Cormackular Linky

1. Lovely friendo David Cormack has spent the last few years as a columnist for the Herald, representing “the entire left side of politics”. He, with many others, was shed by the paper as it tries to cope with events. Now Cormack has jumped on Patreon, and you can get his funny & smart reckons for spare change:

2. MAD magazine’s film parodies were essential culture for decades, and Mort Drucker’s instantly recognisable art was a huge part of their success. The WaPo gave him a great obit:

3. The Comics Journal goes deep into Drucker’s art style, using his Invasion of the Body Snatchers parody as a starting point. I loved this. He was a huge part of my childhood. (Before home video, you’d relive films by reading the MAD parodies…)

4. Curt Smith of Tears for Fears plays Mad World with his daughter Diva. Gave me chills.

5. The last paragraphs of this Ray Bradbury interview are getting shared around for good reason – they are majestic. But the whole thing, an interview from the late 70s and the early 10s, is excellent.

6. Which is a good excuse to link to Rachel Bloom’s extremely horny and not works-safe song about lusting after Ray Bradbury. This 2010 clip was instrumental in getting Crazy Ex-Girlfriend made. Bradbury, then 90, liked it.

7. Adam Schlesinger, taken much too young by COVID, was best known for cheeseball (& horny) chart-topper Stacy’s Mom, but he was also the secret songwriting weapon behind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Rolling Stone gives the whole picture.

8. This has been shared all over the place because sax man is just that iconic: The True Story of The Lost Boys’ Sax Man

9. In the last few years there has been a surge in Pākehā learning te reo Māori, signalling a deep transformation in how New Zealanders see the language. But this interest brings with it many new concerns, writes Dr Rawiri Taonui:

10. Another notable death this week was mathematician John Horton. This Guardian longread about him (dating from a few years back) is absolutely fascinating. (Via Trond)

11. Lea Thompson sharing this stay-home message makes it 1.21 gigawatts more compelling

12. This did the rounds just pre-pandemic, but if you missed it, this episode of podcast Reply All about a man who tries to reconstruct a song he remembers from his youth – a song no-one else can recall – is surely one of the best podcast episodes of all time. (Via Kirsty @eliterate)

13. Bloopers from old Hollywood are, it turns out, tremendous fun

14. And finally, the opening credits to Twin Peaks, but made entirely out of paper

Good Linky

1. Despite what you’ve read in Cosmpolitan, the g-spot isn’t real, says… Cosmopolitan. (This yarn is a bit funny and very thoughtful.)

2. Steve Braunias reviews iconic now-wave journo Mad Chapman’s book about Jacinda Ardern. You’ll walk away knowing more about Ardern, and Chapman, and Braunias, and be entertained to boot.

3. Auckland’s Academy Cinema now has a streaming offer. Parasite! Portrait of a Lady on Fire! More! This is the STUFF, enzed

4. Freebie: D&D is dropping a bunch of free stuff this week, including the entirety of the D&D Starter Set. Nice one, Wizards!

5. Vox has a “games beyond Dungeons & Dragons” piece up that is really great. For The Queen is just the start of it.

6. This NYT article on tiny living robots made from frog cells and programmed to self-destruct is kind of mind-blowing

7. Freebie: Big Finish is releasing a free Doctor Who audio adventure every Monday, and the first one (available now) features the amazing John Hurt returning to the role of the Doctor:

8. At the Spinoff, Sam Brooks provides a very convincing guide to the Studio Ghibli movies now on Netflix, and when to introduce them to your kids

9. Dalek relaxation tape:

10. A directory of (mostly food/drink-related) NZ businesses delivering during lockdown

11. The stupendous meta-sitcom Community is now on Netflix, and the Independent has an oral history of its wildly unlikely behind-the-scenes sagas:

12. Elaine Paige challenged musical improvisers Showstoppers to create a quarantine-themed song in the style of West Side Story in just 24 hours. See how they did:

13. And finally, via Andrew M: Libertarian Wins Debate With Imaginary Girlfriend

Diceratops Linky

It’s my birthday this week so top of the linky is Diceratops Presents, a podcast of the live Dungeons & Dragons shows I do at BATS Theatre with very funny comedians and improvisers. Just out: our sellout show for the NZ Fringe Festival, D&D Live: When Dwarves Cry. Very very silly, lots of Prince jokes, & the reviews were outstanding. Listen! Subscribe! Rate and review! Tell your friends!

