Archive for September, 2011

29/09/2011

The Good Ole Games – Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday

I have previously spoken about a console based, role playing game golden age during the early 1990’s largely under the guidance of Electronic Arts.  I began with my favourite RPG of the time, Starflight, because in many ways it typifies that eras E.A. approach to a good RPG.  Gameplay, suspense, adventure and ease of play were everything, graphics and sound came a distant second and third.  This is a lesson which modern games designers, outside of some flashgame creators, seem to have forgotten.  So while the market is flooded with games which are undeniably beautiful to look at, and often even more beautiful to listen to, but are almost completely lacking where gameplay and easily understood controls are concerned.

However Electronic Arts didn’t have it entirely their own way in the 90’s. There was one game producer in particular who would do their damnedest to give E.A. a good kicking. That producer was Strategic Simulations, Inc. (now owned and shut down by Ubisoft) While they’re probably most famous for their WarGames, and the Phantasie series of role playing games, it is their multi platform Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday which will always be my favourite of their releases.

Set in TSR’s Buck Rogers XXVC table top setting the storyline, and style of this game was bizarre to anyone who was raised on the 1979 NBC series. Gone was interstellar travel, no mention of the Draconian Empire, no biscuit tin supercomputers, and no annoying walking tin can going “beedeebeedee” all the frikkin’ time. Instead you got a human race who having colonised every survivable environment, had started to terraform Mars and Venus, as well as having mutated into several sub races. You also got incredible spacecraft echoing more to the 1980’s Flash Gordon movie than anything you’ve seen in an American science fiction anything in the last 30 years.

The game has the player leading a small squad of six agents in a covert war against RAM the despotic Russo-American Mercantile. Along the way you join forces with Wilma Deering and Buck Rogers himself, as you battle basically everything that crosses your path.

What makes this game special to me, aside from the setting I’m a total sucker for anything Buck Rogers, is the fact that while SSI created a wonderful RPG of that era, they didn’t ignore their wargaming heritage. So the combat is well thought out, well executed, with different play styles depending on whether you are fighting on land or in space. The story is engrossing, so much so that I played it through twice back to back when I originally got it. And played it again before writing this piece. It’s a wonderfully fun game, nothing is too serious, aside from the Doomsday in the title of course, and in a way it’s kind of sweet. I mean sweet for a game where you slaughter dozens of ships crews, hundreds of ground troops and then outfit yourself with the blood soaked weapons and armor you loot from their still warm corpses.

I won’t say much more on this, but I will say this. You’re most likely to come across a Sega Megadrive/Genesis copy of this game online. And that’s fine, but if you’re lucky enough to find a source for the ms-DOS version play that. The Sega version had a machete taken to it, removing a lot of options, and majorly truncating the skills system. It’s still a good game and well worth a playing even in that version, but the DOS version is where the real hardcore geekery is to be found.

Oh and to really make you pine for those halcyon days of classic American scifi, here’s the opening credits and theme song of the pilot movie from 1979. Nom Erin Gray.

*note to self buy series on DVD.

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27/09/2011

A dyke shopping trip.

I’m pretty much the first to admit that most of the time I tend to look like a femmey foo-foo. I love to wear short skirts and dresses, with pretty collar type neck ornamentation, and really good eye make-up. To look at I am definitely not your stereotypical dyke. But scratch just beneath the surface and you find my butch side, as embodied by my toolbox.

I own a dizzying variety of tools. Over a dozen pliers and vice-clamps. Several saws varying from a japanese pull-saw, to a beautiful jewellers coping-saw. Half a dozen hammers of various types, dozens of drill bits, two power drills, a heavy-duty soldering iron, and my pride an joys, my two Dremel multi-tools. And that list is just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head. I haven’t even gone into the screwdrivers, files, chisels, or the custom tools I made for myself.

I’m pretty serious about my tools. Hell, I’m probably even more serious about my DIY tools than I am about my BDSM equipment, which is saying a lot. It’s probably not that surprising when you consider that in a former life I was both an apprentice carpenter, and a builder of radio control model aircraft for people who hadn’t the time or space to do the building for themselves. I love working with my hands, I love taking raw materials and creating something both functional and beautiful.

