August 9th, 2004

Pamper your pet with a portico...

For some reason I got sent the Ancestral Collections catalogue - probably as a result of data sharing by the Stow-on-the-Wold catalogue shop collective - which turned out to be a source of the most ostentatious (and amusing) kitsch tat possible.

May I bring exhibit A to the attention of the ladies and gentlemen of the jury? Thank you m'lud.

Exhibit A: The Smart Cat Flap. I quote, "Now Puss can make a grand entrance and exit! The world's smartest cat flap surround will bring the stage set of Aida to your back door and a smile to all your friends." It is, in fact, a set of surrounds that give your cat flap a Georgian portico.



I am assured that no self-respecting cat would use it, but even so...

M'lud, I rest my case. And ask the jury to return a verdict of "Very, very tacky indeed".
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Gothic Space Opera

Went along to a press preview of "The Chronicles Of Riddick" this morning, and I have to say that it rocks. It's a fast-paced piece of space opera with something of the feel of an Al Reynolds novel. The bad guys are wonderfully gothic, with ornate spacecraft that put most film designs to shame, and the good guys are amoral enough to give us some really decent action. Sure, I had to suspend disbelief over some terribly iffy planetary climatic dynamics, but the chase scene as our heroes run from the approaching terminator makes for edge-of-the-seat moments.

Recommended. Just don't expect "Gattaca".

In other news: London still too bloody humid.
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Cheap (but cool) anime figurines

The strange vending machines in the Shaftesbury Avenue Forbidden Planet currently contain a set of anime figurines based on characters from the popular .hack// franchise. At only £2 a pop, they're a good way of gaining more anime tat at a budget.

The figures are well designed, and very detailed - on a par with the much more expensive Intron Depot figure collections.

(Oh and if anyone finds they end up with a spare Kite figurine, I'd be interested in taking it off your hands!)
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A Monday evening "A quick dose of the Strosses" review: The Atrocity Archives

Charles Stross' fascination for all things Cthulu goes back a long way. We can see it rear its ugly head in "A Boy And His God", but things don't get into their stride until we reach "A Colder War" - an alternate history of Reagan's America where the US had a very good reason for deploying some of the darker nightmares of the Cold War years.

Now we come to The Atrocity Archives, a compilation of his short novel "The Atrocity Archive", which first appeared in Spectrum SF as a three part serial, with the new novella "The Concrete Jungle". Here we're in a world where the true horrors of the world of espionage are turned on their head. Mathematics can open holes in the universe, holes that lead to deeper darker worlds where amoral entities lurk. Bob Howard is a hacker and sysadmin at "The Laundry", the last remaining piece of SOE, which just happens to be the UK's sole intelligence arm devoted to dealing with those horrors that lurk behind the corners of our comfy universe.

Bob's got tired of being a desk jockey - he wants to see some action. And between the office politics, and the actions of a middle-Eastern secret service that's delving into bits of history the West doesn't want uncovered, he's going to find it. It's a journey that will take Bob from the bowels of Mornington Crescent to Santa Cruz to Amsterdam and finally to the frozen surface of a world in another universe. Stross navigates Bob through a complex world that's more arcane than the equations that summon the Great Old Ones from the Dungeon Dimensions. If the eldritch horrors don't drive you mad, the complexities of reporting chains in a matrix management structure surely will... Oh, and it pays to count the concrete cows.

Stross mixes hard SF, Lovecraft and Len Deighton in a single convoluted story that makes more sense of the world than Fox News ever could...

Excellent stuff, and well worth reading. I'll look forward to the further adventures of Mr Howard.

[Disclaimer: Charlie's an old friend, and it's my and marypcb's house where Mo seems to be living...]
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