Tag Archives: Blog

Moving abroad – the final countdown

Well, it’s all happening here at the Word of Ward. In 10 days from now, on the 18th, I am undergoing a continent/country/career/lifestyle change. I am mentioning this not to gloat but just explain why blog entries maybe be a bit more haphazard over the next couple of weeks. And also to gloat. I plan to quit my half writer, half TV existence and become pure writer. There is a lot of opportunity out there on the interweb for someone who can vaguely string a sentence together, so it seems like a fun experiment to try and make a living doing that.

Writing on a beach. That's the dream.

Writing on a beach. That’s the dream.

Obviously the best place to try such an experiment is in a hot country with nice beaches,  and cheaper beer. All you need is an internet connection. I intend to put a lot more hours into my websites as well because the pittance I make from them cover the costs of hosting but are hardly helping toward my cocktail on a beach fund. I also intend to release more fiction on kindle and enter stories in competitions and magazines. And of course, there is always the freelance journalism which pays the bills and can be a lot of fun – but can also be quite restricting and frustrating.

So bear with me. I am still here. And soon I will be there.

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How often should you blog?

Write more!

Write more!

This has been a question that has been bugging me for literally 10-15 minutes. Maybe even slightly longer.

I consulted the all-knowing internet and discovered to my horror that opinions were divided on the matter. Some said several short posts a day, others a longer post once a week or two. The divergence ended there thankfully, this wasn’t a youtube comments section or anything.

I have read a few blogs that has one plucky blogger posting several times a day and it ends up feeling like a fairly dull diary or even worse – a twitter feed by a bored narcissist. Blogging is pretty narcissistic as it is (I also work as a journalist so my opinions count more, it’s official) so I wanted to avoid that.

On the other hand, anything more than a 10 day gap between entries ends up with a noticeable dip in readership.

As you probably know if you read this fantastic site regularly I tend to write slightly longer blog entries every five to ten days or so. This is mostly because I am busy with other stupid jobs/life commitments/exciting social events but also because I am lazy and overly verbose without an editor. Plus, this has always been a hobby.

One thing that most bloggers do seem to agree on is that inconsistency is bad. My website has slowly climbed to about 5000 hits a day over a period of years. Which is ok but not great. I want great. So I have decided to take the whole thing a lot more seriously and will henceforth try and be more regular. I am going to aim for twice a week. I will let you know how that affects things re readership in case you are a fellow blogger and are curious about this sort of thing. Which, if you are reading this, you probably are. (Apologies to everyone else, this may have been dull.)

This bound-to-be life changing decision will take effect in the middle of October. I am currently on holiday in Germany drinking litres of beer in preparation. You can’t blog during Octoberfest my friends.

 

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Drenched Britain struggles through drought

I’m currently in the middle of two 80 hour weeks of mostly nightshifts. Normally this would suck as I have to pass lots of happy people drinking outside pubs on my way to work and when I arrive I am filled with envy and hatred for my fellow man. (I pass seven pubs between my house and the station, my area is awesome.) But recently it has been pissing it down every day so I might as well get to my office and get paid to watch TV while drinking free coffee.

In case you didn’t know Britain is currently soaked and damp. It’s pretty famous for the rain at the best of times and the country is truly living up to its reputation. It has apparently been the wettest April on record. There have been well over 100 flood warnings and the news is gleefully full of images of cars driving through deep puddles and people huddled under umbrellas. According to this report there has been a month’s rain in four days:
http://youtu.be/OzZz1frzEsQ
So far you are probably thinking, ‘So what. You’re British. You chose to live there. Wet weather is hardly news.’ Well you are right. A bit smug and I probably wouldn’t want to hang around with you, but yes, good point.

The reason I am writing this is because we are also officially in a drought. Which I find weird. I like weird so thought I would write/pointlessly complain about it. There have been excuses and tedious people blathering on about reservoirs and thirsty plants but it all seems like bollocks to me. I read that there is a massive problem with the pipes. Apparently they are leaking and lose 1000s of litres of water every day. This seems more plausible than a thirsty tree. If I had waterproofed my house and removed the ceiling I could easily fill it up so why aren’t our reservoirs doing the same? (It’s possible that wasn’t a scientifically accurate comparison.)

What is my point? Do I have a journalist angle? Nope. I’m British (mostly-ish) and we love to bitch about the weather. Consequently it was hard to resist a whinge about the worst drought in decades while having one of the wettest Aprils on record. It’s a genetic thing. Bloody weather.

 

 

Too much TV causes Death!

I read an alarming article the other day. According to a recent study by the University of Queensland, every hour spent watching TV reduces a viewer’s life expectancy by 22 minutes. I then read another comment in the paper that 6 hours of TV a day massively reduces lifespan. It’s possible that the latter read the former…

My desk

When I’m not living in Asia working as a brilliant yet shallow journalist, I am in London working in the incredibly shallow TV industry. What’s worse, is that my job consists of being the final person to check the TV channels before they are beamed to your lovely houses. I literally watch TV for a living. I describe it here: My Futuristic Job.

It is alarming when I consider that I am, for example, doing a 60 hour week right now. That means 22 hours less life just this week. The only time at work when I’m not staring at a screen is when I’m having a cigarette break which cuts off  even more lifetime. I’m fucking doomed! I’ve worked in TV for over 20 years. If you then factor in my time-off spent watching TV or playing games or staring at a computer monitor and you can only come to the conclusion that I’m remarkable for still being able to walk around.

Another few hours and this is me.

Fortunately this is more to do with the associated slobby lifestyle rather than the number of screens you watch or the actual number of hours spent watching them. If you eat a salad and have the occasional walk, you’ll be fine. I’m sure you are aware of that or you wouldn’t have read this far on your lifesucking monitor and would have run screaming for the park. Presumably the people who did the study were aware of that too as they sat hunched over laptop screens staring at pointless data and coming to nonsensical conclusions.

