Monday, 23 October 2017

The Punisher: Welcome Back Frank (#1-12) PART TWO

"I should have gone a long time ago" - Frank Castle

Welcome to part two of my look at Garth Ennis's first crack at The Punisher which managed to rescue a character from the laughing stock he'd been turned into by an ill-advised reinvention as a supernatural agent of Heaven redeeming himself by killing for God and which resulted in Ennis not only writing the character in the mainstream Marvel Universe but also writing the much acclaimed MAX run as covered by me previously.  After rejecting Heaven and picking up his guns to focus upon taking out the Gnucci Mafia family in New York, we closed out part one on cliffhanger where he'd been tracked down to the address he was living anonymously at as "John Smith" and although he'd taken out his attackers he passed out in a nearby alley after taking several bullets to the torso. Living in the same place are hyperactive "Spacker" Dave, the meek Joan and the obese Mr. Bumpo.  There is also a plotline with two cops, Lieutenant Molly Richtofen who has been tasked with taking down the Gnucci family and detective Martin Soap who has been tasked with catching The Punisher joining forces to wait until they take each other out before moving in and "arresting what's left".  There are also three men following Franks examples as vigilante killers, the snobbish "Elite", the class warrior "Payback" and the crazy priest "The Holy". On art duties are his Preacher collaborator Steve Dillon as penciller and Jimmy Palmiotti inking.  Time for the conclusion as the grotesque Ma Gnucci goes all out with her intentions to destroy The Punisher before he destroys her.
A somewhat inconvenienced Frank.
Frank comes to bleeding heavily, by sheer force of iron will he manages to rise to his feet and get back to the house.  We cut to the aftermant outside with several bodybags laid out and Molly and Soap at the scene.  Soap says to Molly they should have followed the Gnucci soldiers and been lead right to The Punisher.  Molly points out that he wouldn't have wanted to be around for this carnage.  The captain has also called to check out the vigilante killings uptown even though they aren't The Punisher's M.O.

We cut to Ma Gnucci who is mad that the men reporting to her didn't check The Punisher actually died.   She orders them to get back down there and find out which apartment is The Punisher's and if they stay alive and get it right she can call the other families and arrange for reinforcements.  We see Frank having reached his flat and says to himself all he has to do now is dig the bullets out, "how hard can that be" as he pitches forwards onto the floor.

We rejoin Molly and Soap at the church where The Holy in the guise of Catholic priest Hector Redondo has been killing criminals after they confess their sins.  They tell him that he's the one thing the men had in common which Hector agrees is a strange thing.  He tells them that he took their confessions regularly and he knew all five men.  "Four men" corrects Molly.  Hector says he can't break the seal of confession and we see inside the confession booth another man dead with an axe buried in his chest.

At the apartment building, Joan sees a trail of blood going into Frank's flat, she follows it querously asking if Mr. Smith (he's going by the name of "John Smith" here) is OK and he rises up behind her. We then cut to Elite who is telling a hot dog seller he doesn't want him in his neighbourhood and he puts a grenade inside his cart and blows it up.

Back with Frank, Joan pops her head round Dave's place and asks him to come help as Frank has passed out again.   When he sees "John Smith" is really The Punisher he is really excited.  Joan hasn't heard of The Punisher, she doesn't watch the news because it scares her.  He tells her what The Punisher does and she asks if they should call an ambulance.
Joan and Dave to the rescue.
Dave says that's not a good idea, they don't want him turned over to the cops. He decides they have to look after him themselves.  He took a first aid course so he thinks he can do it and also bad guys will probably come looking for him so they have to be careful, "anyone strange comes asking questions... we haven't seen anything okay?"  Joan agrees.  Between them they pick him up and set him on the bed.   Frank starts to come around and Dave excitedly says his secret's safe with them and he and Joan will look after him. "What?" thinks Frank.

We then see a woman interviewing the chairman of the Wall Street Investors about the antics of Payback.  But while he is talking Payback comes up and shoots him in the head then rants down the camera which is still broadcasting about his mission to take on corporate crime and defending the rights of the workers.  He then scarpers before the cops show up.

The two men Ma Gnucci tasked to find The Punisher walk to the house. One notes that now would be a good time to send "The Russian" which the other agrees is someone who would stand a chance against The Punisher.  They reach the house and Joan opens the door, they flash fake N.Y.P.D credentials but she says she lives alone in her flat, while we see Frank lying on her bed behind her.  They knock on Dave's door and he panics:

Dave: "Aaah!  You're not the cops!  I know who you are"  You're here for him, but, but I'm not saying anything! I'm not betraying The Punisher to punks like you!  So you can get lost you hear!"

One of the men responds with, "really".  We then return to Joan and the prone but concious Frank.  She asks him "why do you kill them?" Frank says he hates them   She says the thought it might be because he wanted to make the world a better place. As he lies there he thinks that of all the ways he could have checked out, "this has to be the dumbest."

The two men who spoke to Dave call Ma Gnucci saying they have a man who knows where The Punisher is.   They have him tied up and one of them has a pair of pliers.  They hang up and Ma Gnucci tells her goon to look for the contact details they have for The Russian.

In a local bar Soap is telling Molly the sorry story of his career so far.  She asks what's eating him and he says it's The Punisher being the latest in a string of disasters.  Molly reassures him that nothing will go wrong, The Punisher will come after Ma Gnucci, they just have to be patient.  The barman hits on her but she rejects his advances saying he's definitely not her type, which makes Soap smile.
FRank can still do the business even when seriously wounded.
Joan tells Frank that Dave is screaming, so Frank asks her to help him up. They stagger to Dave's flat where the two goons are pulling the piercings out of his face.  But he hasn't given Frank up.  Frank gets out his knife and when he knocks on the door and one of the men answers, he sticks him with the knife.  He falls to the floor with the now dead man, the other turns and Franks knife flies into his chest, "ballistic knife.  Spring loaded.  Old favourite of mine" thinks Frank. Poor Dave has had all his rings ripped out.

