Monthly archives: May 2011

RIP All Souls church/Bogle checkpoint 11

RIP All Saints church/Bogle checkpoint 11, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

The hall attached to the church used to be a checkpoint on the Bogle sponsored walk, the last one before the hard final slog along Liverpool Street to the end. More recently the checkpoint moved to the car park.

They started knocking down the hall a while ago, but I expected the church to be left standing. So I was surprised to find this pile of rubble. No doubt it’s going to be replaced by bland apartments. I’m no expert on church architecture, so I couldn’t say whether it was a good example, but it’s a fair assumption that whatever replaces it won’t be as nice.

(Plus, I can’t imagine where the local scallies are going to go to smoke dope?)

Update Ooops. I called the church All Saints in the original version of the post. It’s actually called All Souls. My bad.

Daily Blog 05/30/2011

  • First, the facts: the US and international scientific community overwhelmingly agree that carbon dioxide emissions are triggering a slate of harmful effects on the planet. “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems,” declared a recent report by the US National Academy of Sciences. Of course, a small percentage of scientists disagree, as is the case with, say, evolution.

    Yet, unlike their counterparts, climate truthers aren’t merely an irrelevant group of rabble-rousers. On the contrary, the scientific consensus is denied by the leaders of one of America’s two great political parties, as well as the majority of its ideological base. John Boehner, the most powerful Republican in the country, considers the notion that carbon emissions are harming the planet “comical”. In recent years, this belief has become something of a GOP litmus test, and today, it’s difficult to find Republicans who accept the scientific community’s view.

    tags: ClimateChange

  • To the delight of thousands of Mad Max fans who flock to Silverton each year, Adrian has opened a museum to house the many pieces of Mad Max memorabilia he has amassed over the years, including vehicles from the films and a vast collection of photographs. Together they recreate the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max, particularly the dark, original film in which the relatively unknown Mel Gibson played a disillusioned policeman who ruthlessly hunted down the gang who killed his wife and child.

    tags: museum madmax

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Cloud 9, Messerschmitts and other silliness

Time for another trip through eBay’s Classic Car section. A boy can dream.

Having grown up in the country the “Cloud 9” Rolls Royce appeals to me. The description’s disappeared since I first found it but this beauty is a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud atop a four wheel drive Mitsubishi chassis so you can go almost anywhere in style. The temptation would be to put chunkier tyres on it and take the newlyweds across the fields.

But now I live in the city and find off roaders (or their sad, spoilt offspring- “soft roaders”) pointless and annoying on the roads I regularly use. So a smaller car is in order for day to day travel. Like this Messerschmitt bubble car, which is located somewhere in South Manchester. It is, however, in the sort of fine condition that would make you think twice about taking it out often, so how about this pile of bits, from which could be built a bubble car rat-rod?

Slightly more practical than the previous two cars is this Ford Anglia retrofitted with a two litre Vauxhall engine which is just the sort of car I’d love to own if I could afford to own a car. This low riding Volkswagen 1600 also appeals, I could even use it to shift bikes and bits. A Morris Minor van would be another sweet way to shift stuff as well. Or how about a Morris Marina van in a very seventies colour, which claims to be gold but could better be called something like “baby shit beige”.

Back into fantasy territory with this ex-military Land Rover, which has been built to withstand more winters like the last two. Or perhaps this quarter million pound E-Type Jag.

If this Cosworth engined Ford Escort looks familiar, it’s because I asked for £25,000 to buy it back in March. Bids are currently at £7,962.69, with the reserve still to be met.

£2,500 is teh starting bid for this tasteful “Godfather” VW Beetle. More expensive, but far more tasteful, £11k seems to be the asking price for Mk2 Jags and Daimlers, with a Jaguar in British Racing green and a Daimler in Old English white.

The listings let me list cars by distance from my house, which is neat. 30 miles seems like a good point at which to stop, but I have to step over that just to mention this Datsun Laurel Six lowrider with “hydrolics”. It’s like a little bit of SoCal landed in Barnsley. Not sure it’s something I could live with, but I have to admire the craziness behind it.