So, looking for something to do over the Winter I recently decided to build myself a ukulele, or three. Now I already own a really beautiful uke which I adore. She has a lovely sound, looks stunning, and promises to be a close musical companion for many, many years to come. But I’m a unorthadox kind of girl, and I have these pictures in my mind of what I think a ukulele could both look and sound like. Unfortunately I have yet to find anyone else who makes the uke of my random daydreams, so it’s down to me to build it.

Which is, of course, a wonderful excuse to go dyke shopping.

Dyke shopping is defined by Amanda’s Internal Dictionary as going to a tool, electronics, or car store, while dressed to knock other women dead at 20 paces. Actually shopping is optional. So it was that last Friday my partner and I went dyke shopping in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre’s, B&Q. For those who don’t know B&Q is what passes for a good hardware superstore in Ireland. Actually it’s not too bad, for tools, plumbing and home decorating supplies. But it’s bloody lousy for timber.

Anyway I had a list of additional tools to price which I would need to build my first, and undoubtedly many subsequent, ukulele’s. My partner was looking for a new grow-house, and we were both looking to get out of the house for a couple of hours. Well, we arrived at about 1pm and immediately split up. My partner looking for the gardener type stuff that bores me to tears. Me looking for the tool type stuff which makes her think longingly of a felling axe and my head holding what we shall describe as an intimate meeting of minds.

I don’t know about her but I was having a wonderful half hour mooch through B&Q’s hand and power tool section. They had basically everything I needed, most of it at really good prices. They even had the new Dremel click-in circular saw adaptor. I could clearly sense in the not too distant future a painful lightening of my bank account.

I could also feel someones hand on my ass. Now when I say on my ass, that’s being perhaps a little…under-descriptive. This person hand grabbed my ass in such a way that they were essentially picking me up like a six-pack of beer. In fact if their middle finger had been even a centimetre further forward they would have gotten an interesting surprise. Needless to say I assumed it was my partner being all sweet and possessive.

Imagine my surprise when I turned around,  intent to sucking her tongue clean out of her head, to wind up face to face with a rather pretty bespectacled Polish girl.

Now imagine the look of shock on her face when she realised she wasn’t feeling up her husband.

You see there were four, or maybe five people at the Dremel stand. And it’s a frikkin tiny stand. I was bent over, and sort of in front of people to read a pricing sticker. She was…I can only assume, consumed with lust for her hubby, and mistook my shapely rear for his. Well that or she saw an oppurtunity to grab some sweet dykey buns.

Well either way I was left with how to respond. If I blew up it could have ended in disaster, and humiliation for all concerned. If I didn’t react, well I wouldn’t be me. Besides she was a serious grade-A hottie, so I couldn’t just let it go, could I?

“Umm, I’m not complaining, but I’m guessing you thought you were grabbing your husbands ass?”

A nod, a gulp, and a blush so hot I could have barbequed a steak on her face.

I turn to the hubby, who has a huge grin on his face. “So your wife feeling up another woman…dream come true huh?” Hubby gets punched hard in the arm.

And I walked off, my head held high. Of course there was renewed awkwardness when we all ran into one another again, 15 minutes later in Atlantic Homecare. Sheesh Dublin is too small sometimes.

24/09/2011

Saying “I can’t do it.” and deferring a dream.

It’s probably pretty clear from one of my past posts that I have a serious ambition to write/draw my own webcomic. And over the last few months I’ve worked hard to reach a point where I can launch it on an unsuspecting world. But recently I’ve had to admit that I can’t do it, at least not right now.

The simple facts are that I am at the moment writing three articles for this blog per week. I am in the middle of writing my second novel, and I’m trying to learn to play ukulele. But in addition to all those there’s one other thing standing in the way of my artistic ambitions. The simple fact is that despite a lot of practice, I’m just not that good at drawing yet. But I know that someday, if I keep working on it, I will be.

From this I have learned that saying “I can’t do it.” is no sin. There’s many things I can’t do, at this point in my life. But in the future I will be able to. Right now I can’t play “Cavatina” on my uke, but if I practice hard someday I will. Becoming proficient at most things ultimately come down to practice, hard work, and determination.

So for now a dream of mine is deferred for a while. Until a time when I have a little more time, have practiced enough to be happy with my artistic talent, and until after I’ve done a few courses.

