Cheeseburger Gothic

Should you plot out your best selling novel?

Posted May 17 into Writing by John Birmingham

When Raymond Chandler wrote himself into a corner he found the best way to escape was to have a man with a gun walk into the room. I loved Chandler’s Philip Marlowe novels, and they all but founded the sub genre of hard boiled literary noir. But he did admit that by the end of The Big Sleep he’d pretty much lost track of the bodies.

We all do.

Hanging narrative threads, forgotten side quests, unfilled plot holes, they’re the hazards of working at length. There’s a couple of ways of dealing with them. First, don’t. Just accept you can’t run down every blind alley to the very end, and trust that not too many readers will notice.

(Pro tip, they’ll notice).

You could trust to your editors and back fill the later drafts, but this relies on someone else picking up the mistake. Or you could story board the whole book and do it as a paint by numbers exercise. It sounds tedious and little constricting, because it is.

In the George R.R. Martin interview somewhere down the page, the big guy talks about the two types of writers he knows – the gardeners and the architect. The first throw out a story seed and wait to see what grows. The latter don’t write a word until they’ve drawn up detailed blueprints and specified ever single nail and nut and bolt they’ll need.

There are no such creatures in real life, of course. We all sort of plan and we all let the story run wild, but he’s right. Most of us lean towards one method or the other. Having had the experience of getting deep into Weapons of Choice and realising the half dozen previous books I’d written hadn’t prepared me at all to write it, I went into Designated Targets determined not to get painted into a corner, or lose track of the bodies, or tofall back on random guys blundering into every chapter with a gun.

It worked, sort of. I had much better control of that book than Weapons, and the writing went a lot easier. It was less frustrating, a hell of a lot better structured and I had none of the deadline slippage problems that dogged the first of the trilogy titles.

For book three, however, I went back to the gardener method. Mostly. I had a couple of plot points I knew I had to hit and a rough idea of how to get there, but I gave up on following a strictly mapped out path through the story.

I’d found that although the work flowed with fewer blockages and spills, I didn’t enjoy having to brute the characters through. They had their own ideas about what to do in any given situation and their intentions didn’t always sit well with mine.

It sounds odd, a bit of a wank, even. But I think it’s inevitable when you write point-of-view stories. Or at least it is for me. Why?

When you’re writing third person PoV you’re inside the head of that character. If you’re doing it properly it doesn’t take long before you become the character. I recall Martin saying something about this during the interview. He often finds himself staying with one character for long stretches of writing time, just to stay in their heads. I’ve done something similar with the Disappearance novels, writing whole arcs from, say, Caitlin’s POV, before going back and starting on Milosz.

When you’re writing in-character you really do end up shape shifting into that person. You see the world differently.

It’s just not possible to do that – or I don’t find it possible, anyway – sitting at a drawing board, mapping long narrative arcs for particular characters before you’ve written a word of their story. I found that as soon as I set them in motion, my fave characters had quite different ideas about how things should play out.

So now, I try to have some idea about where a particular book will go, and perhaps a few points it’ll pass through on the way, but I don’t schedule everything like a package tour.

With one caveat.

This method breaks down for shorter titles. Stalin’s Hammer: Rome got out of my grasp because I just set Harry and Ivanov loose on the city with vague orders to bring me back a vast Stalinist plot within ten or twelve chapters. Turns out vast Stalinist plots are harder to wrestle to the ground than you’d think. I also had some issues with Ivanov’s journey under the old city taking up much more time than I’d imagined it would, leaving Harry with less ‘page time’ than I wanted.

For Cairo, then, I’ve reverted to story boarding. I’m trying to be flexible about it. I just cut a couple of chapters because I could see they were going to lead me wildly astray and blow the word length out from 35 to 70K. Good value for you. But not so much for me. And not for you either if you’d like me to be getting on with the series.

How do other writers approach the problem of plotting out? Some crime writers go to the trouble of writing entire alternate arcs where any one of half a dozen characters could be the perp, then when they’ve settled on who they want, they just go back and delete anything which isn’t relevant. Or rather they delete most of the irrelevant content. The few bits and pieces remaining in the final draft stay there as red herrings. I seem to recall Agatha Christie did something like this.

Others, who look like they plot, don’t. Lee Child has some fiendishly complicated story lines which look as though they had to have been planned out to the last comma. But no, he insists he is a gardener. He gets the idea and runs with it, even using Chandlers ‘random man with a gun’ device if he writes himself into a corner. He’s also a lot less concerned with real world veracity than, say, Freddy Forsyth. If Child needs to make some shit up to get himself out of a hole, he makes it up and, like a magician, spends his efforts on distracting your eye from the rabbit in the hat.

Should you be plotting out?

I dunno. I’m not you, but I suspect that certain forms lend themselves to it more than others. Big sprawling fantasy epics can afford to sprawl and spread and take three or four hundred page detours because they’re as much about world building as anything. But even they have their limits.

I imagine that Game of Thrones (yes, yes, I know, It’s A Song of Ice and Fire) will have to bring the white walkers and the dragons together in the final battle. But the pace at which the story is advancing for now leaves me wondering whether Martin can get us there in two books – which is all he has ‘planned’.

37 Responses to ‘Should you plot out your best selling novel?’

MickH mutters...

Posted May 18

I thought his structure was to write the chapter in sequence then throw them in the air. The way he then picked them up determined the order in the book!

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yankeedog reckons...

Posted May 17

I never really thought about this, but it's interesting. I know now why I don't write for a living-too damn much work!

