The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘television’

For Entertainment Purposes Only

Posted by BigWords on April 13, 2016

Has anyone else been watching the various programs on the supernatural currently doing the rounds? Have you noticed anything strange in their presentation to a (presumably) intelligent audience? If not, then this is where you start paying attention to the way in which you are led through the problematic area of “shows which we have to apologize for.” It is an annoying subset of programming etiquette, and one which needs an immediate reappraisal.

If you have been watching these shows and are at a loss to pinpoint any unease in the lead-in to these shows, then let me elucidate some of the lingering hesitation inherent in their showing.

Ever since the first ghost-hunting shows appeared, there has been a distinct lack of conviction in putting them in front of an audience. You may have noticed that message flashed up on screen stating that what follows is for entertainment purposes only, but… Why is this required? Do we get this before sitcoms? No. How about game-shows? Uh… Not there. Maybe kung-fu films, because we certainly wouldn’t want people getting kicked in the head because someone saw it done on television? Sorry, nope.

It is a form of discrimination, and one which continues to baffle me in how arbitrarily it is applied. Do we get the message before religious shows? If you know the answer to that question, then you know that there is a problem at the root of the phrase’s use. It’s too easy to take from the application of the statement that what follows such an announcement that there is a disconnect between broadcaster and program. Shows which air sans statement can, therefore, be taken as fact.

There are people reading this who, for whatever reason, aren’t going to care about the tradition. Some might expect it, and others may ignore it, but the fact that such a blatant distancing is still in effect needs at least a little examination. Surprisingly, when I was putting together my thoughts for this, the BBC – of all places – highlighted the problem in an unexpected way. The comment is at the bottom of this page.

I have long believed that mainstream news should have a label “for entertainment purposes only”.

You can’t argue with that.

Okay, so it is a comment on the internet, and we all know how easy it is to rattle off something when faced with a well-rounded, insightful article. But it got me to thinking about what else should be relegated to the status of ‘entertainment’ – why, for instance, don’t we get this before sporting events? Surely, if there is one category of broadcast which practically cries out for such a disclaimer it is the area of sports broadcasting. There’s little to no educational merit in watching horses running around a course.

And soccer. And, for that matter, F1. Really, we should just go whole hog and stick it in front of everything which appears on the idiot box. All of those police shows, the endless, mind-numbing antiques shows (yeah – nothing in those are raising the bar any), and even medical shows if the standards aren’t going to rise above mediocre. I could go on, but you can probably tell by now where this is going…

We need to talk about MTV. Long ago, hard as it may be to remember, they used to show music. Does anyone else remember that? It is in the name – that’s what the M stands for. I know they are doing lots of original programming, but that doesn’t excuse them from abandoning their core reason for existing. Why, I ask you, aren’t they flagging the message up at the end of every advertising break?

Man, this was meant to be a neat little break in the serious.

Okay, video time again. Just remember, these are all for entertainment purposes only…

Heh. Nobody else will be sleeping tonight.

Just sharing the love, people.

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So… That Happened?

Posted by BigWords on April 4, 2016


The car you buy when you have given up on ever having sex again. And given up on life in general. Via Eco Car Blog.

While I was otherwise occupied, with things that don’t really relate to this post, a lot has gone on in my absence that doesn’t really make any sense. I’m gonna raise my hand right off the bat and admit that there is a lot which doesn’t make any sense to me anyway (the proliferation of stupid little cars being one – smart cars? Ugh, please…) but everyone should be really proud of themselves. While I was offline you guys raised the bar. The level of crazy really went off the scale, and coming to it after the fact makes it no less mad.

I’m still completely at a loss to comprehend the Sad Puppies, even though a fair few posts written over the last couple of years mentioned the fools those people. I’ve a few guesses at what’s making them sad, though to the best of my knowledge there’s no known cure for distemper. Also, nobody mentioned whether the puppies who were attempting to fix the Hugo Awards have themselves been fixed. Something to ponder, I suppose…

Then there is the mess which is being made of current politicians, policies and political parties, which probably deserves more words here, but I can’t bring myself to watch more than a few seconds of footage at a time. I honestly don’t know what the point of Nigel Farage is, other than to be a perfect character in some revived Spitting Image series, and there isn’t a single member of the SNP who doesn’t make my skin crawl. The US is, thankfully, much worse, so at least I can say “Guys, chill – we don’t have it so bad.”

I apologize to US readers, and suggest you start, y’know, calling out the racist, sexist, homophobic, isolationist bigots who are being ridiculous. Or take up rifle practice. Just sayin’. Any other time I would have found a perfect song to accompany that, but I’m really busy at the moment and Googling “Delaney Plaza comedy theme tune” is too much like hard work.

Despite not having the internet, I have been hearing some of the new songs being put out, and I can happily say that there isn’t anything ground-breaking there. Where is this generation’s Great Big Moment tunes? Hell, the sixties and seventies brought us a wealth of songs which continue, year in and year out, to be used in films, television and radio as great songs. It isn’t just nostalgia (though that is a part of their success), but the unity of lyrics, accompaniment and imagery. I’m saddened at the prospect of a disposable musical heritage being cultivated by people whose concept of “timeless” lasts just long enough until the next album gets squeezed out.

What little television I’ve seen has been punctuated by my feeling like I would rather read, or take a long walk, or anything other than being insulted by rehashed versions of things I never missed in the first place. The first show I saw – from the first episode – since getting back to a semi-stable situation was The Aliens, which isn’t exactly original. Actually, the word “original” shouldn’t even be used in the same paragraph as that show, so diluted is the plot. And the shell suits make me think of The Scousers. Harry Enfield is probably waiting on the call to make a guest appearance.

The biggest mystery to me is Gogglebox. People have talked about it as if television had a massive shift in ideology, and NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN. I don’t get it. I mean… I watched an episode on the Channel 4 website, and I read some of the reviews people have written, but the idea makes no sense to be at all. Why do I want to watch a bunch of people I don’t know, who are watching television shows I don’t watch? The fact that such a series can get greenlit is probably a sign that nothing will ever be the same again… We have, as a people, given up on television as a medium. Thanks.

