Monday, 31 March 2014

The Monster In Search Of A Metaphor

Time for the second part of my episode-by-episode dissection of "The Invasion". This second part is no less chaotic and ad-hoc than the first, of course.  If anything, things have only gotten worse.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Friday 40K: 50% More Naughtiness

This week we have a third Chaos cultist from Dark Vengeance.  He has the same Red Gore/Abaddon Black colour scheme as the other two, with Enchanted Blue/Ice Blue as a spot colour, but I've inverted it here. In truth, right now the inversion makes him look a little too different to the other two cultists, but that will be sorted once a few more Imperial citizens sell their souls to the Red Corsairs.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

"Should We Be Nice To Trifles?"

I was going to start this post with a criticism, but a decade and change of educational experience has taught me to venerate the praise sandwich above all else, so I'd like to kick off proceedings by noting that Mike Carey has very nice hair.

(Well, it seems nice. In photos, I mean.  I've not done the most basic of chemical analyses. I might have my obsessions, but I'm not a stalker.  The hours look terrible).

Compliment bread laid down, we may reach for the criticism pickle: Dead Men's Boots was a wee bit of a disappointment.

Not in the sense of being a bad book - it's actually a very good book, boasting the usual smart mix of grease-stains and ghouls.  We're talking in relative terms, here. Still, whilst The Devil You Know set up a tremendously interesting world and Vicious Circle filled out the dark corners in all the right ways, Dead Men's Boots seemed mainly content to danse macabre its way across the floor of the same disco. The queasy joy of unsettling discoveries was somewhat muted. The view remained lovely (for a particularly depraved and black definition of "lovely" to which I dedicate myself utterly), but there was a sense of treading water whilst we gazed at it.

Happily, with Thicker Than Water we return to our grimly determined front crawl towards murky objects in deep waters.

Going into detail here is unwise. Horror and crime are the two genres that most suffer from being too forewarned/forearmed, and for combinations of the two this becomes exponentially more true. I shall limit myself to saying both the mythos and the stakes of Felix Castor's strange and scary world are both upped here, the orbit of the last book decaying into a downward spiral.

(Why is there never an upward spiral?  Why is it when things improve Archimedes' prettiest contribution to geometry is nowhere to be found? Is it because "downwards spiral" is something we got from damaged warplanes? Because yes, if you've thrown your Spitfire into an upward spiral, you're probably not giving your all for Blighty.)

This recapturing of momentum is really all the series needed to return to the top-tier grime'n'gore'n'noir'n'grimoires of the earlier novels.  I've mentioned before how I like my horror served; thick with mystery and with enough shocks along the way to punch you out of the mindset required to solve any of them. It should be like trying to do a jigsaw on a roller-coaster you're sharing with a corpse. Thicker Than Water delivers splendidly on that score. True, the various mysteries here are maybe a little easier to tease out than they have been previously (though perhaps I'm just getting keyed into the way Carey structures his conundrums), but that actually ties in well to the atmosphere of the book.  When a story is as horribly tragic as this one, the odd sniff of dramatic irony adds to the uneasy sense of impending disaster.

And a tragedy this certainly is.  Maybe not in the commonly-used sense of the term, I suppose - with another novel in this first-person series written and another planned, it gives little away to say our hero lives to fight another day. But no-one who staged this at the theatre would want to call it anything else (well, maybe "difficult to block"); Carey here trumps his usual bittersweet ending with something that could only be considered sweet in the "any landing you can walk away from" sense.

It's a bumpy ride, in other words, with more than one gut-punch along the way. There is, ultimately, nothing more horrifying than your own family's past.  Well, actually, there's at least one thing more horrifying, but I'm not going to spoil what it is.  Just read the book, and cry in despair at the freezing misery that grips you ever more tightly, until it hurts to breathe or think or, worst of all, try predicting what might be coming.

Then start the next book immediately.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Dogmas Of The Quiet Past

Sometimes television will tell you that all America comprises of is bars and strip-clubs and ill-maintained dance clubs.  A seedy underbelly that has swallowed the beast it was supposed to lie beneath.