And that’s no bad thing. After all it gives me more time to develop the storylines, the characters, the locations, and everything else that goes into good storytelling. That’s the thing I learned over the last few years about putting things off. If you keep what you’ve delayed somewhere in your mind, that time won’t have been lost, or wasted. And after all thinking about things can be one of the most important parts of being creative.

22/09/2011

A short review of Irish weather.

Regardless of whether you choose to mark it by the meteorological timing (June, July and August), or the cultural version (May 1st to August 1st), the Summer is now well, and truly done. So how was yours? Did you enjoy the forecasted heatwaves? No? Really? Oh yeah that’s right they, thankfully, never arrive.

Look at the risk of ending up covered in a mixed fruit salad, violently contributed by angry members of my loyal readership, we live in Ireland. So what the hell did you expect? Ireland, barring some very rare exceptions, does not have long hot lazy Summers. We live on an island, an island which lies on the edges of both the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, or as some techie people would put it, two bloody enormous heat sinks.

Our country is famous for its green fields, a product of our wet, relatively mild climate. And correct me if I’m wrong but doesn’t our farming industry rely on a warm, damp growing season, with just enough bright sunlight. So aside from the rain during haymaking, I would imagine most of our farmers were rather delighted with this Summer.

As a country we do get plenty of blue skies, and bright sunshine. As a country we do get plenty of dry days, perhaps some water managers and farmers would even go as far as to say, too many dry days. But what we tend not to get is blue skies, dry days, and hot weather in combination.

These days we seem to be doomed to harsh cold Winters, and cool but actually pretty comfortable Summers. The scary part is if you talk to someone from mainland Europe, especially eastern Europe you suddenly realise that we have it pretty damned easy. Last Winter we had maybe a foot of snow, some ice and some burst pipes. It was by Irish standards a hellish Winter. But by European standards it was a cake walk.

One day last Winter I was walking my dog, Winter (oh how we laughed) along the grand canal. There was a solid foot of snow on the ground, but the footing was good and my clothes were warm. Winter was having the time of her life, burrowing into the snow banks and then bursting out of them like some kind of explosive-snow-monster. Anyway as I wandered along enjoying the crisp air, I saw someone coming towards me in the distance. It was a Polish woman with her 1-year-old baby out for a walk. Well that’s to say she was walking, baby was being pulled along behind her in a small sled.

Being a personable individual I felt moved to speak with her, though admittedly it didn’t hurt that she was drop dead gorgeous. During the conversation I asked her what she made of the weather. She thought it was a lovely mild Winter, after a beautiful mild, comfortable Summer.

That blew me away. When I asked what she meant she reminded me of something we all know from school but somehow rarely come to truly understand. There are places in mainland Europe, places not really all that far from us, where they measure snow not in inches, but in feet. Where they look at a weather forecast and see wind chills of -30. And worse still these same places can often then have devilishly hot Summers as well.

It sounds like a good trade right? Skiing in the Winter, and topless sunbathing in the Summer. But I’m quite certain that after a year of that sort of climate, many of us hardy Irish people would be dying, even begging to get back to our damp island, with its mild weather. You see the thing is, we say we want hot weather, but when we get it all you hear is people complaining about it being too hot. Then we also get people passing out from heat exhaustion, at temperatures which most Europeans see as a nice bracing Spring day, because we haven’t the experience to carry water with us.

Speaking of water, we find ourselves incensed when ours is restricted, because the hot weather usually doesn’t come with the extra water we need.

But worse of all is the constant scorn poured over the bitching of the goth girls. I say this as one of that particular group, hot weather sucks. Yes, you can wear the best of your revealing “Daughter of the Night” style clothing. But velvet is a real bitch to wear when it’s dripping with sweat, pvc is horribly sticky and leather is just impossible to stay cool in. But worst of all, it just ruins your pale, and there’s nothing worse than having to put on factor 6,000 every half hour all day.

But after all this the one question that still sticks in my mind is this. What is it about the average Irish person that makes them crave hot weather? After all when it comes right down to it, we’re usually bloody useless when confronted with a thermometer that reads anything much above 20 celcius.

20/09/2011

I’ve been thinking about Postsecret.

The other day I saw a trailer for the PostSecret app for the first time.  If you haven’t I suggest you do. It’s a beautiful piece to watch, and in my case at least it’s been kind of thought-provoking.

