Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Actual Reality

Hullo each,

Sorry about the complete lack of postings. I've had the most ghastly time, all sorts of things cropping up at the last moment.

I will start with regular* posts again soon, for those of you who like that sort of thing, but I just had to put this out there:

http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20100607_8168.php

It's up on Rees' Facebook page which is, thankfully, visible to all without having to become part of their system (man!)

Anyway, as you will probably already know (having clicked on the link before reading the rest of this post) the US military have decided to build their own Demi-Monde and Mr Rees doesn't even appear to have received a production credit!

Since this article looks to have been posted after Rees wrote The Demi-Monde: Winter, but before it was published, we can only assume that the security services have been monitoring him for some time. Like most copies, however, it's really not as good as the original.

With characters like "Gen. William Loomey III" telling us that initiatives like "MyBase", a virtual airbase inside Second Life (honestly, read the article!), will appeal to online gamers...

"...who have been living in a digital world their entire lives and are better prepared than any other generation to operate in this environment. It is imperative that we understand their needs and expectations, and develop an enterprisewide system that fosters learning and captures their most critical asset -- knowledge."

... I'm inclined to the old saw, "you couldn't make it up".

Except Rees already has.

Mind you, even Rees' sternest critics would have to admit that his version is altogether more credible. I mean, who's going to believe there's really a person called "Gen. William Loomey III"?

*"Regular" is used here in it's British English sense of, "at intervals with the same time between instances", rather than it's American English counterpart meaning, "slightly more than you actually want, but still not available in any smaller measures". Although you may feel that both apply.



Tuesday, 26 April 2011

EasterCon interrupts coverage of Meteor Strike in Wold Newton

At Precipitation With Insight we have a predilection for casting and re-casting, so that was foremost in my mind as I read through Rod Rees' prequel to the Wold Newton meteor strike (punctuated as it is with a trip to EasterCon). I'm having a think about the best way to present my choice of cast, but there are a couple of things I can't wait to put out there.

There's not much to add regarding the story itself, it's pretty self contained and pretty cool, but what I will say, with regard to The Demi-Monde, is this - The Demi-Monde: Winter is set in a virtual world peopled with genuine historical figures, while this is, true to the Wold Newton Universe, set in the real world (Wold Newton) and peopled with fictional historical characters, albeit ancestors of the characters we know. 

I'm assuming that there is no Wold Newton within the Demi-Monde, with it all being overpopulated cities, and what action there is taking place in the real world doesn't seem to have much of a connection - except one.


This reminded me of something I forgot to mention in my synopsis of the prologue, which is that Norma mentions "The Professor" as she is being chased, but he denies any knowledge (as far as I can remember) of how she got into the Demi-Monde in the first place. I'm assuming "The Professor" is Bole and that "The Professor" at the end of the book is also Bole. Of course, it could be that there is another professor character that we don't get to find out about until a later volume. Either way Bole is key, since he is the only character to have a direct connection with the Wold Newton stuff on Rees' blog and The Demi-Monde: Winter.

There. That's that said.

One last thing. Loved the inclusion of Heathcliff.

Wuthering Heights can't be that far from Wold Newton.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Wold Newton Begins

Just read Rod Rees Demi-Monde Blog where he reveals way more than I imagined about a definite Wold Newton Universe Connection. I urge you to check it out for yourself, but I'm thinking we're looking at parallel Wold Newton Family, rather than a crossover within the Wold Newton Universe.

What sort of Wold Newton Universe is this that has such people in it?

Not sure whether Mr Rees is stalking me (I bet he's reading this!), but his Wold Newton post looks to have been posted immediately after my last post! Like he's waiting... and watching. Given the characters he's seeding in his Wold Newton Family Mkll that's quite a creepy feeling...

Only kidding! I'm well chuffed that the author of my latest fave book is following me (on my blog that is). I'm pretty used to this blog lark (does it show) and the whole following this is still taking some getting used to. I am surprised how many people view this blog though - I'd be nice to get a few more comments from passing travellers (meteorites not withstanding) and, of course, followers are always welcome.

In fact, if you reading this and you know, is there a Wold Newton/Cthulu connection? I'm not big on Cthulu (I have two gamer pals who are), but the Wikipedia entry on the Cthulu Mythos include the phrase:

"It refers to a loose framework formed by common elements (such as places, names, or entities) that appear in more than one tale, adding continuity and depth to the works."



If you like Cthulu you will love/hate/fear this

Could be a description of the Wold Newton Universe (and, now, Rod Rees' latest revelation).

In conclusion, then, we're probably looking at a gothic reworking of the Wold Newton Family. Not entirely sure why I'm theorising - the way things are going we might as well just ask Rod.

Come on then Mr Rees, how much of the game are you going to give away?


Later...

