Flash Frame of Vic & Bob

One of the surprising events of the week: going to Kenwood Mall on a whim early Friday evening to find it absolutely packed. If you’ve been wondering just who has been going to see Avatar 2, I’m placing bets on these people. Odd scenes of nostalgia and confusion: a packed shopping mall. In 2023.

I haven’t been feeling all that well this weekend, so pretty much all I have been able to do is watch old Top Of The Pops videos like this and this and get lost in the hauntology of a time that never quite existed (but how can you not love a performance where the front row have all made their own Noddy hats?). Oh, and Lovejoy. Because you have to, don’t you?1

Also, I realized on Friday that I haven’t crossed the border back into Kentucky since I got home the airport in December. Which is really quite odd. Normally, I’ll go to the big Kroger in Newport at least once a fortnight, but all of this month, I have had plans to, only to get up in the morning and think “but what if you just go to the little Kroger just around the corner, eh?” I don’t think I have actually left Colerain in my own car this month at all. Which…might not be great.

Next week: hopefully something a little more interesting instead…

  1. I realize this is mainly just me… ↩︎

Putting The Letters In

Definitely a quiet month so far. But, the lettering work for The Next Stop is Lewknor Turn has begun, so if all goes well it should be out towards the end of February. I finally worked out the idea for the cover, which will of course involve a couple of new fonts. I’m also toying with the idea of making a variant cover with Stable Diffusion and some photos I took in December. The idea would be that when you click on the download link, there’ll be a chance you’ll get a CBZ with the variant instead of the normal cover. That essential 90s comics experience!

(trying to work out the actual page flow when you’re actually only producing a digital copy, but you still have to make it work as if it was printed due to how digital comics readers work is also proving to be a fun exercise!)

I guess the other big thing of the week was my last third-party Twitter client, Twitterrific (macOS) having its API key revoked by Space Karen. After almost a decade and a half of using non-Twitter clients to access the service…wow, it’s pretty user-hostile over on the actual website, isn’t it? I’ve gone from reading 1000s of tweets in a day to perhaps a hundred or so. Which is likely better for me. I just wish a few more groups would migrate over to Mastodon; it would be funny if what Musk ends up doing is bringing his mooted ‘open, accessible timeline’…but by other people who leave him to all those big debt repayments…

Quiet. Too Quiet?

A long weekend, but without much to say. Except, maybe, that The Guardians (1971) seems to have aged better than Wild Palms (1993)?

A Pacojet By Any Other Name

As many of you know, I have a considerable amount of pastry-related equipment in this house. Some might say more than you’d find in many a high-end restaurant, but I couldn’t possibly comment. But, despite things like the tempered, the melangeur, and enough molds to start a chocolate factory, there has always been a white whale that I could never justify: the Pacojet.

Now, the Pacojet (which I believe makes a starring appearance in The Menu) is a fancy, fancy way of making ice cream. You basically freeze an ice cream base to -20°C and the Pacojet spins a blade at around 2,000 RPM inside the base, making a creamy, silky ice cream in seconds. You’ll find it as a mainstay in most three star Michelin restaurants. The only slight catch is that it costs around $5,000. So, more than just a little pricey. You can’t really justify paying the cost of two fridges just for making ice cream.

But then, just before Christmas, I learnt two things that I hadn’t been expecting: the original Pacojet patents expired a couple of years ago, and over a year previously, Ninja released something called the Creami1. This is essentially a Pacojet. That costs under $2002. Needless to say, I had one ordered even as I was on my way to the airport.

Now, given that it’s about 25 times cheaper than a Pacojet, there are some economies; mainly that instead of the almost indestructible metal canisters, the Creami uses plastic, and it doesn’t quite have the same oomph as today’s Pacojet models. But all that really means is that you may have to spin the base twice instead of once…and you know, I think I can live with that.

And this weekend, I finally tried it out! I made an ice-cream base using Eddie Shepherd’s caramelized white chocolate recipe (I had a bunch of chocolate left over from Thanksgiving that I needed to use anyhow!), stuck the mixture in the freezer for 24 hours and then…made ice-cream in three minutes flat.

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All hail our new knock-off Pacojet gods!