The trailer starts by stating that everyone has secrets.  I don’t think of myself as someone who has secrets.  After all if you’ve transitioned from apparently male to living as female, there really aren’t likely to be all that many high impact secrets left to reveal to the world.  But that statement still got me thinking about whether I actually have any significant secrets or not.

It really I suppose comes down to how you define a secret. Is a secret simply a thought you keep to yourself? Or is there something more to what goes into making a secret?

Well I have hundreds of thoughts every single day which I never share with anyone. Everyone does. We all have those short fleeting thoughts that mean little and would only be wasted noise if you did bother to verbalise them. So I don’t feel that keeping your thoughts to yourself is really the same as keeping a secret.

No, I’ve come to believe that a secret is possibly one of two things. It could be a piece of knowledge only you, or very few people, hold. A piece of knowledge which if revealed could have a significant positive or negative effect for the holder of the secret, or for someone else.

Or a secret could also be a piece of personal knowledge/information, shared in confidence by another person.

Well I have quite a few of the latter type. Again most people do. We all have someone for whom we are their ultimate confidant. Someone for whom our trustworthiness represents a very necessary safety valve.

But even after I finally defined what a secret is for me, I still find myself struggling with the question of whether I possess any of the first type.  And yes, yes I know you could define the shared knowledge type as being the first type, but here I’m speaking about secrets of my own, not secrets I hold for others.

Well after some serious thought I really still just don’t know. I guess that’s what comes of wearing your heart on your sleeve. I think everyone I’m in love with knows it, unsurprising when you consider I have all the subtlety of a half-brick between the eyes. I’m pretty sure that everyone know’s what I actually think of them, for the same reason. Hell I can’t even keep a surprise gift to myself long enough for it to actually be a surprise. Admittedly I do keep a lot of the details of my creative projects to myself, but surely as a writer that’s just protecting my intellectual property, protecting my work…

I guess this is a question I won’t be able to answer anytime soon. But I suppose for now at least it’s an interesting question to sit and think about, while I practice my ukulele, or lying in a bath, or being half drowned by doggy kisses.

P.S. I have, since beginning writing this article, been reliably informed, by my group of friends very own Velma Dinkley (in a good’n hot way), that the PostSecret App is a waste of both time and money. Pity that.

Jinkies! Image via wikipedia.org

17/09/2011

Body Image and the Transgirl.

I’m 5’10” tall. I have been since around the time I turned 14. And for most of my life I was 9 stone or under (that’s 126lbs or 57.5kg for those who didn’t grow up with stones as a weight measurement, and yes, it does make me feel old).

I’ve had eating disorders most of my life. When I was in high school from 2nd Year onwards I never ate breakfast or lunch, I avoided dinner when I could. I did this while training for a minimum of 2 hours per day, 5 days a week on the school climbing wall. At weekends I would either cycle, or go hill walking, or fell-running. All that didn’t include a part-time job as a cleaner in a local supermarket, being in scouts, later being a scout leader, and volunteering at a scout center.

Later I would discover something that had previously escaped my attention. Food tastes good. So I took to eating and purging. My teeth show the history of that, with a lot of fillings and tooth enamel that has never been the same.

Now bear something in mind. I’ve suffered from chronic diarrhea since I was about 5 years old. That means I was already coping with random, and massive, weight loss to begin with.

So you have to be wondering why I was doing this to myself. I could give you a load of waffle about my being sexually abused as a child. It would be the truth, but that’s not why I started to starve myself. I could say that it was because of all the skinny people on television giving me a warped self-image. But that would be total bollocks, the people I thought looked best on television, were like Wonder Woman’s, Linda Carter. And while she was/is gorgeous, you could never have called her skinny. Busty as hell, curvaceous yup, well proportioned…like a frikkin’ goddess. But not skinny.

No the reason I starved myself was that I simply didn’t want to grow anymore.

I was very much aware that I was really a girl trapped in what was rapidly becoming an ever more hideous, male body. While the other girls became ever more busty, curvy, beautiful, I instead was becoming more muscular, hairy, lantern-jawed. The latter isn’t a joke by the way, at one point I had a jaw line you could have used to break up granite boulders.

But being a very smart kid I reasoned out the following. Growth needs fuel, food is human fuel, if I starve my body of the fuel it needs it’ll stop growing, and my horrible male development will stop. It worked. I did stop developing. I never became hulking like the male side of my family. But it came at a huge cost, and I’ll spend the rest of my life paying the cost of that particular piece of reasoning.