There are more ugly magazine covers than ever in the shops, with logos that are somehow worse with each passing iteration, and – presumably – revamped interiors which are just as aesthetically challenged. I can’t bring myself to look. Actually, I have glanced at some of the material on the shelves and I am glad to see the intellectually vapid “lads mags” have finally imploded in the critical mass of their own egos. Took long enough, mind you.

I completely missed everything that the BBC was going through, and I can’t say – with a straight face – that it was worth sticking through everything to watch. BBC3 is gone? Meh. Maybe if, y’know, the shows weren’t skewed so hard to the twentysomething market I may have raised an eyebrow, but it is no great loss. Letting go of Clarkson, however, is more of a quandary. I know he’s an asshole on the show, but it is largely a character he is playing. The new show seems to be making an effort to be as bland and unwatchable as possible, so it may not last the year. Here’s hoping…

Something else happened during my time away, and I’m not sure if it is completely pointless or only marginally stupid. In any event: Gotham. I know there are probably a thousand things that matter more in the world right now, but the very concept of a series which sets out the prehistory of Batman seems, to me, to be a colossal waste of time. The only thing I can foresee enjoying is the parallels the show will bring between Bruce Wayne and Wrath. As long as it doesn’t go all Watchmen and weird…

To be continued.

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Lit List: Spaced

Posted by BigWords on November 1, 2012

Season 1

Episode 1 – Beginnings

As part of the sequence where Daisy goes over Tim’s childhood, she mentions Batman comics.
Numerous comics, including Avengers, Cable, Cry For Dawn, Daredevil, The Darkness, Fantastic Four, Planet Comics, Weird Fantasy and Weird Science can be seen in Fantasy Bazaar comic shop in which Tim works. There may be more I haven’t noticed… In real life, it is the renowned comic shop They Walk Among Us.
An issue of FHM can be seen, opened to a Gillian Anderson photograph. I think it is the #84 (Jan 1997) issue.
As part of the sequence where Tim goes over Daisy’s childhood, she can be seen reading a copy of The Beano.
When Tim opens a cupboard two girls are standing in it, just like in The Shining (based on the Stephen King novel).

Episode 2 – Gatherings

The music from the feature film Misery (based on the novel by Stephen King) plays when Daisy is typing.
Tim reads an issue of Zenith while Daisy is on the ‘phone with her boyfriend, and later is seen reading an issue of Judge Dredd. There is talk on the commentary about it being the US editions, which is rather more amusing than it really should be…

Episode 3 – Art

The (thankfully fictional) magazine Flaps is mentioned by Daisy as one of the titles she submitted work to, and the office is later seen.
A whole slew of magazines are seen when Daisy goes to the newsagent, and she then returns to the apartment with magazines and newspapers.
The Guardian very noticeably falls out the top of the bag of newspapers and magazines Daisy returns with.

Episode 5 – Chaos

Socialist Worker newspaper is seen at the beginning of the episode.
2000 A.D., Judge Dredd Magazine, The Death Of Groo (and the other comics in Fantasy Bazaar).
There’s a flashback sequence which is based on the maze sequence from The Shining.
Tim reads The Independent newspaper report of the break-in at the animal testing facility at the end of the episode.

Episode 6 – Epiphanies

Tim wears a Batman t-shirt (with an image in the style of the animated series) at the beginning of the episode.
Captain Marvel (the Fawcett character, rather than the Marvel character) is referenced during the Scrabble game.
Daisy is reading Eightball issue #13 (Apr 1994) before Tim snatches it from her and begins reading it.

Episode 7 – Ends

Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira is mentioned at the beginning of the episode.
Mike mentions Andy McNab when he is in his meeting with the Territorial Army.
Daisy looks at her typewriter in yet another reference to The Shining.
During Daisy and Marsha’s talk, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare is referenced.

Deleted Scenes

Mike is holding Gun Magazine while asleep on the train.

Season 2

Episode 1 – Back

Tim’s opening narration is reminiscent of the one in GoodFellas, based on the book by Nicholas Pileggi.
Mike is holding Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson when he comes out of the bathroom.

Episode 2 – Change

French Fun by Catherine Bruzzone, The Diet Cure by Julia Ross, a Dummies Guide title, and a selection of Mr. Men books are among the titles seen in the bookshop Daisy is working in at the end of the episode. Other books are seen, though the names of the books are obscured by the camera angle.

Episode 3 – Mettle

Some of the scenes parody One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, based on the 1962 Ken Kesey novel.
The sequence set in an underground robot wars club is based on Fight Club. “The first rule of Robot Club…”

Episode 4 – Help

Dark Horse Comics is referenced in a poster at the beginning of the episode.
Tyres calls Daisy “Shakespeare” when he arrives to take Tim’s portfolio.
Daisy reads Hello! when she goes to fetch Mike from Marsha’s .

Episode 5 – Gone

Another Shining visual gag appears in this episode.

Episode 6 – Dissolution

Daisy can be seen writing for Colwyn Bay Gazette in a dream sequence. Unfortunately, the website seen is no longer working.

Episode 7 – Leaves

Sophie tells Tim that she has to leave to work for Marvel.

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Lit List: Dollhouse Season 1

Posted by BigWords on October 10, 2012

Season 1

Rossum Corporation is named for Rossum’s Universal Robots by Karel Čapek. It is the play which introduced the concept of robots.
Similarly titled to the play A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, which has surprising parallels to the stories in Dollhouse.


Cinderella is referenced a few times when Echo leaves the party at the beginning of the episode.
Topher quotes Hamlet, saying “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Elements of the plot bear a similarity to the Alex Cross book Along Came A Spider by James Patterson.
In a deleted scene, Echo looks at a row of books in the bedroom of the kidnapped girl, though the spines aren’t clear.

