Cheeseburger Gothic

Everyday spaceships

Posted November 23 by John Birmingham

This is brilliant. Dude designs spaceships based on common household thingies.

And space stations!

Check em out here. (Props to YD for the link)

2 Responses to ‘Everyday spaceships’

Bondiboy66 mumbles...

Posted November 26
Excellent! It's like he illustrated my fantasies as a kid when all manner of objects transformed into spaceships in my imagination.

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pi would have you know...

Posted Sunday
Ha. That's pretty good.

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I think I want some turkey

Posted November 21 into Food & Drink by John Birmingham

The internet is often lke a giant tractor spreading enormous tonnages of shit all over the world. And sometimes not. One thing it does do is globalise quirky regionalalisms like poutine or kangaroo scrotum coin purses

The internationalisation of Halloween was surely accelerated by a thousand Buzzfeed listicles. And I have a feeling we're not far away from everyone deciding they want in on America's annual festival of eating too much for Thanksgiving.

Me. I've decided I want some turkey. You don't see it very often on Australian menus. Even duck and goose are more common (and way less likely to be overcooked into a dry, joyless protein cud). But I was reading a Washinton Post bit on how to carve a turkey this morning (don't judge me, I just got off deadline, also the story boasted of an augmented reality bird carving tutorial), and now I just want to eat walking bird.

When you think about it, Thanksgiving is perfectly situated on the calendar for us. It's a few weeks into the summer drinking season, which officially commences a month before summer on Melbourne Cup day, and we like to eat things. Too many things and too much of them.

I'm serious enough about this that I'm thinking about looking for a restaurant which will feed me a bif turkey dinner with all the fixin's, whatever the fuck fixin's are.

7 Responses to ‘I think I want some turkey’

jl ducks in to say...

Posted November 21
What makes the turkey is the stuffing, you have to have righteous stuffing. Baste well and often with butter to prevent dryness. Cranberry is a must. Biscuits (the American hot fluffy ones), gravy, pumpkin pie, sweet corn- those are the fixins.

The best Thanksgiving Day turkey I ever had was cooked over a trash fire overseas. It tasted like burnt plastic. We were getting ready to leave that hellhole, so many thanks were given, and I thought that burnt turkey was great.

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insomniac mutters...

Posted November 21
Thanks to ms insomniac's daughter being over from the US in December but not staying until Christmas Day, we're having pre Christmas Christmas with turkey etc etc plus Christmas with turkey etc etc.
And that is the correct way to carve a turkey, especially the breast. When it's stuffed under the skin, slices like that contain a little bit of everything that is good in the world.

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Leftarc would have you know...

Posted November 21
So you want to talk turkey (I learnt this from The West Wing)

https://www.butterball.com/about-us/turkey-talk-line



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FormerlyKnownAsSimon asserts...

Posted November 22
i sent you a tweet on the back of Chuck Wendig delving into the depths of depraved frontier icecream flavours https://twitter.com/LLah_Nomis/status/1065451763258380288
it may not quite satisfy that turkey craving though

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jason is gonna tell you...

Posted November 23
I am fully behind the push for Thanksgiving in Australia. No presents, much drinking, watching sport, showing some gratitude for all we have. Best idea for a holiday ever.

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Spanner swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted December 2
A turkey hindquarter. All dark meat. Insert butter under the skin. Part fill roasting pan with water and place hindquarter on rack above water. The water stops the turkey drying out and then the butter and turkey fat drips into the water. Make gravy out of water, butter and turkey fat liquid.

Contact your cardiologist immediately after consumption.

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted Thursday
Consider The Walking Bird, as a subset of birds. It would appear Moa, Elephant & Dodo all rated well on fork based factors. Emu egg is >adequate, perhaps post adolescence Emu are just too fleet of foot to feature frequently in fine dining. (Note to self: vegetarianism, perhaps if you can out run a prey species you can feel good eating it. * thinks as chewing pork* " You should have evolved longer legs Arnold") There are Forty 'leven different penguin, none palatable, all chock full of fish oil one would assume, but they are more swimmers than walkers.

