The whole Scotland thing

Is well and truly over, by the time I remember I started this entry. Anyway, I aligned myself with the Queen and thought “It’s for them to decide”. Anyway, ages ago I wanted to start a magazine defending British comics called The Sentinel, and wrote a half-joking article about what might happen to British comics if Scotland went independent. So let’s just bung that in here.

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The Sentinel Wonders: What could Scottish independence mean for British comics?

Just what might happen to the output of DC Thomson when England finally gains independence from Scotland? (are you sure that’s right? -ed). There’s a possibility that we in England could see a price increase as products from north of the border will become subject to import taxes. However it’s also possible that The Beano, The Dandy and Commando (no doubt suddenly featuring many more stories of the various Scottish rebellions down the centuries) could see sales increases. DC Thomson may be able to capture the patriotic, forward-looking mood of a newly-independent nation by clearly branding their products as “Made in Scotland”. With big sales increases could also come a reduction in prices as the economies of scale shift. It’s also likely that the comics would be better-displayed in Scottish shops and so attract even more customers. There could be a knock-on effect down south as well. With a realisation that the “splitters” up North are boosting their economy and getting people into work as artists, writers and printers it’s possible that London-based publishers may decide to get back into the game. Could we see a return of Buster and The Eagle as England-based competition? Could other England-based comics such as The Pheonix become more popular as a response to Scotland breaking away? Scottish Independence could end up becoming the shot in the arm that comics produced on these islands desperately need. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that I need to marry a Scot!

The Hong Kong “Umbrella Revolution”

May soon also be known as the “chalk revolution”, thanks to a trend of people writing messages down the roads they are camped out on. No doubt we’ll soon be seeing an Upworthy of “the most inspiring” messages. Right next to a load of “This one video will make any man who watches it a feminist” TED Talk things. (What the fuck is TED, anyway? And where did it spring from, all of a sudden?).

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These have all been renamed, shrunk and had ‘variants’ added. To make it more difficult to track them back

Anyway, one of the first people to do some of the chalking was somebody I know, who I once went cocktail drinkin’ with back in 2011 or so.

As this is the first “Occupy” protest I actually support (and the first one with a clear aim, unlike the politics-of-envy “We’ll stay here until you make things better!” childish rentamobs, seen elsewhere), I’ve added the golden ribbon to my Facebook and, er, been cranking a pirated Beyond live CD?

Oh, and…

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Cherry blossom “season” 2014

It was about a month ago now, but there you go. All pics taken round the back of my work…

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I also went to fuckin’ Japan again in the middle of May. I HAVE to go and work as an ALT now, no more mucking about. I just feel at home there… especially when a lot of the “disadvantages” of Japan touted about by shocked liberal Californians, who were expecting a vegan pacifist wonderland, are actually things I like.

That does mean I won’t make any more progress on my comics, or blog posts, for a long time. But how will anybody notice the difference? XD

Little Downham Byegones and Organs fair, 29th March 2014

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I remember going to this event a few times as a young child (when the car-trailer-sized mechanical organs seemed like gigantic towering machinery), then didn’t for years and years. As my interest in classic cars, steam engines and patriotism increased, the more annoyed I got with myself for always forgetting this (only remembering as I drove past it, on the way to some other place).

More recently, I got involved in an international group of friends called The Regular Sweets, and we make collaborative and individual videos about our lives, and where we come from (and, less recently, I started this blog XD). This event was perfect material for that, so off I wandered!

Agricultural engine “Success”

I actually thought there would be more steam engines than there was, and there was only one “full size” one (unless you count the steam car that was also there). I also thought there would be steam engines powering the mechanical organs, but actually they were just run on electrically-generated compressed air instead.

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And an information board about the engine. Interesting to see it was built in 1914. 1914 is quite “in the culture” at the moment, as it’s now 100 years on from World War 1. Much is made of the “modern warfare” aspects of that conflict – the aircraft, tanks, machine guns etc. But in everyday life there was still plenty that was driven by “Victorian” technology! These traction engines in particular would drive from farm to farm (very slowly), and would then stay still, using their engines to push and pull machinery such as ploughs up and down fields with pulleys.

