Friday, 25 July 2014

Andrew Cartmel (Choose Your Own Adventure variant)

You’re in a library and it’s huge.  Thousands of books and comics cling to the walls, held up on dust-free clear plastic shelves.  The air shimmers and tastes faintly of ozone and iodine.  The shelves stretch to a distant vanishing point.  You start moving forward.  Tiny sparks dance around your feet with every step.  You guess the floor can’t be marble after all.

Slowly the end of the room comes into focus.  A smiling man is holding up two bundles of paper, one obviously much older than the other.  You can’t make out the writing on either.  Behind the man – a librarian, maybe? – there's a smiling woman sitting on a sofa that looks reasonably comfortable.  A chamois leather decorated mannequin stands to the left, behind it the wall has been tastefully decorated with a collection of exquisite prints.  There’s no cake anywhere.

Do you:

Monday, 21 July 2014

Monty Python Live (Mostly) and Dead

 First Performance
Monty Python Live (Mostly)
20 June 2014

Critics have their purposes, and they’re supposed to do what they do, but sometimes they get a little carried away with what they think someone should have done, rather than concerning themselves with what they did.
- Duke Ellington


Me:  So, that’s us just in from the car park.

Him:  I wish you’d stop calling it a car park.


Him:  It’s the world’s tallest car park.

Me:  Ha!  Yes, it is.  Pretty good turnout I thought.

Him:  Yes.

Me:  And all your Scottish Physics teachers were there.  No Gumbies though. 

Him:  Right, none of my teachers were there, as I pointed out several times and nobody’s going to get the ‘Scottish Physics’ thing.

Me:  Especially seeing as we live in the Arctic.

Him:  Exactly.  And it’s not even funny if you know what it means.

Me:  It’s a little bit funny.

Him:  It’s really not.

Me:  Is this the right room for an argument?

Him:  I’ve told you once.1

Me:  So, the countdown…

Him:  Which one? 

Me:  The one that started after we got there.  Oh, hang on-

Long pause.

Him:  I’ve got no idea what you want me to say.

Me:  Let me just stick this brief Twitter conversation in.

Him:  You never did get more popcorn.

Me:  Nope.  I didn’t want you to start cosplaying as Mr. Creosote.

Him:  I don’t get that either.  Well, I do, but I’m not supposed to.

Me:  No. I’ll explain why in the second performance.

The Him shrugs.

Me:  Do you want to say anything about the countdown?

Him:  No.

Me:  Did you recognise many of the songs?

Him:  No.

Me:  Could you answer the trivia questions?

Him:  Mostly.

Me:  Did you like the brief fan films?

Him:  I only remember one.

Me:  I expect I know which one that was.

Him:  Which one then?

Me:  Ah.  Did you like the behind the scenes films?

Him:  They did seem to make it look as though Eric Idle was the only one still alive.  But that’s because he was directing it.

Me:  I’m not sure he was directing it.  I don’t think it would’ve happened without him.

Him:  He was directing it, it said so in the credits at the end.

Me:  There we are then, that explains why it was all Broadway.  Who are the Rolling Stones?

Him:  They were spherical standing stones.

Me:  I was hoping you’d go for something about ancient monuments.

Him:  Well, you can take it or leave it.

Me:  I snapped a picture of the pre-show screen.

Him:  Even though your phone should’ve been off.


Me:  Were you excited?

Him:  I don’t think I was as excited as you were.  Or the millions of other people, who were exactly like you, surrounding me.

Me:  Hmm.  How many sketches from the first act can you remember?

Him:  Probably around about as many as you can.

Me:  I thought it went by really fast.

Him:  The first act went by significantly faster than the second act did.

Me:  Well, in that case-


Him:  Instead of having us talk in the interval, why don’t you put a link to a YouTube video of elevator music or something?

Me:  Like this?

Him:  Well – when typing it up…  You haven’t technically done it yet, so I don’t know.  I assume so.

Me:  How many times do you think the people serving refreshments got asked for albatross?

Him:  The joke I made about that can’t be typed.  You would have to find…  Ooops.

Me:  Have you just broken that?

Him:  Easily fixed.

Me:  Oi!


Me:  Okay, let’s run through the Pythons individually.

Him:  Okay.

Me:  And, this is just based on tonight.