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Mother of Kittens is coming... #ForTheThrone

Posted November 15 by girlclumsy

Beloved Throners,

Life is full of uncertainties, but for me right now, two things seemed obvious from the start.

1. That I would LOVE Game of Thrones. Like, REALLY LOVE Game of Thrones.

2. That eventually I would make a show about it.

And so, dear Kittens, with thanks to JB for letting me make the announcement here, I am thrilled to announce that 2019 will bring you something I've been beavering away on for months and months:




The full Perth FRINGEWORLD program going live today was another amazingly timed coincidence, coming as it does one day after HBO launched the #ForTheThrone ad campaign and confirmed the final season of our beloved show will start airing in April 2019. So clearly that means there is a limited time I can actually do this show, as most of the focus will be about getting ready for S8, and dealing with the existential crisis that will inevitably follow.

But it'll be funny, or Jon Snow doesn't have washboard abs under all those furs.

Other locations? Stay tuned...

A massive thank you once again to Whisper & Sing Photography for my Mother of Kittens image, and to Jeffries Printing for the graphic design.

For more, you can follow my Game of Thrones Facebook page, OR the Facebook page for my production company Act/React (I know, so many FB pages).

Or if you're in Perth, book now!

Valar Meowgulis, kittens. xoxo.

2 Responses to ‘Mother of Kittens is coming... #ForTheThrone’

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 15
Holy cow I just got the Fringe email with the full show list, and was sad that you (apparently) didn't have a show this year. I will book NOW xx

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jl is gonna tell you...

Posted November 16
I have missed this. I'll keep an eye peeled for future installments.

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And they dare call themselves the home of the free

Posted November 4 by John Birmingham

5 Responses to ‘And they dare call themselves the home of the free’

jl has opinions thus...

Posted November 4
Hey, don't count me in on that. I note that kangaroo ownership is feasible where I hang my hat, the border of Ohio and West Virginia.

BostonJoe ducks in to say...

Posted November 17
Same here in the backwoods of South Carolina where we are free to own a Kangaroo unencumbered by the reach BigBro's calloused and grubby hands.

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Leftarc would have you know...

Posted November 5
Still on schedule for your deadlines JB?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 5
Quiet, you.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon would have you know...

Posted November 8
Does this tie in to the apocalypse books? Please tell me there is a crazy gang of ex-owned kangaroo apocalypse defying ruffians out there waylaying unsuspecting survivors.I can only imagine kangaroos would go hell for leather population wise if left to roam/breed free in an apocalypse scenario. Forget the buffalo herds, mobs of kangaroos thumping through the wilds scaring the bejesus out of rough sleepers.

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Blood of Heirs. By Alicia Wanstall-Burke

Posted October 29 into Book Extract by John Birmingham

Alicia has been proofing my final manuscripts for a while now, usually offering more value than I pay for by picking out more than simple typos and line errors. While toiling away in my proofreader dungeons she's also been working on her own first novel and I'm very happy to have an extract below. I'm about a qurter of the way through and I think it a triumph. She worked on this book for four years and you can see the care taken in every line. The characterisation, the scene setting and world building, the intricate weaving together of narrative arcs. It earns the hastag #triumph. I have an advance copy, but I'm going to buy one for myself anyway because she earned that too.

It's Amazon exclusive, but available on KU if you're a subscriber. This link will take you to the local store.

Chapter Six
The Disputed Territory, Western Orthia

Morning broke with a shattering horn blast and screaming headache. Barely able to peel his eyes open, Ran groaned and pulled a blanket over his head to block out the cold light of day. His breath stank and his stomach rolled uneasily, not helped by the thought of what waited outside. He was due his traditional morning vomit, but this time it was not only fuelled by the overpowering stench of death and excrement, but a roaring hangover. The thought did him no favours and he fought the bile burning the back of his throat.