So what’s my point? My point here is that these sorts of studies are pointless. Saying that the sort of person who watches TV is likely to eat more shite and excercise less and is therefore likely to die younger is stupid. Sure some people will barely move for days and live off butter but their life expectancy does not equate to all TV viewers. If some people get drunk, go home and beat up their partners, you shouldn’t conclude that based on statistics, drinking alcohol leads to a 10% increased chance you will hit your wife. Some people are just wife-beating dicks who can’t hold their liquor.

I don’t know why reading this study pissed me off so much. It could be the panic it caused me when I read the headline while at work watching TV. As it happens, I do think people watch too much TV but the main damage done is to their spelling and literacy. (In case you read my site regularly, there is a difference between a typo and an inability to tell the difference between your and you’re, so get off my case). Balance your entertainment. This is purely about being sedentary and having a bad diet. Lazy arsed researchers have just gone for an easy target – TV. Their conclusions could just as easily be that reading a book for an hour takes 22 minutes off your life. Or every hour working in an office or writing life altering philosophy. Or even researching stuff.  

So feel free to watch TV. Just eat a carrot for every hour that goes by. Read books and go for a walk. Perhaps to the pub for a lovely iron-rich Guinness. Just ignore time wasting studies that foresee your death. Certainly don’t read these studies while eating pies on your couch or you’re going to die really soon.

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The Wimbledon Weather effect

It’s the first day of summer and the longest day of the year today. Shame it’s so shite outside. As I look out the window of my flat at all the poor saps huddled against the wind and drizzle, it’s mildly depressing to think that it is usually a lot worse for the rest of the year. I blame Wimbledon. I read somewhere, (in a SCIENCE magazine so you can’t dispute it – or maybe it was on QI), that weather patterns are affected by the mass movements of people. Vast amounts of people commuting during the week somehow affects the weather with the result that there’s an increased chance of rain at the weekend.

Glorious WimbledonIgnoring the fact that it is a Tuesday and has just rained, this seems pretty convincing. Maybe Wimbledon causes a similar effect. For two weeks, slightly demented people descend on Wimbledon and act slightly zany in hats and face paint and so on. Or maybe the weather is influenced by all the hopes and dreams of Britain willing that this year a British player will win. (Ten years ago we were hoping an Englishman would win, but now it’s a Scot we are all British. Hurrah for Britain!) Our hopes get up due to initial success and this collective intake of breath sucks in cloud from the Atlantic. Then, when the British player is knocked out near the end the weather clears up allowing some Europeans to fight for the title. The same happens with the World Cup every year.

It’s a tradition that nearly always occurs. Champagne, strawberries, rain interruptions and disappointment. Enjoy.

 

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Apple worship

Bow before Apple!

I saw a cool documentary the other day, called ‘Secrets of the Superbrands’ on good old BBC. It was actually pretty interesting given that I generally don’t care about brand names. Perhaps it was because the journalist, the slightly goofy looking Alex Riley, doesn’t care about brands either. I watched it though, because this episode was about technology and I care deeply about lovely, lovely gadgets.

There was one segment on Apple that I genuinely found a bit scary. It was at the opening of one of their shops. This particular one was the store in Covent Garden. Now keep in mind that it is just a shop that sells Apple stuff. That’s all. Yet people had flown in from all over the world and queued up to 24 hours just to be at the opening. They didn’t get anything, they just wanted to be there. Then the staff start cheering and whooping and hi-5ing all over the place and everyone seems to get into a religious frenzy. It really is like a weird cult. One of the happy ones obviously, not a kill yourself and be rescued by aliens type cult. It was pretty weird and quite frankly, very un-British.

I should state at this point that I have nothing against Apple at all. I have both an iPhone and an iPad and love them dearly. If a better phone came along though, I would buy that. I bought the iPad because I wanted something that was light, could easily fit in my bag, had internet connectivity everywhere, and a battery life of 10 hours. If a better device came along, I would buy that instead. I hate netbooks though, they are hard to write on.

When this laptop (the one I’m on right now) dies, I will very probably buy an iBook.  The problem I have with the Apple brand is its fanboy base of smug Mac lovers. I am sure it is a better computer but there is no need to be that into it. I don’t mind people who like Macs because ‘they just work’ or ‘have always used them’ or need them because they are good for graphics or editing. I have heard they are a joy to write on too. What I don’t like are people who love all things Apple and look down on you with disgust or pity for having a PC. The reason I have always had windows-based PCs is because you get higher specs for the same money. More bang for your buck. I also used to play a lot of games and games on a Mac are shit. There are hardly any, presumably because Mac owners are doing such important things.

I always liked the Charlie Brooker analogy when he said that Macs were like the Imperial Destroyers in Star Wars whereas Windows PCs were like the Millenium Falcon. You can just add things and random bits to PCs and they sort of work if you bang them occasionally. Thing is I just want a laptop for writing or watching films or doing stuff on the internet. The days of opening up the system and adding new cards and memory are done. I guess I have joined the Empire. I just don’t want to be brainwashed by it.

Here is the first part of the documentary. Watch it all or skip to about 5:30. Watch it and be afraid.
http://youtu.be/h0dUuHo58UE

 

 

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Aliens please abduct me!

This website now gets over 100,000 hits a month. (I know! Why? I just talk shit.) That still makes me a speck on the arse of the interweb, but it’s a start. If aliens are monitoring our planet, it is just possible that some low level alien civil servant might just read this. If you are reading this Zarg, I henceforth volunteer to be taken aboard your spaceship as an ambassador for my planet. It is an ancient Earth tradition that you get to go first if you ask first. Please respect this and forward it on to your Emperor or Galactic equivalent.

I firmly believe aliens are out there. The Universe is massive and there are a quintogigllion stars and even more planets. Surely only Creationists and medieval Catholics can manage to be blinkered enough to think there is just us. That God created all those stars and galaxies just a bit of scenery to make night-time more fun and provide work for astrologers. Conversely though, I don’t believe in UFOs. Or at least the ones that yokels glimpse or that crash near American experimental airforce bases.

Why do I, allegedly one of the greaters thinkers of the 21st century (self alleged, granted), think this?

