Monday, 26 September 2016

The Light And Darkness War (#1-6) PART TWO

"In the beginning oh son of the wise...there was nothing... in the end also, there is nothing.  All that passes is but a dream, my son... a dream of light and darkness." - Zip

The story so far.  Paraplegic Vietnam vet Lazarus Jones ends up in a coma after a car crash.  His soul finds it's way to a star system called Abaraxis where a aeons long war is being fought between the forces of Light and Dark.  Warriors from Earth's wars find themselves drafted into the battle on the side of the Light and Lazarus finds his old crew, Captain Engle, Huff and Slaw in command of a stone barge and they welcome him back to the fray even though he isn't quite dead.  A powerful agent of Darkness called Lord Na attacks and takes control of the planet of Black Gate.  Laz and co. manage to get the ruler's daughter Lasha out just in time and she and Laz hook up, realising they have known each other across a thousand different lifetimes of fighting the dark.  Lord Na has figured out a way to defeat the Light for good, he has made contact with an arms dealer on Earth called Odom and demands more modern weaponry.  To take the weaponry over to the other side, he gets Odom to employ Nikola Tesla's nephew who has created a machine that can link the two dimensions up. Laz's team decide on an all out attack on Lord Na before he can bring the weaponry across but end up going through a dimensional rip and winding up on Earth.  There Lord Na's men take control of an attack chopper and shoot the barge causing it to crash into a building, we left it on that cliffhanger and now the conclusion.

Lord Na: "In the beginning oh sons of destruction, there was darkness. In the end also there is darkness.  The darkness is real... the darkness is all that is."

As a pitched battle between Lord Na's forces and the lightsiders takes place, Lord Na declaims some more about the "purity of the night".
The lightsiders beat a retreat from the mortal world.
Outgunned by his forces, the lightsiders withdraw leaving Laz's ship still stuck in the side of a building in the mortal world, located in Odom's South African weapons depot.  They have the Tesla machine used to stablise the hold between dimensions, so although one of Lord Na's commanders Mangler is piloting a modern attack chopper it doesn't try to destroy them.

There alien engine/communications device, Zip is dying.  He manages to pull the ship out of the side of the building and it crashes to the ground.  Zip then disintegrates leaving a small book behind that Laz picks up.

Engle: "Fifteen years he fought with us.. and he was built into the ship 200 years before that."
Zip, the ships navigator and communications enabler, passes on.
They investigate the bunker and find several more attack chopper including one identical to that which they flew in Vietnam, handily all fueled up and ready to go. So they start it up, and attack Lasher and the deadsiders in their chopper.

Meanwhile Nikola Tesla is being visited by Leonardo Da Vinci.  Leonardo is practically worshipped by the lightside, technology, much to Tesla's disgust, has not been allowed to progress past Leonardo's level.  He says that the acquisition of modern weaponry by the deadsiders means that they need Tesla, one of the rulers with him says "the Galaxy must bring forth a new generation of military machines.  Can you help?"
Leonardo ain't too proud tah beg.
Tesla says warfare has been the last thing on his mind, he's been trying to improve living conditions "in this backwards galaxy" which has always been met with official resistance.

Leonardo Da Vinci: "It is time for everything to change, Mr. Tesla.   It is time for the galaxy to make use of your talents... and to honour you as it has honoured me."

Tesla thinks to himself that they came begging when they realised they couldn't stand up to weapons of pure energy. Then we join Lord Na saying that in in honour of his new arsenal he is declaring today a holiday.  He orders the attackers on Black Gate wiped out and his slaves worked to death.

Meanwhile back on Earth, the four man crew is refamiliarising themselves with the helicopter controls.   It comes easily to them and Engle comments about Vietnam, "God how I loved that war". 

Back in with Lord Na, he asks for Nicky, the nephew of Tesla and his psychic girlfriend Delpha to be bought to him.  He demands Nicky build him another Tesla machine .  Nicky refuses saying he is an American citizen and "my government will have something to say about this".  This doesn't bother Lord Na and he orders his second-in-command Fasher to escort Nicky to his quarters with a copy of "The book of the Great Darkness" to read. He has Delpha to himself now and offers to share a glass of wine with her.
Lord Na tries to seduce Delpha.
In South Africa, Laz and his team manage to bring down the chopper filled with deadsiders.  They flee the wreckage before it explodes and Laz takes Odom, who was riding the chopper hostage. Engle demands Odom provide them with weaponry:

Engle: "I want guns Mister. Lots of 'em. I want ordinance an' I want lasers  like ya gave ol' Na. I want some heavy shit!"