The Target

The plot of the episode bears a striking resemblance to The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, and the antagonist of the episode shares his name with the author of the short story.

True Believer

The Bible Not sure which edition is being read from, but given the nature of the people involved in the compound it is highly likely that the copy in question has at least one illustration of Jesus pulling a thorn from a dinosaur’s paw…

Briar Rose

Echo reads Sleeping Beauty from a book of fairy tales at the beginning of the episode, though the specific edition isn’t seen clearly.


Topher uses Soylent Green to describe Alpha – the film was based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison.
Alpha uses the writings of Nietzsche to justify his actions to Echo.

Epitaph One

Topher is seen surrounded by a stack of books, but the covers are obscured.

Also of note is that Joss Whedon mentions, in his walkthrough of the set, that books by Hennessey + Ingalls inspired some of the design of the Dollhouse, though he doesn’t elaborate on which books were used. This is, as far as I can tell, all of the titles in the first season (there are some cutaway shots, and some brief medium shots of characters in front of bookshelves) – as always, if someone notices a title I missed, then mentioning it in the comments would be appreciated. It is notable that two of the specific references are from fairy tales (Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty), while the tone of the series is that of a cynical cyberpunk present/future which is as far from “Once upon a time” storytelling as it is possible to get.

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Lit List: Harsh Realm

Posted by BigWords on September 11, 2012

The short-live FOX series Harsh Realm doesn’t have a lot of literary elements, and as it is a rather brief affair there are videos (of music from the series) at the end of the post to make up for the lack of material.


The main character, Thomas Hobbes is named for the philosopher of the same name (05 Apr 1588 – 04 Dec 1679).
Pinocchio is named for the main character in the 1883 Carlo Collodi novel The Adventures of Pinocchio.
Le Morte D’Arthur – Thomas Malory (part 1, part 2) the seat Hobbes enters Harsh Realm through has “seige” / “perilous” carved in the armrests


The episode title is named after Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes.

Camera Obscura

The Bible

Circe (unproduced)

Episode named after a character from The Odyssey by Homer.

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Get Your Geek On – Day Three

Posted by BigWords on September 14, 2011

There are a lot of different things which mark me out from the crowd, but the biggest mark is probably my adoration of all things old – there are geeks who only collect first issues of comics, or who have elaborate collections devoted to a single franchise (Star Wars probably takes the lead there), but I’ve always been more interested in the history and the feel of the things I look out for. The most attractive of the items in my growing collection(s) is British annuals – specifically those from the late fifties, with their wonderful painted covers and thick, white pages. Whenever I’ve spent time with American annuals, I always feel short changed, as they lack the length (a paltry 100 pages is about the best I have seen), the readability (no prose features? seriously?) and the robustness of their British counterparts. Back when I was staying in the apartment, their size and weight was something of a problem, but now I seem to be collecting them at a horrific rate.

When I mentioned how artwork was a consideration of mine the other day, I didn’t fully explain how much I have been influenced by art in my collecting habits. It’s hard to imagine these days, when so much of the geek landscape has gotten sleeker and more polished, but back when the British annual was at its’ height, the need for color interiors was minimal – the strength of the artwork was enough alone. I’ve spent a lot of time looking through the World and Purnell books, and I can’t say that I once missed the use of color in any of the strips. It’s probably why I took such a liking to The Walking Dead comics, with the pared-down, black and white style. The difference in tone which comes with removing unnecessary elements is very striking. Oh, and there we have the other major addiction of the moment. Zombies.

Moving around the UK so much, I’ve had to put things in storage occasionally, and one of the fun things about (slowly) unpacking everything is finding collections I had completely forgotten about (of course, I’m going to have to come back to that memory thing tomorrow – if I remember, that is…), such as the Pogs, or the trading cards. I have no idea why I started picking up trading cards, but there are a lot of old television shows represented in that particular lot. No superheroes, unsurprisingly, but I do have a couple of cards with artwork. Did Sorayama ever have a complete set devoted to his work? There are a few cards with his robots on them, but not a complete set by far. And there are flyers. Lots of them. Enough to wallpaper a room if I so wished. Mostly from comic conventions and fairs, though I have no idea why they were kept. The only thing I really wanted to find when I went through the analecta was photographs, but I have, as yet, to come across a single one. There are plenty of pictures of London (and you have no idea how homesick that makes me), but nothing of me.

I think that brings up a lot of questions I rather wouldn’t answer.

Anyway, the collections… It’s about time for a small gallery.

Having spent a long time working what to do with the non-fiction book I started at the beginning of the year, I finally came to the conclusion that it made sense to merge it with the embryonic notion for a British-centric guide along the lines of the Comic-Book Database – and to put it all online rather than struggle against format issues which kept me awake for longer than it should have. When I get around to it (and trust me, I will), the spiel about “geek privilege” will probably delve into the most inane circles of logic, but until then try not to think too hard about the sheer number of individual items I have to catalog for the database. It may take some more time than I initially allocated to the project…

(WordPress is acting funny again, so the pics are via Picasa)

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Get Your Geek On – Day One

Posted by BigWords on September 12, 2011

This is in response to Monica Valentinelli’s post. I had intended to do a single post reflecting on what it means to be a self-identified geek, but I quickly realized that I fall into a special category which doesn’t truly represent my fellow geeks. For a start, the way I moved around so much as a kid means that I am not as attached to specific elements of geekdom which others may find strange – I never, for example, thought of myself in terms of being a Star Trek or Star Wars fan (you can like both, apparently, but not love them both equally), nor had a preference for DC or Marvel. As for the television shows which mark people as being a geek- Oh boy, this really is gonna take a whole week to get through… I’ll try to link to the more obscure stuff, but if I drop something in here which I don’t explain properly, feel free to ask – I love explaining weird old stuff, and showing how much better it is than people would expect.

