Monday, October 31, 2022

Asaf Hanuka broke my heart

Sometimes comics really can break your heart, but in the best possible way.

I've always a had a soft spot for slight autobiographical comics, and was happy to check out one of Asaf Hanuka's collections of his diary comics from the local library. They're full of absolutely delightful art - delicately detailed, with just the merest hint of caricature around the edges, but perfectly composed. Short stories with a strong worldview on the absurdities of modern life.

My life is so far away from Tel Aviv, where Hanuka lives and works, but even though some things are so universally human, I still didn't expect to have my heart utterly shattered by one of his one-page wonders.

I can't say which one it was, because that's too much information even for an embarrassingly open forum like this blog, but it was so specific to an experience I've just been through, and articulated in a such an exact way that it just broke me in half. 

It came with a last panel that was so absolutely perfect that even thinking about it now brings me to tears, and it's made such an impression that I know I'm likely to be thinking about it and going over it in my head for the rest of my life.

It's not a bad thing, reacting like this to a dumb little comic. Sometimes it can be so hard to find a way to articulate how you feel about things, especially the big stuff, and sometimes the right emotions can  be found in something as ephemeral as a comic strip, or a song, or a scene in your favourite movie. Opening up feelings bottled inside.

The best comic strips ever created - the Peanuts and the Calvin and Hobbes of the world - hit upon all sorts of universal feelings, but you can still find greatness in the tiniest and most personal comics.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Friday, October 28, 2022

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Monday, October 24, 2022

Please stand by.......

After more than two and a half years, our household has finally been hit by the Covid. So thanks to all the anti-vaxxer scum and all the dipshits who found it so fucking hard to wear a tiny piece of cloth over their face-holes - even though I've been taking as many precautions as possible, mainly because the line from The Stand about somebody paying for a burger with a $5 bill that was 'crawling with death' since I was 12 - you got us in the end.

(Also, a good friend of mine is probably going to lose his father soon after the virus triggered a terrible stroke, so I can only hope that all the fuckheads who downplayed, ignored or otherwise actively spread the virus over the past two years have one tiny moment of self-reflection in the future and realise what astronomical monsters they are. But since they are literally the stupidest motherfuckers on the planet, I don't have much hope for that.)

Anyway, while we're suffering relatively mild symptoms, it has still knocked us on our fuckin' arse, so there will be no new content at the Tearoom of Despair for the next week. Normal service should resume next week.

And just wear a fucking mask, you fucking cunts. It ain't that hard.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #17

The point of these things is that they really did help on some shitty days. On days on where things were going particularly bad, it was nice to escape into a fictional world where anything could happen, even if it was just ended up being a lot of aimless driving about, masses of pointless violence and far too much irony and pop culture references.

I pretty much stopped doing them when I went to journalism school when I was 29, and got myself a life, but then I started up this blog, which still does the same thing, every day. 

It really does help.

    Taking it to the limit and pushing one-forty as he takes the corner, Dr. Skin’s smile grows improbably wide as he licks his lips and considers changing out of second. The engine squeals like a stuck pig as he floors it again, just getting the fucking thing under control as it threatens to slip out from underneath him.

     Granting mercy like a goddamn Buddha, Skin takes it up a notch, slipping into third, fourth, fifth in rapid succession, each millisecond gear change giving the sentient engine of the Car With No Name unparalleled relief, like the last aspirin on a Sunday morning.

     No need for acceleration anyway, thinks Skin as he eases off a little. He’d gotten bored with the police cars on his tail. They’ve been following for the last hundred clicks, but no threat. It’s been almost comical, like some kind of retarded escort, the cops forgetting that they were supposed to be leading the way. But Skin had grown weary of their aesthetically criminal flashing lights and intrusive sirens. Now, with acres of dust between him and his captors, Skin eases off and thinks about music.

     Jumping on a bandwagon that didn’t exist, he’s replaced 90% of his brain with the most fashionable wetware on the planet. The computer in his head is prone to the occasional crash and burn, but it’s worth it. Now he can access his entire musical knowledge with the flick of an eyebrow.

    Desperate for some music with an antipodean sense of humour and isolation, from around the turn of the century, Skin sends his preferences directly into the car stereo, its telepathically sensitive heart listening and responding with all due professionalism. The display on the dash confirms his choices, even as the first guitar riff kicks in.

     Katherine looks up from her drunken stupor, his brow furrowing as she reads the display. “What the hell is all this?”

     “Home town music,” replies Skin, taking his eyes off the road for a little longer than necessary. “Big, dirty amplified angst.”

     Her vodka-dried lips moving slightly as she reads the songs, immortalized in LCD, she turns to him when she’s done. “Where are you from, anyway? I don’t think you ever told me before.”
     “Really? How extraordinary.” 


ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #17


     Driving in the city, rain slick roads underneath harsh, antiseptic lights. Neon reflected in liquid, the smell of cold water on hot concrete, steam everywhere.

     Car slowed to a crawl, Skin can’t help softly humming the theme to ‘Taxi Driver’. It’s not 1975 New York outside the car, but its pretty close. Pools of scum and villainy in an archetypal location. If he had a better sense of humour, Skin might have laughed.

     “It’s good to talk,” mumbles Katherine, waking up again. She’s about to utter something extraordinarily witty when nausea overwhelms her and she’s forced to desperately lunge out the window, lean over the side, be sick and make sure she doesn’t get any on the paint work. Her filth joins other disreputable fluids on the street, washed away in a river of mucus and blood.

     “You okay?” asks Skin, a veritable fountain of compassion. His companion looks at him, her lower lip jutting out in misery, and Skin has to resist the urge to pull over there and then and have his way with her. She’s changed her appearance along with the name, and it doesn’t half give him the horn. She’s now got a vaguely Irish accent, along with a strong chin, wild blonde hair, thick lips and astoundingly blue eyes. But, despite all her alterations, one thing has remained constant. She still has an arse worth dying for.

     “I want to be a professional wrestler,” moans Katherine as she settles back into the seat. She reaches for the bottle of Stoli, but its long drained dry, and she hurls it out the open window. She doesn’t intend it to, but the bottle bounces off the head of a poor blind boy, setting in motion a chain of events too improbable to go into here. 