Lord Na in the meantime is attempting to seduce Delpha.   He says as soon as he saw her he knew she was a "very special person".   He says she has great insight and does it tell her how he is "helpless... before your beauty.. and freedom?"  She says she'll trust him if he returns her to Earth.  Lord Na says by the next day Mangler will have reopened the gate and she can go back if she wishes.

He leaves her alone and she reflects that her connection to the "Vietnam warrior" helped her resist Lord Na's charms.  Meanwhile said warrior, Laz and his crew have loaded up with ordinance and fly the Huey back through the dimensional gate but the Huey wasn't built for dimensional travel and nearly shakes apart.  They make it though and plan to go back for another supply run.

Tesla is trying to contact his nephew via a vision, and Delpha is able to channel him so his message gets through.  He says to Nicky he has an idea for for a weapon that he needs Nicky's help with.  As the lightsiders collect more choppers and weapons from the South African depot, Laz and the others make their final run and bring the Tesla machine with them.
Taking the machine through the rip unfortunately backfires on Laz.
Suddenly there is a flash of green light, turns out dragging the Tesla machine into its own energy field was not a good idea.  Then we see Laz standing on his own while a prayer echoes around him. He is shot in the eye with an arrow and falls, only to wake up from his coma with his wife Chris praying for his return.   She is exstatic he has woken up but he just wants to go back to the fight saying they are alive "but I'm the one who's really dead now."

Lazarus Jones: "For a single hour I dreamed hope.. rebirth... new legs to carry me into war.  The war of dreams...the woman... even love is dead."

Bitterly he reflects that none of it was real, his friends aren't alive/dead and fighting, Lasha doesn't exist.  As Chris fusses over him talking about mundane things, he moodily wallows in self pity, "I'm just a legless asshole... doomed".

Then he demands his dope, when Chris says she threw it out in case the police came. He sends her for some emergency stuff he has stashed elsewhere.  She leaves and he reaches into his shirt for some matches and finds Zip's book tucked in there.  Zip appears in his mind saying he will read the book to Laz who must destroy it when he is done.
Zip begins his story.
As Zip recites the story of the history of the relationship between the Light and Dark, it overlays images of Laz's crew piloting the Earth attack chopper in a battle against the deadsiders.  They are having trouble with it, it doesn't seem to want to work properly in this dimension and Laz was their expert in fixing things up.

Back with Nikola Tesla and Leonardo Da Vinci, Tesla is still a little affronted he is being asked to build a powerful modern weapon when his attempts to modernise the society has been looked down on in the past.  Practically through gritted teeth, the leaders say that although the council has "great displeasure at your thoughts" they have no quarrel with someone who can "advance the cause of war."

Tesla says there are probably other scientist who have crossed over who have been afraid to speak out, but no matter, he has discovered "a curious physical truth about the galaxy".  The atmosphere of the planets are supercharged with voltage and he and his nephew can use this to amass huge charges.  Nicky designs something called a "Voelkel gate" to focus the charge and have built the "Tesla Energy Accumulator" which he is now showing the leaders.
Two Teslas are better than one.
He says in return for this he wants to be able to publish the "knowledge which can transform this backward society".  He is told no, that it is not allowed, but Tesla says even Da Vinci has seen the need for progress.  The Tesla cannon (hey that's a weapon you can use in Fallout 3, cool) is sent to Engle to help in the liberation of Black Gate.

The leader of the fleet, Lepp is also on its way to Black Gate.  Engle pleads with them to wait for a while, that Lord Na's new weapons will destroy them.  His advice is shot down as Lepp seems to think weight of numbers will work in their favour.  "How many worlds have you captured?" he sneers and cuts the connection.  Engle decides to enact a plan using their own captured weaponry, they'll attack full on while blowing up the tunnels underneath the planet.  Then Lasha has a vision of Laz, "I see him! he's alive!"