Back in the bar with Soap and Molly he asks how someone as young as her gets to be a lieutenant.  She says it was by being better than most people around her which wasn't difficult considering the rest of the department.  She says the rank and file are good people doing an impossible job, but the brass are all in bed with the scum they are supposed to be taking down.   Soap then starts to hit on her and she curtly tells him she's a lesbian.   He quickly changes the subject and then somewhat crushed orders some more drinks.

Frank is lying on the kitchen table.  He has called an alcoholic doctor who specialises in patching up wiseguys no questions asked.  He found his contact details in a dead man's wallet.  "Wanted to do this myself" he thinks, "but the boy's involved and he deserves the chance to keep his face".  The doctor downs some booze and asks if Frank wants anesthetic.  Frank says no and holds a pistol in one hand and a bullet between his teeth.  The doctor gets to work and Frank digs into a lifetime of blood and fire to keep him going.
Frank gets ready for surgery.
The doctor finishes patching up both Frank and Dave.  Frank pays him over double what they agreed and the doctor leaves. Frank asks Joan to walk Dave back to his apartment when he comes round.  He also tells Joan to call him Frank and she smiles to herself at that.

We cut to Kazakhstan.  A team of Green Beret's are about to take on The Russian in the house they tracked him down to.  We then get a sequence of panels showing the house as noise and gunshots ring out finally ending with one surviving Green Beret running out stark naked with a rifle bent round his neck calling for his mommy.  Inside the house we see the shadow of The Russian pick up the phone and it's Ma Gnucci, he says he'll be on the next plane to the U.S. "for you Ma.. anything".

It's now three weeks later.  Ma Gnucci is trying to get the other families to help with reinforcements.  But she is having no luck, none of them want to face The Punisher.  Angrily she calls them worthless cowardly scum.  But then some good news for her, "oh my dear, sweet Russian. I had almost lost all hope."
The Russian.
Frank has survived and now able to walk he's moving his armoury to a safehouse.  He leaves the flat and passes Mr. Bumpo carrying a stack of hot pizzas.  Mr. Bumpo tells him to "keep on punishing".  This makes Frank stop and asks what he means.  Mr. Bumpo says he knows all about him being The Punisher, somewhat annoyed Frank guesses that Dave told him.

Back with Ma Gnucci and The Russian, she asks why it took him three weeks to get here. He says he forgot he was wanted in forty-eight states, so when the plane was five miles above Canada he made the plane crash and he ended up confused for a while.  But he remembered, crossed the border and now he is here.   Ma Gnucci tells him she wants him to kill The Punisher and gives him a photo. She will give him ten million to do it.  He says it's a deal and she tells two reluctant goons to drive him to the apartment building in Manhattan The Punisher is holed up in.  He hugs one of them, crushing him to death leaving one to escort him.

Frank confronts Dave saying he told Mr. Bumpo who he really was.  Dave said he couldn't resist, the whole thing is just too cool. Also he says that Mr. Bumpo deserved to know it's dangeround for him too.  Frank says he's leaving.  Dave says he can't, having him here is awesome.  But Frank sternly says that if he's not out of here before Ma. Gnucci's boys come after him he, Mr. Bumpo and Joan will die in the crossfire.  Because of the pain Dave took for him he won't threaten him with death, he's going to trust him to stay quiet "and call it even, okay?"
A TV report on the vigilantes of New York.
Molly and Soap are still on stake-out duty at Ma Gnucci's and they spot The Russian being driven away.  Molly says they need to go to the lab.  On the news is a story about the various vigilantes.  All three are watching it and it gives them all the same idea.  Frank merely says, "uh-huh".

In the bar Molly has The Russian's dossier.  She says he's "a walking death camp". They look over photos of the various atrocities he's committed, and Molly says everyone wants him - the Feds, the D.E.A, every state force and sheriff's department, Interpol and so on.  He first shows up in Afghanistan on holiday during the Russian invasion. Then he just goes everywhere there's trouble, Lebanon, Iraq, East Timor, Chechnya, Balkans, Belfast and that's not counting his normal criminal activity.

Molly: "Sometimes he does it for money.  Sometimes just for fun.  Pretty much everyone wants to kill him... and now he's our problem."

Ma Gnucci's brought him in to deal with The Punisher. Now they have two choices.  They can call in tactical and immediately lose their case as well as triggering an enormous bloodbath. Or they can leave The Punisher to The Russian and "then we step in and arrest what's left: right? Why me lord?" groans Soap.   Molly says give it twenty-four hours.  Soap orders more alcohol.
Joan confesses to Frank.
Joan comes to see Frank saying she heard he was leaving.   He tells her he doesn't want to put them in danger.  She says she doesn't feel like she is in danger "ever since I found out who you really are I've felt safe for the first time in my life."  She says she doesn't like the city, it's dark and frightening and she doesn't feel safe walking to the end of the street.

He asks why she doesn't leave.  She says she'd love to have a house in the country with a pond and ducks and a dog to throw sticks for.

Frank: "Then you should just go.  You're right about this city, Joan.  It is a bad place.  Bad things do happen  Just go."