     She looks out the back window as the lad clutches the side of his head and swears in ancient Arabic, but it doesn’t really hold her attention and she turns around, looks ahead and tries to figure out where they’re going. Dr Skin doesn’t pay any attention, his full concentration fixed on driving this pig of a vehicle. Silent, dark houses slide by in the night as they cruise through suburbia, testaments to the stifling nature of 21st century life. Strange words boil to the surface of Skin’s brain as he drives, and he almost feels a poem coming on.

     Luckily, any such aspirations are swiftly deleted from his cortex when the fax machine between the seats sparks into life. Skin had replaced the handbrake with the device after coming to the conclusion that he’d never have any reason to brake, but this is the first time its been used. The technology has been swiftly replaced by more digital methods, but Skin had decided to keep the machine anyway as a symbol of the swift current of the new.

     Katherine frowns and reached for the paper that the machine spits out, large letters spelling out a strange doctrine in a superb font. Her frown grows as she reads what it has to say.

     “Well?” asks skin as the heavens open up again, drenching the car, road and everything in black rain. “What is it?”

     “It’s from God,” replies Katherine. ‘Apparently he’s decided to revise the Ten Commandments, because he’s sent the new ones to us.”

     “Really?’ says Skin, his eyebrow arching in his own unique manner. “What are they?”

     “Oh no you don’t,” spits Katherine, scrunching the paper up and holding it to her ample chest. “I’m not about to reveal a new design for life without more booze. I demand more alcohol!”

     Skin gestures towards the back seat. “There's a bottle of Pepe Lopez in my bag there. Will that do?”

     ‘Fuck yeah!” swears Katherine with girlish enthusiasm. She lunges over and seizes Skin’s case, tearing into it and pulling out the bottle of tequila, which now has a life expectancy of a 1970s Marvel Editor in Chief. She’s shaking so much, she can barely get the cap off, but she manages all the same.

     Katherine downs it straight, and offers it to her lifelong companion. “One for the road?”

     “If you drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot,” intones Skin, remembering an advertising campaign from his youth. “But I never made any claim towards intelligence.”

     He takes the bottle and drinks half of it in one gulp, the liquid searing his throat, waking him up and slowing his reaction time in one fell swoop. “Holy fuck!” he blurts out. “That’s some good shit!”

     “Gimme!” says Katherine, snatching the bottle back and draining the remainder.

     Skin turns down the next right, gunning the engine as they leave the city behind, heading for the country. The silent homes are replaced by endless, empty fields, but Skin feels slightly more at ease. “Well?” he asks as he runs over a rabbit. The animal shrieks its last as its intestines burst out of its arse, roadkill in an instant. ‘What are the new commandments?”

     “Oh yeah, I forgot.” She squints as she re-reads the new commandments. “Lesse. Well, the first nine are just the same phrase repeated over and over: ‘Be nice.’

     Skin grins and nods enthusiastically. “Makes sense to me,” he cries out over the roar of the engine as he pushes it even further. The dark countryside outside the car degenerates into a blur, details lost at this speed. “What’s the tenth?”

     As she replies, Katherine rubs her lips over the rim off the bottle, determined to get the last molecules of liquid for her money. “Well, it says here… Heh.”


     ‘It says: ‘For fucks sake, don’t kill anybody’.”

     “I can live with that,” offers Skin as they approach a dark crossroads. Out of the corner of his eye he can see another vehicle coming in at three o’clock, but he’s got the right of way, and doesn’t slow.

     Katherine nods, refusing to tear her eyes away from the Immaculate Fax. “Words to live by, all right. If only we….”

     She doesn’t get any further as Skin is forced to slam on the brakes to avoid the other car, which tears through the crossroads right in front of him. His drink-addled brain is barely up to the task, and the car skids to a stop in the center of the road. If they hadn’t bothered to fasten they’re their seatbelts, they’d have been fucked.

     “Jesus goddamn motherfuckin’ shit whore of a cunt bastard christ!” swears Skin, offending the sensibilities of decent folk everywhere as he pounds on the steering wheel with sweaty palms. “So much for the new house rules! If you can’t even give way when you’re supposed to, how the hell are you ever gonna be nice?”

     “Good fucking point,” agrees Katherine, pulling out her trusty gold-plated lighter and setting fire to the fax. It burns up unfeasibly fast and its all ashes in her hand in an instant.

     “Holy shit,” says Skin as she brushes the ashes away and reaches for a sensitive hand cream. “You realize what this means, don’t you?”

     “No. What?”

     “Joseph Campbell was fucking right!”

     After his idiotic outburst, Skin lapses back into silence. The engine is still idling, and he thinks about moving again, but there's words on the tip of his mind, and if he doesn’t get them out, he won’t be able to live with himself. “Katherine?”


     “I can’t take it anymore, baby,” he says wearily, his tones heavy with depression. “The only way I can possibly go on is if I push it all further, living faster, higher and darker than ever before. Do you think I should?”

     Katherine nearly chokes on the giggles burning the back of her throat. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

     Skin’s depression lifts instantly and he smiles. “Of course I am.” He hits the accelerator and the car shoots ahead into the darkness. The sheer g-force of the rapidly increasing velocity pushes them further back into their seats as they drive along the highway, destination unwise.

     “Take it to the limit, baby,” says Katherine happily, finally getting in the last word and milking it for all its worth. “Take it to the limit.”


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Trailer park world

Ever since you started being able to download movie trailers on your hard drive, I have always been obsessed with a certain trailer for some movie coming up soon, and I'll watch it dozens of times. It changes all the time and sometimes it's a dumb Star Trek or Star Wars thing, and sometimes it's just some random ass movie that is coming out of nowhere, but there's always something.

It started with The Two Towers one with that Clint Mansell's bitching string piece and it's usually for some big-ass blockbuster, or some moody, stylish thing. Often the film doesn't live up to the cheap thrills of the trailer, but that doesn't matter.

When I'm working late at work, or need something to pick me up on a long day, I can lose myself for a few minutes.

And at the moment it's 100 percent the trailer for the new Mission Impossible.

I bitch about a lot of trailers, but that's because I care so much about them, and think they are some weird art-form in themselves. 