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Other steam engines

There was also a couple of mini traction engines, though one of them had two seats and was being driven around. Steam has incredible torque, you know. At one point they put it into reverse and just instantly went backwards, no need to stop first XD.

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And then there was this “Lykamobile”. It looks like a Victorian car, but has modern “59” (that’s late 2009, not 1959) numberplates. I thought it might be electric, as I think the safety regulations are a lot more lax for electric cars (mainly so the G-Wiz could be sold here, though a reproduced original Mini couldn’t). But actually it’s steam powered! It can also be bought and built in kit-car form, meaning you could have a steam car of your very own! (With a lot of money and assembly time, anyway).

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http://www.steamtractionworld.com/lykamobile.htm

More classic commercials

A Ford Escort van, Morris Minor van and Commer van. Last time I went to this show properly, probably 2005-or-so, there was a Morris Minor van for sale, which needed quite a bit of restoration. I wonder if this is the same one, newly finished?

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Also, an old military ambulance, based on a Land Rover. It won’t be from during the war, but is probably from not long after it.

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Classic cars

There was quite a few, and quite a variety, of classic cars there. Though there was also several Morris Minors, two very similar Rover P4’s, and even a couple of 50’s Vauxhalls of the same family!

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Morris Oxford estate, and 2CV-based kit.

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Big green Austin, of some kind, with military markings.

Here’s some immaculate Rover P4’s, and a Morris Minor. Just the sort of scene you might have seen on a hastily-converted “bomb site” city-centre car park, circa 1959.

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MKII Lotus Cortina, but not in the famous Lotus colours.

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Vauxhall Cresta from 1955. I think this was before the “P series” Crestas, which started from the PA Cresta, which looked like a 57 Chevy, or something.

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A Swift… *squiiint*… F Type?

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Morris Minor Travellers.

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Something from the Rootes group; Singer / Sunbeam / Hillman etc.

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The cooler Lotus Cortina. I once saw a fake one for sale, based on a normal 2-door Cortina that had had a ‘modern’ (well, 80’s) 2-litre Capri engine chucked in. Wish I’d bought it!

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Morris Six

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Can’t remember what this was

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Vauxhall Velox, a lower “trim level” than the Cresta.

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Austin Cambridge, basically the same as the Morris Oxford from above.

Bikes

There wasn’t that many bikes, of the motor or pedal kind XD. And they were all kind of crammed away behind the mechanical organs.

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Honda

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The best one, late 20’s / early 30’s mean machine.

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A pedal bike based on a post office motorbike, from the 40’s

Tractors and Stationary engines

There was plenty of non-steam farm equipment too, mainly old tractors and a bunch of small stationary engines (internal combustion). Most of the latter were running, and backfiring like mad. They were all pretty crudely built, some just had a big hole for an exhaust pipe. I loved the smell!

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Rat tractors!

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RrRrRr-PHUT! RrRrRr-PHUT!

Mechanical Organs

These are one of the main attractions of the show. They have a lot of wind-pipes like a church organ (though with a different, less sombre tone), mechanical drums, bells and other tinkling bits. Some even have animated figures that move! In Victorian times, they were controlled by long strips of paper, card or punched wooden sheets with holes in, or else revolving drums with spines on. All these systems activated ‘switches’, or valves for air pressure, as they moved – making them an early ancestor of computer programming. I don’t know if the organs there that day were Victorian survivors, newly-built, or maybe restored old ones which have been installed in modern trailers.

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Fenlander II

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Galadriel

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Los Tubos… this one had quite a different tone to the others.

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Inside the village hall, there was a number of displays of interesting old things. There was also a number of barrel organs and smaller mechanical organs, though I forgot to take pictures of most of them.

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Small piano thing, on a table of assorted bits and bobs

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Matchboxes… surprising to see how old some brands (like Spar) actually are!

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Old car ornaments

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Cans for petrol and oil

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Toy cars

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Farm tools

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Ice skates.