There is a reason for this, of course.  All those locations share something in common.  They are - probably by design and most certainly in practice - places where people go to have something separate from the rest of their lives.  Refuges and escapes.  It would be hard to find a more obvious statement. But what matters is the impulse, not the location. There really isn't all that much that separates a strip club from an affair other than capacity and a surcharge.

Perhaps this is why Hart, having been dumped by his young lover, finds himself wandering from one display of flesh to the next. Yes, it's in the course of his investigation, but there is always more than one route to a destination.  You don't have to trawl through so much filth if you think a little harder about where you're stepping. You certainly don't have to follow your undercover partner into the compound of a violent and sadistic biker gang for no damn reason.

Not unless you're fleeing so fast from something you no longer give a damn about where you're headed.

Which is Hart down to his bones, of course. Attacking Lisa's new choice of partner, coming within an inch of kicking off a brawl in a hospital, walking slowly and begrudgingly through a hail of bottles.  It takes dedication for your alcoholic partner to get drunk and high and agree to a raid on heavily armed drug dealers in the projects so as to back up face-carving proto-Nazis and for you to be the guy who looks in trouble.

Because when we use these places to escape our lives, sooner or later they become our lives.  Cohle learned this lesson once before, though the fact he kept his neat box of guns and grenades and hard liquor suggests he didn't learn it as well as perhaps he needed to.  When we say we're getting away from it all, what we really mean is that we're trying to escape the mistakes we've made.  The past we've ruined. And in the process, perhaps because we're so busy trying not look back we won't look forward, or perhaps because we're just people and as such fucking everything up is our default approach, we just make new mistakes in new settings, and the whole horrible process just spools up once again.

Except for children.  The innocents.  Not because they never sin, but because there is almost no sin a child can commit that can't be quickly forgiven, brushed aside as being something one simply has to expect.  A child can fuck up in any number of ways and the next day everything resets.  And then there comes a time in their life when they've become too old for that to operate any more, and all of a sudden when they screw something up, it stays screwed.  Then, worse, the screw-ups start to compound themselves, building on each other until you've surrounded yourself with tightly packed walls of shit.

No wonder we have so fractious a relationship with the past.  We're not only trying to ignore the mistakes we've piled up, we're trying to forget there was a time when nothing we could do would really matter all that much. We tell ourselves children are the future because it hurts to much to remember that children are our past.

Of course, not everyone chooses to blot this out and continue shuffling through the day.  Out in the Louisiana woods, a different approach has been birthed.  Satan worship, Lang called it, but we know better. Sacred rocks predate anything the Christians have made famous.  Deer antlers and spirals go back far, far further than a young Jew's temptation in the desert. Whatever they are, though, they're trading on the past-free lives of children in order to get into contact with something that is all past, so ancient it can only be sketched in the faintest form on our consciousnesses. The Yellow King. Carcosa.  Not names, but desperate indications for something a name cannot stick to.

The monster at the end of the dream.  The horror at the start of the world.  Lying dreaming in the Lousiana woods, as men poke at it with antlers and dream of how their pasts will finally be left behind when it awakens to claim us all.

Monday, 24 March 2014

A Tale Of Cocktails #46

Banana Cow

1 oz rum
1 oz crème de bananes
1 1/2 oz creme
Dash grenadine
Nutmeg and banana to garnish
Taste: 7
Look: 8  
Cost: 8
Name: 7
Prep: 6
Alcohol: 4
Overall: 7.0

Preparation: Shake liquid ingredients with ice.  Pour into a cocktail glass.  Grate nutmeg over the cocktail and garnish with a banana slice.

General Comments: So Fliss found us a random cocktail generator the other day.  Which is awesome, obviously.  I have a huge yen for randomness.  It's how I pick comics to buy, my preferred way to listen to albums, how I choose which episode of Supernatural to put on whilst Fliss and I are playing Ghost Stories or Elder Sign... It throws up interesting combinations that spark new ideas.

Or, in this case, gets you drunk in ways you might never have thought about.