Another furious blast of horns cut through Ran’s head with the grace of a blunt axe and his eyes tore themselves open, heedless of the protests from his headache. There was something wrong with that call. It wasn’t the standard rouse played to wake the troops at sunrise—it was a desperate and hurried call to arms.


Ran sat up fast and the tent spun around him. Frantic shouts and the clash of steel banished the fog in his mind and he scrambled to pull his boots over yesterday’s socks.


‘Ranoth! Up, now!’ Duke Ronart bellowed and threw back the dividing curtain. ‘Get your blade, boy!’


‘What’s going on?’ Ran stumbled to his sword belt as his father’s massive hand collected him by the arm and shoved him through the tent’s rear door.


The grey light of an overcast day blinded him and he collided with an unseen soldier rushing past. Ronart’s grip tightened and dragged him into a run. Ran pumped his legs hard to keep up, blinking to clear his reluctant eyes and shift the dizziness from his vision.


His father charged on like an enraged bull, roaring orders and shoving soldiers aside as if they weighed nothing. There was nothing Ran could do but follow and hope his father didn’t lose hold of his arm.


‘Father, what’s happening?’ he shouted into the storm of men and horses tearing through the camp.


‘They mounted an attack! A fucking dawn attack! I’ll have their general’s guts for breakfast when I’m done, then I’ll ride across the bloody border and raze Wodurin to the fucking ground!’


‘The Woaden are attacking? How did they get this close?’ Ran couldn’t believe it. It made no sense. How had they crossed the lines without anyone noticing?


Cold realisation washed through him and he shivered.


The Hill…


Had Captain Denover failed to hold the advance at the Ford? Had the lines broken because Ran had lost the Hill?


The duke stopped and rounded on Ran, his hands squeezing his son’s shoulders so hard he thought the bones might pop from the joints. ‘I don’t know. Look Ran, you have to get out of here. I can’t have you here if this goes to shit. You understand me? I should never have brought you here, not this late in the campaign. You have to go…’


‘But I can stay, I can—’


A howl of rage filled the air and the duke stabbed his sword into the space beside Ran’s head. Ran spun away as a spray of blood hit the side of his face and he staggered back from the gurgling corpse of a Woaden soldier. Ronart’s sword had skewered the attacker’s throat, and blood flooded down the front of the man’s armour as his sword arm fell limp at his side.


Ran’s meagre challenge of his father’s decision died in his throat. With a flick, Ronart freed the body from his blade and resumed his grasp on Ran’s arm. He didn’t argue or resist. Instead he found himself silently praying to whatever gods were listening that he and his father might make it through this alive.


A vanguard of Orthian soldiers swarmed them as they hurried forwards, dirt and blood muting the shining silver shield etched on their armour; the crown, scythe and pickaxe of his father’s arms completely covered in muck.


‘Sir, this way!’ A marshal shouted and the group veered right, following the marshal and cutting a path through the chaos to the rear of the Orthian camp.


Ran glanced back at the battle and his breath caught in his throat. Imperial soldiers teemed through the encampment, swooping on it like ravenous vultures on a carcass.


The Orthian troops struggled to form a counter attack under the assault, scrambling to retreat and conserve their strength and numbers. Duke Ronart was right—the end of a campaign was a mess. The tired, battle-worn soldiers caught in the onslaught dropped quickly and without much of a fight. Many frantically glanced his way before turning on their heels and bolting into the woods and Ran’s heart skipped a beat.


The men looked at him, at his father, and saw their leaders not simply retreating, but fleeing. They didn’t see a duke taking his son to the rear of the fight—they saw a duke making a break for safety while leaving his troops for dead.


‘Father, stop!’ Ran snapped away from his father’s grip and the duke shuddered to a halt, keen eyes scanning the fight. ‘They’re fleeing because we’re running!’


Through the mud and blood, soldiers deserted in droves, scrambling to the relative safety of other camps dotted along the ridge. The controlled retreat formations, drilled endlessly in the fields near Usmein, collapsed into frantic sprinting. If they had any hope of forcing the Woaden back into the Disputed Territory, they had to bring the retreat under control, and quickly. They had to, or the Imperial Army would spread into Orthia and devour it from within.


