Thursday, November 28, 2013

Season of mists and yellow frightfulness

"Sodding alien invasions," Old Jem averred, raising his voice to be heard above the vesper bells, and none could gainsay him. For the aliens do chose the damnedest times to invade... at harvest-tide when all hands are needed in the fields to gather the crops before they spoil; or at the season of tillage when the moon is in the house of the centaur Astronachus; or at high summer when the garden bar of Ye Olde Entomologist invites one to lie in the shade of the olive trees drinking good ale or the mellow white wine of Ste. Zenobie and singing that song about a goblin.

Always their coming is heralded by evil omens and portents and auspices. The clouds themselves which lour above the blasted highlands take on shapes most baleful and signifying. Says the Nuremberg Farmers' Almanac & Seed Catalog & Coloured Omen Supplement, "Clouds look like Bollocks -- Shepherds in a moderate oven for 45 minutes and serve with alacrity." It is possible that two pages of the Coloured Omen Supplement have stuck together there.

So this most recent incursion from the comet-vexed void between the stars did not catch the stalwart yeomenry of our province unawares. As well it came on the very day of Scottish Country Dancing and Competitive Plumy-Hat Pageantry, when tempers are short and pikes and short-swords are never far from hand. It took little time to vanquish one moiety of the intruders and pinion them in hempen cord.

But those were the young, the larval stage of this hellspawn breed. Older ones, the fullgrown of their kind, had split open along the apex of their sacculine bodies, and from the split came forth long envenomed whips; so that they seemed unto a cnidarian's nematocyte; or like the trifid plants which Abbot Euphemius is wont to grow in the cloistered abbey garden of Perignon to keep his apple-trees unplundered by children. With these whips the aliens laid around them, and the battle was fierce, and only won when two of their number came across that doughty varlet A. Kiwi while he was uncorking a bottle of Double Moldywarp Parsnip Brandy when he thought himself secluded from those who would share it. See his plumy hat from the pageant! In his panic, he splashed both assailants with the semi-fluid contents of his bottle, and at its touch they withered, and shrivelled, and blackened and perished most mortally as if with the flames of Gehenna. Thus their vulnerability to Parsnip Brandy was known. So soon thereafter all of their host was vulnerated, with a great broaching of brandy-kegs, or such is the explanation we shall offer to Evangeline van Holsterin, head serving-wench of the hostelry.

In the previous invasion, in the Fiscal Year of Our Lord 1253, a different breed of alien had been seen: the shape of sleigh-bells, such as appear in inn-signs and armorial bearings painted by M. Magritte the itinerant Flemish heraldrist and dauber of icons. Armed they were with great quarterstaffs, but clumsy withal, so that they were no match for our Averoigne yeomen, well-versed in the staff-skill of the Dance of Morris.
Blowing into quarterstaffs is a
leading cause of abdominal explosion

No man can tell what compels the aliens to invade Averoigne, year after year... not even venerable Abbot Euphemius, who is as well-read in the lore of nature and the language of venery as he is in the books of his scriptorium; who knows (it is said) the collective terms for 172 different beasts, all the way up to "A riddle of sphinges". Some speak of 'tradition', and others of 'an old charter or something'. While others allude to deposits of Narrativium lying beneath the great forest north of Vyones. But a plan is now afoot to erect a giant booby-trapped bird table near the Gate of Sylaire, in the hope that it will somehow discourage them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

When you hear hoofbeats in the night...

...take a homeopathic preparation of Zebra until symptoms cease.

An informal survey of the clientele at the Old Entomologist ascertained the following:
  1. Swearing Bob ascribes the sound of hoofbeats to "feckin gobshite ponies".
  2. Greenish Hugh looks first for a guy carrying two coconut shells.
  3. Head barmaid Evangeline van Holsterin thinks we are all loonies.
  4. Space-Time Eddie looks for a spectral entity from the casebook of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder; or failing that, a Clark Ashton Smith story.

"Reporters should know better than to highlight a handful of random attacks by kids and call it journalism."