And this one is perfect - the slow build-up as someone tells Ethan how the world really works in sinister tones (half of all MI trailers do this and it's always excellent), the ubiquitous thumping every fucking trailer uses these days giving way to the thud of the incalculably great theme song, and then Cruise is running and it's on, with very attractive people beating the shit out of each other, and fights on a train and the biggest film star in the world putting his life on the line for the perfect shot, like a goddamn trooper for the art of cinema. 

It doesn't come out for month and months, and I will literally watch it dozens and dozens of times before then. It's the instant hit I need, the short thrill ride we all deserve. I'm going to watch it again right now.

Friday, October 21, 2022

There's no copies lying about anymore

New Zealanders used to have more bookshops per head of population that anywhere else in the world, because there was fuck all to do on the arse end of the world, so you might as well read a book.

Those days - and those bookshops - are all long gone now. Fuck, there hasn't been a dedicated bookstore on the main street of the country's biggest city for years and years. It's all on the screen now.

And while there is more access to anything else in human history through those screens, the digital footprint is ephemeral, and I do believe there's less of a chance of stumbling across cool stuff than when it is literally left lying around the place.

That's how I became a reader, from picking up the comics and magazines that were lying around all over the place. Everyone had some kind of reading habit - there were only two channels on the TV, not even video players, so everyone I knew was a reader in some way. There were always books around.

My uncles, who were only in their 20s and 30s at the time, all read something different, from Doctor Who annuals to eerie old horror comics, and I was all over that shit. (Looking back, the horror comics I would find stuffed down the side of my Uncle Sol's sofa probably weren't appropriate reading material a lot of the time - those cheap black and white reprints of cheaper horror comics from somewhere, smothered in thick, thick ink, the blood of the vampire's victim literally staining my youthful fingers.)

We've lost something with the physical object no longer getting passed around. And with everyone Kondo-ing the shit out of their personal space and reducing living rooms to bland hegemony, you're more likely to be suckered in by a dubious algorithm than actually reading an object.

There are always new ways to find the best entertainments in life, and kids today have plenty of choice, but nothing beats the actual thing.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Mysteries of the gauntlet

I did not understand a lot of the Infinity Gauntlet when it showed up on the shelves of Temuka Stationery, one glorious day in 1991. I was 16 and a rabid Marvel Zombie, and I had no fucking idea what was going on in this thing.

There was obviously no internet and I only had access to a tiny handful of Marvel comics, and could only dream of getting my hands on any kind of comic news magazines, so I had nothing to go on. I had to get the execrable Marvel Year in Review magazines just to find out what the Living Laser was getting up to.

I certainly hadn't been keeping up with the Silver Surfer, after a brief dalliance with the Englehart/Rogers stories early in the run. I had no idea what Starlin was up, had never got my hands on a comic with Thanos in them (other than the official handbooks), and only knew about the Thanos Quest comic from a small mention in Marvel's bullpen pages.

But I fell in love with that first issue of the Gauntlet when I saw it. Who cares if I'd never seen Sersi outside of Jack Kirby's comics, her disappearance at the end of the issue, along with half the universe, felt like a big fucking deal. And the moody art from Perez was so full of portents, so full of doom, it instantly became my favourite comic in the whole world.

It took me years I get who all these characters were, I still have no true idea what the outbreak of insanity in the Catskills that Doctor Strange was talking about when he first shows up in the story. I've always thought it was a reference to, I dunno, Rom or some shit, but it must be talking about The Crazies, right?

It might be best to let the mystery be. I know what Sersi was doing at Avengers Mansion now, I can leave some questions unanswered.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Heat 2: Ambushing the ambush

*Spoilers for the new Heat novel by Michael Mann and Meg Gardiner*

When the criminal wants to kill the cop who killed his brother from another mother but won't be able to do it, because the cop is going to kill a fucking degenerate who the brother hated more than anybody else on the planet, and there will be some kind of weird cosmic balance to it all.

And you figure out that this is what is going to go down halfway through the story, but it doesn't matter, because it's all in the execution.

That's when you know you're in Michael Mann's world. So fucking good.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Everyone does Pong (but there is still always a leader)

In the first episode of All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace - Adam Curtis' excellent documentary about the rise of technology and its impact over our lives - it tells the story of a giant video game which was being used to expand on a very Californian ideology, as long as you weren't listening to what was happening in front of your face.

A few decades ago, the most simple video game in the world was projected on a giant screen, and was controlled by the whole room, so everyone had to work together to make the pixelated bats move in a certain way to block the ball.

And the people who ran this experiment seemed ecstatic about the results, saying it was a model of a society with no hierarchy, with everyone making decisions out of mutual gain, all acting as individuals but creating an order that emerges in a subconscious driven by rationality.

Which is all well and fine, but what always gets me is that you only have to watch the clip - or more precisely, listen to it - to discover that they're all totally full of shit, man.

You can see it 10 minutes into the episode above, and while the experimenters make it sound like some kind of almost mystical connection through the crowd, you can also clearly hear several people yelling their asses off, and telling everyone else which way to go.

And while they might think they're saying something about individualism and how utopian theories about technology can work, it's always the loudest fuckers who tell everyone else what to do.

Curtis' essay films are ridiculously entertaining, fun and thoughtful - there was a new one out last week! - and I've watched many of them multiple times. And my favourite bits are always these parts, where people who feel they have stumbled across some great secret or truth can't see the obvious in front of them, no matter how loud some people are yelling.

Monday, October 17, 2022

2000ad on the shelves: Still waiting on my stories from the future

Back in the 80s, during the golden age of 2000ad, we were six months behind on the galaxy's greatest comic. It took so long because they were shipped across the seas to the other end of the planet, and that's just how long it took. We would get them with cover dates that were half a year old, and the idea of reading a 2000ad in the week it was published was mind-blowing. 

There was nothing you could do about it, but you can not imagine the adolescent angst I had knowing there were adventures of Johnny Alpha and Judge Dredd out there in the world that I just could not read yet. You want to learn some zen patience, you wait for some goddamn Glenn Fabry Slaine to drop at the local bookshop.

Fortunately, there was no internet back in those days, so you didn't have to worry about spoilers. I could find out how Dredd was going to survive City of the Damned without someone bitching about how Wagner and Grant obviously lost interest, and did you see what they did to Dredd's eyes? Each prog was new and exciting, like it had just rolled off the printing press on the other side of the planet.

