Orbital Snooker 2000
Aug18

Orbital Snooker 2000

The late 1970s saw a flood of speculative sporting instruction manuals hit book shelves including some of the more well-known such as Mixed Tug O’ War (Punk Edition), Rally Car Jousting, and Table Polo. Those books, at least, had some chance of actually being played but the same couldn’t be said for the end of the decade’s Orbital Snooker 2000 by Irish author Lee Ayres. Ayres was a reasonably well-respected futurist and extrapolated then present day materials and technologies into the heady days of the twenty first century to come up with the rules of the game he considered would become the opium of the world’s populations. It was his intention to become the father of the sport and cash in on global licencing rights but his vision of coloured mile-wide spheres of graphene piloted by the criminal masses of competing nations attempting to knock their opponents into the sun and gain their freedom was just a little too expensive to...

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Far East Honeymoon Videos
Aug16

Far East Honeymoon Videos

Let’s get this straight right now: these aren’t those sorts of honeymoon videos. If you’re here for those sorts of honeymoon videos you’re going to be disappointed. If you’re not here for those sorts of honeymoon videos then you’ll probably still be disappointed but for completely different reasons. Way, way back in 2008 I got married and went on a trip to the Far East with my wife, cruising around the South China seas on the Diamond Princess and taking in a number of stops too: China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, and Thailand. Not long after that I wrote about our general experience of cruising, specifically as it applied to Princess Cruises in this article: Your First Princess Cruise. But what I didn’t do on this website was go into the details of the trip, share pictures, or upload video. In the lattermost case the reason for that was quite simple; I neglected to upload any videos until very, very recently. I figure seven years is a reasonable time to wait for these things. By way of getting back into the habit of occasionally updating this site and justifying its hosting costs I thought I’d take advantage of the recent video uploading spree on YouTube and share some of the filmed experiences of my honeymoon. The entire set of videos can be found in this playlist – Honeymoon, November 2008 – and it’s mostly in the right sequence except for a few at the end which had stupid dates on the files and YouTube doesn’t really make it easy to rearrange the playlist order. Some “highlights”: Short pan from on the Great Wall of China showing some of the surrounding hills and large number of tourists, mostly from China, making some form of ascent. This was part of a trip lasting just a few hours and we only had a short time on the wall itself. Bizarrely, some people who came long with us seemed more content to do some shopping at the gift shop near the base rather than engage in any climbing. Not us, though. We made the most of our time by hiking up as much as we could before needing to turn around and return to the coach. We stopped often as we ascended. It was very steep in parts. And we were very unfit. We’re still very unfit. Tiananmen Square. Very large and while we were there it filled up quite quickly with tourists, again mostly from China. Now, you would think that tourists going to Tiananmen Square might want to queue up at the mausoleum or take in the sights and, generally,...

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Ode To Hubble Space Telescope
Mar14

Ode To Hubble Space Telescope

The European Space Agency are currently running a competition to celebrate 25 years of astronomical photography from the Hubble Space Telescope. The Ode to Hubble competition is for those creative people who want to produce a video in honour of the orbiting scientific marvel and it just so happens that a friend of mine has submitted an entry. Shown below, it’s a short animation complete with original music and I’ve made sure to vote for it on the appropriate voting page...

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The Crackerjack Book Of Games
Mar03

