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Alarming signs of humour in high places

What the actual flip? (Euphemism)

There’s a Church at the start of the London Road in High Wycombe just opposite my block of flats which is just before the London Road begins. And once again some drunken lackwit has demolished the low wall that separates the grounds of the United Reformed Church from the pavement.

This and similar incidents happen with monotonous regularity, not just at the festive season but all year round. Normally during the night when the roads are empty of most traffic and a fool coming from the roundabouts nearer to the centre of town can gain a bit of speed, come around the bend and… lose control and ram into something.

I normally sleep through it nowadays and awake to find that walls, signs, bollards and anything that might absorb the impact has been knocked down again. Heaven knows how many times the zebra crossing has been taken out of commission.

I stopped by the United Reformed Church to tut-tut at the damage and actually read what the tape wrapped around the damage said.

IDIOT. In bold black on yellow.

When did they start doing that?

Does it have any legal significance?

Are police… no actually it would have been fire and rescue people since their tape was also in evidence anyway are The Authorities allowed to defame people like that without a court verdict to sustain it?

Not that I disagree with the sentiment you understand but I have an appetite for legal niceties.

Enquiring minds want to know.

Like JARNDYCE v JARNDYCE but with Magic Missiles.

You may or may not have heard that there is a kerfuffle going on in the world of The World’s Most Popul;ar RPG Whose Initials Are D and D. The publishers have decided that from now on they want a cut of third party publisher’s profits above a certain level and not only that but the rights to the intellectual property that is thus generated. They have for decades had an Open Gaming Licence by which people who are not them can use their game system for their own publications and projects. No pay, no fuss and very little interference by Wizards of the Coast and their corporate masters at Haboro

But now they want to monetize this relationship

From now on if you were to found a YouTube channel and it became the next CRITICAL ROLE or publish a setting and it became the next PTOLUS or RAVENWOOD then not only would you have to pay Wiizards Of The Coast/Hasboro for the privilege but you would have to give them the fruits of your writing if they wanted it. So that they could use the setting you have so lovingly made and probably bugger it up horribly.

Now nobody seems to be saying they can’t do this (though lots and lots of people seem to be thinking it’s crazy and short sighted me included) but the punchline is that they want to retroactively convert the licences which they issued under the old Open Game Licences into ones under the the new more restrictive version, retroactively changing the deal by which material has been published for the last twenty years and more. A deal that was supposed to be perpetual and irrevocable.

Well, it behooves me (and it currently behooves THE BUNDLE OF HOLDING) to remind you that there are lots of other game systems with which you could run your super duper YouTube channel that will make you a fortune. Speaking as someone who hasn’t touched DnD since 1979, I would point to Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS and to the many variants of RUNEQUEST one of which (MYTHRAS) is in this new bundle.

I just hope that all of the people who are irritated with this move by Hasboro can agree to pool their legal resources and get the thing quashed in court before it does any damage to the hobby. I heard yesterday of a DOCTOR WHO game published using 5th Edition mechanics. Is Hasboro going to attempt to claim that all the Daleks are belong to them? Retroactively what’s more? I’m pretty sure that’s against the Laws of Time if not American intellectual property law.

On the fringes of fame and glory

Hey, you’ll never guess what! We got a nomination!

For what you ask? For Favourite ‘Talk’ RPG podcast on the ENWORLD (not the Ennies but a fellow can dream) website.

Personally I think KEN AND ROBIN TALK ABOUT STUFF will walk it as usual but it’s nice to know we’ve got enough listeners to get a nomination! (It’s a lonely life being a podcaster sometimes: a bit like shouting at the void.)

Tell your friends (assuming you have any that are interested in such arcana)!

What’s that? Oh, we’re IMPROVISED RADIO THEATRE WITH DICE, me and Roger Bell_West. Look us up! Listen to us! (But don’t feel you have to do that before voting for us of course….)

I am already writing my acceptance speech… Ot at least rejigging the one I never got to use at the Oscars….


As I believe I said last time, it wasn’t bad. I’m not prepared to say it was actually good but it wasn’t bad. Or at least not very bad and certainly not apocalyptically bad as I was rather afraid it might be. There, that will teach me to be more optimistic in future. (Spoiler: Oh, no it won’t.)

The faults lay in Chris Chibnall’s tendency to throw everything he could conceive of into the story and then treat the resulting mess as a special treat. He found time to include the horrid sight of the Master boogeying to the sound of Rah-Rah Rasputin but not to explain what ‘Forced Regeneration’ was and why it was so horrible. (The Master impersonating, replacing or just being Rasputin was a lovely idea: the boogeying was not.) There was a powerful Cosmic Thingumajig in the shape of a cute little girl sometimes and a giant electric dandelion seed at other times. That could have been the core of an interesting episode in itself but here it was just a side issue in the incoherent core narrative.