It’s best that I start with the biggest (and most important) discoveries which cemented my obsession with the geekier things in life. While most people might be expecting the big nudge to have been superhero comics, or the original Star Wars trilogy, or Doctor Who, it was actually the stuff above my reading age which prompted me to go hunting for more of the same. I can clearly remember reading Tarzan Alive before I hit high school (which led to my obsession with the Wold Newton concept, a love of Anno Dracula, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Tarzan Alive prepared me for the concept of American comics, rather than the other way around. That alone is a massive leap for a lot of comic geeks to believe, but I was an quick study, I was a bookworm, and I was infinitely bored at school. I also read Den when I was… Ten? Eleven? That led to a long trip through the fantasy bookshelves, where I found all the classics of the genre. It was all about the artwork to begin with, which is why I have defended Frazetta posters against casual ignorance over the years, but I soon learned that the language was just as important.

Lord Dunsany was the gateway drug from the fantasy of old, to the wonders of Lovecraft, which, I suppose, got me ready for Sandman and Swamp Thing. Having pointed out a few times that my superhero exposure was limited, you might find it strange that I look so favorably on those Vertigo titles, being borne from the superhero comics of the eighties, but here – again – I bucked the trend. The first comic I can clearly remember reading is Valerian. It is often stated that it is for teens, but I think I would have been eight or nine when I found a few of the albums, and they still hold more attraction that a certain throwback to forties serials. It wasn’t just BD which kept me busy (though I still flick through Spirou et Fantasio from time to time), but the oft-overlooked British titles. Does anyone remember Oink! or Scream? I have clear memories of picking up the first issue of Scream when it came out, and running around with the white plastic vampire teeth. I can’t remember if they glowed in the dark or not, but I can remember biting my brother with them. Ah… Memories.

While others may take pleasure in imagining (and sometimes writing) their perfect DC or Marvel stories, I always found more meat in the British characters. For the longest time I thought about reviving a bunch of old characters which had been features in various Denis Gifford guides, but Grant Morrison – and then Paul Grist – went and made that notion redundant. The bastards… I still have my notes, and the material might come in handy at some point, but using anything which has been linked to either Zenith or Jack Staff seems parasitic and pointless. The two characters I associated with most, and who formed the pillars of my idea, were Zom of the Zodiac and Marsman, who represented the difference between magic and science. With the similarities and differences between their outlooks I placed mankind in the middle of their eternal war (and managed to work out a way to use Robert Lovett in a way which was respectful and yet unique). Maybe I’ll post some of the ideas in the future, but it’s still in comic-book script format. A lot of the influences which make their way into my writing are from those early introductions to fantasy, science fiction and horror, and a lot of the blame is down to me being left to my own devices for swathes of time. If I had more supervision I probably wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the things which have stayed with me all these years.

I haven’t covered Hammer, British television or anime yet, so I’ll get to that tomorrow.

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Important Numbers – 88

Posted by BigWords on August 12, 2011

This has come up a staggering number of times, so it is probably time to explain (in full) my take on significant numbers, because it seems that 88 is more than merely the infinity symbol doubled and placed on their side – it’s my personal arc number. It crops up in the oddest places, and when I’m least expecting it, and making note of the appearances makes the sightings more frequent. I’ve made mention of my fetish for the number four (and multiples thereof) numerous times, and the internet has made the appearances of the number more obvious to me.

This post has been delayed time and time again while I wrestled with the thorny subject of unsavory connections to the number, but I’m going to go ahead and completely ignore the little-minded bigots who have hijacked a perfectly good geek number. Any comments pointing out the omission, or attempting to bring the subject to the fore, will be deleted, and the individuals added to my list. Yes. I have a list.

I’m laying this out in the format of a TV Tropes page. No, I’m not going to apologize for that fact – if you’re dumb enough to spend the rest of the day on an archive binge, that’s entirely your fault…

Manga & Anime

The manga Area88 by Kaoru Shintani, which was then made into OAV’s, an anime series, and computer games.
The ‘Mausoleum of Eighty-Eight Emperors’ in Code Geass.
Kamikaze – Imprisoned for a thousand years, eighty-eight fabled beasts seek resurrection from their world so that they can unleash their wrath upon present-day Japan.

Comic Books

The Dick Tracy comic strip featured a character called 88 Keys, who was (quelle surprise) a piano player. He even hid a corpse in his piano at one point…
Marvel Comics’ supervillain Pandemic, who defeated Rogue’s X-Men squad and infected her with Strain 88, hoping to gain her powers.
The “Alternate 88” universe from Zenith, which is home to the supergroup Black Flag – Acid Android Archie, 93 Mantra, D.J.Chill, Domino and Smiley Sun.
A character named 88 turned up in Marvel Comics’ Nomad #23.


The classic, pop-culture soaked, modern pulp film The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension has the number 88 showing up regularly. The band even sings Rocket 88 (see below) during a performance.
In the Back To The Future trilogy, the Doc’s tricked-out DeLorean is required to reach 88mph in order to travel through time.
The Dick Tracy feature film gave some screen time to the aforementioned 88 Keys (played by Mandy Patinkin).
In Kill Bill O-Ren Ishii’s army of katana-wielding, Kato-masked heavies is known as the Crazy 88.
88 is also the name of a gang in the remake of Gridiron Gang starring The Rock. Watch Kill Bill instead…
Assassin droid IG-88 from the The Empire Strikes Back, who also appears in an episode of the animated Droids TV series.
88 Keys To Heartbreak.
88 Minutes – a film (ironically, 108 minutes long) which feels much, much longer than eighty-eight minutes…

Live Action Television

Dialogue from the My Name Is Earl episode The Professor

Randy: Says we need a password. I’ll try carrot.
Earl: Why carrot?
Randy: Who would think of carrot?
Earl: You did.
Randy: You’re right. I’ll try carrot 88… no 89. Dammit! I can only think of things I can think of.