And now in the world of 2022, things have changed a lot, and I can get my American thrills the same day they show up on the shelves in the US. And now I'm only five months behind on the 2000ads.

Things did get better for regular 2000ad thrills for a long time - it was a mere 10-week delay for many years, but then Covid fucked up the entire global supply chain, and while there are undoubtedly more worthy cargo - shit like food and medicine, I suppose - a weekly dose of thrillpower is also essential. 

In the grim global uncertainty of 2020, it didn't show up for weeks and weeks, and when it did, there were several issues missing, and then it kept dropping back further and further until that six-month buffer was there.

And that's how I read the galaxy's greatest comic right now. The Citadel only just wrapped up, and the big zombie blow-out crossover thing is still months away. And yet, even with the world as connected as it is, it's surprisingly easy to avoid the spoilers, with the weekly prog now in the 2300s, there are only a few brave and hardy souls trying to find new things to say about it.

(And yes, of course I fucking know I could get it in digital at the same time as the rest of the world, but that will destroy the experience of giving money to the nice bloke behind the counter and reading it on the street while walking back from the newsagents, which is my lifetime-standard method of ingestion of thrillpower. I ain't fucking that up now.)

According to my direct study of 2000ads on the shelves, some kind of blockage in the global supply is starting to ease, with to or three a week showing up sometimes in the past couple of months. So I'm slowly catching up to the future, one week at a time.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #16

The last few of these things were written long after I stopped contributing to the Never-Ending Board at, but I honestly can't remember if I ever actually posted them anywhere. There's still a couple more after this one, because evidently I still got off on writing fan fiction, but this might be the first time they've ever been published anywhere...

I still miss you, Hatman.

    "I wish I was a bullet," whispers Dr. Skin, lying in a pool of his own vomit, encrusted on the steps of the staircase he's collapsed upon, the smell oddly tantalizing. "Given a purpose, given a goal, I think I could accomplish anything."

     He's not sure if anybody's listening, and he's beyond caring. He can't remember how he got into this situation, but that's hardly surprising. He's shut off inordinate sections of his past, locked up beneath trivia and pop-culture, unreachable by any mortal means.

     He wants to cry, he wants to laugh, but it's all too much effort. He settles for inertia, and counts his blessings. What else can he do?

     "Wake up and smell the roses," whispers a soothing female voice in his ear. It sounds so familiar, but he can't place it. It reminds him of tall hills, of cool winds on a hot summer day, but he still doesn't recognize it.

     "W-what?" he manages, eloquence at its peak.

     "Listen," continues the voice. 'You've taken a drug called Krono. In it's current form it annihilates all the time lines, and you're given access to all sorts of possibilities. Anything is possible, and it's all real. But you've got to fight through that shit, transcend it. You've got to pull yourself together."

     "No!" groans Skin, falling back inside himself. It's almost a physical sensation as all individuality and personality flees for warmer climates. He feels like he's falling. But more importantly, he feels like he's free.

     Just another Saturday night.

Wrong, Professor! Dead Wrong!

ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #16

All Of This Is Mine

     "I feel so fat and uncool", whispers Skin in his misery. He hasn't opened his eyes yet, and he's in no hurry. He know he'll only regret it.

     "Open your eyes, scum," hisses a voice in his ear. It's harsh and authoritarian, but he can't help obeying.

     Eyes open and the first thing he sees is the hundred foot drop beneath him. His legs dangle lazily, swinging in the wind. He feels no fear, and faces the man holding him up with obvious strength. Skin's brow furrows in confusion as he tries to see the other man's eyes, but they're hidden in the dark shadow of a fedora brim.

     "What is all this about?"

     "Shut up. You know perfectly well what you did. You shouldn't have come here, punk. This is my place."

     Skin tries very, very hard not to smile, but it's no fucking use. His lips spread in a wide grin as he replies. "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

     The stranger pulls Skin in close and whispers in his ear. "I'm Hatman."

     Dr. Skin turns to somebody who isn't really there and scoffs. "Hang on. This isn't the way things are supposed to be."

     Too fucking right!

World Famous On J Street

     Skin kneels, head bowed in silent prayer to Gods who don't have anything better to do. His sword rests by his side, always in reach, always in readiness. He waits for the Buddha to come through the door. He waits for the inevitable fatality. He waits for his own personal revelation.

     He won't get it.

Faster, Faster, Kill, Kill!

     Cradling the baby in his arms, Dr Skin wraps his coat around the innocent, steps back and takes a deep breath. The building is falling apart around him, fire eating at its foundations, flames destroying its interior. He chokes on the thick black smoke and briefly considers that taking a deep breath wasn't such a good idea after all.

     He can't dwell on the situation, and starts running towards the window. Behind him, a fireball explodes down the corridor, the heat of the inferno vaporizing the hairs on the back of his neck. He'll lose all intuition with this, but that's the least of his problems.

     Three steps away from the window, he flips over, hitting the glass with his back, shattering it as he carries through with his somersault, the cold air of the outside world hitting like a cement truck with a blind alcoholic at the wheel.

     He breathes in gratefully and considers the next step. He'd been on the seventh floor of the apartment building and he's got less than three seconds to come up with a plan before he hits the cold pavement below, shattering his skull and turning the crying baby in his arms into innocent raspberry jam.

     The jam reference seems familiar to him, and he wonders why he's suddenly thinking of nuns. He quickly gets over it and considers his options. Two seconds.

     He looks below and sees a dozen ways to survive the experience, deciding on the one that will make me look coolest.

     One second.

     All the time in the world.

Thank Fuck For Superman

     Each transition comes with consummate ease, washing away the memory of the previous experience in an instant. It doesn't matter. Nothing really matters.

Silver Angels

     Standing on a staircase that stretches into infinity, Skin can't help but see the resemblance to the one in 'A Matter Of Life And Death'. He turns around, expecting to see David Niven below him, but there's nobody there.

     Suddenly it feels like his head's about to explode, a sharp migraine instantly cutting his thoughts in two. He staggers back and a fist with filthy fingernails flies out of nowhere and smashes into the side of his skull, intensifying the pain in his skull at an exponential rate.

