quick – albeit reluctantly – to admit that.

One glowing review commended The Martian for being “one of the best thrillers of the year.” 

Thriller?

What makes this movie so enjoyable to watch is the natural charm and effervescence of its leading man. After the hilarious moment when he admits to being a botanist, and (too) confidently vlogs about how he will grow his own food, there is no reason for us to get anxious. No suspense, no dramatic tension, certainly no  “edge-of-the-seat” stuff here – in fact, his fight for survival becomes quite entertaining viewing. Amusingly, Watney’s concern seems mostly preoccupied with trying to cope with Commander Lewis’ deplorable taste in disco music!

“No, I absolutely will not turn the beat around!”

The biggest laugh of the movie comes when he experiments with making water by extracting hydrazine from the rocket fuel and burning hydrogen. He is – to use the hip parlance of our time – “pretty smokin'”; literally, the smoke is rising off poor Watney as he vlogs: “So… I blew myself up…”  

No prizes for guessing that my little lady gave out the biggest laugh when that accident blasted him across the auditorium in full glorious Dolby Stereo.   

THE SECRET GARDEN:
THE SECRET GARDEN: “My asshole is proving to be just as useful as my brain”

“Just so we’re clear, Mark Watney is who I want to be. He has all the qualities I like about myself…  Mark Watney isn’t afraid to fly” – Andy Weir. 

Having enjoyed the audiobook, certain classic lines have been omitted, but Drew Goddard has managed to take one engrossing book and write a rather special screenplay.

It should be mentioned that the second-best feature of this movie is the stunning location photography. Wadi Rum in Jordan makes for a superb Martian landscape. We watched in 3D format, which helped enhance our viewing pleasure immensely.

Personally, we could easily have done without any of the scenes back on Earth; none of the (underwritten as usual) NASA personnel had a fraction of Watney’s charisma anyway. At least one of us would have been satisfied with just Damon monologuing nonchalantly into his videocam for the entire 141 minutes.    

Apart from the incredible storm, please spare me the young socially awkward mathematician who has (successfully!) plotted the best gravity-assist trajectory to bring back Watney et al within agreeable parameters. 

The only other major gripe about this movie concerns the climax. Besides the uncertainties of getting Watney into orbit (in a coneless module?!), there is the highly improbable task of Ares III selecting the right course and velocity to catch him. The movie’s running time is fast running out, so the script simply cannot afford any more screw-ups, miraculously.  A typically treacly Hollywood ending spoils it a tad, but nevertheless, its place on the Top 10 of 2015 list is assured. 

Naturally, there are numerous nods to other movies: being stranded (Cast Away), trying to deal with the return to Earth (Apollo 13), struggling to grow food millions of miles from Earth (Silent Running) and even being separated millions of miles from Jessica Chastain (Interstellar).

Fortunately for Damon, it is a more wholesome slice of sci-fi than the bleak and foul-mouthed Elysium (not even Mrs. B fancied the idea of watching her fave star as a bald-headed cyborg); and for Scott, it is a (much) welcome return-to-form after the flawed Prometheus and misjudged Exodus. 

To sum up then, The Martian is one helluva one-guy-against-the-odds movie – an exhilarating cinematic experience which can – and certainly will in this household – be watched time and time again. 

And yes, it was fantastic to have nachos with the Special Cheezy Dip again.

Mr. and Mrs. B’s Verdict: 

The-Martian

“Way to go, Iron Man!”

Futurescape: What Will Become Of Us 1000 Years From Now?

Who Wants To Live Forever? 

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“Even if we are civilised 1,000 years from now, will we still be the dominant form of life on Earth?” – Arthur C. Clarke.

“I who am dead a thousand years

And wrote this sweet archaic song, 

Send you my words for messengers, 

The way I shall not pass along.

“I care not if you bridge the seas, 

Or ride secure the cruel sky,

Or build consummate palaces 

Of metal or of masonry.” 

These are the opening lines from a poem by James Elroy Flecker entitled: “To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence.” 

At the dawn of this new millennium, that renowned futurologist and technological prophet: Arthur C. Clarke (1916-2008) was commissioned to speculate what the human race might expect on the cusp of the next millennium. As someone adept at eloquently discussing visions of the far future – especially in such works as “The City and the Stars,” and most notably with his critically-acclaimed speculative sequel: “3001: The Final Odyssey” – he cited this work by Flecker throughout his article.

A few months ago, on a day of meagre inspiration, escaping from my stultifying office-space became imperative. At one of my favourite historic olde towns along the south English coast, this writer/explorer/seeker-of-the-truth wandered and pondered through forlorn remains that nearly 1,000 years ago used to be the largest Cluniac priory in England. 

Those brethren who once strode across marvellous spacious stone floors – now open grassland – could never have comprehended our fast techno world of digital gadgets, moving images and gargantuan achievements in science. Thus, it is virtually impossible to speculate how – one thousand years from now – our world will look and what our descendants might be doing.

We may not have “bridged the seas,” but that “cruel sky” now sure is congested with too many long-distance flights… and those consummate palaces – reaching ever greater heights – crowd the skyline and multiply like…

no tomorrow…?

Pillars-of-Creation

“The fossil record implies trial and error, an inability to anticipate the future – features inconsistent with an efficient Great Designer” – Carl Sagan. 

“Have you wine and music still,

And statues and a bright-eyed love,

And foolish thoughts of good and ill.

And prayers to them who sit above?”