Him:  Okay.

Me:  Graham Chapman.

Him:  Dead.

Me:  Yeah, he did seem to be resting on his laurels a bit. That bit he did before the TARDIS3 cropped up was promising, but after that he seemed to just repeat all his old performances.  He’s aged better than the rest of them.

Him:  They were quite nice to him there.  As opposed to that one where Terry Gilliam knocked over his urn.

Me:  That was at Aspen.  Huge laugh that got.  

Him:  Well, I’ve personally never seen it, but you’ve told me about it.

Me:  Yeah, there’ll be a link somewhere.  And I’ll go into more detail in the second part.  Terry Jones.

Him:  Old and more clothed than usual.

Me:  Ha!  Yeah.  He comes across as a lovely bloke.  I don’t know.  I thought he seemed a bit more subdued than the rest – like he was holding back.

Him:  He was probably just a bit warm.

Me:  What was it with that heat haze?

Him:  I was referring to the fact that he doesn’t usually wear clothes.

Me:  Well, if the part calls for nudity then Terry Jones is the man.  Okay, Eric Idle.

Him:  Certainly alive.  No doubt about that.

Me:  It felt a lot like he’d bashed it together.  He was having a great time.

The Him nods.

Me:  Eric Idle was really good at piecing the shows together back in the Flying Circus days.  I knew re-reading their Autobiography would help. 

Him:  That’s not why you read it though.

Me:  It kind of was.

Him:  It wasn’t though, was it?

Me:  It was.  John Cleese.

Him:  As shouty as usual.

Me:  I thought he was very good. 

Him:  Well, they all were.

Me:  Oh, yes – very much.  John Cleese looked like he was having fun though.  Carol Cleveland.

Him:  Shouldn’t you list the main ones first?

Me:  Probably.  I thought she was outstanding.  Especially in the Lumberjack Song.

Him:  Indeed.

Me:  Right.  I’ve left these two ‘til the end, because…  Well.  Why do you think?

Him:  Alphabetical?

Me:  Nope.

Him:  Didn’t think so.  Height?

Me:  Ha!  No.

Him:  No idea then.

Me:  I thought that – personally – Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam were brilliant.  Gilliam especially.  

Him:  Why so?

Me:  Hard to say.  Terry Gilliam’s been a bit down on the whole enterprise, so seeing him throw himself – literally at times – into the show was…  Weirdly moving.  Especially that really, really, really, long fart gag.  Brought tears to my eyes.

Him:  I have no idea how to reply to that.

Me:  I liked the corpsing, the mistakes – apart from the audio dropouts in the live feed-

Him:  Yeah, those were annoying.

Me:  The guest appearances were cool.  Stephen Hawking especially.  Also, I wasn’t surprised that the first half was edited when it went out on telly.

Him:  Well, the rating itself was a bit-

Me:  12A?  That was optimistic.  Especially when they were wheeling out props borrowed from Rammstein.

Him:  I’ll just say yes.

Me:  Go on then.

Him:  “Yes.”

Me:  Textbook.

‘Spontaneous’ Encore

Me:  I never thought I’d be part of a singalong in a cinema.

Him:  I hoped you’d never be part of a singalong in a cinema.

Me:  You joined in.

Him:  No, I didn’t.

Me:  Yes you did.4


Me:  And then it was over.  I’m glad we went to the cinema to see it.

Him:  Well, we had the option to go to the O2.

Me:  Couldn’t do it logistically, not really.  At least this way we were part of a…  I don’t know.  Collective experience?  Crowd?  Should they have done it?

Him:  Well, it reminds me very much of another reunion that happened fairly recently.  Unlike that one, I do think they should have done this one.

Me:  Ha!  Yeah.  We’ll take a break there.

Him:  Okay.

Me:  Right, faithful reader, after a short intermission we’ll have something completely-

Him:  Stop that!  It’s silly!6

1.  Me:  No you didn’t.2
2.  Him:  Yes I did.1 
3.  Yeah, yeah. ReTARDIS.  We know. 
4.  Him:  No, I didn’t.5 
5.  Me:  Yes you did.4
6.  “Dinsdale!”

Final Performance
Monty Python Dead 
(1969 – 2014)

Just because you like my stuff, doesn’t mean I owe you anything.
- Bob Dylan

Python have always been there, lurking in the bushes. 

