Author Archives: ward

Writing for the Internet

Writing for the internet

I feel like I have been neglecting this site a little bit of late. I feel bad about that. But, your honour, it isn’t my fault. In the past five days for example, I’ve worked 60 hours plus 10 hours commuting. That has pretty much been a constant for the last two months. I’m not complaining as I get paid by the hour and was able to buy an iPad which is fucking awesome. Unfortunately it hasn’t given me much time to write.

In addition to all this pointless toil (pointless in that I just provide shite for people to watch at home), I have started writing on the internet. I know you are thinking, ‘Hang on, but isn’t that what you are doing now? You handsome genius you.’ (Just guessing here obviously but I’m sure that’s what is going through your head.)

Well yes, but even though there are ads on this site, it is hardly making me lots of cash. See above – 60 hours TV work is what pays my bills. So I have decided to spend more time writing for sites that actually pay. One such site is Suite 101. It is a ‘content site’. There are lots of these around but Suite 101 seems fussier and you have to talk about what writing work you’ve done and submit a couple of samples. I assume that means more respect and fiscal reward but I doubt it.

Some of these content sites pay a small amount upfront. Also known as a ‘pittance’. About $15 or so. Others build on what you have written.

The amount you get for this latter type is also piss poor but the money you get grows with each piece you write. What’s more it keeps earning you money even if you stop. Unless the website goes under.

If you want to read some of the better articles on the site check out these three superb examples:

http://www.suite101.com/content/a-guide-to-pubs-in-south-end-green-hampstead-a277522

http://www.suite101.com/content/alternative-things-to-do-in-bangkok-a277101

http://www.suite101.com/content/gift-giving-in-thailand-a276529

These are coincidentally written by my own skilled hand but they are worth a look.

I’m not sure how long I will keep writing for the net. I will post an update here later. The advantage of writing for a website like Suite 101, is that your articles are readable for years and have the potential over time to make you more cash than something in print. On the minus side, I love having a portfolio of articles I have had published that I can touch and feel proud of. I know it’s vain but seeing your name and writing in a glossy mag is very satisfying. It’s even better when you open up a magazine and see your own face and bio on the writer’s page. As I said, it’s vain, but I write a blog so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The Word of Ward will keep going though. I like writing here. No style guides and I can swear. It’s really fucking liberating.

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iPad is now justified

Like the sad nerd that I am, I got filled with techno envy and impulse bought an iPad. I now need to justify this purchase by writing something on it. Plus, if I review it, then I can hopefully write it off against tax.
The review will follow at a later date when I have got to grips with the typing and interface and so forth.
First impressions though. Fuck is pretty. If I wasn’t me right now, I’d be looking over my shoulder riddled with pathetic jealousy. I was worried about typing on it but I only use four fingers when I type, so it seems surprisingly easy. I also bought a docking station that is a full-sized keyboard which is pretty god-damned awesome. Haven’t used it yet so I’m pre-assuming brilliance.
The first time I saw an iPad I thought, “What the fuck is the point of that? It looks like one of those futuristic clip-boards they use in Star Trek.” Now that I’ve had one for a whole 30 minutes I realized, “Wow! It’s like one of those awesome clip-boards from Star Trek.”
The big question is whether it will stand the test of time as a writing device. The even bigger question is whether my wife will kill me when I tell her I bought one.
Only time will tell. For now though, Trek on!

Kick-Ass review

Kick-Ass the movie

Yes, this is a review of the film Kick-ass. Although it is, what with this being my writing, an actual ass kicker of a review.

I’d been meaning to watch this film for ages as it poses a question I have often asked myself. ‘Why aren’t there any masked superheroes?’ Surely some martial art obsessed, do-good, eccentric, nutcase would have tried it by now. You read the odd story but nothing I would describe as cool.

The film follows a geeky teen called Dave Lizewski, who tries to answer this question. He gets a green wetsuit and becomes a character known as ‘Kick-Ass’. His first time out he gets the shit kicked out him and is then run over. He keeps plugging away it at and comes to the attention of two successful but unknown masked crime-fighters. Who are hard as hell. They set out to take down a gangster and mete out some righteous justice.

One thing that surprised me in this film was just how violent it was. Which is obviously a happy discovery for someone with a cinematic bloodlust such as myself. Legs get lopped and bullets blast through heads. If you are easily offended and don’t like bad language or blood, I politely suggest you fuck off and watch some other movie. Actually it isn’t that bad at all, I just wanted to swear and use some mild alliteration.

The highlights are Nicholas Cage and his young daughter played by Cloe Moretz – who are Big Daddy and Hit Girl. There’s also good music, a hot chick, lots of humour. And fights. If that doesn’t sound good to you, then you are probably more grown up than me. Check out ‘A Single Man’.

I was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed this film. It’s funny, violent and enjoys lots of references to geeky things like, predictably, comics.

Imagine a more fun version of Watchmen. Well worth watching.

Here’s the trailer:

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Giant Rats in Bradford

Ratzilla shot on a Bradford estate!

This is some scary assed stuff.

The Rats are coming!

Apparently some local yokels were out ‘ratting’ when a small group of huge rats ran out. The inbred humans were basically doing what I always suspected they do in that part of the world. When they aren’t having race riots, they hang around dump-sites and shoot rats with air-guns. Nice. Just a shame the rats didn’t turn on them and mete out some karma.

Experts say it might be a breed of super rat from South America. Why are all the creepy crawlies down there so damned big? If it is a rat and not a coypu or something, then it is pretty worrying. I wrote just the other day about how we needed something genuine and cool to worry about in Blighty and now it looks like it might happen. James Herbert predicted this years ago in his superb ‘Rats’ trilogy. If, like in Domain there is also a nuclear war, we’re doomed. God I love those books.

Anyway, if it is a mega-super-giga-killa-rat from South America then lock up your cats. Check out this slightly unpleasant photo:

Unhappy cat

It’s like Tom and Jerry after Jerry has eaten some radioactive cheese.

Just imagine if the rats breed and spread to areas where the locals don’t shoot rats for fun. Where I live for example. They say you are never more than 10 feet from a rat in London but at least they wouldn’t make off with your leg.

