Archive for December, 2011
I hope all my lovely readers had a superbly indulgent and alcoholic Christmas. And will do likewise for the New Year. Unless you don’t drink or celebrate Christmas, in which case I hope you are simply having a superb end of December.
Every TV and radio show is now poised to launch its end of year review show. Some will be funny, most will be depressing. It has been quite a momentous year all things considered. Charlie Brooker mentioned that if 2011 was an episode of a TV show, then it would have been an end of season finale. Good luck topping this 2012! Unfortunately it would be a fairly depressing and gritty show that not many people would want to watch.
Let’s look briefly at some of the bigger events:
Someone in the Middle East watched the original Star Wars or Flash Gordon or something and realised that dictators and oppressive regimes suck. So things kicked off and for the first half of the year one mental bastard after another was toppled from power. Thousands and thousands of secret police are now out of work. The whole thing has generally been seen as positive, obviously no one wants to be tortured at random by despots after all. It just remains to be seen how good the new fellows are and if they will sell us oil so we can fuck up the planet for less cash. So fingers crossed.
Osama bin Laden finally found and shot a lot
Keeping with the Middle East, the Americans finally killed Bin Laden! There was no, ‘Unfortunately, he put up a fight and we reluctantly shot him’ bollocks. I guess Obama just thought that as no one would buy that, just shoot the prick and be honest. I think this was a good decision. Why spend a fortune on putting him on trial and eventually hanging him, when everyone for once thinks the bad guy should definitely die. All over the World tedious boring people in pubs where hurriedly denying that they ever said things like ‘You mark my words – he’s dead already,’ or ‘They’ll never find him.’ Hah! Sussed!
Sad loner in Norway kills lots of innocent people because he is worried about increased Muslim… er… was fighting a crusade against… er… was a colossal fuckwit that should be ignored
In Norway an horrendous loser blew up a bit of Oslo then killed a load of teenagers on an island. He was complaining that his country was under attack from extremists or something. He wanted to draw attention to his moronic belief by the massacre of innocents. The press obliged and went on about it for weeks, thereby assuring any copycats that this technique works. Sadly they didn’t just shoot him and cover it up. Or publicly ridicule him until he becomes a twisted laughing stock putting fellows nutters off. Sad.
Disasters. Sadly there were lots
There were also plenty of disasters around the world. It was all very depressing and tragic. Flooding and mudslides in Rio killed 903 in January. More flooding killed 434 in Pakistan in September, Cambodia lost 207 in flash flooding in September, but the worst hit was Thailand (my past and probably future home) with floods killing 657 people. The biggest disaster of the year was of course the tsunami off Japan. An estimated 15,840 were killed and 3,926 are missing. Other disasters included an earthquake in Turkey (604 dead), famine in Somalia and 1,249 killed in the Philippines by a storm. I could go on but I am getting down thinking about it.
The West’s economy gets fucked over by Europe. That doesn’t include Britain, we’re just next to Europe and join in occasionally.
Economically the entire planet stayed pretty fucked. Even China’s rapid growth has shrunk to being very slightly less rapid. Although every country on the planet would probably dream of having this new reduced rate of 8.8%, so it’s hard to be that sympathetic. In Europe tons of things happened economically, with France and Germany doing the bare minimum to keep the EU going but without doing enough to actually fix anything. They did the maximum bleating about it though. Annoyingly I have to agree with Cameron using his veto. People argue that it might diminish our power and influence in Europe but as Cameron said he would go along with Merkozy et al if they agreed a few small concessions and they flatly refused, just how much say do we have anyway? Bollocks to them. Anyway, to conclude, Europe’s dicking about has caused chaos and misery.
There were a lot of people blowing themselves and others up all over the place. I don’t know if this has been an increase or if it just seems that way when I look at news sites and statistics. Like all the above, it’s very depressing.
The Iraq war ended
Hooray! The Iraq war ended and happiness and peace spread throughout the land. Unfortunately the people who live there haven’t realised they are at peace and continue to have a horrible time. Afghanistan still has coalition forces in it though. Not sure why Iraq was a huge success but Afghanistan still needs work. I have been fairly disgusted with the whole thing for years now so won’t write more about it. One thought comes to mind though… if the West had just left Iraq alone and the Arab Spring had kicked off there too, would it be in a better or worse situation than now?
Science has cheered me up.
Science has had a good year. Which is a relief because having read all the above I want to be injected with longevity drugs, put in a spaceship and escape. The sad news was that the Space Shuttle project ended. On the plus side, this may open the way for others to leap into the inky (hopefully sexy-alien-filled) void of space. I wrote about these exciting new things here. In other science stuff:
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took photos of what looks suspiciously like proof there may be liquid water during the balmy summers on Mars. Liquid water means that there was highly likely to be life on Mars at some point. Religions around the world are hurriedly rewriting their beliefs to make it look like this somehow fits in with what they have said all along.