One for local friends to bookmark: a daily guide to Wellington’s online events:

Scott Common has been chucking up a bunch of music by him and bands he was in on to YouTube for archival purposes, and it’s bloody great stuff. Cal and I played the second track in the Dukes of Leisure EP (jump to 5:20) at our wedding. Lovely:

Quarantine fun: the Getty asked people to recreate works of art using stuff around their home. The results are delightful. Silly, often very funny, sometimes breathtakingly good. (The Rockwell and the Caravaggio are both perfect!) (via Erik)

The Atlantic has been delivering some great pieces about the USA’s response to the pandemic. Try this: How Coronavirus will end

And if you can bear it, move on to this: The Social Distancing Culture War Has Begun.

Very pleased in these strange days to have a new Laurie Penny essay. Worth reading for the butchery/bakery gag alone.

Pandemic freebie: my friend Warren has written many books of amazing LEGO builds, and his publisher has given the OK to share lots of them!

Pandemic freebie: get new use out of the Scrabble/Cluedo/Monopoly/TrivPursuit games in your closet with the Board Game Remix Kit! Use those boards & pieces for entirely new games!

Pandemic freebie: legendary UK comics creator Bryan Talbot has released a bunch of fascinating odds and ends, including work by Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore!

At the Spinoff, Alex Braae’s yarn about the tiny NZ town of Ohura and its unlikely embrace of a medieval combat festival is a delight. Full of great characters, revealing and surprising.

A stop-motion recreation of the trailer for the (surprisingly quite good as i recall) 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, because why not!

And finally, Samuel L Jackson came to the party just minutes before this post was scheduled to arrive: the raw and unbleeped version of his reading of “Stay The F*ck At Home”:

Return of the Friday Linky

For just shy of ten years, each week I’d share a collection of interesting things I’d seen in the wilds of the internet for the entertainment of my readers. (First one, November 2006:; last one, July 2016:

Let’s do that again for a bit, because of one thing and another. (Lots of free stuff this week because of one thing and another.)

The wonderful Sarah Laing (Mansfield & Me) is making diary comics again about lockdown life:

Audible has released a bunch of audiobooks free to stream from their website. Mostly for kids but there are some gems in the classics selection:

Climate change has been a preoccupation of this blog since long before I started the Friday Linky, and I’ve been delighted to see how major NZ news outlet Stuff has started covering it. This launch of a major new initiative is weirdly timed with all the coronavirus happenings, but when you’re talking about one existential threat to business as usual, the other one is a natural next step in the conversation. Anyway, please support this with your eyeballs and clicks:

Are you one of the many Kiwis who’ve been thinking about learning te reo Māori over the last few years? If at home with time on your hands, Massey have been promoting this free programme of study:

Have you heard of AFK? It’s a webseries about people who get stuck in a fantasy video game world. They just withdrew their kickstarter for a third season, due to current events, but that just means you have a bit more time to check out their first couple of seasons. It’s really quite impressive work.

D&D types, and other curious folks, will enjoy playing with this toy: Simon Carryer has created the best automatic dungeon generator I’ve ever seen. Every refresh spits out coherent, fascinating environments that hang together beautifully in a way simple random generation never achieves. Marvellous.

