Category Archives: humor

Release of Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland

SF, fantasy, horror, jabberwock, mad hatter, bandersnatch, Alice, March hare, dormouse, mock turtle

Alice Unbound contains 22 speculative stories and poems inspired by the world and character of Lewis Carroll.

I can finally announce the table of contents for Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland. The anthology will be published by Exile Editions and is due out May 1 though the publisher is trying to move up the date so that we can launch in Toronto, and in Ottawa when I’m there in March.

The table of contents:
• The Slithy Toves by Bruce Meyer
• We Are All Mad Here by Lisa Smedman
• Operation: Looking Glass by Patrick Bollivar
• Mathilda by Nicole Iversen
• A Night at the Rabbit Hole by Cait Gordon
• Reflections of Alice by Christine Daigle
• Twin by Danica Lorer
• True Nature by Sara C. Walker
• Full House by Geoff Gander and Fiona Plunkett
• The Smoke by Costi Gurgu
• The River Street Witch by Dominik Parisien
• The Rise of the Crimson Queen by Linda Demeulemeester
• Her Royal Counsel by Andrew Robertson
• Dressed in White Paper by Kate Heartfield
• The King in Red by J.T. Kennedy
• No Reality But What We Make by Elizabeth Hosang
• Firewabby by Mark Charke
• Soup of the Evening by Robert Dawson
• Cyphoid Mary by Pat Flewwelling
• Yellow Boy by James Wood
• Jaune by Catherine MacLeod
• Wonderband by Alexandra Renwick

The authors came from five provinces (AB, BC, SK, ON and NS) with nine authors being male and fourteen female (one story is co-written). I went for the best story first. While the writers may or may not list this I know that there are several LGQBLT and those with disabilities.

There are jabberwocks, toves, March hares, white rabbits, mock turtles, red queens, cards, chess pieces, potions, walrus and carpenter, lobsters and snails, wasps, cats of various types, Alice, eaglets and gryphons, caterpillars, mad hatters, and looking glasses and far far more. The thread of madness works its way through all of these tales. Some of the tales are lighter and humorous, while others open a vein of darkness.

I had around 145 submissions last year, and in the end had to reject many good stories. It was tough and if I had my druthers, I would have done a second anthology. The world in this anthology, from steampunk adventures to spacefaring renegades, is diverse and quite mad. Look for it in the next couple of months. It will be available through Amazon and certain stores.

I’m also looking for review sites and should you know of one, please contact me. Now doff your hat, pour some tea and get ready to dive down the rabbit hole.


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Poet Interview: John Reinhart

SFPA, poetry, SF, fantasy, humor, writers

Poet John Reinhart lives in Denver, Colorado and has several collections out.

In an attempt to write more frequently in my blog, I’ve decided to do some interviews with poets who write speculative verse. That’s fantasy, SF, horror and the subgenres. My first interviewee is with John Reinhart, who recently edited an issue of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s (SFPA) Eye to the Telescope #25, the “garbage” issue. Following, italics are me, with John’s responses.

Let’s start with you telling me when you first found a love for poetry and what were you reading?

My first pen was dipped in the pain of puberty, followed closely by a 50-pound IBM Selectric that wrote in smoke. Writing in flailing and fits, I continued to drivel through high school, even submitting for publication. Then, mercifully, I put my words to other use. My next foray into verse came 15 years later, coinciding with the birth of my daughter. I quickly realized that the development of the internet and online submissions had changed the face of publishing since my typewriter days. My earliest favorite poet was Robert Service, which says little about my subsequent writing except my love of quirky humor. 

poetry, humor, writing

John Reinhart’s collection screaming, available at Amazon.

So you’re saying you dipped your pen into the pain of puberty? That does sound painful. Did Robert Service inspire you to write or were you already writing and he inspired you to greater heights? On that point, which authors in your formative years caused you stretch your poetic wings? And what was your first published poem?

Actually, I was inspired to do my earliest writing (short stories) after reading Jay Williams’s “Danny Dunn” books. My sci-fi interest continued to develop with Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, Ursula K. LeGuin, Arthur C. Clarke. Mostly I wrote rhymed garbage those early years, including a poem about pipe smokers that was published in the Pipe Smokers Ephemeris. Twenty years later, I learned of the SFPA (then, the Science Fiction Poetry Association).

reinhart 2As I re-entered the poetry writing and submitting scene, I read Campbell McGrath, Paul Goodman, D.H. Lawrence, Kenneth Rexroth, Russell Edson, and eventually anything else I could get my hands on at the library in an attempt to expand my poetic experience and teach myself about modern poetry. After I was awarded the 2016 Dark Poetry Scholarship from the Horror Writers Association, I actually took a poetry course, but the last poetry course I had previous to that was in high school. To date, I have published a collection about people around me, an experimental collection, a prose poetry collection, and two speculative collections. I like to think that I absorb everything I read and earthworm it into new substance to fuel new views of our technicolor world.

We grew up on the same authors. Congratulations on receiving the scholarship. You’ve reinhart 3named a lot of published collections. Have you published individual poems in magazines or anthologies where people can search them out? Oh, and where do you hail from?

I have spent most of my life in Denver, Colorado. I did achieve escape velocity once, but drifted back into orbit and found the Rocky Mountain gravitational pull too strong. I’m rebooting the engines as we speak.

My work has been featured in recent issues of Crannog, Pedestal Magazine, Liquid Imagination, Holy Shit, Grievous Angel, Quatrain.Fish, and many issues of Star*Line and Scifaikuest. I was particularly touched to land a couple poems in A Poet’s Siddur, alongside a poem by Leonard Cohen.

What would you say is the most important thing about poetry as compared to fiction?

The most important thing about poetry, as compared to fiction, is that I can compose a poem in less time and space than I can compose a short story. Black holes condense matter into meaninglessness, sucking in enough light to exhale in humorous high tones like people do at birthday parties with helium balloons. What we wheeze out of the ordinary vegetable universe ought to be blood out of turnips: poetry.

Would you say you have a particular style of poetry that you write, or topics that you explore?

I hope for my poetry to open new perceptions into our technicolor vegetable universe. Frequently, I utilize sci-fi/fantasy/horror as a means to highlight social issues, of which I think that observing and knowing our world is primary.

In terms of style, I often lean on humor in my observations and reflections on the daily mundane elevated to poetry. Though I have a fine selection of scifaiku in print, I tend to write free verse, with a special love for villanelles.

reinhart 4

Reinhart has written SF, fantasy and horror poetry.

What would be the one piece of wisdom you would pass on to any aspiring poet? And last, is there anything else about poetry that you’d like to say that I haven’t asked, or upcoming works you’d like to chirp about?

For aspiring poets – write, read, write more, read more. Submitting—and submitting frequently—is a good way to engage in the contemporary poetry scene, which should encourage you to read what appears in journals and online as well as the books you find at the local library. Find authors you love and read everything they have. Find authors you dislike or don’t understand, and read everything they have. Honestly, I love to write poetry. I like what it does to me, how it shapes my perceptions and changes my interactions with the world. That part is awesome. But it’s balanced with my thorough appreciation of walking this weird path with so many other talented and gracious artists. I leap at chances to meet up with other poets, regularly exchange emails with poets across the world, and revel in the beautiful work that shows up everywhere, if you dig below the surface.

reinhart 5
John likes to use humor as a lens through which he writes some of his poems.

I have two collections coming out shortly: dig it (Lion Tamer Press), and arson (NightBallet Press). dig it fulfills a goal at Patreon, where my patrons helped me reach a funding goal at which point I promised to self-publish a full-length collection. To date, this is my longest collection. As with my previous collection, screaming, this one veers away from much of my earlier form, though eccentricities and humor still make regular appearances. arson is a chapbook-length take on my multifaceted understanding of arson. It starts with a poem/syllabus on Arson 101.

Thanks, John. Check out John’s works through the links above and through Amazon. If you are a published speculative poet, feel free to contact me for an interview.


Filed under entertainment, fantasy, horror, humor, poetry, Publishing, science fiction

Playground of Lost Toys Interviews: Cole & Duncan

toys, childhood, nostalgia, fantasy, SF, fiction, short storiesGeoffery Cole and dvs duncan are the featured authors today in the Playground of Lost Toys. Cole’s story “Wheatiesfield in Fall” is humorous but a warning of what happens when you lose touch with the world around you and immerse yourself in games. In this case the game is woven with one’s life and when you defeat the boss, he is in fact your boss in the work world.

1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

The premise worked well with one of the story ideas sitting on my “To Do” pile. The list is very long at this point, as I’ve been working on a novel for the last few years, but I will sometimes take a break from the novel if a theme anthology comes along and it meshes nicely with one of the story buds on the list.

2. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood.

 Old video games evoke a different kind of nostalgia than watching a childhood movie or reading a favourite childhood book. I had pneumonia as a kid, and as a result, I had to stay home from school for several weeks. I’m sure I watched lots of TV and read many books during my illness, but all I really remember is playing A Link to the Past on my friend Jamie’s Super Nintendo that he lent to me (we had a Sega Genesis). We’re still best friends, close to twenty-five years later. Every few years I find a SNES emulator and take ALTTP for a spin, and I’m instantly transported back to those days of banana-flavoured antibiotics and the quest for the Triforce. The music alone is enough to make me start looking for a boomerang.

3. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story.

I wanted to explore the gamification of mundane life in “Wheatiesfields in Fall.” In the future depicted in the story, every transaction or interaction is gamified: you gain gold and experience points for performing well at work, at school, playing games. Having marital relations with your spouse also rewards you with experience and gold. Gold lets you buy things in this world, and experience points determines your level, which has far-reaching impacts on your daily life. The main character, the low-level Loufis, lusts after a higher-level woman, Nurse T. By virtue of their level disparity, she is forever out of his reach.

Level determines the jobs you can get, the transportation you can take, the houses you can buys. Level also affects what happens after you die. Loufis works at an Upload Palace, a place where people have their personality uploaded to a computer. Low-level people send their copied personalities to Upland, a digital afterlife, but for higher-level people, they have the option of downloading into a new body. Extra lives, the most coveted resource in video games, become a reality for high-level people in this gamified world. Those who win extra lives also tend to own all the gold, creating a society of rampant inequality.

The antagonist of the story, Mr. Yao, has won several extra lives and has amassed a huge fortune in his centuries on Earth. As he prepares for yet another download, he sends Loufis on a quest to find a video game he played way back in his first life. For Mr. Yao, that video game symbolizes everything he’s lost in his too-many years. For Loufis, it is the key to levelling up and maybe winning Nurse T’s heart.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology, you’d like to mention?

I recently learned that China has created a system that could end functioning much like the level system I described in my story. It is terrifying stuff, and I hope the Chinese people see it for what it is and shut it down.   5. What other projects do you have in the works, or pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.

5. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year.

I have a story coming out from Nameless Digest next year, and I’ve been asked to contribute a story to Grimm Futures, which has been very fun to put together. I’ll be shopping around my novel Frozen Jellyfish Blues next year as well. Most of my published work is available through my website, Drop by and say hello.

dvs duncan, Treasure, short fiction, transformers

dvs duncan journeys into the Playground of Lost Toys

Next is dvs duncan, who wrote “Treasure,”very much a tale of loss and regret and that wish to capture something of the innocence of childhood and simpler times.

  1. What was your main reason for submitting a story to Playground of Lost Toys.

It liked the premise of the anthology. Perhaps I have never entirely left childhood behind. I still have a fascination with toys and jealously guard a few treasures from my youth. It seemed only natural to write about such things.

  1. Does your story relate at all to anything from your own childhood.

“Treasure” does not relate explicitly to anything in my childhood but every toy I had was imbued with magic. They were my companions and guides on incredible journeys. I have recently been reminded of this while watching my grandchildren play.

  1. What theme or idea were you exploring in your story.

I think that real toys are mysterious and I love a good mystery. A real toy is not just a piece of plastic and metal and cloth. A real toy is something created out of imagination. Its bones might have been fabricated by Mattel or Hasbo, but its flesh and blood are the vision and inspiration of the child that plays with it. It was these latter aspects I wanted to explore and how they reflect our relationship with the work as a whole.

4. Is there anything else to do with your story or the theme of the anthology, you’d like to mention?

I hope that the anthology will inspire people to examine the meaning of toys a little more closely and, by doing so, come to know themselves better. Our toys, and the ways we play with them, tell us something fundamental about who we are.

  1. What other projects do you have in the works, pieces people can buy, or places to find you in the coming year?

I am finishing edits on a novel, a story of how the Victorian village of Chandling on Wode is transported to an alien work where the stalwart Brits are forced to deal with overly inquisitive robot spiders, marauding aliens and a super intelligent computer on a mission to save the universe. Dame Hesta Electra Rutherford is utterly horrified by this unseemly translocation and will have things put to rights. She has a plan and it just might work if they can find a fresh supply of tea.


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The Chi Reading Series

ChiSeriesVancouverPoster - July 2014The truth is I’ve been far too busy to blog of late and so my blog has been suffering badly. My day job became overwhelming and has eaten all of my energy. I’m hoping that will change soon. So, in trying to keep a toe over the threshold and into the world I’d like to mention that I’m still hosting the ChiSeries Vancouver, part of the Chiaroscuro Reading series started in Toronto some five or so years ago by Sandra Kasturi and friends. In Toronto, where the wild things are, and there is an abundance of culture and population, the series has run successfully every month.


On sale at the reading, as well as A Parliament of Crows, and Of Thimble and Threat The Life of a Ripper Victim

Last year, along with Ottawa and Winnipeg, we launched in April, and ran quarterly, with readings in July, Oct. and then in February. The next one would have been May but EDGE Publishing was bringing dark fiction author and vampire aficionado Nancy Kilpatrick in May so we did a reading with Nancy, which included  Rhea Rose and me reading as well. With these readings we had several hurdles to get beyond. One was the venues brought some challenges, and with the new reading for this July 22nd we will be moving to the Cottage Bistro at 4468 (or possibly 4470) Main St. The Cottage Bistro is known for hosting live music as well as several other reading series and is happy to have the ChiSeries on stage.

This is an exciting and very central venue so I’m hoping that many people will come out and enjoy the tales. ChiSeries is free and the readers are TheIncomingTidepublished authors of speculative fiction and poetry. This includes science fiction, fantasy, magic realism, mythical, dark fiction, horror and all subgenres in between. This July, we have guests arriving from Oregon: Alan M. Clark, Kirsten Alene, and Cameron Pierce.

Some people might recognize Alan’s name. He has been a well-known and award-winning artist in the dark fiction genre for a number of years. He was this year’s emcee for the World Horror Convention, as well. His paintings range from thoughtful to disturbing and he has created illustrations for hundreds of books, including works of fiction of various genre,s nonfiction, textbooks, young adult fiction, and children’s books. Awards for his illustration work include the World Fantasy Award and four Chelsey Awards. He is the author of thirteen books, including seven novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. His latest novel, The Door That Faced West, was released by Lazy Fascist Press February, 2014.

bizarre fiction, fantasy, US authors, ChiSeries, readings in Vancouver

Kirsten Alene’s book will be available at the reading.

Writing couple Kirsten Alene  and Cameron Pierce live in Portland, Oregon. Kirsten’s books include Japan Conquers the Galaxy, Unicorn Battle Squad, Love in the Time of Dinosaurs, and the forthcoming short story collection, Rules of Appropriate Conduct from Civil Coping Mechanisms in 2015. Her work has appeared in such places as Amazing Stories of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens, Innsmouth Magazine and The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction.

Cameron Pierce’s ten books include the Wonderland Book Award-winning collection Lost in Cat Brain Land, Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon, and the forthcoming novella The Incoming Tide. His work has been praised by The Guardian, and many others. Cameron is also the editor of three anthologies, most recently In Heaven, Everything Is Fine: Fiction Inspired by David Lynch, and is head editor of the popular indie publisher Lazy Fascist Press.

The reading runs from 7:30 until about 10;30 pm on July 22. Come join us or leave me a message here if you’d like to get onto a mailing list for future events. If you’re interested in the other ChiSeries events in the other cities, check out the Facebook pages and the website:

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Screaming Chicken’s Burlesque: How Much is Fowl?

stripping, striptease, Gypsy Rose Lee, burlesque

Gypsy Rose Lee, a 1930s beauty, was the queen of burlesque, using elegance and modesty for her striptease.

The title should help in narrowing this down. Yes, it is burlesque. And screaming chickens? Not so much, but it does aid the audience n knowing what they’re getting into. Burlesque, according to Wikipedia is “a literary, dramatic or musical works intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects.” It developed into meaning a parody, farce or exaggeration and was used by everyone from Shakespeare to Strauss. Comedy, bad puns, juxtaposing modern styles against classical ones, mixing operettas and literary works and theatrical elements are all historically part of burlesque.

American burlesque involved more acts; variety shows, wrestlers, exotic dancers, magicians, singers and chorus numbers, to name a few. The exotic or cooch dancers began to become a focus. Singers showed off their shapes while wearing elaborate costumes and eventually they were supplanted by striptease. Hence, when many of us hear the term “burlesque” we think of Gypsy Rose Lee, giant feather fans and stripping. Remember that it’s striptease and not just stripping. I have seen both and there is quite a difference since some strippers are already wearing nothing and at the most brutish of the “dances” had women slide along poles and writhe on the floors in mimicry of sexual acts more than as a dance.

I included a bit of the background so that my short and somewhat tardy review of the Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society’s 10th Anniversary Burlesque show makes some sense. Not that sense is the biggest thing in burlesque. Fun and silliness is. The show was held at the end of June at the WISE Hall and opened with a long nautical number done in a great vaudevillian and 50s style. Two women first came on stage in shimmery teal shorts and tops holding fans with silk attached (favored by bellydancers, exotic dancers and others). Then two more women came out in little shimmery skirts holding long silk veils. The four danced and then created waves with the silks. Next four women with mermaid tails danced out, “swam about” and then removed their shell bras to reveal starfish pasties covering their nipples. http://

Beluga / 2013-06-29 Screaming Chicken’s 10th Anniversary Spectacular from Screaming Chicken on Vimeo.

After those four disappeared a turtle, seahorse, seaweed, jellyfish, octopus and others danced into a much more silly piece, followed by the beluga whale and two fisherman. It didn’t end with this keystone kops farce, but advanced into the stranded beluga being rescued by three save-the-whale hippie, earth flower children. This long and involved piece was beautiful, goofy,  sensual and most of all fun. Not everyone stripped and most of that involved the removing of bras.

Other numbers through the night involved songs and dance, perhaps a few more pieces of clothing coming off as in one number at the end with two men in jailhouse orange and the woman guard. They were stripped down to their striped shorts. I believe they were new members who had taken a burlesque course. A proper Victorian husband and wife stood for a portrait but she had the (fake) pubic curls beneath her dress showing. The light went out and the next was the woman standing proper and the husband displaying his waistcoat and pants that went from floor to knee and nothing in between.

One of my favorites, besides the opening number, was the dogs playing poker. We’ve all seen the poster. Well, five women came out complete with ears, tails and tufts of fur peeking from their bras. They each had a spotlighted piece and then they danced, removed their bras and had them in their mouths, shaking them like stuffed toys. If I remember their pasties were bones.

Screaming Chicken burlesque, chorus line, dancers,

E. Vans crows are depicted in many forms including burlesque. Copyright Bill Ayers

There were men in power suits who stripped down and an old lady with a walker dancing it up. Another routine indicative of E. Van with its ubiquitous avian population was titled Crows, and was a great dance reminiscent of the corvids and jazz chorus numbers. In all the routines, the point wasn’t to strip and be naked, nor was there much of the striptease though some acts were sensual. In most cases bras were removed or pants and that was it. This is what brings burlesque back to its fuller roots. Music, parody, exaggeration and comedy. Near the end there was one point where screaming chicken should have shrieked in outrage and where the essence of burlesque, and good taste, was lost.

One of the more memorable acts began with bringing someone shrouded in black out to sit on a chair. This routine was introduced as being inspired by a US serial killer I believe. Then out came a slim woman in black jogging pants and pulled-up hoodie. She danced around and moved to a lingerie-clad woman who was tied up and kneeling. Then the person in the black hoodie slits her throat and removes the cover on the seated woman, tied, gagged and looking afraid. The “killer” proceeds to taunt and kills the other woman, tearing out her eye. She then removes her hoodie and long pants and tada!

I’m pretty sure the audience was quieter for this piece. I know I was. It was vulgar and horrid in all the wrong ways. Burlesque is also about celebrating our bodies in all shapes and sizes and not being critical that we aren’t all perfect models. It’s not just bad that the true essence of burlesque was not attained (where is the comedy in this) but when women are already victims of domestic, religious and other violence how does having a sexy serial killer equate to entertainment?

Besides the always-sucky sound system at the WISE Hall (making it difficult to hear what performers said or sang) this routine was the only other foul note and Screaming Chicken members would be better off to bury it forever. Still, I very much enjoyed most of it and would definitely go to be entertained again.

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Sexual Segregation in Food

cannibal, man pies, cooking, meat pies, food, culture, bad advertising, marketing gone wrong

Would Hannibal like his man pies with a side of fava beans?

There are brilliant marketing ideas and then really bad ones, such as lingerie football. The newest one that caught my attention was “Man Pies.” I’m afraid that when I first heard this term I thought of something akin to cowpies but made by humans. Then I thought of some delicacy that Sweeney Todd would make and a cannibal would like, manpies. Yum yum.

But no, this isn’t some wacky horror tale; it’s story tale of marketing gone wrong. But hey, maybe I’m wrong, maybe these man pies are made by men and someone thought that was a good idea for a name. The team of man pie makers consists of creator Bryce Sharp, Amy Burn and Daniel Henry. People often think some names are great without really sounding them out or looking at them from different perspectives. Besides the unfortunate associations of this name, there is a worse undercurrent to the reference.

man pies, food, meat pies, cooking, savory, cannibals, meat, bad marketing

What a man pie really looks like.

But what, I’m sure you’re asking, exactly are man pies? They’re meat pies, plain andsimple. The company is out of Bellingham and uses locally raised ingredients. These pies include such delectables as Indian Curry, Spicy Pork and Beans and Roasted Zucchini and Eggplant pies, to name a few. While the site shows healthy and the mouth watering pies, I’m a little aghast at the suggestion here that these pies have to be so named to get men to eat them. I first heard about this company on the radio and at least that’s the thrust the announcers gave. Make manly pies for manly men, because you know, men are just not gonna want to eat cream pies or lemon meringue. Really? Really? What, are these pies too girly and fluffy for real men to eat?

While I’m sure this company is doing really well with their wholesome and delicious pies, I really wonder at the need to bring the genders into food. Next we’ll see Girl Cakes, Woman Waffles, and Boy Burgers. Yikes! Seriously, folks, while you’re making a great product, you probably want to keep the cannibals away. Tasty food is great, but marketing in poor taste doesn’t help.


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Movie Review: Flushed Away

Flushed Away, animation, Dreamworks, Aardman, film, movies, Roddy

Roddy’s troubles are about to begin. Copyright Aardman & Dreamworks (on all images here)

I already mentioned I’ve been on an animation binge lately, as well as a movie binge in general (there’s a reason for this to be blogged about later) and another animation I recently watched was the 2006 British Flushed Away. If you’ve ever seen or are a fan of the Wallace and Gromit films then you’ll probably like this. Wallace and Gromit started as a short animation made with stop-motion plasticine or claymation figures. Wallace is an inventor of the kookiest kind whose kept on track by his faithful dog Gromit. Gromit has the wisdom that Wallace lacks with his genius. Created by Aardman Animations The Wrong Trousers where Wallace ends up in some crazed mechanized pants, won an Academy Award in 1993.

Aardman did several other award winners or nominees and their first full-length animation was Chicken Run in partnership with Dreamworks. Before this they did numerous shorts and TV series in Britain. Flushed Away, while exhibiting the same characteristics of stop-motion, was the first Aardman film done completely by CGI. The ability to rend water properly required this switch. Wiki reports that he production was so arduous and became so expensive that Aardman and Dreamworks split after its production.

Flushed Away, The Toad, Rita, animation, claymation, stop-motion, film, movies

Roddy & Rita are chased by The Toad’s henchmen.


The movie is about Roddy, a pampered pet mouse, who lives a life of leisure in an upper crust mansion. When the family goes out he scampers out of his gilded cage to party. But it’s a lonely life for a solitary mouse who’s invaded by Sid, a fat, slovenly, punked up street mouse. Things go awry and Sid flushes Roddy down the toilet where he emerges into the great underworld of mouse lives in the sewers. Roddy’s terrified and just wants to get home to his cushy life.

Flushed Away, movies, film, Aardman, Dreamworks, entertainment

Rita to the rescue. The innovative world of the mice makes this a visual delight.

He’s reluctantly rescued by Rita on her tug the Jammy Dodger. It seems that a jammie dodger is a biscuit with jam in it, and it’s a typical aspect of Aardman humor. Rita’s being chased by The Toad  and his henchrats because she’s stolen a jewel. Roddy points out that its fake and earns Rita’s wrath when he destroys it. The adventure ensues with The Toad’s evil plans to destroy the mouse world, his cousin Le Frog helping capture Rita, Rita and Roddy rescuing each other and a lot of shenanigans.

The characters have the classic Aardman features of a wide mouth full of teeth, big ears and round bulgy eyes. The humor is evident both in the dialogue and plot and in the settings and actions as well. This world is so rich with detail that it’s worth seeing a second time just to stare at all the brilliant images. Being a tiny world on a mouse-sized scale, the rodents have created their habitats out of bits and pieces of human discards; pins, bottle caps, broken pottery, toys, lost buttons, etc.  Roddy begins to prove his worth and his intelligence and eventually makes it back to his aristocratic mouse cage…

The cast of characters include Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Andy Serkis, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno and Bill Nighy. While these arefamous names to me it makes not one iota of difference. When I watch animations, I really don’t care if it’s a big star or not. Half the time I can’t even tell who is playing what part. Obviously the studios believe it will sell the movies but I really wonder how many people care.

slugs, Flushed Away, Aardman, Dreamwork, movies, animation, Roddy

The models for the singing slugs. They add the icing on the comedic cake.

One last thing to mention about Flushed Away. Part of the background characters are slugs that float on lily pads or on other items in the sewers. They have two bulgy eyes on eyestalks, lips and teeth (of course). They shriek at opportune moments but also seem to float by and sink a sappy song at the right or wrong moments. I love the slugs and they’re great filler for comedic moments. I always love the Wallace & Gromit movies though some aren’t as funny as others. Flushed Away was a lot of fun and a pretty good plot,  without Roddy or Rita being the singular hero but a team that worked well together.  I would give this 8 jammie dodgers out of 10.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 77-81

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 77 (Mar. 17):

zombie, apocalypse diet, cooking, food, end of the world, eating

This is starting to look more appealing. You can buy this delectable food here.

Ach, laddy, there will be a few green zombies today, I fear. St. Paddy will have to lead them away. I actually need to recap yesterday’s dinner. I boiled up some rice noodles, which turned out to be the really thin glass noodles. I made a sauce of garlic, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, with a chunk of coconut cream I found in the fridge. Into that I dropped the mussels and clams and made a great sauce. Not only was it tasty but it was filling. Yes, the last week has seen the portions become a little more meager and because of that I’m often feeling a bit hungry. But hey, I can stand to lose a few pounds and become less appealing to zombies.

And speaking of the fiends, it definitely felt like they were gnawing on my brain today as I fought a cold that gave me a very bad sinus headache. I didn’t eat much because of it and just ate more glass noodles with olive oil, garlic, onion and Parmesan cheese. I felt better enough to drop by my friend’s in the evening and ate a few pieces of crackers and cheese but with my taste buds under siege there was a loss of appetite.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 78 (Mar. 18):

Sunday; a bit more appetite. I braved a half bowl of the roasted garlic and potato soup in the fridge. This time it sat okay in my belly but just. For supper I had a bowl of my veggie nut chile, with some of the last quinoa, Parmesan and flake yeast.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 79 (Mar. 19):

Lunch was the chicken bean barley soup. You’d think with this light a diet I’d be shedding pounds, but long ago I learned my body is great at preservation. I wouldn’t have to eat anyone for a very long time if we crashed at the top of a snow-covered mountain. I’ll probably start losing more weight once I’m eating bigger portions again. Supper was the last of the quinoa with the last of the veggie chile.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 80 (Mar. 20):

food, apocalypse diet, recipes, food, concoctions, beets, end of the world

Zombie age concoction. Not bad tasting but maybe it looks a bit like moldering zombie.

Day 80 but I’m not sure I’ll make it to 90 or even the end of this month. Lunch was the last of the spicy veggie peanut soup.

Supper’s new zombie age concoction was half of the last beet, a tin of tuna, capers, dill, the last of the onion, sundried tomatoes, a dried ancho chile, and some bad red wine that even zombies wouldn’t touch. All that on the last of the rice. I have to say the aroma was actually quite appealing.  And how did this concoction taste? The capers were tangy and salty against the sweetness of the beets. I tossed in two sprinkles of hot sauce as well, and mixed with the smokiness of the ancho chile this was another dish that was not bad. The tomatoes disappeared mostly into the background but added a bit of tangy and sweet. How long does it take to fry a diced beet? Half of forever, so either boil them first or be prepared to let them saute a good half hour at least.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 81 (Mar. 21):

Spring is officially here and I’m still cleaning out those cupboards. Lunch was the chicken barley bean soup, which at least is filling.

apocalypse diet, baking, muffins, rice flour, potato flour, food disaster, recipes

Food fail. I concede defeat. These "muffins" are good for mortar and lobbing at zombies.

Supper; well there was some leftover zombie age concoction, so I had that. This large jar of honest-to-god Polish sauerkraut has been lurking in the fridge for years. That stuff could outlast cockroaches. It had caraway and that’s about it, so I scooped out about a half a cup and heated it. Salted cabbage. Do people really live on this stuff? The good thing is that it has 30% of my daily vitamin C and a healthy dose of iron, but seriously, I think it will outlive the diet.

And then I thought, what can I make with these jars of flour? There was a ship’s biscuits recipe that literally called for hammering the dough with a mallet and I was about to try it when a muffin book flipped open to rice flour blueberry muffins. I could make this work!

I needed 2 cups of rice flour but what I thought was rice flour was cornmeal. I had 1.5 c. potato flour and .5 c. of white flour. Tossed that in with the 4 tsp. baking powder. I mixed the 2 eggs, vanilla and 3 tbsp. olive oil (it called for vegetable oil) in a separate bowl. I didn’t have honey but used  1/2 c. of maple syrup. It’s about the same consistency, right? So I mix this all together and…get a lumpy dry mortar.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve made muffins but I know the batter should be a little moister than this. So I add water, and add water, annnnd add water, probably 2-3 cups! It’s gorpy, it’s gloppy and it’s lumpy. I folded in the berries, slightly moister than just blueberries, and then tried to drop the tenacious dough into the muffin tin. I baked it at 350 degrees, turned the heat up and baked some more. I added more water and tried a second batch baking for 60 instead of 20 minutes. Yes, forever! These things are bricks and probably only good for lobbing at zombies. Obviously, potato flour is very different from rice flour. They kind of became bread like but tasted awful.  It’s the eggs and syrup that seem the biggest waste here. Score one for the zombies.

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

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How to Wear Skirts and Man-Skirts

The art of wearing a skirt well is not as easy as tossing it on and just walking. In fact, different lengths have different issues.


fashion, clothing, how to sit in a miniskirt, miniskirt, skirts

Be careful of the Bermuda Triangle when you sit in a miniskirt. Creative Commons:

A short, micro or miniskirt takes a certain degree of elegance if you want to maintain decorum and not look like a tart. Learn how to pick something up from the floor or a table without revealing all of your underpinnings. If you have to pick up something it’s best to bend at the knees and go straight down. Bending at the waist is sure to be revealing. Oh, and wearing underwear is an absolute must with short skirts. Make sure that if a chance unveiling happens that you are okay with what’s revealed, both in flesh and in material.

Some miniskirts are fairly form fitting. If you’re buying one, trying walking around in it first and see if it rides up or pouches at the belly. The other thing to check that not many of us think about is sitting in a skirt. The butt will widen and can cause constrictions or riding up. As well, there is that triangle of revelation between skirt and legs that can introduce any viewer at the same level or lower than you to an eyeful. Think Basic Instinct here. If your skirt is that short, you may have to cross your legs or place your hands or purse in a strategic position to keep the Bermuda Triangle hidden.

Short but full skirts are better at covering the Triangle but have the same problems for bending over. And of course, you have to watch the wind. A Marilyn moment in a short flouncy skirt is going to display more than your thighs. Many women now opt for dark tights with short skirts but that’s not always going to be a choice in the summer. You definitely don’t want to be lifting boxes in this length of skirt.


skirts, midi, micro, walking in skirts, tight skirts, fashion

These midlength skirts are narrow enough you might need to hitch them to walk up stairs. Creative Commons Marc Jacobs

I consider any skirt from just above the knee to mid-calf to be a mid-length skirt. You don’t have to contend with displaying intimate details as you do with the short skirt but there are other issues. The tube or stovepipe skirt can be so tight that walking becomes an art. If you try to walk or stride you’ll either rip the material or fall over. Many of these skirts have an open slit in the back that facilitates walking, but you many still have to take delicate half-steps. Think of the kimono and how Japanese women mince along on the wooden sandals, called geta. To sit in a skirt this tight (if it is not stretchy material) means you might have to hike it up and you probably don’t want to cross your legs, even if there is room to do so. It would be quite constricting. If your skirt is particularly binding, you might find it difficult to bend your knees enough to mount the stairs. In this case you actually have to hitch your hip up to accommodate, or hike your skirt to give your knees room to bend.

A full skirt gives you ease of walking, but has other issues. If it’s really full it can tend to gather between your legs until you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, not to mention it doesn’t look that great. One way to deal with this is to gather a little bit in you hands to hold it out. The other is to wear a slip. Not only does this stop the transparent effects of the sun (or particular types of artificial lighting), but it will decrease the gathering of fabric. Slips are rarely as voluminous as a skirt, unless you’re dealing with the full circle where a full and ruffled slip is required to hold it out, which also stops it from going between the legs. And again, the fuller the skirt, the more you have to watch the wind, which really loves to play with fabric. The only thing with sitting that you have to watch with this length and style  is that it doesn’t end up with someone sitting on  part of it. Sometimes wearing a coat over top with a purse can cause a skirt to ride up. You might want to test that because it could show more than you’re anticipating.


skirts, maxi skrit, fashion, walking in skirts

This length might mean you have to develop the kick-step, depending on fabric and flow. Creative Commons: Michael Kors

Not all of these are evening gowns and I wear some ankle-length skirts from time to time. It’s rare to find fitted ones this long unless there is a slit, but a fishtail or tulip style may be fitted to the knees, then flare out. Again, you’ll probably have to practice walking elegantly. More common will be an A-line or fuller skirt. If the skirt actually touches the floor you’ll have to work out a kick-step that lets you kick the fabric out before stepping forward so you’re not tripping yourself. Going up stairs requires you to gather the fabric in a hand, but you might want to do this going down the stairs as well. Steps are strewn with garbage, or just wet, and a long skirt will trail behind. As well, anyone walking behind you might step on your skirt, resulting in tearing or worse, a fall.

