Monthly archives: February 2013

GOD Hunt is now available for the Kindle

GOD Hunt is now available for the Kindle from Amazon.

GOD Hunt at

GOD Hunt at

Tammy, Tatiana and Miko- enhanced humans working for a mysterious Artificial Intelligence known only as Ruby Horse- have been sent to an Eastern European forest to shut down a secret lab which has started offering combat robots to the highest bidder.

“General Ordnance Division, shortened to GOD, had been the prefix attached to the model names of the original series of military robots out of the old United States of America. The name, with all its overtones, had stuck and been used to describe any robotic device seen in proximity to a human in uniform. From the humblest personal load carrier all the way up to the autonomous stealth cruisers- some of which were reputed to still be patrolling the Pacific and committing acts of piracy for spares and consumables- each one was a GOD.

With the exception of ghost navies and other legends most of the gun-toting GODs had done away with one another in the resource wars which had scarred the years before the emergence of the Patrons. But there were a lot of surplus unarmed GODs knocking around, and numerous civilian versions had appeared based upon the tech. GODs, particularly the older ones, were simple by the standards of current Intelligences. They were easy to work on, though modifications tended to have unintended consequences which were usually of the dangerous kind.”

After the Resource wars and ecological collapse, humanity has been saved by the mysterious artificial intelligences known as the Patrons. Facing open hostility and violence, the Patrons have recruited human enforcers. Part human, part machine, the Mongrels keep the peace and do their Patrons’ dirty work.

New from Garth Owen- GOD Hunt

The first short story in the Mongrels series is now out through Smashwords. You can buy GOD Hunt for just $0.99

Tammy, Tatiana and Miko- cyborgs working for a mysterious artificial intelligence- must infiltrate a secret Eastern European base where combat robots are being built and sold to the highest bidder. But has someone, or something, already killed everyone in the underground complex?

B-Movie Night: Red Scorpion

The Commies are bad, mmmkay.

The other great theme of eighties US action cinema- after the cancer of urban decay- was the fight against global Communism. Rambo led the charge when he liberated Afghanistan. Red Scorpion is Dolph Lundgren’s entry into the genre. He wants you to know that there were decent Russians out there- they were just too naive or brainwashed to recognise the evil that their leaders did. All they needed was to have their eyes opened, probably violently.

Nikolai is that naive, brainwashed Russkie, a spetsnatz specialist called in to infiltrate a rebel group in a made up African country ruled, by proxy, by Russia. He’s big and dumb, if resourceful, and it takes a long time for him to realise the oppressors aren’t the barely organised resistance but the Soviet “advisers” and their Cuban puppets. He has to get beaten, betrayed, tortured and taken on an over-long vision quest before he fully understands this, but when he does blood flows and bullets fly.

There’s only one American character in the whole film- M. Emmett Walsh playing a pugnacious little reporter, recording Soviet atrocities on his big tape recorder. The rest of the cast play Africans, Russians or Cubans. This could have been a brave move in a film primarily for an American audience, but was probably its own piece of propaganda. The USA doesn’t interfere in other countries (and hopefully the viewers are naive and brainwashed enough to believe this).

Apart from its No Yanks policy and some good looking scenery, there’s not a lot to distinguish this film. None of the set pieces is outstanding or inventive. And they destroy a lot of Land Rovers, which is a sin. It fills a gap in your action film collection, but it’s nothing special.

Buy Red Scorpion from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: The Streetfighter

Takuma Tsurugi is a karate fist for hire with flexible morals. In the opening sequence of the film, he rescues a condemned martial artist from the scaffold, but when the fighter’s siblings can’t cough up their fee Tsurugi kills the brother and sells the sister into prostitution.

But Tsurugi has some lines he won’t cross. When a prospective job means working for the mafia he refuses, and becomes a marked man. Insulted by an attempt to kill him, Takuma decides to protect the billionaire’s daughter he had been expected to kidnap. This puts him at odds with a Hong Kong based mercenary crew, the members of which wouldn’t be out of place in Streetfighter the game. (One of them, in a clear nod to Zatoichi, is a blind swordsman, another a knife wielding crazy with painted on cheekbones. They all wear ostentatious outfits from another era.) After rescuing and then losing the heiress a couple of times, it all comes full circle for the final showdown.