The physical cost isn’t a serious issue for me personally. It isn’t really much of a cost to begin with. I have weak teeth, lots of careful dental hygiene and that’s less of a problem. I have a couple of minor fractures that didn’t heal up quite right, but everyone gets aches and pains as they grow older.

No the costs that hurt me are the psychological ones. After so much time ignoring my hunger pangs, I rarely notice when I’m hungry. So I easily forget to eat, which means I have to be conscious of it the whole time. I never get to relax about eating, because when I relax I forget to eat for a day, or two, or seven.

And when I do eat, I feel bad for doing so. Now don’t take me up the wrong way. I love how food tastes. I reckon I’ve eaten the deep-fried wings off of about a thousand chickens in the past 5 years alone. But, and it’s a big but, I always feel guilty, like I failed because I ate, no matter how much I enjoyed the meal.

A good example is my bedtime ritual. When I go to bed I 90% of the time take a cup of hot milk and two Viscount biscuits with me. A Viscount in case you’ve never met one is a chocolate covered, mint-cream filled piece of heaven. I take that snack because if I don’t my hiatus hernia starts playing up during the night, and I wake up clutching my left arm and wondering if I’m finally having a heart attack. But that milk and those biscuits fill me with guilt.

Which is, of course, the other reason I eat them. They’re an act of defiance at my own subconscious psyche. A personal “Fuck You deep-seated personal neurosis!”

Now we get to the meat of this article. I am now physically pretty much the type of woman I tend to fancy. I mean sure there are one or two thin girls who make me hyper ventilate (I’ll let you guess for yourself who you are). But usually I seem to prefer girls with a little padding. Put in a better way I prefer a healthy body shape.

Well right now I have that myself. I’m very busty, I have an ass that can hypnotize at 20 paces, and kill at 5 though for a different reason than shape or size. I have a healthy amount of body fat. Add in the piercing’s, tattoo, height, gothy wardrobe and a mind so kinky it could be used as a cork screw (for a 6 dimensional bottle cork) and you have me. You also have one of my ideal women.

I should mention here that I do have a small Buddha belly. But that’s far more due to intestinal swelling rather than body weight.

But while I may be a walking embodiment of one of my ideal types of women. I still don’t want to be her. I love my facial features, I love my boobs. But I loathe the weight I now carry. Hate it beyond all reason. I make myself eat to maintain it, but it kills a little piece of me to do that, even if it is the right thing to do.

I want to be a size 12 again. No fuck that, honesty here, I want to be a size 10 again. I want to fit into the tiny skirts, the tight tops I used to wear only a few years ago.

I can’t do that though. My health problems are now too profound. If I starve myself again I won’t have the reserves I need to survive my own body. So I’ve compromised with myself. I’ll lose a little weight. Just enough to fit back into my black leather evening gown. 1 stone 6lbs of weight. Just enough to bring me back to 12 stone even.

But it’s a compromise that hurts.

Because while my body image wasn’t screwed up when I began becoming an adult. back then I was just a girl who was desperate not to end up trapped inside another hideous, hairy man. But becoming a woman who had starved herself into a 20 year puberty has finally caught up with me, finally screwed me up. I sit here inside a body that is in one way at least healthier than it’s ever been (not saying a lot when you consider all my health problems, but at least I don’t pass out when I stand up anymore, or well, not every time anyway). And all I want is to be back in my skinny body, the one that made people scared to hug me, in case they cracked one of my ribs. But that’s a body I can never afford to have again.

15/09/2011

Ramona, sitting on the floor next to me, looking pretty.

For almost a quarter century my favourite movie was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I’ve watched it somewhere in the region of a hundred times, and I’ve never gotten sick of it. It helps that it’s a John Hughes movie, I’m a die-hard Hughes fan. It also helps that it has a young Jennifer Grey as Ferris’ sister, and an even younger Mia Sara in it as the hero’s girlfriend.  Suffice to say that particular movie led to quite a few…interesting dreams in my teen years.

So after almost twenty-five years it obviously had to take something special to knock Matthew Broderick off the top spot. Let me set a scene for you.