The number eight (and multiples thereof) are scattered throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Roundworld, for example, has 88 constellations, while 88% is the passing grade score in a test Ponder Stibbons took. Additionally, an eighth son of an eighth son becomes a wizard, while a wizard’s eighth son (the eighth son of an eighth son of an eighth son) becomes a Sourcerer, a very powerful wizard.
There is a novel called The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber.
88: The Narrow Road by Felix Dennis (a get rich quick title)


Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, which is considered to be the first rock ‘n’ roll song.

The 1949 instrumental track Rocket 88 Boogie by Pete Johnson.
In addition to the song, there is also a band named Rocket 88, who play rock and roll standards.
Record producer and rapper 88-Keys.
Sonic Vs. Taste T, and Public Relation have both recorded songs called Eighty-Eight, while Tapesh recorded one called Bring Back 88.
The 88.
The number crops up in a lot of musical references thanks to the number of keys on a piano…
Dizzee Rascal’s video for Bonkers features a clock which reads 88:88.


In Chinese culture 8 is very important.

Western Animation

The short-lived Back To The Future animated spin-off (see above).
Various Dick Tracy animated series over the years, with 88 Keys playing a greater or lesser role depending on the tastes of the writers.
Number 88 in American Dragon Jake Long. All the students are called by their numbers in the Huntsclan training Academy, but 88 is referred to by his number even when he is not in the academy.
Experiment 88, Decrisper, in Leroy & Stitch. He’s a yellow, kangaroo-like experiment designed to make Jumba’s burnt food less crispy.

Computer Games

Aside from IG-88, who appeared in the original film trilogy, there is a droid named 8T88 in Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.
World of Warcraft guild “The Crazy Eighty Eight of Exodar”.

Web Original

In Arctos Comics‘ universe, The Royal Guard is made up of eighty-eight of the best of all the tir’a warriors.
Panel88, a comic-book company.

Real Life

There are 88 keys on the modern piano (thirty-six black and fifty-two white), and a piano is sometimes referred to as “eighty eight”.
General Motors’ Oldsmobile V8 is commonly known as the Rocket 88
Quavers. Eighty-eight calories of pure genius.
There are 88 constellations in the sky, as defined by the International Astronomical Union.
The traditional bingo call for the number 88 is two fat ladies (not to be confused with the television show)
88 means “bye bye” in Chinese-language chat, text, SMS and IM conversations. “88” is pronounced in Chinese (Mandarin) as “bā bā”, which mimics the English “bye bye”.
Similarly, 88 is used by ham radio operators meaning “hugs and kisses”.
Such is the lure of the number, there is actually a town called Eighty Eight in Kentucky.
The Prayer of Repentance by Reverently Prostrating to Eighty-Eight Buddhas.
Stephen F. Smalley is painting 88 portraits of Henry VIII for an exhibition.
The 88open Consortium was an industry standards group created in 1988 by Motorola to standardize Unix systems on Motorola 88000 RISC processor systems.
’88-level’ is a named condition in the COBOL programming language.
Dale Earnhart Jr’s NASCAR car number
The QBU-88 rifle (often called the ‘Type 88’ rifle) is a Chinese semi-automatic rifle which has appeared in numerous computer games including Battlefield 2, Battlefield: Bad Company, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days, and Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising.
The eighty-eight facet diamond – and it is an eight sided diamond, no less.
The de Havilland DH.88 Comet – a twin-engined British aircraft. ‘Grosvenor House’ was the name of the model which won the 1934 MacRobertson Air Race (for which the plane was initially designed), setting numerous aviation records. The DH.88 became one of the pioneers of airmail.
The 88-Inch Cyclotron which is a K=140 sector-focused cyclotron with both light- and heavy-ion capabilities. Protons and other light-ions are available at high intensities (10-20 pµA) up to maximum energies of 55 MeV (protons), 65 MeV (deuterons), 170 MeV (3He) and 140 MeV (4He). Most heavy ions through uranium can be accelerated to maximum energies which vary with the mass and charge state. I’m sure they are being responsible though
Taco Bell’s television commercials, radio spots and print ads featuring franchisees and employees extolling its taco filling. In one of the ads, an employee says, “Our seasoned beef is 88% premium ground beef and 12% signature recipe. If you want to see that signature recipe, go to It’s right there.”
The 88 is an ongoing project that will consist of 88 different works with a common background and each piece measuring 8″x 8″. “It is one work that will be made in 88 pieces which will be sold for $88 each. The intention is to bring the pieces together at the end of the project and party like it’s 1988 but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Why 88? I do what the voices in my head tell me to do. This gallery will feature the pieces from this series, check back and see how it all works out…”
The 88 Drive-in Theatre in Colorado
The 88 Butterfly (Diaethria species)
The 88 Plan, which is designed to assist NFL players under the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan and who are determined to have dementia.

Additions to the list are welcomed. 🙂

Posted in comics, Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Difficulties Of Research In The Internet Age

Posted by BigWords on July 25, 2011

Writing about doing research makes up for a large percentage of things written about writing. However clunky that sentence is, it is a reminder that there are aspects to any story which require some thought and preparation – often in areas which are, due to reasons ranging from the age of the individual to their location, rather obscure. Going into this post, I was acutely aware that there are things others have pointed out which contradict my views on research, but there’s enough room in this subject (by merit of scope) that taking a fresh approach might open up new ideas for people to consider. Which brings me to the first of my points – the strata of research.

1 Common / Everyday Knowledge

This is the easy stuff to find out, as there are multiple ways to tackle acquiring the information, but it is still going to evade your grasp if you aren’t asking the right questions. It isn’t too hard to frame some of the material in context either, as this is the preserve of the everyday. One small concern when using the regular, routine and mundane material is redundancy – how many times do we need to be told that it is not advised to walk out into traffic? Interestingly, it is often in SF that these irritating chunks of information are passed around, as if they are great insights.