How about an archive of the deliciously spooky Lights Out radio show from back in the day? (Via Theron, with whom I was discussing the lovely BBC podcast adaptations/reimaginings of some Lovecraft stories, the Whisperer in Darkness

Hey, have a text adventure version of Halo Jones:

And some free Kindle-edition gamebooks from the legendary gamebook creator Dave Morris – this link is to the regular editions: and the first one doesn’t have a full discount but you can find it free here:

And why not watch largely-forgotten NZ sitcom Lovebites, spun off from cult film Hopeless:

An homage to Delia Derbyshire:

The National Theatre is chucking great plays on youtube free to stream: (first up stars James Corden, which might be a barrier to some) (via Pearce)

Nine Inch Nails have dropped two free albums of ambient stuff (via Pearce again)

Which brings me to… THE MOON. The Moon is a screenplay for a film that will never be made. It’s written in such an engaging, funny way – the most enjoyable screenplay I’ve ever read – and the imagined film it describes is just delightful. Funny, creepy, weird, unsettling, emotional, sexy, really really weird. It’s currently approaching the climax but you can catch up easily enough, you’re in isolation right? Do not sleep on this, it’s great!

And finally… (by Ryan Lynch, seen via Lauren D)

How to change minds

[I wrote this on Facebook three years ago, thought I should conserve it here too.]

So if facts don’t change minds – if explaining the dangers of President Trump, Brexit, climate change, etc, doesn’t help – what else works? What can anyone do to pull communities back from the brink?

Sadly, the answer is “not much”. But here’s my top three starting points.

SOCIAL NORMS: We are a social species, and we are constantly checking that our sense of the world is calibrated right by looking to our neighbours and our family and our friends. People adopt attitudes because they believe everyone around them has the same attitude.

If we can find ways to show how people are already connected to others who think differently, that can have an impact. This only works if the “other” is seen as a peer – if they’re higher- or -lower- class, different race, different education, whatever, then the effect won’t be as powerful or will even work in the opposite direction. Celebrities in particular don’t convince anyone of anything, although they are great at reinforcing the views of those who already agree with them.

(And yes, some people do live in social networks where they don’t have peers who think differently. You can’t start with them – you have to start on the edges of those networks and propagate your effect inwards.)

STORIES: Our brains are wired to understand stories; stories, in their simplest form, tell of people who want something, who take some kind of risk to get it, and who experience the consequences of their efforts. Stories encourage us to judge the characters, particularly in terms of their morality. Stories are always personal, about individuals in a particular moment – and we are endlessly interested in people and in their choices and fates. If we can find ways to express things through story, people will engage more readily.

SELF-PROTECTION: People don’t like being wrong. To change a community, we need to provide a pathway for that community where every step towards change allows the community to say, “see? We are good people with good judgement, and *we have been all along*.” It’s a bitter truth for activists – part of winning is biting your tongue while your long-hated opponent is given credit for your efforts.

All these things take time. It took time to get us here, and it will take time to get us out again. That’s the project, I guess. That’s what we have to do.

Felix’s War Diary: 11 November 1918

Monday 11th

It was a great civic reception “Poincare” got yesterday. it was fine weather and aeroplanes overhead dropped messages into the square. To-day just before marching out, we had the news read out to us that hostilities would cease at 11AM to-day. We left at 11AM. and marched 19 kilos to Quievy with full packs up. Everyone is smiling now the war is over. We go on in the morning to Beauvais.

NZ’s 8 most important vampires

Eight most important vampires. Let’s do this.

8. Sam Pyar
This is a children’s book about a kid who is probably a vampire? I have never read it but I know the author a tiny bit (hey Shalesh) and I was having trouble getting this list to eight. I think number 9 on this list is probably that girl with the piercings who was in that Vampire larp in your city in the 90s, you know the one. Anyway. Sam Pyar looks cool. Here’s the Amazon Kindle link.

7. Those randos in Wellington
Uh, this: vampire attack in Wellington

6. The vampires in Perfect Creature

Did you see this film? I didn’t see this film.

(NZ On Screen’s entry on Perfect Creature)

5. Grampire

Al Lewis: the most unusual typecasting in Hollywood history? “They only cast me as vampire grandfathers.” I never saw this film either. Al Lewis, though.

(NZ On Screen’s entry on Grampire)

4. Nailini Singh’s vampires

I have never read her books. If they were films I wouldn’t have seen them either based on the last couple entries in this list. Anyway she’s NZ’s biggest selling novelist and should be a bigger deal than she is. Would be ranked higher except her series about vampire killing angels is set in New York, not Taihape or wherever. (Here’s the info page for the first book in that series.)

3. Count Robula
New Zealand is a ridiculous country, and this is one of the high watermarks of ridiculousness, the nation’s recently-deposed Prime Minister Robert Muldoon moonlighting as a late-night horror movie host. I just found out he was still in parliament at the time. Under no circumstances take this country seriously. (Also, fuck that guy.)

(Stuff article by Alistair Hughes including some footage of Robula)

2. What We Do In The Shadows vampires
Known all over the world. One of the best vampire films ever made. Indelible comic creations. Pretty important Kiwi vampires, these ones. But still overshadowed by…

(NZ On Screen’s entry on What We Do In The Shadows)

1. Count Homogenised


(NZ On Screen’s entry on his eponymous TV show)

NZ television used to put a horror movie on late on Sunday night: the Sunday Horrors. We’re bringing it back by picking a horror movie that’s available on youtube or somewhere else accessible, and watching it on Sunday evening. Join us!

Twitter: @horrorsunday

Facebook: Sunday Horrors group

[Fiction] Inappropriate Boss

After work we talked about Elena’s inappropriate boss. ‘She’s always adjusting her bra,’ Elena said, ‘but a new all-time today, fixing her tights beside me while I’m trying to sort the quarterlies. Skirt hiked up and she’s wiggling her backside, bloody heedless.’

Per had a haunted look. ‘I’ve seen that. Clomp, shoe on the desk. Eyes straight for Christ’s sake! Half the unit knows what you’d see, she talked about grooming her downstairs in section last week.’

‘You poor devils,’ I said, and lifted my glass. We were drinking wine that day, at Per’s insistence. ‘To your innocence. In memoriam.’

‘Hell with innocence,’ Elena said. ‘I’ll drink to shame and those that have it.’

Poor Marina. She was well in her thirties but there were some basics she still hadn’t figured out. I thought I had the answers of course: ‘You have to say something to her.’

‘Doesn’t work,’ Elena said. ‘She doesn’t get it.’

Per snorted. ‘Don’t tell me: you advised her on appropriate boundaries at work, and she thanked you with a real close hug?’

I was increasingly confident in my wisdom: ‘She shouldn’t be in the job! It’s just not on, is it? Have you spoken to Mitch?’

Mitch was Marina’s boss, and Elena didn’t hide her distaste: ‘Mitch is a bastard.’


Friday night was drinks for Elena’s birthday, and Marina came. Per and I were settled in a booth, getting steadily merrier while discussing the travesty that was the supermarket DVD shelf, when Marina sat down and yanked the conversation in a different direction. ‘Supermarkets are amazing now! Can you imagine lubricant and vibrators are just there at the checkout! You have no idea what it used to be like. I didn’t even know lubricant existed. And that is really unfortunate, it would have made certain things much much easier when I was a teenager!’

The conversation never quite made it back to DVDs. Marina did most of the talking, and she wasn’t such a great listener when Per or I took a turn. Still, I’m a bit like that myself, and she sort of won me over to be honest. Not that I had to work with her every day.

Elena cornered me as the evening wound down. ‘You got the treatment!’

‘I think I like her,’ I said, then sucked my lips. ‘I am somewhat drunken.’

‘Exactly!’ Elena hit my arm. ‘I like her too! But she’s terrible! She got me a gift, she gave it to me in the office today – you know what it was? Lingerie! Blue lacy underwear! From my boss! What is that!’

