alexsarll: (crest)
Yesterday was the first Who this season that I didn't see live, because I was off having a lovely pub crawl country walk in Kent. Not the bleak Kent, or the bits that are basically London's dregs, but the Garden of England bit which inspired HE Bates (whose cottage we went past). And it was lovely. London is the place for me, now and for years yet, but one day I shall have a cottage somewhere with an old graveyard and cricketers on the green, where nothing of importance ever changes. Speaking of which, 'The Curse of the Black Spot' was thoroughly predictable, wasn't it? Every plot beat could be foretold at least a minute before it happened, in part because the set-up was the classic Who base-under-siege, and the resolution was a tribute to early Moffat. But I find something oddly comforting in these middling, everyday episodes, and Amy looked great as a pirate (even if her differences with the siren could surely have been resolved more sexily), and it made no sense but somehow I even forgave the virus/bacteria line, because if Who was always as full-on and smart as those first two episodes, and as I suspect next week's Gaiman story will be, then it would just get a bit too much.

Last weekend's big news stories left me mostly unmoved; our mediocre future monarch was wed to a passably symmetrical young woman, and we eventually killed a bastard who had it coming, but who was only ever first among equals. But then the last combat veteran of the First World War died and...that's huge. A moment, an era, could last week be described as 'in living memory', and now it can't. And then on top of that, the AV vote, in which 85% of my countrymen made clear that in spite of the last 30 years, they're quite content with how politics is done here, thank you very much. Which disgusts me. But at least, of the 11 areas nationwide which voted otherwise, Finsbury Park is at the intersection of three - and next to a fourth. The others include Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh. The smart places, basically. It's only a crumb of hope, but it's something.

The Dodgem Logic jamboree on Wednesday has been well-covered elsewhere (and there's even a photo of my back at that link, just to prove my presence). Savage Pencil's loud, unhelpful contributions aside, it was a brilliant evening - but then when you have Alan Moore, Stewart Lee and Robin Ince on the same bill, that's inevitable, isn't it? Kevin O'Neill, Melinda Gebbie and Steve Aylett also turn out to be just as interesting off the page as on. For a moment I even thought I might be able to get a poster of O'Neill's 'four seasons' image from the last issue (so far), but no, it was just one promo piece. Which he talked about, saying that it was inspired by the idea of a perfect England for which the English, even as far back as Chaucer, had always been nostalgic. And then Alan Moore was talking about how Dodgem Logic had been inspired by the old underground mags but, rereading them and seeing how they actually were rather than how he remembered them, he had in fact, if he said so himself, made something better. Which reminded me of someone characterising the new Doctor Who - and this was even before Moffat took over - as the programme which actually was as good as Doctor Who fans remember Doctor Who being. People can be dismissive of nostalgia but, in the right hands, it's a profoundly creative urge.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Harold and Kumar Get The Munchies is not only a very funny film; it has more to say about race in America than all that Oscar-winning dreck like Monster's Ball and Crash could even dream of.

Went to see the Cuming Museum's exhibition of painter-magician Austin Osman Spare's work last week, and very good it was too; it's finished now, but here's Alan Moore with his thoughts and a brief tour. A slight trek, but aside from finally getting an excuse to use the Waterloo & City line on my return, it was more powerful seeing Spare's work on his old turf than it would have been in the centre, more in keeping with how he exhibited during his life (in local pubs, for the most part). It makes sense that I heard about him mainly through comics - Moore and rival writer-magus Grant Morrison are both enthusiasts - because most of the things his art reminded me of were comics art. The self-portraits reminded me of Glenn Fabry, the pencils of Dave McKean as much as Aubrey Beardsley, the most deeply spiralling magical pieces of Billy the Sink if he had more respect for anatomy. And Spare's vision of the collective unconscious as landscapes made of faces...it was a little bit Source Wall, and even more the garden of the shamans from The Authority. Two pieces particularly wowed me - L'Apres Midi d'un Faune, which I think was done without taking the pencil of the page, and looked to me less like a faun than a satyr or maybe Machen's terrifying Pan, and The Evolution of the Human Race*, a still image which somehow evokes the vertiginous quality of deep time.

Other than that, a quiet weekend; it's hardly been the weather to encourage much in the way of Outside. But of course I made it along to [livejournal.com profile] angelv's apparently, regrettably final Don't Stop Moving for pop galore. If this really is the end, it will be missed.

*Speaking of evolution, I loved the way David Attenborough's First Life packed the whole story of vertebrates into its last five minutes. And pointed out that the way insects come together into colonies, or superorganisms, is basically the same process which first saw cells aggregating into multicellular life. But in particular, the section on eyes - ranging from the adorable Cambrian sea creature which had five, to trilobites with crystal lenses - should be injected directly into the brain of every creationist moron who says "What about the eye, eh?" and then thinks they've won.
alexsarll: (Default)
Yesterday I finished a peculiar little book which left me almost more interested in its publisher than itself. Capuchin Classics have borrowed the green Penguin are no longer using for their modern classics - or perhaps one a shade away from it. They otherwise have a more uniform look, though - and not a bad one, pencil drawings for the covers, all very tasteful. The indicia lists not a publisher or editor in chief, but a chatelaine. And their selection includes a few standard, public domain classics - and then a lot of books like this one of which I had never previously heard. Clearly a labour of love; I approve.
The book itself was The Green Child by Herbert Read, of whom I knew little except that he wasn't conventionally known as a novelist - apparently this was his only one. Apparently he was an anarchist poet and critic; of those three descriptors, only 'poet' would you deduce from The Green Child. There are parts where I was reminded of Graham Greene, who supplies the introduction - except that this is a Greeneland where everything works out for the best, in peace. Something about the quality of the light made me think of Firbank, except that there's none of his fussiness in the style or his loucheness to the content. As the title suggests, the story deals with the myth of green children, except updated to the nineteenth century. Or at least, half the story does, because while the protagonist is returning to the sleepy English village where he grew up, he spent much of his life - and more than half the pages - leading the South American republic of Roncador (yes, of course it got namechecked in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) - hence a Study in Scarlet situation where for most of the book we're away from the ostensible interest. Still, it does mean we get two rather unsettling but apparently sincere utopias in one short novel, and that's some going.

Not a week of great eventfulness, unless you count the strictly local excitement of a new Sainsbury's on the Maisionette Beautiful's block. The weekend saw another fine Nuisance and another Dons rehearsal (we shall be on the internet wireless tomorrow at 2pm), and an engagement party en route to which I again took the gamble of a 'shortcut' along the canal. If this has ever worked, it doesn't with the works currently underway, but it can produce other, more interesting results. Such as finding oneself on a floating walkway which leads, ultimately, to St Pancras Old Church and Coroner's Court - two key locations in the Bryant & May book I read recently, as spookily London as one could wish in the autumn twilight.

My free Blockbuster trial* is up now, and the last of the DVDs have been watched and returned. Odd blighters they were too: both Youth in Revolt and Observe and Report star stars of Superbad, but neither is funny. At least in the latter case it seems to be deliberate. The set-up - mall security guard with delusions of grandeur - could easily have been funny. Keep the exact same script and cast Will Ferrell, you'd have a comedy. But the way Seth Rogen plays the part, it's really quite upsetting. And intermittently brilliant, especially when it skewers the standard Hollywood rhetoric about sticking to your dreams &c.
Also seen: Joe Meek biopic Telstar, which is very good though I preferred the early, funnier hour; and Centurion, in which Dog Soldiers director Neil Marshall basically remakes his bonkers Doomsday, except this time it's the real Hadrian's Wall instead of a near future one, and shot in the real Scotland instead of South Africa. Whether it has the right idea about the fate of Rome's Ninth Legion I don't know, but it does have a damn fine cast (David Morrissey, Noel Clarke, Dominic West whom some readers might like to know spends much of his appearance topless and/or in chains), and some Iraq resonances which are fairly deftly handled, and an awful lot of gore. Albeit some of it historically inaccurate gore, because the Roman legionary's gladius was not a slashing sword.

*Not strictly free, in that it's a quid for a month. But because I'm signed up to Cashback Kings, I get £7.50 back, so in fact it works out better than free. I got a tenner from a Lovefilm trial via the same method, but that only lasted half as long. Swings and roundabouts.
alexsarll: (crest)
Unsurprisingly, I liked Steven Moffat's take on Sherlock Holmes quite a lot. Not least because this was essentially Holmes as the Doctor, except ruder. But then that makes perfect sense given Holmes was inspired by Doyle teaming up with the Doctor, and/or teamed up with the Doctor himself, depending which book you believe. The Holmes-vision in particular was very reminiscent of the Doctor-vision we saw in The Eleventh Hour (and which was then quietly dropped even though Confidential suggested it would be a Thing). The modernisation was a smart move, so much better than another take on the character reduced to yet another costume drama, yet another pale shadow of Jeremy Brett - although of course you can't have a modern Holmes in a modern London without it also being an alternate world story, because Baker Street 2010 wouldn't be anything like the same without a Victorian Holmes having been. The only failure of modernisation I spotted was the first appearance of Holmes; yes, the corpse-beating scene was great, but a century on, with results from the Knoxville body farm &c to consider, it wouldn't be necessary. There were other problems: spoilers ) Not perfect, then - but still very good. Though whether the other writers will keep up the same standard remains to be seen, especially when one of them made his last screenwriting appearance with 'Victory of the Daleks'.

A reasonably quiet weekend, spent largely watching films (of which more later in the week) except for Saturday when there were two parties. A situation which can often end in tears, or at least unconsciousness, but fortunately I fell asleep in the kitchen at the one where I knew almost everyone, so they're used to me. Yes, I really am that classy.

Read Si'mon' Spurrier's Contract last week, with high expectations; alongside [livejournal.com profile] al_ewing, Spurrier is the best of the recent crop of 2000AD writers, which is no slight praise. And it's by no means a bad read - well, it's a 'bad' read in the moral sense, because it left me stood in Poundland thinking 'you know, you could get everything you needed to torture someone in here, and still have change from a tenner' - but it does suffer from one of the characteristic problems of novels by comics writers. Not the having seen it all before - yes, Spurrier has had a protagonist with the surname Point before, yes, the amoral lead is his thing, but those are all fine to revisit, and I wasn't left with the feeling of repetition for the prose audience which I got from, say, the first half of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. The problem is more...what to call it? 'Over-concentration', perhaps. Because comics writers are so used to conveying everything in a couple of lines per panel, and leaving the rest to the artist, once *everything* is filtered through a first person narrator, the characterisation can be almost too strong. It's a similar situation when a pop lyricist - or a good one, anyway - writes a book. Nick Cave's debut was excellent, but he was so used to fitting epics into four or five minutes of song that, given hundreds of pages, he produced something where the same density, over a greater length, was almost too much. It makes you realise how easy people who only ever write extended prose have it.

There's a trick which I think Art Brut began to popularise, and which several bands have taken up recently, of giving songs the same names as songs which already exist, without them being remotely the same songs. Not necessarily as diss or homage, just...liking the title. And normally I rather enjoy it, but on the new Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan album, they come a cropper. Because when I saw 'Come Undone' and 'Time of the Season' on the tracklisting, I thought, I really want to hear Isobel and Mark cover those songs. Maybe that's the problem, because I never for a moment thought the Art Brut album was going to include a M/A/R/R/S cover, or that the Indelicates album would have them doing the Stones.
alexsarll: (Default)
London, being an emblem of infinity, always has something new with which to astound me. the beautiful statues at York House being one example, nymphs sprawled up a waterfall in a way you'd expect in Capri more than Twickenham. And then a few minutes further along, the ramshackle Bohemian labyrinth of Eel Pie Island, one of those places which, even with much of it understandably inaccessible (being people's homes and all), is so folded in on itself that it feels like it's larger than the area it covers. Then back to Richmond proper for Toy Story 3. not big spoilers, but more than I knew going in ) Oh, and it was preceded by an ad which opens with the line "Your child's mouth is amazing!" Quite.

Also finally got round to watching The Incredible Hulk which, as you might have heard, isn't very good. I am less bothered than ever about Ed Norton not reprising the role of Banner for the Avengers film, because he doesn't do much with it (and I can't be the only person thinking the obvious choice would be Andy Serkis). Liv Tyler, once so luminously lovely, is almost invisible as Betty Ross; Tim Roth is good as Emil Blonsky, but then Tim Roth is always good, so that's no great achievement. Yes, the film references Stark, SHIELD, Dr Reinstein, Leonard Samson and Rick Jones...but so what? We're past the point now where that sort of thing is surprising; as in comics themselves, a cross-reference does not in itself justify an otherwise dull story.

