Ever been given a present that is so good it made you cry?


It was my birthday the other week (and no – I am not going to tell you how old I was – suffice to say I am “old enough to know better but young enough to do it again”)

I had created the usual list of stuff I would like to get, and on there was an old, old friend: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

This looked just stunning: EVERY single Calvin and Hobbes strip ever printed, on high quality paper, with extra goodies from Mr Bill Watterson himself.

Anyway; the day arrived and I am handed a HUGE present by the Other Half. And then (and this is the priceless part) as I start to unwrap it I refer to it to First Born Son as “loot”! – and for anyone who has never read Calvin and Hobbes (shame on you by the way!) – this is what Calvin himself in the comics also refers to presents as!

Then I get the paper off it and see what it is, and I am not ashamed to say that I was moved to tears. A huge part of it was the profound thoughtfulness of the Other Half at getting me such a great present – and the other part of it is the UTTER unmitigated bellowing-out-loud-delight of owning this thing.

Calvin and Hobbes has through the years given me more unadulterated pleasure than almost anything else. Ever. Amongst so called cartoons it is peerless; it is an eternal delight to read – there are layers upon layers of apt meaning – and it is funny as hell too. The warmth and humanity shines from the pages; the authors deep understanding of the foibles and imperfections of the human condition show through every panel….

… and all of this is acheived in a comic strip!

I cannot begin to tell you how good this comic is; I can only urge you to buy it at your earliest convenience.

And if Mr Bill Watterson ever happens to read this, all I can say is thank you for Calvin and Hobbes… were financial recompense required at an equal rate for enjoyment engendered then I would be in debt to you for the rest of my life…

… and I would not begrudge a penny.

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Any company that makes disposable items is making you pay for its cost savings

Why the hell would you ever buy anything disposable anyway?! Such things are always cheap and shoddy by their very nature, but above all they are the most anti-ecological thing you could ever do.

Think about it; who pays for the cost of disposing of the item? – you do ofcourse! This means that the manufacturer has shifted the cost of getting rid of their junk from their pocket to yours.

In my opinion all disposable items should incur a tax rate of 100% – but only if that money was ploughed back into the environment. At the very least you should stop buying disposable stuff and pay that little bit extra for an item that will last a lot longer – and then make sure at the end of it’s life you recycle it!

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Doing things for no reason apart from "it’s a labour of love"


As I have mentioned before, I run the official Bryan Talbot fanpage; and I have done so for over ten years and kept it updated once every two weeks through that entire time.

This is a massive labour of love for little or no money and people often ask me why the hell I do it. Then I sat down and worked with Bryan for 18 months of evenings and weekends and created with him the Heart of Empire CD-Rom; from which I estimate to have made less than £1.00 per hour of my time that I spent on it.

Again; why the hell do I do this?!

Well, it’s simply really; Bryan’s comics – and specifically the Adventures of Luther Arkwright – changed the way I look at the world – and only the very best literature can do that. Reading them was an utterly moving experience and it was almost 5 years before I ever met anyone else in person who had read them! So I took it upon myself to spread the word and tell as many people as possible about them….

At the same time I was working as a software trainer, training people on stuff like Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark – and it being 1995 the web was just breaking and the first graphical website editors were coming out. I learned the software to be able to teach it and I know from personal experience that the only real way to learn something is to do some real work in it…. so I cast around for a subject and realised that the only thing I cared enough about to update regularly forever was Bryan’s work…. I think that even at that stage I knew that if you started a site then you should just keep it going forever; or else retire it and delete it.

Hence the Bryan Talbot fanpage was born – and I got to meet my personal hero!

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The completion of a long awaited dream; the Adventures of Luther Arkwright webcomic is now online


Today after much work and care and attention I finally completed a really long held dream and made live the webcomic of the Adventures of Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot.

To say that this comic changed my life is an understatement… first of all when I was thinking of getting into web design I cast around for a subject that I cared enough about to update a site every two weeks without fail – and the only think I could come up with was the works of Bryan Talbot… so I started work on the official Bryan Talbot fanpage, and I have not stopped work on it over the ten years since then. All I ever learned from making a website usable and compelling I learned on that site, so in some ways it is responsible for my entire career and every penny I have earned since that date.

However, that is the superficial level – the level that everyone else can see….

On the deeper level it affected me profoundly – it rearranged my mental landscape and changed the lens through which I look at the world. Incidentally it also probably ruined almost every other comic, because none of them could ever quite live up to the emotional depths and heights of that novel in graphic format – that masterpiece that is the Adventures of Luther Arkwright. It showed me the unspeakably poignant and soaring crescendos possible in the comics form and touched me on a deep and personal level. It took me to places I did not know existed and showed me things about the human condition that were shocking but true.

And all this from a comic! Say it loud and say it proud – the most compelling work of art – of literature I have ever seen in my entire life is a comic!

After all this how could I not create a website publicising the work and it’s author with the stated aim of telling more people about it!

And then, as a result of working on the website I got to meet my own hero – the man who had created this work that affected me so deeply.. the one person on this planet (perhaps alongside Nelson Mandela, and contending only with Bill Watterson and Freddy Mercury) who I would be truly and utterly impressed by … and then he goes and makes me a mate! – not by any cunning design, but by his genuine human warmth and decency. How amazing is that?! – the person I hero worshipped like a star struck schoolgirl becomes a mate?! YES!!

