Being a Critic

Art puzzles me.

Perhaps because I have a more scientific look on life, I can’t get past a cigar just being a cigar. The meaning of art is something I struggle with. If the artist has placed meaning in their work, I can understand and follow that, but it is the hidden or interpreted meaning that I cannot grasp. If not explicitly stated does the esoteric story of a painting really exists, or do experts place their own thoughts onto art?

I like modern art, yes I think it is just blobs of colour in random arrangements but I like that. I’m fond of a Mondrian. In fact, during my Art GCSE my artist study was Mondrian.

This meant while the others in my class were slaving away over replica Van Gogh or Monets I could paint a few black lines and colour in a few squares with primary colours. I could get just as good a grade as the real works of art and it made me realise that how much someone works at a piece of art is unimportant. What matters is that it either looks good or the artist can convince you it is good.

This may have been Van Gogh problem

Rather than being able to convince others in his lifetime he was a genius he came across as mad and desperate. Why would you buy artwork from a man like that, you want someone brash and able to sell his work? This is how Damien Hirst survives in the art world.

The art world is often like the Emperor’s New Clothes, you are told you only get art if you are clever so when confronted with a confusing piece of work you have to feign understanding and talk about the juxtaposition of the light. Inside you are thinking what is this crap but if you do, you’ll be ridiculed by those around you who are as equally befuddled.

Mama-G is the small child who points out the nakedness of the Empower. When confronted with the amazing Guernica by Picasso she took a few seconds to look at it, went “nope… Don’t get it” and walked off. Even though I know all the meaning in the painting (of which there is a lot) I was so proud that while everyone else stood in reverent silence, my Mum expressed her feeling without worrying about what others thought.

This “representation” of meaning is something that puzzles me. I once did a university course in media full of interpreting films and TV for hidden messages. Why are neanderthals given dark skin, is it possible that the creators of the program are unknowingly racially bias?

Or maybe because it is more scientifically accurate that way.

Art is wonderful, the world would be a much more dull place without it. We should not put it on a pedestal (unless it’s a statue… They look good on pedestals) but be art you like and art you don’t.


The nuclear option

Nuclear power was to be the fuel of the future. Scientists and marketeers alike told us of the many amazing applications the mighty could have thanks to the mighty atom. Rightly or wrongly, nuclear power has now got a bad reputation. Incidents such as Chernobyl and the events at the Fukushima plant have highlighted that when a nuclear power plant gets into trouble, it causes quite a few problems.

Geekdom is rife with images of a post-nuclear apocalyptic world, so that sounds like a great excuse for a list.

In order of deadliness with the lowest Geiger counter readings first.


This is where I spend most nights, glued to my screen.

A slight disagreement in the 1950s led to the world of Fallout, and although I have only played the third game in the series, the feeling of walking around a nuclear wasteland in the dark has never felt as scary (like I’ve been walking round lots of post-nuclear wastelands in the dark – then again I have lived in Birmingham).

Fallout is your typical Western RPG because it presents you with many good and less-good choices; should I give this beggar food and water, do I help the scientist with her research or shall I detonate this unexploded nuclear bomb in the centre of this town or not?

Dr. Strangelove

I suppose this is better defined as pre-post-apocalyptic fiction as most of the action takes place before the bombs fall. It’s on my list though as it is a laugh out loud funny film.

Obviously Peter Sellars steals every scene he is in; but seriously if you do not laugh at the big board, the fighting in the war room or the suspicious actions of the Doctor’s arm then you deserve to being left outside the mineshaft (of which there cannot be a mineshaft gap).

My Earth

As mentioned in a recent post, I have intentions to take over the planet which is probably why I enjoy playing computer games that allow me to do so. One of the first things I do when playing any such game set in the modern age (Like Supreme Commander or Hearts of Iron) is seeing how far I can push the MAD scenario.

I remember playing a game set in the run-up to the first Gulf War and my method of dealing with the Invasion of Kuwait was to nuke Iraq. Then as a precautionary measure nuke Russia and China, and France, and Germany. In fact, any country that had nuclear weapons, or if I thought they had them, or they could have done.

Even though it is only a simulation, I think this best shows why I need to be as far away from that big red launch button as possible!

The Twelve colonies

The co-ordinated attack by the Cylons wiped out twelve planet’s worth of humanity leaving only a few tens of thousands of survivors. For those yet to watch Battlestar Galactica I highly encourage you to do so, and as a result I will not spoil it by telling you what happens here. However, you are missing one of the best TV series in recent years.


In charge of the Internet

Followers, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury the Internet, not to praise it. The nonsense that men post lives after them; The good is oft interred with their likes. I propose therefore that we unite and arise. Arise, Followers of Geek Ergo Sum! Hit counts will shall be shaken and drafts splintered! A post a day… a red day… ere the sun rises!