Somebody at my work does something called “fen skating”, where they wait for areas of fenland to get slightly flooded in winter, and then freeze. If you get enough rain, followed by low enough temperatures, you could skate for miles, in and out of trees, over fences and so on.

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Childcare / midwifery table

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Magic lanterns

Magic Lanterns were the “TV” or “Cinema” of the day, with several projected pictures over one another giving the illustion of movement, for instance a scene of a fire with ‘moving flames’, or a ship with the sails dropping. This one would probably have been extremely expensive.

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More modern video equipment, including a 60’s cine-camera and 80’s video camera, which you actually put VHS tapes directly into!

Heh, I mentioned seeing somebody with an even bigger VHS video camera at a school sports day in about 1991, my mum had his name instantly. She never forgets the “insult” of somebody conspicuously-consuming, evidently.

Barrel / Smaller Mechanical Organs

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One “played” by an animatronic clown. There was actually another one being played by a teddy bear, but I forgot to take a photo.

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Other ones

The event was pretty cool in all, though not very big (I’m sure there used to be another event in the village that was in both the village hall car park, park car park, and school playground, with all sorts of events and displays). But it did put me in the way of knowing that there’s a much bigger steam engine / classic car show in Haddenham in September, which ought to be worth seeing (well, if I’m here in September, anyway). There’s also a place called Prickwillow Engine Museum, with displays of steam and diesel engines which used to be used to drain the fens. That might even be worth a “dashcam” cycle trip to!

Jackal demo tape

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Back in this post, I mentioned that I’d bought a demo tape by an obscure, forgotten metal band called Jackal. Today I finally got around to recording the tape into MP3’s, then turning those into movies and putting them on Youtube.

As I mentioned before, the design of the logo looks very 80’s, and the music sounds a bit thrashy, or NWOBHM. I can’t find any reference to this particular band anywhere else on the internet, so I might as well be the one to get the name out there! The demo itself has only four tracks, and looks to have been made on the cheap. the insert looks like it was produced on an elderly black and white photocopier, and the red has been added by hand.

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The back of the insert is blank, containing no information about where the band comes from (I’ll assume Cambridgeshire, for lack of any other information. I bought it in the RSPCA shop in Cambridge, for the amazing price of 10p), when the tape was recorded, or even what the song titles are (so I’ve guessed them!).

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There’s not even markings on the tape to tell you the sides!

So, without further ado, lets listen to the songs themselves! This could be the first time that anybody but me and the band members has heard them in over 20 years…

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“Fallen Angels”

“Promised Land”

“Human Nature”

“Amputated”

The miscs

Just a bunch of other photos from my phone…

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Revised “looking for a Japanese girlfriend” t-shirt design

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Odd thing seen at Camcon

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Things that people made for my work’s charity Halloween party.

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Soho Bullit! Right next door to a good Japanese book shop, which is called, er, “Ultimate Dry Cleaning”.

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Suddenly, and for no reason, these thumbnails have started to be stretched vertically. Anway, a gingerbread house somebody at work made for Christmas. Check out the second photo!

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Third hibernating butterfly to wake up too early. This one I kept in my cabinet with a flower it could eat pollen from, but it died anyway.

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Decorative lamp I got my granny

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The last sunset of the year (2013!) was wonderful. Taken with two different cameras…

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There’s a monthly manga meetup in London, which I went to a few times last year. This year I hope to go more regularly. I had to kill time (it’s on a Sunday, everything shuts hours beforehand), so went to the Embankment, first time I’ve been there, actually.

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Czech big apple cookie thing

Actually I had this closer in time to the “perfume flavoured” Russian sweets than now. But Could never be bothered to get the photos off my phone. Anyway it’s layers of very thin biscuity stuff with dried apple-ey tasting stuff inside. It’s actually kind of like apple Go Ahead! bars, only with more of it, and no brown sugar.

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Who I once was

We had a family lockup, but with impending financial trouble have emptied it to sell / use stuff, and save money on renting it. Unfortunately we lost the key for one of the cabinets, and have turned the place upside down looking for it. I didn’t find it on top of my wardrobe, but I did find most of my old college work, and the doodles I’d done on it. There’s actually surprisingly few doodles – don’t tell me I was actually paying attention!