The location is the living room of my best male friend. It’s a party, and your heroine is lounging on an exquisitely comfortable couch watching a movie. Around me are my partner, my BMF’s kitten (humanoid variety of course), and some friends old and new. There are munchables to be eaten, and on the screen is a truly wonderful movie. Since last Summer my new favourite movie of all time, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.

Now I know people who adore this movie beyond anything sane. I also know people who loathe it. It’s a true Marmite movie. But for my money it’s by far the best action comedy I’ve ever seen. It even beats Hot Fuzz, and when we’re talking Simon Pegg movies, that takes a lot of doing. So what makes it so wonderful?

Making Canada look rocking.

Let’s start with one concept. It makes Canada cool. And we’re not just talking cold here, but genuinely cool, the location where all that is awesome in the world collides. I never really thought about Canada before seeing SPvsTW. I mean to me it’s the place the original, and best Captain Kirk comes from. Oh and they have some very entertaining hockey riots, when their own team wins. It’s a geographic location. Then Scott Pilgrim arrives on our screens and damn I have to get to Canada. See some of those locations in reality. Soak up some of that Canadian culture. Crack on to a hipster chick with purple hair. You know all the fun stuff.

So it makes Canada awesome what else? Well how about a movie where all the characters, barring two are total and utterly dicks. And those two are a the female band member who exists only to make snarky comments, and the very sweet, somewhat homicidal 17-year-old chinese girl. Yup, everyone else is as self-centred as a spinning-top, and somewhat dickish. But here’s the key thing, you still like them all. Now that takes some serious writing ability to pull off.

The two main characters, who are Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers, are actually rather unpleasant when you look at them in certain ways. Scott is a waster in his 20’s, with a “pity me” attitude which if I knew him in reality would result in his ass being kicked so hard he would end up wearing his testicles as a bowtie. While Ramona is gorgeous to look at, and sexy as hell to listen to, she has a history of messing her partners around that would put her high on any towns “do not date if there are sheep available” list.  But you still find yourself liking them. They’re flawed, frustratingly so, but it makes them real, approachable in a way very few movie characters in action films ever are.

Oh and speaking of action films, those eagle-eyed viewers may recognise Ramona (Mary Elisabeth Winstead) as John McClane’s daughter in Die Hard 4.

The beautiful Mary Elisabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers

The story is a classic. Boy has girl, boy meets other girl, boy dicks first girl around, dumps her, and then has to fight second girls seven evil exes. There’s a few sub-stories in there, one literally sub but we’ll get to that shortly, but they’re mostly filler to get the viewer from one fight to another.

Speaking of the fights, each of them is a highlight in its own right. From the first with the Bollywood dancing, complete with demonic hipster chick backing dancers. To the girl on (sort of) girl fourth fight, which incidentally has my single favourite knockout blow ever. To the sheer joy that is the final fight of the movie, complete with huge swords, the action in this movie has to be seen. Each fight is imaginatively done, usually ending in the last way you would ever expect. Just wonderful.

So I mentioned a sub story a paragraph ago. Well it leads to something that makes this movie extra special for me. Towards the end of the viewing, my BMF’s Kitten scritched my arm to get my attention and commented on knowing now why I adore SPvsTW so much. On the screen Ramona was sitting on the top step of a raised platform, while the chief villain of the movie sits in a throne behind her.

Yup, that’s what makes this a really special movie for me. The villain has this incredible ass kicking woman in a submissive position (he has a way of getting into her head), he even makes a point of treating her like his property in front of the besotted Scott. She’s stunningly beautiful, sitting in a position that to me is a true expression of the joy of belonging to someone in a BDSM sense, but she looks desperately unhappy. And Scott saves her.

Yes dear reader, that’s what it took to knock Ferris Bueller off my personal top spot. A sort of submissive being saved, violently, and rather hilariously from the clutches of a dickhead dominant. I guess I’m just a romantic Domina at heart.

So why should you watch this movie, if you haven’t already?  Well the jokes are either blunt instruments, or so subtle you sometimes wonder if they were jokes. The dialogue is sharp, quick, and satisfying. The locations are beautiful. The casting is flawless. The story is interesting. The soundtrack is never less than excellent. But for my money the number one reason to see this movie is to join Sex-Ba-Bomb in watching Scott kick Gideon’s ass while he saves Ramona.

If you have a Ramona Flowers you need to find a new home for please contact me at……

Now my only question is where in the hell do I find a Ramona of my own?

13/09/2011

Okay, no post today.

Well my mother came to visit this weekend.  This followed a night of highly enjoyable Ramona Flowers viewing.  So, no post today I’m afraid.  But I’ll have a pair of real humdingers for you all on Thursday and Saturday.  Sorry.

10/09/2011

She had it coming, really she did!

She had it coming, honestly she did.  When I was struggling desperately to finish my first novel, she was there.  Flinging razor tipped spears of pure inspiration, and distraction into my tortured mind. While I sat there struggling with the really tough part of writing.  That being the process of editing for grammar and punctuation.  But I persevered.  I ignored her frenzied attempts to draw me away from the project which, at that point, had already consumed most of the previous three years of my life.

Then with my first novel finished. Squared away, to the best of my ability.  Ready for submission, more or less. That thoughtless shapely wretch decided, with no warning what-so-ever, to go on holiday.  There I was, ready, willing and able to begin my next major project. My word processor open.  The notes I’d written in previous months, standing ready to assist in my renewed efforts at achieving literary immortality.

And where was my Muse of Weird-Ass Romance Writing? On a break, in a far off corner of my mind. Looking smug while she lounged about in a chalet on a chaise longue. Being fed freshly cooked spicy chicken wings, and Long Island Iced Teas by a excrutiatingly hot redheaded slavegirl ,dressed in the most delicious little leather Lolita Goth outfit. I’m not sure to this day which annoyed me more.  The adorable little slavegirl, when her boss can’t find one. Or her using the chalet, a left over from a period where I considered working as a chalet-girl for a season, when I’d left specific instructions that it be demolished, to make way for a pulse rifle shooting range.

But anyway, the wretch hadn’t even bothered to notified the boss, ie. me, that she was going away on a holiday.  At the least she could have arranged a temporary replacement.  But no, she leaves me in the lurch, with only my Muse of Bad-ass Science Fiction Writing for company. And she’s a fat lot of use. Seriously, how can you get any real work done with a muse who starts giggling, blushing, and somewhat covertly touching herself every time she even thinks of blue skinned, alien chicks.  I’d fire her, except she has a real genius where it comes to inventing excuses for my characters to break out the powered armor, the rail-guns, and commence with aggressive pacification of the immediate area.

So now you can see how my Muse of Weird-Ass Romance had it coming. Of course getting to her was another story. It’s not easy hunting down, and firing a muse who’s on sabbatical in a little used recess of your own mind.  But after repeatedly whacking myself over the head with a half-brick, I’d achieved the sort of trance state that usually requires the ingestion of several hundred Euro’s worth of illicit substances.  Well that or a decade of dedicated meditation. But who has the time for that when they’re in a murderous rage right now.

So there I was inside my own mind, pulse rifle in hand, standing outside the chalet.  I decided to be merciful and shouted to give the slavegirl enough warning to clear the building before I opened fire.  Nothing can match the sheer satisfaction of firing an imaginary pulse rifle, loaded with explosive tracer rounds, into a wooden building and watching the splinters fly.  Well, almost nothing.

You see muses being not exactly fully corporeal, or even mortal beings, or even real beings as such, have a certain amount of immunity to even imaginary explosive tracer bullets. But having seen how pissed I was, and how awesome my imaginary powers are, as soon as the first clip ran dry she came out. Her toga flowing in the breeze, her hands in the air.

So I put her into the maw of a large cannon with several dozen pounds of grape-shot, and fired the lot at a ten foot thick wall of solid unobtainium enhanced steel. Of course she’ll be rehired, as soon as she manages to reassemble herself.

But as that will take at least several years, not least because that particular location is currently playing host to an active volcano, I will in the mean time have an Assistant Manager/Muse of Weird-Ass Romance Writing position available.  All applicants should submit their applications in a plain brown A4 envelope, clearly marked with a return address, measurements and containing a picture of them in a skin-tight white leather mini-dress.

The moral of this story is that sometimes as a writer you will receive a monster dose of writers block.  And when you do there’s absolutely no need to take it lying down.  Just fire the appropriate muse, with a cannon, and move on with a different project.

P.S. This is blog comes to you at the suggestion of, and as a welcome to Europe present for the divine Miss Stacy Bias.  Welcome to your new beginning Mamma Dyke.  Love you.

08/09/2011

What’s it like to be a dog owner?

