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A Beast of Burden

Yesterday evening, me and my family had an unexpected visitor. Well, several to be precise: a herd of cows had broken through from a neighbouring field and taken up residence on our land. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by countryside and animals my entire life, but even seeing a herd of cows up close is still something a of a novelty. Not that the cows saw it that way. Up close, a cow is a smelly, standoffish creature, a lumbering bag of bones and skin indifferent to anything but the nearest patch of grass.

Which, ultimately, is something we try to forget. For all our love and adoration, animals are not us, and see the world in a radically different way to their human masters. A TV show I’ve recently been watching only reinforces the notion, and lead me to consider how (and why) we humanise animals in fiction.

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Age of Ultron Review

C’mon, let’s go to the pictures! What’s your cinema snack of choice? I’ve always had a sweet tooth myself, and a bag of sweets- gummy bears, jelly beans, strawberry cables- was my companion to Avengers: Age of Ultron over the weekend. I’d been eagerly anticipating both: as one of the most anticipated superhero films of all time, Age of Ultron is the latest addition to Marvel’s sprawling Cinematic Universe, and was bound to be a great time for all concerned.

Fumbling in the dark as the film started, I started to eat…and while I didn’t regret my decision, it wasn’t everything I’d hoped. Some of the sweets were enjoyable, but a lot were a little tasteless, or sickly. Having eaten one, I would be happy to leave the rest of them- but invariably I found myself scrabbling round, getting the last few bits while discarding very little. Hey, I’d paid for it, after all.

What I’m hinting at none too subtly is that my culinary experience roughly matched my filmgoing one. Age of Ultron is the cinematic equivalent of a bag of sweets you pick off the shelf: it’s great as a treat, and something you eagerly anticipate. But it remains something with relatively low nutritional value, rarely lives up to your expectations, and the end result is probably the sickly pleasure of indulgence over the warm satisfaction of a good square meal.

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Comic Review: Rudek and the Bear

The greatest  strength of any creative endeavour is its ability to transport us, to take us to places- real or imagined- we might never be able to visit otherwise. While they risk shifting into simplistic assessments of a place or time, comics manage this very well, offering windows on complex, difficult… or just esoteric subject matter. They will never be the last word on a topic, but for some people they could be the first, and there’s certainly value in that as well.

Rudek and the Bear is not, on the surface, a complex comic: in fact, it goes out of its way to eliminate a lot of complexity. But that’s okay, because the end result is a charming and accessible look at a little known corner of 20th century history.

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