The banana cow - named, one presumes, for combination of banana liquor and cream - is sweet and thick. The combination works well; it's sweet enough to be moreish, and thick enough to stop you swigging it down in seconds - the nutmeg detracts just enough from the sweetness in this regard.  This rather limits the refreshment the drink can offer, but that's fine.  It just means this is something to try second or third during a cocktail evening.

I also assume you can't drink too many of them, lest you fall prey to diarrhoea, insanity, hallucinations and ultimately death. Again, this counts against the drink somewhat in terms of how often you'll want to reach for it, and the slightly fiddly nature of putting it together causes problems here as well.

But it looks nice and tastes nice. Nothing at all wrong with a cocktail best enjoyed in small doses.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Peace Of The Gun

Following on from the SFX Forun's consideration of The Space Museum, we're trawling through The Invasion this month. What with that story being eight parts, I'll divide my thoughts on the story into two posts.  Below the fold is, unsurprisingly, my thoughts on the first four episodes.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Suffer Little Children

"I've seen the future, brother, it is murder." - Leonard Cohen, "The Future".

Since we're stuck on the subject of madness, it's no surprise we're going to need to dig around the insanity brought upon society by the existence of children.

Adults tend to hate children.  They're just so young, with so much life left in them, and they don't even have the decency to realise that.  Youth is not wasted on the young, it's actively maliciously misused.  You can love your own children - thank Mother Nature for the chemical processes put in place to promote that - but everyone else's are screaming beacons of everything you've left behind. Try spending three days without water and watching a man piss into a fire, and you'll perhaps be a tenth of the way to understanding what children do to all but the most stable adults (and stable adult is a fiction as unlikely and cruel as any fiction we can assemble about our progeny).

So we do the only thing we can do; we consider things only in the abstract. Think of the children.  Not the actual children, but the ridiculous spectre of our own past we lie into being and plaster onto the faces of every child we see.  Nothing makes thinking of the children harder than thinking of an actual child, which is why we almost never do it.

This profound and necessary chasm between us and our children causes all sorts of problems.  Our obsession with a child's "innocence" is one.  There are two relevant definitions of the word - not guilty, and not aware - and the problem falls in the gap in between the two. It's a natural enough thing to do, I suppose, to start viewing the innocence of children as being dependent on them being kept safe from experiencing crimes.  As if this were possible.  99.99% of children will never know any crime so damaging as those their parents accidentally perform against them. Cohle, our textbook lunatic for these eight entries, knew this all too well, hence his relief that his daughter died before he had the chance to sin the way every parent sins. But of course his child is gone; he has that luxury.  What option do the rest of us have but to keep going, and to lie about the direction we're going in?

The fact that adults lie about this, and about everything, can lead one to view childhood as a time of simplistic honesty.  This is obvious nonsense.  The greatest spinners of propaganda, the very epitome of Orwell's cold nightmares, could never lie so much as a child - there simply isn't the time.  The difference between adults and children is not that children lie less often, it's that they lie because they enjoy it.  We lie because we would immediately grind to a halt if we didn't, like a pocket-watch flooded with sand.  A child can pretend she has an invisible friend who must have her own seat at the table because having an invisible friend is cool and makes you special.  We pretend our spouse hasn't started working late every night because they're sleeping with a younger more fully-proportioned legal clerk.  We pretend we can love two women when we're driving one to misery and breaking into the other's house when they decide they don't want to fuck a married man anymore.

The greatest advantage children have is this: when you lie purely for the fun of it, you get good at detecting when someone is lying for more desperate reasons.  We find this much harder, of course, because if we can too easily recognise each other's forays into excuse-making and track-covering, we might start to pick apart our own, and we would be lost.  Lie detection is a game for the children, the miserable, and the mad.

Every madman was a child at some point.  The killer of Dora Kelly Lange was once a child.  The copycat killer seventeen years later was once a child.  But when?  Did they paint that mural in the church that burned down?  Did they see a horrible monster of green spaghetti that turned and chased them through the woods?  Did they begin to draw pictures in their notebook of couples copulating? At what point do the lies of enjoyment give way to something else? What is madness but a series of lies told about the world that don't correspond well enough with the lies everyone else tells about the world?