UFO crashes

The number of planes in the air, right now, is erm a lot. Famously, they are one of the safest means of travel. They get safer each day. It would be logical to assume aliens are even more advanced than us. So if you just work out the percentages and assume that aliens have crashed into the planet, even if just once a decade, there must be billions of the bastards up there. (Sorry Zarg.) It just isn’t likely.

Crop circles, cow slicing, UFOs generally.

Crop Circle Proof

Just because something can’t be explained, doesn’t mean we should make something up and present it as fact. Unless you are an idiot. In which case go ahead and I will snigger at you in a really patronizing way. People have recreated crop circles, the cow thing can be explained, and UFOs are explained 99% of the time. The final 1% isn’t proof of anything. It could just as easily be a flock of ghosts or some flying glow-yetis or a round God in a magic chair. If a UFO wants to be seen, I’m sure they’d just appear. If they want to be hidden, they could (even we have that technology).

Alien abduction

Lots of cultures throughout history have myths of being held down and probed. Some might like the idea but most didn’t. It olden days in Europe (the period of Yore), people reported waking up, being unable to move and witnessed demons sitting on their chests and doing unpleasant things to them. After that, it was common for people to be held in place by witches’ magic while the witches likewise probed and fiddled. From the 1950s onward, it has been aliens. Specifically the ‘Greys’, who were coincidentally a popular alien design in Scifi movies created by people who just made shit up. The bulbous head and big eyes can actually be traced back to people like H.G. Wells and several Astounding Tales stories. None of the writers claimed to have been abducted.

The vast majority of abductions happen at night and there is ridiculous amounts of evidence pointing to sleep paralysis. Sorry but there you go. As for people ‘losing time’ but later remembering stuff… Really? Aliens abduct someone but can’t quite blank memories. Then they just do it again and again? Just how much can you learn from ‘probing’ anyway? 50 years they’ve been doing this. The only logical explanation is that it is either sleep paralysis or aliens have a weird sense of fun.

Please Zarg!

So that is why I don’t think aliens have interacted with us. I am convinced of my own logic but then I am very self obsessed and sure of myself. If you disagree based on solid evidence then fair play to you. I’m sure you have valid, well researched reasons from a variety of sources on both sides in order to reach your conclusion. If you also believe there is a conspiracy about the moon landings, JFK and 9/11 then you have my pity. You actually believe in Conspiracy Theories rather than a particular topic and are probably single or feel like you have lost control of your life a little bit. (It’s a psychological thing apparently.)

It is possible that they are monitoring us. It is what we would do in reverse. Our own satellites can watch us already, I’m sure aliens could do the same. If so, feel free to drop me a line.

Anyway, feel free to complain. With a bit of luck, my wife and I will be on a Galactic tour and will get back to you shortly.

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The future of storytelling

Do you like movies? Do you consider yourself to be open minded? If yes, watch these trailers I implore you. A new storytelling medium has arrived and only a complete dullard thicko luddite could not view these and grudgingly admit that a new way for telling a ripping tale has arrived. If you dismiss these out of hand because you they are ‘just games’ then you don’t deserve to be on the internet. Go read a parchment and bore people with how cultured you apparently are. (You aren’t, you are pretentious and probably read magazines more than books but keep that a secret.) These will not replace books or films but are an additional and different way of presenting a story and are just as valid.

I saw a trailer for the new Deus Ex game in December and almost had a ‘crisis’. I have only just calmed down. For those of you that don’t like computer games but think that movies are a good way to tell a story then you are missing out. Games have become an incredible new medium for telling a good tale. They often use famous actors, characterisation can be achieved just as effectively, and the narrative can twist as much as any convoluted twisty thriller. If there’s a good director, then the visuals can be just as pant wettingly compelling as any film. Particularly as we now live in an era of powerful new consoles and  life affirmingly large high-def TVs. The only difference is that you aren’t a passive sap – you actively have a stake in what is going on which leads to you feeling more involved. Especially when your controller shakes when you get shot in the face.  

So get over yourself. The next generation of entertainment and storytelling is here. Watch these three great examples of what can be achieved in a narrative sense and if you don’t they look at least slightly intriguing, then you are dead inside. You might as well watch Eastenders, read the Daily Mail and drink high strength lager while waiting for death. The review for the superb Uncharted 2 is here: http://thewordofward.co.uk/?p=634. The game plays like an interactive Indiana Jones film. With chapters and hot women and magic stones and chases and everything. It’s fucking awesome. Here’s the trailer:

The next trailer for a game set in L.A. in the gritty ‘noir’ period full of sexy dames and violent but well dressed men in hats. Rather aptly, it is called L.A. Noir and shows a completely different type of tale to that found in Uncharted. Although you still get to shoot people.

The final trailer in this trio of awesomeness is Deus Ex: Human Evolution. Deus Ex hasn’t come out yet so it may be crap. In its favour is the fact that it is the third game in the franchise and the first two were genuis and no part 3 of anything has ever been bad. (Don’t question that statement too closely, it may be flawed.) Anyway, check out the trailer. It’s like Bladerunner crossed with the news.

Ok I’m done. I will stop repeating myself. I find myself increasingly enjoying games as my disappointment with most new films increases. Next week: a review of Transformers 2. Just kidding.

Riots in London

Two days ago I narrowly missed a load of riots in good old London. In the morning I had to get a visa for my upcoming trip to Thailand. I then got the tube to Leicester Square and wandered into Soho for a bit of lunch at Wahaca (which was awesome if you are interested). I then meandered around Soho before going to my eye laser people on Tottenham Court road to have a check up on my eyes (which are also awesome). I then walked down Charing Cross road to look at books then down Bond street where I had a coffee and met my wife for a bit of shoe shopping (not quite so awesome). From there we walked around the area before having a quick pint at Green Park where I got on the tube to go to work. I even saw Bob Geldoff out for a bit of Christmas shopping. A very pleasant day. Except for the work bit at the end. 