Just looked and he's done ANOTHER ONE! While I was finding images for this post! Damn the man. I thought I had to wait a whole year for The Demi-Monde: Spring and, as soon as I start re-reading the first one, he's doing stuff to order! Mustn't complain though, eh. Didn't get that with Douglas Adams.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Prologue - The Demi-Monde: 37th Day of Winter, 1004 - Revisited

*** SPOILERS: You'll need to select some text to see it (this appears as dark grey bars, selecting it will show the hidden words). Don't want to spoil all the surprises, just in case any newcomers to the book happen by ***

I'm surprised no-one's coined the phrase before, but I've been on a "Read Trip" and gone somewhere novel to thumb through the prologue to The Demi-Monde: Winter. Nipped up to The Old Mill with Little Lord Woolsey and grabbed a bit of nosh while I was at it.


I had the paté while Woolsey opted for the Full English Breakfast


That's right! I have finally started re-reading The Demi-Monde: Winter and I have to say, I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm not a big re-reader, once is usually enough for me, but further investigation prompted another stab at The Demi-Monde. That said, I'm already finding it hugely enjoyable. Much more than the first time round.

One of the reasons I'd decided to re-read the Demi-Monde was that, having read the reviews on Amazon, I'd begun to see the book very differently, each review picked up on different aspects. Almost as though everyone who'd reviewed it, had read a different book.

Winnie the Pooh as he might look trying to distinguish plot points from scene setting

This time round I knew what was key to the plot and what was scene-setting so, to a bear of very little brain like myself, I wasn't flustered by the names of the different factions or unseen characters and the whole chase sequence unfolded at a cracking pace. I was never one of those who found the UnUsual use of CapItaliZation to be a problem (was more irritated by newspeak in 1984), but I would say that I didn't get the sense of massively overpopulated streets that I remembered from the first reading.

It's funny what you get used to, though. No one I've read has mentioned the whole ABBA thing, and it did take me a while to get the whole swedish pop group thing out of my head. Now I just have this silhouette of a naked woman dancing in flames, like the beginning of "Tales of the Unexpected". I'm not entirely sure why actually, but I'm sure it will come back to me.

Opening Titles of Tales of the Unexpected - Theme by Ron Grainer


Something I do remember clearly, though, are the Hounders. I was more than a little disappointed that they didn't make another appearance, to be honest. I thought they were a great idea - a kind of Nazi genetic experiment, suggesting that there would be more "monsters", but the book settles down to be more of a historical adventure story. Reminds me a bit of Sven Hassel crossed with Alexandre Dumas (whose son also wrote a play called "Le Demi-monde"!), a dash of Issac Asimov and all wrapped up in Raymond Chandler.

Actually the Raymond Chandler aspect is something that I think some folk are missing out on. The rich vein of humour in the Demi-Monde is chandler-esque, which is to say: dry and dark. It's not Wodehouse (try Douglas Adams for SF in the Wodehouse style) or, god forbid, Pratchett (don't get me started) it's hard and cold and resentful of the softer emotions which it eeks out on ration - but that's the nature of the virtual world of the Demi-monde. It's also the nature of Ella Thomas, student of the school of hard knocks, but more of her later.

So. I'm getting all this and the internal monologue and seeing this chase like a scene from The Third Man with a Philip Marlowe-style female voice-over. No real colour except the red of the blood. And when Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins and Archie Clements turn up talking about Aleister Crowley with a pack of deformed man-dogs... for me, that's a perfect start to a book.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Tooth about Vampires in Portsmouth

As you might imagine, if you've been here before, blood is currently on my mind as I read the introductory chapter of the The Demi-Monde: Winter - Yes, I've actually opened the cover and am about to dive in after this quick blog entry - and I came across this little gem as I was looking for a Flash Gordon cliffhanger for my last blog post.

Whether or not you like vampires (or, indeed, sexy ladies) I think this will appeal.



Those of us of a certain age might detect shades of the old Boddington's TV commercials I think. Nowt wrong with that.

Actually, if you don't remember them, here's one:



TTFN

A Private Eye for the 1700's

OK...

Blog to follow, but I have to let you know that, not only has Rod Rees, author of The Demi-Monde: Winter, which I am actually reading at the moment, posted a comment and started following my blog, but Win Scott Eckert, God of The Wold Newton Universe and co-writer WITH PHILIP JOSÉ FARMER of The Evil in Pemberley House has also posted a comment AND started following. As if that's not enough to be chuffed about, it appears, thanks to a local news story about The Old Mill Hotel and Restaurant (fresh local food cooked to order!) being near Wold Newton, I've prompted Mr Rees into pre-volume 2 action!

Now, normally I have to wait until the next book before I get the answer I need from a series. There was a time when I didn't think I could wait a week to find out whether Tom Baker's Doctor would survive being drowned by Chancellor Goth in The Matrix, let alone a year for an author to write another volume.


Of course, reading the books of Douglas Adams taught me to develop a surprising amount of patience over the years.