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Nocturnalist mumbles...

Posted May 17

My Warhammer stablemate Bill King talked about this in a blog post, and I liked his take on the balance point between the two approaches. He compared it to planning a trip. Some people plan a trip literally down to the number of minutes it will take to stop for petrol, some just throw some stuff in a bag and set off down any road that looks interesting. Most people will do something in the middle: plan their main movements, stops, expenses, what they want to see and do in each place and so on.

But once you're on the road, you find things change. The town you thought you were set to spend a week in is deathly dull but that tiny village twenty klicks further on looks pretty cool, so you switch up a couple of nights. One museum eats the entire time you had planned for one city, but then you find that the thing you were going to two stops along has been closed and so you redistribute the time. Your original itinerary is still there, it's just... evolving.

I notice Chuck Wendig uses the same analogy, albeit (of course) with more swearing, less pants, and flinch-inducing references to baboon porn: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/05/14/25-things-you-should-know-about-outlining/

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17

It's a pretty good analogy. It doesn't need the baboon porn.

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Kieran mumbles...

Posted May 17

Thanks for the insights, JB. Been thinking about this a lot. I started my current project as a "gardener", and ran into all sorts of problems for a different reason - at the moment I have to put down and pick it up a lot, and it became impossible to hang on to all the threads. With enough time in between, the story changes while youre writing it - I think maybe because, as a friend of mine pointed out, you keep changing yourself. Course it probably boils down to a personality thing too. But the best thing about the planning thing for me is it's left me willing to rip things out and chnage things with abandon, and probably let me learn more things more quickly than I would have otherwise. As to whether one of the characters will pull a handbrake turn halfway through my careful little world, or if it will all feel played out by the time I get there, well, I dunno. But I'm looking forward to finding out.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17

I think that given the number of threads you have to hold in your mind, the way you need to suspend an entire world in your head while you write a book, it'd be all but impossible to do it in bits n pieces without a plan.

But that's me.

Mark Gordon asserts...

Posted May 18

My debut novel "Desolation Boulevard" is 150000 words of post-apocalyptic mayhem that is totally unplanned. I virtually had no idea what would happen from one chapter to the next, but I think that made it all the more fun to write. By allowing plot elements to "percolate" in my mind as the story continued, I found they they were able to become major parts of the book later on. Some of my favourite scenes in the book evolved when I stupidly wrote characters into situations that were (at the time) impossible for them to escape from. By sleeping on the problem for a few days, though, I was able to rescue them through some extremely inventive and exciting means. I can't imagine being able to go down these byways through planning.

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Trowzers mumbles...

Posted May 17

Appropriately, given my nickname, I am much more of a 'pantser' than a 'plotter'. And definitely much more of a gardener - something I enjoy outside writing as well! But meandering through a story leads me to wander right out of the story and into a completely different one, which is why I have a box full of unfinished stories, but barely any finished ones. One day I'll figure out how to stay on track (or find someone willing to get the whip out) and get these damnable endings out of my head and onto paper. Getting to the middle is no problem - it's the wrapping up that seems to be the hardest part!

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted May 17

I recently heard an author interviewed. When asked the inevitable "where do your stories come from?" ;

He said, "They always seem to start with one line that just pops into my head."
"Oh, so you just get the first line?"
"No, it is always the last line. Then I wrote a book to work out how to get there."

Which struck me as kind of funny, but perhaps not.

Nocturnalist puts forth...

Posted May 17

I've done stories like that. Came up with an awesome closing line, came up with a closing scene to have something to hang the closing line on, then came up with a story to have something to hang the closing scene on.

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Analog Penetration mutters...

Posted May 17

When is Cairo coming out?

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17

Yeah, Mr John R. R. Birmingham!

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted May 17

Sept, Oct, ish.

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maddygrace would have you know...

Posted May 17
I tip my hat to anyone who can write more than 3,000 words. I recently went to a talk with Graeme Simsion, where he explained his writing process. He said that he never gets writer's block because he always knows exactly what he is going to write, every time her writes - because he always plans it all out. So I guess plotting can be useful. But I don't even know where you author people get the imagination from to actually write a novel!

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MickH ducks in to say...

Posted May 17

If its your first time in the bull ring.

PLOT!

Plot plot plot! Its the only way you'll end up with a finished MS.

But JB has a point with gardening and its something i find myself doing with my new projects particularly the short stories.

I (and with lots of help from YankeeDog) plotted out Q7S in detail. First I did a coarse story board, sort of a general description for each chapter. Nailed that down them went to a fine story board on each chapter using points. All up it came to about 30 pages and a couple of weeks of part time work.

With this I was able to fill in the gaps where and when i felt like it. I was able to faff about sometimes and even added and deleted bits but I essentually stayed within the story board.

I would use that method again.

A down side for me was you got all the story imagining done early and thats the bit I like and keeps me motivated. I found it became a bit of a drudgery after that just filling in lines. Well, it wasn't just filling in lines, the characters came alive at this point so it wasn't that bad.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat asserts...

Posted May 17

For me, gardening is fine with short stories. As soon as I started writing stuff over around 5,000 words, I had to change my approach and start to plot, even if was just the "must-have" critical turning points of the story plus the beginning and the end. I found this stopped those moments of panic where I just didn't know where to go with a story, which was a more common experience for me with longer pieces of writing. Generally the longer the work, the more plotting I do, but it still focuses around the critical points of the story - very linear plotting is a creativity-killer for me. I like mind-mapping for plotting too, that lets me see the larger patterns and links in the story.