She says she's scared to. She doesn't have enough money and she is scared to think about changing her life.  Why does Frank stay?  "Because I like it" he replies.  "This is a terrible world" says Joan. And as we see The Russian approach the house Frank says "Yes Joan. It's a nightmare."

The next chapter starts with Frank taking a punch to the face after answering his door without checking who was calling.   He is knocked face down and The Russian treads on the back of his head before picking him up and smashing him through a wooden panel.
Frank Vs Russian round one.
Elsewhere Ma Gnucci is on the phone to the Mayor and tells him that as the cops did nothing about The Punisher she's had to bring in some outside help.  Now a certain building is going to become a charnel house and there better be no interference.  And "not a whisper of my name in the ensuing investigation".  If they have a problem with that they better remember she has photos of him and the commissioner on their fact finding tour of Vegas.  She tells the Mayor to stop whimpering and hangs up.

The Russian goes to jump on Frank who puts a boot up which smashes into The Russian's groin.   This makes him pause for a moment, then he helps Frank up who grabs a chair and smashes it over The Russian's head.  The Russian leaves for a moment then comes back with the toilet which he smashes a dazed Frank in the face with.

Soap and Molly are back staking out Ma Gnucci's place.  Soap is having a bit of a tearful breakdown.  He says her plan was stupid and they are doomed, Ma Gnucci and The Russian are going to cause havoc and it'll be his fault and he'll get fired and jailed and they'll do terrible things to him in prison and also his partner is a lesbian and she'll never falll in love with him.

She tells him, "now stop whing, you loser."  She says they are both losers, he's the unluckiest cop on the force and she refuses to sleep her way to the top. They are expected to fail, they have no back-up and no support only what they can do themselves, "and if that means doing something crazy... so be it."  Soap looks at her in awe, "you're... you're so decisive." She tells him to shut up and watch the house.

Back at the fight.  Frank pulls out his boot knife and stabs The Russian, which doesn't faze him at all.  Meanwhile Elite is executing a drug dealer on his turf and is being watched by Payback in his car.  Frank has had his head jammed in the fridge and The Russian is banging the door repeatedly on him. 
Ah the old head in firdge door gag.
Payback meanwhile speaks with Elite saying that they should team-up.  Elite isn't sure as they focus on such different targets, but Payback points out they both do what the cops can't or won't.  Elite takes the poin and gets in the car.  They head for Spanish Harlem to try and find the axeman, and then find the big man himself - The Punisher.

Who is being soundly thrashed.  The Russian bangs his head on the cooker and Frank lights up a ring burning The Russian's hand and making him howl in pain.  Frank makes a note to remember he doesn't like heat.  Elite and Payback are crusing around arguing about their differing ideals when an injured man comes out of the church chased by Hector with a bloody axe.  Elite shoots the man dead.  Hector is pleased to see them, and they make a pact to work together and also find The Punisher to lead them.

Frank lies on the kitchen floor, The Russian says "end of round one".  He starts singing the praises of American superheroes and that when he is done here he'll go looking for autographs.  Frank spots a gun under the cooker and crawls over to get it.  But as he picks it up, The Russian takes it off him and snaps it in half, then says "Okey-dokey, big boy.  Seconds away.  Round two."
Uh oh.
He throws Frank through the apartement door and out into the corridor. Joan and Dave come to see and The Russian comes out and sees them:

The Russian: "Ah!  These are your little friends, yes? When The Russian gets through with you, imagine the terrible things that will happen to them!"

Frank yells for them to go, and then gets punched through Mr. Bumpo's door where he is feasting on fresh pizza.  Landing by Mr. Bumpo Frank asks if it is hot?  Mr. Bumpo says yes and as The Russian bears down on him he slings a pizza in his face causing him to react in great pain.

Frank trips him up as he claws the burning melted cheese of his face and as The Russian lays face up on the floor, Frank pushes Mr. Bumpo on top of him and suffocates him.  He asks how long it's been and Mr. Bumpo says about twenty mintes.  "We'll give it another ten" says the tired Frank.
A very American way to go.
In the church Payback and Elite are having major ideological differences.  Elite says Payback is a "whining commie" and Payback says Elite is a "spoiled, rich creep". Hector tells them to cut it out and gets furious:

Hector: "You two idiots had better start shaping up before the wrath of God descends!  I'm not kidding!  We've got to get this together! Because right now, if we ask The Punisher to join this little band, the our particular battle for justice will be over before it's begun!"

Speaking of The Punisher, The Russian is dead and Frank says "he got me mad."  He tells Mr. Bumpo, Joan and Dave to go inside and lock their doors and not come out until he is gone.   "How do you do it Frank?" asks Joan.  He says it's a simple as her desire to live in the country.

Frank then throttles the goon who drove The Russian there and with something in a bag, takes the wheel and starts to drive to the Gnucci HQ.  Ma Gnucci is convinced The Russian will be back soon with The Punisher's head.   Outside Soap and Molly are still watching, Soap says the hunt for The Punisher is being called off, which Molly realises means the Gnucci's know he's dead  But the "dead" Punisher drives past them at that moment and Molly is gleeful, "go Punisher! Go Punisher! I knew he wouldn't let us down."

In the church Hector tells the other two they need to confront evil, every monster every piece of scum, "we have to go out and kill it."  He puts out his hand saying it's the judgement of The Holy.  Payback puts his hand on saying they need The Punisher's weapons and expertise.  Elite adds his hand saying he'll be their leader.  Hector says he'll lead a crusade to cleanse the city of its sin as well as casting the moneylenders from their temples, "he will lead The Vigilante Squad".
Frank goes to confront Ma Gnucci.
Ma Gnucci is getting antsy waiting for The Russian, he should have been finished hours ago.   One of her men carries her to the window and she looks out to see Frank holding The Russian's head and a sub-machine gun and he yells, "is this all you've got?!!"  At that all the goons stationed outside drop their weapons and walk away as do the ones inside, leaving a ranting Ma Gnucci completely helpless to do anything but scream in impotent rage.