I also seem to have picked up a few things from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency if Rod Rees' latest Demi-Monde blog post is anything to go by. Have I magically picked up on a vibe in the Demi-Monde: Winter and deduced that there is a Wold Newton Connection? Looking back at the posts, though, he mentioned it first, but I did pick up on it because I live near there and now - TA DA! - he treats us to a pre-second book piece of Rees. Roll on more Rees' Pieces I say.



Have I discovered a secret that has lain hidden these past 200 years? Have my deductive powers of reasoning lead me to become a detective capable of unravelling a plot from the 1700's by piecing fragments of fiction together to form a coherent whole. Or did I just dangle a bait too tempting in front of  Mr Rees?

I'm not saying I goaded him into it. That is for other to say. But none the less, it looks like Mr Scott Eckert got here just in time. We may need a mediator. Why? Well, I've read The Demi-Monde: Winter once and am embarking on my second go round imminently (yes, really, this time) and it is, as you may know, set in a virtual world peopled with real characters from history. If it is anything to do with the Wold Newton Universe, or indeed the Wold Newton Family themselves, it would surely be set in the real world and peopled with fictional character from history? Maybe I'm jumping the gun on book two ("The Demi-Monde: Spring" one imagines), but I'm going to have to look damned hard at Winter this time round if I'm going to find the Wold Newton connection.

During the summer holidays, as a kid, I remember watching Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers Saturday Morning Cinema shorts. The repeats on TV of course - I'm not that old. Being part of the summer schedule they showed them every day instead of weekly as would have originally been the case. This meant that, having seen them fall over a balcony to their certain deaths at the end of one episode, you were painfully aware that you'd been cheated when, at the beginning of the next episode, they didn't  fall over the balcony at all! I'm pretty sure that was more Rogers than Gordon (in the picture below they do fall into the moat - you can probably rely on Flash not to cheat so much as Buck).


I may have an increased reading list now, courtesy of Win Scott Eckert's recommendations  –  The Evil in Pemberley House (Philip José Farmer with Win Scott Eckert) and The Peerless Peer (Philip José Farmer) lined up after the second reading of The Demi-Monde: Winter  –  but when I get around to The Demi-Monde: Spring, having waited a whole year, I'll be watching out for a smooth, cheat-free next episode.

I'm making notes Mr Rees.


Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Goodbye Elisabeth Sladen

Just heard the very sad news that Elisabeth Sladen has died.

I remembered her as Sarah Jane Smith alongside Doctor Who (played by both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker) in the mid 70's. Recently, of course, she was Sarah Jane Smith all over again, just in time for my own children to see what I'd been banging on about all those years.

The Actress Elisabeth Sladen - and as Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who

Incredibly she was as good this time round. Possibly even better. This was no lacklustre come-back like that of some celebrities desperately clinging to past successes. This was a thoughtful and inventive update of the original Sarah Jane Smith investigating how her past might have influenced who she had become.

On one level you could put it down to Russell T Davis affection for and brilliant reinvention of the original character that her returning cameo in Doctor Who worked so well. But you can't build a successful children's TV series around anyone less than a star and four series of The Sarah Jane Adventures showed just what a star she was.

Elisabeth Sladen's Sarah Jane Smith was a strong, independent woman from the off. Despite the press constantly banging on about the latest companion being 'different', 'stronger' and 'not just there to scream and be rescued' - she was a single woman and freelancing journalist, digging the 'superior' Doctor out of his own messes time after time. In 1976.

It was great to see her return and be so brilliant. Even stronger than before. A model for an older woman is still a rare thing. In 2011.

Quite often The Sarah Jane Adventures were more like the Doctor Who I remember as a kid, than the new Doctor Who series itself. Mixing adventure and children is always problematic - in case some Mary Whitehouse type accuses you of encouraging children to get involved in dangerous situations - so it falls to someone special to create the perfect safe character who can treat the children with respect and their ideas with credibility, while still being there to pick up the pieces if it all goes wrong. Elisabeth Sladen appeared to do this effortlessly.

It is such a shame that she is gone. A very talented actress, wife and mother who touched many lives.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Wold Newton Universe is another World!

I live in the Wold Newton Universe. Not the Philip Jose Farmer fictional creation (just referenced by author Rod Rees in his blog about his novel The Demi-Monde), but the real-life county of East Yorkshire, just a meteorite's throw from Wold Newton itself (yes, Jose Farmer fans - it is real!).

Just up the road from Cardigan Hall is a little place called Langtoft, just after Langtoft is a little place called The Old Mill Hotel and Restaurant and just at the end of their road are a couple of signs that the East Riding of Yorkshire Council (Eryc, for short) have asked them to take down.

The Old Mill Signs - A danger to road users, or an indication of somewhere you might get a tasty meal

Just as well, you might say, that might distract me, preventing me from driving safely and navigating that corner, but you would find yourself in something of a minority if you did. I can't recall ever hearing any stories about anyone ever having an accident on or near this corner. Not ever.