‘Fuck me, Tenner sound the retreat horns and get them to pull back like soldiers, not piss-weak children!’ The duke seethed and cursed furiously at the failure of his troops to hold their composure.


Ran tightened his belt and pushed his dark, tangled hair from his eyes. ‘We can turn them back, Father, we just need to form the lines again.’ His study of hundreds of years of battle tactics and wars across Coraidin bubbled to the surface of his mind amidst the disaster of the attack.
‘No, Ran. You have to go.’


‘No, Father, you need—’


Duke Ronart shook his son violently and Ran swallowed his objection. ‘You can’t be here, son. Not my heir; not here, not today. I won’t do to you what was done to my brother. You need to get back to Usmein and raise the alarm. Get the court in order and sort out your mother and sisters. I’ll turn this herd of cats around, but you have to get home.’


Ronart glanced around as if searching for his next move in the chaos and blood. Soldiers roared around them, the deafening crash of blades shattering the morning amongst the screams of frantic horses. The stench of voided bowels hit Ran like a punch in the face, his eyes watering and his stomach lurching.


‘Fuck’s sake, I haven’t a squad to spare.’ Ronart whistled and waved at a soldier, aged in his twenties, holding the reins of a few wide-eyed horses. ‘You! Report!’


‘Brit Doon, sir!’ The soldier gave a sharp salute. ‘Watcher, Duke’s Guard.’


Ronart propelled Ran towards the soldier and the waiting horses. ‘Take him to Usmein as quick as these beasts will carry you. Do not stop, not for anyone or anything. By the gods, I’ll use your skull as an ale mug if he doesn’t make it.’


The soldier gave another salute and without a word, grabbed Ran by the knee and hoisted him into the saddle. The mount shied and threw its head, the chaos too much for it to abide. Despite his terror, Ran’s blood ran cold at the idea of leaving his father in the thick of a battle. The Empire had never broken the lines like this, not in all the decades since the war began. And sons weren’t meant to abandon their fathers when things turned sour and the fate of the duchy hung in the balance.


‘Aye there lad, let’s do as the duke orders, eh?’ Brit Doon said and Ran jerked from staring at the fight to see him already atop another of the horses. Brit gave him a quick, reassuring smile and snatched the reins of Ran’s horse. ‘I don’t fancy my skull filled with ale I’m not alive to drink.’
The watcher kicked his steed and shouted above the battle’s roar. The horses didn’t need any extra encouragement and flew into a barely controlled eastward gallop. The last Ran heard of the fight was the hiss of an arrow over his head and the thwack of several more hitting the dirt beside the horse’s flashing hooves. After that, there was nothing but his breath and the hammering beat of his frenzied heart.


***


Brit forced Ran to ride until he thought his body would collapse in on itself, pushing the horses to the edge of what was considered a reasonable pace if you wanted the beasts to survive. They kept off the road, travelling the quiet lanes and tracks that farmers used to move between their fields and villages. At nightfall, Ran hoped they might rest awhile, but Brit wasn’t interested. He led the horses onward, leaving Ran to doze in the saddle.


‘We should stop,’ Ran suggested for the fourteenth time since sunset. The hard ride from Signal Hill the previous day had left him saddle-sore and extraordinarily fatigued, and he ached to rest, even for a moment. His backside had gone numb, along with the insides of his thighs. His ankles burned from holding the same angle in the stirrups and he hadn’t felt his toes in a long while.
‘You heard the duke. No stopping.’ Brit spat in the dirt and ducked under a low hanging branch.
Ran screwed his face into a frown. Surely his father hadn’t meant for them to ride through the night! ‘The horses need a break. If they snap an ankle in the shadows–’


‘They’re fine at a walk,’ Brit cut him off without even turning his head.