I agree that you do want to keep track of all your plot points/threads and if you don't, you risk losing some readers (especially those readers who are also writers!).

And I also accept that my characters will regularly hijack events, so if where they are going is good, I'm happy to run with it. Mostly the stuff that comes out of them is better than what I had planned (they are way meaner than me).

One writer on the Odyssey Writing Workshops talked about doing serial synopses - having a plot and synopsis to start with, and then stopping periodically during his novel to redo the synopsis and take stock of where he was going.

After a number of years I've finally hit on a method that is working for the novel I am writing now. I'm thinking that's great for this piece, but I'm not sure what I am doing will work for other pieces I will work on later. I have a feeling that you probably need to adjust for each book. When I actually finish more than one, I can let you know then! But bottom line is, you need to keep trying out different approaches until you find the one that works best for you. If writing is important, you will find a way.

Have fun at Book Club tonight.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17

There's a great qoute from some very famous and important novelist whose name escapes me but who never wrote short stories because 'he didn't have the time'.

He felt the plot had to be so intricately controlled at that length he was better off writing long.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17
God, I wish my brain worked like that.

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JBtoo mumbles...

Posted May 17

I think Mr Martin could do with a bit more architecture. I've enjoyed the GoT books, but with the last one, in particular, I started to think he was making it all up as he went along, because he literally seemed to have lost the plot.

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Bill puts forth...

Posted May 17

About the only thing that makes me immediately stop reading a book is when a character does something that seems dumb and out of character so the author, IMHO, can advance the plot. I guess that's most likely to happen when the author is following an outline. I need my hero in this box so he can be accidentally loaded onto the bad guys space ship. How about I just get him to walk over and climb into it even though he has no justifiable reason to do so and no reason being anywhere near it.

In many cases I stop reading the author altogether.

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Blarkon mutters...

Posted May 17

Pratchett said to never shout the question "how do you keep your balance?" to the guy on the high wire.

I think the Internet and technology changes our nature of expectations about an author keeping control of their manuscript. That in a digital form, a manuscript should be "more malleable" than if it was pages coming out of a typewriter.

There are certainly tools today that can keep track of even the most fractal of narratives (mindmapping being a good start, but any diagramming application on a tablet is going to allow you to drag stuff around in a way that would be bloody difficult on butcher paper or a whiteboard).

I suspect that today's reader has greater expectations in terms of narrative complexity and coherence than a reader of a couple of decades ago. You can see the same thing in TV and Movies - I was watching the "writers room" special feature on the Season 3 Blu-Ray of Trek (which includes Ron D Moore talking about his first job (interestingly a lot of the Next Gen writing team at about Season 3 were on their first gig)) and they mention that TNG would have problems surviving today because the expectations around a show's narrative complexity are a lot higher than they were back in the late 80's.

MickH asserts...

Posted May 17

Yeah, they have to keep bastards like us entertained :)

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted May 17
I'm curious as to how much pre-planning goes into people 's characters before they start writing (as distinct from plotting events). Are people making notes of what they look like, what they eat for breakfast, etc? Or are the psychological drivers of character more critical for youse all?

MickH mumbles...

Posted May 17

Some writers I know, JB is one of them, will write a characters whole biography before writing a single word of the story. It helps build the character in their mind as a unique identity

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted May 17
I can relate to the bio technique. I do that. I find it helps the characters assert themselves during the writing, rather than simply being vehicles for the pre-determined plot. I don't get as much enjoyment from stories which feel that way, a la what Bill said.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 17

Yup. It's not unusual to spend more time on character bios than on the plot summary.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 18
I quite like doing first-person character bios, effectively getting the characters to sit down and write out their life story. Not like year by year, but mapping their lives by events that were - often still are - significant to them. I almost never write stories in first person but I find this really gets me inside their heads. It's particularly helpful with characters I don't like - more insight makes you understand them better, therefore more able to empathize - just like with real people. Well, not all real people...with some of them understanding leads away from empathy...sigh.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mumbles...

Posted May 17
The cunning plotters amongst you will probably like alistair Reynolds' whiteboarding technique shown here: http://voxish.tripod.com/id19.html . May have spoilers, his whiteboards often do.

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Dino not to be confused with asserts...

Posted May 17

Thanks JB,

Timely advice as it's happening to me right now as I write my 'best selling novel', which just happens to be my first. Onto chapter 4 (16 000 words so far) and having to keep hand written notes to tie up lose ends or unfinished threads. The unfinished threads 'just feel right' and will hopefully allow for more development down the track. I am a gardener of sorts. I have written a brief outline with a couple of incidences in each chapter to 'steer' the book into a direction. A seed or two in each chapter if you like.

I can see the need for storymapping as the work becomes more complex and/or memory fails to retain the ideas/arcs. It is bloody complicated! I feel I could never be a professional writer because I can't reliably write on demand and want/have to write when I usually have to do something else! Why can't life just wait a few months until I finish this FKN Book?

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 18
Onya Dino, just keep slogging away at it and get that first draft down! I know how hard it is to get the writing done with life always getting in the way - anyone who writes does. I found Eoin Colfer's ('Artemis Fowl' books) advice from an interview of his really helpful. He said 'Write every day, even if it's just one or two sentences.' For me that took the pressure off of trying to 'produce' when life was being obstructive - but it got me into the habit of writing every day. I think the writing part of me responds to regular exercise and now I really miss being in the world of the novel when I don't go and I am 'producing' with a lot less effort. It may not work for you but you never know... I confess I read about JB's multiple deadlines much of the time and feel glad it's not me...will stick to bringing in a salary, writing and beta-reading for now!