While Zip continues to tell Laz about the Darkness, Lord Na and Delpha speak with each other. Delpha says she has not accepted Lord Na, she and Nicky want to leave immediately.  Lord Na says her face says otherwise, why did she put on such a skimpy costume?  Delpha says it's because his man took her clothes, "believe me, all I feel towards you is fear."

As Engle slips his ships under the "arc" to get to the palace and the others lay charges in the tunnels underneath, Lord Na purges Laz's influence from Delpha's mind.  "I've freed you from his influence.. he was the weak one" he says.  When she feels lost without his strength, Lord Na says she has her own strength.

He then sends her on a "Journey into my vastness".  She sees images of dead worlds, monstrous beings and war.  He says she should pity him, for he is filled with emptiness and an "infinite sadness".

Lord Na: "Sadness beyond all joy in the death of multitudes.  Ravaged by a rip in his being.. his wound that has bled for a thousand years.  Perhaps Na's wound can be healed... by Earth flesh joined to darkness intangible."

Delpha just responds that his visions are sickening her and his words are making her die.   He says that together they both can be healed and she can rule with him.  He then thinks to himself that despite herself she is intrigued, but she doesn't realise she is interacting with a projection and we see the back of a being sat in on a throne saying his real face is "broken by an ancient affliction". Will she still lust after him when she sees his real self? She screams at him to stop murdering her, but he embraces her struggling form saying she was his before time began.
The real Lord Na watches his seduction of Delpha from afar.
Then the lightsiders begin their all out assault on the palace.  Delpha, who is feeling Laz's prescence again is to be locked away and drugged as Lord Na says "I feel her working furiously to undo the benediction I placed on her."  The attack isn't going without a hitch.  The super attack chopper they bought over refuses to work.  Engle beats himself up for making such a bad call to bring it over and lose Laz in the process.

The stone-ship that Lasha is commanding crashes, and it looks like she might be dead.  But Delpha sees her, and notes that she too belongs to the warrior Lazarus.  She reaches out to her, hoping Lasha can give her strength to escape the dark lord's hunger.  As the battle rages outside, Lord Na commands the laser cannon is mounted on his command ship.

Nicky finds the woken up Delpha who says Lasha is alive and can help them.   On cue Lasha appears to lead them out of the palace, but Lord Na and Lasher stop them.  He gloats that she has come home to meet her fate.  "Are you still looking for your damned father... or is it that legless asshole you want?"  And this penultimate chapter ends with Zip commanding Lazarus to "destroy this book".
Lasha comes to rescue Delpha and Nicky, not entirely successfully.
The final chapter begins with Laz in a semi-coma again.  He is asleep and dreaming but can't be woken up.  He's been put on a drip with his wife Chris watching over him.  Lasha meanwhile goes to attack Lord Na, but Lord Na fights back and mortally injures Nicky. "Most fools die to come here... young Tesla came to die" he gloats.  Nicky's "light body" rises from his dead body and Lord Na demands "give me the woman!"

Then an apparition of Laz appears and tells Lasha to get out of there with Delpha, but Lord Na stabs through him and hits Delpha.  Lasha then grabs a hold of her as Lord Na laments they could have been "the only free ones." He tries to banish Laz's spirit saying he doesn't belong.  Then he takes Nicky's lightbody back to the citadel to know "the innocence and purity of absolute might".
Laz still between dimensions helps Lasha escape.
Outside in the battle, Huff says his light-eyes can see an image of Laz, standing out in the middle of the battlefield looking sad.  Back with Lord Na, the laser cannon has been mounted on his command ship.  Engle and crew manage to get within spitting distance of it before being shot down.  Lasha meanwhile has managed to get the badly injured Delpha onto another stone ship.

Lasha is unable to heal her wounds and as Delpha slips away she says they belong to Lazarus, they are sisters and now she has nowhere else left to go. And she dies.  On board Lord Na's command ship he is told the Galactic fleet will be there in an hour, which pleases Lord Na as he wants to strike a decisive blow against them.  Once that is done, he'll abandon this planet and make a new beachead on a neighbouring one.

Lord Na: "But just for today Na will cause their blood to rain from the skies."