  1. Yes, I know, it’s an absolutely terrible name, but I am willing to forgive them just this once. ↩︎

  2. You can often find it at Costco or Sam’s Club for $130, which is quite amazing. ↩︎

2023 And All That

Well hello there, 2023. Wait, you mean I have to go to work again next week? Starting as we mean to go on, I guess…

Anyway, you can expect more of the usual in 2023; short entries most of the time and then suddenly a long rant about architectural trends in London. I know that’s the content you all crave.

I didn’t quite get into Stable Diffusion as much as I wanted to over the holidays, but I did create a few different Dreambooth fine-tuned models on everything from Christmas toys in our house to a combination of Bagpuss/The Clangers, creating a model with a lovely Postgate feel:

Stable Diffusion

Stable Diffusion

Definitely more to come in 2023 as I play around with coherency and a few other things…I’d really like to be able to move around in a scene, which is somewhat hard to do right now.

Oh, if you want, you can go off and see all the books I read in 2022. I am going to try and keep a 2023 page continuously updated this year rather than scramble for ISBNs at the end of December. But maybe I won’t read that many books to make it worthwhile…

All This And Winter Of Discontent 2

I’m relatively sure that my memories are jumbled to the point where the visits didn’t all happen at Christmas, but I remember being small, somewhere between eight and eleven, and some of my parents’ friends visiting. Not exactly exciting in and itself, but these friends had left Britain for far-off lands; Nigeria, South Africa1. And again, my memory is probably faulty and skipping over things, but I remember conversations about how Britain was broken and the only cure was to let the Tories do more. Which my parents would naturally counter and argue back on how they were wrong, at least about the latter part. I always thought it was weird. After all, I would go to the shops every week, CBBC always had great programmes on, Radio 1 was likely playing Fleetwood Mac2.

Our house was (and still is!) in a late 1970s and early 1980s housing estate; before the big Barrett Boom of the mid-80s onwards, meaning that we had big patches of greenery all over the place. A large field capable of supporting a non-regulation football match, a basketball court and a set of swings where all the teenagers would hang out late into the night (augmented by an insane zip line in my absence, though in recent years the council has discovered it doesn’t actually own the field, which is a slight problem…). A patch of land by the side of our street filled with four massive trees which were seemingly custom grown for hideouts and climbing. We imaginatively called “The Trees”. At the other end of the affair, a large, multi-street linear strip of grass and woods separated the far edge of the estate from the main road beyond, a thick tree line forming a barrier. Places to explore on your BMX bikes.

As we came home from the airport this year, twisting through the new roads that simply didn’t exist when I was little, through the new 2010-20 estate of £600,000 houses that are shabbily terraced together and already look like they’re falling apart, we turned across the Middleton Stoney road and I saw something that I had never ever seen before.

Tents. In the tree line. -8ºC outside and tents in the tree line.

It’s a country I obviously recognize. It hasn’t descended into some V For Vendetta otherworld. But it just all seems completely and utterly broken. Ambulances queued ten deep outside A&E for hours with sick patients inside but there’s no room for them inside, cracked shop fronts, and queues at the pharmacy that spill out of the building.

I went to London for the first time since 2019. There were things to see, and I desperately wanted one of those chorizo sandwiches again.

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There’s not much left of Robin Hood Gardens now; just a few pieces remaining, jealously guarded by hi-vis jackets to prevent anybody thinking of using them in the cold winter weather. And, I’m sorry, but you can be as tradarch as you like, but the Station Square buildings above made me so angry that morning, to the point where I was muttering loudly into my mask and flicking Vs at the Blackwall Reach showroom. Say what you will about RHG, but it had a purpose, it had intent, it was made specifically for that area, and its form was unique. And now large sections are gone and replaced with what? Buildings that have not one single spark of wit or imagination in them; “An exclusive collection of 242 spacious and dynamic apartments. A haven for those looking to indulge in the London Lifestyle.” A lifeless cube that impressively manages to be worse than all the traditional arguments against Brutalism. So if you saw a muttering man acting like Alec Guinness at the start of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy on the DLR that morning, it was probably me.

I fled to the Barbican. Because where else would you go? Kids having snowball fights in the streets in the sky, the towers looking amazing covered in snow and frost, the Centre bustling with a Christmas staff function and revelling in its community. This is what we could have had. With money, with care, with a will to make it work. A straight run from Beau Brummell to Bauhaus.

But this is what we have. Battersea Power Station. One of the most striking buildings in London, an Art Deco masterpiece that projected power across the city. You could have done so much with this piece of London’s history. But instead, it has been enclosed and turned into a big box for upscale retail. Once it supplied the city, now it has Rolex and Genesis showrooms to extract money from tourists. Alongside the redevelopment, Gehry’s Prospect Place sits uneasily, out of place next to the monument of industrial power, while looking hungrily at the 1950s housing estate and pub across the road. If you saw a masked man leaving the station loudly saying “This is perhaps the worst thing I have seen in years” before angrily stomping to the tube just before Christmas, well, that was probably me too.

But let’s finish London on a positive note. The Elizabeth Line really does live up to the hype; it is a breathtaking public works project that you just don’t believe can happen anymore.3 But here it is, and it works. While the modern Jubilee Line stations are a lovely blend of PoMo and High-Tech with their enclosed metal corridors that make you feel like you’re walking through a TARDIS that crashed into the centre of London4, the Elizabeth Line stations are monumental, playful, and brutalist. The sublime is embraced with massive curved concrete ceilings, everything is vast, clean, and accessible. Escalators run at a seemingly impossible gradient, and damn, it’s just amazing. If the Astoria had to go, better that it was torn down to make this possible rather than its likely fate of being turned into Zone 1 luxury flats.

And I know it’s fairly tempting to respond with “yeah, but America sucks too!” But I am not disagreeing with that! It’s not like you’ll find me writing an ode to the US health system any time soon. But you have to understand that Britain is not doing well:

At least the strikes seem to be popular, with BBC interviews of the nurses’ strikes often being drowned out by people beeping their car horns in support of the picket lines. But then you also get people that you don’t expect pushing DeSantis’s Florida and referencing a ivermectin-pushing YouTube crank. Or the suggestion that privatising more of the NHS would help.

Back home again now. It took me a solid day to get used to my house again, and the post office brought me free COVID tests and all my post after the free hold service ended. Just imagine, a post office owned by the state which can do things like replacing large chunks of its fleet with electric vehicles. All done in the country of High Capitalism.

  1. Standard Spitting Image reference goes here. ↩︎

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6VBE1oboK8 Naturally. ↩︎

  3. It’s probably telling that it was set into motion by the last Labour Government. ↩︎

  4. I highly recommend Southwark and Westminster stations… ↩︎

A Horse. Of Course

Great Big Groovy Horse!

(Happy Christmas!)

Back Home Again

Thoughts on London when I can bring them together.

Stable Diffusion bits when I can get it all working (oh, for a A6000 workstation). Hopefully a few fun things during the Christmas fortnight.

Otherwise, keep enjoying the holiday!

Jeff Astle Sings Back Home

My first and likely only trans-Atlantic trip in business class was basically one of those 60s or 70s dramas where the working class boy goes up to Oxford and is confronted with High Table for the first time. What is all this cutlery? Why are we wearing gowns? How come everybody else knows where everything is in this little pod, yet I’m making loud noises as I pull things and think I’ve broken them in a Bob Mortimer-on-Taskmaster way? And then the flight attendant accidentally spilt half a can of Diet Coke on me…which set up an uncomfortable relationship for the rest of the flight: me not wanting to cause any trouble and being overly thankful and reluctant to ask for anything, and her trying to make up for coating me in fizzy liquid. Reader, my blanket was soaked, but I let it dry rather than ask for a new one.

Honestly, being in the back of the plane going home is going to be less stressful. Will I sleep? No, but it turns out attempting to sleep on your front is business class isn’t actually all that comfortable either. So roll on the tighter fit for the return journey home!

But anyway, I am back home in Bicester again. Everything is frosty, cold, and small.

Two more days of work left for the year, two days upcoming in London, and then…FESTIVENESS!

Hello, Mr. December

It’s been three years, but we finally played Blood On The Clocktower again! But, instead of a convention floor, in our own home and run by Tammy (who has retired from active play after her career-high performance of being hissed at on the SHUX convention floor). A good night was had by all, even if Evil carried the night both times!

Packing continues — this time next week, I’ll be back in the UK for a couple of weeks (mostly Bicester as normal, but with a side-jaunt to London, providing I can use the Oxford Tube to sidestep the rail strikes that week). It’ll be the first Christmas there for three years! Expect a few fun things here in the lead up to Christmas (and yes, you can safely assume that they’ll be Stable Diffusion-related).