Here’s the news, where the killjoys show it could actually be some other big rodent. Sadly quite a cute one with little hands and twitchy noses.

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The Rosslyn Arms pub, Hampstead

Rosslyn ArmsThis pub is just down the hill from Hampstead Tube. Or just up the hill from Belsize Park tube. Take your pick. I think it is slightly nearer Hampstead though and you can walk down the hill rather than up. Which is a plus. Hampstead is always nice too and you might see a celeb.

This is a nice enough pub and one of the few places I regularly visit in Hampstead. The others are the Hollybush (which I will review one day) and the Flask. If it’s a nice day, which is rare is this soggy country, there are a couple of pleasant tables out front for superb people watching. There’s also a smallish beer garden out back which tends to be full of smokers. The main room is slightly odd in that it is split into two areas. The bar faces the window in a D shape. Behind the D is a seating area. Both areas have a slightly different feel to them but both are pleasant.

The main draw for me are the friendly staff and the food. Plus there’s a bus from in front of my house that stops in front of the pub 5 minutes later, but that might not be the case with everyone.

We normally go there on a Monday or Tuesday. For pizza. The pub has decided to not bother with a lot of different gastropub foodstuffs. They do primarily wraps and awesome pizzas. The wraps may be awesome too but I’ve never had one. On a Monday and Tuesday they do a two for one pizza deal, so you can get one of these bad boys for £5. Which is a bargain. The £20 I always subsequently spend on beer balances things out I guess.

Even without the pizzas, if you are in the neighbourhood, it’s a nice stop off. They have great music (Hendrix, Zeppelin), good beers (try the Sagres lager), friendly staff, and a unique chandelier made out of kitchenware. Enjoy.

(There’s also a Giraffe restaurant next door that does half price cocktails from 5-7pm Sunday to Thursday as well, if you want to start early. Just FYI.)

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Be afraid! Please…

I was wrong I’ll admit it. See how damned magnanimous I can be? Last year I wrote about how swine flu was being blown out of proportion by the media and compared it to the SARS, birdflu, and zombie outbreaks that were supposed to have happened in previous years. I followed this up with another piece when to everyone’s amazement we all survived another winter: Swine Flu – we might all live shock!

I then predicted that there would be yet another threat this year. Rabid bubonic goat flu or something. But it hasn’t happened. I was wrong. Obviously I’ve been wrong before – I initially thought a remake of Dawn of the Dead was a pointless idea for example – but it’s rare. Rare that I’ll admit it at least.

So what went wrong? It seems the press have realised that the country just won’t stand for another tale of impending disease. You can only cry wolf a few dozen times before we wise up. Instead the media is now bleating on about how they were mislead and that most of their sources were actually in league with the drug companies. It was WHO and the drug companies that exaggerated things apparently. As stated in the always reliable Daily Mail:

“Five of the 15 specialists who sat on the emergency committee had received funding from pharmaceutical giants, or were linked to them through their research.

The revelation will prompt speculation that the ‘pandemic’ was wildly overestimated and largely fuelled by the drugs industry who stood to benefit from the panic.” (Mail, 13/08/2010)

The nasty, evil, self serving drug companies made it seem worse than it was. Thank christ for papers like the Mail for letting us know this. Cynics might argue that the media prompted the government’s panic buying of flu with articles such as:

“Swine flu deaths in UK double as country now has third highest number of cases in the world.” This Daily Mail article recounted how deaths rocketed from 7 to 14 cases and warned that: “the NHS is not ready to deal with a swine flu epidemic because of ‘muddled’ emergency plans and time-wasting bureaucracy.” (Mail, 10/07/2009)

Or this:

Ok, maybe I’m picking on the Mail a bit, it’s just that it is so much fun. All newspapers have displayed some levels of hypocrisy.

But now we have nothing to fear! We need something. Global warming might wipe out our current civilisation… but not for ages. Obviously I am only including Britain in this, there are plenty of horrendous things happening all over the world already. But we need something in Britain. Something to sell the papers, something to keep us in line. What else is there?

Legal highs – fear for your kids! Meow meow killed two and is linked, possibly, to more! Oh no, hang on, the two in question didn’t actually take any. Still, thankfully that’s been banned. Now there’s the terrifying Ivory Wave, described as being “more dangerous than meow meow” (Metro, 17/08/10). ONE guy has died. This is sad for his family but on closer inspection there’s no need to worry too much yet. Ivory Wave is actually a bath salt. The guy who died might possibly have been killed by his 300 foot fall off a cliff rather than the drug. The lesson here is not to eat household products at random as they can be poisonous or send you a bit loopy.

Double dip recession! Read any reports on this and count how many times the word “possible” occurs. We’re hardly dying in the streets. Go to a third world country and get some perspective.

Paul the psychic octopus gets death threats! Okay, this is a bit scary – I can’t believe how many idiots populate the world.

I remain unafraid. I need the media to fill me with dread, I’m getting all complacent. Something cool. Who cares if it never actually happens, the British public demands something to be terrified by or we’ll run out of conversation in the pub. Here are some suggestions:



(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1302505/WHO-swine-flu-advisers-ties-drug-firms-Experts-linked-vaccine-producers.html#ixzz0wsOzU5g0)
(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1198613/Swine-flu-deaths-UK-double-country-highest-number-cases-world.html#ixzz0wsQrmyHL)

(http://www.metro.co.uk/news/838251-first-briton-dies-after-taking-new-legal-drug-ivory-wave)

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Word of Ward has been poorly!

Yes, my poor website has been ill. Like the egomaniac I am, I went to check my readership last week and found that it had dropped to 150 a day from its previous 300. I was distraught. I knew that because I’d been working lots, I hadn’t written much recently but still. Had my fickle readership found some other opinionated writer spewing forth his shallow observations that was even better than my humble self? Obviously not, what a ludicrous idea.

So what had happened? I went onto my website to check it was still the piece of unappreciated genius that I remembered and at first all seemed ok. Then I clicked on the blog section and was suddenly confronted with a huge red page that told me the site I was visiting had malware reported on it. After checking what malware was, I looked at my google analytics. It said that a particular website was known to have malware in it and the name of that site was somewhere on my site. Although it stated that there wasn’t actually any evil things on my site, the other one was a known bad boy.

