Sunday, July 24, 2011


Originally Appears in Issue 7

Once again Declan Aylward dives into the weird and wonderful world of the web, reporting back with his findings.

Bad Astronomy

Phil Plait, also known as The Bad Astronomer, is a man who knows his science, and gets frustrated that the rest of us don’t. Or at least that we listen to people who don’t and take their views seriously. It bothered him enough to write a book called Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing “Hoax” back in 2002 and, just in case we’re still not getting it, the Bad Astronomy blog, now hosted by, keeps us updated on the misconceptions, unfounded rumours and downright fearmongering that the mainstream media continually pump out in regard to scientific developments, astronomical or otherwise. As well as serving as a reliable source of news on astronomy, space exploration and just about anything else Plait finds interesting, the blog is witty and entertaining without talking down to the audience; a rare thing as far as ‘accessible’ science publications go. The archives are full of his debunkings of pseudoscience and mystic theories including a thorough reaming of astrology that will make you want to chase Mystic Meg through the streets with a flaming torch. Plait is a prolific writer, with two books, a sea of magazine and online articles and even a short-lived TV show under his belt and, unlike most of the theorists he rages against, he actually does hold a PhD in something related to what he is talking about; astronomy if you can believe that!

People of Walmart

America, land of big business, big cars and even bigger people. It’s also the home of the original ‘big box’ store, Walmart, a mega-shop with such a comprehensive offering that people from all corners of life visit it regularly, including those corners that should probably stay dark and unlit. People of Walmart is a photo blog glorifying the unrelenting tide of the weird and wrong that passes through the doors of Walmarts throughout the States. From velour jumpsuits and far-too-short shorts to creepy women pushing buggies full of stuffed animals, the extreme examples of the human condition, frozen like insects in amber by surreptitious camera phones, will have you chuckling, groaning and possibly even retching at your desk; don’t say we didn’t warn you. People of Walmart is probably the most well-known part of the Three Ring Blogs network, dedicated to shining a light on the weirdest photos snapped around the world. Well, let’s be fair, mostly in North America. Depending on your particular brand of horrified fascination, Freaks of Fast Food, Late Night Mistakes, Girls in Yoga Pants, or the particularly brilliant Random Creepy Guy blog should be enough to keep you clicking ‘next’ long after it’s become unhealthy to keep looking.

Darths & Droids

Remember those Star Wars movies? The really awful ones? David Morgan-Mar certainly does, and they obviously made a deep impression on him. It was enough to try to make them vaguely tolerable in the form of a comic strip satire. Taking its cue from Shamus Young’s DM of the Rings, Darths & Droids takes the story of the Star Wars prequels, starting with the most undeservedly anticipated movie of all time, The Phantom Menace, and sets it as a Dungeons & Dragons-style roleplaying adventure, complete with a long-suffering gamemaster/narrator and a cadre of bored, difficult players whinging and joking their way through the story. The comic is done with video stills of the movies edited to include speech bubbles, so even if you’re not familiar with roleplaying games, seeing Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor voice sarky versions of their Jedi alter egos by way of some unseen puppet-masters who don’t seem to ever have heard of Star Wars is hilarious and so determinedly meta you might just find yourself worrying you are turning into Abed from NBC’s Community. Morgan-Mar is as big a nerd as you are likely find, being the author of several roleplaying source books himself, as well as creating a couple of his own programming languages, including one based on a character from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Darths & Droids isn’t the only webcomic he produces and fans of this should check out his lego-based creation, Irregular Webcomic!

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