‘Is she hitting on you?’

Elena closed her eyes and dumped her head on my shoulder. ‘Worse. I think she’s trying to be my friend.’

‘This can’t continue,’ I declared.

‘It’s really nice,’ Elena laughed into my collarbone. ‘The lingerie. It’s fancy.’


As I left, Marina fell in beside me. We walked to the taxi rank and waited together. She took my arm and asked me about my department, and I did my best to answer even though I was many sheets to the wind. Then out of nowhere she said, ‘Sometimes at work, actually, I don’t feel very comfortable. Sometimes when I work late to get something done, and Mitch is there. Sometimes he comes up behind me and puts both his hands on my shoulders.’

I pulled it together enough to say ‘Really?’

‘One time I think he followed me into the toilets. I was in a cubicle but the door definitely opened. But it was late, it was probably just a cleaner that time.’ She gave me a strange little smile, then she changed the subject, and I let her, and then she was in a taxi and gone.


Her story stayed with me. A few days later I did the only useful thing I could think of, and went to Irene, my boss. ‘There’s someone in the company being harassed,’ I said after closing her office door. ‘But I don’t think she wants to complain, so… What should I do?’

I was lucky to have Irene as a manager. She’d make sure something happened. ‘She won’t go on the record?’

‘It’s her direct line manager. I guess it doesn’t feel safe.’

Irene gave me a careful look. ‘I see. Well, yes, you can’t complain for her. But, listen. Matters like this… Sometimes there might already be conversations happening. I’m happy to add my voice to those conversations to say, in general, that we have to take this kind of behaviour very seriously. That’s something I can do, following this chat.’

I felt better immediately. Irene would handle it.

‘Good on you,’ she added as I left. ‘This person probably needs a friend.’


I wasn’t a friend. In fact I was probably one of the last to hear she was leaving. ‘I think Mitch pushed her out,’ Elena said with lip curled. ‘Bloody typical.’

Per shrugged. ‘Her role was going to disappear sooner or later. Why wait for the ship to sink?’

Elena gave his arm a shove. ‘You don’t get her at all.’

I couldn’t figure it either. I was tempted to share Marina’s account and Irene’s response, but it wasn’t my story to tell. ‘End of an era,’ I said instead.

‘You better be at her farewell drinks,’ Per told me. ‘Help the numbers. She deserves that at least.’


At the bar Marina bounced from person to person, mingling happily, and for once her outfit seemed to match the tone of the room. It was a small group but she made it big enough, putting a hand to one man’s chest and laughing, raising eyebrows at another over her glass. Mitch had already gone by the time I arrived, which pleased me, but it surprised me too, like an admission of guilt.

I caught her near the bar and wished her well for her next move. ‘I don’t have a next move,’ she said with that same weird smile. ‘But it doesn’t matter, does it?’ Then she pressed by me, closer than I would have liked; but it felt like she was pushing me away. And like waking up into a hangover, I suddenly understood who Irene had meant.

Per’s arm around me jolted me back. ‘Come sign our card.’

‘I already signed the card.’ This was a lie. I didn’t feel I could.

‘No, we have our own one,’ Per said. ‘Elena chose it.’

‘It’s special for her!’ Elena said, and she grabbed my arm and pulled me to the task. Both of them watched as I held the pen and couldn’t think what to write. Eventually Per nudged me, so I scribbled my name and wrote ‘good luck’.

We gave it to Marina as she was leaving. Her face brightened as she pulled it out of the envelope. ‘Oh, thank you!’ she said, hugging Elena and Per, and then me. ‘So carefully chosen! You see?’ Marina displayed the card: enormous breasts straining a colourful Mediterranean bikini. ‘They look just like mine!’

She wasn’t going to forgive me, of course. She wouldn’t need to forgive anyone. So I laughed with the others, and I meant it, because she was right: the card was well-chosen. And that would have to be enough.