What had happened was that I’d copied a picture from the aforementioned diseased site and by way of thanks I’d provided a link to them. I won’t be doing that again. I deleted the picture and the polite link and the digital doctor gave the Word of Ward the all clear. Hopefully my readership will flourish once more. I make almost £2 a month from this site and hope to get a meal or something out of it at the end of the year. Feel free to tell all your friends and colleagues about the site so that by Christmas I might be able to take my wife to somewhere nice. You know you want to.

Ironically, the picture and link that caused the red warning screen where in my post called ‘Freedom of speech’. I will henceforth stop providing links to other people’s websites and this site will remain clean and healthy. Balls to the internet community.

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The City and The City by China Mieville

The City and The CityThe City and The City is a unique and fascinating book. Plus it is a good one.

Set in the fictional Eastern European city of Besz it follows a policeman as he tries to work out who killed a young woman found on an estate. Having spent time in Eastern European cities, Mieville’s description of the run down city slowly emerging from the shadow of being Eastern Bloc, is spot on. Trams rattle, the internet is slow, there are lots of hookers and drinking and so on. As Inspect Borlu chases down his suspects the scope of what is going on expands and we soon realise that Nationalists, fascists, politicians and even worse may be involved.

So far, so fairly standard.

The City and The City is a book with a highly original setting, however. The clue is in the title. There is another city that Borlu visits called Ul Qoma. Ul Qoma happens to be in exactly the same place as the city Besz and has it’s own populace and fashions and phone numbers and brands of tea bag. Some parts of the city exist purely in Besz and others in Ul Qoma. Other parts are cross-hatched and citizens walk by one another or drive round each other’s traffic without acknowledging the other’s existence. They are all conditioned since birth to ‘unsee’ the other city and its denizens since birth. If they break this law and notice the buildings or populace or even worse, walk into sections that belong to the other city, they get in shit with a powerful entity/entities known as the Breach. The Breach makes people disappear or die or various other states and is a fast shadowy presence that pretty much kicks ass.

I know it sounds a bit weird but it actually works quite well and becomes almost believable. By the time that Borlu travels from Besz through the one permissable check-point to Ul Qoma and unconsciously notes that he is technically near his flat but is actually in a foreign city, you don’t bat an eyelid. Soon he becomes more involved in the Breach and the even more mysterious Orciny.

I really enjoyed this book but it didn’t quite do it for me. Apart from Borlu, all the characters seemed a bit flat. It is very well written but for reasons I can’t go into, the book didn’t quite go in the direction I wanted it to. The cities occupying the same place idea was actually pretty cool and well explained – to a point. I then found myself with a few questions that hadn’t been satisfactorily answered and I don’t think it was because Mieville was being purposefully enigmatic. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book but on reflection wanted something slightly different.

The City and The City has won numerous awards though, so it obviously completely satisfied some. It is good, atmospheric, clever, Kafka-esque, and so forth, but didn’t quite tick all my boxes. Maybe it will yours – there isn’t much out there like this, so you should give it a try.

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i Dosing

No one can accuse thewordofward of not having its finger on the pulse. You want zeitgeist? This is it baby!

i-Dosing is allegedly the new craze sweeping the easily swept youth of today. It works on a principal that uses ‘binaural beats’ where opposite ears hear differing sound waves. If I was to be cynical, I would call this fascinating aural phenomenon something whackier like ‘stereo’.

But apparently i-Dosing can get you off your tits with the effects replicating a variety of drugs. You can get stoned or coked-up but all legally and without coughing or numb gums. Essentially the audio waves put you into a trance state. This theory has apparently been used in clinical settings to research things like sleep disorders and has been around since its discovery in 1839 by German physicist Heinrich Wilhelm Dove.

To add even more credence to i-Dosing’s ability to ‘fuck you up’, it has already been the subject of some panicked warnings by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Maybe they are over-reacting a tad. I suspect no-one who’s panicking has based their fears on anything as daft as actual fact or evidence.

There are numerous i-Dose tracks available through the genius of the non-judgemental internet. In the name of science I thought I’d try out a couple that are on youtube. So you don’t have to. Nice of me isn’t? Putting my brain on the line for a website. I remember an awesome bit in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash when a guy in a virtual world (like Second Life) gets a scroll and when he reads it, it scrambles his brain and puts him in a coma. This could have happened to me.

In the name of science and journalism I have previously ‘experimented’ with weed and cocaine. The weed was in Amsterdam where it is decriminalised and therefore morally ok. The coke was at a party – I work in TV and it’s practically compulsory. If a policeman reads this then I should point out that I’m lying and you can’t prove nothing copper.

So what happened?

I can reveal that i-Dosing does fuck all. No drug induced state, no euphoria, nothing. I did experience intense moments of boredom and irritation though. I’m not sure what clinics have used this technique but I suspect they also use aromatherapy and healing crystals. This is clearly a lot of quite clever kids having a laugh at the establishment. It reminds me of when Chris Morris invented the drug ‘cake’ and persuaded celebrities and politicians to jump on the band-wagon. Morris even got them to say that ‘This is a made up drug’ that affects the part of the brain called ‘Shatner’s Bassoon’. I’ve said it hundreds of times on this site – the press loves a good scare story and won’t let contrary evidence or pesky facts get in the way of selling their product. Here’s the dozy media terrifying parents over nothing:

In case you don’t believe me I have included an i-Dose clip. I will not be held responsible if you have a good time or get a headache though. If, like with weed, it leads inevitably to you using crack, then it’s because you are an idiot not the ‘binaural beats’. I suspect this whole craze is made up and is some kind of viral hoax to be spread around the internet by drug addled writers like myself. If it doesn’t work, and it won’t because it’s someone having a laugh at the press, I can recommend Thai stick and Pink Floyd. Enjoy!

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Stop eating fish!