The signs have been there for 17 years. The current owners, Gary and Kathie, bought the place with the signs in exactly this location. But now, apparently, it's a real and present danger.

Bollocks.

Just goes to show that every Council is staffed with its compliment of barmy jobsworths. Barely a day goes by when you don't hear about some place insisting on applying the letter of the law on an issue that no-ones's ever thought worth implementing before. Shame really, it usually overshadows the good work they do (the road to Langtoft is looking quite smart now, thanks for asking).

The BBC Radio Humberside and BBCLook North have both done pieces on it today (including a rather unsavoury reference to Peter Levy's lunchbox!). Peter Levy, for those of you who don't know, is the Roddy McDowall of BBC local news.


If you live anywhere near this place, go there. They serve fresh, locally sourced food, cooked to order and it's great. In fact, don't just go for a meal have a party. Get married and hold your reception there - no, get married there AND hold your reception there! Not getting married? Book yourself in for the Murder Mystery on May 7th!

If you don't live anywhere near The Old Mill, you could stay in one of their cosy rooms and, if you are partial to a little Philip Jose Farmer, use it as a base for your pilgrimage to Wold Newton. A sort of Wold Newton Family Holiday, if you will.

Honestly, it'll take you less than 15 mins to drive from The Old Mill Hotel to the meteor impact site and when you get back you can tuck into Breast of pheasant filled with a partridge and wild mushroom mousse and I'm not even kidding. The rest of the menu is just as cool.

Then you can relax and read your copy of The Demi-Monde. Like I'm going to read mine. I am. In fact, I will make a special trip up to the Old Mill for lunch this week and take my Demi-Monde with me for a quiet relaxing read.

Better watch that corner though, eh.

PS: You can find out more about the sign-saga in the Hull Daily Mail (AKA the East Riding Mail). I will, or course, report on further developments (eg what my braised steak in a red wine & onion sauce tastes like after my read-trip).



Sunday, 10 April 2011

I am not Richard Herring


Only the true Messiah denies his divinity, or so the Monty Python Team would have us believe. If this is the case, it doesn't give Richard Herring much of a chance. To be fair, though, “I'm not saying I'm Jesus… that is for other people to say.” doesn't really count as much of a denial.

Richard Herring is, quite literally, (dressed up like) Christ on a Bike

Richard Herring was on fine form last night at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre as he delivered the "Second Coming" of his hit one man show "Christ on a Bike". Which is just as well as I don't take crossing the bridge lightly, venturing out of Yorkshire can be a hazardous pursuit when even the names of bread-based food items seem deliberately designed to confuse.

So, having established that he was well worth the three hour round trip to get there and back, I have to say that we (the audience) seemed to be enjoying the first half of the show much more than him (the Richard Herring). Pretty much the right way round you might think, but after some Twitter action in the interval, during which someone appeared to have suggested that he was half-asleep, we got to see the man at full throttle. A happy Richard Herring is a joy to behold. It's clear that he relishes making you laugh, which he does without the tiresome preachiness that other comedians embrace when tackling "the big issues" (yes I do mean you, Brigstocke). It was great to hear someone find genuine, and startlingly obvious, flaws in the Bible without resorting to Richard Dawkins-style hectoring (now, if only someone would nail him to a tree...).

But all is not quite as you might expect (particularly if you've been listening to The Collings and Herrin Podcasts and AIOTM*) as there is a lot of sweetness and innocence here. Never cloying or sentimental but a perfectly judged counterpoint to the more acerbic observations. His fairness will be apparent when I tell you that he takes a poll at the beginning and again at the end of the show to see who is best, him or Jesus.

I'm resisting the urge to quote chunks or reveal any plot developments because the DVD will be recorded on the 18th of May at The Leicester Square Theatre and I wouldn't want to spoil that for you. Or you could go to see it live: I've included a list of Tour Dates at the end of this post (if you go to the recording you can see a recording of the Collings and Herrin Podcast at the same time!).

If you don't go to see it or buy the DVD you'll miss out, not only on a brilliantly funny performance, but also on a chance to donate to SCOPE. So, if you're determined not to go, you can just do the donation part here.

So, before I try, once again, to knuckle down to my second reading of the Demi-Monde (which will never happen if I'm always out at the theatre) I'd like to share a couple of things with you. Not least this fabulous, if clearly untrue, listing from Google:




Coming Soon - Richard Herring **VERY VERY LIMITED**


Richard Herring **VERY VERY LIMITED** starts on Friday 11 March 2011!
www.chorleylittletheatre.com › Home › Coming Soon - Cached



He aways was self deprecating. Wouldn't make a bad title for his next show.

And finally, when I met him after the show I blurted out, "It's really you!". I wonder if that's why he put, "I AM NOT RICHARD HERRING" on my programme.

Only the true Messiah denies his divinity.