Dino not to be confused with swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 19

Thanks J'A'Cat,

I will keep sloggin' like everyone else!

What MickH says below scares me, 3 years!!!!

I'll be grown up by then.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat is gonna tell you...

Posted May 21
I'm not sure that growing up and being a writer are compatible... Hurry up with that draft!

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MickH puts forth...

Posted May 18

It took me nearly 3 years to write the first draft of Queen of the Seven Seas, 90k odd words and mostly written on the train to work.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted May 18
Alistair Reynolds says he took ten years to get Revelation Space down, and from memory i think that was only the first draft. Persistence and patience are true writing virtues.

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Emily asserts...

Posted May 22

This is an awesome post. Thank you. Btw I think it's wight walkers... Wight is a cool word for corpse or something.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 22

Ta. Sorted.

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Chewie and Leia totally need to do it

Posted May 17 into Movies by John Birmingham

Wait for the Shat.

6 Responses to ‘Chewie and Leia totally need to do it’

Peter Bradley reckons...

Posted May 17

No further comments required. The Shat said it all.

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Barnesm mumbles...

Posted May 17

J J Abrams must get this A LOT.

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Peter Bradley puts forth...

Posted May 17

Gold, SSM just plain GOLD!

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HAVOCK21 is gonna tell you...

Posted May 17

FKN ROLFLMAO at FKN WORK!!....

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Rob mutters...

Posted May 17

Lando has aged well hasn't he? And would probably mumble less that Harrison Ford thats for sure.

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The top 50 BBQ joints in Texas.

Posted May 16 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

Because (1) barbecue, (2) Texas, and (3) there are a coupla hundred Amercans roll thru here while the rest of us are abed.

They deserve this.

15 Responses to ‘The top 50 BBQ joints in Texas. ’

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mumbles...

Posted May 17

Americans love to debate BBQ.

As we all know, Texas BBQ is just one of many styles of BBQ, and it is far from the best. Sure, Texans love it, but they are the most jingoistic bunch you'll ever meet - if the word "Texas" is associated with it, then they will fight to the death to defend its excellence. If the word "Texas" was associated with child molestation, Texans would argue vehemently that Texas style molestation is the biggest and best there is. Senator, back me up on this.

That said, Texas BBQ is fine, but, for my taste, Kansas City style is the best. Murph, back me up on this.

Murphy mutters...

Posted May 17

Yep. KC's got it rockin' on the BBQ front. Don't let any Texicans or North Carolianan types lead you astray.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Texas Bob asserts...

Posted May 17

Everything in Texas is bigger than anywhere else. And Better. If you got it then we got it too and we got it bigger. That's the Texas way and anyone who thinks different can be killed by any mob that assembles around anyone who says anything bad about Texas. Thats legal in Texas. And Montana. But it is more legal in Texas.

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SenatorMckinneyTexas reckons...

Posted May 17

I'd say that Texas Bob has it down pretty well and the effete Californicator is letting his state-envy issues get the better of him, which is entirely understandable and something that Texans expect and are ok with. And besides, Texas style pedophilia involves young goats and such and is therefore perfectly normal and natural.

As for the actual article, which is written in English and has polysyllables and whatnot and therefore may be confusing to those not-from-the-Great-State-of-Texas, I've eaten at Opie's in Spicewood and, even though it is IN Texas, it is not so much of a much. Luling City Market is the best I've had.

Given the popularity of and fascination with all things Texan and the world-wide envy of all non-Texans, maybe JB should post more often on this timely and eternal topic.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan ducks in to say...

Posted May 17

How far is Luling City Market from your neck of the woods, Senator?

SenatorMckinneyTexas ducks in to say...

Posted May 18

2 hours, give or take, with a branch in Houston about 10 minutes from the office.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17

Well, if it was elderly goats, that would be sort of icky, wouldn't it?

I feel I should have declared my conflict of interest. I am a certified KC BBQ judge. But I only got my certification because I thought it would be my ticket to free food.

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted May 17

Deserve's Got Nothing To Do With It!

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Quokka has opinions thus...

Posted May 17

Jeebus I just heard the news about the tornadoes that tore through Texas. I hope all you BBQ enthusiasts and your loved ones are OK.

SenatorMckinneyTexas mutters...

Posted May 18

East Texas got hammered. Bad stuff. Happens every couple of years, or a hurricane. Thanks for the thought.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted May 17

Aunty Q.

Word is that the tornaode was actually a djenie or malevolant spirit conjured by an ex-marine who learnt some of the dark ancient arts while stationed in Southern Iraq. He allegedly "crossed the streams" of a Middle East lamb marinade with a Texan dry rub. The resulting taste explosion was described as a tornado, but only as a result of the local paucity of vocabulary and the unwillingness to step outside the strict Judeo-Christian gestalt.

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Wayne mumbles...

Posted May 17

Complete and utter heresy. BBQ started in the southern delta. It's home is, and always has been, Memphis. This weekend the International BBQ Cooking Contest is being held in Memphis, as it has been for my entire life (37 years), bringing in competitors across the globe in a drunken orgy of BBQ and beer on the bluffs of the Mississippi.

If you haven't had Memphis BBQ, you haven't had BBQ. Everything else is just regional variations.

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Murphy has opinions thus...