Juno, the first solar powered spacecraft is launched and is on its way to Jupiter. Also launched is the ‘Curiosity’ – the most advanced Martian exploration vehicle ever (due to land in August 2012).
Finally, the Large Hadron Collider dudes discovered a new particle. Those whacked out scientists captured the public’s imagination by naming it chi-b(3P). Awesome. It has something to do with matter apparently and will help scientists understand things most of us never will.
Apart from science things seemed pretty dire. Of course lots of great things happened too. They just don’t get mentioned. Things like the worldwide launch of www.scifiward.com. Other things like the Word of Ward getting 1 million hits from 50,000 unique visitors!
But most important of all. I published a book called The Uneven Passage of Time
on Amazon kindle. I know for a fact that not all the 50,000 visitors bought one so let’s change that shall we? Buy my trilogy of short stories and I may be less self absorbed next year. Think of it as a Christmas present. Click here to buy and support the arts this New Year. Or the tab at the top of the page that says ‘my books’.
If I’m happier, then maybe next year I will write about all the good things that happen in 2012. Stories like: The Mayans were wrong and world doesn’t end (although they didn’t predict that but who cares), or Everyone is still broke but triple dip recession is unlikely, or aliens are discovered but only want to enslave us, not destroy us. Or something.
Anyway, enough blathering.
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE WORD OF WARD AND SCIFI WARD! (AND MRS WORD OF WARD)!!!!!
If you buy one book this year make it this one. And also read more, that’s pathetic.
I have always banged on about writing fiction but have never actually published any. It isn’t about the thrill of seeing my name in print – my first job was in journalism, so that’s hardly a novelty. I lived for a couple of years writing for magazines in Bangkok recently and it’s a good lifestyle but not really what I wanted to do. It’s a bit dissatisfying writing for an editor and being told what to do and having to conform to the magazine or paper’s house style. That’s partly why I like my sites as I can just dick about.
I wanted to write fiction and I’ve finally got round to doing it. It isn’t the book I’ve been promising since I was 10 years old but it is A book. A short book. Three short stories in fact. I’ve written tons of short stories, they are fun to write and you don’t have to plan as much as you do with a full length novel. So I decided to group a few stories together and sell each little group for a pittance. That’s right. A pittance. Surely you can afford that? It’s not an excuse if you don’t have a kindle either. You can download the kindle app for free and read them on your computer, your phone, your iPad or whatever. For the cost of a fifth of a pint I’ll be disappointed if you don’t and will probabby shun you.
I found three stories that already had a sort of theme – time. Although they concern our passage through time they are all set in the modern age. There’s no travelling back and fighting dinosaurs or saving Kennedy or anything. They are more about people. Here’s the blurb:
Stephen Hawking once sent out dinner invitations to all future time travellers. No one turned up. But what if one had? In ‘A Date to Remember’ a young physicist is convinced he has worked out the secret to building a time travel device. Lacking the resources to construct the machine he sets a time and date for a meeting with his future self.
It is a truism that people remember the big events in life and forget the repetitive. For most people, their year skips by unnoticed, punctuated by birthdays, world events, big personal milestones or traumatic events. As you age life seems to speed up and you find that the years seem to fly past. ‘As Time Goes By’ is the story of Frank Gilbert who is experiencing this to the extreme. His time seems to be accelerating at an abnormal rate. Years of his repetitive life seem to go by in days. Can he break the cycle in time?
The final and longest short story is ‘The Man Who Loved Statues’. Captain Michael Pike is a man who has taken a bit of hammering in life. With nothing much to live for he volunteers for an experiment that is going to attempt to alter his passage through time and put him in stasis. Things don’t go quite according to plan.
So there you go. Give them a try. Here are the links.
For the US:
For the UK:
I read last week that Larry King, the legendary American interviewer, stated that he wants to be cryogenically frozen. For years, I always said that I wanted a viking burial, where I am floated out to sea on a boat with all my treasured belongings and the severed heads of my enemies. Sadly that wasn’t practical. Being older, nearer death, and more sensible these days I decided that I now want to live for thousands of years and will consequently be frozen and brought back by attractive people in the future.
This decision has caused me to do a bit of research and quite frankly cryonics looks like an awesome way to go. I can’t bear the thought of being buried and cremation just isn’t for me (unless I’m on a boat that’s on fire with the theme tune to the 1982 version of Conan the Barbarian playing obviously). Getting frozen is looking increasingly practical.
One of the problems with the process is that crystals form when you are frozen and this fucks you up. While researching a short story about a guy being put in stasis I came across a frog that lives in Canada and Alaska that freezes solid for winter. Solid. You could probably shatter one against a wall (if you were a psychopath). It’s called a Rana sylvatica or Wood frog if you are interested. It does this by using chemicals in the blood that stop the crystallisation process. Since 2001 this has been possible with humans thanks to new developments. There are photos on weird websites showing the difference between brains frozen pre 2001 and now. Which means the first people to get ‘iced’ are probably screwed.