Probably my earliest experience was the warning poster and snatches of upset adults on the news.  They’d killed Jesus or something and it made a lot of people very sad.  After that?  Dunno.  I lived in a post-Python world.  They were part of the fabric.  Like snow or stinging nettles or school or other stuff beginning with ‘s’.

Sometimes stray repeats would appear on my black and white TV when I was supposed to be asleep.  Barking nonsense broadcast from the bushes; secret signals to latch onto and superimpose on the regimented conformity of all that tedious scholastic bollocks.  Dust-choked lessons were brightened immeasurably by looking for the surreal.  It became a game the Outlers played. 

Like climbing under piers at high-tide, the Python were dangerous, forbidden.  Fawlty Towers and Ripping Yarns were approved.  Strange times anyway, what with the Doomsday Clock waiting for the unions to sort out whether it was the responsibility of Scenery or Electric.  The Apocalypse has been delayed due to industrial action.  Meanwhile, here’s some music. 

Familiarity breeds acceptance and that’s a good camouflage for something patient.  F-bombs still necrotise the uninoculated pre-watershed innocents, chewing off their faces and spiking their carbonated sugar syrup with mescaline for good measure.  Bastard Python.  How dare they?  How dare they? 

Twits complain that the animal uses the same attack it always did, springing out of the bushes like it always did.  Shouldn’t it try flying or a pincer movement or grabbing a leg and executing a death roll or something?  Of course, by complaining they just prove a point.  Namely that they’re twits.

You can’t thank a predator for doing what it does and you can’t thank a force of nature for stirring something in you.  Python don’t feel sentiment.  They wait, sleep, strike and occasionally reproduce stunted, slightly crap off-spring, but they don’t feel sentiment.  Python changed the consciousness of humanity slightly, like football, tapeworms or iPhones.  And, like football, tapeworms and iPhones, some people were more affected than others.  That’s how culture works.  Python don’t care if you’re sad, that’s your problem. 

Y’see, Python will always be there, lurking in the juniper bushes.

Now piss off.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Holiday Special (The Visual Dictionary)

 Dictionaries are like watches, the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true.


Him:  Sounds like the sort of tent a conman would try and sell you.  A ‘Con-Tent’.

Me:  What, like a shovel?


The Earth eventually dies in the year 5.5/Apple/26.  It is destroyed naturally by the expanding Sun, not by an enemy.1
Me:  So, the Colony.

Him:  Why do we keep going back there?2

Me:  It’s relaxing.  And I like collecting t-shirts.

Him:  It’s full of giant crabs!

Me:  Hush.


Like much Time Lord technology, the complex machine looks simple. 1
Continuous motion energy matrix maintains power. 1
Me:  What’s the stabby thing again?

Him:  I’ve told you once.  It’s a grinder.

Me:  A grinder?

Him:  It stops birds from landing on your electric fence.

Me:  Leaving aside the fact that I don’t have an electric fence for the moment, wouldn’t an electric fence act as something of a deterrent anyway?

Him:  Birds aren’t affected by electricity.

Really long pause, like a sea-badger reflected in a fun house mirror.

Me:  Is that right?

Him:  They’re all made of rubber.


Powerful and mysterious Rift Manipulator. 1
Me:  Ah.  Wood.  Goes up a treat.

Him:  It doesn’t burn as quickly as you’d think it would.

Me:  True.  We were miles away before Colony security turned up.


Central panel conceals teleport base code. 1
Him:  That was a cold day.

Me:  Which one am I again?


The Doctor's real life seeps through into John Smith's dreams, which he records as fiction in what he calls his "journal of impossible things". 1
Him:  Are you going to say, “Whoops, butterfingers”?

Me:  I think you should.


Grip-adhesive stock. 1
Battle Daleks fly in squadrons of 12 or 16. 1
Comms device is connected to brain tissue. 1
By opening the blaster's bonding chamber the Doctor adapts it to be effective against polycarbide - the exterior of a Dalek. 1
Daleks do not form alliances unless they can perceive a way of gaining a further advantage, usually achieved by betraying their allies. 1
The Parallel World Transporter is worn around the neck and can only transport one person at a time safely. 1
Me:  I need the loo. I tell you what, when I’ve typed all this, I’ll phone a curry. Is that alright?