It is by no means clear that Marty's daughter has been in any meaningful sense hurt by what she has learned, and what she has felt compelled to draw (when did so many of us give up drawing? Did our imaginations just become too swamped by generating the fictions we need to stumble out of our beds?).  But the terror remains for her parents.  Perhaps the greatest fear for any parent - other than death, injury or disease - is that as their child grows up they will choose for themselves the wrong lies.  That they will choose a woman, dead and in antlers, resting as if praying in a burned field.

But it's too late, of course.  Someone has already chosen the field, and someone else is about to.  The critical question is merely whether Martin Hart can break out of his own lies for long enough to pin down somebody else's.  Whether he can actively shape the future, rather than just throwing it together mistake by mistake.

To give himself, and all of us, the chance to tell ourselves one less lie.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

D CDs #480: Too Long A Chain

It's always seemed to me that there's something kind of arrogant in presenting a CD that runs for more than seventy minutes.  I mean, really?  There's honestly nothing there that can be cut?  Just to reduce the run-time a little and make it less of a marathon?  Just like pretty much every Quentin Tarantino movie since Pulp Fiction, even when nothing in the piece is obviously shit, it's damn hard to argue the whole couldn't be improved by a bit of judicious editing.

Of course, concerns of appearing arrogant do not seem to be commonly found in rap artists, especially from Wu-Tang members - Raekwon is both the black Donald Trump and Sun Tsu here, and that's just on one track ("Incarcerated Scarfaces"). Or at least, if arrogance is a problem, it's always someone else's vice. Which makes sense from where I'm sitting (in another country, as a middle class white guy); when so many people including your own damn government invested in silencing you and tearing you down, you probably don't want to spend too much time helping them along.

But to these ears, there are side-effects to this approach which work against the music.  As always, my opinions on rap music are arbitrarily close to worthless, but since this is my blog and my review they need to be dragged into the light.  For my money, rap songs work best when they are punchy and brief.  They share this property with a lot of punk, and the basic rationale is pretty similar: both genres get a lot of mileage out of coming up with strong hooks (where the term "hook" means something very different in the two musical approaches, of course) that dominate a song with little in the way of variance.  It's a damn effective trick, but it relies on brevity.  Three minutes of the same beats is hypnotic.  Six minutes is a chore.

Raekwon certainly has that worked out pretty clearly.  His songs here are fast and clipped, and if the central driving force behind a rap track is finding the right two or three elements to repeat throughout, the man has a damn fine ear for them.  The trick is to keep things simple and sparse without leaving the track enough muscle to stand up, and Raekwon manages this very well.  It helps, I think, that he leans towards Asian influences and sinister undertones, both of which suit minimalism quite well.  And if the lyrical content offers little in the way of an original or varied focus (mostly the tension between wanting to get rich by selling drugs in the most Mafia-like way possible and proving yourself a better man and a better Christian than the people around you trying to do the exact same thing), the words snap and flow pretty well, with the occasional unexpected reference to spice things up (I did not see a Dan Ackroyd name-check coming) and no obvious clunkers.  There is a tension in vocal work in rap music - really the only thing that particularly interests me in lieu of a melody - between making the voice work as percussive force and in creating the kind of linguistic cleverness rap should aim for. It's genuinely hard to employ words as a poem and as a drumbeat simultaneously. The absolute top-tier rappers can manage both; Raekwon seems to lean on the second pole rather than the first, and I can't fault the results (some of his guests are a little more interesting in their lyrics, but then they also bring along hideous sexism and homophobia with them, so very much mixed results).

But I keep coming back to eighteen tracks and seventy-three minutes of music. Just as minimalism cannot hold up a song for too long, neither can it maintain so long an album.  Pick any ten of these eighteen songs, and you have yourself a damn good time.  The first three post-intro songs are particularly, choice; the gun-and-piano pulse of "Knuckleheads", the faded strings and keyboard sting of "Knowledge God" (more people should be aware of the importance of a strong mathematical background when dealing in coke), and the grimy horns and overbearing chimes of "Criminology".  If the album never really hits those heights again ("Wu Gambinos" aside, which repeats the keys and strings trick of "Knowledge God" and adds some great rap from RZA) neither is there anything we could really call a duff track here. The closest we come is "Ice Water", with its sampled rising croon first odd and then irritating rather than effective. Trudge through all of this, though, and the limited scope of the lyrics becomes numbing, and the darkness becomes first oppressive and then overly familiar (the front-loaded nature of the disc doesn't help here either).