Richard Herring being a very naughty boy

Ta ta now, the Demi-Monde calls.
*AIOTM


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Here's the list of dates and links to buy tickets (I'm not employed or sponsored by any of these guys, they're just the first ones I could find on the web):


Tour Dates
Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring

Sun 10th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Gala Theatre & Cinema
Durham
Tue 12th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Lowry Centre
Salford
Wed 13th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Nottingham Playhouse
Nottingham
Thu 14th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Library Theatre
Luton
Sat 16th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Civic Theatre
Barnsley
Sun 17th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Harpenden Public Halls
Harpenden
Mon 18th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Epsom Playhouse
Epsom
Tue 19th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Lowry Centre
Salford
Wed 20th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Brindley Arts Centre
Runcorn
Thu 21st Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Colchester Arts Centre
Colchester
Wed 27th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Lights Arena
Andover
Thu 28th Apr

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Marina Theatre
Lowestoft
Fri 29th Apr -
Sun 1st May
Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Norwich Playhouse
Norwich
Tue 3rd May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Tobacco Factory
Bristol
Wed 4th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Tobacco Factory
Bristol
Fri 6th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for Salisbury Arts Centre
Salisbury
Sat 7th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for Selby Town Hall
Selby
Sun 8th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Ironworks
Inverness
Mon 9th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Lemon Tree
Aberdeen
Tue 10th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Whitehall Theatre
Dundee
Sat 14th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for The Core Theatre
Corby
Sun 15th May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring Get Tickets for Warwick Arts Centre
Coventry
Wed 18th May

Collings and Herrin Podcast
(Andrew Collins and - Richard Herring)

AND Christ on a Bike: The Second Coming
Richard Herring
Get Tickets for The Leicester Square Theatre
London
Sat 21st May

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring
Sat 19th June Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring
Wed 5th Oct

Christ On A Bike: The Second Coming - Richard Herring


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Friday, 8 April 2011

Steampunk iPad 2

While (whilst?) reeling in the wake of the launch of Apple's iPad 2, during Steve Jobs keynote speech at the Apple Special Event, I'm still struggling to find time to give The Demi-Monde a second reading. Meanwhile, with a great deal less hype, this little retro revision of the Apple iPad had it's own launch over on Rod Rees' blog.


A Steampunk iPad 2


Actually, not so much an iPad 2 as an iPad 47 (or so it says over on the Demi-Monde website), this little baby is a 'Polly'. A Bulldog 47 PolyFunctional Digital Device to be precise. So, not an iPad at all then.

Now, I'm going to have to knuckle down to my re-read because I'm pretty sure steampunk iPads don't feature anywhere in "The Demi-Monde: Winter". I've heard of them though, a 'Polly' that is, even imagined what they looked like, although the circular screen was unexpected! They must mention them on the website, so I'll need to give that another trawl too.

There is a more familiar looking device further down the blog entry – more "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" than Captain Nemo – which would appear to be the Demi-Monde's equivalent of the iPad 1 (oh, that sounds a bit dull, maybe Apple would prefer we refer to it as an Original iPad, no... wait... I've got it: Classic iPad, no... iPad Classic!). No brass and rivets here, just a flat sheet of glass touchscreen.


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy



The Original iPad Classic


Talking (typing?) of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ive a feeling (pun intended - and italicised for emphasis - Jonathan*) that folk from all over the computer industry have been working towards making "The Guide" a reality, either consciously or subconsciously, ever since it was fictionally born.

I often wondered whether Douglas Adams' Sub-Ether network was a nod to the Ethernet networking system or the other way round. I am, however, certain that the Sub-Ether-Sens-O-Matic was a device for detecting Wi-Fi about 30 years before there was an app for that.

DOUGLAS ADAMS A GUIDE FOR THE UNINITIATED
DOUGLAS ADAMS WAS THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF "THE HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY" (A KIND OF AUTHOR DENT. IT'S A KIND OF PUN, YOU SEE. IVE NEVER BEEN VERY GOOD AT THEM MYSELF, BUT I'M TOLD THEY CAN BE TERRIBLY EFFECTIVE). A FACT I INCLUDE AT THIS POINT IN THE BLOG IN CASE YOU'RE NOT A MEMBER OF ZZ9 PLURAL Z ALPHA (ZZ9 ON DRESS-DOWN FRIDAYS), HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A "SLOUCH" OR, HORROR OF HORRORS, DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE YOUR TOWEL IS!

Douglas Adams (or Bop Ad as he was occasionally known, on account of his unintelligible signature) was a big technology fan - specifically a big Apple fan, and when I say big... (edited to remove predicatable"...long way down the road to the chemists" etc.).

So, apart from it's appearance, what was The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy? A hand-held audio/visual guide to everything that updates over a wireless network and fits in your (designer) satchel. Douglas Adams got there first! Although my friend Martin did point out that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that Douglas Adams imagined ('imagined' being the key hear) was all there bar the "fiddly inside bits, manufacture, supply and support".