The Faroe Islands

I saw a documentary the other day called ‘The Cove’. It was a pretty awesome documentary about a secret bay where a load of Japanese slaughter thousands of dolphins for no real valid reason. At the start of the documentary, before you see the slaughter, the activists involved are a bit baffled as to why. Dolphin meat has toxic levels of mercury and don’t make good eating. They then discovered that the fisherman were passing off some dolphin meat as whale meat and people were unwittingly poisoning themselves. My first thought was that it sucks for the dolphins but at least they aren’t endangered like whales – if people ate what they thought was whale but were in fact ingesting toxic dolphin meat, then at least some good is coming out of all this. Lots of dead whale munchers. Then it turns out that kids were being fed this meat too and that’s just wrong. They should at least have the chance to grow up and make their own choices.

As you can see from the photo here though, the Japanese are not alone. Norweigans, Icelanders, and the Faroe Islanders kills whales.They justify it because these long finned pilot whales are on the slight increase and so therefore it’s ok to hack at them with choppers.

One of the reasons given by the Japanese in the documentary for killing whales and dolphins are that the animals in questions eat too much fish and

No more fish

stocks of fish are depleting. This is ridiculous. Numerous studies have shown that fish stocks are depleting because, and this seems fairly obvious, we are all eating too much fish. When you hunt a marine species to the point that less than 10% of its population survives, that species goes into collapse. It has been proven that if diversity drops, then so do fish yields. In about 40 years we may just run out. According to UN studies fish exports rose 55% from 2000 to 2006. Six of the top ten exporters were Western countries (http://www.fao.org/newsroom/common/ecg/1000850/en/fishtradefacts08b.pdf). Killing dolphins and whales won’t help fish recover, not eating them will.

Another argument put forward by all whaling countries, is that it is a way of life. Well, tough shit. Do something else. Unless you’re an idiot you can retrain. Plenty of jobs have gone – chimney sweeps, hansom cab drivers, coal miners, dodo handlers, British Airways staff (soon). Welcome to the modern world. Become a web designer or something. Thanks to the EU nearly all British fisherman have had to do this.

I’ve had friends that claim to be vegetarians but then it turns out they eat fish. It’s weird being lectured by someone with a plate of 30 dead whitebait in front of them that my eating a slice of cow is wrong. Also when people say they eat fish, they actually mean fish, crustaceans, molluscs, arthropods and so on. Basically they seem to hate eating anything that made the evolutionary crawl out of the sea. It’s ok for one person to eat 50 mussels but not 50 people to eat one cow. At least now you can point out that they are causing the death of huge amounts of species and the imminent collapse of marine ecologies, while you are eating an easily sustainable food-source or ‘sausage’. (Apologies to these friends as you no longer do this.)

So what should you eat? Obviously something has to die as we live on organic matter. You can eat vegetables and fruit. Woohoo!

I personally think it’s ok to eat cows, pigs, lambs, chickens, insects and swans. The first four can be humanely farmed and can happily trot round fields before you fire a bolt into their brains. Insects are in no danger of dying out and are pretty much the same as prawns. Bit weird though I’ll admit but huge amounts of the planet eat them. I ate a fried grasshopper in Thailand once and it was actually quite tasty although when I woke up with a hangover and found a leg stuck in my tooth, I almost threw up. Swans are ok to eat because they are pure evil. I hate swans.

Basically you should eat your greens and if you choose to eat meat, eat one that is easily sustainable. Preferably one that would die out pretty quickly if we stopped looked after them, like with cows.  I do think that the animals should be organic and free range though. Battery farming is cruel. This will also mean that meat will be more expensive, taste better, and will become more of treat. People shouldn’t expect a chicken for a fiver or meat with every meal.

So please my friends, don’t eat so much fish, campaign against whalers, stop the slaughter of dolphins. Also avoid tofu, it’s just weird.

Sources and pictures:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6108414.stm

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization http://www.fao.org/newsroom/common/ecg/1000850/en/fishtradefacts08b.pdf

http://www.laughparty.com/funnypicture/Eat-More-Chicken/300/

barcelonareview.com

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The Pope is coming!

Sorry for being controversial but the Pope is coming and it has annoyed me. If you are Catholic please ‘turn the other cheek’ and forgive me. There aren’t many left in Britain anyway, so I feel fairly safe.

I am an atheist and have nothing against those of you who wish to believe in all powerful magic being. Do what you want. The thing is, I am having to pay for this visit. The current amount is apparently £15 million quid. Christ knows why. That figure doesn’t even include security, so presumably it’s all going on bread, wine, incense, and gold trimmed pillows or something.

Why should I pay for some representative of a religion I’m not part of? Are people of other religions even more annoyed than me? Officially I’m a Jedi, so why doesn’t the government pay for a huge Star Wars convention for us? Fly in all the stars so we can shake hands with Yoda and get to know the guy when he’s not on screen. Catholics make up 8% of England’s population whereas Jedis make 1% so £2 million should be fair. As it stands, you have to pay to go to geeky conventions, why can’t this be the case with the Pope? Didn’t Henry VIII say “balls!” to the Catholic church and had us separated from the whole religious sycophancy? Why then are we paying for the head of a group we split with?

People bitch about the monarchy all the time but they live here and are our monarchy. They bring in tourism and help pay for themselves and do good things for charity. Besides I like having a Queen and don’t want to be a republic for the simple reason that it just isn’t as cool. The monarchy costs us a chocolate bar a year. Which is worth it in my opinion.

Ok, I’ll stop complaining. Don’t want a load of angry Catholics on my case.  They breed quite quick, so there can be a lot of them. Thankfully they have to be merciful and forgiving or they go to hell, so I should be ok. Apparently they’re already starting to queue up in places like Glasgow so hopefully they won’t read this. Even if they do – I’m chipping in for their benefit not mine, so chill out.

I would just like to have been asked if I wanted a snickers bar or a pope. I love snickers.

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Total Perspective Vortex

This is a really cool video that, like the Total Perspective Vortex, makes you feel like a utterly pointless speck of nothing.