Inside her room Frank starts pouring petrol all over the floor.   She wants to know why he is burning the place down, "talk to me, you pig!"

Frank: "Because I want you gone from the face of this Earth".

Ma Gnucci: "You scum! You vicious evil scum!  You're no better than I am, Punisher!"

She keeps ranting at him saying he isn't on the side of justice, he's a serial killer and insane.  He's a mass murderer and he should put a bullet in his own head to get peace for himself.  "You are damned!" she shouts.  "Tell me something I don't know" says Frank, now outside the house and he tosses a grenade through a window and the place starts to burn.
The end of the Gnucci family.
Ma Gnucci manages to force herself out of the window and crawls to Frank and bites his ankles, but he boots her hard back into the flaming inferno and she burns to death.   Soap and Molly sneak up to find their big arrest has gone up in flames.  A vexed Soap says he shouldn't have listened to her, "gaze on our triumph" he says sarcastically.

Frank appears behind them, Soap whimpers that he doesn't want to die. Frank tells him not to do anything stupid then.  He asks for any information they have on the copycat vigilantes. They say they don't have much.   Frank tells him he blew open Ma. Gnucci's safe. He found a million dollars which he is keeping, and also found some photographs. When Molly asks what kind he says "The career-making kinds".   In exchange for all they have on Elite, Payback and the axeman they'll get the photos.

He then departs as more cops arrive. As the fire is brought under control they look at the photos he gave them.   And it's the incriminating ones of the Mayor and the Commisioner doing something extremely blackmailable.  Molly and Soap both exchange broad grins upon this discovery.
Our intrepid cops get their happy ending.
We jump forward a month.  In Franks old apartment building Joan ventures out thinking she heard Frank.  Mr. Bumpo walks up and points out his door is open.  They go inside but find the place empty, Joan says sadly he won't ever be back and she'll always be trapped here and scared.  Then Mr. Bumpo spots a table and piled on it is massive amounts of cash with their names on top.  The card ontop of Joan's pile read "Joan.  Just go.  Frank". And she smiles happily while Mr. Bumpo and Dave celebrate loudly.  Outside listening is Frank

Frank. "Best I can do Joan. Dave.  Mr. Bumpo.  Maybe I am damned.  But I'm not dragging you good people down with me".

And he walks away.  Meanwhile, thanks to the photos Soap is the new commisioner.  He is looking at a photo of a beautiful woman and Molly has written on the back "Might stay an extra couple of weeks".  She is running for mayor herself and Soap sets up future meetings between them.

He asks the receptionist where the previous commissioner kept his cigars.  She says that he took his after he left in a hurry, but she took the liberty of leaving a new box for him.  He lights up and goes and stands on the balcony.

Soap: "I love this city.  Heck, even a loser like me can blackmail his way to the top. And now I'm going to give this place the N.Y.P.D it's always deserved".

At that moment a bird craps on his face.  As shit runs down his cheeks he just smiles and says, "...man.  I love this town."

Frank is dealing with the vigilante killers as loose ends.  Elite seems to have quit his patch and Payback could hit anywhere.  So that leaves The Axeman.  He finds the church they all went for confession to with Hector Redondo.  The three of them are still arguing, with Elite and Payback still at ideological odds and Hector caught in the middle.  Then suddenly Frank appears and Hector says "I knew you'd come.  It was inevitable".  Frank scowls, saying "It certainly was".

They say that he inspired them and now he can lead them.  This bemuses Frank who points out that Hector is a "lunatic".  Elite is a "Nazi" and Payback, does the name Maria Lopez mean anything to him?  She was a cleaner at World Wide investments and was killed when one of his bullets went through a wall.  She's one of four innocents who have been caught in Payback's crossfire because he couldn't be bothered to plan properly.

Payback mumbles that there have to be sacrifices in war.  Frank readies his gun.  The three of them say they thought he'd be with them.  They have it all worked out, The Vigilante Squad with secret plans and codewords and passwords and things.  They can punish the guilty, clean up the city once and for all.  Hector yells, "In heaven's name man! Isn't this exactly what you wanted?"  Frank opens fire on them saying just "No".  And that brings this storyline to an end.
Frank is the only vigilante the city needs.
A great ending to this revitalisation of good old Frank Castle, doing what he does best.  Although there is a grotesque aspect to elements of the story, like Ma Gnucci's being just a torso and the indestructability of The Russin taken out by an obese New Yorker, there is also a sweetness here as well.  His dealings with his neighbours are lovely, especially Joan and giving them the money to realise their dreams at the end was a gorgeous gesture.  As he said himself, people like that, who looked after him, refused to give up his name under torture and helped kill the unkillable man deserve to have a chance to live the lives they want and not live in danger thanks to him. The final fate of Ma Gnucci was quite reminsicent of what happened to a bad guy in Preacher, but she totally deserved it.  The two other plot threads running through the story were fun,  poor Soap seeing what he is tasked to do being dragged into Molly's cunning plans.  And yet it did pay off with the deal for the photos and now the N.Y.P.D and Mayor's office might just be a little less corrupt now the tainted people have gone and the Gnucci family influence destroyed. Elite, Payback and The Holy trying to form a sort of Superfriends team of vigilantes was always going to come to a sticky end when Frank tracked them down.  He might be dedicated to wiping out criminal scum, but he needs no help and no people who will allow the deaths of innocents or people guilty of lesser crimes.  All-in-all this was a triumph for Garth Ennis, with his trademark balance of The Punisher's killer side and more human side makng the character eminently readable.  Artwise it's great as well, Palmiotti appears to be a light touch inker as the art is recgonisably the late Steve Dillon's.  So if you're a fan of the Punisher this is well worth a read as a salutory lesson in how to take a character who'd become a joke and make him viable again.  Superb stuff.

