Small Village SEO and Venice of the Cotswolds

Last weekend saw us at Bourton-on-the-Water, where we found that the-Water was so shallow ducks could stand in it. Occasionally and eponymously ducking to drift down the thin sheet of liquid which was apparently so impressive it had named the town twice. Because Bourton-technically-on-the-Water also announced itself as “The Venice of the Cotswolds”. Narrowly beating out an old leaning wall which make it “The Pisa of the Cotswolds”, or perhaps a large pothole for “The Grand Canyon of the Cotswolds.”

All but the latest LED screens are still deeper than this image.

All but the latest LED screens are still deeper than this image.

I’ve nothing against any lack of liquid — the pub taps were still flowing, and a shallow stage of ducks is a hilarious soap opera I could watch all day from any number of beer gadrens– but it’s an example of how desperate a town can be for distinguishing features. And worse, how disappointing those features could be if they’re overadvertised. A town-long ankle wading pool is a cute feature, but anyone expecting a city of canals would look at the single solitary stream, almost superfluidic in its single molecule thickness, and think that they should have gone to Birmingham instead. And that’s a damning review of any holiday plan.

In an age of internet navigation you’ll take anything that pushes you up the search rankings. But the result was a town overstuffed with shufflers meandering in and out of toy shops, all overbudgeting their two-hour “look at the canals” plan by about a hundred and nineteen minutes.

What’s worse is that such SEO shenanigans are unnecessary because Bourton-on-the-Water has Birdland, home of the Cotswoldian King penguins. There’s no moment like turning a corner in the English countryside to get a faceful of King Penguin. Alas, Birdland indulges in its own over-advertising, since a sign saying “The only king penguins in England and Wales” is really saying “There are totally king penguins in Scotland”. Simply claiming that you had the only King Penguins in England would have been enough — England doesn’t have any rival kings of any kind — but pushing the borders of what could be claimed only reveals the existence the Braveheart Kings who somehow still threaten Sassenach Spheniscidae superiority.

"We don't know, we were listening to a Morgan Freeman audiobook and ended up here."

“We don’t know, we were listening to a Morgan Freeman audiobook and ended up here.”

The Feminist Online Conspiracy

  • A man looks at the current internet and complains that there’s obviously a feminist conspiracy to silence men. But what else does he feel?
  • Disgusted by Spartan conspiracy to poison rational debate with the Persian army.
  • Upset at Pompeii for slandering pyroclastic flows.
  • Genuinely worries about homeopathic overdoses.
  • “Plays devil’s advocate” for reasonable border protection by the harried conquistadores.
  • Rails against the moon for continually eclipsing the solar agenda.
  • Outraged at human oppression of the tiny defenseless infinite vacuum of space, with modern technology allows the brave to advance into an endless darkness where the least mistake results in instant suffocation.

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Ireland’s Abortion Laws Announced As Plot Of Next Saw Movie

Lions Gate Entertainment yesterday announced that the next installment in the Saw franchise, movies about people subjected to brutal and overcomplicated deathtraps to satisfy the whims of madmen, would be based on Irish abortion laws.

“It’s a masterpiece of bloody horror” said Lionsgate executive Media Mogulson. “We had thought Saw 3D would be the seventh and last film, because of difficulty in maintaining levels of visceral disgust. Some of our later obscene deathtraps looked more like Hellraisers playing Mouse Trap than instruments of appalling horror perpetrated on victims trapped by uncaring strangers. But this Irish abortion legislation, wow.”

“The suicide exemption, that part where the government makes women plead that they’re prepared to kill themselves just to regain control of their own bodies? That’s the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard. The Saw movies have always been about being trapped by uncaring psychopaths prepared to end you in agony as punishment for crimes against their demented sense of morality. Widening this to an entire country was a stroke of storytelling genius. A larger stage has worked well other movie series, like Die Hard of Preventable Causes.”

“I haven’t had a chance to meet the writer yet, but I’m sure this Mr Oireachtas will …”

At this point a reporter leaned forward to explain that the Oirechtas is the entire government of Ireland, not a single writer obsessed with conjuring horrors upon the female form in ways the Alien movies could only have nightmares of. Mogulson was heard to whisper “Jesus, has anybody called the UN?” When he learned that someone had, and that the resulting report was ignored, he tore off his microphone and started running for the airport. The producer of seven movies based entirely on tearing people apart with heavy machinery was last heard shouting “You’re all sick!”


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The Perfect Predator 3 is a Reality Show

Schwarzenegger’s announcement that he’ll star in Terminator: Genisys proves that when he said he’d be back, he really was threatening to return and ruin everything we enjoy. Even spelling. Terminators 3 and 4 have already proved that the more technology we apply the worse things get for us — exactly according to Skynet’s plans — and Predator 2 seemed to suffer from the same sort of sequel degradation. But while we suffer through the truth about tired Terminators, modern technology is in the perfect place to resurrect the Predator.

He was just annoyed he'd come all this way to find Arnie wasn't even there.

He was just annoyed he’d come all this way to find Arnie wasn’t even there.

I’m not saying it was an epoch-making movie which set the course of human destiny, but we have spent all our time since building the devices we’d need. We’re working on light-bending materials for optical camouflage, the navy is already testing energy weapons, and modern television is more accepting of characters wearing costumes made entirely of mesh and codpiece than ever before. We’ve created the perfect conditions for a Predator reality series. Ladies and gentlemen, we have the technology: the next time some rich idiot spends thousands of dollars to go kill an endangered species and post the pictures to facebook, we can unleash the most heavily-armed irony in existence.

It’ll be the greatest multi-meta-mockery in history. There’s an idiot armed with technology they didn’t make thinking they’re an apex predator, out to hunt an apex predator, and we solve the problem with an apexier predator. It’ll be predators all the way down: we’ll have a trained human with the best in human technology on one end, the most glorious example of evolved beauty on the other, and an idiot who thinks owning a rifle will make their daddy love them in the middle. And unlike most reality shows, it’s making the world a better place.

True, there’s a risk that our predator and the lion will high-five at the end of an episode, attracting every Emmy in existence into one location, creating a light entertainment quasar which outshines every other program ever filmed. But that’s a risk I’m prepared to take.


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Gamma Rays When We Touch

Jessica clutched the lab coat over her heaving bosom, years of particle physics expertise unable to contain the violent processes taking place in her heart. Everything she had ever known told her that Stud must never hold her. His rough upbringing in the magnetic field coil workshop, his rivalry with the jealous Professor Grantwriter, his reversed charge and baryonic numbers which would cause them to annihilate in a blast of mass-energy release at the slight touch. But touch and release where all she could dream of, couch it as she might in sub-clauses and innuendo.

She found herself in the room holding the magnetic containment chamber. Because sudden transitions help us skip to the good bits. She didn’t know why she was wearing a bodice under her lab coat, or how she’d fit the corset between them, only that both would surely disappear the instant he touched her touch her.

Stud glowered gruffly through the oscillating magnetic containment field which kept him hovering in the center of the room. Which wasn’t hard, as magnetic fields aren’t visible to the human eye.

“You know we can’t do this” he glowered regretfully yet caringly, because adjectives are way easier to write than small talk.

“But we must! That’s why we were put here! I mean, literally, that’s why we were written in the first place. So literally-squared. But what about your wife?”

Stud turned his head to the side, sucking in a breath past a bitten lip of agonized recollection (adjectives!).

“My wife …. is String Theory.”

Jessica gasped.

“You mean?”

“Yes. She’s beautiful, but there is absolutely no observable evidence of her existence.”

Jessica knew then what she wanted. She was getting to a good bit in the book and couldn’t wait any longer. She strode forward, powerful and womanly, pushing through the magnetic fields with an inner strength which really wasn’t necessary because she wasn’t wearing anything metal and didn’t have a pacemaker.

Their kiss was, well, they don’t know what the kiss was like because their brains were hit by the lightspeed shockwave of annihilation gamma radiation long before any nervous signals could make the same trip. But god-damn it was hot.


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Absolutely NO ARTIFICIAL ADDITIVES! It’s covered in pests, because bugs like to eat things full of food which grow out in the open. Taste the unmistakably natural misting of rodent urine, because they scamper so naturally through the fields and we didn’t want to use any nasty chemicals to clean them. It costs a hundred dollars a gram and you have to walk to our field to buy it, because it turns out gasoline is pretty goddamn artificial. And it would be insane to drive somewhere further away just to buy natural things! Just hike up through our mud trail and we’ll yank it out of the ground and hurl it right at you, and you’ll love it because we shout NATURAL!

NATURAL! Because evil technology has shielded you from nature so completely that you’ve forgotten most of nature wants to kill you! Every animal eats other living things to survive! Plants evolve poison just to take you with them as they die! Natural, which means dying at thirty without ever being able to count that high, while we count the profits from your luddite fear.

REMEMBER: if you don’t need a prescription, that’s because it’s either been tested and measurably proved not to do anything, or it’s not been tested, and nobody knows what might happen. Good luck!