2 Location / Era Specific Common Knowledge

This is the follow-on from the first category, and whilst the information is still as readily available, it may be restricted to certain areas of research. A good example of this is one of my obsessions – yes, I’m back to talking about pop culture. It may be almost unheard of today, when the young ‘uns are too fidgety to sit through a black and white film in peace, but back in the Good Old Days ™ there were cartoons, newsreels, and even a completely free of charge B-movie thrown in to the cinema experience. Music used to be (at most) three or so minutes – with certain exceptions – and there was no crime; crime having been invented in 1973. That last bit of information might be a lie…

Actually, that was put there to show just how easily a person can be led by misinformation which has crept into the historical record through incorrect assumptions being given more weight than they really deserve. There was a page on Wikipedia, for example, which had a bit about a British comic running at a loss, and as there was no way to prove the information incorrect it was kept up, despite being a lie. It may not seem like something which people should get upset about, but every piece of incorrect data in a work of reference is another problem to overcome for historical accuracy.

3 Individual / Group / Company Specific Knowledge

This is where things take a sharp incline into “difficult” – researching things which are common knowledge to a small group of individuals, though may be completely unknown outside of that area, is one of the most frustrating things I have had to do. When you find someone willing to talk, the danger of them providing unsubstantiated information gets increasingly complex. There’s going to be more on this in a later post, and I’ll throw a few of the things I use to overcome this.

4 Specialist – General Information

This is knowledge which is specific to one area (diamond-cutting, car manufacture, publishing) which can be adapted for fictional uses, or supplemented for use within another area. It’s less difficult than it used to be researching this, as there are now multiple titles which offer introductions to areas which, until very recently, might have been the preserve of those who would enter the profession to gain knowledge of the ins and outs.

5 Specialist – Secrets

This is where “difficult” enters the realms of “impossible” to all but the most dedicated of researchers. You can be guaranteed that you will come up against heavy resistance to any kind of research which is regarded (rightly or wrongly) as being a secret. Of course, having pried a few of these out of people in the past (and accidentally revealing some) I know there are ways to get around the wall of silence. You might want to think twice before you publish anything which falls under this heading, as people take a harsh view of those who would expose things they want kept under wraps.

I’m going to take a longer view of this later.

6 Undiscovered Knowledge

And we come to the highest tier of the WTFery that anyone could possibly hope to research.

For all the vaulted merits of the internet, and the mass of information on tap 24 hours a day, wherever you happen to be, there are some things I can bet you won’t be able to easily track down. I know this. I’ve already looked. If, for example, a person was to write something about Wikileaks, where do you think the narrative would have to begin? Take a moment to think about this, because the question isn’t so easy…

Do you have an answer yet?

Aaaaaand… You’re wrong. Whatever you thought there, the correct answer isn’t 2010 (when traditional news outlets got their panties in a twist), 2006 (when the site was founded), nor 1971 (Julian Assange’s birth), because that does not cover the history of an individual taking it upon himself to reveal embarrassing facts regarding a political group or movement. In fact, if you want to write about Wikileaks there seems to be a precedent buried in the history books – way back in 1767 in the letters column of the London newspaper Public Advertiser, published by Henry Woodfall.

Of course, the newspaper seems to have completely vanished from anywhere accessible via the internet (if it was ever was available, that is), and none of the usual routes seem to take me closer to a copy of the letter pages, so Junius’ scathing indictment of King George III, and his parliament must remain under the “unverified” column. My notes don’t reveal where I found that nugget of historical information – and I’m not entirely sure that the information is even correct, as the newspaper isn’t available to check, so as a fact (or lack of a fact) it sits uneasily in a netherworld of things which I have yet to get around to. Cue epic headache, and the eternal frustration of research.

I’m probably going to take an especial interest in this area, so be prepared for a massive rant dialogue on the annoyance of trying to find something which has yet to be properly documented.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The List Of Fours

Posted by BigWords on December 21, 2010

Nothing to do with the Book Of Fours (though a Buffy reference making a long-overdue appearance here would probably be welcomed) nor Rule Of Four (or Rule 34, for that matter), The List Of Fours is, in fact, a meme. Is it being altogether too clever to stick a link here to Hypnerotomachia Poliphili? Probably, though I guess only you can answer that… Don’t sigh, this won’t take long and I’ll try to make it as painless as I possibly can. And I know – memes are lame, but I don’t have any option other than to comply with the social obligation of doing this, seeing as how a very evil individual tagged me. Go comment on her blog about how this contravenes the very clear protestations I have made against such things, here and elsewhere… Whilst it isn’t necessarily stated that I have to expand on the reasons for inclusion of each item here, I will do so to place some sort of context to the madness – something which is probably required given how rapidly I can jump from subject to subject.

Anyways, this list was really hard to put together. Really hard. I wanted to make it better than my usual attempts at memes because it’s not an altogether bad one. It’s not brilliant, but it doesn’t make me want to gouge out my own eyes (something which can’t be said for some memes), nor does it force me to take refuge in the tropes I embody best… Seeing as how these things tend to get rather more personal here than others would go, there is cause for a mild content warning. Seriously though, if you have seen some of my other posts, the TMI level today is mild in comparison with what I have been known to post. As always, discretion goes out the window when I get to the keyboard…