Numerous studies have shown that it is the structure of the brain that counts. Embryos are routinely frozen for years and humans have survived freezing temperatures that have stopped their hearts, blood and brains for up to an hour. After that, crystals form and you are doomed.
One of the main problems is tissue damage but with new advances in nanomedicine we are increasingly able to repair individual cells. Which sounds pretty cool. Loads more scientists are now seeing the whole thing as being plausible. There are only a couple of hundred people frozen right now but thanks to these advances there are over a 1000 signed up and that number is going up. Hopefully they aren’t all dull if we have to hang out together in 2312.
It isn’t even that expensive really. The average cost of a funeral in London is over £4000 – add in lawyers fees, wakes, drinks, cars, and other costs and you are looking at £10,000. You could get your head frozen for that in what is known as the ‘cheap package’. I wouldn’t recommend the cheap option as they probably just cut of your head and chuck it in a freezer but there are better choices. From what I’ve seen, it will cost about £100,000 for the full body, with an extra £500 a year for electricity and polishing and so on. This is obviously a lot but I intend to be loaded and the rest of my money will go to family and starving people with diseases, so it’s all good. I will also chuck some money in a high interest account and reap the benefits in a hundred years (with more going to starving kiddywinks too, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise).
There are other reasons why it is looking increasingly feasible but I can’t be bothered to go on too much about it.
The main thing is, I’m an atheist. I think this existence is all I have and frankly I’m terrified of death. If I believed that when I die I went to a place that was just constantly brilliant forever and ever, I would probably look forward to it. Even if I thought there was an afterlife I would be too scared to pick a religion in case I got it wrong. Most religions seem to think all the other ones are going to be punished and have shit time for eternity because they backed the wrong deity. This doesn’t seem to bother religious types as the vast majority of them just pick the same faith as their relatives and ancestors and somehow convince themselves that coincidentally they definitely got the right one.
I think faith in scientists and the possibility of being brought back is much more believable. Even better, if I’m wrong I’m still just dead. If there is an afterlife then at least I wouldn’t have spent my life pissing off a god(s) for making the wrong choice. (Which is likely if you look at the odds of you being correct).
So the only thing left is to pick a pose. I would prefer a clear-fronted freezing pod otherwise the pose would be wasted.
At first I thought angst might be funny. There could be a caption underneath reading: ‘WHY ME!!! WHY YOU BASTARDS??!!!’
I then thought it might be better if I struck a pose for the ladies.
I’m pretending like there is an option in my head. I’m a traditionalist and when I die at 120 will still be a traditionalist. There’s only one option. See you in the future.
Everyone loves a good Apocalypse and everyone seems to love John Martin’s work. I certainly did.
John Martin was hugely popular in the 19th Century and toured the world with his spectacular paintings of the end of the world and scenes from the bible of God smiting the shit out of everything. Obviously most of the paintings come from the Old Testament when God was going through his ‘angry phase’ and regularly destroyed cities and drowned the whole planet. Fortunately he chilled out a bit after that and started banging on about being meek and merciful as if all the mass destruction had never even happened.
Martin’s work focuses on these more exciting bits of the bible along with other scenes such as debauched feasts and epic battles. Man, the bible went downhill in the second half (apart from the epic destructive end scenes, but it was too little too late to save the book in my opinion).
At the time, plebeian Victorians flocked in their thousands to see the huge and exciting pieces of work. They were the blockbuster cinema equivalent of the time (it was boring back then, hence all the warfare and Empire building). Of course the intelligensia of the day slagged off Martin’s work as being distasteful and dubbed him the ‘people’s painter’. Intellectuals hate stuff that gets too popular and John Martin was the Michael Bay of his time. The main difference is that Martin is now seen as being ahead of his time, whereas I suspect Bay won’t be.
John Martin: Apocalypse
is well worth seeing. I loved it. There’s an added bonus near the end where a load of arty actors have done a voice over for a sort of mock up of the sensationalism that surrounded his tours. This consists of a triptych of pictures (three paintings in case you’re an oik) with lights and cool effects. The left picture is of heaven and has cherubs lolling around fatly and pointlessly. The centre has Jesus being judgemental and condemning half the population to eternal torture. The painting on the right is of hell and collapse and general coolness. This is accompanied by the actors recreating the sort of cinematic voice-over sensationalism that was used to publicise his work. ‘SEE THE DAMNED CONDEMNED TO THE FIERY PITS OF HELL’ sort of thing. It was brilliant.
As I said, I loved it and so did everyone I was with. It’s on at Tate Britain until mid-January, so you have plenty of time.
Bizarrely, here’s a trailer: