Needed to get this down, really, so apologies for the lack of structure. Spoilers, obviously, right? Right. Continue reading Some Considerations Following A Screening Of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
A March For Science. Seems like a crazy idea. Like staging a march for gravity, or the moon. We live with the very clear, quantifiable benefits brought to us by scientific research, innovation and discovery. From the SF-nal qualities of the mini-computer in our pockets, to our home comforts, even to the way we prepare our food. Let’s not forget, it wasn’t that long ago that indoor plumbing was rare, and cooking was done on a wood or coal-fired range. By any reliable metric, we’re living in a golden age.
But science is under threat, just when we need it the most. Research projects into vital areas like climate change are being defunded or slashed. Anti-vaccination rhetoric has led to outbreaks of diseases like rubella that were thought to be extinct. According to gnome-sized Pob-alike Michael Gove, people are ‘sick of experts.’ In the Age Of Trump, and with the looming trash-fire of Brexit already casting a shadow over staff and funding for British science, the outlook is bleak.
Suddenly, marching in support of the community seems like a good idea after all.
I joined hundreds of thousands of people worldwide on Earth Day, April 22nd, to take to the streets for science. The London March started (where else?) at the Science Museum, winding past Hyde Park, up Piccadilly before convening at Parliament Hill. The mood, like the weather, was sunny. This was a celebration as much as a protest. White lab coats, terrible puns and jokes involving equations were everywhere. Heading towards Trafalgar Square, a bloke cycled past yelling “nerds!” We all cheered. Damn right. Nerdy and proud.
Scientists are not natural joiners, for the most part happy to hole up in their labs and do the good work. So there was a giddy sense of ambling out of the comfort zone, of not quite believing that we were here, and that there were so many of us. And that we had so much support, from both the public and a few very well known names…
Of course, there were chants. “What do we want? Evidence-based policies! When do we want them? After peer review!” Our banners were shonky, home-brew affairs, cobbled together from cardboard, drainpipes, duct-tape and even Lego. It seemed appropriate. British science has always been run on a shoestring, powered by imagination and lateral thinking.
At Parliament Hill, we gathered to hear speeches from names like Cosmic Shambles star Robin Ince, and finished up with a sing-along to Monty Python’s ‘The Science Song’. What else would we have done? The theme from The Big Bang Theory?
This was my first ever march, for a cause in which I wholeheartedly believe. In an age of alt-facts and pseudo-science, sometimes you need to make a stand for the truth. And if you have to do it in the company of 12,000 nerds and geeks, well, so much the better.
In celebration of the day, and the work that comes after, I’ve fired up Spotify and put together a March For Science playlist. Feel free to suggest additions.
She turns to me, soft and warm on this bright Sunday morning, and whispers in my ear–deep, sultry. ‘I don’t suppose we have any sausages in the freezer you could defrost? It’s just that we’ve got that squishy bread, and it’s been forever since I had a sausage sarnie…’
Pillow-talk in the Wickings household. Completely understandable, on a day when the smell of grilling meat is an obvious counterpoint to the sunshine of this April day. Breakfast is important, and a sausage sarnie under blue skies in the garden suddenly sounds like a very good idea.
It’s about the details, of course. The porky lovelies are cooked low and slow (and I mean slow–half an hour at least to develop the right level of crust, and for all the god’s sakes, don’t prick ‘em). They go in my favourite cast-iron skillet, a piece of Hairy Biker merchandise picked up for a pittance in a garden centre years ago. Heavy as hell, and seasoned with the baked-on grease of a thousand meals, it will last for decades if looked after with care. I never wash it. A quick rinse with warm water and a swipe with a scourer does the job. The surface of the pan is blackly translucent, and nothing ever sticks. It lives out on the hot-plate, always ready for the next meal.
The thing about a really good sausage sandwich is the counterpoint–good sausages, cheap and squishy supermarket loaf. I bake my own bread, and can go a decent approximation of a brick of Mother’s Pride, given the time. But if I’m honest with myself, the perfect sausage sandwich needs balance that only comes from the transposition of the two key ingredients. The crunch of the crisp surface of the banger and the soft, juicy meat, soaked up by the spongy bread. Heaven. Slightly too much butter, of course. There should always be the danger of the whole structure soggily falling apart.
Sauce on your sausage? It’s an important question that I put to Clare as she pads out to lay the table. ‘Brown or red?’ When I was a picky kid, the very thought of ketchup or HP on my sarnie would have been anathema. I went through a period of liking mayo, maybe a little mustard. I know, don’t judge me. I was young. My tastebuds took a while to bed in.
These days I like the punchy combo of exotic umami that comes from the meeting of sweet dates, sour tamarind, molasses and spices. A condiment that should have a noble, poetic name. Maharajah’s Delight. Royal Spice. With typical English understatement, we just call it brown sauce. I pep it up with a little Sriracha. The vinegary bite just lifts the whole experience.
In an epiphanic moment, while freezer-digging for sausages, I come across a bag of hash browns. These craggy, savoury pucks of bliss are a joy to me, and turn a sandwich into a meal. I ask Clare if she wants any. ‘No, too much.’ I put one in the pan for her anyway, tucking them in amongst the bangers at the halfway point with a splash of oil. I know if I don’t she’ll only decide she wants one of mine, and that’s an argument that no-one needs.
In Australia, they’ll regularly do breakfast on the barbie, and it’s a practice that’s gradually making its way back to the home country. Given a sunny morning, it’s a fine way to ease into the day. You could even throw a thin breakfast steak on to join the bacon and bangers. Definitely a couple of big portobello mushrooms. Hash browns, always. I don’t do eggs, but if you have a grill big enough for a frying pan, you’re all set. It’s a smoky meal to tend, though. Maybe save your morning shower for after breakfast, unless you like the idea of smelling of eau de barbecue all day. For today, though, the skillet is fine, set to a contented sizzle. No need for any more than that.
Breakfast was everything we wanted, and all we hoped for. A simple thing made with care and attention. Not rushed, ready when it was ready. An almost meditative meal, which we ate quietly, smiling at each other.
Sometimes, all you need is a sausage sandwich to put the world to rights.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the story of the brave rebels that stole the plans to the Death Star and led us into the opening crawl of Star Wars: The Episode Four. Is it a story that needed to be told? Let’s just say that Rob and Clive… disagree.
Strap in. Frank exchange of views ahead.
A dose of grimy 90s cyberpunk from director Richard Stanley that’ll leave you feeling like you need a shower. Great practical effects, some creative gore and a heavily-encrusted aesthetic makes this a retro pleasure. But there’s a controversy at the heart of the film, that led to an unexpected credit nod for a couple of 2000AD writers. Let Rob, Clive and Curiosity give you the lowdown…
The last of our Spooky SFF episodes celebrates a gritty slice of New York noir that twists and turns into a highly freaky slice of horror-tinged SF. From acclaimed low-budget film-maker Larry Cohen, this is a film that takes virtue from the lack of money. Cohen favours invention and good writing over special effects Sturm und Drang.
A meditation on identity, religion and family, God Told Me to is a powerful piece of work that really stays with you. A fitting end to our exploration of the horrific side of SFF!
It’s October, which means Curiosity is skewing spooky. This month our over-excitable alien chum is feeding Rob and Clive titles with an extra layer of creepyplasma.
We start with Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce–a deranged slice of Quatermass-style oddness with added nudity, exploding corpses and weapons-grade scenery-chewing. This one has to be seen to be believed, and even then you won’t believe what you’re seeing.