So the advice I offered for the similarly strong-but-sprawling Aquemini seems appropriate here as well.  Consider Only Built... as three separate suites of songs, each of which is worthy of your time, but possibly best enjoyed in isolation.

Seven tentacles.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Friday 40K: The Holy Host Grows

The shiny sons of Sanguinus continue to creep towards completion. Not much to say about this one, except to say that that's a goddamn ridiculous axe - it's the same height as the Chaos Cultists I've been painting up.

The full gang.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

A Failure To Add Up

It's not often I can say something positive about the Coalition, so I would like to take a moment and congratulation on their new education idea. For far too long naysayers have gotten away with insisting that best teaching practice might somehow be tied to irrelevant factors such as "culture" and "school-day length" and "holiday times" and "language", but finally some brave soul has taken a stand and announced in a clear voice: Chinese teaching methods must work better in England than English teaching methods, because they work better in China!

I eagerly await further announcements that Australians will be flown in to teach our sportsmen how to play in the sun more often, Paraguay military officials will be brought over to demonstrate how to defend a country without any naval units at all, and cheetahs will be employed to teach children to run faster by eating only raw wildebeest.

(Actually, all snark aside, I'm all in favour of sharing best practice across national borders. The problem here isn't the initiative, it's the ridiculously grandiose claims being made about its aims.)

One Third Of The Way To A Blog That Can Drink And Watch Porn

Somehow it has been six full years since this particular vertex of the blogohedron was founded.  My thanks to everyone who's taken time out of their lives to comment here, or just to read what tumbles from my head.  It's been five years since I put up the hit counter, and I'm more than happy that I hit 60 000 views over that time.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Madness Of The King

 The King in Yellow is forbidden. And with good reason.  There are only two responses a mind can have upon reading the work: it can be lost to despair, or it can be lost to madness.

Obviously, there is no way for us to understand exactly how the play wreaks its havoc; we can only speculate from the rambling, turbulent writings of those poor souls who have exposed themselves.  Some, like Lange, speak of Lost Carcosa, an ancient city on some other world.  Others talk of the Lake of Hali, or of the King in Yellow (who may or may not be named Hastur), a being so ill-defined some believe it has no fixed form to begin with. Some or all of this may reside in the star system of Aldebaran, or perhaps that star has relevance here in some other way.  As I say, we cannot ever truly know.

But in a sense, it doesn't matter.  Some say there exists a formless monster named Hastur in the Lake of Hali on a barren planet orbiting Aldebaran, who has dictated a play that will drive you insane.  It doesn't actually matter whether or not this is correct.  It doesn't even matter if the play itself is real.  All that matters is that the madmen believe it.  They believe Hastur - a name we might as well apply to the phenomenon as the being, whatever it is or might be - has driven them mad.  And mad they most certainly are.  Which means that Hastur is real whether he is real or not.

Especially when we consider just how far the King's influence actually spreads.  It's not just those who find the play itself who succumb, after all.  What better way is there to understand Hart and Cohle than to realise both are standing on a knife's edge; both are angels of the King no less surely than was Dora. With madness and despair the only two futures into which they can fall, they find themselves tangled up in both. For Hart, his despair lies in the feedback loop he has trapped himself within - his family not enough for him he's begun a torrid affair, but the more comfort he finds there the further his family drifts from him, and the more he needs his lover Lisa. This both results in a widening gyre of despair and the obvious and ugly insanity of demanding his wife be more supportive of his obvious failure to support her, and the bitter condemnation of women who he's somehow convinced himself are applying sex in a less moral way than using it to mortify your wife so you can snipe at her for not forgiving you enough.