That said, like the relationship between Dark Star and Alien, it does rather look as though the spoof came first, the steampunk iPad came before the real thing. Not the Demi-Monde steampunk iPad (remember that, way back at the beginning of this increasingly rambling post), but the rather bulky, metal block erroneously title "iPad Classic" above. While it may lack the requisite rivets to be truly classed a steampunk iPad, The Guide was definitely built to withstand the rigours of hitch-hiking, maybe not brass, but it's heavy duty metal of some kind. I wouldn't be surprised if someone hasn't made a case like this and just popped their iPhone in the top, as a screen. Play a YouTube clip from the TV series and you could be the new Ford Prefect. Ford Focus? Ford Tippex (remember that, kids?).

It would appear, then, what with everyone having a stab at the tablet PC, Apple decided to stroke it instead. Dropping the stylus for a fingertip made it much easier to chuck in your bag and go and, crucially, get back out of your bag and read - a bit like, I dunno, an electronic book? So, it may be a little bigger than Adam's Guide, but it's no surprise that you can now get "Don't Panic" wallpaper for your iPad.

Another friend of mine is a Research Chemist over in America. He tells me that he regularly listens to Physicists (at parties, no less) banging on about how the science of Star Trek with its transporters and warp drive, etc. is very nearly a reality. It's almost as though Scientists no longer look to discover the truth so much as try to make it fit their TV fuelled idea of what it should be. And being funded to discover certain specific 'truths' doesn't help either. Counterintuitive though it sounds, scientists need to be funded to just 'see what comes up'. Works for nature.

So that brings me neatly round to evolution.

Can't imagine why.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes. God forbid that the next generation of scientists (assuming we get a next generation of anyone) set out to create a real-life The Demi-Monde.

Successive governments have made a fist of recreating 1984 to the point where, not content with having most of the country covered by CCTV, being able to arrest people because they might be thinking about committing a crime and persuading us that we were friends with the Russians all along (and not supplying arms to Saddam, Gaddafi et al), they won't rest until every household has a flatscreen digital TV. Government sponsored switchover ads? Does selling us crap we don't need not work anymore?

And recent advances in genetic manipulation looks pretty much capable of realising A Brave New World. The irony of defeating the Nazis and still ending up with a world peopled entirely by blue-eyed, blond-haired white people as a result of consumer choice doesn't bear thinking about. Having united Europe and bridging it with Britain we seem to be Nazi-fying by default. Mind you they got that from Napoleon, anyway.

And geostationary satellites were invented by Arthur C. Clarke.

OK. So I've finally broken Godwin's Law and reduced myself to comparing stuff to the Nazis and wheeled out that old chestnut about Arthur C. Clarke geostationary satellite (to which Martin's point also applies) but, Reductio ad Hitlerum aside, what's the possibility of something like the Demi-Monde being devised?


Well, that technology doesn't exist yet, but it is probably a lot nearer reality than you might think. It would undoubtedly come out of game technology (more than enough of that, right) coupled to some total immersion hardware (we got that, right) so all we need to do is create digital duplicates of everyone on Earth, including some historical psychopaths, set it in a steampunk style pseudo-Victorian world, give all the dupes a blood dependency and... why would someone developing the system exclusively for the US Army do it quite like that?

To be honest with you I can't wait to find out.

Having to wait for book two is not an option, I'm afraid, so I'd best get started on that re-read (might even find a reference to that steampunk iPad). 

A steampunk iPad, yesterday.

Now, where's my copy of "The Demi-Monde: Winter"?

*Jonathan Ive is Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Inc.



Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Steampunk iPad

While (whilst?) reeling in the wake of the launch of Apple's iPad 2, during Steve Jobs keynote speech at the Apple Special Event, I'm still struggling to find time to give The Demi-Monde a second reading. Meanwhile, with a great deal less hype, this little retro revision of the Apple iPad had it's own launch over on Rod Rees' blog.


A Steampunk iPad 2


Actually, not so much an iPad 2 as an iPad 47 (or so it says over on the Demi-Monde website), this little baby is a 'Polly'. A Bulldog 47 PolyFunctional Digital Device to be precise. So, not an iPad at all then.

Now, I'm going to have to knuckle down to my re-read because I'm pretty sure steampunk iPads don't feature anywhere in "The Demi-Monde: Winter". I've heard of them though, a 'Polly' that is, even imagined what they looked like, although the circular screen was unexpected! They must mention them on the website, so I'll need to give that another trawl too.

There is a more familiar looking device further down the blog entry – more "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" than Captain Nemo – which would appear to be the Demi-Monde's equivalent of the iPad 1 (oh, that sounds a bit dull, maybe Apple would prefer we refer to it as an Original iPad, no... wait... I've got it: Classic iPad, no... iPad Classic!). No brass and rivets here, just a flat sheet of glass touchscreen.


The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy



The Original iPad Classic


Talking (typing?) of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Ive a feeling (pun intended - and italicised for emphasis - Jonathan*) that folk from all over the computer industry have been working towards making "The Guide" a reality, either consciously or subconsciously, ever since it was fictionally born.

