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Housekeeping

My computer is being a pig tonight, so I’ll keep this brief. I’d forgotten somebody picked Thomas Duncan — ebola man — in the Dead Pool. Homer, to be exact. Step forward, Homer, and accept dick.

That reminds me. I did an inventory of dick winners this weekend. I have addresses for everybody I need, except: Carl (win #3), Scott the Badger (is that #2 for you?), hutch (did we meet in Boston that time?), platypuss (I was sure you’d sent me an address, but I can’t find it) and drew458 (is that #2 for you, too?). Just because you’ve won before doesn’t mean I can easily work out your address. Don’t be shy. You’ve won dick, fair and square.

Nope. Never gets old.

Once again, thanks for your patience. I’ve started to build drawing time into my day again, but I’m mighty rusty.

By the way, don’t indulge in a sigh or relief just yet, re: ebola. We seem to have a calming, especially outside Africa, but the BIG ones start with a few fizzles before they really get going. The Great Flu pandemic of 1918 was preceded by a little hiccup of an outbreak six months before. And I think they traced the AIDS Patient Zero back decades before anyone noticed a sudden weird uptick of Kaposi’s sarcoma in San Fran.

One of the things that can turn a local outbreak into raging pandemic is large groups of people living in close proximity. It’s not the spread so much as the opportunity to mutate rapidly. Like the barracks of WWI. Or — widely rumored — the immigrant camps of 2014 that may have given us a more aggressive Enterovirus D68.

And on that cheery note — see you back here,
Friday, 6pm WBT, Dead Pool Round 70!

October 21, 2014 — 10:27 pm
Comments: 8

Duck!

Just ran across this in the newspaper: little origami paper airplanes. Propeller at one end, controller at the other. Fly ‘em by waving your smart phone around. Run for 10 minutes, up to 180 feet away. Don’t cost an arm and a leg. Christmas will be here before you know it. Just saying.

We’re bracing for the ass end of Hurricane Gonzalo or Bazinga or Zoobadebeebop or whatevers. High wind and rain starting about midnight. It looks like the worst of it will pass North of us, but our little microclimate is subject to wilder-than-predicted weather, so we’re bracing anyway.

If you don’t hear from us, it’s because we have a tree tangled in the phone wires. We were trying to cut them free this afternoon, with only moderate success. One good gust could take our internet away.

It’s an elder tree, see, so it grows really, really fast and we didn’t notice it had gotten entangled. Also, you have to be careful trimming elder trees. If you don’t ask the Elder Mother nicely before you cut, she’ll give you restless leg syndrome.

Not kidding.

October 20, 2014 — 10:14 pm
Comments: 17

Plague Doctor

Meh, I’m probably not going anywhere with this. I just had it stuck in my head, the resemblance between Medieval plague doctors and all those guys in hazmat suits.

I’m a big fan of pandemics. Have I ever mentioned that? Black Death, Spanish flu, polio. Been reading up on them for years, only in part because we’re overdue for another big one.

Ebola is probably — probably — not it.

Cons: it isn’t all that easy to spread (maybe. I think). We’re close to a vaccine, and a treatment.

Pros: it’s nasty. It’s virulent. We’re months away from a tested treatment, and a proper supply of it. And our officials — all of them — are proving themselves to be utterly incompetent boobs.

So. Don’t lose sleep over it. But, you know, if you see cans of tuna on sale, pick up a few. Goes good with saltines, just saying.

p.s. this Enterovirus D68 is giving ebola competition. Leaving aside persistent rumors that it came across the border with this year’s children’s crusade, it’s an evil customer in is own right. Goes for the kids. Half a dozen deaths, and at least one outbreak later resulted in polio-like muscle weakness several weeks later. One to watch.

p.p.s. have a good weekend!

October 17, 2014 — 8:50 pm
Comments: 9

Peace in our time

Well, this is unusual. He must’ve snuck up on her while she was asleep on the cold frame (a cold frame is like a little halfway house for plants raised under glass but destined for out-of-doors, for those of us who don’t garden). When the sun shines on it, it warms up and becomes a cat magnet. She still hates him with a hissing, growling passion, though.

It’s been warm for October, and wet. Which is what we got all last Winter. I suppose it’s better than cold and wet, but it’s awfully dreary when it goes on month after month.

But do I care? I do not. Uncle B bought me my first pair of decent wellington boots. These ones. They’re soft and warm and snug and stink to high heaven.

Also, a Swiss army surplus rain poncho. This one. Two ladies walked up to me on the street the other day and burst out laughing, so I’m pretty sure I look amazing in it.

October 16, 2014 — 8:41 pm
Comments: 22

Oh, *those* WMD. Sure, there were some of *those*

Okay, that NY Times article about chemical weapons today. Help me out here. They put this together from a bunch of Wikileaks stuff and some FOIA requests. It shows that US soldiers were finding chemical weapons regularly from 2004 and 2011 and some were hurt by them.

And the Times is scolding the government for downplaying the danger and significance of chemical weapons? WTF happened to “Bush lied, people died”? Yeah, they’re describing them as a bunch of old crappy weapons (and of American design, woooo!) but isn’t that entirely in line with what we expected to find and were told we hadn’t? Tens of thousands, by the sound of it.

And why did the military downplay this? Why did the government?

And why is the Times doing a bunch of original reportage on this now? Could it be that ISIS is closing in on this stuff and they want an alibi when the bad guys start lobbing chemical weapons around…?