As the fleet approaches Black Gate, they have Tesla with them and his powerful machine.  Then they come under attack.  On the planet surface, Lasha is directing the battle against Lord Na.  She goes to attend to her own wound and wonders if she'll ever touch Laz again.  Then the legless apparition of Laz appears again, he says Zip told him he is made of light and if she puts all her thoughts into bringing him across, he can travel over.  She does so but he keeps being pulled back to his mortal body.

Laz then finds himself in a strange place, Zip is there, he has transcended himself, "as must you" he says.  He says if Laz wants a new light body he must fall through the "Mentep Gate of Vision".  That way he can deal with the self-doubt, the fear that clamps his heart and fall through "Hellworlds made especially for you".  Laz enters the gate.
TMI Lord Na!
As Lord Na's ship starts decimating the attacking Galactic fleet, he senses what Laz is doing.  Tesla's machine is having something of a hiccup as Lord Na begins to proclaim his victory:

Lord Na: "I am darkness.  I am the perfection of death.  I am the war that never ends.  I am the black mirror of defeat and desolation.  I am the dark mind that consumes the warrior's will.  I am the hammer of pain.  I am the despair of the doomed.  I am the sword of judgement."

But before he can continue, Tesla gets his machine started up and obliterates Lord Na (or a least this projection of him).  Fasher takes over the attack and the battle continues.  Engle, Huff and Slaw managed to escape the destruction of their chopper and hook up with Lasha who says Laz is free, but gone forever.
Lord Na finally defeated.
They scale the "arc" to sabotage it and let the attacking fleet through.  Engle is working on the scaffolding when suddenly Laz, fully manifest with legs appears.  They finish the sabotage and retreat and Engle asks where the hell Laz has been? "Took some R&R stateside Cap'n... tried to get right back.. had trouble making connections".

Returning to Lasha, he asks her about Delpha, and Lasha tells him she is dead.  Then they activate the bombs and blow the arc to hell and the remainder of Lord Na's fleet is mopped up. We see Lord Na, in his true old and ugly form.  Nicky is with him.  Lord Na says he could have loved Delpha as Nicky never loved her.  But a voice from inside Na says:

Mystery Voice: "Enough!  To speak against me is to intiate your own destruction.  There can be no punishment for you... no chastisement of any kind.  For you there is only nothingness.  You have ceased to exist".

And Lord Na dwindles away.  Meanwhile Laz now lives in two worlds conciously.  He is kissing Chris and Lasha at the same time.  He says to Chris she must think he's crazy, she says she knows he's crazy:

Laz: "Crazy like a Light Warrior.  Who's pushin' back the Darkness.  Forever".
A girl in each dimension?  You lucky dog Laz.
And that brings this epic to a close.  The collection has more treats in store though. Tom Veitch has written a long article giving a full background and history to the galaxy and the non-stop war between light and dark, as well as Da Vinci's influence on it.  It makes for fascinating background reading and shows that the backdrop could have comfortably accomdated an on-going series.  Steve Bissette a well known American artist/writer (most well known for me for his work on Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run) also contributes an essay about the making of the series with short biographies of Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy.  It's another most welcome piece of added value to a marvellously presented collection.

So, overall, this was a story worth waiting for.  Cam Kennedy's artwork is magnificent, and suits the "stone-age sci-fi" aesthetic beautifully.  My one complaint is more a case of personal perference for more decompressed work, I'd like to have seen the same material stretched across a couple more issues with some downtime here and there.  But I can hardly complain it having so much story crammed into one miniseries.  That makes it feel even more like a 2000AD story that found itself being published in the USA by mistake.  The general themes of the story, of a Valhalla for Earth's soldiers where they can fight a war where there are no shades of grey and the bad guys are obvious is a fascinating one. And cheekily throwing Nikola Tesla into the mix as a man frustrated by the primitive conditions he knows he can do something about adds a little levity to an otherwise heavy story.  The ending is a weirdly happy one, Chris doesn't lose her husband, Lasha doesn't lose her lover, Laz gets to exist in both worlds finding redemption as a light warrior while still being a husband to the woman who has cared for him for two decades.  This is a very dense work, and very much a labour of love for Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy who would go on to work together on an acclaimed comic series set in the Star Wars expanded universe after this.  If you're at all interested in the work of either writer or artist this is well worth checking out, and worth it if you're interested in science fiction war stories as well.  Cracking stuff.