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Dr X Rebuilt My Flesh!

Realizing that my wife’s qualifications and initials made her “Dr X” was one of the greatest moments of my life. Since then I haven’t just been a writer, I’ve been the “Husband of Dr X!”, or even the “Genderbent Bride of Dr X”, because adding adjectives is a core principle of “Describe your own life as pulp science fiction”-fu. And “describe your own life as pulp science-fiction”-fu electro-zaps the toxic waste out of any other motivational strategy you can be bothered to mention. And there’s real X-rated action in how she’s enslaved me with her mastery of flesh.

They say that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. Dr X knows that’s a pathetic underachievement. She seized my stomach’s supply lines and used them to replace my every organ with agents loyal to her commands. She’s been in charge of my food for ten years, which means that almost every cell has been rebuilt and restaffed under her exquisite instructions. (Sure, some of the neurons haven’t replaced, but I don’t see my brain squidging very far without the rest of the body).

She’s always loved food, and the great thing about a doctor in molecular genetics is that even the most complicated recipe is but the simplest lab protocol. Most menus don’t require twenty-page procedures of acronyms or radiation treatments. Even molecular gastronomy hasn’t gone quite that far (although it’s only a matter of time until radioactive roasting replaces Fugu fish as the “I can eat this specifically because I shouldn’t” silliness).

Don’t worry about any stereotypes. This isn’t the woman doing the dinner because she should, this is the high priest bringing us the divine because only she is qualified to do so, and in return the mundane are happy to clean the cathedral, and the dishes, and take care of the laundry and clean the litterboxes and do everything else. Because  food achieves everything religion ever claimed: it gives me purpose in this world, it gives me strength to do what is right, it restores my spirits when nothing else can, and it tells me exactly who to obey and makes me happy to do so.

The Dao of Dick Jokes

In the Cracked columns we often refer to ourselves as dick joke specialists, which can sound self-deprecating, but only if you’ve never had a real job. Jobs are work! Sitting around giggling about funrods is about as far from real work as you can get while still getting paid. It even counts as research and development, advancing the frontiers of human knowledge. I spend a lot of time thinking of ways to widen the field with clitoris gags and other hot-button issues.

But how does it feel to do that for a living? Like those long pig sausages and tongue-testing stations, it feels pretty good. And the world can’t tell me I don’t have a proper job when it pays people to phone strangers and annoy them with insurance adverts.

A friend of mine is a writer, but her housemate is a stockbroker, so when she complained about staying up till two in the morning to finish an article she gets less sympathy than you’d find on a human-hunting expedition. “I was up until three closing a six million dollar deal!” he crowed. Which sounds important as all hell, until you realize those weren’t the stockbroker’s millions of dollars. If they were, he wouldn’t have been up until three. And he wouldn’t have been discussing them with his flatmate. Those dollars belong to someone else. Someone who used them to hire an employee to broke their stocks, in the same way they’d hire an employee to unclog their toilets.

I don’t work with millions dollars, and when I talked to mortgage broker they found “freelance comedy writer” slightly less attractive than “unpaid arsonist”, but as you work your way through to the arse-end of the day you have to digest what your job is really doing to the world. I get to make some people laugh. And I’m extremely happy with that.

Vatican Wonders If World Sure About Letting Women Drive

THE VATICAN last night wondered aloud if the world was sure about issuing driving licenses to women.

“I mean, we don’t even trust them to be priests, and that’s a job with the most thorough instruction manual ever printed” a Vatican spokesman told assembled reporters. “Though you do have to skip over the bits about selling your daughters into slavery. God himself apparently tells us that women can’t be trusted to talk to people and read from a book, and you’re letting them control tons of speeding metal?”

“I mean, priests never have to respond to new situations. We tell them what to do and excommunicate the hell out of them if they disobey. Because true spiritual well-being means only obeying orders. A woman behind the wheel would have to react to things, think for herself, and have the same abilities as a man. I mean, she might even be driving somewhere for sex. It’s shocking is what it is.”

In response to almost immediate criticism of the question, the Vatican quickly wheeled out Pope Francis to publicly talk to some women, act really nice about it, and infallibly fail to do anything about the actual issue.


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The Greatest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movie Ever Made

People are bracing themselves for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. The problem with watching something you loved is a kid is that you remember it awesomely kicking ass, but it ends up looking tragically silly. But turning tragic things into ass-kickers is the Turtles’ entire origin: they were pets who got lost in the sewer and exposed to toxic waste. That should have been Bambi’s mother for herpetologists. Instead it spawned an era of more cross-species love than the internet.

Well, okay, the real problem is that Michael Bay has been literally taking beloved childhood characters and making them shoot each other through the head, but fans of Turtle Power should know that their perfect movie has already been made. In 2009 Turtles Forever incarnated both the kickass and the dumbass parts of beloved cartoons by bashing the action-packed 2003 incarnation against the 1987 doe-eyed pizzavores. And it’s perfect. Because the only people qualified to truly mock ninja turtles are more ninja turtles. It doesn’t matter how stupid you think kid’s cartoons are: you don’t spend your days twirling nunchuks and eating pizza with your buddies, so you genuinely aren’t as cool.

Forever is exactly what every outraged superfan claims to want: a big-budget version which doesn’t change anything about the original. They take more turtle-piss than a cloaca, but it’s all done with love (which turtles also do through the cloaca). They’re not a quick reference but full six million dollar turtles: all the soul of the original rebuilt with far better technology. They’re actually animated now, regularly using more than one attack per fight, and that’s a fight they have immediately instead of killing time for twenty minutes until the of the episode. All eight turtles get the meet-and-greet-and-exposit over with in the first ten minutes, freeing the rest of the film for ever-increasing action.

(Source: MIrage Studios)

We ALL look at our younger selves this way (Source: Mirage Studios)

Action which never, ever stops taking the piss. Enemies demand to know who the turtles are talking to when they make wisecracks to the camera. The turtles sneaking out for pizza triggers a full SWAT response. The army actually notices when a technodrome starts rolling down mainstreet. The 80s turtles make fools of themselves of in the modern world, then the zeroes are exposed to the insanity of animated 80s, where the first thing they do on arrival is rescue the kidnapped April O’Neill. They don’t receive a message, or see a broadcast: as soon as turtles exist in the 80s they know they have to go rescue April O’Neill.

The perfect interaction is how modern Michelangelo loves them, because the 80s turtles were basically all Michelangelos. He’s you, the viewer: the more mature, more skilled grown-up who still loves hanging out with such childish heroes. You’re represented by someone who kicks ass with ninja weapons and loves laughing at the original cartoon – you couldn’t be more gloriously inserted into the fantasy if you were watching it on a skateboard.

If the turtles are cool, the villains are cooler. Because villains are always cooler. And 80s Shredder and Krang as a bickering married couple are worth the whole movie by themselves. “I’m in the middle of something here Krang!” “Oh quit nagging.”

"This is a really good movie!" (Source: Mirage Studios)

“This is a really good movie!” (Source: Mirage Studios)

The movie rolls out everything you ever wanted to see in the original, without making you wait through a two-parter to give the artists time to draw the new panels. The Technodrome, the Partywagon, even that insane blimp-glider combination that the Turtles clearly constructed to prove there were even slower locomotion options than “being a Turtle”. The plot is a paean to everything that is Turtle. Which, for a short time in the 80s, was almost everything that existed. The modern Shredder — equipped with distinctly un-80s levels of competence — swears to strike at the multiversal source of all Turtle, and his meta-attack erases the world down through inking and blue pencils to the blank page of comic non-existence.

WARNING: This means a movie about animated pets spin-kicking people is more self-aware than most people (Source: Mirage Studios)

WARNING: This means a movie about animated pets spin-kicking people is more self-aware than most people (Source: Mirage Studios)

This is where the turtles goes above and beyond. For years the turtles have had a defense against any accusations of how remakes suck, because spending years developing defenses against attacks is what martial artists do. You can’t mock TMNT for being a remake, because every Turtles series ever has been a remake or a pisstake. The movie climaxes in the world of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the black-and-white ultranoir parody of Frank Miller’s grittiest excesses.

(Source: Mirage Studios)

Our older serves will ALL look at us this way (Source: Mirage Studios)

Every mockery the modern Turtles laid against the idiotic 80s is leveled at them in turn. They’re weak, they’re sellouts, they have weird gimmicks, and it’s wonderful. Leonardo pounds the hell out of everyone while grinding out a gravelly voice-over they can hear as he hits them. The final fight is teamwork across all three generations, where the ridiculous gimmicks of the 80s are just as important as the intimidating ass-kickers, in a fight so fun the animators include a moment of giant Kaiju battle clearly and only because they could.

This movie is made with pure love. If you’re a lifelong fan worried that the new movie will disappoint you, you’re right to be worried, because it’s not made for you. It’s made for money, executives, and a flipchart in an office somewhere which said reboots were hot. Turtles Forever was made for true fans, by true fans, and is the greatest possible treat for Turtle Power.


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