October 15, 2014 — 9:21 pm
Comments: 16

Real headline from a fake newspaper

I don’t know if Ace or anybody picked up on this reeking gem last week, but I’m still trying to wrap my braincell around it. It’s from the Daily Telegraph — once the best center-right newspaper I know. Brace yourselves. Ready? Here we go:

How the Nobel Prize has favoured white western men for more than 100 years

Complete with helpful maps and graphics.

Let’s leave aside for a moment that Alfred Nobel was a white western man. He might have called this thing “a prize for people who are a whole lot like me.” He could have called it “white western men who do white western man things awesomely well.” His money. He could’ve done.

But I’m sure he’d have been happy if people from other places invented lots of amazing things. Even people from brown places. Gosh, even the ladies.

Who doesn’t look at the actual results and think, “wow — white western men kick all kinds of science ass!”?

How did we get to a place where you have a contest with clear winners and clear losers, first reaction is the winners must have cheated and the losers must be victims?

October 14, 2014 — 9:21 pm
Comments: 13

Somebody call for a feudal jester?

Feudal jester? Feudal jester? Eh?

Awwww…suit yourselves.

It’s hard running a smartass blog in a time of Isis and ebola.

October 13, 2014 — 8:40 pm
Comments: 12

Waiting their turn

Okay, last one from the Mapp and Lucia shoot. I call your attention to the little dog on the wagon. And the fact the man is checking his smart phone.

I’m only posting this stuff because I didn’t earlier, when it happened, and the news is just too depressing right now.

p.s. Except Ukip takes Clacton, a safe Tory seat. And, even more impressively, came within 600-something votes of taking a safe Labour seat! That’s pants-shittingly interesting politics, right there.

p.p.s. Have a good weekend!

October 10, 2014 — 9:45 pm
Comments: 13

More props

Another shot from the Mapp and Lucia shoot this Summer. I think reproducing Twistevant’s was the most impressive set building the BBC types got up to. This entire storefront is fake, bolted onto a very plain-fronted white building on the corner. This is all burgundy paint and gold leaf; they must have a good old-fashioned sign painter on staff. When they were done, the whole thing vanished overnight.

There are even period displays inside — for example, you can just make out in the center a revolving rack of seed packets, all from the appropriate era! And all the notices in the windows and all the handbills posted — all of them perfectly period.

The cheese wheels in the foreground are all plastic, but the produce out front is half and half. There would be plastic onions mixed in with real ones. For some reason. I couldn’t work out the rationale — except that any fruit or veg that was cut open was fake, which made sense.

The production crew was very cool about it. When they weren’t actually filming, we were allowed to wander right through the sets and take pictures and gawk at stuff, though they got itchy if anyone pointed a camera at one of the stars. This area is right in the touristy heart of Rye and tourism carried on right throughout, though I did get briefly pinned down in the gun garden while they filmed a scene.

This is apparently in contrast to the Hollywood types in for the filming of Monuments Men. They were real asses to everyone, locals told me.

October 9, 2014 — 10:05 pm
Comments: 16

A very Mapp and Lucia Summer

In the chicken thread below, we got talking about Mapp and Lucia — the books, not the chickens — and it dawns on me, I’m not sure I’ve ever posted about Mapp and Lucia the books. Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

Mapp and Lucia describes a series of six (or more, depending if you count short stories) novels about two middle aged, middle class English ladies in the Twenties. They wage deadly warfare on one another by way of gossip, dinner parties and musical evenings. If you have a taste for bitchy catfights, you’ll love these books (if not, they’ll probably bore you silly).

The author, E.F. Benson, wrote shit tons of books, but Mapp and Lucia are his greatest hits. They’re set in Tilling, which is explicitly modeled on the town of Rye. So closely modeled that a cottage industry sprung up leading people on walking tours of Rye, pointing out landmarks from the books. Benson lived in Rye and was its mayor for a while; his house is at the center of the Mapp and Lucia cycle.

Fun fact: Benson’s father, Edward White Benson, was Archbishop of Canterbury. He had six children and they were all homosexual. I read that somewhere, but Wikipedia says two of them died young, so I’m not sure how gay they had time to be.

Mapp and Lucia has been dramatized many times, most notably in the Eighties in a series starring Geraldine McEwan and Prunella Scales (remember her, Fawlty Towers?).

Welp, the BBC was in town for six weeks this Summer filming a new version, due to be released at Christmas. We live close enough to have turned up to watch the filming a few times. (Rye is used pretty often in film, because it’s gorgeous. Monuments Men was filmed locally last year, f’rexample).

This being the modern BBC, I’m sure they’ll eff it up, but I absolutely can’t fault their sense of set and costume. They took over Market Street and transformed it into the Market Street from the books (it’s mostly residential now, but it was the main shopping street in Benson’s day). It was fascinating to watch the prop people at work; the attention to detail was fantastic. They graveled the road so the markings wouldn’t show and put detailed false fronts on many of the buildings. One day to put it up, a week to film, a day to take it down, like they’d never been.

The picture shows a row of fake plastic pig carcasses hanging from the Town Hall. Guys kept spraying them down so they were shiny wet. I really, really wanted one.

They hired locals for extras and rented several houses for interiors. I felt for those extras when they bundled them up to film the Christmas scenes on a hot July night, fake snow and all.

We’re great M&L fans, if that’s not perfectly fucking obvious by now. I’ll let you know how the BBC manages to ruin these great stories with cheap politics.

October 8, 2014 — 6:53 pm
Comments: 17