The major pleasure of the episode was the sheer amount of fan service it managed to put into it, cameos for five former Doctors in the main story (plus one more after the regeneration). Oh and I forgot about the appearance of the lady who was playing the Other Doctor, the Fugitive Doctor at the start of the last season. The BBC seems now to be explaining her as ‘one of the Doctor’s future selves’ which manages to make even less sense than Chris Chibnall’s explanation.

But it was the number of former companions that made the episode the joyous mess of fan pandering that it was. (I’m not complaining! I am clearly one of the target audience for this.) Not only Tegan and Ace (and Kate Stewart who was a fan favourite but not technically a companion) in the main story but by the end we had the first meeting of what we can only call Companions Anonymous with the addition of Graham, Dan, Mel, Jo and (for goodness sake!) Ian Chesterton from the first few seaons. Oh, I soaked it all up and enjoyed the nostalgia and soap opera stuff much more than the manic plot

(Reviewing the cast list at the end of the show I can see I forgot about Space Pilot Vinder who I didn’t think was special enough to revive him for this one appearance but maybe people other than me saw his appeal, )

The thing that puzzles me is why David Tennant gets to do the anniversay episodes. Is this saying that they don’t quite trust the new chap to do right by that historic occasion? It was done neatly, I will admit. I was just thinking: “Regenerating into a new set of clothes? Never done that before…” before I realised that we weren’t going to see the new chap just yet. (I’d been assuming that Tennant’s return was going to be another example of the Doctor’s incarnations meeting.)

And the thing that annoys me is that we aren’t going to get to Tennant D. as the Fourteenth Doctor until November next year. Seeth. It’s almost as if the BBC doesn’t want to make the series.

So this is what that feels like

If you’re British you must have wondered for years what it was going to feel like when she finally laid down her burden. And now here it is.

As with watching my mother’s death, the sheer repetitive strain of her last yeas took away a lot of the grief I felt was going to wsh over me. All that is left, as with my mother, is to say thank you and goodbye.

I already see the things that I anticipated would happen. Over optimistic republicans hoping that this means finally seeing some movement towards a ‘more rational’ constitution. I think that, like the Brexiteers who assumed that the EU would collapse without Britain holding it together, they are doomed to be disappointed.

Americans are popping up, asking to have things explained to them, often extremely unlikely hypothetical situations as in KING RALPH.

At least the Internet pundits who were spreading rumours that we would never have a King Charles III ‘because it was unlucky’ are termporarily embarrased .

I am not going to watch the Prime Minister’s statement because whether she does it well or ill it’sgoing to cause me pain.

I’ve thought a fair bit about how I feel about constitutional monarchy in the years waiting for this moment. And I’ve come to the conclusion that though I rather like a neutral, religio-political figurehead as the person the people look to as someone they can revere as an embodiment of the nation I am quite opposed to hereditary monarchy.

Because what hereditary monarchy does is rather like what the citizens of Omelas do in Ursula Le Guin’s short story.

Whilst they torture a small child to ensure the continuity of their perfect city, we British gently torment a whole family, twisting them out of shape in order to ensure we will always have someone dedicated to tradition, to duty, to the best aspects of the nation. Or at least someone capable of projecting such a persona to the general populace.

It’s true they get to do this in a most luxurious prison, with all the flattery they can eat. But nonetheless it bends them out of shape. Look at the care lined face of our new King if you doubt me. There’s a man who has been sacrificed to duty from an early age.

I’d go for an elective monarchy myself, perhaps restricted to the descendants of the Electress Sophia as at present and only decide who the new monarch is when the old one is safely buried. This is a Reform Movement that I am perhaps the only member of but I mean it quite sincerely.

Oh, dear the Tories will be expressing their loyalty all over the shop and enjoying being able to mock better people than them on the opposition benches if they even just say: “Well, do we really want to be carrying on with this rigmarole?”

It’s just as well my tee-shirts are all black: I don’t have a proper suit of mourning nor even a black armband.

There will be nothing but tributes and royal history on the BBC for a while, possibly until the funeral is done. There will be a new face and voice doing the Christmas message and presumably sometime next year (COVID permitting) a coronation. The image of the Archbishop of Canterbury in mask and full episcopal fig briefly entertains me.

And so to bed, knowing at last what the death of the Queen feels like.

Rwandan Whispers

I woke up to a BBC interview with Boris whose headline was:

PM: I will not undergo psychological transformation after poll defeat

​Was anybody expecting him to? Perhaps it’s one of the effects of him being in Rwanda. We all shout “You can bugger off now Boris! Bugger right off!”

