After several years, the powers that be at IMDb have finally decided to call time on their message boards. In this meerkat’s view, this is long overdue. These forums have long been a hotbed of racist, bigoted, misogynistic posts, and meaningful discussion has been a hopeless dream. I will admit to a certain sense of dismay – buried within all the crap there have been a few nuggets of gold, and some conversations worth having – whether to challenge the ignorant or simply to find kindred spirits.

Still, it is hardly a bad thing that the forums are soon going to go.

So. It has begun. The Orange Scourge rises. Donald Trump, the man with less votes than the woman who lost, has become President of the United States.

And an all-seeing eye, breathed in flame, took up residence in the White House, and did throw a tantrum every time he was mentioned on Twitter. #DarkLordTrump 

So what’s in store for Sauron’s Trump’s presidency? If you foolishly think healthcare is a right, and not determined by how much money you earn, you might be in for a wee bit of a shock very soon. If you thought Mexico were paying for some masonry work, guess again. Hillary being arrested? Not gonna happen.

What is likely to happen? America’s new Dark Lord might raise an army of orcs. He might decide to go all ‘Harry Potter’ and raise an army of Death Eaters. Or he might do a crossover and raise an army of orc eaters. I’m sorry, I am really struggling for inspiration for this post. Here’s a picture of a cat instead:

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That cat there? She was Trinity. She was the most loving, affectionate and friendly cat anyone could wish for, and I’d much rather think about her good spirit, rather than the spiteful spirit that’s just taken up residence in the White House. If you presented a lap to her, she would jump on it without hesitation. Sometimes, she’d do exactly that, even if you didn’t want a cat on your lap.

But be warned. You couldn’t leave prawns unguarded in her presence. You didn’t dare leave chocolate unguarded either (yes, she had been known to lick chocolate). When she was hungry, she was not shy of telling you.

She was also the boss. When we got a young buck, Castiel, he thought he could exert some  form of authority on our old lady. Not. A. Chance. Trinity didn’t settle for that, and made sure Castiel knew it. A bat across the nose, a swipe at the face, and a complete and thorough disdain for existence, in the manner only cats can manage – Trinity delivered the full package of contempt for this new arrival. Truly, a queen among cats.

So today, look to your pets. Look to your friends. Look to your significant other, your children, and your family. Look to all that is good, and kind, and unite in that spirit. Unite against the new occupant of the White House and his ilk. You are many, and you will make a difference.

Ok, enough being inspiring. Let us return to the other side. It is not only time for Trump, but it is nearly time for something altogether different. Sometimes I am chomping at the bit to do. I can sum it up in one word: Zelda.

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On the 3rd of March, I will become a big kid again (assuming I ever actually grew up – there are grounds to question this). Nintendo are bringing out the Switch, and I want one. I want one enough to sell body parts. I want the new Zelda game for it. I can’t wait to go back to Hyrule and explore all there is to see. I am GEEKING OUT!

I might need to go lie down. I am so excited that I am barely sleeping. Curse you, 13 year-old mind!

Originally I started writing this post all the way back in November. I wanted to prep it early, but as I wrote it and re-read it, something just didn’t feel right. It felt focused on the wrong things, so I’ve obliterated that version and started again, this time, with what really matters.

Family

My family got bigger in 2016, with the arrival of my nephew – that’s right, I became an uncle for the first time! Their little boy is as cute as a button and my daughter is already smitten! She is very happy to have a new cousin to fuss over, and I have to admit, I am very happy too! It’s brought memories flooding back of my little girl at that age – the sleepless nights, the bath-time fun, the nappies (all I can say is WOW to some that my daughter produced), and the sleepy cuddles in daddy’s arms. It’s a remarkable journey, and a learning process, and one that doesn’t end. Nor would I have it any other way. My brother and sister-in-law are fantastic parents and my little nephew is going to be spoilt rotten!

Speaking of which, my daughter got to see The Lion King musical in February. This was a delightful moment, and one that brought back a lot of memories for me. The very first birthday present my wife got me was tickets to see it, all the way back in 2004. 12 years later, we were retracing our steps, this time with our little girl, and she loved it. Experiencing the majesty of The Lion King (see what I did there?) through her eyes was a real joy.

Thanks to the generosity of my parents, my wife and I got a trip to Birmingham in October, to go to Destination Star Trek 50, and among other things, I got to shake hands with George Takei and get my photo taken with the amazing Marina Sirtis, whilst my wife got her photo with William Shatner and got Christopher Lloyd’s autograph! I cannot thank my mum and dad enough for making this happen, and I will always be grateful for the love and kindness they show us.

What I must mention – for to do otherwise would be to do her a disservice – is a word on our beloved cat, Trinity, who left us for the rainbow bridge in October. I have never known a friendlier, happier cat – if you had a lap she would sit on it, and she loved a cuddle. Always good-natured, right to the very end, Trinity will be sorely missed.

Family keeps me grounded, as always, and in what’s been a turbulent year in many ways, family helps me keep perspective.

Sport

Without going into lengthy detail, this year has been a momentous one for Leicester City football club, who pulled off one of the biggest shocks in sporting history when they went from being nearly relegated the year before, to league champions 12 months later. It’s still a ‘pinch me so I’ll believe it’ sort of thing. Less surprising was England’s tame defeat to minnows Iceland in the European Championships – le sigh.

The Olympics were a magnificent contrast, with Team GB doing themselves proud, whilst Lewis Hamilton was narrowly beaten to the 2016 F1 title. My beloved Liverpool FC are resurgent this season – we’ll see how they go in 2017!

Politics

I don’t want to dwell too much on this, save to say that between Brexit and Trump I fear we have taken a huge stride backwards. Time will tell, and for the sake of the world I hope both succeed, but I fear we have set ourselves down a collective path of misfortune.

Weird

If I had to highlight the most surreal and unusual experience I’ve had in 2016, it would be this. Click the link, read the post, and you’ll understand why.

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This year I started up something, a project that, whilst not without knocks, is one I feel is worth pursuing. The Coalition of the Brave is an attempt to take a stand against injustice, and is a group project that will hopefully continue to grow in 2017.

I also joined The Nudge Wink Report – another group site, devoted to satirical observations about life. Expect to see more posts from me on there next year!

Celebrities

It’s impossible to talk about 2016 without mentioning the long list of famous names who have left us this year. It seems every time you check out the news, someone else is gone. As I write this, news of George Michael’s death has recently broke, and I dread to think if 2016 has any other deaths left in it. Every one of these famous faces means something to someone, and they all left their mark on the world in remarkable ways. I’ll be charging a glass to them on New Year’s Eve.

So that’s it – 2016 in a nutshell. 2017 holds a lot of uncertainty, but if we face it together, we’ll get through it. I know it.

 

 

 

 

As the US election draws ever closer, and the world awaits with baited breath to see if the unthinkable can come true, it’s worth taking a closer look at Donald Trump’s would-be vice-President, Mike Pence.

Pence is the Governor of the State of Indiana, a position he’s held since 2013, and his involvement in US politics goes back further. Trump has been clever to get Pence on-side, so to speak – his right-hand man has political experience.

Pence is in many ways the insidious side of Trump’s campaign. Whilst Trump (rightly) receives condemnation from various quarters for the things he’s been saying, Pence is arguably worse. No, that isn’t a typo. Mike Pence is a man who is decidedly dangerous in his views, across a range of subjects.

Abortion: Like Trump, Pence is anti-abortion and his state requires women to mourn and grieve the foetus, putting them through a traumatic experience during what will already be a difficult time. One of his constituents was actually jailed, though this sentence was overruled.

Sex Education: Pence seriously believes that abstinence education is better than using protection. I hope I don’t have to explain to anyone how stupid this is.

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LBGT Rights: It’s probably not a surprise to learn that Pence doesn’t believe same-sex couples should have the right to marry and he wants to strip this right from them. More than that, Pence wants to remove any legal protections the LGBT community has.