59 comments:

  1. Yey, this was great. The money thing was also a bit of a tearjerker in the film.

    Wonder if mamma gnocchi was a deliberate reference to the black knight in monty python? "I'll bite yer ankles"

    The other vigilantes was an interesting touch and a way of examining frank. Is he really any different? How much care does he take to ensure no collateral damage to bystanders.

    I also liked the detectives. Reminds me of some of those great double act secondary characters one of the Dr Who writers was famous for. Where you actually want to know more about them and could happily watch a spin off. I'm glad they got their happy ending; and the way it came about.

    Still find franks endurance a bit cartoony, but I'll forgive it. The scrap with the Russian was funny.

    All in all 9/10. Would revenge rampage again.

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  2. WHich Punisher film used this as a basis? Want to see it now. Garth Ennis is funny, he writes the most vicious and violent stuff in comics but it never feels nihilistic because he cares about making characters connect and can't resist sweet little moments of caring.

    I believe Frank plans his hits so no bystanders will be endangered, look at what gets him mad enough to get his second wind against The Russian, the threat of harm to Joan, Dave and Mr. Bumpo. I've never read a Punisher comic where he's been responsible for the death of an innocent I honestly believe Frank as characterised by Ennis would probably rather end his own life than be responsible for the non deserving dying by his hand no matter how accidental.

    I did get a Black Knight vibe from Ma Gnucci it's true. Probably intentional but as I said the first major villain in his Preacher series is a similarly awful old woman who dies in a fire set by the hero.

    Molly and Soap were a lot of fun, I didn't quote much of their banter and the film titles game they played was obviously Ennis listing his favourite films too.

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  3. Here you go

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/ThePunisher2004

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  4. Cheers Alan, you're a star. I was confused because I have a Punisher film knocking about on dvd somewhere and it bore no relation to any of this story.

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  5. I think there are at least 4 Punisher movie/TV adaptations. Not counting the current Netflix series which isn't out yet.

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  6. http://www.mouseguard.net/book/role-playing-game-boxed-set/

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  7. I think that game is already at it's second edition. :D It uses the Burning Wheel system, that I'm not particularly familiar with, but the reviews were good so it's probably fun.

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  8. Oh yes, I have seen the Mouse Guard game before, I'd buy it but I have no one to play it with. If I ever get rich enough I'll give the latest iteration to sister no.2 and her boyf, they have a gaming team and regularly convene for fun, frolics and four sided dice.

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  9. I loved your dog conversation on Mammoth.

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  10. I hate my country... no, this is not true. I hate our right wing. :/

    Today on a (right wing) news program quoting in a scare mongering voice a (right wing) politician in our government: "Soros built an international philanthropic empire!"

    Me: "And what's your problem with giving money to humanitarian causes? Or you think we're too stupid to know what words mean?"

    (I had similar questions when they tried to sell his monetary aid for Polish feminist organizations protesting the abortion ban not so long ago as proof of his evilness. That logic only works if you think "(right wing) Government -> THE WORLDLY INCARNATION OF ALL THAT'S GOOD" :P)

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  11. @Alan: heh thanks. I'm betting you and Sassy had conversations like that two :) When the snow was really deep I had to push her out the house then pull her up the pathway out to the road. She's often brace all four legs against the walls too. But as I said snipping the fur off her feet was a good move, I don't think it was just the cold bothering her as having to carry a couple of pounds of ice on each paw. D'aw I loved her. Walking her was my job. Dad worked, mum looked after the new baby, sister no.1 was too young so I just made sure Jemina was healthy and happy. And as I've mentioned before I was a somewhat solitary teenager and much preferred a long walk with her up to Corbar Cross or Solomon's Temple than hanging out with my peers. Buxton did have that going for it, many lovely places to walk a dog that didn't need a car to get to.

    @Malitia: Ugh. You know that's kind of funny because my sister no.1 turned 40 today and we had a family meal getogether. She has two boys a three year old and a six month old. We were discussing what life would be like for them in ten years and I joked that there would be no privacy anymore because the Deep State would have had monitoring chips implanted in everyone. When her not-husband enquired as to who would fund this, I said "George Soros of course". Then I had to explain to him about how Soros has become this iconic bogeyman to many rightwing idiots. Anyway I had a moment earlier today where I scanned the front pages of the syphilitic pustules that make up our press and it was just a bunch of miserable scare mongering and I almost said aloud, "The sooner the Baby fucking Boomers" die off the better because no one my age or younger reads them anymore. I still read one paper, the freebie Metro once a week on the train and that's surprisingly liberal in comparison to the lifestyle comics that pass for newspapers now.

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  12. We just got the state sponsored questionnaire about the "Soros Agenda" (fear mongering xenophobic bullcrap), and now I paraphrase the postman that talked with mom:

    "Everybody in the whole building (mom lives in a 10+ground floor apartment building) said that I should throw these in the brook instead."