This isn’t graceful martial arts. It’s all bone-crunching punches, kicks and barges, often in confined spaces, with interesting camera angles and a fair amount of fake blood. A signature Tsurugi move is to tear chunks of flesh from his opponents bodies. Most often it’s the throat that suffers, but in one memorable finishing move it’s the tackle of a would-be rapist that becomes a squelchy mess.

Chiba doesn’t play his character as invincible. You know he can easily pulverise most of the goons that come after him, but there are moments of vulnerability, most obviously when the martial arts teacher who may have known Tsurugi’s father demonstrates his superior technique.

Logic and character motivation- particularly that of the Hong Kong leader- go out of the window in the last scene, but that is the way of most action movies, particularly in this genre. All in all, this is a respectable addition to the martial arts canon.

Buy The Streetfighter from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: The Exterminator

Another entry in the “urban America is hell” genre of 1980’s movies.

The film opens with an explosion and a high fall, as more movies should. We’re in Vietnam, and a couple of Rangers- Mike and John- are in deep shit after being caught by the Cong. After seeing another soldier beheaded Mike makes use of a cleverly hidden garotte to rescue John, who’s tied to stakes and next in line for decapitation.

Fast forward a few years and Mike and John are working in a food warehouse in New York city. John’s still twitchy and haunted by his war, but Mike’s a happy family man still capable of laying down a beating if necessary. Mixing it up with a gang called the Ghetto Ghouls, however, sees Mike beaten and paralysed and sets John off on a revenge spree.

Exterminator is different from other 80s action films, and in many ways more realistic. Robert Ginty, as John the Exterminator, is not the tough, unbeatable type. He’s vulnerable, occasionally even seeming terrified by what he’s got himself into. But once he’s started, he knows there’s no clean and easy way out, so he keeps on with his one man war on crime.

The Exterminator has his military training, and access to M16s and other Army kit, but he’s no tactical mastermind. The criminals he takes down, with the exception of the meat-packing districts main mobster, are targets of opportunity rather than part of a plan. The action all takes place at a believable level. This is probably a result of the limited budget the film had, and it works very well.

New York is a horrible, dangerous place in this film. The Bronx looks like it’s been bombed and Times Square is a seedy space full of porn and prostitutes under all the neon. The Exterminator moves between these apocalyptic spaces, almost guided by Brownian motion to find chicken pimps and perverse senators, scarred prostitutes and drugged out thugs until it all comes full circle and he has a final showdown with the Ghetto Ghouls.

There’s a cop on John’s tail, but he seems to spend more of his time starting a relationship with Mike’s doctor than trying to catch the Exterminator. The press and public love the vigilante, the Police department is ambivalent and the CIA have their own politically driven reasons to see him eliminated. Cop, killer and spooks eventually meet in a midnight rendezvous on the docks and it ends the only way it can.

This is a neat little film. Gruesome, for its time, and a scary representation of how grim some folks felt the world was in the eighties, it’s human scale and realistic nastiness make it a good counterpoint to the overblown outings of Stallone and Schwarzenneger.

Buy The Exterminator from Amazon.

Introducing Lucy

This is Lucy, or at least an early version of her. I’ve started work on Lucy Builds A Bike, a children’s book about a very practical young lady and her helpful parents. Right now I’m just loosening up a bit and laying down a few rough sketches of the pages (this is also the reason why Skeleton Boy has returned).

After I’d done my sketch, I showed it to the girls and asked them to draw their versions of Lucy. According to Charlotte, Lucy is angry in this picture “Because Daddy took her toys away.” You don’t want to mess with an angry Lucy. As shall be revealed, she knows how to weld, amongst other things.

Georgia did quite a few versions of Lucy, including this one. Luckily, Georgia’s Lucy is always happy.

More Lucy images as and when I, and the girls, create them.

B-Movie Night: Convoy

Breaker 1 9. Breaker 1 9.

I’m not sure if Redneck Hollywood is as deserving of a documentary as Australian or Phillipine exploitation cinema, but I’m sure it was a thing. From Deliverance to Smokey and the Bandit (the whole of Burt Reynolds’ career, in fact) and The Dukes of Hazzard, the southern states had a fair representation. Add Convoy to the list.

Convoy is a Sam Peckinpah film. This meant very little to me when I saw it as a ten year old, but I can see similarities to some of his Westerns now. It’s a PG, so there’s none of the blood of The Wild Bunch, but there are the sun-bleached vistas and the dust. The truckers are latter-day cowboys- tough men and women doing a hard job that few others want to- or can- do. It’s a lonesome existence, with comradeship based upon shared experience and snatched chances for love (or, more often, sex).