And in the middele of a Commonwealth conference he hears: “You must undergo a psychological transformation, Prime Minister.”

I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m against transformation, pyschological, spiritual or even physical. But I feel that it’s best pursued when out of office. Once his time is his own again he can seek the road to Damascus or sit under a bo-tree until he achieves enlightenment. Or take an OU degree or take up squash. Just bugger off first, Prime Minister.

I’m detecting, by the way, a more and more intense fawning tone to the BBC’s news coverage nowadays. Greater and greater care not to upset the PM as he approaches his tragedic (and absurd) climax. Rather than gathering around like jackals waiting for the Great White Elephant to fall over, their reporters turn up with fresh towels, a jug of freshly made Pyms and a sympathetic ear. Call me a cynic but even Lord Reith wouldn’t have been sticking up for a PM this far gone.

I wonder what I meant by that

There’s this idea called confirmation bias. Meaning (I think) that we notice more the facts, statements and opinions that tend to confirm what we already know.

Which led to me observing how many philosophers go to great lengths and write huge books to demonstrate the things they believed at the begining.

(Old joke: A mathematics professor comes into the lecture hall and writes a statement in symbolic logic on the board. He turns to the students and says: “Ladies and gentlemen, I think that you will agree with me that this statement is obvious. Therefore…” And there he paused, looked at the board for a moment and asked to be excused. Half an hour later he came back, wild-eyed with a note book covered with scrawls. “Yes, yes! I was right: it is obvious!”)

It’s particularly noticeable in conservative political thinkers who want to prove that they are not only right but have been all this time and will be into the foreseeable future and in theologians who want to show the same for the beliefs they have held since childhood.

It’s astonishing how many people think that their particular tribe is the triumph of all human endeavour and that everyone else ought to become like them as soon as possible.

‘Progressives’, those whose hearts and homelands are in the future are no better. They tend to slip into cliches and ‘things that everybody knows’. Their TTEK are different from the reactionaries but they are no less traditional in their nature.

What I’m coming round to asking my vast acquaintance is: was there ever a philosopher who surprised himself by what he found himself thinking? Examples would be welcome but most philosophers seem to come to what they write and say already knowing what it is they want to show to be true.

Me included, insofar as I am a serious thinker at all.

By the way, I note that my preference for Number Fourteen where not followed. Never mind, I’ll give the new fella a fair trial though I won’t watch the thing he was best known for before, SEX EDUCATION, not because of any smuttiness (I follow Tom Lehrer’s philosophy with regard to that) but because the fact that it Americanised its depiction of British education causes my head to ache and my blood pressure to rise to dangerous levels.

The Joy of Outrage

I haven’t posted anything about the Easter DR WHO special for two reasons.

The first was that Eastercon wiped me out a bit. I’m going to have to take more care about taking advantage of the facilities for aging and unfit persons if I’m going to make conventions fun in the future. I’m thinking a shopping trolley for All My Stuff because carrying a shoulder bag sent the entire weight of the planet directly to my back. Or maybe one of the walkers that my mum had in her old age because they provide a place to sit down. The chairs in convention function rooms are not designed for comfort: the chairs in the bars are.

The second was that I didn’t have a lot to say. It was a perfectly adequate piece of co-production, producing a cross between a DR WHO episode and a 1980s Chinese Martial arts movie. There was flash, bang and wallop. There was fan service and a revived monster-of-the-week. It wasn’t bad.

Which isn’t to say that it was actually good but at this stage in Chris Chibnall’s tenure I’m prepared to settle for Not Bad. I am, let it be clearly understood, dreading his final program. He still wants to do the Grand Reboot that he has been hinting at and I am fearful he will wipe the series continuity just to show he can and leave things in a terrible mess.

But my wishy-washy and easy-going attitude has not been dupilicated on the Internet or at least not on the subset of it that I watch. Rage, rage against the total betrayal of their favourite (?) show no longer being as good as it once was. (Look, I remember Kandyman and that was when I was cheering because they were giving Sylvester McCoy better scripts than Colin Baker.) It’s not just the Doctor, the bile and invective about PICARD is just as ludicrous.

Is it age hitting the generation that was young in the 80s? Is it just the maddening effect of the Intertubes? Is it people channeling their other disappointments into fannish issues? I cannot tell but I don’t like it.

Or is it just that they like the feeling? Does being angry give them a charge which the rest of their life isn’t providing? I must admit that I’m getting more disagreeable as I get older. I sat in some of the panel items at the Eastercon and while some of my wrath must be ascribed to the pains in my back, my hips and my knees there was also a strain of thinking “This person is young and therefore wrong!” Or it could be that there has been a noticeable drop in the ability of panelists to come up with coherent and interesting material at short notice. An increase in sententiousness and poor sentence structure. A tendency to open their mouths and speak without knowing where the sentence is going to end.