     His knees suddenly feel like they're full of marmalade, and he falls, tasting the acrid bite of the stairs as his face slides down a couple of steps. He wants to be sick, but there's nothing in his stomach and he retches dryly, the heaving noises adding to his discomfort, the strain cooking his brain.

     "Look at me," says somebody above him, but he can't raise his head. He can't move at all, and a boot connects with his torso, spinning him over.

     Lying on his back, misery personified, Skin looks up at his nemesis. He is disappointingly dirty, with old flesh wounds that never healed properly scarring him for life. He stinks of piss, sweat and leather, and his clothes look like they haven't been cleaned since the Triassic age.

    Skin spits, splutters and manages to get a few words out. "Do I know you?"

    The other man sneers, exposing hideous teeth and ruined gums. "You should. I'm one of the dozens of rejects from the unknown fourth Mad Max film. You killed me."

    Deja vu washes over Skin. This is all terribly familiar, but he can't quite place it. The Unknown Reject isn't impressed, and raises a gun, pointing it directly at Skin's head.

    "Fuck you."

     In his state, Skin is trapped and escape seems impossible. But then he remembers everything, remembers what's really going on, and a retreat appears in his mind like a flower. Just as the trigger is pulled, Skin slips into the space between words and…

You Know You Want To

     He suddenly picks up the keyboard and rips the cord out of the back. Taking it in both hands, he smashes it down on the desk, shattering it into a thousand pieces. The keys are rudely ejected from their designated perch and fall to the floor, each piece coming to rest face up and combing to form words that look like spastic scrabble attempts.

     He's not done and reaches for the monitor. He grabs it, raises it high over his head and throws it out the nearest window. It remains intact as it shatters the glass, but the two story drop onto concrete does it in, splintering the expensive piece of hardware into worthless shards of plastic and metal.

     The mouse never did anything to him, so he leaves it alone and moves onto the box, the source of all evil. The brain of the computer hums along merrily, unaware of its imminent doom. The brief burst of activity has weakened him, and he can't be bothered getting creative with this destruction. He settles for the comfort of a good kick, booting the machinery as hard as he can and watching it fall apart with each successive strike.

     Breathing heavily, he falls back into his chair, reached inside a pocket for a lighter and a pack of cigarettes. Lighting one, he inhales deeply. "Ah," smiles Dr. Skin. "That's better."

Never Ending Apathy

     Thrust. Parry. Duck.

     "God knows, I'm not the first person to lose interest."

     Flip. Jump. Scream.

Bullshit Lubricant

     As he picks up his cards, Skin screams on the inside. He's got exactly what he needed, and now he's got these fuckers exactly where he wants them.

     "I'll raise you ten," he says smoothly. The preacher opposite him eyes him carefully, looking for any cracks in the façade, but Skin tunes him out, sucking on his mantra for all its worth. It's deceptively simple, stolen wholesale from 'Run Lola, Run', but it'll do.

     Bob, the player on his right, frowns in concentration as he stares at his cards. He's been drinking steadily for hours, and is barely conscious as he throws in his money, matching Skin's demand.

     The preacher, who introduced himself as Walker, throws his cards down. "Well, I guess I'm out," he says with a sigh, turning to the final player. "How about you, Doc?"

     Skin looks at this last man, but can't make out his features. His eyes stand out, impressively old and impossibly blue, snaring their fair share of the observer's attention.

     "I'll see that," he mutters, his voice sounding like an ancient wind. He turns to Skin, and recognition finally flares.

     "Bloody hell," whispers Skin. "You're the Doctor."

     The Doctor smiles, illuminating the room with his pleasure. "Why, yes I am. But so are you."

     "What are you doing here?" asks Skin, suddenly feeling like there's nobody else in the room. "This isn't your story."

     "No," replies the Doctor. "This is your story. But it's become tainted. Do you understand?"

     Skin feels like a little kid, and answers accordingly. "No."

     "Excuse me?" interrupts Walker. "Are we still playing a game here?"

     Skin looks at him, his expression haunted, his demeanor resigned. "I don't know anymore."

     Do YOU understand?

Home Again

     And just like that, he comes out of it. One minute he's trapped in the infinite sea of possibility, the next he's totally aware of his situation. Kristine cradles him in her arms. That's all that really matters.

     "Is it over?" he croaks, his mouth dry and filled with a nasty, lingering taste. "Am I back to normal?"

     "You're never normal," she whispers back, her tone subtly tuned toward recuperation, the vibrations of her voice duplicating the purr of a contented cat perfectly. "But this is as good as it gets. How do you feel?"

     Skin ponders before answering. "Good. I just…. I just didn't think it would end like this."

     "Nothing ever ends."

     Doctor Skin knows what she means. He's heard it often enough and after so many repetitions, it's bound to sink in.

     "Making it up as you go along is all well and good," muses Skin, "but everything had a point. Everything could be explained, if only somebody bothered to ask. The last line was nicked from 'Performance', for God's sake. Even the bits in between mean something."

     "Can you stand?" asks Kristine, ignoring this last comment for the forth-wall bullshit it is. "I'd like to go now. Can you get up on your feet."

     "Of course I can," smiles Skin, finishing off the only way he knows how. "I can do anything if I put my mind to it. I am the epitome of willpower. I am direction, I am power, I am the end. I am the bullet."


Saturday, October 15, 2022

The beautiful freaks of The Lost Boys

Sure, everybody remembers the sax guy from the The Lost Boys, but the cinéma vérité shots of all the random Californian weirdos in the 1980s that play out over the opening credits has some kind of poetry about them. Look at these gorgeous freaks, most of whom probably aren't vampires.

For an ex-hairdresser, Joel Schumacher sure could shoot the shit out of the human face.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Jeremiah was a bullfrog!

I swear, the way David All Grier kicks into Joy To The World at the end of his Don 'No Soul' Simmons advert in Amazon Women On The Moon is one of the absolute high points of any comedy anywhere. He just really gets into it. 

The look on his face as he tackles the slightly tricky start, then smashing into the main part of the song - just absolute genius.

The whole sketch is stil funny as fuck, but Don's attempts to get down and funky should be taught in all  schools everywhere as an example of everything that should be done in comedy.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

What happened to Artie Tito?!?

The first Star Wars came out when I was two years old, so it was always there, always a part of my world. And while I am determined that my kids will find their own weird obsessions to wrap their tiny heads around, they're bound to fall for some of the same things that entranced my young brain, with all the shit I've got lying around the place.

Right now, the three year old is all about R2-D2. She got hold of a little Artoo toy that makes all the good beeps and she thinks it is just the bee's knees. She was also exposed to a BB-8, but didn't give a good goddamn about that one - there's just something about the bright blue and reliable, solid and dependable dustbin shape of the original droid that still resonates with young kids.

So she's all about the Artie Tito and was keen for more and we had the first movie on, because that has the most Artoo action - shuffling the droid off to the sidelines in the most recent movies was just mean.

And while most of the movie was unable to keep her attention away from other important things like unicorn dolls and jigsaws dinosaur toys, Star Wars has still got it, because she lost her shit with excitement when the Jawas ambushed the droid. 

After swift reassurances that the little guy was okay and just having a robot sleep, we had to go back and watch the scene a few more times, with primal thrills in the slow build-up, and sudden attack. 

The world of Star Wars can seem like a miserable place in many places of the internet, but if it can still stir up new and exciting emotions in a little kid's heart like that, it can't be all bad.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Stick it to them, George

The next book in the Song and Ice and Fire might still be some time away, and I gave up hope of a definite announcement on the subject a long, long time ago. It will be finished when it's finished.

But I really, really hope Martin lives for another 30 or 40 years, beavering his way through his great work and finishing it in 2060 or whatever, as all the cunts who sneered that he would die before finishing it expire from terminal spite. That would help make the wait worthwhile.


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

That's not our Dredd

Judge Dredd: The Citadel - the most recent 2000ad story from Dredd co-creator John Wagner - is a strange beast. It came with promises of some earth-shattering secret that would rock Dredd's world, and while it doesn't really deliver on those promises, there is something very interesting going on with the interpretation of the main character.

Drawn with unmistakable clarity and great action by Dave Cornwall, the story is an extended flashback to the Apocalypse War, and a small untold chapter of Dredd's involvement in it. The war took place decades ago - both in the real world and in Dredd's beloved Mega-City One - but its shadow of the fallout and consequences still hangs heavy over the story.

Rarely for a contemporary story looking back at the war, it doesn't hinge on the actual outcome, with most Apocalypse-related tales rightly focusing on Dredd's total and utter destruction of his enemies, and the enormous cost that untold billions have paid and are still paying for it.

Instead, it's all about the initial guerilla stages of the war, before Dredd's final mission, where there is plenty of room for untold chapters.

That - and the fact that Wagner is making unfortunately rare appearances on the main Dredd strip these days - means The Citadel is automatically an event, but what really makes it interesting is that it features a Dredd that is not quite right.

It's definitely him - harsh and driven and an absolute killing machine - but he's also just the wrong side of cruel and nasty. Just a bit meaner than he needs to be, even in wartime.

Dredd has become an infinitely complex character over the years, but even this flashback to a simpler time jars with the character as he was presented during that era (especially when it's the same writer involved).

There is an obvious in-story explanation for it all, because it's told by the most unreliable narrator possible, (you can tell he's unreliable because he keeps trying to bite people's faces off), and you can't trust a single thing he says. 

But what is Wagner saying? His scripts are as beautifully raw and stream-lined as ever, but are saturated with hidden meaning, built up over decades of work on the character. And this version of Dredd is oddly reminiscent of some of the other Dredds we've seen over the years, when good writers who never quite got the character right were given the reins.

It's entirely possible that Wagner doesn't mean anything of the sort, but it's also possible that he really is saying something about doing the character right. That it's a delicate balance that is a lot harder than it looks. 

Because Dredd is an old man who shows no sign of quitting yet, but you've got to keep his voice right. It's the law.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Lament for an Empire

The Empire is one of Dunedin's oldest pubs, built to cash in on the Otago gold rush of the late 1800s, but left behind when the centre of town drifted northwards down Princes Street towards the university. That just led to its arguable heyday when it became ground zero for the Dunedin sound of the late 70s and early 1980s ,with the pub heaving to all sorts of strange new sounds

I never saw it in its prime. But late at night in a brutal Dunedin winter, living by myself for the first time somewhere in the mid-90s, the Empire was a crucial stop on the way home. 

It was there when I was heading back to that first flat, a horrible little room in a creaking old thing teetering on the edge of a cliff. I would go out to movies, or go for a few drinks with mates, but eventually I couldn't put it off any longer and would have to take the long walk home to that flat, and the Empire was on the way and there was always some dodgy band cranking out the noise of the top floor. How could I go past that?

Sometimes I had to convince them that I only had my last $2, instead of the $5 demanded at the door, but I didn't really have any more money to give - I still feel sorry for the bar owner who probably got $20 in drinks out of me during that whole year - but you could usually talk your way past that.

And while I'd missed the high days of the Chills, The Verlaines and the Clean, (although you would see members of all these bands slumming it with their mates on some noodly bullshit), there was always something on every Saturday night. Sometimes you might get a Shayne Carter wailathon, but most of the bands were things you'd never see again, and sometimes made up of mates of mates.

And it was a shitty venue up on the third floor - a tiny L-shaped room with the middle corner supporting something you could laughably call a stage. But you could usually find a spot along the wall to lean on, and dig the vibe.

And I dug it. It was just the sort of place you want to be when you're far away from home, for the first time. I might be a city full of good friends, but I was still so lonely, and still had plenty of time to get lost in my head, especially when I wasn't working.

And even if I was there alone, and rarely talked to the other souls I shared the space with, it felt like being a part of the world.

While these thoughts are universal in all young folk, that exact experience is long gone now. The Empire shuffled on for a few years after I moved away and stopped dropping by, and eventually shut up shop (maybe that $2 helped out more than I thought). The live scene shifted to places like the grotty old Crown, or out in fucking Port Chalmers, which is literally on the way home from nowhere. (I also still have weird faith that Sammy's will rise from the dead again.)

Still, for a young man who felt so lost and rudderless, it provided some warmth and a lot of noise on some dark nights. I'll always have that, ringing in my ears.

Sunday, October 9, 2022


I'd moved on in life when I wrote this, but was completely lost. Late 20s, nothing to show for it except a dodgy car and a dodgier cat. It would be another few years before I made the choice to get into journalism, and everything that is worthwhile in my life came from that decision, but  there is a peculiar kind of 'it's all over' ennui when you're a 26-year-old loser.

I thought this would be the last one, but I was wrong, professor! Dead wrong! 


    The plot is lost before it even gets up off the ground, shot down like a mad dog and left to rot in the bushes. Fears of a complete loss of coherence are at the forefront, but it's far too late to turn back now. The thing has begun, and nothing started ever finishes, even if it does have a big, fat 'THE END' at the bottom of the page.

     "For fuck's sake!" swears Dr. Jacob Skin loudly as he pisses on the fourth wall again and reads the above drivel. "I thought he'd given up all that pretentious bullshi000.t." 

     "Apparently it's easier to write than normal stuff," offers Kristine, leaning over his shoulder to se the current debacle.

     "Just once, I'd like something nice and simple."

     "Who wouldn't?" says Kristine, losing all interest and moving onto more important things. "So what are we going to do tonight, dear?"

     "What we do every night, love! Make it up as we go along!"

    Fuck it! Roll credits!


ThEraPeutIc SKIn JobS #15
Be Seeing You


    "Can you hear me?" screams Dr. Skin at the top of his lungs, desperate to be heard over the roar of the engine, his foot still pressing down on the endless accelerator, the speed on his exceedingly useful vehicle increasing at an exponential rate. Fortunately, the desert highway is aptly deserted, nobody to impede their progress towards a destination of ill repute. "Am I getting through to you?"

     The voice, low and hollow, crackles through the earpiece of the mobile phone he is holding to his ear. "Living in skin is living is sin is laughing is shin. We are the bastard children of HAL9000 and Johnny Rotten! What have you got to lose?"

     "What complete rot," sneers the good Doctor, tossing the phone out the window of the Car with no Name and turning to Kristine, seated beside him. "That didn't make any sense."

     "What does anymore?" answers Kristine, opening the latest issue of the Weekly World News to page A12 and reading of the latest apocalyptic sign. "The whole human race is running around like a chicken that's just had its head chopped off. We've had our collective heads in the sand like bloody ostriches for too long, and now it's suddenly the 21st century and nobody has a clue what to do about it."

     She pauses for breath, only to mutter quietly to herself. "Damn. I'm sure I could've got another avian simile in there if I tried."

     "You did your best," says Skin encouragingly, before tapping the front page of the paper. "Any news?"

     Kristine glances at the article that had recently caught her attention. "Apparently some woman in New Mexico ran over the Devil."

    "Really? Was he injured?"

     "Doesn't say. It does say his real name is Earl."

     "Don't believe everything you read in the newspaper, baby," says Dr. Skin, gritting his teeth and gripping onto the steering wheel with ferocious intent. "Hey, you know what we need?"


     "No, not us. I mean the world. You know what humanity really needs?"

     "More popcorn?"

     "Another Ghandi!"

     "Makes sense to me," replies Kristine, tossing the newspaper aside and downloading some music from the Car's Shard-Drive. Random selection and she's hoping for Rock Gods, Guitar Heroes in Hyper-reality, taking that last chord on a day trip around the universe. But all she gets is Wings: 'Live And Let Die!'

     What does it matter to you?

     "What a Bonderful world," sighs Skin, leaning back in his seat. His good mood rapidly evaporates when he sees a car on the horizon behind them, gaining fast. His eyes narrow as he recognizes one of the greats: The last of the V-8 Interceptors.

     "We're not getting anywhere," says Skin with a groan, yanking the wheel to the right. "Time for a new direction."

     The Car swerves off the desert highway, slips into one of the spaces between nothing, roars down a tunnel deep in thought space and emerges, kicking and screaming, into J Street.

     No sooner have they arrived back, than a figure in a trendy shade of red leaps onto the bonnet of Skin's vehicle, holding on as it speeds down the road, screaming in some mad foreign tongue.

     "Oh shit," murmurs Kristine. "It's Shin-Tzu Sing: Kung-Fu King!"

     "It is time to settle our blood feud, Skin!" he roars over the sound of the engine and the air whistling past. "Once and for all!"

     "Oh, piss off," snarls Skin, slamming on the brakes with maximum force. There's no fucking way Sing can hold on, and he flies off, his face slamming into hot, hard pavement, resulting in exactly the kind of gore you'd expect to see when a man's head hits the road at 120kph.

     Improbably, he still lives, but the situation is soon corrected as Skin follows through, driving forward and crushing Sing's spine under his wheels. Skin doesn't bother looking back as he thunders away down the street. "That was a bit harsh," moans Kristine, her attention span somewhere around three nanoseconds as she plugs back into the car's computer, selecting a favourite game, playing God with digital fictions. "He was just doing his job. Genre fiction requires certain concessions, y'know."

     Skin doesn't reply, his attention on the road.

     Kristine continues regardless. "Besides, you usually like fighting. It's so damn entertaining."

     "Not this time, baby. I've getting sick of all that crap." He glances over at the screen set into the dashboard in front of her. "What are you playing?"

     "'The Sims'", she replies, not looking up from her game. "Version 23. Ultimate Big Brother/God deal. You create people and make them do whatever you want. You name them and decide their actions for them."

     Skin's vision begins to go crazy, but he blinks it away. "That sounds to me like any other video game. They all allow you to play God."

     "Yes, but in this one you create real people with motivations and histories. All they lack is a corporeal being, but in every other respect, they're real people. Look!" She pointed at a lone figure standing in the middle of the screen. "There's one of them now. I call 'im Max Zee. He's a J Street character I've been building him up for a while, but I'm just about done with him now. I've just about finished his story."

     "What are you going to do with him?"

     "I don't know," sighed Kristine. "I was just going to kill him off, but I think I'll just let him live happily ever after. After all, he didn't do anything to me, why should I want him dead?"

     She snaps the screen away and turns to Skin, only now noticing the sweat building on his face. "Jacob? Are you okay?"

     "I'm fine," he grunts, speeding in a number of different ways. "But I think we've run out of time. We thought we had all of eternity to fuck about in, but nothing lasts forever. Some things do have endings."

     "What are you saying?"

     Dr. Skin takes his eyes off the road for the first time, looks deep into Kristine's eyes, smiles and winks. "It time to take it to the limit."