There’s yet more. Pence is on record as saying that smoking doesn’t kill and he compared a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It should speak volumes that Trump regards this man as the person he wants to serve alongside him.

 

Round 18 of the 2016 F1 season brings us to Austin, Texas, for the US Grand Prix – the fifth time this venue has hosted the race.

A circuit that has proven popular with drivers, due to a cherry-picking of elements from other tracks that has actually worked quite well, Austin has also proven popular with fans, and it appears to be popular with the Americans as well, with the event well-attended, year after year. Bernie’s long desired to crack the US market, and so far, so good with Austin.

Especially noteworthy parts of the track would have to include the sequence from turn 3 to turn 9, which borrows from Silverstone and Suzuka to create a windy, high-speed set of corners that test a driver’s mettle. Turns 1, 11 and 12 are obvious opportunities to overtake, though some may look to other, more unlikely points to have a go.

In the context of 2016, Lewis Hamilton comes here needing a win to keep his title hopes alive. He is at a stage where he can win every one of the remaining four races and still lose the title, so it is imperative that he doesn’t drop points today. He’s put his Mercedes on pole for the first time here, but pole position, especially this season, is no guarantee of victory. His teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg lines up beside him, so the blast up the hill to the wide first corner should be interesting.

Lurking just behind the Mercs are the Red Bull pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Both are ‘punchy’ drivers who aren’t afraid to go for an overtake and the Red Bulls had good long-distance pace here in practice. Might they be the variable that upsets Hamilton or Rosberg today?

Titus Norbanus Nepos had held his suspicions that he might lose his most formidable warrior, but had quietly hoped the businessman Marcus Octavius Paulus would have a different arrangement in mind. To have his fears realised was not a surprise but it was a body blow. Nimr was more than just another gladiator.

“Nimr…” He had to look away from Paulus’ piercing eyes. “He was my father’s first recruit. On his first day in the arena he took on three opponents and killed two of them within seconds. His name is bound to the Ludus of Nepos in the eyes of nearly every Roman.” He looked back at the older man, his eyes burning with frustration and fury. “And Nimr has always been proud to represent the house of Nepos.”

Paulus’ smile grew malevolent. “That may be, but if your ludus is to survive, you must be prepared to move past sentiment and consider more pragmatic choices. My client is prepared to give you time- but do not test his patience, nor mine. You have three days to make your decision. Once you have, send message to this place and we shall arrange further meeting. I would suggest you think of your future.”

Nepos struggled to resist the desire to bash Paulus’ head in with one of the statues. It was very tempting, even if the problem wouldn’t go away if he did.

“Three days.” He said. “Very well. I will send message in three days. Now, if you will excuse me, I have pressing business to attend to.”

“Of course. Good day, young Titus.”

Nepos suppressed a shudder. The way Paulus used his first name was, somehow, creepy. He nodded, and passed back through the door, off to consider the fate of his ludus.

Paulus watched him go. “A nice boy, in many ways. Certainly driven, and passionate.”

As he spoke, a side-door, concealed by deep purple curtains, swung open. Out stepped one of the most beautiful women in the Empire.

Petillia Crispina, with shoulder-length blonde hair, dressed in a figure-hugging one-piece ensemble of red and pink that seemed to enhance her already-impressive attributes, was a sight to behold. Dark brown eyes always seemed to twinkle with mischief. Her nails were always painted red (even her toenails), and she always walked with a saunter in her step. She grinned, and her smile sent a shiver down Paulus’ spine.

Behind her, a man, naked, save for a leather collar around his neck, followed, carrying a tray with two cups on it. He looked contrite- probably a new slave-in-training. He certainly looked as though he had all the requirements to be a good servant.

“Ah Marcus. He is certainly passionate. It’s a shame he’s loyal to his wife. That sort of passion would be most welcome here.” She sat down on the bed, patting the space next to her.

Paulus sat this time. The servant offered up the two cups, which they both took.

“Some morning fortification. Wine generously donated by one of my more eager clients. Apparently it’s the finest wine money can buy this time of year.” Crispina grinned again as she took a sip. “But then, several of my clients have boasted this already. What do you think of my latest purchase?” She ran her nails over her servant’s stomach. The slave did his best not to shudder but it was clearly an effort, especially when her nails slipped over his right thigh.

“A fine-looking specimen. Muscular without being too imposing. What is his role to be here?”

“Oh, I’m not too sure yet. I’m reliably informed that young Stigr enjoys men as much as women.” Her hand now caressed his thigh gently, and Stigr’s body was definitely reacting.

“He’s not shy either. He rises to the occasion with little prompting.” She purred, and wrapped her hand around the young man’s length. Paulus felt the temperature in the room go up a level. He wished business could simply be business, but Crispina always enjoyed her little games, and even at his relatively old age, he found himself struggling to focus on anything other than what Crispina was up to.

“So, do you believe Nepos will agree to my terms?” He turned to face Crispina, trying to ignore what she was doing to poor Stigr.

“Oh Paulus. I believe he might, under great protest.” Her hand took a firmer grip of Stigr’s cock, holding it upright whilst her right hand cupped his balls. “He’s stubborn, but not stupid. His ludus won’t survive without new blood.” Stigr let out a soft gasp. “He’s rather like this young man. Determined to hold on.” She laughed, and pumped her hand faster. “I suspect Nepos will resent coming to you for some time.”

Paulus swallowed. “I’m sure he will. It is for the best for all concerned however. He gets what he needs, my client gets what he wants, and everyone wins.”

“Mmmm, I’m sure. What do you get out of it?” Stigr groaned softly. “My, good stamina…” She winked at her slave.

“I get a share of the initial purchase, plus a share of the winnings Nimr will bring. A mutually beneficial arrangement.” Replied Paulus carefully. “and of course, you receive a share as well, for allowing me to use your venue.”

“What if Nimr should fall in the arena?” Crispina slowed her pace a little, rubbing her palm over the underside of Stigr’s shaft. “Imagine if he fell in his first fight!”

Paulus snorted. “Nimr is the best there is. He has no equal in the arena. Hence why my client wants him.”

“I see. Well, let us hope that he is as good as they claim.” Her hand started to pump more vigorously once again.

“Indeed. Now…” Paulus pushed himself up off the bed. “I must be going. I have other business to attend to, and you are clearly attending to some right now.”

Crispina laughed. “Oh Paulus, perhaps one day you will let me take care of your business.”

Paulus smiled politely. “Another time, perhaps. I bid you good day.”

“And to you as well.” Crispina eased her pace once more, as Paulus left. “So Stigr, you have impressed me thus far. I have known men to spill their seed at my barest touch. One even before I touched him, though perhaps that is more due to my teasing than them… still, you have done well.” She let go of his cock, and Stigr sighed. “Now, let us put you to proper test…” She eased her outfit off, and let it drop to the floor, before laying upon the bed. “Show me what you can do.”

(Adam Lallana gets Liverpool off the mark in their 5-1 thrashing of Hull City)

I pose the question – could Liverpool end up being title contenders this season? Or is this a step too far for a team which is still under construction, so to speak?

There’s little question that, trip to Burnley aside, Liverpool have played some scintillating football. Victories at Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as a draw at Tottenham, all represent great results – 7 out of 9 points from tough trips to London is great in anyone’s book. Added to that are two positive home wins – 4-1 against Leicester and 5-1 against Hull. Goals have so far been pretty easy to come by, with a number of players on the scoresheet (and with Daniel Sturridge still to find his form, there are more goals to come). However, there’s a note of concern in each and every one of our league victories – not one clean sheet. In fact, not one clean sheet at all in the league so far.

This is Liverpool’s Achilles’ Heel. Whilst there are signs of greater sharpness in front of goal, a solid foundation is a must for any team that harbours title ambitions. The ability to close out matches when not playing well and grind out results is something every championship-winning side has done – look at Leicester last season – they would win a number of games 1-0, being ruthless and clinical and strong defensively. I haven’t yet seen that from this Liverpool side.