I find this very depressing

I somehow missed all the riots just a few minutes down the road. I knew there were protests that day but the police usually surround them. If things kick off or the rioters smash stuff then the cops either club them and get accused of being heavy handed, or let them smash a few things and get accused of not being prepared. All fairly normal. 

I knew things might not be going to plan when vans of police kept belting around every corner. If I looked south, I could see helicopters. In shops I could hear the radio warning that rioters were heading our way. On twitter and the internet there were reports that they had burnt the Christmas tree in Trafalgar square (a few minutes walk from Leicester square). They then smashed shops on Oxford street where I had just been then shouted their way up Regent street and attacked Prince Charles’s car – a road I had just crossed. 

I wasn’t particularly worried about the rioters as I haven’t cut my hair in a while and was unshaven and scruffy, so would probably be mistaken for one of their own. I was mildly concerned about being ‘kettled’ by the police and trapped for hours but not that bothered really. London has a lot of alleys and twisty back streets and I know a lot of them as they tend to have late night bars on them so I was confident I could escape. I was mostly concerned that the tube station I needed to get to would be shut and I would be late for work because of some dickhead rioters or overzealous plod. I am freelance and charge by the hour after all. 

At first I was all for the protests. How does making a student take out a massive loan, that will eventually be paid back decades later, help our economy right now? Will this mean even bigger rises for foreign students? They pay almost triple the fees of local students – apparently so that fees for locals can be kept low. Cameron said last month: “foreign students will still pay a significant amount of money – but we should be able to keep that growth under control”. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11724431) Well that’s ok then. We are already one of the most expensive places to study outside of the US but as Cameron should be able to keep things under control then they probably won’t all go somewhere else and lose universities pots of cash from people who pay a lot in advance. 

Of course there millions of arguments, some very good, for both sides. I can’t be bothered to go on any more about it. The point was that I was all for the supposedly peaceful protest. My image of students remained a mixture of: 

Students protest!

and: 

and just a bit of: 

i know it's gratuitous but it's my site

Unfortunately, the protest got hijacked by a load of twats. As usual. This has caused a lot of people to think less ‘Yeah! Stick it to the establishment’ and more ‘you pointless bunch of pricks, why smash windows on Oxford street during the shopping season and burn down the Christmas tree’. It was as if they were attacking Christmas, the joyless scum. 

Is this man a student protester, or a dick?

Most of the rioters (as opposed to the protesters) looked suspiciously like the sort of non-student who just like a fight and hates capitalism and the royal family and blah blah blah. In fact they look a lot like the sort of people who hang out around the bridge in Camden down the hill from my flat. 

Quite frankly it’s all very sad. The next time the students protest, they should casually ask others in the crowd if they are up for smashing a few shops. If they answer is yes, they should beat them up with truncheons in a powerful ironic statement of some kind. Then they can still have a protest, people will like them, and I can shop in peace. 

It won’t change anything anyway. I can say that because I’m a cynical grown up well versed in the frustrations and pointlessness of real life. The only way they could really get stuff done is through spreading embarrassing secrets about the government on the internet then hacking into websites and stuff. They’ll have to wait their turn though.

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Perfect Catch

I know that the internet and the world in general has been gripped with concern over lack of new posts of late. Apologies for that! I have been working lots and had to write a load of stuff for an Open University course. I have also been writing for someone else’s website.

It hasn’t all been toil for other people though. I also visited Barcelona for eight days which was fantastic. An entry on that will be appearing soon.

In other news, my book is about ready to send to publishers and agents, so hopefully I will soon be a millionaire and won’t have to work in TV anymore. This will be a blessing except when I am watching some utter drivel on TV and am not being paid an hourly rate for doing it – I’ll just be wasting my life.

So just hang in there. Soon the workload will ease and I can write my usual smug nonsense on random topics at an increased rate. Until then here is an incredible video of a guy in a restaurant in India somewhere. The video is rather erroneously called the Perfect Catch. I am more impressed with the throw.

Eye Lasik Surgery

Perfect eyes

I got my eyes lasered recently and it has been awesome! I can now see for thousands of miles. I could see pretty astoundingly with my contact lenses, but now I can see at an almost superhuman level. I spend my evenings staring into the night sky discovering new planets. I joked to a friend that I practically had X-ray vision, but then realised that would probably be a curse. How many people do you see on the street that you would actually want to see naked? Less than 10% at least. Ugly bastards.

In case you are thinking of having it done – go for it. It is truly life changing. Don’t quote me if your eyeballs fall out though.

The procedure was laughably simple. On the actual day, you are asked to sign a form that scares the crap out of you. ‘I won’t blame anyone if I go blind or my eyes explode in flames.’ That sort of thing. You are then taken to a room where a charming nurse will put anesthetic drops in your eyes. After about ten minutes of explaining after-care, you are given incredibly sexy coverings for your hair and shoes. You lie back in a bed and your head is strapped down and eyelids clamped back. Like in Clockwork Orange but without the stirring music. Some device is then pushed against your eye. This is the most uncomfortable part. Imagine someone pressing on your eyeball with their thumb for about 5 seconds. This is when they cut a circle around your iris.

You then stare at a laser which flashes a few times and is pleasantly accompanied by a loud series of crackles and the smell of your own flesh burning. Or the smell of burning hair to be precise (don’t ask me why). Nice. There then follows some drops in your eye and what seems to be a doctor painting the flap of eye skin back into place.

Then repeat.

The whole procedure took about ten minutes.

For the next few hours my eyes stung like buggery and my vision was a bit hazy. The following morning was a lot better although my eyes still felt a bit sore. A bit like someone had cut them and fried them with lasers to precise. It wasn’t too bad though. If you wear lenses then imagine wearing them for a 12 hour flight. You can feel the edges around your pupils.

Every day your eyes feel better. The vision was superb (for me at least) from the second or third day. After about a week or so, your eyes feel superb. In as much as you can judge these things.

My main worry now is that I will get drunk and forget I no longer wear lenses. Trying to pull out non-existent pieces of plastic would be painful.

In summary then: it’s one of the best things I have ever done. It’s actually in third place behind losing my virginity and getting married (not necessarily in that order). Which is pretty high ranking.