This time Ran swallowed his dissent and glared into the evening. The cold bit into his hands despite the gloves he found in the saddlebags and the north wind had begun to cut through the fabric of his trousers. If he did eventually convince Brit to stop for the night, there was no guarantee he could actually climb down or walk away from the horse. He might manage it at a crawl, but only with his elbows—there was no sensation left in any of his fingers. They would stop soon, even if Ran had to order the soldier to do so.


‘Here, this is a decent place to camp. There’s probably a stream nearby,’ Ran suggested, taking one last stab at subtlety before he had to resort to pulling rank and issuing an outright order. He was a prince of the realm and a captain, after all.


The watcher coughed and spat. ‘Can’t stop here. No one stops here. Besides, Duke’s orders. No stopping.’


Ranoth narrowed his eyes at Brit’s swaying back in the dim moonlight. ‘What are you talking about? There’s nothing here but trees and hills.’


‘Why’d you reckon that is?’ Brit glanced back at the prince. ‘Not bad land around here. Not too rocky even though we’re near the quarries and the gold mines are off to the south there. Not bad here at all, but there’s nothin’. Just these trackways and the road to the Territory.’


Passing through the area on his way to the front, Ran hadn’t taken much notice of the surrounding countryside. To him, one farm seemed identical to the next, and for miles and miles, that’s all he’d thought there was to see. Now it was dark and the only faint light fell from the moon, filtered through bands of high cloud and treetops. If anyone lived nearby, their location would be marked by the glow from a farmhouse hearth, or the soft sounds of grazing animals, or working dogs barking in the distance. A bird or two, owls by their screeching, lifted off from nearby branches. Besides the whisper of their wings in the cool air, there was nothing.


Except…


‘There’s a house!’ Ran pointed at a shadowy structure of large square stones on a cleared hill crest a few hundred yards from the road. He jerked on the reins and kicked his horse harder than the animal deserved. Why spend a freezing night in the saddle when succour was so close?
‘Oi!’ Brit’s curse echoed in the silent valley. ‘What’re you doing?’


‘Getting us a bed!’ Ran shouted back without looking. Even a pile of hay in the barn would be enough. The tenants would surely lend the duke’s son some hospitality, especially on such a frigid night. A chill in the air promised the road would be icy by morning.


At a short stone fence before the house, he swung down and stumbled through a weathered gate jammed open on the path. No light shone from the uncovered window, and Ran reasoned the owner was likely preparing for bed in another room. He rubbed his numb hands together and reached to bang on the door.


‘No!’ cried Brit.


Ranoth’s fist hit the timber panel with a boom.


The door fell inward, splintering on the flagstone floor and the air in his lungs vanished. The impact should have echoed with an almighty crash, but Ran heard nothing. Stunned and wide eyed, he dropped to his knees and stared.


Human skeletons filled the room beyond from floor to ceiling.


There was no telling if a hearth or more rooms lay further in. Mounds of bones and skulls clogged up every available space, brilliant white and dull, dusty grey in the moonlight.
‘Shit…’ whispered Ran.


‘Come back towards me, lad.’ Brit’s hushed command reached him and he obliged, shuffling backwards.


‘What is this place?’ His voice broke.


‘Come on! This is no place to have a chat!’


Deep in the shadows of the house, the hollow eyes of a thousand skulls scrutinised his retreat. Did they wonder where he was going? Did they think he’d come to join them in their lonely countryside tomb? Ran knew the souls once dancing in those black voids were with the Dark Rider in the Underworld, but the fact didn’t ease his hammering heart or settle his quivering lips. The eyes of the dead glared, unmoved by his fear, and Ran gave a startled squeak when the gate pressed into his back, barring his way.


He blinked and she appeared—white blonde hair and skin as pale as the moon, translucent enough to see through to the heaps of skeletons. She lay unmoving across the doorway, between the threshold and the bones, long naked limbs pressed against the floor, her back exposed to the bitterly cold air through the fabric of a shredded shift. Her dead eyes stared into the space between them, unseeing, empty.