I wrote this sketch about a decade ago, and I’ve lightly edited it before publishing here. It is based on true events.

First female Doctor Who

Some tweets on the occasion of the announcement of Jodie Whittaker as Doctor Who #13:

Doctor Who has always been about patrician intervention to break unjust systems; a dream of Empire, embodied in male social freedoms.

A female Doctor is a deep break from this; so was the working class 9th Doctor. I am excited to see what DW will become.

& remember, Who was created by a young woman and a gay man of colour, guided by an old white man who suggested a female Doctor in 1986.

Their creation has always been a critique of its own sense of male power. Well past time to complete the circle and see what happens next.

Aliens: How Burke takes his coffee

Jim Cameron’s Aliens (1986) is a meticulously-assembled thrill ride, absolutely loaded with enriching details. My favourite of all of them is in the coffee scene.

It’s early in the film, and Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has returned to normal life after her horrific experiences in Alien. In this scene, the smiling corporate functionary Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) comes to ask for her help. With him is Lt. Gorman (William Hope) of the Colonial Marines. They try to persuade Ripley to return to the alien planet.

There is so much going on in this scene. Watch it closely:

As the characters talk, the main physical action of the scene is Ripley making coffee for the two men. She pours out two mugs (which are transparent – a lovely, and useful, piece of prop design) and hands black coffee, unsweetened, to these two intruders.

Then she goes and pours for herself. She stirs her cup, which suggests she has added sweetener, but she hasn’t offered any to these unwelcome guests.

Lt. Gorman stands straight-backed, holding his mug politely and without interest. He rests against a table for a time, but doesn’t really move. At the end of the encounter he thanks Ripley for the coffee, even though he hasn’t touched it.

Burke, meanwhile, sits down, stands up, walks past Ripley, walks back, sits again, talking talking talking the whole time. It wasn’t until I watched Aliens on the big screen that I realised what he was doing. He’s putting milk or cream in his mug! I love it. My favourite detail in the whole film!

This is, first and foremost, just some blocking, something to get the characters moving around the space so the scene doesn’t seem static. But the film really makes it work. Burke taking his coffee white is a great character detail, suggesting he shies away from undiluted intensity, especially compared with Ripley, who is living in an unfiltered world at this stage of the film. Look also at how he does it: Burke stands up, walks past Ripley into her kitchen without asking, helps himself to her kitchen supplies, and then parks himself back where he was. He’s not showing overt dominance here, he’s just acting like someone who is used to being able to do exactly what he wants, when he wants – a much more subtle and dangerous way of manipulating a situation.

There are plenty of other great details in the scene that fire up red flags about Burke: he sits down without asking, and when he sits down, he starts touching something of Ripley’s (an item of clothing I think), playing with it with his fingers until Ripley snatches it away from him. When he’s up again at the end, having pushed Ripley into an outburst of emotion, he tells her “shhhh”, and puts his hand on her arm, and whispers that he hopes, as a favour, she’d think about it. This is why you never really trust Burke; the film is throwing lots of subtle signals, over and over again, that he will not respect your boundaries and he will smile while he takes advantage of you. 

It’s actually an interesting move in terms of filmmaking – surely the obvious thing to do is have Burke be trustworthy from the start, so his heel turn comes as more of a shock? I feel like Cameron’s made the right call here though, letting the only surprise be the sheer scale of Burke’s mendacity rather than trying to force the audience into going against their instincts and trusting a company man. It also means we never have to compromise Ripley’s character by having her trust someone and be betrayed.

Interesting also to compare to the way you are made to feel about the Marines. The stink of untrustworthiness that Burke carries with him doesn’t spread to them; they might be on the same mission, they might have the same goal in this very scene, but the audience comes out of this sequence with a cautious trust in them that Burke is never afforded.

And some of that storytelling work is done with the colour of a mug of coffee.

I love this film.