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  13. Sounds like a sensible approach to it! Damn, I almost feel a bit indulgent complaining about our stupid Tory government. But with them they are too busy insulting, bickering and fighting amongst themselves than demonising anyone. They leave that to our newspapers. Which I hate. I know I said it before, but it's so important it bears repeating.

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  14. Weirdly the Metro is published by the Daily Mail!

    But yeah, so many of those doggie conversations. I used to talk with Sas constantly, and I miss our 20 mile weekend walks. So does my paunch.

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  15. Why is that newspaper scared of George Soros stamp collecting?

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  16. I'm still giggling at "You made that up". You're such a wonderful writer.

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  17. Aw thanks. I just think it's amazing what you can infer from a pair of wide soulful brown eyes staring up at you. I argue with Biff too, though he usually wins :_:

    I'd never have guessed The Metro was published by the Mail group. I treats Jeremy Corbyn with respect and if someone has a stupid letter printed one day, the next they'll publish one saying it was a stupid letter. Well it kills 15 mins while I lurk around Picadilly for the train out to Mauldeth Road.

    Completely changing the subject Picadilly is redlined by my spellchecker, I clicked to see what alternate spelling there was and got Piccalilli. Man, that's a blast from the past. I thought they stopped making the revolting stuff in the 80's!

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  18. I can never decide if I love piccalilli or its horrible. Hmm, might have to invest in some Quorn fake ham and refresh my memory.

    Did you see the thing on Mammoth about the dog cognition centre?

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  19. Do it and report your findings back here oh intrepid gourmet.

    I didn't see the Mammoth thing on dog cognition. Do tell, or link to the relevant post if you can. There have been lots of interesting studies on cat cognition and comparing cats in various situations from pampered indoors ones to working farm cats. What they mainly show is that cats really know how to cat whatever their cicrumstances. Did you see the documentary on cats a couple of years back when they picked a village hooked up collar cams to a broad selection of cats and showed what they got up to all day which seem to boil down to invading each others houses and eating each others food! Seems to be a dominance thing. You must have seen me on mammoth bewailing the fact Biff will eat only one brand of dry catfood. But when I bring him over to mum's for a few days he will eat her two cats's wet food, you can hear his bell clanking on their dishes. Total giveaway.

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  20. Also I have decided to take the rest of the month off (just posting, not commenting here) to finish Mass Effect. Normal service will begin again in a few days time.

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  21. I still have the first couple of "governmental questionnaire of fail"s somewhere as textbook cases of "how not to design a survey if you want to get any useful data"*, but as they waste money on 1-2 of these yearly I got bored with them fast. ^^;


    Also: Have fun playing!


    * They obviously don't. They want reassurance that people agree with them to use it as weapon against their opposition.

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  22. Hmm... what will the neighbours think of me if I add a J-Pop album to my Christmas playlist? (It's randomized and currently composed of some holiday themed albums by Blackmore's Night, BoneyM, AND Twisted Sister.) XD

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  23. By the way this Christmas/Winter themed cover album by the Hello Project idol group:

    http://helloproject.wikia.com/wiki/The_Douyou_Pops_1_Christmas_to_Fuyu_no_Uta_Shuu

    (I must be so weird. ^^;)

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  24. Thanks Malitia! Mass Effect 3 is actually new to me because there was a big fuss about the ending when it first came out and they released a free extended cut ending. But I wasn't able to dowload it until this past few months so I ended up forgetting what happened in the first two games which I hadn't played for seven years so had to replay them first. Once I am done with ME3 I shall be exercising my typing fingers again.

    Also I like your idea for an album of Xmas music. In the UK it is the law that we are all tortured by a non-stop mix of hits from the 70's and winners of The X Factor. Makes shopping a real chore.

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  25. Christmas music in stores depends on the chain here. Some have non (YAY!), some go for the same type as yours (-Malitia looks angrily at SPAR*-), some use some kind of Xmas themed music... generally the more high pitched and annoying the better (-wishes a meteor would fall on Tesco-).

    * One of these is the closest store to me, so I was annoyed by their in-store radio a lot. ^^;

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  26. I like that grocery store in general.

    I mean it's somewhat expensive compared to my budget, but they have very cheap bread rolls, affordable and fairly good quality store brand basic foodstuff (milk, eggs, meat), and occasionally very neat sales so I can experiment with / try new things. The only things I routinely have to buy somewhere else are fruit and vegetables.

    And in new things I include what I call "dare food". Mom is kinda used to me calling with things like this by now:

    - "Mooooom! How does baby octopus/goat cheese thingy/weirdly shaped fruit/I-don't-even-have-half-a-clue-what-this-is sound?"

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  27. I think thanks to me she might have developed an appreciation for the various cheeses. And I base this on the observation that she came home with 3 packages of Camembert just some days ago. (I mean she didn't exactly put up much of a fight, she started off at the "as long it's not trappista*" stance.)


    * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trappista_cheese
    Pretty much the only one not processed cheese you could get here before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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  28. It was a report from the 'Dog Cognition Centre' (love that there actually is one). Basically dogs use more exaggerated facial expressions when they're trying to get humans to do something. Old news of course to anyone who's ever actually met a dog.

    http://www.port.ac.uk/department-of-psychology/facilities/dog-cognition-centre/

    Gawd Christmas music in shops. Although if we're going to have J Pop as an alternative I vote for Shonen Knife, and that thrash band with the kaiwai girls, Baby something.

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  29. Babymetal. Pretty obvious when I think of it.

    https://youtu.be/GvD3CHA48pA

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  30. Do they have a Christmas album?