1. Four shows that you watch:

  • Firefly. You could probably tell that this was going to be on the list no matter what – though there was a bit of indecision here. Is it better than Dollhouse? It’s different enough from everything else Joss has done to make it worth noting as an exemplar of television which goes outside the box, looks at the box, and finds the box lacking… It redefines SF on its’ own terms and shows (with admirable audacity) that even the hokiest ideas can be made riveting. Cowboys in space? That’s as old as the hills. Hell, Galaxy Rangers and Bravestarr were doing that shtick back in the 80s. But Firefly is special – and not special in the bad way
  • The Wire. More than The Shield or any variant of C.S.I., The Wire represents the largest evolution of serialized crime drama in fifty years – even such groundbreaking shows like Hill Street Blues (and later NYPD Blue) didn’t move the goalposts so far. Watching (and re-watching) The Wire is like taking a masterclass in pacing and character development, as strands are placed in position, moved, taken apart, and put back together again. I fucking LOVE this show.
  • Doctor Who. Something of a guilty pleasure (especially since Karen Gillan was added to the cast), but one of the strongest UK shows currently running. That statement, in and of itself, is a damning indictment against British television entertainment, as it has long been a show mocked for poor FX, cardboard sets, and pantomime acting. I was going to use Babylon 5 for my third choice, but the over-arcing plot culminating in The Doctor restarting the universe is much more audacious a stunt than anything JMS pulled. Not necessarily the best reasons for listing it, but repeating “Amy’s legs” a dozen times would be redundant…
  • Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. As the number of really intelligent cartoons has increased, a few rise above even the best live-action shows – not many, but a few. GITS is one which refuses to simplify anything as it barrels along from a Catcher In The Rye influenced digital terrorism case, through some of the most moving scenes ever filmed (a little girl looking for her lost cat? Yeah. Sure. How traumatic can that episode be?), and onto heavy philosophical questions of what it means to be human. I can’t recommend this show enough, and urge everyone to at least give it a shot.

2. Four things you are passionate about:

  • Lists… If the concept of lists wasn’t readily available, I would have had to create the notion. There are few better ways to display information concisely and with the maximum of information. I have had a thing about lists for some time, and it has only increased.
  • Books. That’s something which should be blatantly obvious by now, though there are probably areas I should explain. I like all books, for different reasons. There are folks who dislike the novelizations of films (and when Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke have both written novelizations, there is no reason to dismiss the form), or look down on reference guides to television shows… Whatever prejudices are brought up, I have one comment – books are there to enrich your mind, so quit bellyaching and start looking at the wider picture. First person to dismiss self-pubbed books in the comments will be lectured. You have fair warning.
  • Art. From antique woodblock prints to fifties comics, and from the neo-realist to Dada, I love art. The more interesting it is, and the less it panders to the majority, the more I tend to get obsessed with it. I have attempted to bring people to the notion that art doesn’t have to be an elitist pastime. It isn’t entirely true that true art is incomprehensible, as there are plenty of great experimental images (The Great Bear comes to mind) which combines functional style with wild imagination.
  • Monkeys. Yes, you read that right. Because everything is better with monkeys. You can blame the Timesplitters computer games for this mild obsession…

3. Four phrases words you say a lot:

  • “Groovy.” Because Ash is awesome, and there can’t be enough Evil Dead love on this blog.
  • “Dude…” If I have to explain this, then you really haven’t been paying attention… Any questions, and I will post a bunch of sixties music videos in the comments section.
  • “Fuck.” One of the most useful words in the English language, serving as a noun, verb, comma, full stop… Pretty much the essential word for any Brit.
  • “Oops.” This post is a self-demonstrating example of the use of this word. It wasn’t meant to be a massive post, but things tend too happen and I get excited. Very excited. Then there are a bunch of words on the screen, it’s hours later, and people are wondering what the hell I think I am doing. So yeah.

4. Four things you’ve learned from the past:

  • “What does not kill you only makes you stronger” isn’t necessarily true. In fact, it’s pretty much the diametric opposite. Think about it for a second – if you break a leg, does it suddenly regenerate, allowing you to run faster and longer than ever? No. Whoever came up with that idiotic saying should have had every bone in their body broken to prove that they would not become capable of kicking Steve Austin’s ass afterwards.
  • Checking for blue spots on bread is always a good idea BEFORE you eat it. Having learned the hard way, there’s little chance of me making that mistake again…
  • Money doesn’t matter when there are other things at stake. It took me quite a while (probably longer than it really should have) to work out that money wasn’t the most important thing on Earth. I’m trying to shed the bullshit that society deems we earn as much as we can when we can, as it obscures things which are much more important. The days of me working for a whole week without rest on code are long gone, but the instinct to take every job I am offered is harder to break away from. It’s not a trait I particularly like, but I’m working on it.
  • Worst case scenarios are NEVER the worst case scenario. There is always an idiot who can, by skill or endurance, manage to make things even worse. These individuals should be avoided at all costs. Or tarred and feathered. Are we allowed to do that any more? Okay, so I’m not sure on that point, but you get the idea.

5. Four places you would like to go:

I was going to do the standard holiday locations for this, but it doesn’t feel right somehow. Honesty, remember? If I am to be honest, then the places I want to go should reflect me – stop shuddering at that thought – and the list is surprisingly short. There may be some debate as to how unique each location is in regards to each other, but I couldn’t list one and ignore the rest. The scary thing about his list? I actually have plans to visit each of these places…

  • AngoulêmeFestival International de la Bande Dessinee. One of the most important comic-book events in Europe, and one which has a remarkable attendance record from the legends of both European and US comics. Just to spend a couple of days in the presence of the masters would be worth going to France again. Damn. I didn’t mean to diss the French. Sorry. But, y’know – there’s a reason people mock their waiters. Just saying…
  • San Diego Comic Con. It’s not as if it is the easiest place to get to from the UK – especially with me currently trapped residing in Scotland. It’s one of the few places I would be allowed to talk about all the geeky stuff I love without people looking at me as if I am mildly mentally deficient. I could even get away with dressing up as Princess Leia. Wait. That ain’t right. I meant… Ah. Um. Moving swiftly on…
  • E3. All those computer games, just waiting to be drooled over. It’s paradise for someone who considers gaming to be an art form alongside television, film and music. I’m not completely sold on the current trend for 3D games, nor the motion-controlled variety – it seems gimmicky and prone to decreasing returns – but the number of traditional 3rd Person Adventure and FPS titles in development are worth the travel time to get to E3. YMMV on whether it is safe to let me loose in such an environment unchecked…
  • Anime Expo. Are you sensing the theme yet? C’mon, at least I didn’t say I wanted to go to FurryCon or anything. I like anime, and being surrounded by all the toys, DVDs and games would be beyond any level of excitement heretofore experienced. I may even need adult diapers if I were to attend…

6. Four things you did yesterday:

As it is now Tuesday (and this week can’t go fast enough), I’m using Monday’s activities as the material here, even though I started writing this on Sunday. Yes, this has gotten rather wordy, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to rush through the rest of the meme simply to keep you from getting swamp-ass while reading it. This is as therapeutically beneficial for me as it is meant to be entertaining for you, and if you’re getting annoyed at the length the post has managed to get then I suggest you make your complaints known to the individual responsible for such an outpouring of words. You can even find her on Twitter if you’ve already complained on her blog.