Anyway, I thought I’d scan in the most amusing doodles and upload them to Facebook, but as facebook shrinks them, I’ll also put them on here. As you can see, I was an anarchist at the time, and wrote a lot of hilariously embarrassing political messages. College was a pretty traumatic time for me. Mainly because the one I went to was full of GCSE-failing chavs who were doing either bricklaying or leisure and tourism, and mainly because it was 2001 and people were scummy then. But also it was because I had all these ultra-leftist beliefs, which would today be labelled “SJW”. My pronouncements on the evils of capitalism and the tories alienated most of my friends, or potential friends. I was also pretty shy and looked ridiculous (even more so than now XD).

Strangely, while I was often talking about overthrowing the government, calling people sexist for saying girls were sexy, and glorifying the antics of 80’s leftist protesters who kicked Nicky Crane’s head in (I didn’t know what happened to him afterwards, the only thing I’d heard about him came from a pirated Oi Polloi mp3), I never made a peep about gay rights, and only ever told a couple of people I was bi. So we can add cowardice to my many failings.

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Ripper Street is the shit

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I meant to write this post after episode 1 of series 1, but failed to. We’re now waiting on episode 6 (of 8) of series 2 (which was sprung on me a bit unexpectedly, if I’d not idly opened the paper that day I wouldn’t have known it was back on).

Anyway, it’s a brilliant detective series set in Whitechapel, the first series was set in 1889, shortly after the Jack The Ripper murders (one of the first lines in it was “she’s been ripped!”). The main character is Inspector Edmund Reid, who was a real person, though he bears little resemblance to his real-life counterpart (who was far more interesting, a high-ranking druid and a balloonist!). There’s also the usual tough sergeant who is handy in a fight, and an American army doctor (and former spy) who does the CSI stuff. The first series had an ongoing storyline revolving around the background of Captain Jackson, who was a Pinkerton detective in the USA, and got involved in the Haymarket Massacre, a real event of 1886. That’s one of the things I love about Ripper Street, though it’s clearly fictional (despite having some characters who really existed), they make a lot of references to things that really happened at the time. Other references include a boat accident which Inspector Reid was injured in (the real one wasn’t, though!), and the shutting down of the “freak show” at which the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick, was exhibited.

The new series looked like it was going to revolve around trying to bring the drug-dealing chief inspector of a neighbouring police division to justice, but that appears to fallen by the wayside in favour of more “individual” episodes touching on various political issues of the day such as the growth of Chinatown, feminism and Irish republicanism. There’s also another ongoing plot about Captain Jackson’s wife, Long Susan (who runs a brothel) being in debt to a local slum landlord.

They’ve managed to avoid anachronistic technology pretty well, and have been sparing with stuff that was cutting-edge at the time. No doubt rich parts of London had electric light, but Whitechapel didn’t! They even make reference to the steam-powered lines of the underground, we haven’t yet seen a telephone or motor car, and film is something they look upon as if it’s witchcraft.

There does seem to be plenty of anachronistic speech, though. But it has been toned down a little in the second series. The first used the term Molly House (used in City of Vice a few yeats previously. That series was set in 1749!), and they occasionally sounded more like characters from Shakespeare or the Bible! That’s been toned down a little in series 2, though the odd modern phrase (like “knock yourself out”) has slipped in. I was surprised to hear the term “infernal machines” used. At the time, that was the term used to describe a bomb, especially one intended to kill people.

All in all this is a great show, in fact I’m probably more excited about where series 2 is going than I am about the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who! I hope it continues for a lot longer – the real-life Reid lived until 1917, working as a private detective in a small seaside town after he retired. Of course, the 1890’s and 1900’s were a period of rapid technological advancement and laid the foundations of the social changes that the world wars were to bring about later. If the writers can keep on coming up with complicated cases and ‘impossible’ murders, it will be great to see these years through the lens of London’s poorest!