In case you aren’t familiar with the Total Perspective Vortex, it appears in what must surely be one of the greatest series of books / greatest radio plays of all time – The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

The story is this:

This is just for our galaxy but you get the idea.A man called Trin Tragula gets pissed off with his wife always saying that he has no sense of perspective. So he builds the Total Perspective Vortex just to shut her up. Essentially, it is a device that shows you a virtual recreation of the entire universe, everything in all its glory and hugeness. Then it has a tiny arrow saying ‘You are here’. Trin Tragula’s wife goes inside and when she realises how utterly and completely insignificant she is, she goes mad. It then gets used as a torture device for shredding people’s minds. The only person who has ever survived this device is Zaphod Beeblebrox, who said that it just confirmed what he has always thought, “I’m a really great guy.”

Well the following video is a bit like that. Someone gave me a link to this, but unless my ego is so huge that I’m immune, it won’t send you mad. It will just make you feel very small. When it comes out in 3D or virtual reality, then be afraid.

Now go back to your pointless job and do some work.

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Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Can I get through a whole review of Pirate Latitudes without resorting to spouting pirate cliches? No shivver me timbers I can’t Jim lad. There, got that out of the way.

This is Michael Chrichton’s last ever book. Which is incredibly sad because he was a great author. Not one to settle on any genre, he has tackled dinosaur parks, the medical world, the aeroplane industry, the environment, vikings, pirates, and more. He is consistently fun to read. This book was found on his laptop after he died, which always makes me a bit wary. Was it finished properly? Why didn’t he send it out?

Pirate Latitudes is about pirates. Of the Caribbean. Had to word that carefully. It follows the adventures of the privateer Captain Charles Hunter as he has a series of what can only be described as ‘rip-roaring’ adventures. The core of the novel is his attack on a fortress called Matanceros in order to nick a Spanish treasure galleon moored under its protection. The fortress is predictably impregnable. Almost.

The book reads like a fun, shallow series of adventures. Every pirate adventure cliche is present, it is almost as if he wrote a list. Rough rogue Captain leads a plucky crew and does the following (tick the pirate story boxes): climbs cliffs, blows up strongholds, has duels, sleeps with whores, has sea battles, gets thrown in a dungeon, fights cannibals, is attacked by a kraken, and lots more. I didn’t give away any more of the plot than is on the cover. Plus it doesn’t matter. Think of this book as an old fashioned periodical adventure series, like Flash Gordon or the basis behind Indiana Jones. If you approach in that frame of mind you won’t be disappointed.

With the above mindset, you can forgive the cliches. And it is very cliched and formulaic. His crew, especially when he recruits them, is like those you would find in a cheesy film. The ones where a leader goes through a load of dossiers and finds one that can fly a helicopter and is good at knife-fighting, another that is a brilliant hacker, and so on. In this: the Jew, aka, Black Eye, is brilliant with explosives. Enders is a brilliant surgeon and one of the best helmsman around. Lazue is a feisty woman fighter who has brilliant eyesight. Bassa ‘The Moor’ is a huge strong black guy with no tongue. All a bit familiar but it really doesn’t matter in a story like this. Look at the Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Arc, or Brian Blessed in Flash Gordon, or anyone in a Bond film.

So is Pirate Latitudes any good? Yes. Not brilliant, but fun. It’s an action adventure about pirates for fuck’s sake, what were you expecting? It is harmless escapism, with lots of narrow escapes and cliffhangers. It is a bit cliched (a word I have used a lot in this review) but that is utterly irrelevant as the book is well-written in a page-turning thriller kind of way. If you want more realistic sea adventures – look at the superb Patrick O’Brian. If you want a rip-roaring pirate tale in the vein of Treasure Island, look no further. Me hearties.

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World Cup 2010

Pretty topical stuff here at the wordofword. Fairly surprising too, if you knew me. Generally speaking, I couldn’t give the tiniest shit about football. Especially the premiership where individual games cease to matter and it is all about ‘doing pretty well over a year’. I just don’t want to invest an hour and a half of my life on something that might end up nil-nil. Plus I can’t be bothered to pin my emotions onto something I have absolutely no control over for extended periods of time. A team can change its players/management/grounds and you are still supposed to care. Well I bloody don’t.

Except the World Cup. I like world cups – be they football or rugby or cricket or women’s beach volleyball. They are exciting and rare and there has to be an outcome.

I even feel part of the footie humour. Although the main joke going around is based on history and I am very passionate about history. I first heard this two days ago, which by internet standards makes it incredibly old. First I heard it on text, then twitter, then facebook, then email, and blah blah.

“The World Cup is turning out to be like World War Two. The French are out early, the Americans have turned up at the last minute, and we’re left to fight the Germans.” Hilarious isn’t it? Actually I thought it was mildly amusing the first time.

You have to feel sorry for the French. Well, not really but you can pretend. I could empathise when Captain Thierry Henry was summoned before President Sarkozy to explain why things went so badly. I had to do that at school all the time. Except the whole country didn’t know about it. It was probably blamed on the company he keeps in Gillette commercials – that Tiger Woods is always shagging around (allegedly) and even the usually flawless Federer had a match point against him at Wimbledon. The three of them clearly need separating. It is all a bit weird though.

Anyway. Football. Us versus the Germans. I always predict we’ll limp through the early rounds then get knocked out by Germany on penalties. I’m hoping that by writing this down, that won’t happen. Let’s see. If it works then this website will be little more than a list of predictions, none of which I really want to come true. (I predict Jessica Alba will be fully clothed on TV this year, sort of thing.)

I may be wrong about fans having an influence on the outcome of football. I say that as a cunning link to a load of gratuitous pictures I found enjoyable 4 years ago on the topic of why England didn’t win the World Cup in 2006. Sorry if it is a bit misogynous but we’re discussing sport yeah?

AND NOW THE VISUAL PUNCHLINE

Well, that’s me done talking about football for a while. I’ll write another post on it in four years. By then, I’ll probably have minions, but I promise one of the better ones will write it.

Thanks to http://treebeard31.wordpress.com for the pictures.

