Why Vitabiotics are an evil (fictional) corporation

I live in London. This probably doesn’t interest you, unless you’re a hitman trying to narrow down my location (I’m talking to you, Maurice), but it means that I often take the London Underground. Now, on the aforementioned public transit system, there are certain adverts that you don’t get anywhere else. What I want to talk to you about today is a particular company whose ads I’ve been seeing for a while now: Vitabiotics.

These guys

Specifically, I want to talk about why they are clearly a fictional evil corporation.

If the reasons aren’t obvious from the above image, allow me to make my case clearer by comparing them to two of the best examples of an evil fictional corporation (or EFC). Namely Cyberdyne Systems from the Terminator franchise and Omni Consumer Products from Robocop.

I’d love to say this post won’t end up as Terminator/Robocop slash fic, but we all know I can’t make that promise


EFC names tend to be vague almost to the point of meaninglessness. If they have any actual name in them at all, it will be before the word “Corporation” or “Industries”, and the name will be that of a main character who will turn out, eventually, to be evil. Examples include LexCorp from Superman or Veidt Industries from Watchmen. More often, however, they will take Greek or Latin pre- and suffixes that hint at what the company makes and just stick them all together, especially if they want to be an evil and faceless corporate entity.

Real companies tend to be quite clear on their context: BP began as British Petroleum, which does pretty much what it says on the tin; Compass Group use a real word and, moreover, one that hints at their global scope; and the Royal Bank of Scotland is equally clear on its origins. Because these companies all have real origins, they tend to reference them in the name, whereas an EFC needs to be as vague as possible in case anyone catches a whiff of satire and needs to sue.


 Classic EFC. We have the prefix “Cyber” which, despite not turning up until the word “cybernetics” came along in 1948 (thanks Wikipedia!), it’s still a nicely vague-yet-meaningful half word that fits in nicely with the computer theme. As for dyne? A unit of power, from the Greek word “dynamis”. Boom! EFC name slam dunk: vague, thematic, and Greek.

Good job!


Omni Consumer Products – as beautifully simple as it is utterly meaningless. “Omni” is the Latin prefix meaning “everything”, while “consumer products” is anything that might conceivably be bought by anyone. It allows an all-encompassing scope that is at once convenient from a narrative point of view and faintly sinister in its omnipresence (see!). It’s a company that could be involved in making anything. Even robot policemen.

ESPECIALLY robot policemen


What we have here is a combination of “vita”, which is Latin for “life”, and “bios”, which is Greek for… um, “life”. Oh, and they added “tics” on the end there to make it clear its an area of science like cybernetics, genetics or statistics (which are boring, but still kind of science a bit I guess.) Hang on, so they’ve got the same word in both Latin and Greek? And that word is “life”, which is both extremely general and a little bit scary for a company to claim as its domain? And there is no other word or meaning to the name? Thats… really sinister.


A good EFC slogan should be, as always, vague. It should, at first glance, be a positive message, but one that gets more an more sinister with every consideration, such as the Weyland-Yutani Corporation’s slogan from the Alien franchise: “Building better worlds”.

Here, however, I must make a confession: Cyberdyne and OCP are both real companies. The former is a Japanese technology firm and the latter a company that specialises in taking fictional products and making them real. This doesn’t matter overmuch, as this whole article is about the blending of the fictional and the real, but in both cases, the only corporate slogans I could find were those of the real companies: “The leading edge in cybernetics” and “The future of yesterday, today”, respectively.

Both quite respectable slogans for an EFC, but Vitabiotics puts them to shame.

“Where nature meets science”

Yay! Nature is brilliant because it has trees and birds and stuff, while science is brilliant because it has lasers and microscopes and stuff. What could possibly go wrong if we mix them together?

Zombie babies. Definitely zombie babies. Or maybe zombie other stuff, but definitely zombies.

See, what we all forget is that there’s loads of horrible things in nature, like flesh-eating diseases, or earthquakes, or that creepy way  sloths move when they’re on the ground. And science has the unrivalled potential to make them so much worse.  Like that time that they took bird flu and made it better at infecting everyone. The point where nature meets science is a pretty scary one, as befits a (not so) secretly evil company.


There’s no real right or wrong when it comes to EFC logos, but bold shapes and stark colours are good, so lets have a look.


Bold use of the red on black, straight lines forming some stark, geometric shapes that mean nothing. Good call, Cyberdyne.


 The company initials, OCP, nested into each other. Yet all the friendly curves are hardened into edges which imply both a futuristic, high-tech aspect and a cold inhumanity that really gives it that sense of impersonal malice. The fact that they’re all sort of eating each other is a nice touch too.


