Megaphores

I have been shown a new site, and it is (depending on the time of day and the number of people on board) awesome.

The site is called “Megaphores“, and revolves around creating amusing, ludicrously over-the-top Seanbaby-style similes and metaphors. It’s incredibly addictive and fun, and has the Adult Swim seal of approval.

I can’t vouch for the site as a whole, because the quality is completely dependent on how many people are playing, and how intelligent those people are.

It’s much more fun to think of your own “megaphores”.

I think it has the potential to be amazing, so if you have a talent for words, please give it a go and see how well other people rate your megaphore.

It’s a megadeth for phore.

Thinking About The Dark Knight Rises [SPOILERS]

So, I went to see The Dark Knight Rises, and it was kinda good. But also kinda bad. There were moments, plot points, and entire settings which stretched credulity in a way that the previous two Nolan movies did not.

I’d recommend watching it, because it’s a good movie with excellent action sequences and memorable, interesting characters.

Now I’m going to talk about specifics, so there will be SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT DOWN…

Above : Intermission.

I think part of the reason these new movies have been so successful is the same reason The Dark Knight Rises was kind of bad in places. Christopher Nolan appears to be intent on ‘rescuing’ the Batman franchise.

It could be argued that the Batman franchise didn’t need rescuing. Sure, if you only read the comics and watched the cartoons, that’s true. Most people, though, haven’t done this. I mean, ever.

What people have done is seen the movies, or else picked up what they’re about through pop-cultural osmosis. So their view of the Batman universe contained until very recently a Catwoman who has mystic powers, cheesy Germanic scientists, tight Lycra, holy bat nipples, a series of seemingly-irrelevant baddies with bizarre powers and lame puns, and Adam West.

It’s this that I think Nolan was trying to save the series from.

So this is why we get a genuinely creepifying Scarecrow throughout the series, this is why we get no dubious science (well, less than we would expect from a series of comic book adaptations) and no ‘super powers’ in the traditional sense.

This article’s about The Dark Knight Rises though, so let’s get on that quickly.

Firstly, Bane is no longer a dumb thug in the employ of more sinister villains, as he was in Batman and Robin. Seriously, click that link, that video is horrible. He’s back to how he is in the comic books, an intelligent and sophisticated enemy as comfortable leading men as he is beating them mushy.

This was a real sore point with comic book fans, and I think Christopher Nolan did an excellent job in resurrecting Bane as a complex and intimidating villain…up to a point. The final twist, where it is revealed that (seriously, if you skipped all the spoiler warnings to this point you have no-one but yourself to blame) it was Tate, not Bane, who escaped from the pit, that he was cruelly treated by Tate’s father, and he cries a single tear, felt wrong in the context of Bane’s character before that.

Perhaps this is the point. Perhaps the idea is that we see Bane for what he is, just another human being rather than an unstoppable malevolent force, before Catwoman simply blasts the shit out of him with a cannon.

Personally, I think that the events are not close enough to drive this idea home. I feel that Bane is rounded enough as a character at this stage as he needs to be, and that trying to flesh him out further backfired badly in terms of the drama of the film.

Secondly, we have the bomb scene.

Batman running all over town trying to get rid of a huge round bomb in the ocean before time runs out? Remind you of anything?

Batman Bomb

Source: Know Your Meme.

That’s right, the scene frequently cited as a paragon of bat-cheese (ew, sorry) has been utterly redeemed, made awesome even, by Christopher Nolan. I find it hard to believe that it’s not a shout-out — just look how similar the descriptions of them are!

However, it also created problems, in my opinion.

Why weren’t the citizens of Gotham living on a bomb completely out of their control more interested in finding out something about the bomb, dealing brutally with the trigger-man in the process? They seemed unbelievably calm and content with their lot, all things considered.

Why doesn’t Bane simply crush the city with his huge and violent band of criminals? I know that this is explained as the military just being able to crush them, but he has just let the most dangerous killers and villains loose on a city. This would cause enough destruction on its own, even without the military & police showing up with gung-ho heavy weapons crews and letting loose on the city — I would consider whatever was left over to be pretty much mission accomplished.

Stealing this one from movieline.com:

Batman’s Superhuman Time Management
Before zooming off in the Bat with nuclear bomb in tow, and shortly after returning to the city after five months in the middle of nowhere prison with about a day to save the world, Batman somehow manages to put all of his legal affairs in order, leaves the pearl necklace for Selina (heh) and detailed instructions to Blake in a duffel bag at his lawyer’s office, sets a gasoline fire on the bridge in the shape of the Bat, saves Gordon in the nick of time, saves Blake in the nick of time, and fixes the Bat-symbol. I don’t know how he does it! Literally.

Best explanation: He’s Batman. Enough said?

Source: Movieline.

The time factor was pretty odd. Time stretched and slowed in this film like nobody’s business. And I blame the bomb for it.

Third, Catwoman.

Oh, Catwoman.

The best movie interpretation of your character so far has been essentially a shallow portrait of what the average person thinks an S&M fetishist looks like.

The worst has…has been…oh god, no. No, they can’t make me go back, they won’t!

Anne Hathaway, by contrast, portrays a hugely talented Catwoman with a suit that is actually functional (those cat ears are awesome!), a fairly well-developed character who saves the day despite her belief that she can’t really change anything. She is also less of a sex object (which has been her role in most other portrayals) than she is a skilled woman who happens to be sexy. Does she exploit her sexuality to take advantage of marks? Partly, when it’s easy, but equally she uses other skills such as fakery, deception, wit and charm.

She even redeemed one of the worst scenes in the Catwoman movie starring Halle Berry, making the line “Cat got your tongue?” sound sharp and sassy rather than…weird and psychopathic. Thank god there was no white russian scene, though, even Nolan and Hathaway couldn’t have saved that.

The scenes when she pretended to be crying in fear and shock were also excellent, both as send-ups of what Hollywood typically has expected of its women and as feats of acting.

The problem is that she’s too much of a well-rounded character. You’d have to be a real stereotype of a very particular sort to flee a city about to be destroyed when your friends (and every citizen in the city) needs your help, and Nolan’s Catwoman does not fit that stereotype. She’s too nice, too rational, and too smart. It’s not believable that she’d leave, so the scene where she comes back and shoots Bane is not really a surprise.

So, that’s my theory there. All the problems in The Dark Knight Rises were created by Nolan taking the worst parts of the Batman franchise, giving them a spin, and making them awesome.

On the one hand, slight problems that niggle if you think about them too hard. On the other hand…

AWESOME.

I think it was worth it.

Incidentally I found this quote on some right-wing individual’s site who appears convinced that one of the most right-wing movies (source: Forbes if you can stomach it) of recent years is leftist propaganda:

“Isn’t it fascinating that the villain, a brutal sadistic giant who talks through a voice box that makes Darth Vader seem positively cheerful by comparison, is named Bane. Gosh, what a coincidence. Sounds the same as Bain Capital that the president’s rival for the top office worked at. Oh, no, it’s spelled differently. Couldn’t possibly be any reference to Romney’s Bain.”

In case anyone was wondering, Bane in the comic books came a LONG time before Bain Capital was associated with Romney’s presidential campaign. Bane in the movie is a figure representing complete anarchy & populism as opposed to more moderate well-intentioned left- or right-wing individuals. Bane as a word meant something that causes ruin or woe in the 1570s.

Of course, the liberal reptile elite in Hollywood mean for us to become left-wing so that our blood will run sweeter and redder when the harvest finally comes, so there’s that too.

Correct me if I’m wrong about anything.

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Glamour Photography

HLO everyone! and welcome to my blog today it is about my glamour photography which is my job and it pays fine thank you I don’t do it just so to look at dinosaurs I am a professional and not an amateur or a semi-professional my girlfriend pays for this.

T-Rex reclining on a red fabric sofa.

(C) All rights reserve no infringemnet intended please.

This is a T-Rex I used a wide-angle lens and then I put it through a fish-eye filter on Photoshop and used the find edges tool I would recommend using this technique if you like your models to look a bit saucy or you could just put sauce on the photos hahaha no that was a joke but sometimes words do mean the same thing even when they are different.

Did I say I used a wide-angle lens? I think I used a zoom actually but either way it’s the same basic picture.

Therapsid

(C) All rights don’t steal.

I think this is some sort of therapsid I didn’t ask it though but does it matter I ask you when you can look at the beauty of the dinosaurs body I think my art is really all about the recording of the beauty of dinosaur bodies which is much nicer than looking at their arse or tits.

Dinosaurs don’t even have tits I mean I ask you some people.

I think that a good man will want to look at a dinosaur even if it has really small tits(!) because that is why they are generous and good but honestly as I said dinosaurs don’t have any at all which shows how good I am for looking at them (very good) and makes the picture sophisticated.

Triceratops on a red fabric sofa by John Lewis + also its bum

(C) COPY (don’t copy)

I will avoid the obvious joke here because I am more like James Bond with a martinei sort of humour I am very much a ladies man and have a dry wit (no not martina hingis lol I heard she played tennis or something!) a martinei!

Anyway I respect dinosaurs too much to say that this one is horny but it is. I gave it eyelashes in photoshop because who wants to look at a dinosaur that looks like it has shave its eyelids like some kind of MAN I ask you. I used infrared and also some candles on top of each other.

Apatosaurus

(C) Copywrong. Copyveryverywrong.

Yes tall dinosaur I said yes you are sexy. That is all you are good for though lol I said that as well.

She was so moved she looked like she was going to cry but then she didn’t she just charged me two hundred dollars for the picture and said that that was her job and if I had a job I would not be living where I am and paying dinosaurs to take off their clothes for me.

I said yes I would and said ha and she said she took pictures sometimes and she did not think I had got her all in and maybe I should use a wide angel but I said no you are not saucy.

Barmaids are saucy but they will not serve me bcos they say I smell like despair. I do have a job though.

I used an ISO 300 and a camera. She broke my pair of heels that I use so I lashed a satellite dish to her foot with some rope from a ship or something.

sofa

Sofa being a cheeky minx!

Hahaha this is great haha this is me and the sofa having some fun after the shoot she is great but needless to say she is not as talented as the models I hired. I tried to take too many pictures but it turns out cameras are not the same as video cameras even though the names are the same (link back to the saucy conundrum, this is what professional comedians call going all the way clown which is a pun on “all the way round” but I am not that funny even though some people say oh that was a funny thing to say it is not always on purpose

sofa

Oh no, “don’t” take a picture of me, hahaha but I did ha she wants it.

She is much more up for doing naughty pictures than the models I hired! But she looks like a bit of a couch unfortunately.

sofa

(C) COPYRIGHT ON ALL OF THEM

I am looking forwards to my next payacheck from where I work. Then I will pay the models again. Sometimes I think that they are so butiful I would just put them up on Nelsons column lol but then I am a romantic. I bet they would love to be put up there forever and never have to move again lol. I would bring them all the different types of cheese they like.

Dinosaurs don’t eat cheese or really any dairy products except eggs I think and thats a bit risky bcos what if they ate there own eggs? But anyway I would bring them cheese bcos I bought them they have to do whatever I say I mean damn.

People think glamour modelling is sexist but really that is just fascism.

I think that you should be allowed to have any fasces that you want, even if your fasce is pretty. It is only sexist if you can see all the naughty parts right up close.NOT the fasces.

Anyway this has been my guide on how to be a glamour model photographer I hope you enjoyed this is all 100% true and accurate and copyright ME so don’t steal or say I lied bcos I didn’t.

If you liked this post you might also like my most popular post by comment volume, Is Water A Ghost.

Secretly I don’t like glamour photographers.

SHHHHHHH.

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The Epic Battle Of Good And Nice

I’ve been thinking about the issue of niceness a lot recently, for three reasons. Two are books.

1. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.

There are several striking scenes in this book in which the author interviews psychopaths who are unrelentingly nice — psychopaths who have committed atrocities and war crimes.

It seems that being nice is actually easier if you don’t really care about other people at all, because niceness can be achieved according to relatively simple formulae — formulae that are hard to use sincerely if you do care about other people.

2. Mr. Nice , a biography of Howard Marks.

Almost everyone buys that Howard Marks is a great guy.

Why? Because he’s nice.

It’s in his name, or at least in his nickname, how could you argue with that?!

Reading his book, though, I’m not sure why.

He admits to being the cause, directly or indirectly, of death, famine and war. That’s three of the four horsemen and I’m only about halfway through the book. I assume pestilence will pop up at some point.

He has funded incredibly violent terrorists, encouraged farmers to drop much-needed food crops for cash crops (in a variation on a tragedy of the commons scenario), made himself rich and not paid a penny in tax. He doesn’t give a shit about suicides, expressing the barest flicker of regret only about one of two suicides he writes about (this is tinged with a hint of “You stupid arsehole, why did you go and make me look bad?”, so I’m not sure if this flicker of regret counts).

I might be convinced by the rest of the book, but I sincerely doubt it.

3. Nice is reliant on Norms.

This means that those who are abnormal (abnormal for whatever your norms are, I mean) are, by definition, not nice. Niceness makes no allowance for the not-nice.

Two examples cropped up lately.

The first was a smug, overbearing fellow who insisted everybody play along with his stupid Rules Of Fun, and actually got a little violent when a woman present objected to his disregard for her right to make decisions.

The second, more serious one, was when a friend-of-a-friend revealed that they were, despite being a very nice person, intolerant of a particular group. This caused a great deal of very real pain.

As far as I can tell, being nice requires nothing more than adhering to social norms at all times. This can be either good or bad.

By contrast, to achieve any change in a community, norms must be challenged. To achieve a significant change for the better, or to ‘do good’, by the same token, norms must be challenged.

There’s a reason it’s “nice ‘n’ easy”, and not “good ‘n’ easy”.

Takin’ it easy.

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Learning To Play Poker

So, Poker.

That’s a responsible way to make a living, right?

Actually, yeah, it kinda can be, if you have the resources and time required to make it happen.

Warning you now, you’re going to need some understanding of poker terminology to cope with this post.

There’s a few things that you can do to improve your chances of winning, and every little bit you improve those chances means you’ll come out further ahead. Some of these things will also help you attain your goals in life, if you’re that way inclined.

Things like:

Claiming What’s Yours

If you land a good hand in Hold’em after the “Flop” (three cards dealt face-up for the whole table to make a hand with), so many novice players think they can just call or check to a gentle win. Nope.

Things like top pair, two pair, even trips — they’re more vulnerable than you might think.

Against an aggressive player, you’ll have to defend your hand, leading to a very difficult decision. Either you fold, in which case you’ve lost everything so far invested, giving the aggressive player an advantage, or you call, hoping that they’re bluffing.

Even if they are bluffing, chances are that they’re “bluffing with outs”, or in other words that they have a good chance of drawing the cards they need to beat you. Typical things to watch out for are flushes, open-ended straights and double-gutshot straights on the board. With a low high pair they might go for overcards.

So what’s wrong? You’re both playing the same cards, on the same table, making essentially the same decision (go all-in/don’t go all-in is what it typically boils down to against a seriously aggressive player). How is it that the defensive player is going to do worse?

Well, every time you fold a hand that had the aggressive player beaten — including middle pairs! — you’ve given him a 100% chance at the pot. Every time you call a bluff, you’ve given him (typically) between a 20-45% chance at the pot, and yourself only somewhere between 55-80%.

Royal Flush, Diamonds

You will very rarely see this happen for you. Only a very few times even in a professional career. Images of Money.

By playing reactively you can psych yourself out of hands that you had locked down, but you don’t make that money back by playing the good hands well. Even if you do get him all-in on a bluff somehow, he’ll typically have a chance at the chips, which is more than you do when you fold.

Worse — since aggressive players don’t need to wait for a hand to play, they start accumulating chips sooner. So they have an advantage from the off. In tournaments, they can quickly get to the point where they will survive an all-in and get another chance — if they lose in the first place! They’re just mounting chances on top of chances.

The perception that famous players like Doyle Brunson were just lucky is partly true. Players like him made their luck by sitting on enough chips that eventually, someone was going to just knock themselves out running into them. Doesn’t matter what hand you have, going heads-up repeatedly will throw up an outlier eventually.

The lesson? Play aggressively. Claim what you deserve, even if you only deserve it a little bit. Apply complete dedication to all your natural resources, and all-in early and often on your strongest hands.

Know When To Leave Well Enough Alone

Poke the bear.

Poke it poke it poke it poke it poke it poke it. rjones0856.

If something looks really scary, most of the time it is. Cut, run.

Find Out What You Can Learn From A Failure

If something looks scary in poker, it will almost always be because you didn’t take control of the game when you had the chance — taking you back to point one. Sometimes you’ve come up against pocket pairs, but that’s another story — perhaps comparable to coming up against a Charterhouse educated PPE student.

When something scary comes along, let go. Look back and see what you did wrong, because there will be something, possibly not even in this hand.

Was your pre-flop bet too small to convince people of the hand you had?

Were you making someone chase a flush for an amount too low to not call?

Was your ‘image’, the rough impression of your playing style, as firmly established in the minds of other players as you thought?

Play To Your Established Image

Many a time I’ve thought I’ve been perceived as an unstoppable juggernaut, whereas in reality people saw me as a depraved and inexplicably fortunate loon. They’d call and re-raise my bluffs in a heartbeat, and that’s when you know to leave well enough alone.

Finding out what your image is, as perceived by other people, is an important wake-up call. Once you’ve established an image in either poker or life, you’re stuck with it for a long time. You’re unlikely to get the opportunity to shake it in time to do anything meaningful, either.

You can’t fight your image once it’s built. You either have to always be 100% in charge of your image (impossible, people often see what they want to), or you have to be sensitive to your image and play to it and its strengths.

If someone is playing aggressively and refusing to believe your bets a lot, for instance, they might not even have an image of you. You’re just “generic poker player #334″, an incidental figure on their road to riches. Play to this. Make unassuming bets that slowly tap out all his resources by consistently making him pay.

Punish people for making general assumptions about your play-style, and switch it up every time play gets too comfortable.

Fill The Niches

If you’re sitting on a table with five other aggressive players, a cautious person can make a LOT of money.

Conversely, if you’re facing five ‘rocks’, or ultra-defensive poker participators who barely count as players, you can eat enough blinds that by the time you come up against the bullets, you can comfortably fold.

There Is Always Luck Involved

Whatever you’ve achieved, somewhere along the line you got a lucky break.

That’s about all I’ve learned from Poker recently.

Oh, and when you win, don’t be an arsehole. You will lose again, probably to the same dude.

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Green Metal

If there’s one trend that can be relied on to unite some of the ugliest, most hate-filled bands in metal, from sludgy apocalyptic bastards to black metal straight from the darkest, wettest Norwegian forests, it’s the environment. Even the most misanthropic of bands appear to view man’s mistreatment of nature as a source of outrage. What is it about mother nature that turns snarling nihilists into advocates of peace, love and harmony?

Well, first off, there are very few true nihilists making music, let alone metal. To make something artistic you have to be passionate about it — if you are angry about the absence of meaning in one thing, then you are comparing it to the presence of meaning in something elsewhere, in some capacity. Metal is full of anger.

Mmm-bop by Hanson was a nihilist masterpiece. Grey by Emperor, by way of contrast, has real passion. Metalheads are very rarely true nihilists, even if some claim that they are in magazine articles and the like.

There’s no reason why metal shouldn’t be environmentally conscious, then, any more than other music, but that doesn’t explain why metal is so very conscious of the destruction of nature.

Part of the explanation is probably a certain degree of misanthropy, for some bands. Varg Vikernes especially is an incredibly hate-filled individual, and his hate for humanity makes it easier for him to identify with movements that seek to downplay the impact of humanity.

His solution is probably over-the-top, to say the least. I believe the gist of it was “Systematically eradicate 99% of the human race”, the 99% being his figure. He’s not alone, though, there are many bands who despise the industry of humankind, some of whom hold fringe political beliefs, some of whom do not. Black metal bands often arrive at this praise-nature-hate-man attitude through a number of routes, but the main influencing factors are, in my opinion, depression and self-hatred, externally directed hatred, nationalism and localism,and shamanic mysticism.

Another reason, linking to the shamanic mysticism I just mentioned, is that some metal bands are fond of certain herbal remedies. This, for some reason, tends to lend many people into a deep appreciation of nature, as there’s some degree of cross-over with certain elements of hippy culture. I’ve definitely heard fans of sludgy stoner metal band Electric Wizard describe themselves as the “anti-hippies”, and there’s a fair amount of similarity between the two groups.

The appeal of apocalypse further adds to the likelihood that metal bands will be, to an extent, green. Whether zombies, mutants, nukes or aliens, almost every apocalyptic parable tends to have a message of “you reap what you sow”. The grisly and immediate impact of the end of the world, and the frustrated anger that comes with it, is great fodder for a typical metal band.

The most substantial reason, though, in my view, is that metal bands are traditionally political, and that green, environmental issues are implicit every time we make a decision about how we change the space we live in, whether as individuals or as a society, whatever decision you choose to make. This means that environmental issues are hugely important political issues to most people in their every-day life.

It explains why groove-laden death metal band Gojira focus almost entirely on eco-issues a lot more, that’s for sure — long before it was the done thing to up the brutality and tech, early death metal bands like, well, Death, were focussing on social and political issues.

A predisposition of angry music towards politics is also what lies behind most of the reasons black metal bands often embrace eco-consciousness so fully (nationalism, elitism, etc.), while thrash metal bands, far from the cartoonishly over-the-top image the mainstream might have of them, have always been involved in politics in some way. Megadeth are only the most visible exponent of political thrash metal.

All-in-all, it strikes me as odd that I’ve never, or only very rarely, seen commentary on just how damn green metal is before. From Alcest to Burzum, from death metal lyrics like “I still don’t get the point, what’s worth destroying all the world,” to alt metal lyrics like “Eating seeds is a past time activity,” environmental consciousness is a rare unifying theme in metal, to the point where it begins to get a little unnerving.

Flametalco.

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Triple-A Games

I’ve never really been blown away by triple-A games, and I think I’ve just worked out why, thanks to Diablo III, which should in theory have me stupidly over-excited. It looks great, as far as I can tell the combat system looks fun and balanced, the graphics exceeded my expectations for the series. Also, an epic and apocalyptic storyline, huge fuck-off bosses to fight, and a fairly detailed library of mystic lore to wade through.

Furthermore, I tend to be pretty accepting of annoying control quirks, bizarre difficulty levels or learning curves, and generic heroes. As a gamer I’m pretty easy to please.

What actually irritates me, in a typically contrarian fashion, is when gameplay flows too well, when it integrates too perfectly with the environment of the game, and when it’s too intuitive.

Part of the appeal of gaming, for me, has always been mastering an unfamiliar system. Clunky old controls that clearly delineate actions and results (you can only go north, south, east or west; if you go north, you will be eaten by something altogether gruesome), those represent something unfamiliar, something more rigid than daily life, something to be understood and beaten.

This is part of why Dwarf Fortress really grabbed me a while back, and wouldn’t let me go until it had broken my laptop. Contrary to the trend for immersive gameplay to be considered synonymous with good gameplay, I enjoy games that are sort of clumsy. Why? Because they are different to real life. They’re a fun system to be mastered, and you can get a sense of achievement from completing goals within them.

I suspect this lies behind a lot of the prejudices a certain type of gamer has about triple-A titles versus indie or retro games, as well.

So, that’s why I’m not really that excited about Diablo III. As far as I’m concerned, it just looks a little too good to be worth my time. See a trailer embedded below, if you must.

You’re right, this post makes very little sense. I really don’t care.

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An Elegant System Of Magic

The Lord of the Rings is now so synonymous with the ‘mainstream’ fantasy genres that its originality and importance has been all-but-forgotten.

Hi, I’m some internet douchebag, and I’ll be spouting my opinions for the next thousand-words-odd.

Some internet douchebag.

The Lord of the Rings films especially have contributed to people forgetting about one of the trilogy’s most significant defining features.

The treatment of magic in Lord of the Rings was truly incredible, given how the culture of the time treated the idea. At the time, popular ideas of magic divided broadly into some sort of ethereal stuff that pervaded everything (yo, new-agers!), Satanic powers derived from dark rites (yo, teenagers!), and complex mathematical & pseudo-scientific systems that were intended to form a complete philosophy (different kinds of new-agers!).

This is hugely simplified, but I think that most mainstream belief in magic at the time fell into one of these groups.

So, we had Magic As Fifth Element, Magic As Demonic Power, and Magic As Science — essentially the spiritual successor to alchemy. There was some overlap between them, but that’s not the point.

The point is that The Lord of the Rings was, in large part, based around Tolkien’s rediscovery of an alternate type of magic, Magic As Words. I say rediscovery rather than invention, because although largely forgotten by the English-speaking world, words were still magic in the folk traditions preserved by the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic.

This epic forms a vital link to the Scandinavian epics of the more distant past, which also recognised the world-altering power of words and cunning. These are probably why we still think of ‘runes as power’ magic ‘spells’ and wizards as scholarly, old, grey-bearded individuals.

Wizard, Crystal Ball

So what does this mean?

Rather than a mystic idea of innate control over fire, earth, air and water, magic was the preserve of people who were good at persuading others. Magic was in the words of great leaders, poets, visionary seers and desperate pleas of protection etched into keepsakes and talismans.

This idea pervades the novels of The Lord of the Rings, keeping the magic more earthy and real-seeming. These novels in turn kickstarted the fantasy genre as a whole, and managed to influence how genre magic systems worked for a long time. I feel very strongly that this approach to magic was a Good Thing.

Over time, though, the power of words decayed, leaving only the ‘power’ part behind.

Dictionary definition

Excellent writers began to talk of tapping into mystic forces that ‘existed’ in some way outside the known Universe (chaos, law, light, dark, ether — Magic As Fifth Element), awful writers whose lawyer-happy legacy-holders I’d never dream of crossing wrote of bizarre and stupid pseudo-scientific magic systems (Magic As Science — obviously), and vampires, demons, daemons and devils began to creep back into mainstream depictions of magic (Magic As Demonic Power).

These writers weren’t and aren’t linguists, as Tolkien was, and therefore couldn’t create such intricate systems to highlight the mysterious, subtle, but ubiquitous power of language. So they used powers that were just as mysterious and ubiquitous, but less subtle. In my opinion, this is a Bad Thing for fantasy, making its worlds too arbitrary in construction and inherently prone to goatse-scale plot holes.

Of course, when non-linguists do genuinely try to create word-based magic systems, you end up with stuff like Wingardium fucking Leviosa, but that’s a kids’ series so I can’t really get too worked up about that.

I guess.

There was recently a brief revival of Words As Magic due to the popularity of roguelikes, which allowed words and strings of characters (runes?) to retain the subtle power they once had, rewarding scholarship and intelligence with useful items and punishing the random use of scrolls and magic with an inevitable death. Even roguelikes seem to be primarily focussed on blowing shit up, now, though, or at least the ones that are widely available are.

Rogue Death Screen Amiga

I bring all this up because I’ve just started reading a best-selling fantasy novel that is incredibly enjoyable. It’s dumb as hell, but enjoyable.

This vastly enjoyable novel embodies the loss that fantasy novels have undergone.

Without the solid grounding in linguistics, and I’m not kidding here, we have ended up with a main character named F’ryan. Unfortunately, his second name isn’t Pan, but as far as I’m concerned it might as well be.

The magic in the novel is invoked by vague wishes, and it is explicitly stated that it is a force which suffuses everything. This is barely even Magic As Fifth Element. Magic is just something there, unexplained, that means that the rules of the universe can be broken and formed by the author more-or-less at will.

In short, there has been no attempt to pay any attention to the value of words at all, and this in a novel of all things.

I admit that this is a wishy-washy sort of criticism, probably born of the fact that I really like words and get frustrated that some people don’t.

Lobster phone.

Let me make it more concrete: The reason this is specifically bad for fantasy is that it makes the world of the story seem a mere abstraction. A character can wish for a giant lobsterphone as easily as to vanish, and with just as little emotional connection to the reader. I say ‘seem’, because there are generally secondary rules governing magic. Unlike a tabletop RPG, though, having to explain the rules of the game before you can read a book is almost always clunky and poorly-done.

Words in fantasy should be important.

Won’t someone please write something that makes this clear?

If you don’t, I guess I might have a go, and you don’t want that, trust me…

There are some cool pseudo-scientific things in literature, such as in Perdido Street Station and The Weavers of Saramyr, in which the ideas of superstring theory seem to be invoked — increasingly, magic is seen as playing with the ‘threads of reality’ in some way, which is deeply cool. I just think, you know, that words can play with the threads of reality already. Why not combine the two things? Why not?

Buy all the Moonsorrow please.

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How Not To Reach A Word Limit

Writing freelance for a living can be tough at times.

Deadlines are made to seem like the most important things in the world, until you actually submit the finished copy and, mysteriously, the dates on which you were supposed to receive payment start to slip by unnoticed…

Juggling the huge number of deadlines and clients you have is not just important, it’s also really difficult. You have to be completely on top of everything, because if one thing slips then all your work is affected.

I understand that it’s difficult, and the temptation to bullshit is huge, but the thing is, your client will notice. Even if the client doesn’t notice, they will have proof readers who are much better at everything than you are.

Still, even knowing that, people will attempt to slip drivel past the radar. Here are the most egregious ways copywriters attempt to reach word limits.

Belgian Waffle

1. Discussing your own interests.

It’s tough to write a thousand words on the topic of soffits, I know, I get that. I’d find it tough too. That’s still no reason to start an article like this:

The Dead Kennedy’s song Holiday in Cambodia mentions a world in which “people dress in black”. In the real world, by contrast, the current trend is for white. White gutters, white fascias and white soffits are all attractive options for your house…

Now, here’s the mistake you’ve made, anonymous copywriter. Ready?

You are not a journalist.

Yes, it is unfair that some people get to write about their favourite songs and how little Caspian got into a horrible fracas at school and get paid for it, while others are forced to write about the technical specifications of uPVC products, but that’s the way it is. You can’t get round that by just writing the same drivel they do.

Come on. Journalists aren’t writers, they’re professional personalities. You are a professional writer. Act like one.

2. Phrasing everything as a question and answer.

I’m interested in just who you think you’re fooling with this one. Example:

You might be wondering, what kind of gutter is best for most houses?

Well, it is the case that most houses will benefit from a professionally installed gutter.

Man with question mark head.

It’s not just that it’s dishonest, it’s that there’s nothing being said. Readers pick up on this stuff, it looks unprofessional, desperate and leading. The awkward, laboured set-up also gives an “English-as-a-second-language” feel, which makes sites feel, rightly or wrongly, as though they’ve been done on the cheap.

In most cases this can be easily avoided by simply picking one aspect of the previous sentence and explaining it, or expanding on it, whichever is more appropriate. Or, you know, you could actually do some original research.

3. Rephrasing everything three times.

This is just dumb.

Soffits are an excellent way to make your house attractive. Using fascias is a great way to give your house more beauty. To make your house more aesthetically good be sure to use lots of guttering.

Yes, people write like that.

People write worse than that, and get paid good money to do so. This is because writing is not seen as a skill in itself, but that’s an entirely different subject.

This gets spotted, and gets one of two reactions, either the world-weary sigh and a “Fuck it, it’s nearly the end of the day,” or an instant rejection. Sadly, the first reaction is more common, so many copywriters just, well, carry on doing this shit.

Please stop. It makes me feel very sad.

4. Including your own batshit insane opinions.

Umbrellas are a magical forcefield that protect from all forms of assault.

If your woman isn’t either cooking or learning to improve her cooking, you are in a failed relationship.

The communists are winning, and they want people to be poor so that they steal from you.

I have read all of these opinions taking up space inside articles, and they generally appear to warrant at least a paragraph or two. These are all genuine examples, albeit paraphrased from memory.

In the case of the notorious umbrella article, my colleague Dan can attest to its existence. This was a true masterpiece that managed to combine victim-blaming, arrant sexism, and veiled threats to murder you and your family if you didn’t buy the product in question (bizarrely, this was not an umbrella).

I Am Not Making This Up.

Although the umbrella article was relatively anomalous, it definitely merits a mention due to the author sticking to his theme throughout the entire article, skilfully weaving in references to the life-saving qualities of umbrellas willy-nilly.

Haha, willy. Sorry.

Hang on a moment.

Threats of murder unless you pay out for protection?

An obsession with umbrellas?

Repugnant sexism and a distinct hint of thwarted sexual aggression?

Picture of The Penguin.

My God! The Penguin?! Is that you?

Other Batman villains who have apparently become copywriters include Harley Quinn (who tends to become terrifyingly infatuated with the products she is writing about) and The Riddler (whose impenetrable enigma(s?) hint at, but never wholly reveal, exactly what they are trying to talk about). The elegant and sophisticated Catwoman never makes an appearance for some reason, although given her recent portrayals I guess she’s probably gone underground for a while.

Listen to dat intro without letting the words “John Shaft” come into your mind. It can’t be done. IT CANNOT BE DONE.

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Is Water A Ghost?

I have created this helpful infographic for people who are not sure whether water is a ghost or not.

Is Water A Ghost? Infographic

Photos by Steven Depolo and Adam & Tess, some rights reserved.

So what did you do with your day?

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