25 comments:

  1. So girls are cool about girlfriends in another dimension, but not another postcode. Got it.

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  2. If I thought I could get away with having a girl in each dimension I would. Still I think the implication is that while Lasha is aware he straddles dimensions, his wife probably isn't. I'd like to have seen a sequel series exploring the ramifications of living in two different dimensions at once. Must be quite mind bending.

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  3. i was waiting for part two to comment. anyway the artwork is amazing! cam kennedy has a really distinctive style. the story sounds epic too, i'll have to look out for it, what star wars series did they do? I can see a link between this and the soft scifi of star wars.

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  4. The Star Wars miniseries they did is called "Dark Empire" and I think I'll have to check it out when I have a few quid to spare after Xmas. I can see how this series would remind people of Star Wars, it has the same grandiose and mythic fantasy quality to it.

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  5. I'd love to do a story about a lady liking interdimensional traveller.

    I'm trying to think of character names but all I've come up with so far are "Brogue Trooper" and "Sapphic Cop".

    If they're nose punchingly offensive let me know. There are plenty of Krav girls who'll happily smack me on your behalf.

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  6. Lol, no those are funny ideas. Like "Brogue Trooper" especially :D Although this sapphist prefers adidas trainers over brogues. But never let it be said that I'd pass up the opportunity for a good pun!

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  7. I'd love to do a story about a lady liking interdimensional traveller.

    I'm trying to think of character names but all I've come up with so far are "Brogue Trooper" and "Sapphic Cop".

    If they're nose punchingly offensive let me know. There are plenty of Krav girls who'll happily smack me on your behalf.

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  8. Ooh, not sure why the double post, but anyway....

    Glad you're not offended. So how about also a sort of vigilante batman type character who cleans up the streets of scumbags, called "Thug Cruncher"?

    I have been toying with a few ideas thanks to some opiate fueled imagination running riot. I'm thinking the heroine could have back troubles. Then we can get all meta.

    "Why can't you write me getting better; like that Oracle lass?"

    And, despite her dimension hopping ("Tripping the velvet"?) I think she should be firmly established in a small northern town. She can grumble about how Metropolis or Gotham-centric mainstream superheroes are.

    I quite fancy the interdimensional portal being "The Hebden Bridge"; but I'm not sure how many people will get that. Be nice to bandy some ideas though.

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  9. Oh if only real life had Purple Healing Rays or magic universal retcons to cure bad backs.

    A more provincial hero would be good. THe only time I've come across one was Paul Cornell's run on Captain Britain who gave us the working class Brummie Captain Midlands. Who turned out to be in league with the villain, which didn't sit very well with me considering the rest of the heroes were all aristocrats or upper middle class. Tsk.

    The Hebden Bridge reminds me of the Einstein-Rosen Bridge (as seen in Zenith) so I think it's not too obscure a reference.

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  10. I suppose you've tried those pillow things you stick in the microwave or heat lamps? ("No, I've had chronic back pain for ages but it never occurred to me to see if there were any remedies")

    Yeah, that's why I like the Hebden reference. But it's also a popular place for ladies wot like ladies, so keeping the theme going.

    I live the idea of really provincial small town super heroes and supervillains. Now you've got me thinking.

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  11. I do use a hot water bottle when things get really bad. But that just tends to ease the muscle spasms, the actual deep pain is the discs in my spine which also affects the nerves to my hands and neck. Mostly the fentanyl and codeine keep me relatively mobile, but for some reason it can flare up for no reason I can find and knock me flat on my back for several days. Very annoying really.

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  12. This is going to sound really daft, but have you tried hanging upside down? That can provide a bit of short term relief.

    As a complete aside fentanyl is what they used at that Beslan siege to knock everyone out.

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  13. I have not tried hanging upside down. Maybe next time I get a flare up I'll try that. Fentanyl is a wicked strong drug. I have it via a transdermal patch so I am always slightly high! :D I know it sounds like I have it bad now, but it was 100 times worse without it, I needed a stick to walk with which was pretty depressing.

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  14. Ouch, I really do feel for you. The upside down thing though can work. It decompresses the discs and can take pressure off nerves. You can actually get a bar thing for a doorframe and special hooked boots.

    Also, you'd look like a bat. Which is well goth.