This is my next project bike (Potter included for scale)

This is my next project bike (Potter included for scale), originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

If it looks familiar that’s because it’s practically the same frame as the window dressing bike I photographed a few days ago. It’s an old Raleigh with rod brakes which I’m going to do in a rat roddy style. Nothing too drastic, but I’ll keep the patina, even if I get rid of the surface rust, and maybe try some very basic pinstriping on it.

It’s almost in running condition as is, so it’ll be cool to have something that looks this rough which is perfectly functional.

Daily Blog 05/26/2011

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Here’s a sample of the Kindle version of Sounds of Soldiers

Clicking through will take you to the book’s page at Amazon US. If you’re in the UK you can get a copy of Sounds of Soldiers from Amazon UK. You can also get Sounds of Soldiers from Amazon DE.

Daily Blog 05/25/2011

  • Now, if you have £30-£40 to invest in a set of water stones, plus £20 for a razor strop and £20 for a great chef steel, you can get a razor edge on your knife. I do mean shaving sharp. But what if you haven’t? Well a friend of mine challenged me to get a beaten up Mora to shave for under five pounds. I do love a challenge 😉 !

    I openly acknowledge that all the ideas shown here have been robbed from a variety of sources – not least Mors Kochanski, however a personal experience may be interesting (and the techiques do work) so heres how I went about it. Total cost to me? About £4 max.

    tags: knife

  • tags: alternatehistory

  • Panini HRX (Highlight Reel Xperience) cards were developed with Recom, a company that makes video name badges and other screen-based promo gear. The cards will actually still be made from card, although they’ll be thicker than regular trading cards and will have an “HD quality” screen covering part of the front. The 2GB cards will come pre-loaded with a highlight reel showing footage of the sportsman in question — Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant and John Wall — and these people will also autograph some cards.

    tags: tech

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Spot the deliberate mistake

Spot the deliberate mistake, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

Or maybe not deliberate. I’ll give no more alter than that there might be trouble if you tried to pedal this bike.

This is a window display in Next in the Arndale. There are a few of these bizarre parodies of bikes in other windows as well, all with the same design flaw. It amuses and bemuses me in equal measure that someone in the organisation thinks this is how bikes work.

Daily Blog 05/24/2011

  • In the beginning, Japan had to buy foreign tanks to build an armor force because the nation did not have the industrial capacity or technical skill to manufacture its own. There was a single British Mk. IV, a handful of Whippets, a smatering of Carden Loyd tankettes, and a trio of Medium Cs. But the Imperial Japanese Army realized that the only way to gain the expertise to make their own armored vehicles was to engage in a transitional stage of buying foreign tanks and modifying them with Japanese indigenous equipment.

    This is how the Ko Gata Sensha (First Model of Tank) came to be. In the year 1919, 13 FT 17 tanks were obtained from France and in 1921, a Single Fiat 3000 from Italy. These were eventually modified with Japanese treads, gasoline engines, and weapons including the Taisho 3 machine gun and Sogekiho Infantry Gun. This experience of modifying tanks was instrumental in reaching the point of developing their first tank a decade later.

    tags: ww2 tank japan

  • Police in Mexico seize a three-tonne homemade tank from the Zetas gang amid an escalation in drug-related violence

    tags: tank mexican

  • Over the next two months I talked to about a half-dozen indie bookstore owners, asking them if they would like to sell gift cards for electronic books in their store? All of them said “Yes!”

    tags: publishing

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Castaway Tunes

So the BBC is asking members of the public to nominate their own 8 choices for Desert Island Discs, no doubt so they can see how the tastes of we plebs differ from those of the celebrity guests. It seems like the perfect excuse to list my choices here as well. In no particular order beyond as I think of them, here are mine-

1. Echobelly – I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me

1994 belonged to Oasis but, though I do have a soft spot for the mono-browed brothers, it should have been Echobelly’s year. Better songs, more interesting sound and vastly more attractive and interesting singer. I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me is a perfect piece of ego and joy, it can’t fail to make me happy.