And then there’s The Man, always trying to punish them for just getting by the only way they know how. In Convoy, The Man is Lyle ‘Cottonmouth’ Wallace, played by Ernest Borgnine. Lyle’s a self important sheriff with a bad attitude toward truckers and a dubious line in CB based entrapment. After one run in too many with the corrupt cop a bunch of truckers, led by ‘Rubber Duck’, beat up Wallace and a bunch of his deputies then make a run for the state line. They pick up fellow travellers along the way and six trucks become a mile long convoy with popular support and overtures from politicians.

The problem is, it’s never made clear just what it is that the truckers want, apart from away from Lyle. With their disparate complaints and lack of coherent demands it’s like they’re Occupy the Interstate. The film, and the Duck, is saved from having to address this by the need to rescue a fellow trucker from a rotten border town and then escape to Mexico.

The final showdown on a bridge features more than enough bullets for a Peckinpah flick, and a big explosion to make up for the lack of blood. The Duck is a martyr to whatever it was he stood for, only to have his memory hijacked by a senator up for re-election.

Convoy was based upon a novelty hit song and cashed in on the CB craze, but it managed to squeeze some anti-establishment, pro working man propaganda into the mix.

Buy Convoy from Amazon.

B-Movie Night: Cobra

The ’80s were hell.

There’s something simultaneously entertaining and embarassing about action films from the early to mid eighties. The blatant Right wing propaganda is laughable, until you realise that its simplistic worldview has migrated from the screen and is now the manifesto for far too many politicians in the USA. Fat white men think that because they can legally own a gun they’re as tough as Cobra and need to trash talk anyone who dares suggest they’re part of the problem.

The behaviour of the average Reagan era action movie hero was so sadistic and psychotic that the villains they fought had to be paper thin cartoon caricatures of pure evil if our sympathies weren’t to wander. In Cobra, the antagonists are a biker gang rampaging through LA, killing “the weak” so they can prepare humanity for the coming storm. This horrific Hell’s Angel/hippy/Commie group are led by a blank-faced, heavy browed thug with a messiah complex and a squeeze in the Police department.

Sylvester Stallone, on the other side, is Marion “Cobra” Cobretti, a member of the “Zombie Squad”. He’s the one they call when random bad guys need to be gunned down and not-so-pithy one liners mumbled, but they won’t let him work any proper cases- like the mysterious “Night Slasher” who’s killing folks all around town. But Marion gets his chance when a model called Ingrid unknowingly witnesses one of the killings and is marked for death herself.

Then it’s just a case of working through the shoot-outs, car chases, shooty car chases and final showdown in a factory that seems to exist to bottle flames (the fire storage business was quite big in 1980’s California, if these films are to be believed). All the time, the pencil-pushing, by-the-book know nothings that make up the rest of the Police department keep telling Cobra that he’s off the case but never actually pull him, which is a bonus for Brigitte Nielsen’s character when all of the state’s bad apple bikers turn up at her safe house.

This is a rather nondescript little movie in action film terms, with nothing distinctive about it except for Cobretti’s custom 1950 Mercury. To be honest, I was more concerned for its well-being than that of the blandly blonde leading lady in the big mid-film car chase.

I know I’ve not been kind to it, but you might want to watch this film if you’d like some insight into how the Republican party sees the world. Buy Cobra from

Take the sugar pill, Neo

This is a reply I made to a reply to something I said on Facebook. I thought it was worth sharing, with an added link for more information.

I have nothing but respect for the placebo effect. Give me a sugar pill and explain that it’s a drug that’s been clinically tested and tell me a bit about how it will work and the chances are that my body will respond and alleviate the problem at least a little. Feed me the pill and tell me it’s going to work because of water’s memory and I’ll know there’s nothing there so it won’t work.

Obviously, I’d rather have the drug itself to go with the pep talk and explanation.

I don’t know just how much the placebo effect is understood, but I have read (in this Wired article from 2009) about trials where they tested the difference between just being handed the drug (or sugar pill) and having a doctor talk about what it would do. The subjects who were kept informed responded better than those who just taking the same pills. Homeopathy is about convincing you to cure yourself. If you could team the psychology with drugs that have been proven to work,then you’d be able to work wonders.

B-Movie Night: Street Trash

Don’t drink the Viper.