Remember, there is more to a career in journalism than just being a kid and attacking at random. Other skills are also required.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The means of your life, create and melt

It wasn't easy to create an all-consuming blobmonster -- a "black viscid pool of living ooze" without shape or structure, enveloping and dissolving all flesh, not entirely unlike Christmas Ale -- the first time an author wrote about one. A mad scientist had to mutate an amoeba to colossal size, using radium rays, because world hunger. The second blobmonster was slightly less work and required a "violent subterranean explosion, covering huge areas of the ocean's floor" to displace the Urschleim from the stygian darkness of the oceanic abyss to the middle of Wharton's Marsh.

But the workings of the Morphogenetic Field are inexorable and ineluctable, and follow similar rules to a Google search algorithm, making each subsequent appearance of a protoplasmic horror progressively easier to occur. Before you could say 'plitch' they were arriving on meteorites.

By 1959, a fortuitous encounter of discarded chemicals on their way down the laboratory's drainpipe was enough to create a self-replicating molecular chain, capable of swelling its bulk by incorporating the co-opted and rearranged atoms of any organic matter... proliferating in the sewers and drains and emerging from faucets and plugholes in search of more human flesh to absorb. All the best names had been taken by then which is why it had to settle for "the Clone".
Below: Cover art of Italian
translation is more illustrative
The Clone had assimilated the entire population of Chicago before its vulnerability to iodine was discovered. People only handled the trauma by convincing themselves that no such city had ever existed.

What all this means is that the creation of a crawling amoebic flesh-melter has never been easier (not to mention the discovery of already-extant amoebic flesh-melters which long predate the emergence of cellular life) -- and I am simply dumbfounded that the Lifeboat Foundation does not see fit to include this possibility within its list of Existential Threats to Human Survival.

The omission is inexplicable. As noted on a previous occasion, the Lifeboat Foundation's concerns are varied and ecumenical, including:

To protect against unfriendly AI (Artificial Intelligence).
To protect against ecophages and nonreplicating nanoweapons
If our civilization ran out of energy, it would grind to a halt, so Lifeboat Foundation is looking for solutions.
To prevent abuse in the areas of neuropharmaceuticals, neurodevices, and neurodiagnostics. Worst cases include enslaving the world’s population or causing everyone to commit suicide.
To prevent, and also make plans on surviving when possible, particle accelerator mishaps including quantum vacuum collapse, mining the quantum vacuum, formation of a stable strangelet, and the creation of artificial mini-black holes.
To prevent annihilation by an alien race (biological or otherwise).
To prevent antimatter-based annihilation.
To protect against black holes that are not manmade. This would include an “eye to the sky” program that would scan for signs of them.
To protect against and/or cope with our sun becoming a red giant and other harmful fluctuations in its output.

... and contra Substance McGravitas, they are also working on a GoatseShield if the website logo is any guide.
But then this happened in an unnamed cell-bio laboratory.* I am not one to cast wild accusations around but it reads as if someone has been fiddling with the Morphogenic Flux Intensifier again:
The next part is a bit of a blur. As I pulled the bottle from the back of the fridge, I held it to the light to see if there was any mold growing in there. That’s typically what we’d find… mold. I don’t think that’s what this was. It was almost a perfect sphere, maybe a bit oblong like an egg, and a bit yellowish in colour. It was about the size of a tangerine – I’m not kidding. It seemed solid. I shook the bottle a bit, and it bounced off the sides.
All I could think was… oh god. It’s human.
... This thing had been growing undisturbed for at least two months, probably more. Bacteria would make the liquid cloudy. Fungus would probably look like tendrils through the bottle. I don’t know. I panicked. It looked like a damn kidney.
So, here I am, Monday morning, holding a tumor in a bottle in one hand and spinning in circles to see if anyone else was around.
So the anonymous student simply pours the mystery growth into the sewers, having mixed it with bleach in an attempt at decontamination which may simply have angered it. What are they teaching cell-bio students these days?! Have they never heard of basic biohazard protocols like "Burn it with fire" or "Take off and nuke the entire site from orbit"?! Even at McGravitas Laboratories they know better than that.