  • I nearly froze to death. There should be some kind of rule in place that states a workplace should be evacuated for the pub (or home) when the power goes off in winter. It’s bad enough that I was watching my body temperature slip below any safe or reasonable level, but adding in the morons who come into the shop with the barest understanding of computers… Yeah. That’s a recipe for disaster right there. If the power goes out again, you can expect to find me in the nearest bar, complaining loudly about Scottish winters.
  • I bought the first two seasons of Heroes on DVD. I know there are people who complain about the show being hokey, badly plotted and filled with moments that are not only dumb but are willfully stupid: “Why did Peter not fly away at the end of season one?” – *yawn* Any arguments fail to take into account that it has some of the funniest uses of superpowers since Marvel’s comedic masterpiece which was Civil War. I’m not sure if I’ll bother getting the rest of it, but those two seasons are enough to satisfy me at the moment.
  • I edited the start of The Ghost BureauAgain. I have the feeling that I’ll be reworking the story until It hits a million words through the various drafts. It figures that the most important of my WIPs would be the most complex story imaginable, requiring in-depth knowledge of the EU constitution… One of the most unimaginably boring documents ever committed to paper. The one thing which I have decided on, absolutely and without difficulty, is to set it back in the 90s instead of trying to force it into a modern perspective – it is all about the run-up to the millennium, and by trying to make it current it loses a lot of the impact.
  • I started my New Year’s resolutions list. I did mention up at the top of this increasingly long post that lists dominate the things I do, and the start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to indulge in creating lists for no other reason than their own existence. It may be the purest form of list-making in the world. Or something.

7. Four things you are looking forward to:

  • The moment when I finally get an agent. Of course, I would need to find one who is not easily frightened by the increasingly irrational tweets, the mess this blog has descended into, and who – if it is is at all possible – doesn’t mind me jumping genres. In the midst of all the strangeness (which is somehow appropriate for me) there may be a hint of the works which are bubbling under the surface – a romantic novel perhaps, or a hard-boiled detective thing… Hell, I’ve even considered re-writing an old play I wrote back in the mid-90s as a comedy film. The fact that it features a murder at an airport only adds to the comedic value. *thinks* I probably need to work on a sense of good taste, but if I land an agent I’ll get right on that…
  • A bigger and better purpose for Book Re:View. The fact that there isn’t much there at the moment shouldn’t make people think I’m ignoring it. I’m not. The problem of what to put there has been weighing on my mind, and the solution I came to wasn’t entirely one which I could do easily or quickly. I’ll be adding more lists (a lot more lists) and placing some other things in there as well. I’m intending to have a massive database there for those who need book facts, but first I need to gather and check the data. This could be considered the first salvo in my war of mockery against Wikipedia.
  • Reading all the books I see people writing. This year has sucked ass when it comes to reading. Every time I start a book, I get caught up in other things which need my immediate and unconditional attention. I’m going to make a concerted effort to catch up on all the books I really want to read, and go through some of my favorites again. I haven’t read a couple of the last Stephen King books because time has been so short, yet I would have normally gone through them in a day if things weren’t so chaotic. Oh, and for everyone writing – keep at it, I’ll really try to pick up everything.
  • Captain America. The film won’t suckThe film won’t suckThe film won’t suck… I just have to keep repeating that as much as possible until it gets released, and hope my houdou is working. Gods, I want it to kick major-league ass, but on the strength of the last Hulk piss-take, and a really ill-advised Man-Thing DVD, I am less optimistic by the day. BTW Marvel Comics… WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING? Did anyone bother to read the script? Did the title alone not give the game away? Man-Thing? *sigh*

8. Four things you love about winter:

A question which I’m trying not to answer with sarcasm, as tempting as that may be…

  • Snow. I like the patterns it makes when it lands on the bare trees. I don’t really care for walking through the damn stuff, but I like looking at it. The chiaroscuro makes the world look like a Frank Miller comic, which is just about the most awesome thing regarding winter. The snow also means I get to wear my big Silent Bob coat…
  • Watching old films on television. There always seemed to be weird films on through the night at Christmas when I was a kid, and the strange programming decisions doesn’t seem to have been diluted in the slightest. Having these oddities appear unexpectedly is one of the few things that makes up for the cold and the long night. Actually, nothing really makes up for the long nights – I miss daylight. I really miss daylight.
  • Warm Christmassy alcohol goodness. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the ever-present allure of hot toddies – there when we need an extra pick-me-up that no amount of mistletoe can deal with. And no, mistletoe doesn’t get on the list here, despite the few perks it gives, because I always end up with the creepy chick who tries to follow me around days later.
  • A WEEK OFF WORK. Hell and yes. By far the best thing about the season of goodwill is the fact that I get a whole week where I don’t have to answer stupid questions. There are so many reasons why I need the week off this year that I may actually break into song at the thought of a holiday. Not that me breaking into song could, in any reality, be a good thing…

9. Four bloggers who should share their list of fours:

Ah. The fun part, where I get to subject others to this awful meme. Y’know, after three thousand words of babbling, I should have some idea of who I want to torture continue this, but there are so many people who would make good use of the meme. And I really don’t care, having spent hours (literally) trying to answer everything properly. I have a great idea though – if you have made it this far, or leave a comment, then consider yourself tagged.

Posted in comics, Misc., Over The Line | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »