Exisles Issue 1

I wrote a web comic about a post-apocalyptic Britain, ‘Exisles’ (no that’s not a spelling mistake), the year after I’d finished Uni. Two friends (George Boylan and Andrew ‘Swiss’ Swingler) and myself got together every week in George’s tiny bungalow in Huddersfield to write. I can remember sleeping top to tale on the floor of George’s computer room with Swiss in excruciating heat and systematically kicking each other in the head throughout the night. Good times. I’d change a lot about Exisles reading it back now, but it seemed a waste to keep all the pages on my hard drive doing nothing, so here they are.

Note: Click on image if text appears too small, it will allow you to zoom in

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Netflix Review: Ultimate Beastmaster

If you’re anything like me an average week day evening consists of getting home from work, showering, cooking one of the four meals in your repertoire that can best described as ‘edible’ and then fending off the existential crisis that looms over the empty repetitive nature of your existence, making you wonder if you are merely an insignificant bunch of ones and zeros in the background of a computer generated reality, like a pedestrian in Grand Theft Auto

Ok, I’m clearly projecting there.

What I mean to say is, sometimes it’s just nice to lobotomize yourself for an hour or so and turn on the auto pilot, which brings me nicely to Ultimate Beastmaster available on Netflix.

Ultimate Beastmaster is basically a hybrid of Ninja Warrior and Eurovision which initially sounds like the sort of hybrid you should kill with fire e.g. Ripley in Alien Resurrection style. Twelve competitors, two from each of the six nations (USA, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Brazil and Mexico) taking part, face off on an assault course with obstacles similar to those featured in Sasuke or Ninja Warrior but with the added bonus of being contained inside the giant metal exoskeleton of a sort of Dino-dog that shat a glass pyramid (A.K.A The Beast), it actually looks quite cool in fairness.

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Those with the highest scores progress through each round until two are remaining in the final round. The winner of each episode goes in to the final episode to compete against the previous show’s winners to be the Ultimate Beastmaster Champ-ioni.

In the first and second episode we get a brief intro from Producer, Sylvester Stallone. However,   Stallone appears sparingly, this may or may not be due to the the physics defying obstacle course is somewhat undermined when compared to the eternal struggle of watching Stallone trying to expel words from his face.

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The hosts of the show for the British version are Terry Crews (Everybody Hates Chris, Brooklyn 99) and the forgettable, generic American Fem-bot host 3000, Charissma Thompson. The show also features 10 other hosts, two from each country, hence the Eurovision comparison as the clash of styles and humour (‘humour’ used in the loosest term of the word) make for many bewildering moments. However, so minimal is the hosts impact on the show that I had watched ten minutes of an episode on mute without realizing until my flat mate asked, “Why are you watching it with the sound off?”

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The line up of international hosts featured on Ultimate Beastmaster OR an artists impression of how Charles Xavier’s funeral might look.

Unlike Ninja Warrior or Total Wipeout UK, where you get a mix of capable contestants and contestants featured solely for the purposes ridicule so that viewers with a self esteem deficiency can feel better about themselves by tittering at a rotund fellow falling in to water, Ultimate Beastmaster is in it’s own way above all that. The contestants are all extremely capable athletes and the only ridicule they are deserving of is that which they bring on themselves, usually in their piece to camera interviews.

Several of them feel the need to tell us how good looking they are (think of The Apprentice contestants on protein shakes), which leads one to wonder if they purposely fall off obstacles because they caught a glimpse of their own reflection in the water and jumped in to try and fuck it. Balance is addressed as the more humble and usually more skilled contestants provide someone to root for.

Ultimate Beastmaster hardly ventures in to any new territory. It is basically Ninja Warrior, the nuances that set it apart and make it more palatable are the addition of the international competitors and a move away from ridiculing the contestants. Despite the best attempts of the Editing Team the show does get repetitive with multiple viewings. Ultimate Beastmaster is best viewed when you’re ready for a good drool and want to give your thinky muscle a rest or if you just need some noise in the house to cancel out the silence that is the harbinger of your loneliness… sorry, projecting again.

Netflix Review: Doomsday Bunkers (2012)

As the impending shadow over Dystopia looms over us with; Brexit, Trump: The Movie, ISIS, Zika Virus, the inevitable future re-emergence of MechaFarage and our reality being swapped out for the augmented version available on Pokemon Go, Doomsday Bunkers has arrived on Netflix UK in the nick of time.

Doomsday Bunkers offers a fly on the wall look in to Scott Bales and his Texan based bunker building business, Deep Earth Bunkers. Each of the three available episodes features Scott and his crew servicing a terminally paranoid clientele, that refer to themselves as ‘Preppers’ (people who are preparing for various impending apocalypseseses), by planting fortified metal boxes in the ground.

We get a brief back story for each of these suckers, sorry Preppers, and their prophetic tales of disaster that they are awaiting with a yearning anticipation. The show then makes a half-hearted attempt to justify these delusions via a montage of text graphics made to look like newspaper headlines of things that might happen, but never actually have, whilst utilising some blurry, ancient stock footage of people rioting in the background for dramatic effect.

The structure of the show is similar to that of American Chopper and the millions of others that came before it. The construction of the bunkers is entwined with contrived sub-narratives of dysfunction within the crew, so the audience aren’t just watching a load of blokes welding for forty odd minutes. Typically the crew disharmony reaches a resolution at the end of each episode and its hand jobs all round. Manufactured story-lines in Reality TV are usually painful to watch because they are so very phoney, but in Doomsday Bunkers they add an element of humour in their juxtaposition to the talking head sequences of the Preppers. One minute you have a Prepper describing their dystopian prophecies of how the very fabric of society will disintegrate quicker than Primark denim. Cut to a whimsical sequence of a fork lift driver rampaging round a warehouse and failing to lift various masses of steel.

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Scott Bales

As a personality Scott Bales is hard to nail down. Sure, he isn’t exactly the most endearing character, as you could accuse him of capitalising on and pandering to the neurosis of his Prepper customers. However, for fans of the cheeky opportunist, he definitely has a scamp-ish twinkle in his eye, like an umbrella salesman that sees Chicken Little heading towards him. His crew is made up of King of the Hill, blue collar types that are barely distinguishable from one another. Amongst them is Jessie, Scott’s son.  Jessie is a seemingly quiet, doe-eyed protégé, who is occasionally depicted as a petulant shit-gibbon depending on how keen the show’s producers are to ham up the ‘boss’ son’ angle.

As each episode draws to a close Scott walks his Prepper client around the finished bunker, like a shit Xzibit in an episode of Pimp My Paranoia. The bunkers are far from a thing of beauty. In fact the only entertainment value derived from seeing them completed is watching the Preppers get enthusiastic over what is essentially a glorified outhouse with an interior design best described as Soviet-snuff-film chic.

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Ordinarily  television that takes advantage of people is deplorable but Doomsday Bunkers may very well be the exception. Initially I had a degree of empathy for the Preppers. It seems perfectly logical to harbour a desire to build protection for yourself if you live in a high risk area of devastating tropical storms and the like. However, the Preppers have such a disdain for the rest of humanity that by the time they’re done rambling, you’re glad that Scott and his boys have helped them unburden their bank accounts. You get the feeling that the Preppers are hoping the end of the world will hurry up and happen so that they can;

A) Say, ‘I told you so’ to the smouldering, radio-active corpses of their neighbours that were stupid enough to spent their income enjoying their life.

B) Actually get to kill someone, as the Prepper mindset seems to be that anyone without a reinforced safe space is a latent cannibal and resources thief.

Point A is perfectly illustrated in episode two (Titled – ‘Kill or Be Killed’ – FFS) by a monotone, mumsnet type called Tanya. Tanya takes the time to descend from her pedestal to convey a strange, passive-aggressive contempt for anyone that doesn’t share her pessimistic world view. In a moment of unbridled bollocks she accuses ‘unprepared’ parents of child neglect.

“They are harming their children, and I feel like they’re not adequately taking care of them if they don’t have plans in place”, Tanya proclaims with a genteel condescension.

Point B is evident in the same episode when a family of rednecks order a booby-trapped, tactical bunker. As Scott demonstrates the custom fitted flame-thrower and metal grid with spikes he designed to slam in to the face of anyone that comes-a-knocking, one can almost hear the frantic scrubbing of his client’s hillbilly sister-mum, as she attempts to remove the stains from their under-gunders left by explosive ejaculate.

For us heinous ‘Unpreppers’ Doomsday Bunkers provides a big fat Hummingbird-sized slice of schadenfreude, as we bear witness to a televised example of the saying, ‘a fool and his money are easily parted’. Who knows? Perhaps the Preppers are correct and the four horsemen are donning their spurs. Personally, I’ll perfectly be content looking out of the ferry window on the River Styx, humming Highway to Hell, safe in the knowledge that I won’t be sharing a scorched earth populated by this shower of pricks.

 

MasterChef Review – Week 1: Cae Hard with A Vengeance

MasterChef is back!” exclaimed nobody …ever.

There are however, millions of dick bags across the country, myself included, looking forward to suddenly mutating in to fair weather food critics over the next 12 or 13 weeks. Whilst watching the first episode, this mutation took place instantly within me (bearing in mind that I at one time believed Campbell’s Meatballs in a bowl of Super Noodles was an acceptable version of Spaghetti Bolognese), I somehow found myself tutting, shaking my head disapprovingly and uttering the words, “He’s fucked his walnut gnocchi, look.”

My self-awareness will have all but evaporated and several weeks from now I’ll be brought swiftly back to reality as I receive the blank-face-and-sigh response from an Aldi shop assistant having asked, “Excuse me, on which aisles are the samphire and shiitake mushrooms?”

Despite an almost inevitable outbreak of Foodie Tourette’s, alienating you from those that previously respected you, there are several reasons to enjoy MasterChef that set it apart from other reality competition shows;

  • It doesn’t attempt to deviate from the cooking competition by driving any sub-narratives i.e. there aren’t any scripted, budding off-screen romances amongst the contestants that we’re made to give a fuck about. Nor are there any desperate grabs for heart strings with sob stories about a dead parent whose dying wish it was that their son’s/daughter’s beef stroganoff get on telly.
  • The contestants have to earn their dues by catering in mess halls and working in restaurants as they progress through the competition. X-Factor and the like would be vastly improved if the contestants had to gain some realistic industry experience. They could be air dropped in to Tyneside and made to perform in a working man’s club before a crowd of eight. They could sing and improve their choreography by dodging airborne bottles of Newcy Brown.
  • MasterChef attempts to maintain an air of dignity. It isn’t tempted by the siren call of cheap distractions such as; cardigan-clad, light sexual innuendo, now synonymous with televised competitions about constructing baked goods.

In the interest of balalnce there are also a few justifiable reasons you may be put off watching MasterChef ;

  • The incessant grinning reaction shots of Greg Wallace who looks like a partially regenerated Imhotep when he smiles.
  • John Torodes bizarre, lizard-esque eating style he deploys when devouring food from a fork.
  • The contestant’s faux commiseration when a competing contestant fucks their dish up. It’s not a popularity contest or public vote. Therefore If you know that you’ve sailed through to the next round because Lucinda’s goat cheese tart looks like a bukakake-ed sloth. I expect fist pumping with one hand, whilst entering Lucinda’s home address into Uber with the other.

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In conclusion here is the first episode breakdown, so without further adieu… Aaaaaw here it goes…

Week 1 Highlights

By far this week’s most entertaining contestant was the intense, ginger David Cameron look-a-like, Cae (pronounced Cye) from Swansea.

“The semi-finals,” Cae remarked with a smouldering intensity when asked, what his aim in the competition was? It was an attempt at sounding confident but resonated more like a threat. If you had replaced the answer “the semi-finals” with “to kill again” it would have sounded more accurate.

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Naturally he was out by Friday, but not before treating the viewers to a fantastic highlight reel. On multiple occasions the cameras cut to a shot of Cae furiously shaking a canister of cream for all his worth. The look of contorted anguish on his face whilst doing so, resembled that of a man in throws of masturbation, savagely determined to reach the vinegar strokes before cramp can take him.

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Cae’s final dish was a car crash of such glorious proportions, author J. G. Ballard would struggle to do it justice. Cae attempted Gorgonzola Ice Cream with an Apple something or other. Instead he applied the common technique on MasterChef when a contestant misses the mark and called it a ‘desconstructed‘ apple something or other. I shall miss Cae.

Cae’s Farewell

The stand out performer was Nurse and mother of some kids, Julie. Julie’s progress was noticeable throughout the week. Although her food was described as delicious her initial presentation was lacking. This was evident even to my amateur eye. The first dish she plonked down for the judges was basically a pile of fish that simulated the result of administering the Heimlich maneuver on a pelican.

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Julie managed to improve the presentation of her dishes as she progressed through the stages and looked the strongest contestant by the end of week one. She also unintentionally took part in a beautiful moment put together by the editing team. As Cae was in the death throws of failing his final dish he desperately yelled out like a smack head on a binge. “I need two spoons please.. quickly two spoons… please!” Shortly after we were treated to a shot of cool-as-fuck Julie, who’d barely broken a sweat, having a victory taste from a bottle of ale.