Posted May 19

For Kansas City style barbecue the best resource would have to be Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Episode covering the topic. Of course, he did more than just visit BBQ joints, he also hit The Savoy (meh, great place to get mugged) and sent his traveling companion, some Russian dude, to Stroud's.

Gates, where they scream, "HI, MAY I HELP YOU?" when you come through the door isn't bad once you get past that unpleasant bit of it. Certainly they do well with their sauces. Though personally, the Grand Master has to be Arthur Bryants, where the floor tries to grab the soles of your shoes. Some of the best ribs in town.

Not to be outdone is a newcomer, Smokin' Guns BBQ in North Kansas City (which would not exist at all in the post-Wave universe since it wasn't really a concern in 2003). They've just upgraded their digs and the ribs are first rate as well though they, for some strange reason, have their off days. Guy Fieri covered them in Diners, Drive Throughs and Dives.

Then there is Woodyard BBQ, over in Merriam, Kansas near the railroad tracks. You can buy your own wood there or you can stop in and sample their vittles. Excellent ribs to be had there and the beans are first rate.

Yeah, there are other places. You've got Jack Stack, which is okay but snobby down on The Plah-zah, which is pretty fair.

If one is up for a bit of a drive, heading out to Excelsior Springs for a night at The Elms Hotel (Truman was there in 1948) brings you within walking distance of Wabash BBQ. Set up in an old interurban train station, they've got blues every weekend during the summer and good vittles year round.

Ah, whatever you do, do not go to NYC for your BBQ (or your Mexican for that matter). If there are decent places in California for BBQ, I'm not sure where they are. They do many things well there but BBQ didn't seem to be on the list.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted May 19

I was planning on going to Austin anyway.

Now'll looks like I'll mosey on over to Memphis then head towards Motown via Kansas City.

Dunno when but I plan to have a full report on your desks ASAP. I can't wait!

Oh to have the BBQ Reporter job or be a judge!

There is a career in journaism for me!

Dino not to be confused with swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 19

'Cept I cannot spell journalism!

Ditch diggin' here I come...

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"Intelligence" sounds like it should suck but... but... but

Posted May 16 into Telly by John Birmingham

It could be awesome. I know, the premise of a superspook "ex Special Forces, Delta, CIA guy" with a chip in his head that makes him all Super Neo Matrix is too dumb even for me. And my standards are notoriously low.

But the CBS Fall Preview trailer looks kind of cool. The biff is gnarly and muscular and the action sequences admirably kinetic.

We'll see if they can get the stories and character right.

11 Responses to ‘"Intelligence" sounds like it should suck but... but... but’

Dino not to be confused with reckons...

Posted May 16

Matter over mind?

Or matter with mind?

It will resonate with a lot of people I figure.

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w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 16

Why are they doing this when they could be bringing back the Six Million Dollar Man?.

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w from brisbane asserts...

Posted May 16

Oh, they mention the Six Million Dollar Man.
I could whip this bloke's butt, once I put on my Google Glass.

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Dino not to be confused with asserts...

Posted May 16
w, The killjoys said Six Million Dollar Man couldn't possibly work cause of the muscular/skeletal problems. OH and S came down on him with a ton of bricks for not bending his knees when he rolled cars over etc. Sad but true. i had a thang for 6milliond Woman Lindsay Wagner grrrrrr ChickyBabe!

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 16

But Dino, I have seen a ton of bricks land on Steve. It didn't worry him a bit. Well, it did worry him a bit. But he was up and running quick smart.

Yeah, OH&S. Steve was too nice for his own good.

Lindsay Wagner. She was lovely.
I would have loved to see Steve and Jaime Sommers get together. Of course, they would have had to be very careful in the bedroom.

I also had a bit of a thing for Mindy, but that is off topic.

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tqft ducks in to say...

Posted May 16

I will watch it - Marg Helgenberger is my 2nd crush after Dana Delaney

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Anders mutters...

Posted May 16

And here I was hoping that the excellent Canadian series "Intelligence" had finally been given a new lease on life. I knew it was too much to hope for. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend tracking it down.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_(TV_series)

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Murphy mutters...

Posted May 17

Didn't they do something like this with Chuck or some show like that?

Is this different because he is Spec Ops?

Not grabbing me, which means it will probably last ten seasons.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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xenodyssey has opinions thus...

Posted May 17

Sounds like a clone of Continuum without the time travel backstory since Kira's CMR implant does the same kind of things. Talk about tomorrow's technology today.

I think we'll be seeing more stories/shows that use these ideas as "chip in the head" becomes mainstream rather than /SFtechno fringe.

Still, I will be checking out the series.

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coriolisdave asserts...

Posted May 17

Speaking of gnarly biffo, if you've not already tried Strike Back it's rollicking good fun (at least, from the rebooted season 2 when it started taking itself not so srsly)

Anders mumbles...

Posted May 17
Oh man, YES. The post s1 grimdark Strike Back rebooted into a spec ops buddy action comedy w/premium cable TnA is quite something. Sliding catch of a 250lb iron bomb FTW.

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This is what soft power looks like

Posted May 16 into Awesome by John Birmingham

A Harley Davidson rally in China. There might be an equivalent in the US. It's a big, chaotic place after all. But I'm not sure what form it would take.

The whole photo-essay is over at The Atlantic, and worth a look. It says something about the modern China, and the cultural power of American imagery. But I don't know what.

Send me your tired, your hungry, your Village People impersonators.

4 Responses to ‘This is what soft power looks like’

Moko asserts...