Bah, I say, and likewise humbug. I’m going to have to be careful: outrage and judgementalism is a terrible drug.

I am also dreading RTD’s decision about the next Doctor (which is being played impressively close to the chest so far). I want the next Doctor to also be female, just to show that it can be done better. Well, yes having the heads of some of the nay-sayers explode is attractive to me but it’s really a side issue. I even have a candidate: Aisling Bea.

I know, I know but two previous Doctors have appeared in the show before being regenerated into the title character and we know that Romana managed to copy someone’s appearance. It’s perfectly rational and canon. Trust me on this.

I don’t (for once) envy the DR WHO showrunner. I must be getting old.

Not ga-ga, no. I’ve always been this way

What way, you ask? Well, self-absorbed and not noticing other people to my disadvantage. Terrible at making connections and very forgetful.
(I keep using that excuse as evidence for more advanced Old Gentleman’s Forgetfulness piles up. It comforts me.)
I listened today to my friend Roger’s film criticism podcast RIBBON OF MEMES in which he and his friend Nick provide two aging privileged white guys insight into films that have described as ‘masterpieces’. (That’s not me being nasty: it’s more or less how they describe their project.)

The latest film to wilt beneath their judgement is RESERVOIR DOGS and I was going to post a comment on the site, pontificating (mistakenly as it turns out) on the derivative nature of the script and on how impressed I had been with Tim Roth who previously I had only seen as the skinhead in MADE IN BRITAIN. And I thought, what had he done between the two films? I looked him up on IMDB and oh, yes I had forgotten about ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN (but I think I only saw it after RESERVOIR DOGS) and oh

And there it was. He was in RETURN TO WATERLOO, a musical written by Ray Davies of the Kinks, about a man who gets on a commuter train and goes mad (or maybe already has gone mad and maybe he’s killed someone) on the way to Waterloo station.

And so, of course, was I.

Now, I haven’t thought about RETURN TO WATERLOO in years. There was a commuter who was in the seat beside me, played by Christopher Godwin who I saw and cheered for some years later when he got a small bit in the Yellow Pages ‘Fly Fishing by J.R.Hartley’ commercial. Good for you, Chris! And it looks like he has had a decent career.

But isn’t it odd that I managed to remember Chris and forgot all about Tim Roth who went on to be A Pretty Big Star. We shared those two weeks of shuttling along the rails of Network South East and surviving on whatever the caterers could manage to get to us. Learning a lot about shooting in odd locations.

I’m not even sure that by the time I saw him RESERVOIR DOGS seven years later I’d retained any mental note of him. Harumph.

Well, if I get one of those Redo afterlives either I go to a completely different profession or if I do try to make it as an actor at least keep call lists and other reminders so I can recall who it is I’ve worked with. Because I don’t make note of it naturally and I’ve never been any good at networking, at all, at all.

Kenneth Colley was the lead and I was more deeply struck with how he made something out of the nothing that the script made his character. I remembered him, not that I ever worked with him again.

This has been number-umpty-ump in a series about missed opportunities and my fading mental faculties.

Reality transcends satire. Maybe.

There’s an American left-wing vlogger I have fallen into following called Beau of The Fifth Column.

His latest piece is about what is rumoured to be an accidentally released Russian opinion piece which was supposed to be released after Putin’s armies had conquered and pacified Ukraine. It got take back and denied but nothing is lost on the Internet and it’s up both in the original Russian and in English translation. Go and have a read of whichever you’re most competent in. The English version is housed at a Ukraine government site, which may make it a bit suspect in some people’s eyes.

I don’t have enough knowledge of Russian as a language, Russian political theories, nor Russian journalism to be able to say if this is genuine or not. (And Beau you probably ought to put some disclaimers in your coverage of it.) But assuming it is genuine for now what strikes me is the close modelling of this bit of propaganda on the Nazi justification for their agression in the 1930s. We not only have the ‘people like us are being ruled by people not like us’ and the ‘people not like us are resisting the just rule of people like us’ but there’s also the ‘we must pay back those who humiliated us in 1918’ only updated to 1991.

Also striking is the way they tell other people that they are being manipulated against their own interests by the Big Evil of ‘the Anglo-Saxons’. Ah, those Anglo-Saxons! Oppressing people since the Battle of Badon Hill. (c 500 AD). The idea that Germany or Italy or Poland ought to feel perfectly contented with a resurgent Russian Empire and have absolutely nothing to fear… It’s a very tone deaf and Russocentric view of the cosmos.

This could be fake. It feels like parody or satire. But have you seen how the world is tending just at the moment? I reserve judgement on its authenticity.