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Planned Engineering Work

If you live in London and have to be travel by tube at the weekend ‘Planned Engineering Work’ is a phrase you will have heard about a billion times. Probably more. I’m only writing about it now because I heard it all evening on my way in to work and the words have become an angry mantra in my brain that I can’t seem to dislodge.

The Underground, when it’s not on strike, seems to think it is ok to shut half the transport system every weekend if they just tack these words on the end. You will hear announcements like: ‘London Underground is currently operating a good service across the entire network. The following lines are shut due to planned engineering work…’ There then follows a list that takes about 5 minutes to read out. Apparently this is because they are ‘transforming your tube’. This is being done in ways that are sadly invisible to users, so we just have to take their word for it.

Am I being cynical in remembering that the increase in weekend closures happened around the same time as the tube staff protests over no longer being paid overtime for working weekends? Boohoo. It is currently 4am on Saturday night and I’m at work being paid the same as if it was a Monday day. All I have to look forward to is a lengthy series of bus journeys in the morning because the District, Overland, and Piccadilly lines are all shut. So is the circle line, but that is closed so often it has almost attained mythical status. Are the closures occurring to do a tiny amount of work while cutting back on costs?

Sorry if this sounds like a huge whinge but I work in West London and every weekend it is like a Krypton Factor test just working out how I can cross the city. I assumed that it was all a rush to be ready for the Olympics. It makes sense that they are panicking as the system can barely cope now, let alone with lots of extra tourists. If you look at their website though, it says this is going to continue for the next ten years.

All right I’ll stop bitching. It just feels very cathartic. By the way, apologies for not having written for a while. My brain was down for planned engineering work.

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Cyborg controlled by rat brain

Robot revolution

Continuing with my ‘robots will take over the world’ theme, here is something even cooler and scarier than the Aggressive Quadrotor I wrote about recently. It is a robot controlled by a rat brain. Which is pretty awesome unless you’re a rat. Presumably the robot currently heads for the nearest bin and hangs out there. Like in the Simpsons when Mr Burns puts Homer’s brain in a giant robot and all it does is eat doughnuts and nap.

I now have a dilemma about what to do when I die a couple of hundred years from now. I was going to get frozen and then reawakened when they have the technology to make me live forever and all the women wear nothing but spandex. Now I’m toying with being Robocop. Unlike Robocop though, I’d like my private parts to still work or there isn’t much point in survivng.

So without further ado, here is a very cool video of ‘Ratbot’. They should have had a clear perspex dome so you can see the brain but I’m just being picky. Maybe in Ratbot 2.0

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Aggressive Quadrotor

This is where it begins. Rise of the machines. I don’t understand how scientists – generally huge Sci Fi fans – can watch films like Terminator or Matrix and then go to work and create stuff like this. Don’t they care? Or are they like me and think that a world ruled by robots while a surviving group of generally attractive humans fight back is actually a fucking brilliant future.

Check out this new helicopter thing. It’s pretty impressive. Give them lasers and make them swarm and surely mankind’s struggle against evil emotionless robot overlords is just months away. Or a huge one with a massive machine gun and rocket launchers. Call it the Killotron 3000 or something

Bring it on!

The Pope is in the UK and is worried about our holidays

The pope is finally here! God bless us every one! As you may have guessed from reading this site, I’m not particularly religious. I have nothing against those who are (although I think you’re wrong), I just don’t like it when I have to pay for other’s beliefs (As I have written elsewhere.). Officially the pope’s visit is a state visit but this is hardly like a visit from the a foreign president. The Vatican is a city state and to be a citizen you have to work for the church. 74% of the citizenship is clergy, the rest are Swiss guards and so on. It’s not a normal country we can hopefully increase trade with or anything beneficial like that.

But he’s here, I’ve paid and it’s done. Traffic disruptions aside, why should I care anymore? Once he’s gone past on his popemobile, and things return to normal, the impact on me will be none.

All that will be left will be my memory of finding some of the comments and opinions both humerous and worrying. This is a man who speaks to third world countries and tells them using condoms is a sin. Mind you, one of his minions thought Britain was a third world country, so he must be pleased that we have the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Europe. It’s a shame most aren’t married, but it’s a start. This and all the kid-fiddling that has been covered up are the worrying bits.

The funnier aspects of his pronunciations are his alarm over things like the marginalisation of religion. People still believe in all sorts of ridiculous things – healing crystals, ghosts, moon landing conspiracies, mediums, homeopathy, UFOs, alien abduction, psychics, the loch ness monster, and tons more. There are also lots more religions that are relatively new to the West. What he means is the reduction in his particular branch of those who worship the one true god. The same god that’s worshipped by Jews, Protestants, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rest but in slightly different ways.

He has specifically mentioned those who have voiced opinions about not celebrating Christian holidays. ‘I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalisation of religion, particularly of Christianity,’ he has said. (http://www.metro.co.uk/news/841305-pope-fears-religion-is-being-marginalised). He skirts around the fact that this has largely been because people don’t want to offend other religions, as opposed to an increase in atheism. I have to agree with him on this though. People should be able to celebrate what they want. I love Santa and the Easter Bunny. It just feels a bit weird to have the Church speak against suppressing other religions.

I think it is too late. When most people think of Christmas, they think of this:

Traditional Christmas

Or in my case this:

Sexy Santa

Now let me just state that I have nothing against religion. I have lived in a lot of places and have numerous friends from various faiths. We all respect each other’s views. To some extent anyway. I just don’t like it when religions behave in dumb ways or say stupid things and I consequently read about it. I like living in multi-cultural societies just as long as no one clings to ideas that are massively outdated and are actually harmful.

Basically my point is this Mr Pope your worshipfulness. Say what you like about God and angels and harps and demons and pitchforks and singed pubic hair and so on – that’s fine with me. Tell a country that is in the middle of an AIDS epidemic not to wear condoms, then I am forced to disagree. Converting people and then persuading them to breed is not the answer any more. Just be sensible. I know that the majority of Catholics agree with me, they’ve said so in the papers and on forums. Use the internet and advertising and viral videos to reach new converts – they are much more effective and millions needn’t catch STDs.