And then – after many years another fan re-scans the Adventures of Luther Arkwright, and it is finally at a level that Bryan is happy to publish as a webcomic.. and I have another mate who can do all of the programming – and then suddenly there it is; the Adventures of Luther Arkwright is online as a webcomic. The degree of satisfaction that this is online is just overwhelming… and that people are paying money to read it is just stunning… (only five quid by the way!) – and finally that I am able to bung the comic maestro Bryan Talbot honest cash for his work is just amazing. This is just great you know?! It really don’t get much better!!

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All of these terrorists would have a lot more trouble bombing an airship!

As I said in a previous post, wouldn’t you feel safer in an airship than in a plane in these days of terrorist wankers trying to cause maximum fatalities?

For a start an airship does not rely on an utterly smooth, unpunctured fuselage for structural stability. A plane will crash if there is the slightest tear in it’s skin – or god forbid – there is an actual hole in the fuselage.

An airship though?! A bomb might kill people in the immediate vicinity – but it would not mean the automatic death of everyone on board – and once these people cannot achieve their spectaculars they do not bother.

The trouble is that all it will take is some investment and forethought as these airships don’t yet exist. Personally I would far rather travel from city centre to city centre at a leisurely 120 mph or so at about 2000 feet up; secure in the knowledge that I was not a target for terrorists and that if we crashed I would have half an hour to finish my meal and get ready to step off the airship in a field instead of at the airport!!

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Why not spend the cost of one nuclear power station on renewable generating capacity first?

Nuclear power generation in the UK will not only take a long time (a minimum of 10 years to come online – which could be too late…) – but it is also HUGELY expensive.

And this is without taking into account the costs of disposing of the waste – which are usually ignored and taken care of by the tax payer…

So why not spend the price of one new nuclear power station on generating renewable energy?

And since distributed microgeneration usually has a large start up cost why not use the cash for interest free loans to householders to install solar, wind and ground power schemes?

These could all be online in a very short timeframe and would have instant benefit. And the single biggest barrier to people generating their own power would be removed.

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Nuclear power is carbon free?! – what planet are you on?

Whenever I hear someone claim that nuclear power is “carbon free” I start to get violent urges … I find myself wanting to punch the TV or radio….

The reason is this; tell me what carbon free technologies you are going to use to mine the uranium, transport it to the nuclear power station, then take the waste away and safely store it for the hundred thousand years it will take to become safe.

What’s that you say…. you only meant to say that the actual generation process produces no carbon? – you didn’t mean that the entire lifecycle of producing fuel doesn’t produce any?

Well guess what – the universe doesn’t care about your motives; only results matter!

Any analysis of the mining and transportation of uranium and the transport and storage of nuclear waste will ALWAYS show carbon being produced until and unless we have 100% carbon free transport and storage!

So – we not only have to content with the nuclear waste produced by this process, but also the carbon it vomits forth… does anyone out there STILL want to press for nuclear power?

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The future of TV? Pay-per-view gladiatorial combat to the death

I’ve a nasty suspicion that several current trends will converge on pay-per-view TV gladiatorial combat to the death…

I mean look at what we have at the moment; reality TV that explicitly sets out to humiliate and offend the particiapants, together with a growing underclass of the poor in the developing world.

Put these together and you will get some desperately poor nation that is willing to host the gladiator games and sell access to them via pay-per-view internet TV together with enough desperately poor people willing to take part.

Imagine what the market would be like! – all those jaded lard-arses would just lap it up. In fact I am worried that by articulating the concept in this blog I am calling it into existence.

If it does happen – remember you saw it here first.

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Roads should be an environmental resource

Another idea; let’s roof roads with solar panels that also act as water collecters.

Think about it; two hazzards of driving would be avoided: you wouldn’t get sun in your eyes and rain on the windscreen. Driving would be made more pleasent and safer.

Also we could harvest all of that power that falls as sunshine onto the roads; I’ve no idea how much this would come to – but at a rough guess if we roofed most of the motorways in England we’d have enough power for the whole country’s needs. Also; I for one would not want to use rainwater from a road for anything – including washing… but rainwater collected before it hits the road – well, that’s different… at least we could use it to fill reservoirs and then purify it for drinking.

Also: what is one other major by-product of road travel? – a shedload of wind! Let’s put small vertically mounted windmills at the side of roads and use some of the wind from passing cars to generate power.

We have a hell of a lot of roads on a very small island; let’s at least use the damn things for the environment instead of against it!

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The fundamental problem 3; motorway advertising

Anyone else noticed how many HUGE poster adverts are appearing alongside motorways nowadays?

Is no one else uncomfortable with the concept of something designed to distract you being placed alongside the road that you are driving down at 100 miles per hour?

Come on now! Surely this is a non-brainer! Let’s NOT distract people who are in control of several tons of metal at high speed!

This is yet another example of the tragedy of the commons; small numbers of people (farmers with land next to motorways) are able to make some money from an activity that ultimately we all end up paying more for. If we don’t pay for it directly when an amphetamine crazed 20 hour shift lorry driver drives into the back of us then we pay indirectly when the emergency services have to scrape whoever he did drive into off the road.

I can understand why farmers want to do it though; the way they are screded by the big supermarkets is just disgusting – but that is another issue. Let’s just ban motorway advertising 100% and stop allowing drivers to be distracted when we would all prefer that their attention is on not killing other road users.

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