Meanwhile, Cohle's despair at the loss of his daughter led to him willingly seeking out the madness of drug addiction.  With mixed success, it would seem. If one seeks to hide from the vicious, elemental nature of the world, finding a way to "mainline the truth of the universe" would have to be considered a failure.  But then this is the difference between Hart and Cohle.  Hart is spinning into chaos.  Cohle is orbiting it, tracing the very edge of the eye of the storm. 

Because what other option is there?  Cohle's admission that he sometimes feels grateful that his daughter died before she could comprehend the horror of the world or the sins of every parent is impossibly, numbingly bleak, but withstanding the world can require that kind of madness.  The madness of perspective is a poison, but other poisons are worse; we must drip-feed ourselves with one kind to build up our resistance to the others. We must be mad to not go mad.

What other defence can we possibly mount against what is coming?

Monday, 10 March 2014

Z For Fake?

I watched World War Z last night and, since it came under such fire from fans of the original novel, I thought it might be worth sketching out a few points from the perspective of someone with a fair working knowledge of zombie fiction but who hasn't read the source material.

Alas, from this particular vantage point, there's really very little to say about the view.  This is probably the zombie film to date which has had the most money thrown at it, and that money hasn't been wasted exactly, but the effort has clearly gone into spectacle in a way that doesn't particularly seem necessary.  We've seen fast zombies before (in the far superior 28 Days Later and the wonderful Dawn of the Dead remake, to pick the two most successful examples), so whilst the frenetic pace might involve more explosions and helicopters than we're used to, it would be hard to argue these add all that much to the dish.

On the other hand, the sense of scale here is genuinely affecting.  The coming together of various ships on the ocean to create fleets of uninfected might seem an obvious idea, but it gets across the sense of humanity's downfall in a way that other zombie films are only capable of hinting at. The globe-trotting aspect works better than one might assume - the same old undead tricks pasted onto a map of the world gives the carnage a new dimension.  It reminds me of Eldritch Horror as compared to Arkham Horror; the two share a theme, a lot of their artwork, and very similar game mechanics, but trying to get from Australia to the Canadian wilderness to deal with a threat just somehow feels different to heading from Arkham's train station to its southern woods.  It's an illusion, of course, but then what part of film-making isn't?

Besides, with so much of zombie horror concerned with the basics of survival in a world without hope, it's nice to take time out with a film explicitly concerned with considering the big picture, dealing with the plague and trying to reclaim the globe. Purists may find this too optimistic - sneer at this as not a real zombie flick - but that's the problem with purists; ultimately reiteration becomes more important than imagination.

(Spoilers below the fold)

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A Tale Of Cocktails: Facts, We Haz Them

Been a while since we did this, so let's take another stupidly long look at the various ways I've been showing my exocrine system who's boss.


11 Best Cocktails

1. Brain Hemorrhage
2. Flying Grasshopper
3. Woo Woo
4. Fuzzy Shark
5. Choc Berry
=6. Baby Guinness
=6. Dennis the Menace
8. Sugarific Ciderific
=9. Malibu Pop
=9. Daiquiri

5 Worst Cocktails

1. Screwdriver
2. Champagne Cocktail
3. Orange Blossom
4. Tomorrow We Sail
5. Poinsettia Holiday

9 Tastiest Cocktails  

1. Woo Woo
=2. Flying Grasshopper
=2. Midori Sour
=2. Choc Berry
=2. After Six
=2. Baby Guinness
=2. Brain Hemorrhage
=2. Mudslide
=2. Malibu Pop  

Worst Tasting Cocktail


6 Prettiest Cocktails  

1. Brain Hemorrhage
=2. Metropolitan  
=2. Midori Sour
=2. Choc Berry
=2. Fuzzy Shark
=2. Baby Guinness  

Ugliest Cocktail


11 Cheapest Cocktails  

= Caribbean Milk
= Ciderific
= Sugarific Ciderific
= Screwdriver
= Daiquiri
= Raspberry Tipple Plus
= More Sunshine
= Dribena
= Fuzzy Shark
= Fuzzy Navel
= Snowball  