Just don't be surprised if prominent North American cities start disappearing from the map.

... If the human race survives, it is because the Morphogenetic Field is neutral and even-handed. Since the pioneering work of Wandrei and Stapledon, it has also been acting to make vat-grown brains progressively easier to create, to the point that they appear spontaneously. It may be that what the student flushed down the sink was only a nascent super-intelligence, capable -- had it had been left to grow -- of solving the equations of Superstring Theory, and curing cancer on the side.

One way or the other it could have solved world hunger.

* H/t Boing Boing.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Walk on water float on air

After last night's meeting of the "Diurodrilus affiliations within Spiralia and Beer-Name Anagrams Working Group" at the Old Entomologist broke up in the usual disarray over the lack of decent anagrams for 'anagram', the conversation turned (as it so often does) to the topic of horses, and how easily frightened they are, e.g. by people doing it in the road.

Here are two horses frightened by lightning, and by the thunder which might get them.

It turns out that horses freak out completely if someone aims the antigrav beam at them so they find themselves levitating six inches above the ground, in a harmless prank which did not warrant the attention of the SPCA, nor all the fuss about "inhumane and unethical experimentation". Magnetic force repel attract, once it starts there's no turning back, whoops we seem to have a mild attack of Hawkwind lyrics.

Via the Dream Machine, here is a horse's nightmare in which it is terrified by a wind machine. This is why horses should not be allowed to watch Mariah Carey music videos just before bedtime. horsefright photo horseamplion.gif
"There is the corollary," Another Kiwi vouchsafed, "that when the incorporeal aliens come to Earth -- the ones from another plane of existence, which feed on negative emotions of anger and terror and despair --"

"-- as happens all the time," I agreed.

"-- rather than wasting their time with human emotions, and getting Ensign Chekov worked up about his non-existent brother Piotr, they would find it a lot easier to harvest the terror so prevalent among horses. Horses, horses, coming in in all directions, white shining silver studs with their nose in flames"

Buggrit, signal crossover from the music lyrics again. We really need better insulation around the Riddled Cryotanks.
Incorporeal emotion-eating
entity horrifying a horse
"Oh," said tigris, "that already happened. But the horses managed to overcome their own worst natures, and drove away the incorporeal aliens f.a.p.o.e. with a unified expression of positive emotions and happiness and laughter."

"It must be a tradition, or an old charter or something," I surmised.

Alternative title: Oh no more horses horses We're gonna swim like a fish.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky [updated]

When we saw the misshapen red entities on the after-hours surveillance footage from the Old Entomologist we thought they were ordinary orbs, losing their shape on exposure to the fumes of Barrel-Aged Goosefeathers Goat Purge (shoddy workmanship... cheap materials... not decent robust orbs like the ones when we were young). Do you like how Another Kiwi's hat always stays in place? I have no idea how he manages that.

The deformity seems to be their natural state, however, since it is equally evident when they are following Google Map vehicles around certain sites of spiritual significance and hovering just above the camera:

In other news, I appear to be alone in imagining a Yo La Tengo / Nena cross-over, "99 Screaming Lead Luftballons".
View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dreams of the Rare Bite Fiend

Continuing our series of unauthorised and unethical misuses of the Riddled Dream Machine, in this week's "Nightmares of the Medical Professions" we ask the age-old question, "What do Dentists dream about?"

dentaldream photo dental.gif
Insert your own "Dental Dam" joke here.

Proctology is next week.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A chariot will take me to
The Valley of the Kings

"Any progress with the Riddled Amateur Dramatic Society live-action remake of 'Wacky Races'?" asked tigris, frowning at her clipboard. Another Kiwi and I aren't allowed clipboards any more after one or two visits to the Accident & Emergency ward. It is not our fault if the clips have hazardous design flaws.

"There is a slight delay," I said.