A shiver prickled across Ran’s skin. His heart hammered against the wall of his chest and his throat contracted around a scream, choking him as his mouth gaped at the body in the house.
He squeezed his eyes shut.


She’s in my imagination… She’s not real… Get a grip on yourself…


His eyes opened and hers blinked, now clear and blue. She paid no attention to Brit, the soldier was close to losing his wits as he screamed at Ran to get out of the yard. He had seen the ghost and the bones and was howling curses, promising to feed Ran his sword if he didn’t move. But his voice sounded far away, as if he were shouting across a yawning abyss.


‘Go,’ said the dead girl, blue lips moving in a whisper.


A cold hand reached inside Ran’s head and wrapped bony fingers around his mind. He shuddered and winced, pain lancing through his eye sockets.


‘Go, before they find you. They take all they find. Run…. Run! RUN!’


Ran’s jaw and body tensed then the grip on his consciousness eased and the girl’s eyes faded back to stone dead. Without warning her body lurched to the right, jerking and scraping across floor as if dragged by some unholy beast, before disappearing into the house.


Ran finally found his voice and screamed.


His legs scrabbled against the cold dirt of the pathway and a pair of hands snagged the back of his coat. He struggled but the grip was tighter, stronger, and his arms were unfit to fight the doom waiting in the house of bones.


‘Stop flapping about and get over the fence! By the Dark Rider’s balls, let’s go!’ The hands heaved him over the low wall and dumped him on the ground. He looked up and Brit gripped his jacket by the collar. ‘Up, now!’


Ran didn’t need to be told twice. He sprinted wildly for his unimpressed horse and collected the reins, his weariness banished by fear. Brit sprang into the saddle and spurred his mount, not waiting to see if Ran followed.

(Available at Amazon).

7 Responses to ‘Blood of Heirs. By Alicia Wanstall-Burke’

jl reckons...

Posted October 29
This I must read. It pulled me along effortlessly, I raced to the end. Will buy now.

jl mumbles...

Posted October 29
Done. Hopefully the first of many US sales, Alicia.

insomniac mutters...

Posted October 29
Agreed. You really can't stop reading.

jl puts forth...

Posted November 23
Took me a couple of weeks to get to it (very busy with research for another project), but darn am I glad I did. This book is very, very good. Loved the ending. Denizens of the 'Burger, check it out.

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alfettesfalconer asserts...

Posted October 30
Yep, that's a page-turner for sure. I love the Australianisms too:

"I’ll ride across the bloody border and raze Wodurin to the fucking ground"

"I can’t have you here if this goes to shit."

"Fuck me, Tenner sound the retreat horns and get them to pull back like soldiers, not piss-weak children!"

Does any other nationality use piss-weak as an insult like Australians do? I hope not.

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jason swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 31
Just picked it up for a little holiday reading, Alicia, Mr King and Marcus Zusak. Just a pity JL and JB don't have anything new out.

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AuntyLou is gonna tell you...

Posted November 11
Jolly good stuff! So good that I bought it. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

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Tsundoko

Posted October 16 into Books by John Birmingham

Nice piece in the New York Times about my teetering stack o' shame, which the Japanese apparently call a tsundoku: a stack of books that you have purchased but not yet read.

The sight of a book you’ve read can remind you of the many things you’ve already learned. The sight of a book you haven’t read can remind you that there are many things you’ve yet to learn. And the sight of a partially read book can remind you that reading is an activity that you hope never to come to the end of.

3 Responses to ‘Tsundoko’

jl swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted October 16
Yeah, the older I get the more I realize how little I know. It would take more than my span of years and mastery of a few more languages to get where I'd like to be.

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insomniac reckons...

Posted October 16
Is it better or worse if your tsundoko is hidden deep within a Kindle or other such device? It just looks like a pile of one, and is that really worthy of being called a pile?

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted October 16
I suspect the chances of your being guilt tripped into reading your Kindle tsundoko are much smaller. Can't say whether that's good or bad.

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