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The future of games

It’s been E3 recently. If you are unaware of what E3 is, you should have less of a life and embrace the beauty of gadgetry and gaming. It’s a huge Electronic Entertainment Expo (three Es get it?) in LA that attracts the likes of Paris Hilton, Redman, the god-like Stan Lee, and the still Vulcan-like Leonard Nimoy. If you think you are cooler than them, you are wrong. I’m not actually going to write about E3 (unless I get an invite to next year’s event) but will look at what new gizmos they revealed. This is the Expo where they do that kind of thing. You know, the geek on stage and the screaming nerds bellowing applause at every utterance. Like when Apple bring something out and people in the audience seem to have a mass sycophantic orgasm. Watch a video of one and see the over-reaction. It’s a bit spooky.

I work in TV and right now it is all about 3D. The new transmission suites I have seen have surround sound – something like 15.1 (15 speakers) it’s like being in an amphitheatre – and they have 3D. With the specs. When people in suits come to have a look it’s like a Roy Orbison convention.

At E3 the future all seems to be about leaping around your living room like an eager pillock having a happy spasm. This is all thanks to motion sensor stuff. Like with the Wii. Which is crap in my opinion. Sure it can be fun, for a bit, if you aren’t really appreciative of what modern games can be like. Games are evolving to the point where it is like an interactive movie with genuine characterization and plot twists. They are really coming to the fore as an alternative entertainment to sitting on your arse watching TV shows. The problem with all this motion stuff is that the games are rarely any good for more than 15 minutes and are purely on the market to meet the desires of families. Virtual tennis, virtual bowling, virtual baseball. These are all things you can quite easily do for real and are more fun in real life. I saw a game where you are throwing a virtual frisbee for fuck’s sake. If these aren’t banal enough, you get get some utterly lame attachments. Like a virtual knife that doesn’t actually cut food while you virtually cook.

This is fun apparently. Why not actually cook?

You rarely get to shoot a zombie in the head in real life, or drive a Ferrari through a crowded city at 150mph, or land on an alien planet, or whatever. This is what games should be! Escapist fun.

On the plus side, malcoordinated fools are having funny injuries thanks to the Wii:

Wii injuries

This is a trend that is set to continue. Playstation are bringing out the Playstation move, which looks a bit like a dildo blowing a bubble.

The big buzz at the moment is the new Xbox Kinect. The name is presumably a mix of connect and kinetic. Wow… clever. It looks pretty cool and maps your entire body in the way you see in movie effects when they make an actor dress in a bodysuit covered in ping-pong balls in front of a blue/green screen. This could make for some pretty great fighting games but I still suspect they’ll be pretty shit. Most games will be running or pointing or something.

Where's my groinal attachment?A few years ago I had the Playstation Eye. It was similar to the kinetic in that it mapped your body. You could pop virtual balloons and crap like that. Fun for a short while but then you want to sit back on the couch and kill hordes of enemies or creep terrified through a haunted space station, the way God intended.

This new technology, coupled with 3D, might be a bit more fun. I still remain doubtful however. It will obviously get better and better as the technology progresses but right now its in it’s gawky nerd teenage phase. Literally, when you see people in the unfashionable glasses flailing around with no semblance of coordination. When it becomes more advanced with groin attachments or improved 3D with no glasses, we’ll be rapidly approaching adulthood.

Then my friends, it will be holo-suites or a brain attachment that makes the experience indistinguishable from real life. That will be the future of games. This might turn gamers who don’t have much of a life into gamers with no real life at all. I suspect they won’t care.

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Another Maniac Killing Spree

So another nutjob has gone mental and killed a load of innocent people because of their massive inadequacies. This time it isn’t some whingeing goth teen or surviva-mental-ist, it’s a podgy middle aged cabbie. I’m not going to write much about this because absolutely everything that can be said already has been – a million times. The story of some inadequate going mental is not a new one but seems to be increasing over the last decade or so and it could be argued that it is being fuelled by the media. These lunatics are sad types and when they see the amount of publicity someone going psycho seems to get in the press, it may seem appealing.

A huge chunk of blame can be placed on the media and it is going to keep happening. If more people watched the following clip from Charlie Brooker’s brilliant newswipe, then more people might agree. It won’t make any difference to media coverage but when you watch it and see what is happening in the news right now, it should at least give you pause for thought. And pausing for thought is a good thing.

St Ives Guide

What with the economy being broken and credit crunching and blah blah tedium, more people are having what has annoyingly being termed a ‘staycation’. We thought we’d give one a go. I’ve always wanted to go to St Ives and Cornwall in general. It was also my wife’s birthday. I knew there was both art and pubs there, so we’d both be happy.

The trip from London to St Erth (where we were supposed to change trains) took five and a half hours. Which is a bloody long time for a train. It’s still better than a motorway though ,as you get to see lots of places and lovely countryside and can go to the toilet without having to stop. Bring a book. And a laptop with movies. And an mp3 player.

I thought that St Erth might be a large interchange station but it wasn’t. It was tiny. What was also tiny was the single carriage train that arrived to take us to St Ives. Quaint or cute would be apt words here. We all boarded and acted like excited school kids on a trip to the seaside in Victorian Britain. We also got to see the lovely Carbis Bay and some other appealing places en route.

Carbis Bay

Finally, after a quarter of an hour, our quirky little train arrived.

The huge train.

When you first get off the train and walk down the road a little bit, you get your first proper look at St Ives. And my word, is it pretty. Although it started as a genuine fishing village, it could easily have been designed just to look picturesque and appeal to stupid gawking tourists from places like London. Which is good for St Ives as our fishing industry has been screwed.

As we walked down the high street on the way to the waterfront and our apartment, we gawked at all the art galleries and cafes and restaurants. It seemed like an ideal place to chill out for a week. The two busiest streets are the waterfront, called the Wharf Road, and a cobbled street that runs parallel to this just a bit inland, called Fore street. Which happily was where we were staying. Here’s a handy map so I don’t have to get all descriptive.

We found our apartment, which I was happy to note was practically opposite two pubs. We walked in and got a glimpse of the view. We were supposed to have views of the bay but I was not expecting it to be so bloody fantastic. Have an envious look:

Check out the view!It was a glorious sunny day and we thought we’d celebrate our arrival with a drink. We got to the waterfront and found a nice bar called Hub and because we were in the West Country opted for cider. A pint of Rattlesnake cider each to be precise. This proved such a good idea, we had another. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone under 6 foot 1 and under 185 pounds who doesn’t drink too much already. Or to put it another way, I felt the effects immediately but was ok. My wife felt the effects slightly more.