As for Christmas and Easter holidays. I’m afraid the pagans have taken them back.

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How to survive Armageddon

Sick bastard that I am, I often fantasize about the end of the world. Obviously it would mean billions would die, there’d be no more internet, no restaurants, no pubs, no online PS3 wargames, no pizza delivery, and so on. (I suppose hospitals and government and things like that deserve a mention too.) I mostly dream about it when I’m bored or fed up at work because there’d be no mortgages or pensions or accountants or taxmen to worry about either.

When I think about how I will survive, my mind basically thinks this:

Pretty much my entire survival plan

Pretty much my entire survival plan

Me, guns, and a dog. That’s my plan. (Plus my wife, obviously.)

In reality, I might have to end up in a cave eating berries. The above picture would be how I’d start out but I’d probably end up like this after a few months:

Piss off, those are my juniper bushes!

Piss off, those are my juniper bushes!

Obviously a bit more planning would be required. Some fellow on the Ask Reddit website has thought this out. So if there’s a zombie holocaust/alien invasion/ robot uprising/ triffid or kraken attack, or any number of cool possibilities, here is a plan you can print out and laminate in advance. In reality, it will probably be a mutated flu virus that everyone ignores because there have been so many that turned out to be crap.

So print this out and get prepared. That way I can turn up in cool leathers and shoot you and steal it all.

Here’s how to survive:

I’ve played this over in my head before and decided there are two lifestyles. Nomadic and Static. The following considers staking out a territory for a “home base” where one is secure for the rest of his days. It also assumes “the grid” is down. No electricity or internet, some plumbing works.


Pre-Phase Phase (I’m not good with phases)

  • Before Anything: Eat Exotic Fresh Fruits while they are around. They come from so far away that, odds are depending where you live, you will never ever get to have Banana, Pomegranite, Starfruit or Mango again in your life. Savor every bite. Make Fruit Leathers and Freeze what you cannot stomach to consume. You will also need to bone up on Vitamin C while you’re doing the most work.
  • Unless you plan on maintaining and protecting cows for the rest of their/your life… you’re unlikely to have a fresh glass of cold milk ever again. There are dehydrated milks (Klim) but it’s not the same.
  • Bacon. Eat all of what you can find. Cook it all up and dehydrate what you cannot stomach. Even if you hate it. You may never have the opportunity to eat bacon again.

Phase 1 – Fuel for your Future

The world is going to be vastly different in only 5-years time. Buildings will collapse from non-maintained roofs. Cars and Trucks won’t operate off of stale fuel. Uncut lawns will overgrow and cripple streets along with freeze/rain cycles. Animals will grow unchecked and rampant predation will resume. Insects will rule the fields. There is no more weather channel, internet or food store. It will become an inhospitable world very shortly, you need to prepare.

  • Refined Gasoline and Diesel will be useless in 2 years. You CAN make your own fuels (Combustion/Steam, Biodeisel) but there is a much much simpler answer.
  • Propane is everywhere and it’s shelf life is longer than yours. Walmarts, Home Depots and Millions of Tanks behind people’s homes, half full from the previous Summer’s BBQ Season. Safely, stockpile the conventional tanks (using trucks while they’re still useful) making sure to properly maintain them.
  • If you’re lucky enough to be near gas stations with those huge above ground tanks, secure passage to them and secure their protection. Map out every one of them in a 50-mi radius. Expend the furthest ones first. O-Rings and valves can corrode and fail on the conventional ones, but the big boys aren’t as likely to fail. Don’t ever think about moving them.
  • Store canisters away from your domicile but within reasonable distance with good ventilation. Keep Oil-Based paint nearby and paint them every few years to stave off rust.
  • Go out and find Propane Powered Appliances. Forklifts, Bobcats, Refrigerators, Lanterns, Ovens, Weed Wackers, Generators.
  • Yes, if you really want to you can dick around with Solar Panels / Wind Turbines and work on a battery farm and keep some modern conventions. DVDs will work for 10-40 years depending on the press and plastics involved.
  • Keep growth down inside the compound. The rest of the world will become overgrown, last thing you want are a ton of thornbushes and poison ivy invading your space. Keep your paths clear with weedwackers and machetes. The roads won’t completely overgrow in your lifetime, but at least clear the cars out of the way with bulldozers while you still can.

Phase 2 – Secure your Food

There’s a ton of food still around in the world that’ll be good for the next decade. Rice and Beans, Canned Fruits and Veggies. The Average Domesticated Human relies on these foods and cannot subsist “off of the land.”

  • One of the first things you should consider doing is getting a freezer farm up and operating off of generators (or using propane freezers which can be found for RVs.) Scour the lands for processed meats, hoping that they’re still in a frozen state. Fruits, Veggies, Variety. Nobody will be farming these things anymore and odds are, the world will eventually become too inhospitable for you to maintain a farm without insects plaguing it.
  • Sysco Trucks are refrigerated and can probably stay cool a week or two, and are likely chock full of the meals you’d otherwise be served after they’ve been microwaved at Olive Garden, Johnny Carino’s, Applebees, TGIFridays, McDonalds, etcetc. If they haven’t been looted already, they’re a great solution to a “freezer farm.” Now that you have all the time in the world, figure out how to use RV Propane Freezers to keep these trucks cool. Move them to your home, reinforce them in concrete and keep them free of bugs and animals.
  • The Nearby Ocean may become tarnished in 2-5 years as runoff from humanity’s downfall pours off the coasts and out of the unmaintained sewers. If you’re a sailor and can sail out a couple miles for some mahi-mahi to freeze, that’s awesome. Also, after the death of Gasoline, you can probably rig a Propane-Powered Weed-Wacker to be an Outboard Motor for a boat.
  • Hunting is useful if you know what you’re doing. Avoid protein poisoning by eating fats. Cook well-done, always. There’s no cure for food poisoning now.
  • Find a nearby river where no humanity is upstream for your water source. Use a Propane Forklift to carry a water back in a large container. Treat it with Chlorine Dioxide, Bleach or use Ceramic Filters. There’s probably still usable water in water towers but no telling if whatever killed humanity has contaminated those.
  • Incinerate your leftovers (there shouldn’t be any…) to keep down on insect infestation.