I spent most of this film wondering what the fuck was going on, then giggling at the next gruesome development.

In some gruesome suburb of New York a batch of poisonous hooch makes a bad situation even worse. The bums unfortunate enough to drink it dissolve into multi-hued, acidic gloop, but that’s just the end of their problems. They live in the urban apocalypse that was New York in the eighties, mostly in a sprawling scrapyard full of feral and vicious homeless people, preyed on by a murderous Vietnam vet who has nightmares about vampire Cong. There’s also a violent and dumb cop, an equally stupid wiseguy and the venal shop owner who dug up the brew in the first place.

All the grotesques circle each other, fighting, swearing, occasionally melting and, at one point, running around after a severed penis until, somehow, there’s a resolution of sorts. That’s the true wonder of this movie, that it could be coherent enough to wrap so many of its incoherent parts up into an ending. There’s no message or moral and the melting effects are more hilarious than horrible, but if you have an hour and a half you don’t mind losing to nonstop WTF this could be the way to do it.

Buy Street Trash from Amazon UK.

Daily Blog 02/04/2013

  • And that’s why we watch the Fast and Furious movies. So what if the acting is sub par? Who cares if the plot is 100 percent implausible? This movie is a wet dream for so many different groups of people it’s ridiculous

    tags: movie

  • In 1997, under a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Montague partnered with the US Marines to develop the Tactical Electric No Signature (TENS) Mountain Bike. For this project, Montague developed a new folding frame design called the X-Series™, integrating the F.I.T.™ system into the frame design. The non-electric version of the TENS Mountain Bike, named The Paratrooper®, became available shortly thereafter.

    tags: bike military

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

B-Movie Night: What Have They Done To Your Daughters?

Giallo meets procedural.

I was expecting something sleazy with this film, but actually got an effective little Police procedural. I found myself comparing it, favourably, to casa Spinneyhead guilty pleasure Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. It’s like an episode of the series that had the balls to show you some of the sleaze and horror rather than being all worthy about the subject.

When a teenage girl is found hung, naked, in an attic room it’s assumed that she has committed suicide. However, it quickly becomes obvious that she was murdered. Piece by piece, her relationships and movements are tracked until it’s revealed that she was part of a schoolgirl prostitution ring with some rich and powerful clients. (Magnum Cop centred on a schoolgirl prostitution ring, was this a recurring theme in 70s Italian crime flicks.) As the cop in charge and the female DA he’s working with get closer to the truth more bodies start piling up, victims of a motorbike riding, meat cleaver wielding enforcer.

All of the appropriate tropes are present- ketchup red blood, nudity and sleaze and a car chase- but they’re deployed intelligently rather than to cover cracks in the story. There’s a rather lofty and self-congratulatory bit at the beginning where we’re told that this is an honest and unflinching study of the subject. Though that’s an overstatement, I can forgive it.

Possibly the best of the Italian thrillers I’ve watched in the last few months, I recommend this film.

Buy What Have They Done To Your Daughters? on Amazon UK.

Daily Blog 02/03/2013

  • Minegishi was one of the original members of AKB48 when it was launched by producer Yasushi Akimoto in 2005. The band is made up of some 90 girls – whose ages range from mid teens to early 20s – who, in teams, appear daily in their own theatre and regularly on television, in adverts, and in magazines.

    They portray an image of cuteness known as “kawaii”, and have become a huge phenomenon both in Japan and increasingly in other Asian countries, correspondents say.

    The condition for being part of such a successful act is that the girls must not date boys, so as not to shatter their fans’ illusions.

    tags: japan

  • Indeed, welfare fraud is smaller than accidental overpayments due to error, which totalled £2.2bn (£1.4bn of which due to official error). It’s also smaller than the amount of money underpaid to those entitled to it: £1.3bn.

    In other words, if we wiped out benefit fraud tomorrow – but also eliminated the errors that deprive people of money to which they are entitled – the welfare bill would grow, not shrink.

    tags: tax politics

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

Daily Blog 02/02/2013

  • London-based international architectural firm Foster + Partners has designed some pretty impressive structures over the past several years, including the Virgin Galactic spaceport, Apple’s “spaceship” campus, and the Kuwait International Airport. Today, however, the firm announced its involvement in a project that’s considerably more ambitious than any of those – as part of a consortium set up by the European Space Agency (ESA), it will be exploring the possibility of 3D printing a lunar base for astronauts.

    tags: 3DPrinting space

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