We soon switched to lager and G&Ts and decided we should get some food. We were tired and weren’t feeling that adventurous so went went to a place that looks like the sort of trendyish bar that can be found everywhere and was possibly part of a chain. It was called the Firehouse Bar and Grill. Surprisingly, my pizza was great and Nim’s seafood linguine was superb. Truly superb. It could have been because we were hungry and a bit drunk but who cares.

The next day we awoke refreshed and invigorated. The view was fantastic but unfortunately the weather had turned cold and grey and windy. Here is a warning to everyone: drizzle and wind are the default settings for Cornish weather. They might lay on some sun when you arrive but then they switch back to grey once you are settled in. No matter. We are hardy city folk and could take whatever was thrown at us.

As it was our first day we followed the local law and had a pasty for breakfast. I have to say I was disappointed with my first true Cornish pasty. It was exactly the same as the West Cornish pasty shops you get in major train stations in London. Fair play to the West Cornish pasty shops as they have obviously brought the genuine article to London, but it then means you have no real baked treats to look forward to when you get to the West Country itself. Which is a shame.  There now follows a brief description of places we went to in case you fancy going there yourself.

Things to do and see in St Ives.

Tate St IvesFollowing the second law of St Ives, we went to Tate gallery. It’s pretty cool to have your own Tate. This one was in a really nice building but I was mildly miffed by the fact that I had to pay. Cornish people got in for free (although this may have been a promotion). Yet Cornish people can come to London and see our two Tates, which are much bigger and better, for free.  Anyway, the Tate was good and full of art. It really is a must see if you are in St Ives, even if you’re a nasty non-Cornwallian. It’s a great building but obviously not as cool as Tate Modern.

As we were on a cultural roll, we then visited the Hepworth museum which comprised of a museum, (hence the moniker,) and a beautiful garden. And they were beautiful even though we were still experiencing the aforementioned shit weather.  Barbara Hepworth was a legendary sculptress that even I had heard of. It was only after the exhibition that I realised I had seen two of her pieces of already – one on John Lewis in London, and the other outside the UN building in New York.

In fact, the gardens were so pretty Nim went back with a camera a few days later as the sun briefly appeared. Here’s the result:

Apart from through shop windows, these were the only galleries we actually visited. All the others were on the rather predictable theme of ‘Paintings of  St Ives’. Which some might argue as not being that surprising but I personally think it is a shame. Lots of artists have been attracted to St Ives over the years and artist colonies have formed there. These included people like Hepworth and Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo. And lots of others I have barely heard of that where very successful. They found St Ives to be a place of inspiration but their work wasn’t of St Ives. This seems to have changed with the vast majority of paintings you’ll see being various different ways of representing the bay. Ad nauseam. Maybe I’m being unfair as we just looked through the windows.

Other things worth seeing or doing in the immediate hood:

Climb up the hill at the end of the peninsula between the main harbour and Porthmeor beach. Check out the views and take thousands of similar photos.

Porthmeor beach

Walk down to Porthmeor beach and have a delightful walk while staring at surfers. Or you could even learn to surf here, it’s the best beach. It might be chilly though – you are still in Blighty after all.

Behind Porthmeor beach is the local cemetary which is pretty fascinating in a morbid and occasionally touching way. There are lots of moving memorials to locals lost at sea. All on a hill overlooking the ocean.

Just wander around generally going ‘Ohh’ and ‘ahh’ and generally annoy the locals by walking slowly and blocking the roads. That’s what a lot of tourists seemed to be doing anyway. Why not join them?

Or alternatively, once you’ve done the above, you could go on a lovely day trip.

There are two trips that seem popular, so like sheep we did them as well. You may have noticed if you read this website regularly that there has been the odd Cornish day-trip and restaurant review recently. It was all a cunning plan for this guide. Otherwise this entry would be truly epic. Now I can just link. I’m not just an incredibly handsome face you know.

First recommended trip:

The Eden Project near St Austell. The possible future of mankind! Massive bio-domes full of jungles and rare plants. Plus restaurants…

Second recommended trip:

Land’s End. The end of Britain! Spectacular cliffs and ocean views. If you squint really hard you can see America.

If you can’t be bothered to leave the warm drizzly heart of St Ives, then you can spend your time eating and drinking. Which is pretty awesome too.

PUBS

We’re not alcoholics and were only there for a limited time. Consequently, we only went to four pubs regularly.

The Golden Lion – seemed to be the pub with the most locals in it. All of whom were very friendly. There’s a room out the back with a pool table in as well, which is a bonus.

The Castle Inn and the Union Inn. These two pubs were practically opposite the entrance to our apartment. They are about 5 seconds walk from each other and both were great pubs. We saw live music in one and attended a real ale festival in another. I just can’t remember which one was which.

The Sloop. This pub is on the waterfront and consequently was quite busy. It has low ceilings, cute little booths, and a good fish pie.

We liked all these pubs but probably spent the most time in the Castle and Union Inns. I also chatted to both managers and they were extremely friendly.

RESTAURANTS

We went to a lot of these. You have to as a human or you die. There are some superb restaurants in St Ives and rather predictably we ate a shit-load of seafood. They can be very pricey though and you need to book ahead. If it is July or August, I suspect you should book about a year in advance. Here are the favourites, which I have already written about:

The Loft. Very nice place. Also has a roof terrace if you happen to be in St Ives on one of its rare nice days.

The Saltwater Cafe. Possibly our favourite place. Very, very small with a family feel. Book now for 2015!

The Mermaid. Charming little place with eclectic stuff all over the walls.

So there you. A St Ives guide in a finely crafted nutshell. I hope you find it useful if you go there. As staycations go, it is a great place. I would imagine it might be a bit of a nightmare mid-summer but it is ever so quaint. Buy an umbrella and give it a visit.

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Land’s End, Cornwall

It’s the End of The World as we know it. Well the end of England anyway. The land part. Ok, I’ll stop, this is getting a bit tortured.