Phase 3 – Home Compound

Insects and animals will grow plentifully without humans now. Wild Dogs, Bears, Coyotes, Mountain Lions, Feral Cats are all now the enemy. Malaria, Lymes Disease, Bebesia can be carried by insects and with Rabies, will likely grow out of control without human intervention.

  • Secure an area, preferably within a high-walled region to keep bears and other predators away. Chain Link Fences need to be painted to prevent rusting. Paint them with motor oil a couple of times in the summer (if you don’t give a rat’s ass about the environment now)
  • Drive Vehicles over to your Compound while they still work. Mobile Homes, School Buses, Fire Engine Tankers & Ladders, Electrical Contractor Cherry Pickers (for Hunting Blinds), Flatbeds, Box Trucks.
  • If you can do it singlehandedly, transport the biggest few Yachts you can find to your compound. Ever see the inside of those things? Home away from home. Might be a nice place to spend the night if you need to feel like you’re civilized again.
  • Construct a cinder-block-based shelter away from Hurricane-Prone or Earthquake Prone Areas. Something very secure that’ll survive hard rains, winters, and can keep out animals and insects, but simple to maintain and secure.
  • Use Carbon Monoxide Detectors hooked up to a battery system. All this propane will generate Carbon Monoxide.
  • If you can remove the septic tank, use RVs for their bathrooms then drive out with the forklifts and dump it somewhere… downwind.

Phase 4 – Self Preservation

  • Stockpile Medicine. Most pills will lose effectiveness after 2 years. Painkillers should be kept nearby. Doxycyclene for Lymes Disease will (effectively) last 2 years. Some Pharmacies may have Mepron which is for Malaria.
  • Treat every wound as if it’s going to infect and kill you. Alcohol Wipes and Topical Antibiotics in small packets are long-lasting as well.
  • ALWAYS BRUSH YOUR TEETH. Learn to brush your teeth with Baking Soda. Toothpastes will inevitably harden in their tubes or liquify into an unusable congealment. There are no dentists anymore. If you get a cavity, you’re probably screwed bigtime and will need to take care of it yourself.
  • Hone your skills. You’re now the worlds only Mechanic, Electrician, Farmer, Hunter, Gatherer and Doctor. Books are a remarkable resource.

Phase 5 – Recreation

  • Find the closest highway and burn all the gasoline you can syphon out of all the cars around in a Maserati, Ferrari or Ford Focus by risking your fucking life. This insane maneuver might help you keep some sanity… but in 2-years-time gasoline will have gone stale and most cars will sit where they were.
  • There are some propane based cars and Go-Karts. Offhand, I don’t know where I’d find one around here so I’m in a bad position… the internet will be down and “propane go-karts” won’t be found in phone books.

Phase 6 – Keep your mind busy

  • Write about what you’ve done. Every day. Write your thoughts, your transgressions, your hopes, your angers. As you fill books, put them in some permanent enclosure of sorts, sheltered from the elements.
  • Gather up Atlases, Medical Books, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Put them all in the same place. Who knows what evolution has in store? Perhaps in a couple hundred million years, some badger learns to make fire and read. It’s your legacy and you can’t accept the fact that this is the end of intelligent life. Write for them. Explain what transpired. If only to keep your mind busy and your heart steady.

Final Phase – Seal your fate.

You are the last of your kind. Evolution may replace humans with another Sentient Creature capable of interpreting the past, but for now, this is it. As representative for humanity, you do not want to suffer. No sense in bleeding to death over the course of several days pinned underneath a mountain of rubble.

  • Always have the ability to kill yourself nearby. Holster a classy 6-shooter in your shoulder, at your ankle or your hip at all times.

This all came from:

http://viigo.im/2HRa

end4

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Art and Culture versus work

“When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” So said Samuel Johnson. He wrote the dictionary so he should be correct.

I love living in London. Sure it’s cold and grey and wet and full of nutters and has a flimsy transport system but there’s so much going on. I sometimes envy tourists as they see a lot more events than those of us who actually live here. January is a quiet time in the freelance TV business, which is worrying for my bank account but good for seeing things. It seems to go in phases – for a few months I will see loads of bands, then stand up comedy, then theatre, then random events like book readings or comic book signings. All of these happen every single night in a quantity and quality that is unrivaled anywhere in the world except perhaps New York. My main frustrations when I lived in Hong Kong or Bangkok or Sydney, was that while these things are happening in these places they are quite rare. Or quite local. Miss them and you’re fucked.

In the last week I went to two art exhibitions. The first was Damien Hirst’s No Love Lost at the Wallace Collection. It was ok. See my review here. The second was Pop Life at Tate Modern. Which was actually pretty damn cool. The review is here. Before the end of the month, I will also be seeing an exhibition at the Royal Academy which I will also review. Every time I go and see art I always decide that I should do this sort of thing more often. I feel more cultured and usually enjoy myself. As a new added bonus I can review it in my brand new exciting Art tab.  It also reminds me why I live in London and that I am not yet tired of life.

The main problem I have, and I’m not alone in this, is that doing lots of things costs money. So I have to work. Then I miss things because of work and end up just going to the local pub. Which has Guinness and pies, so it’s not all bad but it sucks if someone I admire is doing a book reading/signing and I am on shift. Sure they will do it again but it feels a bit frustrating when I know there is an exciting city out there and I’m in a darkened room watching High School Musical 3 for the 10th time. I don’t really have much of a point to make, just that London is best enjoyed when you are rich and don’t have a job. Which means that not many people enjoy it as much as they should. Which is a shame.

So two things are happening. One is that I will be adding a donations button at the top in the off chance that a billionaire might visit the site and decide to give me a few hundred grand. So that I can enjoy London. (Lots of small donations would be fine too.) The other is that I have started an Art tab. Which you already know.