    "It's about time!" hollers Kristine in full support, slumping back in her seat and fastening her seatbelt. "Take me to the zenith, baby!"

     "You got it, darlin'," smirks Skin, speeding up and pushing his way into another reality through a fierce combination of will, wit and a 2000 horsepower engine. Just before existence repairs the hole he's ripped into its hide, Skin waves back, laughing for no obvious reason and screaming incoherent farewells. "Goodbye J Street. Goodbye NEB. Goodbye CBR. It's about time I grew up and got a life."

     And just like that, Dr, Jacob Skin vanishes from the world, confused memories and the temporary stench of ozone in the air the only lingering effects. Life goes on without the good Doctor and his lovely companion. The Universe almost mourns a lost son, but finds plenty of others to take his place.

     Dr Skin and Kristine pass beyond everything in their Car With no Name, annihilating space-time with their velocity and experiencing their whole lives again and again, spiraling through their own experiences for all eternity. White noise on a cosmic level, but it soon clears up, and understanding hits, just like it always does.

     Out there, beyond everything, Skin and Kristine live on, patron saints of the adolescent yearning for insanity. The ultimate escape from responsibility in the form of complete dementia appeals to all at one time or another, and in that moment, they're there, listening for signs of true madness. Living on, driven on by the artistic merits of madness. Held forever by the contemplation of derangement that stretches into eternity.

     They end like they begin, the paranoia revisitations evident in everything they do. Nothing makes sense anymore, but it never did. Everything is getting old, changing too fast, falling apart, evolving into new concepts, forgetting the past. Everything is evolving, everything is going mad.

     Everything is losing the plot. 


Saturday, October 8, 2022

Is Rosie a real dog?

I spend a considerable amount of my life wondering if the dude who got crushed by some gothic masonry in Hot Fuzz actually has a pet dog named Rosie. She's always there at the start of his podcast interviews, with his introductions apparently recorded while he's ambling through the countryside, but I'm not 100% it all isn't faked.

The interviews he does for the podcast are great - especially when he talks shit with one of his old pals - but I am frankly alarmed by how much I think about that fucking dog.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Cheap movies with Johnny Cool


I was always such a fuckin' snob about watching movies on Youtube, but after hearing Tarantino rave in several different podcast and interviews about the crazy old shit he watches on that platform, I got right into it. 

Because the geek is so right - there is so much old film, and it's fantastic. You can't find everything that was made - I had hopes earlier this week that a certain French classic might be there, but no luck. And you can go searching for something particular for hour and come up short, but there are so many old films, that you can still stumble across after some minor searching.

Who knows if they're even in copyright, but they're there for everybody. You don't have to belong to an strange video store full of obscure tapes or anything, you can watch this stuff from almost anywhere in the world. 

YouTube has been criminally irresponsible in many of its business dealings and there is definite harm produced by unchecked fuckery right across the platform. But that's why they gave us 'block' buttons, and it is possible to use it without condoning or even acknowledging all that other shit.

And now you can hear about the weirdest old movie in a podcast and five minutes later you are watching the damn thing, and that still blows my mind..

So you can celebrate the great career of Henry Silva, who was fucking fantastic in so many films - he was monumental in Ghost Dog, the dead-pan genius of his Bullshit Or Not is immortal, and he played the bad guy is every second thing made in the 70s and 80s. And when my pal Nik told me i had to check out Johnny Cool, it was right there, and could get into it.

You should too. I can't say anything more about it because the joy of the film is in its many, many pleasant surprises, plus it's fucking hardcore. There are worse ways to spend a Friday night.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Death of a five-star review

Even though I've always been weird about the value of the five-star review system - four star systems are just a waste of space and half-stars are for cowards - I don't mind when the music magazines and sites drop them, because they're almost no bloody use at all.

In the few places I go to for reviews of new music that use a five-star system, almost everything gets three or four, and that's about it. Something truly awful might get a one, something truly spectacular might get the five, but almost everything hovers in the bland hegemony of 'pretty good'.

I still love it in the movies reviews, because you're much more likely to get a pan of a film, or a rush to crown the next great masterpiece. It's all as subjective as ever, but there is still something about a five-star review in Empire magazine that means something to me, and ensures I'll seek that film out, whatever it is about..

Maybe this unwillingness to really get stuck into new music is that it's a more personal medium, and slagging off an artist who is probably doing their very best can just seem mean, while movies are more of a collaboration, so you're less likely to get personal.

Or maybe it's just because music is more of a vibe that can never be consigned to any kind of ratings system, and a tune that means everything to millions of people can leave one person cold. The highs and lows of music can never be charted, no matter how many stars you use.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Huffin', puffin', blow your house in

I work with people who weren't even born the last time I even heard this song before last week, but I still remember every damn word.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Heroes Return: All foreplay, no feeling

So I'm reading some Heroes Return comic that I got from the library and it's the usual superhero nonsense and I'm good with that. I love seeing beings of unimaginable power smash each other in the fucking face. I get off on it. And Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness usually produce the kind of pumped-up hyperbole that is all I want in these kinds of comics, so I'm all in, for 200 pages, at least.

And it's all going along nicely when we get to this part during the big fight at the climax, where there is the biggest wind-up for some kind of pay-off, and then....

Nothing. It cuts to another bit of action. You don't see the hit of the hammer, or any of the pain Thor is bringing down, you don't see anything. No pay-off, no climax. The next time you see these characters, they're both roughing it up  at about the same rate, and then Thor is smacked down in the name of plot shenanigans and the answer to Thor's mighty question is tossed away.

I was so thrown off by this jarring cut, I had to find another copy of this comic to see if the collected edition had some kind of misprint, but it turned out that's just how it was.

Once on a flight home from foreign lands, the lovely wife was watching that Australia film, starring Huge Jackman and Nikki Kidman, and they cut out the bit where the rugged man and determined woman finally embrace and kiss and it was the biggest tease ever, with no reward. A harmless romance movie became something deeply frustrating.

I felt the same here, and while everything worked out okay for the good guys, (with the usual foreboding notes for the future), it all felt pretty unsatisfying. Jarring, discordant narratives might be an attempt to be big or clever, or things might have just got squeezed out by the endless pontifications, but I don't know how anybody could get off on this kind of thing.