 That’s… That’s a red omega symbol. Omega as in the end. Of everything. And red as in danger. The most alarming symbol combined the most alarming colour. There is literally no positive association I can come up with for a red omega. Especially when we remember the name is all about life, then the fact that the logo is all about endings and danger becomes even more terrifying. Also, where do I know the name Omega Red from?

Oh yeah

Vitabiotics, if you’re reading this, please be aware that you share your logo with a Soviet supervillain. That’s bad. Even Wolverine couldn’t destroy Omega Red, and he’s Wolverine. That’s how bad we’re talking here. If you want anyone to be surprised when you finally reveal your dastardly plans, you need a less overtly evil logo.


Finally, an EFC needs its products, it need to make something that it can use to its ultimate (evil) purpose. Usually it’s something that it can pass off as being to the benefit of humanity, but will actually end up making things a whole lot worse. As usual, vagueness the key.


Skynet – a networked military computer program that gains sentience. The name is nonspecific, yet has enough meaning to be ominous. The task is ostensibly useful and in the cause of efficiency, but accidentally puts too much power into the hands of an unfeeling murder machine. It’s a classic EFC product.

Also they make killbots


They make everything, which is concerning in and of itself. But in the context of the films, they restrict themselves mainly to mechanized law enforcement, in the form of ED-209, which is a military killbot (again) which they just kind of want to let loose on the streets of Detroit, and Robocop, who’s awesome, and ends up wrecking their stuff a bit because he was far more awesome than they intended. Basically, OCP aren’t quite good enough at being evil for it not to bite them in the ass.

On the plus side: more killbots


Let me start by saying that Vitabiotics does not, to my knowledge, make killbots. They make medicines and vitamin supplements like this one:

Hold on. “Perfectil”? That’s a wee bit vague. What’s in it? Why will it make our skin, hair and nails so perfect? I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with a product that sounds quite that fake. Let’s see another.

Wellman. Well man. You want to be a well man, right? Then take this product, it’ll fill you with health and vitality! How could anything with such a life affirming name be bad? After all, Vitabiotics is all about life.

And they’re after our blood, too! The “fero” bit implying iron blood. I know iron’s an important part of red blood cells, but there must be a better way to convey that. There comes a point where you can no longer simply pass it off as poor marketing, and it become undeniable proof of evil.

So there you have it

Vitabiotics are not simply sinister, they are so sinister that it is impossible for them not to be fictional. There are two possible outcomes to this discovery: the first is that it turns out they’re not real and I win some sort of lovely prize for figuring it out; the second is that they are actually real, in which case they will no doubt release the bioweapon that ends humanity.

And when you and I, dear reader, are crouched in a foxhole, trying to avoid the marauding mutant hordes of “Wellmen” emblazoned with the symbol of the red omega, I shall present you with a printout of this article (for the internet will long since be gone). So that as they take me and drain my rich red blood to feast on its iron, my final words to you shall simply be “Called it.”


Filed under The World is Scary, What?!


So I’m a brony now.



Now, you’ll probably have one of three reactions to this news – four if you’ve stumbled across this by accident and “Who the devil are you?” is your primary response. The first is a smile and a cry of “Brohoof!” (in which case congratulations for punching your computer); the second is a rolling of the eyes and a sound not unlike “urghhhhhh…”; while the third is the phrase “A what now?” If you’re in the third category, Google the term. I’ll wait.

Right, are they gone? I totally lied about waiting. Anyway, I recently discovered how much I love My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which was a surprise to me. Not because it’s technically aimed at young girls (I’m no stranger to enjoying things outside my demographic and have no time for socially constructed gender binaries), but because I’ve never been one for fandoms. Yet now I find myself on MLP sites and forums, watching the episodes every week, discussing them and generally loving them in a way that I’ve never done for anything else.

Kick ass!


And I couldn’t figure out WHY I love it.

I’m not alone in this, either. Why have tens of thousands (at least) of my generation suddenly fallen in love with ponies?

Maybe it’s the brilliant writing, excellent characters and strong plots? But there are plenty of things with all those qualities, yet they don’t achieve the sincere and vocal love lavished upon Twilight Sparkle and the gang. Maybe it’s the irony or transgression factor involved in watching a cartoon so clearly not aimed at us? But we’re too genuine and sincere in our love of MLP:FiM to claim irony as a cause. Maybe it’s pure escapism, an attempted return to the carefree innocence of childhood? But so many bronies create remixes or fan content that looks at it in an mature context (I’m not just referring to the inevitable Rule 34ing either). Maybe it’s that deep down we’re all a bit pissed off we never got to play with pink things as kids? But the number of Heavy Metal Pony Music Videos (PMVs) seems to indicate there’s plenty of testosterone floating around Equestria’s loyal subjects.