The Crackerjack Book Of Games

Found, appropriately enough, on the always excellent Found Objects are these pictures from the 1965 Crackerjack Book of Games. Pictures on that site, yes, but no text to go with them. Fortunately, though, I’ve been able to dig out some of the game instructions. 1965 was a very different time. The Microwave Game Here’s a fun activity for all you kids whose fathers are working with one of those new-fangled industrial microwave ovens in use at all the civic cremation zones. With a friend, or if/when you don’t have a friend any longer then against the clock, see how long you can withstand the intense heat inside these miracles of modern technology. Once you’re good enough why not see whose skin can form the largest blister before it explodes and the agony of tearing skin and exposed flesh to the electromagnetic radiation becomes too much for any juvenile human to bear? The Tower Of Power You’ll need building blocks to construct towers for this game so why not pop down to Woolworths and pick up a bargain bag of Woolworths Own Brand Cups ‘N’ Discs with your earnings from scarecrowing? Gather around a table with your best friends and race against one another to build a monument that stretches towards Heaven. The winner is the first person to become filled with the Power of God and finds him or herself compelled to yell Halleluia!. Extra points if the power causes your opponents’ towers to collapse. Mind Control Here’s a game that’s both relaxing and rewarding! Can you use your telekinetic powers to get a marble to roll out of a cup and up a piece of wood? You’ll need all your powers of concentration for this but if you succeed then get your mother or father to give the local government psychic warfare recruiting offices a call and get ready for a life of intrigue and riches beyond your wildest dreams! Old Billy Old Billy is the classic family game of make-believe and dress-up brought into the sixties with a way to win! Ask your parents for permission to use their copies of The National White Person when they’ve finished memorising it for the day and dress yourself up as that boozy rascal of a tramp, Old Billy. You’ll need to stay out overnight, probably down by the canal, but if you can return home without being set alight then you win a point and it’s time for your brother or sister to see if they can do the same. Who will get the highest score? Super Sense When Britain begins its conquest of Asia in the next decade...

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Starblazer Comics
Feb23

Starblazer Comics

From 1979 through to 1991 D. C. Thomson & Company, Limited published 281 issues of a small format comics anthology called Starblazer. It was never as successful or as widely read as Commando, which I also used to collect, but the science fiction nerd inside me preferred Starblazer. For no other reason than the thought crossed my mind today I’ve decided to hunt down covers of the magazine from that there internet machine that I remember owning and reading. One of the first images I spotted and recognised was this from issue 15, Algol The Terrible. I confess I couldn’t quite remember what the plot of the story was but if you click on the image to follow the link you’ll see a great summary from Philip Sandifer. Via the comments on this io9 article (on Spanish pulp magazine covers, bizarrely) comes Nightmare Planet. Again, no recollection of the plot but if the cover is anything to go by – and with Starblazer comics that’s frequently not the case at all – then there’s a planet involved which has all manner of nastiness on its surface. The next load of photos I found via a post on Monster Brains – Starblazer – which led me to the Flickr photostream of Aeron Alfrey and the Starblazer album. To reiterate, I’m only going to include ones I remember having. I’m also going to explain the story’s plot in each case based solely on the artwork and/or title. There’s a chance this won’t be accurate. Robot Rebellion, the story of a rebellion… by robots! Or maybe just one robot. The title isn’t clear on that matter but what is apparent is that there’s no nobility in robot rebellions and shooting your fellow artificial lifeforms in the back is considered just fine. Isaac Asimov would have a fit if he saw this. The Drifters of Darga are an alien species that float across the surface of their planet making high-pitched noises (helium, you see) and helping adventurers who find themselves trapped in the local foliage. Because of their unfortunate skin patterns they’re considered terrifying by visitors. The story is a classic “don’t judge a book by its cover” tale which is precisely what I’m doing. I’ll never learn. The Machine Master is a simple story of slavery only with a master who is a machine, incapable of caring for its labour force. Despite this, the workers love the machine because the planet they’re working on has a higher-than-usual concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere. Light-headed japes and frequent fires fill the pages of this comic. The sand people from Star Wars make an...

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Revenge Of The Sproutoids
Feb17

Revenge Of The Sproutoids

Published in 1951 Revenge of the Sproutoids by J.N. Faber was for a period the most-read book in American schools owing to an endorsement on national radio by then-President Harry S. Truman. The plot of the book is broadly one of an invasion sparked by perceived abuse of vegetables from an alien race who bear a striking resemblance to them; the format is a series of tales that span the course of two hundred years and follow different groups of people from different areas of the world and the ways in which they mobilise resistance. Generally fairly light-hearted in tone the book is nevertheless notable for the graphic depiction of the destruction of the Soviet Union and this was Truman’s reported reason for the story’s fondness. Truman’s biographer Clement Connor put forth the alternative opinion that Truman simply loved sprouts but this is not supported by offical White House records that indicate the vegetable was actually banned from the building during the President’s...

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