"We wanted to make a motorcade but life did not give us motorcs," AK vouchsafed.
Tea-Thing troubles
"A few teething troubles," I explained. "We decided to be more inclusive with the casting..." added AK.

"Yes?" prompted tigris, drumming her fingers impatiently on her clipboard.

"...So we took the Riddled time machine back to New Kingdom Egypt and talked the Pharaoh of the time into a guest appearance in some of the scenes."

"That would explain the expense claim -- listed under Persuasion and Shifty Business -- for 'Shiny new coat of paint for crappy old chariot'," tigris surmised, consulting her notes.

"And then there was the tragic accident on the set."
Right: Trojan Horse, unclear on concept

Tigris progressed to double-bassing her toes. "I said the Auto-da-Fe [above, left] was a bad idea."

"No, no, it was the Kirby Carby, which turns out to be hard to stop in a hurry."
"'Them's the brakes,' as I said at the time," AK vouchsafed. "But no-one ever listens to me."

"Would this 'tragic accident' be in any way connected to the vogue among bloggers and churnalists and hard-up-for-publicity researchers for playing CSI-Ancient Egypt with the death of Tutankhamun?" tigris surmised. "The endless re-hashing of X-rays and autopsies?"

AK sniggered. "The mortuary priests did tell us that they'd have their work cut out, which was strangely prescient. They were not well-pleased about the state of the body."
"We have taken the precaution of bruiting other explanations about," I said reassuringly. "Harer's 'Died-of-a-surfeit-of-hippopotamus' theory is enjoying currency."

"Then there is the Curse of the Pharaohs..." AK pointed out.
"...which warns that anyone whose tomb is disturbed by Howard Carter and Earl Carnarvon is doomed to have died prematurely."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Can't call the fire brigade / None of them have been paid

BLCKGRD reminded us last week that it was Peter Hammill's 65th birthday.

Quite apart from the prescience of "The Institute of Mental Health (is Burning)", it will make a perfect national anthem for the future low-tax Libertarian Utopia of Texas.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A posable thumb

Congratulations to Doktorling Sonja.

Harsh words would be said about "invasion of privacy" if I posted a recognisable photograph of her, so instead here's a picture of a cat with polydactyly.

The final man is very small
Plunging in for his final bath

Here at Riddled Research Laboratory we are aware that our non-anthropogenic solar-proximity theory to account for global warming and rising sea level is not shared by the majority of climate scientists. If this brings down the charge of 'heretic' against us then so be it; we are not daunted by the prospect of persecution in the manner of Galileo.
What matters here is not so much causation, but rather the remedial steps to take. Carbon sequestration is all very well but there are only so many bodies you can pack into one basement. Our 'Massive-explosion-to-drain-flood-waters-away-into-Earth's-core' approach has the virtue of simplicity.
What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"To find a brain inside a skull with no other non-skeletal remains is extremely rare"

Of course if archaeologists were in the habit of purloining all the brains they unearth, for later consumption (along with Analeptic Alzabo) as part of their secretive, unspeakable ritual feasts, that's exactly what they would say. Only occasionally does a brain slip through their fingers as it were -- slippery little buggers! -- when a novice archaeologist, not yet inducted into the Mysteries and the Initiation which Cannot be Renounced, makes the discovery and the announcement is too hard to suppress.
the skull — which belonged to a man probably between 26 and 45 years old — was accompanied by a jaw and two neck vertebrae, bearing evidence of hanging and then decapitation. Cut marks on the inside of the neck indicate that the head was severed while there was still flesh on the bones, O’Connor said. There is, however, no indication of why he was hanged, and the rest of his remains have yet to be found.
This will come as a disappointment to people who have watched too many episodes of CSI: Iron Age Europe and think that a few high-tech tests will reveal whodunnit.

Sometimes the brains are not fit for consumption because the conditions of burial have turned them into the kind of ceramic you could use as space-shuttle heat shield:

Details here and here. But let the popular press have the last word:

4,000-year-old preserved brains that were boiled in their own juice

I would not go back to that restaurant.