    I mean I already have Twisted Sister* (A Twisted Christmas (2006)) on that playlist**. :D

    * https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twisted_Sister
    ** Along with:
    - Blackmore's Night (Winter Carols (2006)) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackmore%27s_Night
    - Boney M. (The Most Beautiful Christmas Songs of the World (1992)) - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boney_M.
    - Hello! Project (The Douyou Pops 1 Christmas to Fuyu no Uta Shuu (2001))

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  31. According to wiki they don't. :(

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  32. I do love the twists and turns these comment threads take :D

    Alan, I might need your expertise settle a debate. It was my sister's 40th birthday the other day and her not-hubby gave her a sword. She described it as a Generals sword and I think it's a cavalry one (I haven't seen it yet). I said we could have a sword fight now and she snorted and said her long pointy sword would leave my kukri in the dust. Mum mumbled something about kukris being Ghurka weapons so not to be so sure, but sister seemed positive she'd win. What would your opinion be of a straight-sword versus kukri battle? Or would you require more info on sword lengths and so on?

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  33. Ooh, I love debates like this. If it is a cavalry sword it'll be even longer than a regular sword (you had to be able to stab people from horseback).

    Reach is important in edged weapon combat. But you could block and parry with a kukri. And a kukri blade could cause a lot of damage to a slimmer sword blade. Bit like how Sais were originally for sword breaking.

    There's advantages and disadvantages to both. But neither has an overriding superiority. It would probably boil down to the skill and determination of the combatants.

    Of course, as Harry Hill would point out, there's really only one way to settle this. Have fun.

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  34. I like the way you think! I bought up the sword breaking ability of a curved blade, but she seemed to think superior reach would trump all.

    I did start to say we should have a fight and my mum did a BIG NO! She saw it as something which could get dangerous fast given our tendency towards being ultra-competitive with each other over trivial things :D

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  35. Heh, your family sounds like game of thrones, or maybe klingons. Pity your mum had to intervene.

    You can get both swords and kukris as training weapons in both wood and plastic.

    https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51TZCNyS5%2BL._SL1100_.jpg

    So you could test this. Must confess I really fancy trying. I can't pretend I've done a lot of kukri practice, but I'm moderately ok with knives and sticks. The general principles are the same, so I wonder how I'd fare?

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  36. I just took mine out of it's leather scabbard and it's still a heavy beast. I definitely need to feel what Chloe's got to add more data points I think. Also I noted some surface rust which dates from a while before I got my hands on it. Best type of rust remover for something like that? Any ideas? There are intricate carvings etched into the blade and I wouldn't want to damage them.

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  37. Hmm I did a quick google search and got white vinegar as the best choice, not sure how feasible it is to lay a sword in a bath of it for several days!

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  38. Actually a further google search on "Black Rust" tells me I should step away from google and speak to the nice man who runs the hardware shop down the road.

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  39. I've got a similar issue with my favourite hunting knife. The hardware store has recommended Duraglit or Brasso. They should get rid of surface rust without damaging the blade or etchings.

    I think the knife got the rust because the leather scabbard got wet, so maybe leave it out for a while until the scabbard can totally dry out. Maybe even shove some silica crystals or gel down there.

    I am now intrigued by the original problem. Got a mate who's into his swords and old weapons. It's a bit uneasy with him at the moment. He'd swallowed the Sargon pill a bit so we had quite the fallout. He doesn't approve of my Nazi punching tendencies. That's on the 'both sides' and 'they're not all Nazis' basis rather than him supporting Nazis themselves. But anyway this is a neutral topic I guess, so maybe I should see what he thinks.

    I've been running through some scenarios in my head though. A sword is a pretty effective close quarter weapon. I wouldn't feel totally helpless with a kukri though. I know a few knife techniques for parrying and trapping that might be applicable. The only issue with the kukri is they're pretty heavy so there's the momentum issues. But that applies to a sword as well, especially with the length. They're much slower to manoeuvre.

    This reminds me of that ultimate warrior programme. Where they'd use, some pretty good in all fairness, analytical techniques to work out how various forms of combat would fare against each other. It started off quite serious but eventually they ran out of subjects so it became things like pirates versus ninjas. Or in one notorious episode the IRA versus the Taliban.

    I'm hoping I can get up to see you in the new year, so we can maybe test this. I'd be well up for that.

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  40. My working theory is there is a reason why kukris are still in common use in various countries by the police and army yet AFAIK no one but cosplayers use straight swords. Also the scabbard holds two "babies", mainly for cleaning and sharpening the main blade but the larger baby would make for a good off-hand weapon in a pinch.

    I too was reminded of Ultimate Warrior. We obviously need to buy a pigs carcass and make a day of it in her back garden! You can be on hand to offer expert advice so it's not just two mad women in their forties hanging up meat.

    Would be cool if you could make up to the frozen north sometime next year. I've had a fitness setback in that I badly injured my knee when the fucking wheeliebin slipped backwards as I tried to push it over a loose cobble on the slope up to the road. So I am left unable to do do even gentle aerobic exercise until it stops grinding every time I walk. Still I haven't backslid on the diet, it's just infuriating to have to slow right down again.

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  41. I've got a recipe somewhere for that ballistic gel they used. Have to knock one up someday. I did love that programme though. It was just the right balance of educational and daft. Someone I know was on the IDF episode. He was the knife expert, and it's his techniques I learned.

    So sorry to hear about your encounter with the wheely bin, but you showed him, right?

    Short heavy blades do seem very practical. It was only recently that they abandoned cutlass on ships. Mind you, maces were official army issue even in WW1. And even in WW2 there was the Smatchet and sharpened entrenching shovels. And they were often used against bayoneted rifles, which really are just spears. So ultimately even in the modern era we're using prehistoric implements.