I often wondered whether Douglas Adams' Sub-Ether network was a nod to the Ethernet networking system or the other way round. I am, however, certain that the Sub-Ether-Sens-O-Matic was a device for detecting Wi-Fi about 30 years before there was an app for that.

DOUGLAS ADAMS A GUIDE FOR THE UNINITIATED
DOUGLAS ADAMS WAS THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR OF "THE HITCH-HIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY" (A KIND OF AUTHOR DENT. IT'S A KIND OF PUN, YOU SEE. IVE NEVER BEEN VERY GOOD AT THEM MYSELF, BUT I'M TOLD THEY CAN BE TERRIBLY EFFECTIVE). A FACT I INCLUDE AT THIS POINT IN THE BLOG IN CASE YOU'RE NOT A MEMBER OF ZZ9 PLURAL Z ALPHA (ZZ9 ON DRESS-DOWN FRIDAYS), HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A "SLOUCH" OR, HORROR OF HORRORS, DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE YOUR TOWEL IS!

Douglas Adams (or Bop Ad as he was occasionally known, on account of his unintelligible signature) was a big technology fan - specifically a big Apple fan, and when I say big... (edited to remove predicatable"...long way down the road to the chemists" etc.).

So, apart from it's appearance, what was The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy? A hand-held audio/visual guide to everything that updates over a wireless network and fits in your (designer) satchel. Douglas Adams got there first! Although my friend Martin did point out that The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that Douglas Adams imagined ('imagined' being the key hear) was all there bar the "fiddly inside bits, manufacture, supply and support".

That said, like the relationship between Dark Star and Alien, it does rather look as though the spoof came first, the steampunk iPad came before the real thing. Not the Demi-Monde steampunk iPad (remember that, way back at the beginning of this increasingly rambling post), but the rather bulky, metal block erroneously title "iPad Classic" above. While it may lack the requisite rivets to be truly classed a steampunk iPad, The Guide was definitely built to withstand the rigours of hitch-hiking, maybe not brass, but it's heavy duty metal of some kind. I wouldn't be surprised if someone hasn't made a case like this and just popped their iPhone in the top, as a screen. Play a YouTube clip from the TV series and you could be the new Ford Prefect. Ford Focus? Ford Tippex (remember that, kids?).

It would appear, then, what with everyone having a stab at the tablet PC, Apple decided to stroke it instead. Dropping the stylus for a fingertip made it much easier to chuck in your bag and go and, crucially, get back out of your bag and read - a bit like, I dunno, an electronic book? So, it may be a little bigger than Adam's Guide, but it's no surprise that you can now get "Don't Panic" wallpaper for your iPad.

Another friend of mine is a Research Chemist over in America. He tells me that he regularly listens to Physicists (at parties, no less) banging on about how the science of Star Trek with its transporters and warp drive, etc. is very nearly a reality. It's almost as though Scientists no longer look to discover the truth so much as try to make it fit their TV fuelled idea of what it should be. And being funded to discover certain specific 'truths' doesn't help either. Counterintuitive though it sounds, scientists need to be funded to just 'see what comes up'. Works for nature.

So that brings me neatly round to evolution.

Can't imagine why.

Now, where was I?

Oh, yes. God forbid that the next generation of scientists (assuming we get a next generation of anyone) set out to create a real-life The Demi-Monde.

Successive governments have made a fist of recreating 1984 to the point where, not content with having most of the country covered by CCTV, being able to arrest people because they might be thinking about committing a crime and persuading us that we were friends with the Russians all along (and not supplying arms to Saddam, Gaddafi et al), they won't rest until every household has a flatscreen digital TV. Government sponsored switchover ads? Does selling us crap we don't need not work anymore?

And recent advances in genetic manipulation looks pretty much capable of realising A Brave New World. The irony of defeating the Nazis and still ending up with a world peopled entirely by blue-eyed, blond-haired white people as a result of consumer choice doesn't bear thinking about. Having united Europe and bridging it with Britain we seem to be Nazi-fying by default. Mind you they got that from Napoleon, anyway.

And geostationary satellites were invented by Arthur C. Clarke.

OK. So I've finally broken Godwin's Law and reduced myself to comparing stuff to the Nazis and wheeled out that old chestnut about Arthur C. Clarke geostationary satellite (to which Martin's point also applies) but, Reductio ad Hitlerum aside, what's the possibility of something like the Demi-Monde being devised?


Well, that technology doesn't exist yet, but it is probably a lot nearer reality than you might think. It would undoubtedly come out of game technology (more than enough of that, right) coupled to some total immersion hardware (we got that, right) so all we need to do is create digital duplicates of everyone on Earth, including some historical psychopaths, set it in a steampunk style pseudo-Victorian world, give all the dupes a blood dependency and... why would someone developing the system exclusively for the US Army do it quite like that?