So feel free to donate! The more I get the more I can do and review. This saves you time when you are deciding on something to do or see in the capital and discover that I’ve already reviewed it and can help with your decision. This means that you can go out and do more, miss all the crap stuff and be less bored of life. Thereby maximising your ‘non-work’ time. In conclusion then: support thewordofward and your very life will be better.

Joining twitter

Join my cult!

Join my cult!

I feel like I may have sold out. To whom? I don’t know. Where? To twitter. Why? I thought if people followed me on twitter I might get more people looking at this site. What have I sold exactly? Not sure. My resistance to pointless fads would have been an initial answer except it has now been going for a few years and seems to keep growing. I can’t even claim that I have lost any credibility or individuality or any other “ity” as people I really like and respect number among some of the more famous twitterers. Plus I’m barely credible at the best of times.

Just thought I’d mention it. I’m seeing it as an experiment that will benefit other web writers. Millions may flock here and I can spend more time selling advertising space and reading and not work so bloody much. If it doesn’t make any difference I’ll stop.

The thing is, I don’t really know what to write on it. Here is my own domain – literally, in the respect that I bought the domain name. Here I can write what I damn well please and review things I think are good and rant about things that are bad. Do people do that on Twitter? I have no idea. This will be an ongoing experiment and I will keep you updated with the results. I don’t really know how anyone will even find me on the Twitter site but I already have a follower. I feel like a level 1 Messiah. I need more followers so I can level up to low-level deity.

I decided to learn from a twitter legend so I started following Stephen Fry. He is one of the top twitterers after all. It just felt a bit odd to type in someone’s name and click follow and then get updates as they drink tea and watch darts. Apparently Obama twitters although I suspect someone else writes it and you won’t get anything good like: “Met Gordon Brown again today. He’s a bit of a twat.” Or: “Found George W’s coke stash. Game on!”

It reminds me of when I joined facebook. It was great to get in touch but now I hardly ever look at it. Except that people keep sending me messages there as opposed to my gmail.

I did read that twitter has been hacked a few times. Once was by a group called the Iranian Cyber Army. Which sounds pretty ominous. Here was what the front page of the site looked like for a while.

Twitter hacked!

Twitter hacked!

This seems pretty scary. If anyone hacked my site I’d be screwed.

On a side note, my hotmail has been hacked. I don’t know what to do about it. Except complain here. I hate hackers, they never do anything cool. If I ever meet a hacker that just trashes people’s sites, or a spammer I will punch them severely. Teach them some consequences. Real world action!

Or if they are bigger than me, maybe I’ll just say bad things about them on twitter.

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Ataque de Pánico! (Panic Attack!) 2009

I just saw this on youtube and holy bollocks it’s awesome! Apparently the guy made it on a relatively small budget but with top notch equipment. The figure being quoted is that he made it for $300 but that doesn’t seem to factor in all the necessary gear, paying extras, crew, and so on. It is still quite an achievement and a testimony to the power of computers and youtube and communication.

Anyway it’s cool. After watching the new Day of the Triffids and reading a book by Larry Niven called ‘Lucifer’s Hammer’ (about the earth after a comet hits) my world seems full of End of the World scenarios right now. There must be something wrong with me because I sometimes think it would be quite cool. Mainly because I wouldn’t have to worry about going to work or paying bills or tedium like that. In reality of course, it would suck. No online PS3 games or imported beer or pizza delivery. Or tv shows about Triffids, books about comet armaggedon, or clips on youtube. for that matter.

Here’s the video. Enjoy.

Climate change

Pretty heavy topic eh?

I was going to try and lighten this entry a bit with an amusing picture or two. I scoured the internet and discovered that the only jokey pictures I could find were on right-wing ranting sites that basically slagged off Al Gore and called everyone who believed in climate change a hippy or a liberal who’s part of some global plot. I also discovered a universal truth – right-wing humorists are shite. They have no sense of humour. All the jokes they made were god-awful.

So no funny pictures I’m afraid.

I read in the paper that less and less people believe that climate change is caused by humans. More and more people are believing that global warming is a myth. I find this a bit sad. There seems to be a lot of science backing it all up but this is being ignored. Even if the science is wrong and it is a myth/lefty plot, so what? Surely it is better to cut carbon emissions anyway?

Here is how I see it:

We cut carbon emissions and there is less pollution. I have lived in places that couldn’t give a fuck about carbon emissions (Thailand and China) and it can be horrendous. Smog blocks up your lungs and you feel dirty all the time and everything is coated in a layer of crap. More people have asthma and breathing problems. It is the equivalent of smoking but without the benefits of enjoyment or looking dangerous and cool. It is always a relief to go to a place with cleaner air. So why not cut emissions on that basis alone?

There is also the fact that if we don’t cut carbon emissions and it turns out global warming is true – billions would suffer. Why take the risk? If it’s untrue, then we are left with cleaner air. I know some people might not give a fuck and think it might not affect them but that also means they don’t give a fuck about their kids or grandchildren too. The next generations are going to have to either breathe all this crap or possibly die if the ice caps melt. If enough people still don’t care about that then fine – let’s all die. Just remember who made that decision and live with it.

Apart from people who sell oil or cars, I really don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want a cleaner atmosphere. Unless they don’t believe in pollution either.

I found it amusing and saddening that the recent climate talks in Copenhagen achieved fuck all. Airplanes release tons of carbon into the atmosphere and apparently there were 150 private jets there to carry all the delegates to and from the talks. That did nothing. Way to go! Luckily there were protesters outside who showed their anger at carbon emission by, er, burning stuff. Good work there too.

I think that everyone should be made to state their position on this. By law. Those who believe in climate change should then show what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. Those who think it is all crap can carry on being twats and make our environment all smoggy and unpleasant as before. If nothing happens, everyone can feel happy and smug anyway. If the sea levels rise and there is suddenly a lack of housing and food – all the people who disbelieved in climate change should be eaten. That would make people think twice.

I’m off to build my ark.