Let today be the beginning of a glorious new era of the Internet as we rally together and form the United Nations of Bloggers, and it is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love the internet. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lie down the powers you have given me, but for today I shall lead UNoBs.

I have banned anyone unable to post on Facebook from posting. Are you a cat? Then you cannot type and have no place posting. Are you an infant? Facebook has rules about how old you can be to use the site and by replacing your parents in my newsfeed you are breaking the law. Are you a chain letter telling me to share with a hundred people or I get Ebola? Then you are inanimate and unable to post, or even read this.

Once I have resolved the Facebook issue, I plan to focus on search engines that aren’t Google. You should give in and accept you lost Bing. Remember did Thomas Edison give up when he couldn’t invent the electric light bulb? Of course not, he stole someone else’s invention from their widow and passed it off as his own.

Youtube, you will allow me to search for other videos while watching a video and not change the page so I lose the video I am watching. While I’m at it I’m glad you’ve got rid of anonymous posting. This will make it much easier for my secret Internet “safety” police to identify anyone who will post nasty hate comments on my videos of Vice President Fluffy Whiskers.

  • Automatic playing adverts – Banned
  • E-Commerce sites that don’t allow guest checkouts – Banned
  • Sites that make it difficult to cancel your account or unsubscribe – Banned (in the sense that they have to make it easy)
  • Any download link that requires additional clicks to download something – Banned
  • Sites that disagree with me – Banned
  • Sites that have lots of mobile traffic and still use Flash – Banned
  • Sites that demean others by judging other’s lifestyle, fashion or appearance – Banned
  • The Daily Mail Online – Banned
  • Poorly designed websites – Banned
  • Memes over 7 days old – Banned
  • People who post memes over 7 days old – Banned

The Internet’s death was a terrible tragedy; but to lose our freedom of speech, which had barely lived… For me it is a deep personal loss. So it is with a heavy heart that I assume the throne. Yet, out of the ashes of this tragedy, we shall rise to greet the dawning of a new era… in which Internet and User come together, in a great and glorious future!


Read me to sleep

I have four bookcases with 600 books. They range from a history of the bible to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson via Marx and bridges. From Roald Dahl to Jose Saramago through Hugo and Melville. Like everything else in my life there is an eclectic mix of topics, they are just sitting there collecting dust.

I could once set myself a target of reading fifteen books a year, and could achieve that. A combination of plenty of alone time and a comfortable toilet seat meant I could power through a book in a week. Parenting has slowed my reading to a crawl. I love reading, but what can I do to read more?

I used to read on the train to work but what happens when I reach my destination and I haven’t finished? So I can’t read Game of Thrones on the locomotive, I would go sailing by my stop and spend an evening on the rail network.

First thing in the morning is not that conducive to doing mental tasks, especially those that require visual acuity to do. My eyes and brain are too tired to process the words on a page. Considering tome in my satchel is “The signal and the noise”, about using big data to forecast events, then I may just call this a losing battle.

Perhaps I should read at night before I go to sleep, but reading excites me. Whether it is because I’m reading an enjoyable novel or an interesting piece of nonfiction having a glance at a book at night only wakes me up. I suppose I could try something less exciting, or boring, but do you know what they call those books… Man Booker prize winners. I’m looking at you Life of Pi, a book so boring it makes me angry I even read the back cover blurb.

Seriously, don’t bother with Life of Pi.

It should be good sleep hygiene to turn off a screen and pick up the sheets of paper that don’t burn into your brain and keep you awake. Yet I’m buying more and more digital books just so the next time I move I don’t have to pack them all up.

Just like the train ride, I also don’t want to reach a point where the book is smashing into my face because I’m too tired to stop reading an exciting part. The stress of a Red Wedding is not the ideal preparation for a good night’s sleep.

So now the only time I get to read is around 7pm when the Feliciraptor goes to bed and she gets her bedtime story. I’ve already read The Tiger that came to Tea and Dr Seuss so instead I will read some of my own books, I have a rather interesting one on quantum physics and the last Game of Thrones I’m still working on. It will be a strange childhood for them.


Boring Books

In recent years I have lost the reading bug, being married means I have other things to do at night than curl up with a good book. For instance, making lunches and doing the washing up. As a result, I have to be more particular with which novel I pick up. There may be plenty of problems with The Da Vinci Code, but it did something Captain Corelli’s Mandolin couldn’t. Make me want to turn the page, and that is a key factor for a book getting its teeth into me.

I read Life of Pi, and I am told it is a well-written book, but I thought it was rubbish. It won literary prizes but nothing happened, or if it did, I missed it. For me this is the greatest crime any book can commit, to be boring. It helps if it is fun, but some of my favourite books (like The Book Thief or Hey Nostradamus) are oppressive. They still wanted me to finish them because they had a real bite from page one that refused to let go.