Clearly all these aspects are important and true to some degree, but none of them quite explain why the show really speaks to us in such a direct and personal way.

"Are you saying the characters aren't awesome?"

Then it hit me: the reason My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic speaks to my generation is because it’s about us.

Let me explain. Unlike a lot of kids TV, the central characters of MLP:FiM (or the “Mane 6”) are not children. There are child characters (or “fillies”), and they have a few episodes dedicated to them, but they’re not the focus. No, the focus is on six young adult ponies fundamentally trying to find their place in the world and, often, to come to terms with balancing their own childish desires with the need to be mature and responsible. This links directly to us, but unlike most shows dealing with such themes, it has no need to adhere to “realism” and can thus ensure a happy ending. Not only that, but the core message about friendship rings just as true with us as it does with any child, maybe more so.


The Characters

It is worth noting that all the Mane 6 (except Fluttershy) have clearly defined jobs and professions, and Equestria is basically a capitalist society. So let’s see if any of them inadvertently draw parallels with many of the young twenty-somethings out there (Spoilers: they do)

Twilight Sparkle – The Postgraduate

Chug! Chug! Chug!Twilight is still studying under the tutelage of Princess Celestia. Now, it’s made clear that she’s the same age as the other ponies, more or less, all of whom have finished school. She’s therefore studying far beyond the required basic education of Equestria. Why? Because she wants to learn more about magic. She’s a postgraduate student, obviously, and it’s her work/life balance that so often causes her problems: problems which the young adults watching the show know only too well.

Rainbow Dash – Pursuing the Dream

Sonic Rainboom! YEAH!Rainbow Dash has a day job. It doesn’t come up overmuch in the show, but she’s a Weatherpony by trade (keeping the sky clear of those pesky clouds). The reason it doesn’t come up much is because she’s so ridiculously good at it, clearing the whole sky in ten seconds during the first episode. But if she’s so vastly overqualified for the job, why does she still do it? Because she uses all the free time to nap and train for her real dream: joining the Wonderbolts. Hmmm… Working a menial job in order to keep pursuing creative ambitions. Who does that remind me of? Oh, yes, millions of young people trying to launch their bands or their writing careers. She’s the patron pony of the Starbucks barista.

Applejack – Weighed Down by Obligations

What're y'all talkin' about?Running Sweetapple Acres isn’t easy. Nor is looking after your family. Nor is always being there for your friends when they need you. Nor is trying to turn a meagre profit when your barn keeps getting destroyed. Applejack is constantly torn between family obligations, friends and the ever present financial pressures – working a daily grind at a job she’s good at, but only ever making just enough to keep her family going. If there’s anyone my age out there who can’t relate to some part of that description, they’re either lying or Batman.

Pinkie Pie – Party Time!

Pinkie works as an apprentice baker at Sugarcube Corner. Why? Well, obviously she loves cake (who doesn’t love cake? CAKE!), but with her fourth wall breaking skills, she could do pretty much anything. However, she works a low-pressure, low-maintenance job in order to pay for her true passion: PARTIES! While the context is obviously a lot more innocent in MLP:FiM, other examples of young people taking small-time employment as a means to support their party lifestyle can be found in any club, anywhere.

Rarity – A Hoof in the Door

Rarity love fashion. Unlike the vast majority of shows aimed at girls, however, this passion is not simply shopping-based, but rather a creative impulse. She is a businesspony: running her own boutique, designing the clothes she sells and desperately trying to break into the highly competitive pony fashion industry. Despite the quality of her work, getting noticed in any creative field is incredibly difficult – something Arts graduates across the world will be able to tell you in painful detail.

Fluttershy – Terrified Hippy

She loves nature, she cares for the animals, she wants us all to just get along. Let’s be honest, Fluttershy’s a bit of a hippy. She is also, as a general rule, timid to the point of scaredy-cattedness. But if there’s one period in history when hippies (not to mention everyone else) have a right to be horrified, it’s now: the environment looks poised to collapse, the economy’s in the toilet, abuses of police power are growing in number and ferocity… The grown-up world’s really scary at the moment. Anyone properly participating in it for the first time is going to have the same instinct – run away into the forest and live peacefully with the adorable bunnies. Given she’s the only pony without any specified profession, we can only assume she’s successfully living in harmony with nature, something that chimes with the trembling squirrel-hugger in us all.

So there you have it. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of young adulthood, there’s a pony right there with you, sharing your experiences. Except you know that it’s a kid’s show, so they all get a happy ending. Twilight will master the mystic arts, Dash will join the Wonderbolts and Rarity will become the Next Big Thing. As our generation’s inadvertent surrogates, this makes it perfect escapism from the brutal realities of the modern world.

The Message

Friendship is Magic. It’s a good message, and one aimed at helping kids get through school without the trauma bad friendships can bring. Let’s look a little closer, though: with the exceptions of Applejack and Rarity, none of the six ponies have any regularly featuring family members, and none of them have parents. Not to imply that their parents are dead or anything (we even meet Rarity’s briefly), but all the ponies are essentially living on their own. So who do they turn to for support? Their friends.

Yes, Hasbro logo designer, yes it is!

If only there was some other demographic that were moving away from home for the first time and finding that, distanced from the direct support of parental figures or family members, they rely more and more on friends as their emotional foundations. If I could think of such a group, I’d love to draw a parallel and point out how the importance of friendship might be a message that hits home with them far more than it does with kids whose parents still act as their core relationships.

Oh, wait, it’s us. Twenty-something years old and emerging into the adult world with trepidation and cries of “Well, what do I do now?” The core demographic of bronies.

Boom. I just solved the brony conundrum. You’re welcome.



Filed under Amateur Sociology, Geekery, Try it with Friends!, TV

Top Ten actors who should play Doctor Who

[Originally published at Best for Film]

First off, yes I know his name isn’t “Doctor Who” it’s “The Doctor”, but if there’s one thing I love more than being a nerd, it’s baiting nerds, so hopefully you’re good and riled. Great, you’ll need that passion for vigorously agreeing with my choices (or hating me even more).


#10 – Peter Capaldi

(The Gruff Doctor)
Best known for being a crazy swearing Scotsman in In the Loop, Capaldi might not seem like in intuitive choice for the last of the Time Lords, but I’ve been having rather a series of nice, friendly chummy Doctors. Christopher Eccleston was the last one with any real backbone, and I think it’s about time I had a gruff, slightly abrasive Doctor, which Peter Capaldi would be brilliant at. Of course the doctor would, deep down, have two hearts of gold, which I have confidence the Glagow terror could pull off.

Ideal Companion: Jessica Hynes
To really highlight his amusing grumpiness and occasionally bring him out of his shell, Capaldi’s Doctor would need something of a gentle hippy by his side. This is a role Hynes has always excelled at, and they’d go together beautifully.


#9 – Damien Lewis

(The Ginger Doctor)
Before every regeneration, the Doctor hopes for just one thing: to come out ginger for once. So it’s about time he was ginger! Of course, Damien Lewis is a great actor and would make for a nice quirky doctor, but it’s mainly the ginger thing.

Ideal Companion: Anne-Marie Duff
She’s played a wide array of roles and excelled in all of them, particularly as Fiona in Shameless. Keeping everything together is what she does best, meaning she’s ready for whatever Doctor that carrot-top insanonaut turns out to be.


#8 – Idris Elba

(The Take-No-Shit Doctor)
Idris Elba is one of my favourite actors, he’s mainly known for playing gangsters who don’t take any shit, but he’s no stranger to fantasy: in 1999’s Ultraviolet he played a vampire hunter who didn’t take any shit. I reckon too much shit’s been taken by too many Doctors over the years, and we need someone to sort it out. That someone is Idris Elba.

Ideal Companion: Carey Mulligan
Carey Mulligan is lovely, a great actor and would definitely serve as a good counterpoint for Elba’s Doctor. Plus, she’s been in the series before as Sally Sparrow in Blink, generally considered the Best Episode. Bring back Sally, and put her in the goddamn TARDIS.


#7 – Tom Hardy

(The Hot Doctor)
Maybe the producers are after eye-candy though. They want a Doctor who’ll make the audience go weak at their cosmic knees. Well, if that’s the case, let’s make sure it’s one can really act. Enter Tom Hardy, sexy as all get-out and a damn fine actor to boot. I’ve no clue what his Doctor would be like, but I’d be too busy drooling to care.

Ideal Companion: Lisa Jackson
You probably won’t know Lisa Jackson: she’s not been major in much besides the recent Channel 4 comedy Campus, but I was impressed by how wonderfully she played up the geeky and awkward. You can’t not like her, and she’d be an excellent way to help contain Hardy’s smouldering.


#6 – Daniel Day-Lewis

(The Method Doctor)
I don’t know. You don’t know. But I desperately, DESPERATELY want to see Day-Lewis take his patented mad-as-fuck school of method acting and apply it to the Doctor. God knows what would happen, be it would be a hell of a ride.

Ideal Companion: Sophie Okonedo and Dara O’Briain
I want Sophie Okonedo there because, as another Doctor Who veteran, I’d love to see more of her future space-monarch Liz 10 (or as an entirely new character, she’s just really cool). As for Dara O’Briain, the vastness of Time and Space needs more funny Irish people. Why do I have two of them? Well, if Daniel Day-Lewis starts going off the rails, it’ll take at least two people to hold him down, and Dara’s a big guy.


#5 – Paterson Joseph

(The Smooth Doctor)
Whether he’s ruling the business world as Alan Johnson in Peepshow or flitting through the inside of Neil Gaiman’s head in Neverwhere, Paterson Joseph is so smooth he practically purrs. He’s got that perfect mix of arrogance, charisma and likeability that we haven’t seen in a Doctor since some of Colin Baker’s darker moments.

Ideal Companion: Felicia Day
Ok, ok, she’s a yank, fine. But then again so was Captain Jack. What we need is a nerd to balance the silver tongue of Paterson Joseph, and when it comes to being genuinely geeky, combined with deeply awesome, there are none finer the Felicia Day.


#4 – Jeremy Irons

(The Gravitas Doctor)
If anyone was going to look you in the eyes and tell you that the Earth was in imminent danger of destruction, Jeremy Irons is the one you would take seriously. He could proclaim the doom of planets, and you’d would believe him. No-one could encompass nearly a millennia of life spent saving the Universe as well as the magnificent Mr Irons.

Ideal Companion: Sophie Wu
Another relatively new face, Sophie’s main credits thus far run to Kick Ass and the excellent BBC 3 series The Fades. In all cases, though, she’s excellent and has that quirky innocence that would make sure that Doctor Irons could never fall too far into black abyss of the dramatic.


#3 – Bill Bailey

(The Mad Doctor)
What’s to explain? Bill Bailey’s basically from space already, Plus, with his TV and film experience getting more extensive by the month, there’s no doubt he’d be able to jump right into the vortex and start saving the galaxy in bizarre and brilliant ways.

Ideal Companion:James McAvoy
A lot have people have said he should play the Doctor, but he’s always been his best as the straight-man to weirdness, right from his Early Doors début. Just take a moment to imagine Bill Bailey running round on his latest mad scheme to stop the monster of the week, while James Mcavoy looks on with a “Uh… Doctor?” Genius.


#2 – Mark Heap

(The Adorable Doctor)
Mark Heap is an institution. Rarely, if ever, getting a leading role, his job is to periodically turn up in films and make them amazing for the few minutes he’s there. He plays just the right level of awkward, wise and slightly unstable to make him the best goddamn Doctor out there. As the TARDIS fails for the umpteenth time, he runs around, spinning dials going “Oh no! Ohnoohno!”

Ideal Companion: Lauren Socha
Best known as “The chavvy one from Misfits“, Lauren’s very good at characters that don’t stand for too much nonsense. This would be a great next role for her, keeping Mark Heap’s Doctor from falling apart with a firm hand a sharp tongue.


#1 – Tilda Swinton

(The Amazing Doctor)
If the Doctor is ever to be played by a woman (and I reckon it’s about time), there is no better choice from here to Gallifrey than Tilda Swinton. No, I don’t now what she’d be like, but I know she’d be unspeakably fantastic at it.

Ideal Companion: Simon Pegg
Because if you can think of a better idea than Tilda Swinton and Simon Pegg flying round the universe and fighting evil, then… well, to be honest, I don’t want to hear about it. Adventure awaits!

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Filed under Film, Geekery

A New Conversation Piece

Bloody hell, it’s about time! Do you know how stuffy it is in that bag?

Ow. No, go ahead, drop me on the floor, that’s cool. It’s not like I’m old and fragile or anything. Oh, for god’s sake would you lay off screaming already? “Oh no, it talks, what’s going on? How will my prescious established world view survive this sudden onslaught of madness?” That’s you, dude, and you sound like an idiot.

That’s better. Have you calmed down a little bit? Good. So how about getting me off this floor? I’d do it myself, but that would require, y’know, limbs. Come on, I don’t bite. Actually, I suppose it’s pretty much the only thing I could do, but I’ll restrain myself on this one occasion if you’ll just put me on the table.

Thank you. Not that I don’t enjoy looking up your skirt, but it’s just not dignified. What? Well, you weren’t the one being sold in a creepy old antique shop. I’m just trying to get a little bit of self-respect back. It’s hard to face the world, when you don’t actually have a face.

Good. Laughing’s good. So let’s start at the beginning, what’s your name? Really? Wow, your parents must have hated you. Oh, really? How’d they die? Well, at least it was peaceful. Do you want to talk to them? Heh, not really, I can’t do that.

Jeez, it was just a joke. Sorry. I guess it’s hard to read facial expressions when… well, y’know. I don’t know my name. I don’t remember much of being alive at all, really, though I’m pretty sure I was at one point. I’ve been like this about fifteen years now. You’re actually the first person who’s been able to hear me.

Yes, of course that’s a good thing! No, I didn’t talk in the shop, but look at things my way – I’d been sitting on that shelf for half a decade, and if I piped up back then, it would’ve freaked you right out, leaving me stuck there for another however many years.

How should I know? You ever had any sort of psychic shit before? Ever been cursed by a gypsy? A medium? Maybe you were hypnotised into hearing the souls of the dead. No? Do you… I don’t know, read horoscopes? Look, I really can’t help you here. Your guess is as good as mine.

Are you serious? No, I haven’t talked to God! Yeah, sure, it was Satan, why not? Me and Old Nick go way back. No, I can’t “get him answer a quick question”! Do you have a problem with sarcasm specifically, or did I just end up with the worlds thickest ghost-whisperer. Wait, come back! I’m sorry, that was harsh. As far as I’m aware I have had no contact with any divine or infernal being. Ok?

Anyway, I thought you said you didn’t really believe in “all that religious bollocks”. I heard you talking to that guy on the way home. Of course I heard, what am I going to do, put my hands over my ear-holes? Hey, you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. What’s his name? Brian. That is unfortunate. Still, he sounded cute, you should jump his bones. Get it? Jump his… Come on, it wouldn’t kill you to crack a smile. I should know.

Oh right, I’m the inappropriate one. I’m not the creepy lass that bought a human skull. Of course you thought I was fake, but I still heard you going on about how anatomically accurate I was. What was it you said? “As realistic as possible.” Well, be careful what wish for, because you might get it. And then find out it’s a bit of a dick. What’d you buy me for anyway?

Fuck off. Could you please not use the H-word in my presence? You have no idea how many times I’ve been held aloft by wannabe Danes Alas-ing at me. It gets real old, real fast.

No. I refuse. I know what I said, but I will not be named Yorick. Great, THAT you find funny. Infinite jest my decomposed arse.

Yeah, a drink would probably help. Stiffen you up a bit. I understand this is all super weird. I’d ask for a drop myself, but this looks like quite a nice tablecloth.

Ok, sure. I’ll be here when you get back. Just hanging around. It’s not like I’ll get bored or anything. Could you leave a book in front of me or something? Thanks. See you later.

Wait, could you turn the page! Hello? Ah, shit.

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Filed under Fiction

Playing with Fire

I’ve got a fun game for you. A pub game or bar game, maybe? Perhaps you could even play at home. You’ve heard the phrase, no doubt; maybe you’ve read the book about the girl who did so; but when’s the last time you actually played with fire?

If the answer is never, you might want to check out a different post. If the answer is “Yesterday. I like to watch buildings burn”, followed by a violent twitching motion, rest assured that the police are on their way. If the answer is “I’m not sure, but I do like a good flaming on occasion”, then read on, stalwart ignition-seeker, because it’s time to make your mild pyromania into a game.


Round 1: Getting a taste for it

This one’s suitable for matches, candles or anything with a small, relatively stable flame. The game is simple: you taste the fire. Well, to be more specific, you taste the heat. And any of you smartarses that’re all like “Hey! Heat comes from excited molecules, science, science, science!”, you hold your tongue over a flame and tell me you can’t taste it. What’s that? You can’t? That’s because you burned your mouth. If you’d waited, you’d have heard me explain that you ideally want to have your tongue between 20cm and 30cm over the fire. The aim is to taste, not to cause yourself pain. The winner is the player with the best reaction to the deeply odd sensation:

1 point: Each adjective that is not a synonym for “burny”.
2 points: For a really good sound of confusion. (eg, “Errh?” “Whhuuuh?”)
5 points: For accidentally burning your tongue.
10 points: For somehow managing to set yourself on fire.


Round 2:Flame Throwing

Take a box of matches. Remove one of them and place it so that the end touches the side of the matchbox and it sticks out at a 90 degree angle. Hold it in one hand, with your index finger on the non-flame end to keep it in place. Line it up with your intended target and flick it hard with the other hand. If you’ve done it right, the match will strike against the side and ignite as it flies through the air. Take turns aiming them at each other.

1 point: For each match that successfully ignites.
2 points: For each ignited match that hits your opponent.
5 points: If you get them to leap back and make a terrified squeak.
10 points: For somehow managing to set yourself on fire.


Round 3: Wax on, Wax off

This one’s pretty simple: you pour wax on yourself or dip your hand in it. It’s quite hot, but you shouldn’t come out of it with anything worse than a few first degree burns. The aim is to cover as much of your hand as possible in wax and then peel it off, retaining its shape if possible. Any player who has a particularly kinky sex life should have a natural advantage here, but don’t let that put any vanilla players off.

1 point: For each fingertip mold successfully created/removed
2 points: For each whole finger covered.
5 points: For any whole finger molds successfully removed without breakage.
10 points: For somehow managing to set yourself on fire.


Round 4: Dance! Into the Fiiiire!

Here you need a big one. A bonfire maybe, or the smoldering carcass of the last guy who tried to bring up “health and safety”. Once you have a conflagration of sufficient size and something to leap off, you take a run up and jump through it. Easy.

1 point: For each successful fire jump completed.
2 points: For doing so with a really badass battlecry.
5 points: For pirouetting in mid-jump (also acceptable – flips)
10 points: For managing to set yourself on fire in a really obvious way.


Final Round: A&E

This round couldn’t be easier: you go to the nearest hospital’s Accident & Emergency room and you get yourself treated for all the burns you acquired in the previous rounds. The only hard part might be keeping conscious through all the pain, but I believe in you. Also, feel free to skip any of the previous rounds – if you need to go straight to the hospital, be my guest.

1 point: For each first degree burn.
2 points: For each second degree burn.
5 points: For each third degree burn/skin graft.
10 points: For somehow managing to set the doctor on fire.


Enjoy, you crazy kids, and play safe!

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The Best Horror Films That Have Never and Will Never Exist

[Originally published at bestforfilm.com]

Well, it’s almost that time of year again. When the ghosts of the restless dead take flight from their graves: ripping material off the bottom of young ladies’ dresses and imbuing children with a dread hunger for sugar. In accordance with tradition, I’ve set up the innocence-activated landmines and am preparing to settle down with some of my favourite Hallowe’en treats. Except, in a twist no-one saw coming, it turns out the films were dead all along.

Seriously, though, I’m just making these up.


Bloody Hell

Sam Raimi
Jamie Lee Curtis plays Mary, a young woman who has to go in to the hospital one day for a blood transfusion. Unfortunately, it turns out that the blood the doctors injected her with actually came from a murderer!
Now she has to live on the edge, since if she breaks her skin – even a little – her blood will kill someone. Horribly. Cut her leg shaving? Her blood breaks out and strangles her neighbor! Accident with the scissors? It eats her cat! Papercut? Oh, no! Her blood’s got a gun!
Can she find a way to stop her murderous haemo-rage, or will it take her over completely?
It’s time for some Ar-terror-ial bleeding!
Sample Dialogue:
HUSBAND: Mary, darling, I made you some soup.
MARY: Thanks, it looks delicious.
HUSBAND: Watch out, that spoon is sharp!
BLOOD: Kills everyone at the dinner party
Based on the best-selling book by Stephen King.


Killer Owl

Wes Craven
It’s a lovely day in Hootdale, Pennsylvania, as the townsfolk gather to celebrate their annual Field Mouse Appreciation Festival. But a shadow falls across proceedings: a giant killer owl shaped shadow… cast by a giant killer owl!
Now the owl is killing everybody, and the denizens of Hootdale need to gather together and be not killed. Fast. Traps, tricks and all-out assaults whittle down their numbers before the final stand. But how can you stop a killer who lives… in a barn!
Starring Kurt Russell and Ron Perlman
Elephants never forget, but owls never forgive.
Sample Dialogue:
PREACHER: Don’t worry, boys, this’ll get him. He’ll take the bait and we’ll be eating fried Owl for dinner.
SMALL CHILD: How do we know he won’t see us?
PREACHER: Well, we’re hiding behind where it has to come from.
SCIENTIST: (Running up from where he was ambushed earlier) No, you fools! Owls can turn their heads all the way around!
Owl’s hoot is heard
PREACHER: We’re going to need a bigger vole.
Not to be confused with the bathroom thriller Killer Towel


The Tasche

John Carpenter
It’s wedding day for Tommy and Natasha, and everybody’s happy. Except when they get the wedding photos developed, they discover the terrifying truth: they all have Hitler’s moustache! Soon it’s not merely manifesting on photographs, but in home videos and even on the internet.
Now it’s a race against time for Tommy to find a way to stop the ghost of Hitler’s moustache. Can he grow a handlebar of his own? He must, for only then can he summon the spirit of his great-grandfather’s full muttonchops for a epic phantom-follicle showdown the likes of which has never been seen before!
They killed his body: they didn’t kill his facial hair.
Time to keep a stiff upper lip.
Sample Dialogue:
Tommy searches through a pile of old photographs, as Natasha looks on in concern
TOMMY: I think I’ve figured it out, Nat. Hitler killed himself in his bunker, but no-one knows what happened to his moustache. I think my great-grandfather may have been the one to shave it off. Under this very house.
NATASHA: Tommy, I’m your wife, please stop this. You’re becoming obsessed and it’s scaring me.
TOMMY: But look! These photographs go right back to the 15th century, and they all have the same moustache! Right back to his earliest ancestor… Jebediah Hitler.
Remembered for the massively unsuccessful merchandising attempts that attempted to replicate the popularity of the ‘V’ mask with its own variation on the theme.



Rob Zombie
The year is the 16th Century. The place is Salem, Massachusetts. The activity is witch-hunting. Witchfinder General Vincent von Dracula arrives to root out the black magic, but he has a terrible secret. He begins tracking down the notorious sorceress Lucretia Witchington, but in a moment of panic, she looks at him with her magic eyes and reveals the truth: Vincent von Dracula… is a vampire!
Now it’s a game of cat-and-mouse between Vincent and Lucretia, as they struggle to gather evidence on each other whilst maintaining their own identities. Who will reveal the other first? Who will win, the Vampire of the Inquisition, or the Witch with her horde of zombies?
And how will they both survive the onslaught of Dr. Frankenstein and his army of phantom wolfmen?
Starring Gary Oldman as Vincent von Dracula and Lucretia Witchington, and Timothy Spall as Dr Frankenstein.
The Stakes are high. And on fire.
Sample Dialogue:
LUCRETIA: I’m sure I’ve heard the name Dracula before.
VINCENT: No, you’re thinking of the Count, who is not me. I’m not even able to count.
LUCRETIA: Don’t you need it in a job like yours?
VINCENT: The only number I need to know is “Witch”.
LUCRETIA: That’s not a number. Maybe my zombie could give you some maths lessons.
VINCENT: Argh! Keep that zombie away from me!
LUCRETIA: What’s wrong, Witchfinder? Is my zombie too… garlicky for you?
VINCENT: Crazy bitch, I bet you think the sun shines out of your arse.
LUCRETIA: I wish it did, because then I could kill you. With my arse.
DR FRANKENSTEIN: Attack, my phantom wolfmen!
The role of Lucretia Witchington was originally offered to Uma Thurman, but Gary Oldman ate her on set and absorbed her power.

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Books: Naked Lunch

Well, that was messed up. Excellent, but messed up. I feel like I’ve been swimming through a oddly purifying lake of sewage: I’m far more soiled than before I began, yet there’s an odd feeling of cleanliness and serenity that accompanies it.

Let me elaborate. Naked Lunch is an extremely difficult book to read. Its prose stylings are insanely inventive (as well as legitimately insane), but hard to take in if you attempt to read them as you would almost any other book. The key is to realise that it’s not a narrative; it’s not even an internal stream-of-consciousness. It really only makes sense if you imagine it as a monologue, being given to you by a addled and frantic drug-addict. The digressions, casual mentions of bit characters that instantly change the track of the story to explain about them, have the feeling of the deranged raconteur realising that “you might not know this guy” and bringing you up to speed, even if they’re not going to matter for another 200 pages.

The book is talking to you directly, and the key to reading it is to subsume yourself in it, keep reading until you find your own mental processes syncing with the horrific, but very well defined, process of the writing. This book is so weird that you have to intentionally make your brain not work properly before it makes even the first lick of sense. Of course, I don’t advocate drug use, so I’m not saying read it while high: try an audiobook instead (focusing on words can be an issue).

It’s hard to talk about Naked Lunch without talking about the copious and potentially brain-damaging amount of obscenity. Let’s do a quick survey: do any of the following concepts disgust you: jism, needles, wounds, scabs, sex, buggery, graphic sex, vomit, drug use, extremely graphic sex, or any of the above combined with faecal jets? No? Well, Naked Lunch probably will anyway. There’s a reason they tried to ban it (well, many, many reasons), but it’s interesting that it was ban or complete release: there was never any real question of censoring it.

The reason, of course, is that however deeply unpleasant much of the subject matter is, its presence is essential to the poetry of the book. By poetry I mean the interplay of language and subject matter, the taking of words and using them to effect far greater than they’re meaning. Burroughs needs to drag you kicking and screaming into his world, which is an awful, awful place, but a journey you need to take.

It’s sick, it’s wrong and it’s beautiful. Read it.

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