Posted May 16

About sums it up really. Whole lot of men with mummy issues running around patting eachother on the back.

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan asserts...

Posted May 16

I can imagine nothing more wondderful. Thank you.

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Lobes is gonna tell you...

Posted May 16

Goddamnit my thoughtful comment on the motivations for chinese society adopting western cultural markers got eaten FML

Aaargh but to answer your question the USA equivalent is a Kung Fu Dojo

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yankeedog would have you know...

Posted May 16

The Chinese version of Sturgis!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgis_Motorcycle_Rally

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Fitbit review, sort of

Posted May 16 into Sport by John Birmingham

How totes ironical that after linking to the Power Paunch story, I get a nudge from Attendly that a long piece I wrote for them about the Fitbit has just gone live. Here's the opener:

I used to be a fat man. Not Biggest Loser fat, but fond enough of my bakery treats to have spent more than a decade on the wrong side of morbid obesity. It would have killed me eventually.

But about four or five years ago I got rid of most of the weight through a combination of brutal exercise and calorie control. (I know, who’da thunk it?) And since then I’ve (mostly) kept it off.

You too could look this svelte if you weren't so fat.

But it’s a struggle. It’s a hell of a struggle to change the habits of a lifetime in the first place, and even more so not to relapse. So anything which helps keep me out of the bakery and going to the gym, or the dojo, or just walking the damn dog a couple of times a week, is welcome.

That’s why I rushed to embrace the Fitbit earlier this year. It’s why I’m still wearing it right now, even though it’s not a magic device that melts fat and builds muscle like an action movie montage.

So, for those of you unfamiliar with the technology, what the hell am I talking about?

The Fitbit is just one of a whole bunch of wearable gizmos — digital pedometers really — which have been selling like the hotcakes I shouldn’t be eating anymore. I can’t speak to the usefulness of competitors like Nike’s FuelBand because I’ve never used them, but I’ve been wearing my Fitbit since getting it last Christmas. It’s basically a small black lozenge-shaped device, a little smaller than your little finger. You can slip it into your pocket, or put it in a clip-on holder and attach it to a piece of clothing. Your jeans pocket, a bra strap, whatever. It measures not just the number of steps you take, but the intensity of your movement. There’s also a quite sophisticated altimeter to keep track of the number of floors you have climbed—(although ‘floor’ is really just an estimate).

As somebody who works in front of a screen all day I can attest to the accuracy of the Fitbit in tracking how much energy I burn—or don’t. On days when deadlines see me slumped in front of my keyboard, it lets me know all about my complete lack of mobility.

And here's the rest of it.

6 Responses to ‘Fitbit review, sort of’

pi is gonna tell you...

Posted May 16

OT, but someone has written an open-source newsreader to replace google's shutdown. If interested :

http://www.commafeed.com/

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w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 16

Good article! Write that, Dan Brown!

I like that old observation.

What is the best day of a diet?
Tuesday, because it is over by then.

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Dave W asserts...

Posted May 16

I got me a watch that links up to one of those wanky elastic chest strap heart rate monitors. The effect of knowing the estimate of how many calories I burnt and my heart rate in a sesh has helped me to shift a couple of kilos in the last six months.

My bet is that anything that makes us conscious of our energy output also makes us conscious of our energy input and whether we're doing enough about either.

The suits that I bought in Vietnam a couple of years ago need replacing because the trousers keep sliding down and that is something that I'm cheering about. The alleged Power Paunch can get fucked, I want to live and move in the manner to which I was always accustomed.

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Barnesm would have you know...

Posted May 16

stop wasting time with gagets science and hurry up and give me my supersoldier serum that turns me into a buff superman with no effrot.

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Red has opinions thus...

Posted May 16

Great review, JB. I wear my Fitbit all the time too. Found out about it from you, so thanks. I love it but the manual food entry and the limited range of foods is a pain. Thanks for being my Fitbit pal, JB. I'm into week one of Michelle Bridges 12wbt. I using other fitness apps too: Endomondo and FtitnessPal. Typing on phone, so please excuse typos

JG :)

P.S. I have lost 12kgs since January thanks to my Fitbit. Now 58.6kgs. I ran 8kms in the Mother's Day Classic Fun Run in Brisbane last Sunday. Thanks for getting me back to health and fitness, John.

Joanna G.... Long P.S. ;)

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Tim would have you know...

Posted June 10

John

I know this is only a few weeks after you reviewed The One, but I wonder if you have heard any feedback about FitBit's Aria scales or the Flex? I already have a set of fancy scales, but the Flex looks pretty intriguing, particularly the alarm - I'm curious about the lack of a screen, though...

Would apprecite your thoughts or direction.

I also agree with your final pars in at the end of the review - I recently lost fifteen kilos after eight solid weeks of intense boxing and diet, and then smashed 2/3 of it back on in response to work strees and the black dog. Bring on the emotional re-engineering, I say!

Tim

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Giving up exercise, rockin' a Power Paunch

Posted May 16 by John Birmingham

You know you want to, and it is totally a thing, because the Daily Beast says so, and Fairfax confirmed it at, erm, Daily Life. So there.

I had been worried I wasn't getting enough exercise of late, and eating and drinking too much because of deadlines, and parenthood and the joys of eating and drinking too much. But no. Apparently I can press on, push through to a Power Paunch.

The Power Paunch is not just fat. It is the accumulated karmic evidence of decades of wealth and power. A power paunch has presence. It has heft and significance.

