Quotulatiousness

August 22, 2014

“Overtime” by Charles Stross

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:11

Another short work from the “Laundry” series by Charles Stross:

All bureaucracies obey certain iron laws, and one of the oldest is this: get your seasonal leave booked early, lest you be trampled in the rush.

I broke the rule this year, and now I’m paying the price. It’s not my fault I failed to book my Christmas leave in time — I was in hospital and heavily sedated. But the ruthless cut and thrust of office politics makes no allowance for those who fall in the line of battle: “You should have foreseen your hospitalization and planned around it” said the memo from HR when I complained. They’re quite right, and I’ve made a note to book in advance next time I’m about to be abducted by murderous cultists or enemy spies.

I briefly considered pulling an extended sickie, but Brenda from Admin has a heart of gold; she pointed out that if I volunteered as Night Duty Officer over the seasonal period I could not only claim triple pay and time off in lieu, I’d also be working three grades above my assigned role. For purposes of gaining experience points in the fast-track promotion game they’ve steering me onto, that’s hard to beat. So here I am, in the office on Christmas Eve, playing bureaucratic Pokémon as the chilly rain drums on the roof.

(Oh, you wondered what Mo thinks of this? She’s off visiting her ditz of a mum down in Glastonbury. After last time we agreed it would be a good idea if I kept a low profile. Christmas: the one time of year when you can’t avoid the nuts in your family muesli. But I digress.)

August 17, 2014

“Down on the Farm” by Charles Stross

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:06

I’m quite a fan of the “Laundry” series of SF/horror stories by Charles Stross. I thought I’d read all of them (well, all that have been released, anyway), but a discussion thread on the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list alerted me that I hadn’t read “Down on the Farm“, which is available for free on the Tor.com website:

Ah, the joy of summer: here in the south-east of England it’s the season of mosquitoes, sunburn, and water shortages. I’m a city boy, so you can add stifling pollution to the list as a million outwardly mobile families start their Chelsea tractors and race to their holiday camps. And that’s before we consider the hellish environs of the Tube (far more literally hellish than anyone realizes, unless they’ve looked at a Transport for London journey planner and recognized the recondite geometry underlying the superimposed sigils of the underground map).

But I digress…

One morning, my deputy head of department wanders into my office. It’s a cramped office, and I’m busy practicing my Frisbee throw with a stack of beer mats and a dart-board decorated with various cabinet ministers. “Bob,” Andy pauses to pluck a moist cardboard square out of the air as I sit up, guiltily: “a job’s just come up that you might like to look at—I think it’s right up your street.”

The first law of Bureaucracy is, show no curiosity outside your cubicle. It’s like the first rule of every army that’s ever bashed a square: never volunteer.

If you ask questions (or volunteer) it will be taken as a sign of inactivity, and the devil, in the person of your line manager (or your sergeant) will find a task for your idle hands. What’s more, you’d better believe it’ll be less appealing than whatever you were doing before (creatively idling, for instance), because inactivity is a crime against organization and must be punished. It goes double here in the Laundry, that branch of the British secret state tasked with defending the realm from the scum of the multiverse, using the tools of applied computational demonology: volunteer for the wrong job and you can end up with soul-sucking horrors from beyond spacetime using your brain for a midnight snack. But I don’t think I could get away with feigning overwork right now, and besides: he’s packaged it up as a mystery. Andy knows how to bait my hook, damn it.

June 5, 2014

A visual history of pin-up magazines

Filed under: History, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Pin-Up Magazines book

A review of a new three-volume history of the girly magazine:

Taschen delivers as only Taschen can with Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines, a comprehensive three-volume boxed set chronicling seven decades in over 832 munificently illustrated pages, tipping the scales at nearly seven hardbound pounds. Although each volume is ram-packed with a bevy of sepia sweethearts, hand-tinted honeys, and Kodachrome cuties squeezed between dozens of lurid full-page vintage magazine covers, the accompanying text is so compelling that you’re apt to actually read these books too. And there’s a lot to learn about the history of pin-up magazines, more than you’d ever imagine, and this set leaves no stone unturned and no skirt unlifted. From the suggestive early illustrations of the post-Victorian era to the first bare breasts, the intriguing sources that fueled the fires of popular fetish trends, and the many ways in which publishers tried to legitimize the viewing of nude women while gingerly dancing around obscenity laws, we watch this breed of pulp morph and reinvent with fiction or humor, and later the marriage of crime and flesh. We see the influence on pin-up culture in the wake of the First World War and with the advent of World War II and the rise of patriotica. We follow the path of the bifurcated girl, to eugenics, the role of burlesque, and the legalization of pubic hair. We venture under-the-counter, witness the death of the digest and the pairing of highbrow literature and airbrushed beauties. Hanson even treats us to a peek into the lesser-known black men’s magazine genre, and the contributions made by erotic fiction and Hollywood movie studios.

November 22, 2013

Funding the Arthur C. Clarke award

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:34

Charles Stross has just posted a link to a recent short story of his (from 2011) which was written as part of a fund-raiser to help keep the Arthur C. Clarke awards going and an explanation of why most short stories can be improved by adding dinosaurs and sodomy:

Now, I don’t write many short stories these days, but I’m a sucker for the right kind of charity approach. And besides, I had a hypothesis I wanted to test: that every short story can be improved by adding dinosaurs and sodomy.

No, seriously: click that link, it’s work-safe but side-splittingly funny if you’ve ever been to a writers’ workshop. And probably utterly incomprehensible if you haven’t, so I shall have to unpack it for you …

In Michael Swanwick’s oeuvre — and he’s one of the most perspicacious, indeed brilliant, exponents of the short story form in SF today — dinosaurs are a short-hand signifier for action, adventure, thrills, and chases: whereas sodomy is a placeholder representing introspection into the human condition, sensitivity to emotional nuance, and a great big bottle of lube.

So when he’s telling students they need to add dinosaurs to their work, he’s eliptically hinting that sensitive emotional nuance needs to be balanced by a bit of GRAAAH!! BITE!!! CHASE!!!!1!!!ELEVENTY (sorry, I got a bit carried away there). And when he tells them to add sodomy, he’s hinting that there may be too much focus on the performance stats of the space super-dreadnought and not quite enough insight into the emotional trauma the steel-jawed captain is grappling with from her seat on the bridge.

Yeah, right. But what happens if you take the advice literally? After all, SF is the genre of the literal space ship, eschewing ironic metaphor in favour of naive wonder at the immanent apprehension of the unreal.

So I was thinking about dinosaurs, and Sodomy, and the challenge of writing a story in the style of Arthur C. Clarke that applied Swanwick’s principles in a deliberately naive and unmetaphorical manner, when I saw this video (which is definitely not safe for work, unless you’re me — you have been warned).

October 24, 2013

Explaining Japanese culture – “Freud would have a field day”

Filed under: Japan, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:08

It’s commonplace to say “Japan is weird” (I’ve said it myself many times), but even with the constant repetition, I didn’t realize just how weird Japan has become (somewhat NSFW … better not watch this at the office):

Published on 22 Oct 2013

Japan is a country that is dying — literally. Japan has more people over the age of 65 and the smallest number of people under the age of 15 in the world. It has the fastest negative population growth in the world, and that’s because hardly anyone is having babies. In these difficult times, the Japanese are putting marriage and families on the back burner and seeking recreational love and affection as a form of cheap escape with no strings attached. We sent Ryan Duffy to investigate this phenomenon, which led him to Tokyo’s cuddle cafes and Yakuza-sponsored prostitution rings.

September 24, 2013

A new “Laundry” story by Charles Stross

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:53

Charles Stross writes many things, but what first alerted me to his writing was The Atrocity Archives. TOR.com has a new story called “Equoid” online for your reading pleasure:

Charles Stross’s “Equoid” is a new story in his ongoing “Laundry” series of Lovecraftian secret-agent bureaucratic dark comedies, which has now grown to encompass four novels and several works of short fiction. “The Laundry” is the code name for the secret British governmental agency whose remit is to guard the realm from occult threats from beyond spacetime. Entailing mastery of grimoires and also of various computer operating systems, the work is often nose-bleedingly tedious. As the front-cover copy line for Ace’s edition of The Atrocity Archives noted, “Saving the world is Bob Howard’s job. There are a surprising number of meetings involved.” Previous “Laundry” stories on Tor.com are “Down on the Farm” and the Hugo Award finalist “Overtime.”

Like some other stories published on Tor.com, “Equoid” contains scenes and situations some readers will find upsetting and/or repellent. [—The Editors]

This novella was acquired and edited for Tor.com by senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

December 3, 2012

“Wookierotica” in Oz

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:09

The Register is always willing to go the extra parsec to get the NSFW story. Here’s Simon Sharwood on a burlesque show with a Star Wars theme being performed in Australia this month:

The show’s creator says the performance doesn’t necessarily involve nudity, as he dislikes notions that burlesque always has to end up with a pile of smalls on the floor.

As the NSFW video below shows, the production will certainly leave you feeling rather more kindly disposed to storm troopers. You may also find out whether Jabba the Hutt bought Princess Leia just the one bikini.

The show is billed as a parody and is definitely not in canon. It’s also proving hard to suppress: since debuting late last year, it has enjoyed several seasons around Australia. A new run of shows kicks off in early December at Sydney’s Vanguard Theatre, just in time for Vulture South’s Christmas party.

July 12, 2012

QotD: The real reasons for criticizing Fifty Shades of Grey

Filed under: Humour, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:52

When you get down to it, the problem most people seem to have with Fifty Shades of Grey is that it’s for girls. Even worse — it’s “mommy porn”, porn for mommies, for older women to read and get excited about, and that dangerous nonsense really needs to be stopped right now. Everyone knows that the only women who are allowed to actually have sexuality are slender, high-breasted twenty-one year old virgins — rather like, it has to be said, the heroine of Fifty Shades of Grey.

Laurie Penny, “In defence of Fifty Shades of Grey”, New Statesman, 2012-07-08

May 27, 2012

Fifty shades of suburbanizing stuff to make it boring

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:25

In the National Post, Darrin Rose laments the “mainstreaming” of BDSM, or badly written erotica, or something:

The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has sold 10 million copies in only six weeks of sales, and in doing so has shed a lot of light on what suburban moms are looking for in the bookstore, if not in the bedroom. It has been banned in some U.S. libraries, generating controversy in equal measure for pornographic content and terrible writing. If you like books that read like a triple-X version of your Grade 8 diary, then you’re in luck. But trouble looms on the horizon.

The book has become part of the zeitgeist, leading to all kinds of new sexual ideas in the suburbs. I should confess that as a city dweller, I like to encourage the notion that urbanites lead sexy, dangerous lives already. But the suburban soccer moms who make up the majority of the book’s readership are discovering a sexy, dangerous world of bondage, discipline and sado-masochism, also known — by lazy people and perverts — as BDSM. While BDSM is currently a risqué, fun activity, the suburbs will do what they always do when they find a new sexy idea — turn it into an exercise you do at the gym, thereby simultaneously destroying its sexiness and enjoyability. They did the same thing to the Lambada and stripper poles.

[. . .]

The same thing happened to stripper poles, which you can find in the aerobics room of many gyms these days. It takes a really asexual person to see a stripper pole and think “that’d be great for low impact muscle development.” So stripper poles were installed in the sweat factories, and real life took a hit. If you go to a strip club and think the best part is the gymnastics, you’re really missing the point. They did the same thing to lap dances and stripteases, two related disciplines now doled out in 60 minute lessons at strip malls across the nation.

And now Fifty Shades of Grey has BDSM lined up next for the exercise treatment. That way middle-aged women can take flogging classes, where personal instructors literally beat you into shape. We’re probably a couple years away from spending 30 minutes on the elliptical machine while a personal trainer whispers in your ear “do you like that?” and “you’re such a dirty little jogger.” A workout seems much more intimidating if you need a safety word to make it stop, but I would rather be spared the sight of a gym full of moms being spanked while they do hamstring curls.

February 15, 2012

Shit happens: the economics version (NSFW)

Filed under: Economics, Humour, Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 00:04

H/T to Greg Mankiw for the link.

January 13, 2012

Do you write fan fiction? You might want to check for plagiarists re-using your work

Filed under: Law, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:49

Plagiarism is a problem, but how do you react when someone takes your (erotic) fan fiction work without permission and packages and re-sells it?

After checking the author page for Maria Cruz, who that day had the top-selling erotica book in Amazon’s U.K. Kindle store, she counted 40 erotica ebook titles, including Sister Pretty Little Mouth, My Step Mom and Me, Wicked Desires Steamy Stories and Domenating [sic] Her, plus one called Dracula’s Amazing Adventure. Most erotica authors stay within the genre, so Sharazade was surprised Cruz had ventured into horror. Amazon lets customers click inside a book for a sample of text and Sharazade was impressed with how literate it was. She extracted a sentence fragment, googled it, and found that Cruz had copy and pasted the text from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Curious, Sharazade keyed in phrases from other Cruz ebooks and discovered that every book she checked was stolen.

[. . .]

It turns out Cruz isn’t the only self-published plagiarist. Amazon is rife with fake authors selling erotica ripped word-for-word from stories posted on Literotica, a popular and free erotic fiction site that according to Quantcast attracts more than 4.5 million users a month, as well as from other free online story troves. As recently as early January, Robin Scott had 31 books in the Kindle store, and a down-and-dirty textual analysis revealed that each one was plagiarized. Rachel M. Haven, a purveyor of incest, group sex, and cheating bride stories, was selling 11 pilfered tales from a variety of story sites. Eve Welliver had eight titles in the Kindle store copied from Literotica and elsewhere, and she had even thought to plagiarize some five-star reviews. Luke Ethan’s author page listed four works with titles like My Step Mom Loves Me and OMG My Step-Brother in Bisexual, and it doesn’t appear he wrote any of them. Maria Cruz had 19 ebooks and two paperbacks, all of which were created by other authors and republished without their consent, while her typo-addled alter ego Mariz Cruz was hawking Wicked Desire: Steamy bondage picture volume 1. 



June 23, 2011

Yahtzee reviews Duke Nukem Forever

Filed under: Gaming, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:09

April 15, 2011

Arousing the voters, Menorcan style

Filed under: Europe, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:45

It’s a perennial problem: how do you manage to get the voters interested in your candidacy? How can you get them excited? Sole Sánchez Mohamed has an answer for you:

A Menorcan political candidate has caused a bit of a rumpus ahead of Spain’s forthcoming municipal elections with a seriously in-your-face advert in the local press.

Sole Sánchez Mohamed, head of the Partit Democràtic de Ciutadella (PDC), posed with an evidently willing pair of male hands to make her point, or rather, pair of points. The caption declares: “Two great arguments.”

To further her election cause, the wannabe mayoress of Ciutadella appeared in monthly magazine Més Iris Menorca dressed only in her smalls while adopting “sadomasochistic poses”, as you can see here (NSFW).

And you folks complain about “attack ads” in Canadian elections.

March 26, 2011

Cheap flights (with subtitles)

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:00

H/T to Roger Henry for the link.

February 1, 2011

The tattoos that say “I’ll never work retail again”

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:30

I’m always amazed how many people search the site for tattoo images. Just because I’m a nice guy (and not in any way attempting to draw more traffic to the site), I’ll post a few more (via Blazing Cat Fur). For most workplaces, these breast tattoos are not work safe.

(more…)

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