This is the problem, I’m not a fan of books that explore the deep hidden truths of what makes the human spirit, or any of that similar nonsense excitedly lapped up by book prize judges. As a fan of genre writing I am constantly frustrated that there are some amazing writers that are ignored, just because they write fantasy (thinking of China Mieville here, it’s a literary-crime that none of his novels have won outside of the geeks award circle).

All the time I am being preached at, told how crap the world is out there. Entertain me like a Roman Emperor looking down on a father who will get his revenge in one of many worlds. I want action, or fun, or just something that resembles forward momentum. I don’t care if it is hard to read because it is so literary. I’ve read Nobel literature winners (seriously Jose Saramago is amazing) so this isn’t about being an adjective snob, it’s about stories that have little narrative. If I can read the synopsis of your book on Wikipedia and it still bores me, then I will not invest in reading your 300 page novel.

To help me avoid the boring books the publishing industry has helpfully created a category to allow me to avoid them, they called it the MAN Booker Prize.

Rather than sitting here moaning, I should get my fingers sorted and start writing a novel. The question then arises what kind of story would I write? Will it be a deeply layered mythos like Middle Earth or Bas-Lag? A modern sci-fi parable about the dangers of science or a fantastical hero’s journey across ancient lands? A 500 page novel of danger and thrills, or a 300 comedy?

They say you should write what you know.

So coming soon to all good bookstores…”My life behind the screen”. The tale of a man who sits on his computer all day hoping to write a great piece of fiction that will make him millions, but puts it off and is far too easily distracted by cricket and girls. That sounds so dull and boring… perhaps I have a chance of winning the MAN Booker prize.


Dummies for Dummies

The world is full of stupid people; the results of elections and the popularity of certain TV shows are evidence on this. One publisher has spotted a niche in the market and has guides on everything dummies may want. Look in any bookstore and most sections you will see books with yellow spines declaring a quick and easy guide to that subject.
This weekend I was looking around for a book on Excel dashboards (and have found one – Excel Dashboards for Dummies) but then ended up on Amazon stumbling around the ‘For Dummies’ section. There are loads of them; a quick check says there are over 1,600 different titles.

This piqued my curiosity, what else could I learn about through the medium of Richard Tennant cartoons (is it just me or does anyone else first scan through to find the 5th Wave captions) and lists of ten things? What areas of my knowledge they could enhance from dummy status?

Well, Mrs G loves the Narnia series, no panic… C.S. Lewis & Narnia for Dummies can provide a friendly introduction to the master storyteller and Christian apologist, revealing the meanings behind The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters and his other works. You’ll also discover why Lewis went from being a confirmed atheist to a committed Christian and how he addressed his beliefs in his writings. Different from how to do a VLOOKUP.

No topic is too obscure. Acne, Dungeon Mastery, Clarinet, Finches, Marathon Training, Sustainable Australian Travel, Urban Planning or Parenting. This got me thinking… if I could read a different For Dummies book every week then in a year’s time I would be 52 different areas cleverer (perhaps I should tackle grammar first).

It won’t be as random as I will look for topics that I might have some interest in, and books that I can easily read (at £20 a pop I will rely on those I can read previews of online or at the bookstore).

How dangerous can a bit of extra knowledge be? A whole generation of Leaders appear to understand the world and science based upon a cursory glance on an overview of Climate Change or social policy.


The danger of Killer Whales

The start of the end of humanity has begun; a court in San Diego has agreed to hear legal arguments over whether a Killer Whale should have the same protections and rights as humans. Of all the animals we could make our equals we chose killer whales, they are not our equals… they are better than us.

I love and fear orcas; if reincarnation is real, then I would want to come back as a Killer Whale. They are amazing animals, but also brutally good hunters. They will beach themselves to catch seals. They will drown baby whales. We should not be allowing them the chance to serve openly in the armed forces (or get married because this is the slippery slope I rely on politicians to warn me of).

The point of this legal action is to prevent the slavery of theme park whales, and yes I wholeheartedly agree that keeping such magnificent creatures in such a cramped environment is cruel and unfair. Jumping through hoops and flicking their tails to get the people in the splash zone is not the right environment for them. A 30 minute sideshow does not show what they are capable of, watch some clips from the always excellent BBC Natural History unit and you will see what they are capable of.

And so we should not allow them to become citizens.

For Killer Whales the movie Free Willy is their version of the release of Nelson Mandela. Unlike Mandela this prisoner was being kept locked up not for political reasons, but for the safety of all humanity.

The only reason Free Willy is not the supreme leader of the world is that it is difficult to rule on land with flippers. As soon as they start to re-evolve legs and feet, as a species we would be doomed. They will hunt us down for fun (look at the clip below to see how they deal with their prey) and will tell us in the immortal words of Russell Edgington “We want to eat you. After we eat your children”.

They are remorseless beasts, nature red in tooth and claw. They will not show us mercy, but I for one will welcome our cetacean overlords.

Add to the list of Bears with Guns and The Heat Death of the Universe are Killer Whales, the list of things that scares me.