    The more I've been thinking about it the more I'm favouring the kukri. But that might be because it suits my general brute force over finesse approach. It's probably also worth remembering the kukri is a direct lineal descendent of the Spartan sword, and they seem to have done alright for themselves.

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  42. Ah, couple of responses to a Facebook post I put up.


    Not a straightforward question, but:
    1) sword Vs kukri - depends who's using them, obviously. I'd go with the reach advantage, though; a sword used properly would conference far more advantages than disadvantages.
    2) Blade strength: depends on the sword. A broad-blared arming sword would be very difficult to break. Very difficult. And a kukri would lack the necessary force by dint of being at the end of a human arm.
    3) Both combatants know what they're doing: I've assumed that the training of each has involved facing an opponent armed with the opposing weapon n this scenario.

    ±++++++++++

    We train against swords, and if you avoid the initial attack and move inside their arc then a short blade is preferable to a long blade. However, if you're skilled enough to avoid the attack and move in then you're skilled enough to remove their weapon and use that.
    The curve of the kukri could be useful in receiving an attack and sliding into their guard and exposing a side and better acess to their grip. But you'd wreck the edge, and the kukri needs to be keen for its utility purposes.

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  43. Interesting responses. Goes a lot to Bruce Lee's stuff about what techniques work best at different combat ranges. The kukri I have is a very thick bladed beast, as I have said before the top edge is over nearly a centimetre thick and makes the whole thing feel like a wedge. So slashing and hacking is truly what it is made to do, rather than stabbing.
    Mine falls down a bit on the grip though. It's nicely carved wood but no guard at all (remember though I think this was designed as a ceremonial one, and is around a century old. My granny had it as a gift given while living over in India after WW2, she had it hanging in the hall).

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  44. It's always had one small notch in the blade ever since I was first allowed to play with it as a kid. I've often been scared of my granny wondering how it got that! :O

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  45. Yeah mysterious notches are a bit ominous. Probably a yeti.

    I've been trying to envisage what techniques you'd use. Much depends on whether your opponent is going for stabbing or slashing. A linear strike might be quite hard to intercept. But certainly not impossible. There's a sort of sweep defence, bit like what you do against a front kick. Be fairly easy to adapt for the kukri. If they're just hacking away then it would be a regular 90' block.

    I'm also pondering what grip to use. It's weird with a kukri because of the curve. Probably have to stick with a regular grip, but there'd be some weird angles.

    I'm all inspired now, I'd really like to mess around with this. You're the kukri guru though. I'll try to see if any of Mike Kanarek's stuff is on YouTube. He's the IDF guy who was on UW. He's really good at explaining. He'll have you lopping off heads with the best of them.

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  46. Yey, have fun

    https://youtu.be/vGARg-Gb5xs

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  47. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/19250fc64b006c5932c0d4ca0c645a0fa74ba129b4b6bbafff781d2aedde6ee7.png
    "I'll conclude from this that Squirrel Girl is a very good influence!" :3

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  48. @Alan: Soz about not responding yesterday I was fast asleep all day and night. Friggin' hormones. I don't actually know a huge amount about kukri technique, just mainly what I can tell from the shape and weighting of the blade and handle. The lack of a guard and the single handed grip, couple with the fact the blade broadens out towards the end tells me basically this is a sword designed completely geared towards offence and to strike downwards in a heavy blow. As someone who was a fairly defensive fighter when she fenced it does feel when you hold it that it's made for "Attack Attack Attack!" Amusingly we were discussing it when my mum sister and nephews were round today. Apparently granny popped it in her handbag one day and took it to the W.I. show and tell. She won to. :D

    @Malitia: I love that picture! I really like squirrels, when I lived in Manchester the house I was in had a colony of grey squirrels living in it. My mum is a keen gardener though and squirrels are her natural enemy (they dig up her bulbs and eat them). I'll have to lend her Squirrel Girl and see if I can change her mind...

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  49. It was only about 10 years ago I found out grey squirrels weren't just old red squirrels.

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  50. Tippy-Toe is very disappointed in you. *shakes head sadly*

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  51. It did make me think all the talk of a cull was a bit harsh.

    Mind you, still do.

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  52. Yeah, not a big fan of culls. When you have handfed squirrels cold pizza you get attached to the buggers. Living between two parks in Manchester we got a lot of through traffic from foxes and various toads and frogs. And we had a badger living in the back garden, but I kept well away from that grumpy sod.

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  53. In fact after we all got evicted because the gentrifiers moved in and bought the house I often wondered if they managed to get the badger out of the back garden or if they left it well alone and just sold it as a feature.

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  54. I like the Far Side cartoon where the squirrels are behind a tree in the park ready to beg some food of some tourists on a bench.

    "Ok, cheeks puffed out, tail bushed up. Earl, put that cigarette out."

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  55. Heh, sounds very much like a Manchester squirrel. In fact I did observe them going up and looking hungry at people feeding the ducks in the park. Our colony just waited for the fox to rip the bin bags open (pre-wheelie bin this) and took what it left behind.

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  56. It's funny, only see foxes occasionally down here but in Hoxton you couldn't move for them.

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  57. It does amaze me how foxes have adapted so well to urban enviroments. Which it really shouldn't because well, they are perfect for cities. They mostly hunt at night when their only competition is cats, and cats and foxes seem to respect each other so no danger there. There is plenty of food and of course townies think they are kinda cool and absolutely undeserving of being ripped apart by the dogs of some braying pillock. I think foxes, squirrels and of the birds, magpies definitely flourish alongside humans.

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