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  15. The image of me as a bat pleases me. I however wouldn't trust my flat to hold a bar capable of supporting my weight anywhere.

    That said it's my upper back that's the issue, so I'll experiment with dangling off the end of the bed next time I get a flare up. Can't hurt to try :)

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  17. I trust that's a comment about the workmanship in your flat rather than your kung fu honed bod.

    Mind you I *sniffle* have recently been subjected to body shaming by Hollywood's ridiculous standards. They film that Poldark thing down here. They were asking around for some extras to play impoverished peasants in the background.

    "Yeah, I'm up for that"

    "Don't think so"

    "Why not?" (assumes pose to best show off my classic profile)

    "Well, you're hardly emaciated"

    Now I know how Jennifer Lawrence feels.

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  18. Eugh yes, even at my most svelte I wouldn't trust this flat to support my weight. I could move I guess but it's hard to find housing benefit accepting landlords that allow pets. Also... effort.

    Surely finding impoverished peasants in Cornwall is easy, they wouldn't even need costumes and make-up :D (sorry family in Devon and lived in Plymouth full time for a couple of years so I had to say it).

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  19. Heh, well if Poldark is to be believed (it isn't) all blokes in Cornwall look like they've stepped down from Mount Olympus :-)

    I love the word svelte; I also like slinky "You saying I look like one of those springy things?".

    My fave bit of body shaming was when I was doing a gun disarming lecture. I'd got to the bit:

    "And by turning sideways on you present a smaller target"

    "You don't"

    Yeah, moving's a pain. Still, if you ever get stuck i'm hoping to have my off the grid donkey sanctuary up and running in a couple of years; there's quite a little commune in the brewing, so you'd always be more than welcome.

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  20. This is probably more suitable here than Mammoth.

    Was reminiscing recently with some old Bradford mates. They do a 'Muslims against ISIS' thing and we got onto the Satanic Verses kerfuffle. Pretty soon it turned into a jihadi version of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch..

    "And we didn't have no YouTube. We had to wait three weeks to get our behaving films back from Boots"

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  21. A donkey sanctury? Cool. Now my mum and sisters all live in manchester I want to stay close by, though I do occasionally yearn to live in Bristol again one day. Still I'd definitely pop over and pet the donkeys when I am down visting the further flung branches of the family.

    I do sometimes feel amazed by technical advances. Like the memory stick I have hanging off my key ring is four times the size in storage capacity than my first ever PC. And my two year old nephew is more competant with a touch screen than I am, sigh.

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  22. My first computer had a staggering 3.5k. I soldered four 3k RAM chips onto an extension board so I could rip cartridge games and save them to tape (if you shorted out 2 pins you could crash the cartridges and save them to memory). Happy days.

    The donkey thing started out as an idle daydream. Then a mate who's ended up with a load of rescue horses inspired me to aim for it for real. Ive been hanging around on one of my construction clients building sites and the guys have taught me how to actually build houses and I've been 'borrowing' 'surplus' materials from some big construction projects and squirreling them away.(I saved my client £250k on a deal so I don't feel too guilty; and it's in a good cause)

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  24. I didn't get a computer until 1997, with a might 1GB of storage space. Up until then I either used friends computers or schools/university's ones. I still feel a bit nostalgic for those early days spending all night in AOL's chatrooms nattering away to people from the US.

    The donkey sanctury sounds like a brilliant idea. Donkey's are super-cool animals, I like how they really don't give a fuck. If I owned a field of my own, I'd definitely rescue a couple of donkeys (and goats) to occupy it.

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  25. Yeah, donkeys score very highly on my list of favourite animals, along with dogs, wolves and raccoons. Although I've never met a real raccoon. I hope they're as cool as they seem; and it's not one of those never meet your heroes things.

    Goats are funny. I can watch that video of them bouncing on sheet metal for hours (I'm easily entertained). One once used me as a ramp to escape at city farm (yet somehow that was *my* fault)

    Speaking of nostalgia, you got me reading up on some of the comics I enjoyed as a kid. Remember one called The Crunch? Probably not, it was only around for a while. DC Thompson's attempt to cash in on the success of 2000AD. Although it was actually more like Action. Forgotten just how good it was. Well ahead of its time. Probably why it failed.

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