2. Inspiral Carpets – Saturn 5

I could have chosen the raw blast of Joe, my introduction to the band, or Sackville, which has the added interest of being about the street I used to study on. But there’s a power to this one. And apart from Sleeping Satellite, how many other pop songs have been about the lapsed glories of the space race?

Bonus Sackville and Joe videos-

3. Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – Say It With Flowers

I used to have After The Watershed as my Carter song because I pulled to it once and there’s something so wrong about the juxtaposition of the song’s subject and memories of getting laid. And Only Living Boy In New Cross was one of the songs which kept me going in 2001. But Say It With Flowers gave me the title to Sounds of Soldiers, and every radio show needs a plug.

Bonus videos-

4. James – Sit Down

James made many damn fine records. But, really, there was only ever going to be one choice from them wasn’t there? It’s an anthem and it’s beautiful.

5. Camper Van Beethoven – Life Is Grand

Because it is. If I ever make a film I want this song over the closing credits.

6. 10cc – I’m Not In Love

It gives you shivers. Glorious.

7. The Wonder Stuff – Ruby Horse

Another song that gave me a book title (Ruby Red, I’m not mercenary, it really is an excellent song.

8. Frank Sinatra – New York, New York

Many many great nights have wound down to Ol’ Blue Eyes’ anthem. It seems appropriate for it to be the last song on the list.

Daily Blog 05/23/2011

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Daily Blog 05/20/2011

  • Perversely, there are plenty. Undeterred by the results of Oxfordshire’s grisly experiment, Staffordshire has now switched off almost half its cameras, for the same reason: a lack of funds, caused by the government’s determination to end the mythical construct it calls “the war on the motorist”. What it is really doing is allowing speeding motorists to conduct a war against everyone else: cyclists, pedestrians, children on their way to school, other drivers.

    tags: roadsafety speed

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Gentlemen’s adventure novels

The “men’s adventure” genre has been getting a lot of nostalgic attention lately. (Or maybe there’s always been nostalgia for it on the internet and I’ve only recently started reading the right sites to see it.)

Men’s adventure thrived from the 50’s to the 70’s, in magazines and novels, and seems mostly a US phenomenon. War- fighting Nazis and commies, was a popular subject, as was taking on the might of a threat closer to home- the Mafia. I’m sure I read one or two MA novels in my youth, and last year found a few examples of The Executioner series for a pound a go on a book stall. (The Executioner carried on as a brand and the books are still being released en masse.) I got lucky finding books by “the father of action adventure“, because some of the Executioner knock-offs sound truly, sadistically awful.

Original men’s adventure paperbacks aren’t so easy to get on this side of the pond, so I’ve been reading, and drawing inspiration from, rather more English characters.

Two generations before Mack Bolan came back from the jungles of Vietnam and started putting bullets in the heads of mafiosi, Simon Templar started his career as a dashing scourge of the “ungodly”. Many books, two television series (and a few failed pilots) and one awful film later The Saint is still around, hanging out in New Orleans for yet another TV pilot.

The Saint could be every bit as ruthless as The Executioner when it came to meting out justice. He would regularly kill criminals, connmen and other low-lifes if he felt it was for the greater good. And he always made off with their boodle, so that even the ones who lived were left broken. Come the forties Simon Templar lent his specialist skills to fighting the Nazi threat, and later faced down Communists, but he always did it with a sharp wit, some awful puns and ditties and lots of style.

Before Templar there was Bulldog Drummond. Less well known now than the Saint- though he did have a few film outings- for a long time I only knew of the character from the Bullshot Crummond parody film and for the racism of the character. Now, thanks to the Kindle and lapsing copyright, I have a Bulldog Drummond collection to work my way through.

Sexton Blake is the last of my English adventurers. “The poor man’s Sherlock Holmes” appeared in thousands of stories, by hundreds of authors, over a period of nearly 90 years, though I’d never heard of him until I started researching penny dreadfuls earlier this year. I’ve just started reading the tales in The Casebook of Sexton Blake.