Most Expensive Cocktail


8 Best Named Cocktails  

=1. Woo Woo
=1. Brain Hemorrhage
=2. Flying Grasshopper
=2. Metropolitan
=2. Daiquiri
=2. Choc Berry
=2. Fuzzy Shark
=2. French 75

2 Worst Named Cocktails  

= Tomorrow We Sail
= Champagne Cocktail  

12 Easiest Cocktails  

=1. Elderflower Royale 
=1. Kir Imperial
=3. Sex on the Beach
=3. Flying Grasshopper
=3. Dribena
=3. Black Forest
=3. Ume Royale
=3. Kir Royale
=3. Blue Lagoon
=3. Baby Guinness
=3. Brain Hemorrhage
=3. Mimosa  

Most Fiddly Cocktail  


11 Strongest Cocktails  

1. Flying Grasshopper
=2. Baileys Cookie Martini
=2. Caipirinha
=2. White Lady
=3. Brain Hemorrhage
=3. Mudslide
=5. After Six
=5. Dennis The Menace
=5. Baby Guinness
=5. Malibu Pop
=5. Champagne Cocktail

Weakest Cocktail

Choc Berry

Supplies Consumed


Blue Curacao
Cherry wine
Chocolate liqueur
Creme de Cacao
Creme de Cassis
Creme de Menthe
Elderflower liqueur
Irish Cream (Baileys)
Peach Schnapps
Plum wine
Rum (dark)
Rum (white)
Sloe gin
Tia Maria
Triple Sec
Vodka (standard)
Vodka (vanilla)


Cranberry juice
Lemon juice
Lime cordial
Lime juice
Orange juice
Pineapple juice
Sugar syrup
Tonic water
Vanilla syrup


Caster sugar
Mint Matchmaker
Orange slice
Orange peel
Whipped cream
A shark



Estimated amount of ice used: 768 cubic centimetres.


Mean cocktail score: 6.75

Standard deviation of cocktail score: 0.777

Range of scores: 4.2

Last time around we demonstrated a rough normal distribution of the cocktail scores.  But that was just lazily eyeballing the QQ plot.  This time let's get serious and run them through a Shapiro-Wilks test, the result of which is a p-value of 0.099.  Whew!

With that done, we can fit a linear regression, with the overall scores as output and the various booze types as the covariates.  This way we may be able to detect what ingredients have a significant effect upon my enjoyment or otherwise of mixed drinks.  45 cocktails is admittedly a fairly small sample size to subject to a linear analysis, particularly with so many covariates, but we'll see what happens.

Eventually we'll want to consider combinations of drinks, but for now lets work through each booze type separately.  The first number is the  p-value; a p-value of 0.05 or less can be (tentatively) be considered significant (in layman's terms; it looks like the ingredient has an effect on my tastes above what might be accounted for by chance). The attached number tells us the average effect of the booze type upon cocktail score.

(As an example, then, Baileys might look like it has a larger effect on my opinion than champagne - and a positive one, since adding Baileys to a cocktail increases its score by 0.683 on average, but unlike champagne, we cannot say this effect is not down to chance. The reason we can't say that for Baileys even though the apparent effect is larger than that for champagne is that I've had fewer cocktails containing Baileys than including champagne, which makes it harder to pin down the effect.)

Advocaat 0.562 -0.464
Amaretto 0.309 -0.579
Baileys 0.064 0.683
Blue Curacao 0.422 0.300
Brandy 0.058 -1.49
Cachaca 0.651 -0.361 
Champagne 0.027 -0.573
Chambord 0.697 0.161
Cherry Wine 0.651 -0.361
Chocolate Liqueur 0.459 -0.422
Cider 0.258 0.652 
Creme de Cacao 0.043 1.58
Creme de Cassis 0.788 0.154
Creme de Menthe 0.078 0.991
Dark Rum 0.836 -0.086
Elderflower Liqueur 0.272 -0.873
Gin 0.236 -0.408
Kahlua 0.556 0.243
Malibu 0.458 0.278
Midori 0.952 0.048
Peach Schnapps 0.020 0.695
Plum Wine 0.952 0.048
Port 0.174 -1.08
Tia Maria 0.337 0.764
Triple Sec 0.697 0.161
Vanilla Vodka 0.952 0.048
Vodka 0.960 0.014
White Rum 0.483 0.559