Obviously, Clarke fully expected rudiments of culture to continue flourishing in such a distant period. Sure, music will carry on – as it always has – although the pitiful depths to which pop music seems to have sunk nowadays would strongly suggest otherwise…

And yet the scientist/writer who created HAL9000 made the alarming observation that if humans can survive, would they remain the dominant species? Look now, some scientists dread the rise of sophisticated AI and its exponential rate of development.

The pinnacle of our technological finality has not been reached; Arthur C. was just one of several thinkers willing to stretch the scope even further. He confidently cited how the “next stage” may involve: “input of sense impressions directly into the brain, bypassing the eyes, ears, and other input/output devices nature has given us.” 

We could easily – almost flippantly – rename Flecker’s work as: “To A Blogger A Thousand Years Hence,” but…

As poetry used to be a popular pastime a century ago, and we are (hopefully) a community of contented bloggers now, that status is bound to change yet again (well) before 2115. What medium of communication and creative expression will be embraced a thousand years hence?

As Clarke observed amusingly: “How would anyone before 1970 have realised that, at the beginning of the 21st century, millions would spend a major part of their working day fondling a mouse?” 

2001-stargate

“What a fitting end to your life’s pursuits. You’re about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something” – Dr. Rene Belloq.  

“O friend unseen, unborn, unknown, 

Student of our sweet English tongue, 

Read out my words at night, alone:

I was a poet, I was young.” 

Too young, alas. Flecker succumbed to tuberculosis in 1915, at the age of only 30 – grief, now it’s the centenary…

Spare a thought for those “unborn.” The truly magnificent advances already accomplished in medical science have successfully contained the proliferation of infectious bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis and other deadly threats. This has culminated in the gradual extension of life expectancy. With more people living beyond 100 now, how long can people expect to live in that far future? What will they be doing? Will they have ventured out beyond the stars as Clarke et al had cheerily envisioned…? 

“Student… Read out my words…” Would that be possible? Those ruins mentioned earlier reminded me of my sheer bafflement experienced upon reading for the first time barely recognisable Anglo-Saxon passages from a millennium ago. Fast forward another millennium and whatever form our “sweet English tongue” takes, it is guaranteed to be not only a whole lot different but just as barely recognisable. Will it still be “English”? Will it still be sweet?  

This Post shall end – just like Clarke’s original article did – with the final verse of Flecker’s poem, teeming with boundless optimism. Despite the inevitable fears of apocalypse that forever beset the pages of science fiction, the prospect of a positive and hopeful human continuity will always remain strong.

Who knows? In a thousand years, even Bradscribe may be worth something…

space_art_by_skandix-d5flzke

Since I can never see your face

And never shake you by the hand,

I send my soul through time and space

To greet you. You will understand. 

And The Biggest Star Of The Year Is…

Lots in space.

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“There is a theory which states that if ever for any reason anyone discovers what exactly the universe is for and why it is here it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened” – Douglas Adams.

The big space movie: Interstellar may have turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year, but there were a handful of awesome images to just about maintain my interest. None were any more powerful than the sprawling Gargantua, a mighty and omnipotent force located near Saturn.

Are we any nearer to understanding what exactly makes black holes work?

In his new book: “The Science of Interstellar,” Prof. Kip Thorne warns that much of the film “must be taken with a pinch of salt.” In dealing with such mind-twisting aspects as curved spacetime, and “holes in the fabric of reality,” the astropysicist branded them as: “the warped side of the universe.”

Essentially, a black hole is a collapsed star. It comes into being when those celestial fusion reactors (commonly known as ‘stars‘) have burnt through its entire stock of hydrogen and collapses under the force of its own gravity. The crush is so hardcore that not even light can escape. In space, no one can hear you gasp.

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“Since gravity is the dominant force acting over large distances, its inexorable pull should evidently lead to strong condensations of matter. Can anything ever stop it?” – Prof. Fulvio Melia.  

One thing is for sure: weird things happen near black holes. Albert Einstein suggested that the gravity of huge celestial bodies – such as black holes – can distort the fabric of the universe. A typical black hole may have a mass equivalent to 100 million suns. It spins at almost the speed of light, and can “drag” parts of the universe with it.

In order to allow the Endurance to reach the nearest star – a feat absolutely impossible by today’s standards of technology, that most convenient of plot-devices: the wormhole was concocted. To validate Nolan’s story of time dilation, a black hole of immense proportions was required; enter Gargantua.  

The distortion of the stars adjacent to Gargantua has come to be known as “gravitation lensing.” From computer simulations, Thorne was able to deduce that black holes are “slightly concave on one side, and have a bulge on the other.”

That’s gravity for you; relativity is superweird.

Interstellar_trailer3Black_Hole_Milkyway

“Because of the hole’s gravity warping spacetime into a fold, flying into, and subsequently through, a black hole could mean you ending up in another space or time. SF has speculated for years that… to travel through a black hole could… access other dimensions” – So You Created A Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide To Time Travel (2012).

What about that great quandary: what would it be like to venture through a black hole – and come out the other side? There is NO WAY that you could exit a black hole once entered. Being sucked into a black hole would entail your atoms being dispersed in an instant…

Honestly… there are times when several so-called Hollywood stars who – based on their (dis)service to what is laughably labelled: “entertainment” – could do with this kind of… displacement. It is ironic to think that in this bland age of overblown movies, the biggest ‘star’ of 2014 will just turn out to be a black hole.  

And why ever not?

This beguiling behemoth is testament to what can be achieved through the incredible advance of special effects – Gargantua is impressive on both scale and grandeur. It holds – now and forever – more mass, depth, power, integrity and credibility than a 100 million Mark Wahlbergs. 

So there!