Him:  Alright.


1940s tailoring. 1
Him:  Okay, let’s talk about Ironsides.

Me:  I’ve got nothing.

Him:  No.  They’re not very interesting, are they?  Let’s make up random stuff.


Serene faces mask violent intentions. 1
Looking into the Angels' eyes is perilous. 1
Him:  Do you know that the human bite contains more bacteria than any other bite?  It’s even got more bacteria than the komodo dragon.  Which is amazing.

Me:  What’s that got to do with Flossie?


A special mix of air is pumped into the face masks. 1
Large four-fingered hands with sharp nails. 1


Landing area for non-emergency vehicles. 1
Position adjustment control. 1
The Order is as single-minded about its mission to cure patients as it is fiercely secretive about its treatment methods. 1
Display of patient lifesigns. 1
Escaped specimens have bred and thrive beneath the smog-shrouded Motorway, hunting its travellers. 1
They forced humans to mine the poisonous gas they fed on. 1
Kitten nursery, equipped for the babies' every need. 1
Over billions of years they devolved into simple beasts and were kept in the New New York Zoo. 1
Many denizens of the Undercity have set off on the Motorway, dreaming of a better life higher up. 1
This highway is 20 lanes across and 50 lanes deep.  Its traffic moves five miles every 12 years, but is going nowhere because the exit has been sealed to protect it from danger above. 1
Universal symbol for hospital. 1
Ambulance landing bay. 1
The Sisters can tell each other apart by their scent and the colour of their fur. 1
Holographic presenter Sally Calypso's fabricated broadcasts convince the Motorway residents that all is normal in New New York. 1
Fur is turning grey with age. 1
Me:  The weather was mostly well-behaved.

Him:  It defied everything the weather man told us.

Me:  Almost as though something was controlling it…

90 SS Madame de Pompadour

Forward correctional rudder and axis finder. 1
 Me:  It’s a boat.  As any fool can plainly see.

Him:  I can plainly see that.


Starlight shines through pothole. 1
Him:  The Black Shuck.

Me:  Almost.  You’re getting there.


They are planning to create a new empire on Earth, but unlike the numerical equations used in Earth's sciences, the Carrionites use formulae made out of significant shapes and words. 1
Him:  You can say something about golden eagles and we’ll leave it at that.


Hands hide the shame of those who voted against the Ultimate Sanction. 1
Me:  That’s our new ‘author shot’.

Him:  We have quite a lot of those now, don’t we?

Me:  Not new ones.


Robot's default position is standing straight, with hands together and head bowed.  Razor-edged halo can be thrown as weapon. 1
Me:  I’m saying nothing.


One hundred years before the Doctor arrives, the Vashta Nerada enter their deadly hatching cycle. 1
The man-eating swarms create an extra shadow.1
Their name means "the shadows that melt the flesh" because they strip their victims to the bone in seconds. 1
They are also known as "piranhas of the air". 1
The Vashta Nerada are found on a billion worlds, including Earth, where they live mainly on roadkill. 1
The creatures hunt by latching on to a living food source and keeping it fresh until they devour it. 1
They normally live in the darkness, but can also be seen as the dust in sunbeams. 1
Him:  Quite a lot of jaw bones.  They looked like pan pipes.

Me:  The brighter the sun, the darker the shadows.   BDMTISH!4


Possessed eyes. 1
Water drips constantly from the body. 1
Him:  That’s the jellyfish and the sea.

Me:  Hemmingway’s widely rejected initial pitch.


Belonged to King Athelstan over 1000 years ago. 1
Sand is all that's left of San Helios. 1
Him:  Do we need to say anything about San Helios?  Is it not bizarre enough?

Me:  Fair point.

Button to forget the truth.1


Me:  Lest we forget.


Me:  Same again next year?

Him:  I’d assume so.

Me:  Marvellous.

142  INDEX

Next:  Something completely different.

1.  Corry, N; Rayner, J; Darling, A; Dougherty, K; John, D; Beecroft, S.  Doctor Who The Visual Dictionary, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London. 2010.   

2.  For previous visits to the Colony, see here and here.

3.  Photo courtesy of my long-suffering PA.

4.  Meanwhile, in the Village…