To be honest with you I can't wait to find out.

Having to wait for book two is not an option, I'm afraid, so I'd best get started on that re-read (might even find a reference to that steampunk iPad). 

A steampunk iPad, yesterday.

Now, where's my copy of "The Demi-Monde: Winter"?

*Jonathan Ive is Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple Inc.



Monday, 21 February 2011

Pontius Tank Commander



Now who'd have thought it. Al Murray, The Pub Landlord, relishing driving a tank down the high street. I say relish, more a rich ale gravy to be frank. I say frank, but that's a whole other flavour.

Don't know what I'm on about? Don't blame you. Be a good sport and pop on over to the Red Nose Day site if you feel like doing a bit of good, or check out the Walkers Crisps site if you're still in the dark about Al's pie.

In the spirit of PWI (that's "Precipitation with Insight", dude.) we have uncovered the secret ingredient in Al's pie. Check out the Funtrak site to be fully appraised of the Funtrak Mini-Tank phenomenon (where you'll discover that they are sometimes used as a paintball tank - when they go by the name of the Funtrak Paintball Panzer - and are the invention of former RAF Flt Lt Phil Parsons - I don't think he did the pie bit though).

The real mystery here, though, is why a Flight Lieutenant of the British Royal Airforce would dirty his hands with tanks? Best left to the brown jobs I would have though. Actually, even that's no mystery, when you see this video (even without the paintball you can see that the Funtrak Paintball Panzer is a bit of a scream - you might want to turn the volume down a bit):



(Not a great deal of uncovering going on here - I've loved these babies since I got to bomb around in one at the War Museum - you'll have to get your own link, this post is becoming a lot more complicated than I meant it to be.)

Tanks for reading.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

And news just in...

Lou Morgan has this...

Half a World Away


Managed to get my hands on a copy of Rod Rees's new novel The Demi Monde: Winter. Read it, loved it, told my mates and went hunting for more - it'll be a year until the next volume is out and my hunger must be sated.

There's the website (natch) and the author's blog and a couple of other 'can't-wait' ers who've also been trawling, so if you're one of them (...no... one of 'us'... no... "...one of the Kept..." geddit?) post me a comment and/or we can follow each other's progress blog-to-blog.

There's loads of, what look like, clues to the overarching universe it's set in, but I've lately taken to keeping tabs on the reviews (particularly over at Amazon - oh, oh just spotted some new ones while I was grabbing that link! Now if I can just... finish... this blog...). Here are some of my faves:

"Part Matrix, part Escape from New York, with a dash of Film Noir and a whole host of imagination."

"Despite the contrived concept, Rees makes the book work: the world he's created is a psychopathic nightmare, while Ella, by contrast, is a touchingly vulnerable heroine whose quest is fraught with both physical and psychological dangers."

"Complete nonsense, of course, but incredibly entertaining."
Kate Saunders The Times Saturday Review (can only find this on the Demi-Monde's own blog)

"What a fabulous book… The Demi-Monde is an unstoppable, deadly serious computer game, a replica of the real world where players experience lethal role-playing and war-gaming… An outsider is thrown into this mix and somehow has to stop the evil escaping from the confines of the game... Devote some quality time to reading `Winter' and you'll be rewarded with a captivating new world, one of smoke and mirrors which closely resembles our own - but don't expect things to turn out quite as you know them."
Rowena Hoseason (Via Amazon)

"Occult Stalinist Nazi Vampires.... ... plan war against Lesbian Supremacists."
P.G. Harris (Via Amazon)

"It is the first book in a series of four which I did find a little irritating."
a hopeful reader (Via Amazon)

My favourite is "Occult Stalinist Nazi Vampires.... ... plan war against Lesbian Supremacists." - if that doesn't make you want to read the book it's reviewing I don't know what will!

On balance though, taking every review into account, the general consensus is… undecided (albeit with a healthy 4-5 stars average over at Amazon). No one's taking it lying down though. It's Marmite for the soul, is this one.

There are the evangelists (of whom I am one) and the detractors (of whom there are some), but I can't think of anyone who's not bothered either way (although "a hopeful reader" does seem to think it'll all turn out to be as big a waste of time as "The Lord of the Rings" or "Harry Potter" or one of those other tiresome stories that just can't seem to limit themselves to one volume).

On Team Boo I've read at least one review by someone who could just possibly be the biggest arse since Keyra Agustina, while on Team Yay there's only really Tex who's cottoned on to the depth of Rees's concept. Having mooched about on the web I've found a short story set in the same universe and loads of extra stuff on the demi-monde website (also the DC universe stuff, but that seems to have been removed).

Note: I've not included a link to the short story or the DC website. Can't do everything for you.

As soon as I can get a minute I'm going to give it a second read, I suspect it''ll yield a bit more every time, so I'll post anything I notice this time that I didn't notice last time and see if you got there first. 

Let me know how you get on.