So apparently cocktails with creme de cacao or peach Schnapps in them are significantly better, and those with champagne are significantly worse.  Of course, just saying such a thing reveals the problem here: there are plenty of cocktails adding Schnapps to probably cause problems (something involving creme de menthe, for instance, which itself came close to being significant and which apparently adds a full point on to each cocktail into which its placed), and there are some cocktails so hideous that a burst of bubbly would be helpful, if only to dilute the horror.

Ultimately what's really needed here is an analysis of the covariances.  That will have to wait until I've consumed more cocktails before it seems worth doing, however.  To the magic cupboard!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Quiet Around Here...

...Innit? In large part, that's from struggling to think of anything to say.  The major news story of the day just isn't anything I can sensibly comment on.  I mean, Crimea, dude. Dude? Crimea.

(I suppose though it's a fairly damning commentary that I don't know shit about the Ukraine's problems and I can still tell a significant percentage of US political commentators are two enclaves short of a united Georgia. It is difficult to have hope for a species who watches columnists argue Russia has invaded the Crimea because Obama didn't bomb Syria, and then rewards them with money, rather than beatings and exile.)

I suppose the best thing I can do is to outsource.  Here's the always sensible [1] Daniel Larison with his twelve point plan on how the US can respond to foreign protests without being a worthless punk.  An awful lot of what is contained therein would be worth our own government taking note of - we may not have a Navy strong enough to scare seagulls off of Rockall, but our rhetorical flourishes could perhaps still do with some downsizing.

[1] On foreign policy.  On domestic policy, ever so much not so much.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Darkness That Comes Before

There is something ancient stirring in Louisiana.

It must be ancient. What else could need a stone-age serial killer in order to take notice?  Not for this being the newly-arrived mumblings of Latin texts.  Slaughtering a sacrifice with steel would be functionally no different to dedicating a death by radiation poisoning - these are methods of death something so achingly old and distant could never understand.

So far removed from our time and comprehension is the stirrer that language itself gets tangled up.  It would be easy to assume it's interest in Erath hails from phonetics; the wrath of beings older than we can imagine descending on a one-horse Southern town to remind us who is and always was in charge.  But I think it's something else. Erath is Earth, viewed through the lens of a being that cannot understand the importance of the letters and the word it forms.  Erath may as well be Earth, just as we may as well be birds, or wasps, or dead.  It's the attempt by something so far beyond us it cannot possibly understand to make its terrible voice heard.

Which is what makes Cohle and Hart so appropriate as investigators here. If what is happening is the reassertion of a primal hierarchy humanity has entirely forgotten - if indeed we are old enough as a species to have intersected with what came before, and somehow survived - then who could be more appropriate to seek out the truth than two men equally deluded. One because he is aware that there are self-aware consciousnesses that far predate and dwarf our own, but who has given it a name and an interest in humanity that is completely incorrect; a comforting face painted on a featureless force of horror.  The other, because his assumption that mankind is the first intelligence to rise beyond the basic rules of nature is born of the same fundamental arrogance: that we can name and study what exists beyond our pathetically minimal perception.  Hart may not understand how Cohle can not be a Christian, his colleagues may mock him for not recognising a Tuttle when he sees one, but if they were to ever take a peek behind the curtain, what they'd learn of real power would, if they were supremely lucky, merely deign to kill them.

And soon the curtain will pull itself back. The memory of the town is fading.  The memory of mankind is fading along with it, and Cohle is simply the first person to taste the psychosphere and figure it out.  We were never writing the story of the world.  We were merely sketching it in pencil, twiddling our thumbs between apocalypses. We all think of destiny as a meaningful conclusion because it is too horrible to consider it might simply be a full stop.

But a full stop is exactly what is arriving. It may take seventeen years, or seventeen decades, but our story is ending. We can make our peace with that, or not.  I suggest we try, though.  Peace will very soon be in short supply.