So whilst I would love for us to be title contenders, I think a more realistic goal is Champions League qualification. That is not beyond us.

(please note: this is not aimed at everyone who owns a dog. Most dog owners are responsible people who clean up after their pets)

There have been two incidents in my recent past that have left me feeling revolted and annoyed – and they both concern dogs and their ‘business’. The first took place walking home from work, when I saw a pair of lads walking a dog down the pavement, in the middle of a reasonably busy street. Nothing unusual there – except the dog pooed on the pavement, and the best answer the lad walking the dog could come up with as I walked past: ‘It’s not my dog’.

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Whaaaaa? Does that matter when you’re letting the dog literally crap all over a pavement? You’re holding the leash, the dog is therefore under your control and therefore your responsibility!

It gets worse. This morning, as I was walking into work, I unwittingly set foot in… dog poo.

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With the shoes I wear, which have numerous grooves, this was distinctly unpleasant. Cue heading upstairs to clean it off, a tedious and gross experience that made me gag a couple of times. The culprit? The dog (or more precisely the dog owner) who lives in one of the flats above the store. This dog doesn’t get many trips to the local parks, and tend to therefore crap on the roof above the store, or in the little ‘garden’ area behind it (which happens to be a walkway to get to the store and also to the flats above). The owner doesn’t seem to understand that she needs to clear up after her pooch – she is creating a health hazard for herself, her kids, and for everyone else that uses the area.

I haven’t had the chance to speak to her, but I plan on mentioning this to the owner. I don’t want to be cleaning poo off my shoe because the owner is too lazy to clean it up.

 

A while back I did a few ‘versus’ duels between various characters. I’m revisiting this idea, and this fight is between superhumans.

In the blue corner – Khan.

In the red corner: Captain America.

They came about their powers via different means and use them for very different purposes. Let’s firstly take a look at who Khan is and what he can do. I’m taking the Khan from Star Trek into Darkness, and Captain America from the MCU.

Khan is the product of genetic experiments and he very much knows his own strength. His physical prowess is married to an enhanced intellect, which in turn leads him to believe in his superiority. As a result, Khan is extremely dangerous. In his appearance in the Kelvin timeline, Khan demonstrates numerous feats well beyond the average human, including his effortless takedown of at least a dozen Klingon warriors, wielding two guns (one of which was more like a cannon). His accuracy is remarkable.

So is his ability to take a punch. Kirk punches him repeatedly in a moment of anger, yet doesn’t appear to even phase Khan, much less hurt him. Khan also recovers very quickly from a stun blast and demonstrates raw strength when he brutally crushes a man’s skull with his bare hands. Perhaps though, his best efforts are saved for last. First, he not only survives a crash landing but then leaps 30 metres to get away from the ship he had just crashed. He then gets into a fight with Spock, who has demonstrated his own superior strength to the average human, and would have killed Spock if not for Uhura’s intervention.

So Khan is strong and he can fight. Can he beat Captain America?

Captain America (aka Steve Rogers) started out as a runt who nevertheless wanted to do his part and serve his country during World War II. He was the first to undergo an experiment designed to enhance the strength of soldiers. The outcome is great strength (he fights Tony Stark’s Iron Man to a standstill in Civil War) and endurance (in the same film he prevents a helicopter from flying off by holding onto it! He has easily overpowered enemies, even when greatly outnumbered (such as the lift scene in The Winter Soldier). We saw how fast he can run in The Winter Soldier, and in Age of Ultron he took on machines.

Conclusions: They’re quite similar in respect of their strength. Where they differ is in how they apply that strength, and this is what decides this fight in Khan’s favour. Captain America is noble and honourable – fine traits – but Khan is a ruthless killer. The only thing which might put this in Cap’s favour is if he has his shield – but that’s no guarantee of victory. Khan would not hesitate to risk bystanders – indeed, he might even use them – to get to Cap.