As all my regular readers probably know, I am the proud owner/mammy of an 18 month of Beagle named Winter. As anyone who has been the owner/mammy of a beagle can tell you, they are as a breed little more than a mass of barely controlled enthusiasm and hyper-activity. Actually that is a major part of their appeal. You’re never, ever bored with a young Beagle in the house. But this post isn’t about Beagles. No it’s about being a dog owner.

So what’s that like?

Imagine having a baby who will never learn to speak. Neither will they ever become very independant. And you can forget about them moving out and getting their own place. No they’ll continue to be food eating, crap producing, four-legged engines of occassional destruction ’til the day they die. And then they’ll leave you bereft, heart-broken and in mourning for months or even years. Sounds kind of horrible doesn’t it?

Well that’s just for starters. There’s going out walking with them, even when the rain is more like a vertical river than a soft summer shower. There’s cleaning the puddles of vomit up when they get sick in the car. Or if you’re me there’s that, and sitting in the passenger seat, with your legs drenched by puppy pee for two hours, because your beloved pooch got scared.

There’s the puppy deciding that at 5am she’s had enough sleep, and that so have you. So she decides to head butt the door of the bathroom she sleeps in, until you’re awake. I kid you not, Winter genuinely head butts the door. I’ve seen her do it.

There’s the puppy deciding that her two mommies will never again get to enjoy a sex life. Yes Winter Godzilla Condron Harper has a new middle name, Passion-Killer. She won this name in the still ongoing Grand Battle for the Center of the Bed.

And you can forget going out for the night, and staying out. House dogs don’t like being left out in the back yard overnight. And a young dog especially will often become destructive out of anxiety, if separated from her owners for too long. Add in the now constant worry of your puppy being stolen by some utterly, contemptible bastard for her monetary value. Especially if she’s a pure-breed, and not the monstrous offspring of a tryst between an Old English Sheep Dog and a Bichon Frise. So if you want to go out for more than a couple of hours a doggy-sitter needs to be found. Well that’s considerably easier said than done. Especially if your bundle of hyper activity has gone past the adorable puppy phase.

But worst of all is the horror of what we here in the sprawling, towering one story edifice of Rumination Towers call, Poop-Patrol. A Beagle is not a particularly large dog, but apparently nature forgot to tell their bowels that. So instead of small, easily dealt with piles of poop, in keeping with their breeds modest size, Winter drops the sort of loads a Great Dane would be distinctly, even smugly proud of. So it often falls to your heroic blogger, Amanda Harper, to go forth, armed with little more than a short rake, a short shovel and a hazardous materials suit, to do battle with the immense mounds of dog crap which litter our back garden, after her average ten craps a day.

So by now, if you’re not a fellow dog owner/mammy, you’re wondering why anyone in possession of any sort of sanity would choose to have one. Well put simply, because there’s nothing better in life than to be the owner of a loving dog. Yes there are sacrifices attached to owning a dog. They are demanding animals, who by their nature need their pack; their owner and her/his family, around them to feel secure and happy. But in return they give absolutely unconditional love and adoration. After all the difference between dogs and cats can often be summed up by the fact that an abused dog will usually stay with their owner come hell and high water. While a cat will often simply wander off and find somewhere more to in keeping with its own tastes.

We got Winter because I am often housebound for days, even weeks on end and I needed some company when that happened. Also because we both missed having a dog around us, after all once a dog owner, always a dog owner. Frankly despite the poop, the vomit, the pee soaking into and destroying my only pair of jeans, getting her was the best decision we ever made together. You see you’re never lonely with a dog, you’re never bored, you’re never unloved, you’re always needed, you will always be the center of someone’s universe. When you have a dog you’ll never go without affection, and because they give so much to you, you’ll always push yourself that little bit harder to do what’s needed for them. And that for a young woman with a chronic illness means a healthier, happier and more enjoyable life.

Put simply for all the difficulties, and the problems.  For all that they live considerably shorter lives than us.  Being a dog owner is simply wonderful.

So should you get a dog? That depends on whether you have the space, the time, the energy and most of all the dedication to do what it takes to keep them safe, well fed and healthy, both emotionally and physically. If the answer is, yes, you almost certainly won’t regret it. If the answer is, no, then don’t be selfish. Let someone who can be the owner that dog deserves have their chance instead.

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