I’m not trying to distill some quintessential English adventurer from these forebears- to appear in my Irwin Baker stories or elsewhere- but I reckon a creation of mine would be more comfortable in their suave company than amongst the gun obsessed killers of men’s adventure.

Daily Blog 05/19/2011

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Daily Blog 05/18/2011

  • Men’s adventure is a genre of magazines that had its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. Catering to a male audience, these magazines featured glamour photography and lurid tales of adventure that typically featured wartime feats of daring, exotic travel or conflict with wild animals.

    These magazines are generally considered the last of the true pulp magazines. They reached their circulation peaks long after the genre-fiction pulps had begun to fade. These magazines were also colloquially called “armpit slicks”, “men’s sweat magazines” or “the sweats”, especially by people in the magazine publishing or distribution trades.

    tags: adventure pulp

  • American men love bloody revenge so much that at some low points in our history they have even resorted to reading books to get their fix. Fortunately, today’s gentleman can sate this lust with a jaunt to the Redbox for the latest Snipesploitation classic.

    But before direct-to-DVD and video games, it was up to novelists like “Bruno Rossi” — certainly a pseudonym — to chum the waters of masculine entertainment.

    And chum Rossi did. In his Blood Bath we meet Johnny Rock, a man on a mission: “hunting down and personally murdering anyone even distantly related to the hated Mafia.”

    tags: 70s novel pulp

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How’s The Plan going?

Hmmm, yes. The Plan boiled down to hitting an average word count and finding better ways to publicise my work. The Aim, separate from The Plan, was to make enough money to fund trips abroad and other mini adventures which could double as research for future stories.

So how am I doing?

Terribly, if I’m honest.

The target was to average at least 500 words a day, preferably 1000, over the year. As of today, before I do any writing, the average is half the lower target (253.9, to be precise). For a while towards the end of February, I broke through the lower boundary. That was whilst I was working on Slashed, when I had a fairly good idea what needed to be written.

Since finishing Slashed I’ve not really known what to write next, and have had a couple of false starts. It’s become a bit more obvious in the last couple of weeks where the two front-runners, both Irwin tales with similar themes, should go. You And Me Against The World started out as a rambling piece of naughtiness about a dirty weekend then became a tale about baggage from past relationships wrapped up in grifter shenanigans. Throw in some espionage and MI6 style witness protection and I had a reason for Irwin to get involved. Art For Art’s Sake (previously A Death In Didsbury, a title I’ve gazumped for a different story) features characters from So Much To Answer For a few years down the line, getting mixed up in art theft and smuggling, forgery and murder. Again, Irwin doesn’t instigate any of the shenanigans but comes in to lend a hand, strictly off the books of course.

I’m researching art theft and smuggling for Art For Art’s Sake at the moment, then I’ll have to find two scams big and complicated enough for You And Me Against The World. Then, hopefully, I can hit my writing stride again. Beyond that I’ve thrown a few scene notes and background into yWriter for the next Garth Owen project, working title Post, which will flip a few of the zombie/virus outbreak tropes on their heads. I’m also planning to do a few stories in the universe I created for the Mongrels mini comics I did a few years ago, starting with a novelisation of Who Let The GODs Out?

So, when I get writing again, I have plenty of projects to get on with. As I recognised a long time ago, it’s the promotion where I need to work out what I’m doing. I’ve looked into getting business cards, or maybe bookmarks printed up, though the latter don’t really work when most of my publications are electronic. Getting mentioned on Daily Cheap Reads last week didn’t have a huge effect upon sales, though I guess it is one more link to my books to help them get found. I’ll keep trying to get onto other people’s blogs to build up a presence, but I don’t hold out a lot of faith in the effects. Press releases to the local press and contacting the local libraries will carry on as well.

I have come a long way from when I first formulated The Plan. I’ve written two novellas and published them and a bit of my back catalogue. Sales are in double figures, which isn’t much but is far more than if I’d just sat back and waited for something to happen. All the books are out there for as long as I want them to stay available, so when people start searching for me there’s a far larger rack of books for them to find. And that rack is going to continue filling, though maybe not as fast as I’d like it to.