Shoes and long skirts can make a dangerous combination. If you’re wearing heels, watch out. I’ve had my heel catch in the hem of a skirt that had slightly stretchy material and almost topple me down the stairs. If you’re on a chair with roller wheels, be careful that your skirt doesn’t get wound around the wheels. This has happened to me a few times.


manskirts, kilts, men in skirts, fashion, style, dress

Fashion gone wrong. Jean Paul Gaultier’s version of a manly man skirt.

Some men like to wear skirts and they’re not all gay. Others feel more comfortable calling these kilts, and the Utilikilt has gained great popularity amongst the male set. It’s a modern version made of heavyweight canvas and lacking the plaid of yesteryear’s kilt. Whether wearing a skirt or a kilt, men especially need to learn the art of wearing the skirt. Most of these are midlength so walking isn’t an issue but sitting can be a man’s undoing. Men often sit with their legs apart and if you happen to be going regimental (naked) beneath your kilt you better keep an eye on the capricious wind. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting on the ground when I guy in a kilt came up and squatted in front of me. Ding dong, I saw far too much dangling. Guys, anyone at eye level and below can see a lot and it ain’t pretty. So, men, learn to either cross your ankles, close your knees, put your hands in your lap or use a pouch. That’s what the historical sporran was for besides storing valuables; it protected and hid the family jewels.

If you’re not sure how you’re going to look walking or sitting in any skirt or kilt, practice. Get a friend to give you hints but please, keep the treasures buried except for your special someone.


Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, fashion, humor

Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 38-40

zombies, brains, food, dieting, apocalypse diet, party, end of the world

Do zombies and parties mix? Creative Commons: www/plants-vs-zombies-party

Here’s my dilemma coming up. I forgot I was doing this diet and decided to have a party this coming Saturday. How do you have  a party with no nibblies at all? Alcohol’s not a problem. I’m probably going to have to make this a bubble like the restaurant meals with friends. If there are leftovers I’m either going to have to give them away or mark them (if I buy a container of something) so that I don’t use them until the diet is declared dead. On top of that, a longtime friend is coming to visit for the same weekend. She’s probably not going to be thrilled with eating very little so I might have to bubble the whole weekend. Stay tuned to see what happens.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 38 (Feb. 7):

I have to finish writing what I ate last night. I found veggie dumplings (gyoza) in the freezer so I boiled up five of those with the last of the broccoli, tossed a spot of soy and fish sauce and ate it up. Unfortunately, boiling made the gyozas too mushy. Next time will be steamed or fried.

Lunch was a tin of tuna, with dill, celery, capers, Worcestershire sauce, spices and… and. There was no mayo! Oh doom! Then I remembered I have little packets of soy sauce from takeout and yes, there was one packet of mayo and some Nando’s hot sauce. Saved. That tuna went with a garlic pesto flour tortilla of which I still have quite a few.

I had a snack of a couple of artichoke hearts in vinegar and oil, with a few crackers. For dinner, I used the last of the potatoes (about 5 med. small ones) and a bag of roasted garlic that a friend gave me and made garlic potato soup with turkey stock. I tossed in some onion because I believe this will be the last vegetable in my fridge. It was pretty tasty. I will have enough to freeze several containers. Did I mention I found a bit more chocolate in my place? Chocoholics unite!

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 39 (Feb. 8):

Today’s breakfast was nil. I ran out of time but that’s not unusual for me. Lunch was quinoa and pollo en mole. For dinner I had some of the leftover roast garlic and potato soup, and a few crackers. I believe I’ll run out of the green veggies sometime next week, and probably all veggies in about two weeks or by the end of Feb.

BTW, I did see a zombie today. I was driving on the highway and needed to get over into the right lane to exit. I signaled and signaled and signaled. The car beside kept pace with me so that I had to slow down, nearly stop to get into the lane and then exit. When I pulled up beside this car the woman was staring straight ahead, no expression on her face. There was a large dog moving in the back but she never acknowledged it. Eventually I ended up in front of her and when I looked back she was staring straight ahead, eyes rimmed in darkness, never acknowledging the dog. Maybe it was dinner. If a zombie had been tearing out brains in the next lane, she would never have noticed. Zombies that drive are somewhat dangerous on the road because they aren’t aware of their surroundings, unless it’s brains of course.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 40 (Feb. 9):

leftovers, apocalypse diet, food, eating, cooking, end of the world

Not a bad looking lunch for Day 40: shrimp, gai lan, quinoa, garlic & sundried tomato.

So, breakfast consisted of two chocolates. Lunch was quinoa with sundried tomatoes in oil, garlic, shrimp and the last of the gai lain. That is indeed the last of the leafy green vegetables though there are still a couple of stalks of limp celery and some Brussels sprouts.

For the party (the bubble food) I bought some cheese, a bag of trail mix, crackers and some chocolate eggs. However, those are stored separately and I’m not allowed to eat them (besides at the party). I think anything left afterwards (if in a container) will be marked with a Sharpy indicating that I can’t eat it until the experiment has ended. That’s temptation though, so how well can I resist the food that is not food?

I have found there is a slightly soft turnip in my fridge so tonight it will be neeps–carrots and turnip with garlic and herbs. Tomorrow begins the weekend of party and visiting friend. Can I make it past Day 40?

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, driving, food, humor