Ladies do not get power paunches. It's solely the preserve of men. One last, good thing left to us in the world:

There’s fat, and there’s fat. In the male hierarchy of overweightness that runs upward from baby fat to morbid obesity, the paunch is the glorious exception. Why? Because it’s deliberate. It doesn’t come from neglect or shame or dietary ignorance. It comes from self-adoring devil-may-care confidence.

SO glad I can have that cheesecake thickshake for morning tea now.

23 Responses to ‘Giving up exercise, rockin' a Power Paunch’

Barnesm mutters...

Posted May 16

and people wonder why newspaper circualtion is declining. Why would you pay to read crap like that?

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NBlob has opinions thus...

Posted May 16

I knew indolence, crapulance & gluttony would be fashionable one day.

You'z all mocked me but look who is laughing now.

MWHAHAHAHAHA

ooh chicken.

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted May 16

There's the old male riposte to nagging about his "veranda over the playroom".

Man contently pats his beer belly.
"Why would I want to get rid of it? It cost me a lot of money."

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Big Willie Style mumbles...

Posted May 16

Ron Jeremy has got a paunch - a hairy one at that - and he gets to bang lots and lots of attractive ladies.

* stares thoughtfully at the ceiling *

Right, I'm off for a lard smoothie.

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Greybeard mumbles...

Posted May 16

Never mind all that, where can I get a cheesecake thickshake?

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Bunyip reckons...

Posted May 16

I'd endeavour on making some witty riposte, but I am more focused on making this French toast with extra bacon.

Quokka ducks in to say...

Posted May 17

Bunyip if you want french toast with bacon then duck into cafe wrapture in Russell Street in West End some time. I snuck in there for some bacon/haloumi goodness early this am and there was a customer writhing in delight over her french toast & bacon & pear breakfast order. It looked fabulous.

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Murphy asserts...

Posted May 16

So, what I read you typing is that your beer gut makes you a distant kissin' cousin of the Buddha, right?

Dude . . . . get to the gym.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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Spanner mutters...

Posted May 16

Had cholesterol test yesterday. Dr informed me I had to limit my bacon and animal fat intake. My life is over. Pity me for my baconless existence. How can I grow a paunch without access to quality bacon? I can't damit!

Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted May 16

<quietly raids Spanner's fridge>

NBlob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 16

Oh The Humanity.

I feel your pain Brother Spanner. Not good nipple-clamp or light-spanking pain but Big B Bad eye-watering Chlamidiya test (bamboo-skewer-up-the-eye-of-Big-Bob) type pain.

Who is thinking about bacon now?

Lulu mumbles...

Posted May 16

Spanner, I can recommend smoked almonds. The smell is the closest thing to bacon without being bacon (and sometimes closer).

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Spanner would have you know...

Posted May 16

Me. I'm thinking about bacon. Imma also thinking about getting a second opinion. Does anyone have the number for Dr Nick Riviara?

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Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted May 16

Spanner

What about Pork Cracklin'(organic of course)

I slow cooked me a shoulder a couple of nights ago then turned up the griller to finish the salted and scored skin into a melt in your mouth crunch with an after taste of honey dew mellon. SWMBO doesn't eat cracklin' (GAwd I love that woman! he says as he wipes his chin)

I later asked the new local butcher where they came from and it is some boutique farm where they must feed them real good. The butcher said that shoulder isn't bacon and neither is cracklin'.

So you have at least two alternatives.

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Brother PorkChop mumbles...

Posted May 16

There's also speck, proscuitto, jamon, gammon, plus wagyu bacon!! Wagyu bacon is simply spectacular when used on Oysters Kilpatrick. Beefy, bacony, oystery goodness. And way low in cholesterol, umm, maybe?

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Spanner mutters...

Posted May 16

I hate you all. Pork in all it's glory is forbidden.

Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted May 16

w,

I'll give it a go.

' Liquid Smoke' seems to be in all the local Vietnamese dishes.

We are vegan for the next two days(mexican black beans and rice).

Not often enough the better half makes fried/baked tempe which is tasty as get all.....

Try that Spanner, you won't be disappointed.

Dave W puts forth...

Posted May 16

Tofu bacon- piffle. I don't care what the link says (to the extent that I won't even click on the link), it just ain't bacon.

Delusionz has opinions thus...

Posted May 16

Spanner, at the risk of sounding like a nutbag-knowitall-frootloop-lunatic: your Doctor is a moron. That so-called experts still think the number on your lipid panel will tell you anything useful is bizarre. Yes, yes, I know, all the mainstream doctors and Heart Foundation can't be wrong etc etc...or, you could give yourself 2-3 months on a LCHF style eating plan (where you can eat bacon until it comes out of every orifice) and see how much weight you lose and how great you feel.

Or, you could pass it off as a dangerous fad diet and not eat bacon ever again. Up to you. Honestly, trying anything for a couple of months is not going to kill you - why not give it a shot?

My average brekkie involves eggs fried in butter with a side of bacon or sausage. Friggin' awesome. Come over to the dark side where everyone admires your abs but thinks you're insane!

Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted May 17

Seriously, what about wagyu bacon? It is beef that is processed in the same way as bacon. It is used in the middle east on burgers etc that usually come with bacon. And as I said it is simply glorius when substituted for bacon on oysters kilpatrick.

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tqft mutters...

Posted May 16

I had bacon & eggs for lunch

I must be a god, it certainly tasted like heaven

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maddygrace reckons...

Posted May 17

I've been eating chips every day and not exercising. Can I join this club too, please?