In case you didn’t know, Land’s End is at Britain’s most south westerly point. Not including islands we have in the Atlantic, obviously. If you are visiting Cornwall then Land’s End is probably on your itinerary already. So what is actually there? How should you get there?

I’ll answer the second question first. We got a bus from St Ives to Penzance and then another bus. Penzance is nothing spectacular really. It just has a name made romantic by its association with pirates. We missed all the pirates but did manage to see a Greggs bakers, a McDonalds, and a Weatherspoon pub, so if you like them you should check it out. For some reason it reminded me of Colchester except Penzance has the sea whereas Colchester has a castle. Otherwise they are the same. I apologise to both Penzance and Colchester for this comparison.

If you take the bus you can take in some lovely scenery and who doesn’t love lovely scenery? Also it was the only way to do it without a car. Fortunately this worked in our favour as we would otherwise have missed the best bit.

After about 40 minutes, our bus drove down a steep road and lo! a huge beach, cliffs, the ocean. It was truly breathtaking. Assuming we had arrived, we started to disembark when the very friendly driver stopped us. Somehow he twigged we weren’t locals and informed us that we had arrived at a place called Sennen Bay. He then informed us that we could walk from the bay to Land’s End. The beach was stunning so we got off. Photos can’t really to credit to the place but here goes. The tiny dot is a person – the beach was huge.

From Sennen Bay to Land’s End is about a mile. Or 30 minutes or so given that you are walking beside cliffs and it can be unbelievably windy. I was getting the impression that Cornwall was permanently the brunt of Atlantic winds and walking along the cliffs toward Land’s End certainly bore this theory out. I had experienced wind like this before but it had been in Hong Kong as a typhoon hit, not in England on the edge of a cliff.  My wife, who weighs almost half what I do, clung to me almost the entire way in case she was blown off.

Cliffs near Land's EndI would highly, highly recommend getting to Land’s End by this method. Partly because once you get there you feel as if you have achieved something and seen some stunning coastline, but mostly because you will feel a bit let down otherwise – there’s not really a lot there when you arrive. There’s the usual sign you get in places like this that marks your destination, points to other places, and provides a place to have your photo taken.

30th March is that way apparently

Apart from this sign there is a pub/coffee shop sort of place where you can have cheesy chip and a pint. It’s nice enough but could have been a lot better. But why should it try really? It’s not going to have regulars, it’s just going to be full of wind-swept tourists who want a coffee after having had their photo taken. So it is pleasant enough.

Behind this, is a small but slightly complex. There is a shopping mall, and a couple of bizarre entertainment ‘rides’? ‘Experiences’? Whatever they are they were weird and felt out of place.

For example:

Pirates? Ok, I guess.

Ok, pirates. The sea. But Doctor Who. Er...Doctor Who? This complex was small so I assume these ‘whatever-they-are’ thingies are going to be pretty crap. It all just seemed a bit weird and a cheap way to cash in on tourists. ‘Ahhh,’ you might be thinking, ‘the place is probably heaving with tourists in August.’ Smug bastard that you are. If that is the case then why is the complex so small?

Also, for a tourist heavy location, there is the whole issue of the bus stop…

Assuming that there must be lots of transport to and from one of Britain’s more famous locations we were rather surprised that we couldn’t see any. We asked in the tourist office but the dumpy sack of a lady who worked there was really unhelpful and seemed to hate us. ‘There’s a bus over there,’ she waved vaguely with her pie-like hands. If you loathe outsiders, why work in a tourist office? You can probably guess I didn’t like her much. Maybe her dog had just died or something.

Eventually we found the bus stop after a bit of a walk. Like a lot of places we visited in Cornwall, it was hard to find and we had to wait ages for a bus. As a city person, I found this frustrating and annoying. Land’s End is a popular place but I guess you are supposed to drive.  There was one bus an hour. Here is a picture of it:

Bus stop. See it?

The bus stop is near the white house. It took five minutes to get to this point.

I’ll stop bitching. It just annoys me when lots of things are set up to get money from tourists but there’s no public transport. It was a superb day and I just thought it was a shame. Once on the bus, the journey back was a breeze.

So… to conclude.

Go to Sennen Bay and walk to Land’s End. You’ll see some gorgeous Cornish coastline, which is what you’re there for after all. It is truly a beautiful spot and the walk is a spectacular and rewarding one. You’ll get a year’s worth of healthy fresh air in a wonderful half hour. Then have a coffee. Then drive home. Enjoy.

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The situation in Thailand

I was a bit worried about commenting on the situation in Thailand, in particular Bangkok. Although I lived there for two years and worked as a journalist, I mainly did lifestyle pieces, interviews, and reviews. Shallow stuff to be precise.

So I got in an expert. Mrs Wordofward to be precise. Here is what she has to say on the matter:
“The class clash is a big problem in Thailand, though it’s not the problem that ignited this protest. Nonetheless, it has become an effective tool used by the protest leaders. You cannot blame people who have been promised a better life and pursue any chance they have to get this. But frankly, it’s hard to see how this protest is going to benefit the poor, rather than the specific group of people. No one can deny that the class gap is still big in Thailand and people suffer from this. Although, this problem is not easily fixed by giving villages cash, but it needs a long term solution of providing an education and opportunity. There’s no easy way out.

The clash is not a clash between the government and innocent people. There’s a violent group amongst the protestors who cause problems for people that are not involved, burning their stores and stealing things. This is the group that the government, with support from people in Bangkok, is trying to crack down on.

The real problem is too complex and is not as dramatic or romantic as the problem of ‘people against the government’ which fits the western news style in portraying a third world country.

Most Thais are now trying to restore the country. The other day, around 5000 people got together to clean Bangkok. These are people that are not on any side. They just want peace and a more effective solution toward the country’s problem. For me this group of people represent quite a big part of the whole population.”

So there you go. Hope you found it helpful. The press here has been shocking.

Liquid Mountaineering

Well, as promised, here are some guys walking on water. Well, running to be precise. This is an awesome vid.

How cool is that? Apparently it’s a new craze that is sweeping the world as we speak. Go and try it for yourself.

It is not a clever viral marketing video at all. You just have to believe.

Now go buy some shoes.