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Others that progressed were Natasha who was good at desserts and Mike from Hull. That’s all there is to say about Mike really.

Week two kicks off tonight and concludes on Friday. In the meantime, I can already feel my MasterChef culinary juices flowing. I will be shaving off my eye brows so my face doesn’t catch fire when I attempt to flambé a potato smiley.

MasterChef continues tonight BBC 1 8pm

Lovely bit of reverse trolling that…

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I stumbled across this thread on the IMDB today titled ‘Stephen Merchant: Beyond Bad in Portal 2’.

The original poster (lone_virgo) starts with a vitriolic, borderline incomprehensible rant about the game designers and voice actor (Stephen Merchant) that worked on the Portal 2 character ‘Wheatley’.

However, the angry erection that had arisen in lone_virgo was extinguished by the proceeding posters on the message board with the gusto of a nun making her morning rounds armed with a whack-a-mole mallet at an all boys Catholic Boarding School.

This is how you deal with potential trolls.

 

Enjoy! (Click link below)

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0580351/board/thread/181669985

The Baby Steps of An Introvert #1 – THE GYM

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To say that I had recently put on a bit of timber would be an understatement. Towards the end of September my biological make- up resembled that of a Richmond sausage. The realisation kicked in when I found myself emitting breathy chant of “I-think-I-can”, like The Little Engine That Could, as I clambered up two flights of stairs at work. Three years ago I was 9 and a half stone wet through. That wasn’t necessarily a healthy weight but nearly four stone later and I‘d wildly over shot a ‘healthy weight’ like a coked up Angry Bird.

Luckily the College I work at were opening a gym on campus and a staff discount was on offer. Initially I had reservations regarding the joining of any gym because of a ridiculous fear. Not a fear of sharing a confined, clammy space with sweaty, grunting mammals. It was an egotistical, conceited fear, that’s haunted me throughout life. The fear of not being good at something straight away in front of strangers, something overly competitive arse-holes such as me regularly suffer from.

I decided to allay this fear because all it’d gotten me was a, ahem, plentiful frame. I bit the bullet (instead of dipping it in mayonnaise and eating it) and I ordered me a gym membershizzle.

My induction could not have been further from what I was expecting. First off the Instructor that took me round the gym was very professional and laid back. Now as comforting as that may sound, for somebody such as me that’s acutely aware/paranoid about the fragility of my own mortality (A.K.A a big puss), this one session induction seemed preposterous. I expected/wanted a six week course with a written exam at the end on how not to mutilate myself on each piece of equipment.  But no, they decided they were going to treat me like a fucking adult and just let me operate a tread mill without a license!

I cannot commend the Instructor-man enough for his tolerance of me. Bearing in mind that I had never stepped foot in a gym before, my amazement at the monitors on the equipment must have worn thin though he didn’t show it. At one point I naively exclaimed, “Fucking ‘ell? I can watch telly while I’m running?!” this was met with a cool nod while he lifted a little flap to show me where my iPhone could be connected to the machinery. He was very gracious and although he must have been internalising ‘When did we start an exchange programme with an Amish community?’ he externalised no such thoughts.

Two months on I have decide to persist with my membership to the gymnasium for three reasons;

Firstly, I would rather attempt to remove my teeth with a spork than begin the arduous task of trying to cancel another direct debit.

Secondly, I can now look my girlfriend in the eye when I’ve inhaled a family size trifle.

Finally, they run bi-weekly Yoga classes and I reckon with my new found determination this time next year I could be a black belt in it.

Stowell’s Segment: The Apprentice

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Forget Lourdes, Fatima or any of the Shinto nonsense, it is said that the most sacrosanct shrine of present day is an unattended spillage in the aisles of Thresher in Prestwich. For t’was here that Liam Stowell once took out a shelf of premium real ale as he reached for a dented can of White Ace that had fallen down the back. Why a shrine you ask? Because he is a left wing man of the people and Thresher’s best customer, but mainly the man of the people bit. Liam Stowell is so Communist he bleeds… red. He hates Captialism so much that he will spit in my face when he sees that I haven’t bothered to write the first letters of his forename and surname in lower-case. For this reason Stowell has given us his thoughts on BBC 1’s The Apprentice

“The Apprentice: the united colours of benetton of twats.”

– Liam Stowell (2014)

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