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"Kirk was awarded the Enterprise very young, and I think this film is all about the fact that he's not ready for it."

Posted May 15 into Movies by John Birmingham

Great little Star Trek interview with Simon (Shaun of the Dead) Pegg over at iO9. There's a few spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen the movie, but for anyone who has, and who is a fan of Scotty old and new, it's worth a read:

You have a lot of important lines that speak loudly about the Trek world, specifically when you ask, "I thought we were explorers?" How important is exploring to Scotty?

I think that Scotty feels that everything that is happening is so besides the point, so besides what they're supposed to be for. Kirk really gets caught up in the attempt to sort of militarize Starfleet. To turn it into gigantic militia, rather than this sort of force of goodness and discovery. It's almost, in a way if Starfleet was militarized then we could have become the mirror universe. This could have been how we all became evil.

15 Responses to ‘"Kirk was awarded the Enterprise very young, and I think this film is all about the fact that he's not ready for it."’

Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted May 15

Definitely,

The opening scene and repercussions remind me of teenagers who then lose the key's to the car!

They are all so young!

Kirk looks like he is 19 years old FFS.

Bill was at least 30 when he got the keys wasn't he?

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Barnesm puts forth...

Posted May 15

It was great interview, I love Simon Peggs work.

Saw the movie on the weekend at a double feature with the first Star Trek in IMAX and the_weapon and I enjoyed it.

I loved the story of how Pegg convinced the crew of the 'neutron cream'. How long till we see pots of Neutron Cream available on Thinkgeek.

My only problem is because its a movie and due to the limitations in time the characters that they focus on are of course Spock and Kirk, and so Pegg's Scotty and Urban's 'Bones' get limited time. Dammit I want a series just so we get to see episodes devoted to this characters.

Karl Urban's McCoy is worth the price of admission.

And Cumberbatch's John Harrision was as brilliant as the lead up lead me to expect.

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Dino not to be confused with is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15

Forgot to say I fkn loved it.

How good was it?!

And the Baddy was great too!

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Blarkon ducks in to say...

Posted May 15

It's one of those films where you walk out of the theatre thinking "cool" but a few days later you're thinking "wait, what?"

In the first film, Nero - in a big (albeit damaged ship) gets captured by the Klingons pretty quick when he's way out on the border and ends up on Rura Penthe In this film the Enterprise engine breaks within shuttle range of Kronos and it lies there helpless for many hours and not one Klingon ship turns up to investigate. The only other ship they encounter is a Federation Dreadnaught. They could have explained this away somehow - but they didn't bother.

Not entirely clear why Khan was hiding out on the Klingon Homeworld - especially as he'd already gone renegade from Admiral Marcus. The whole torpedo plot seemed a bit of a stretch.

Wasn't sure why Alice Eve got her gear off. Was glad she did. But seemed sorta random.

Enterprise fights Vengeance in lunar orbit. Ships crash into Earth near San Francisco.

Liked the use of dialog from Star Trek II. Liked the nods to fans with Section 31 and a million other little details that only made sense if you really knew your Trek.

I'll get it on Blu-Ray - but it's not First Contact / Wrath of Khan / Undiscovered Country level Star Trek.

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted May 15

Alive Eve got her gear off for the same reason Picard did in First Contact. Marketing.

Blarkon mumbles...

Posted May 15

Picard did get his gear off in Season Six "Chains of Command" - but I can't recall when he got his gear off in First Contact. Closest I can think is the scene in the engine room where he had a singlet on (it was Data with the borg Queen)

Of course, you could have meant this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14IY-PreyW0

Lobes mutters...

Posted May 16

I really didnt get the whole torpedo subplot. Why did the admiral need to hide the frozen crew in the torpedos? Surely if he can secretly construct an entire Dreadnaught class starship then getting rid of 72 bodies should have been easy. Or was he trying to prove some sort of point to Khan?

Also the Klingons played a much smaller role than I anticipated. And I'm puzzled how Khan destroyed like 3 Klingon cruisers and a battle party but it didnt trigger any further investigation of the area by Klingon HQ.

Also I'm so over the spurious excuses about why the transporter is malfunctioning. Its just lazy writing to always have it offline at crucial moments.

But apart from that I really liked it. The acting was good, they really modeled their mannerisms and speech on TOS and just about pulled it off. Kirk being a renegade, Spock being logical, Bones being a Doctor not a whatever. Gotta admit I was a bit underwhelmed by Scotty though. Simon pegg is a fantastic actor but he wasnt a very plausible Scotsman, his accent was pathetic though I suppose he couldnt lay it on too thick otherwise most audiences wouldnt understand him. The action secens were great and 'splodey. There were fantastic futuristic settings and the plot was better than Iron Man 3. And that Admirals daughter chick.. wow

3 stars out of 5.

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TheWah asserts...

Posted May 15

I thought I liked the film but the more I think about it the less it makes sense and the more empty and irritating it was

still... SPLOSIONS!

AuntyLou would have you know...

Posted May 16

My youngest son actually shouted me to the movie for my birthday/mothers day present. So this will always be a great movie for me as it means my forcing him to watch TOS & TNG & all the movies meant we could sit and nod knowingly at all the references. But you are right...not a lot of sense & a bit empty & irritating.

But as you say.......SPLOSIONS!!!

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Barnesm reckons...

Posted May 16

Surely that can't be held against a person. I know many people who think they are funny. Some even post here.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 16

Don't make me laugh,...

bitterly.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 16

Okay, okay. I hate myself a little, too.

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