Speaking of comics, I've not posted much about them lately, have I? Mainly, the titles which are always good have continued to be good, but if you're not reading them yet then there's no real point in drawing your attention to Powers or The Walking Dead or Ultimate Spider-Man or the Grant Morrison Batman complex now. And Marvel's new status quo, The Heroic Age, is still a bit too early to call; is it going to be a welcome breath of fresh air after the darkness of the past few years, or simply Silver Age fetishism? But lately, some good new stuff has started filtering through. Consider Paul Cornell's Action Comics, the first DC Universe comic not by Grant Morrison to excite me in a while. Pairing Lex Luthor with a robot Lois Lane (as in his online Doctor Who story where the Doctor was travelling with a robot Master), the first issue suggests this is going to be an entertainingly amoral cosmic romp. Over at Marvel, Kieron Gillen's last arc on Thor finally gets him out from under the fall-out of other people's events and sends the Asgardians off to attack Hell. I said to Kieron last week that it read like a heavy metal album, and this was before I picked up the Manowar album with a track called 'Thor (The Powerhead' at the CD swap. And Daredevil is in entertainingly killy mode in the opening of the new street-level crossover, Shadowland, even if I am irked at the suggestion that it must be possession causing him to do something eminently sensible which he should have done years ago. But the big news is the start of the last new comics project, at least for a while, by the ever-combative Alan Moore. As the title suggests, Neonomicon is riffing on HP Lovecraft. Moore has talked about writing it in a very angry phase, wanting to make something genuinely nasty as against the cheapness of a lot of modern Mythos stories, and he's already referencing 'The Horror at Red Hook', probably Lovecraft's most overtly racist story, in a way that suggests he's going to stick to that. But so far, it's mainly very funny. Hence me sat on the bus opposite a concerned parent and its spawn, face obscured by the comic's wrap cover of great Cthulhu awakening, chuckling to myself at the scene where the protagonist attends a gig by Rats in the Malls: "I want my thing on your doorstep, my haunter in your dark, I'm getting squamous just thinking how you walk".
alexsarll: (Default)
Saw The Hold Steady on Tuesday. The last big, current band I wanted to see and hadn't. And they did not disappoint me. OK, so they didn't play 'Soft In The Center', or 'Your Little Hoodrat Friend', or even 'Killer Parties' (which I was sure would be the encore), but then it's not like they played a short set, or any duds - they just have too many brilliant songs to fit them all in. On stage, they're an object lesson in how things which shouldn't work, sometimes do. Craig Finn holds all the attention, and Craig Finn is without doubt the least cool man I have ever seen fronting a band. Hell, even just in an indie *audience*, he would be noticeably one of the less cool ones. And he flaps his arms about and overacts double-takes during the bits where he's not singing and does spiels about how great it is to see "real people in a real room having a beer, not on Myspace or the messageboards" which from anyone else would have me cringing. And yet, it works. You know when parents tell kids that all you really need to do to be accepted is believe in yourself? And every kid who isn't incredibly stupid wonders how the parents have forgotten so much about the world as to think that, because while belief matters, belief won't cover everything? Well, turns out that if you believe as hard as Craig Finn, it is enough. Literally, magical.
(Speaking of magic - Alan Moore fans may be aware that he worships the serpent god Glycon, in large part because Glycon was comprehensively discredited centuries ago. I didn't know much more than that, here's an essay Moore wrote about Glycon a few years ago, and it turns out that Glycon was conceived by the False Prophet Alexander, "a plausible and gifted but amoral fraud". My new second favourite classical namesake)

Wristcutters - A Love Story is almost a parody of US indie cinema. Shannyn Sossamon, Tom Waits and a bunch of HBO and Arrested Development alumni are suicides trapped in an afterlife which is the same as life, except slightly worse - dead end jobs, broken-down cars, and an inability to smile (though wry half-smiles seem to be fine). And yet it's actually rather lovely - both smart and sweet, in the way that so many of those films try so very hard to be and don't manage.
alexsarll: (menswear)
I've had a couple of serendipitous library finds recently. Having mentioned Seth Fisher a couple of weeks back, I came across the last collection of his work I hadn't read at the weekend. Which meant I had Batman: Snow there to read as the snow whirled down this week. As with his other work, it's only really worth it for the art - who else would ever have given Alfred bunny pyjamas and an expressive combover? JH Williams III is credited as co-plotter, but on this evidence should stick to the artwork too, because I'm still not convinced that Mr Freeze can ever be anything more than DC's second best cold-themed villain.
A couple of weeks earlier, I'd finally found Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places, which came out a couple of years back. I've known Rob on and off since school and, unlike some acquaintances whose rise to celebrity status is face-crunchingly irksome (mentioning no names, Rick the Fister) his emergence as a sort of all-weather public intellectual has been as gratifying as it is richly deserved. This wander around Britain in search of wildness - and a definition of what 'wildness' might even mean - was, for me, a much more satisyfing book than his debut, Mountains of the Mind, and I was left wondering why it hadn't been picked up for TV.
So in Saturday's paper, there's Rob explaining how it's been narrowed down to Essex, and filmed, and will be on TV tonight. Which is handy. I also note that immediately afterwards is a show about the different orders of infinity - a concept I can just about handle, except that it's narrated by Steven Berkoff, which seems unduly sadistic.
(The Wild Places was also one of of two consecutive non-fiction books I read to mention Nevil Maskelyne. Not either of the two stage magicians of that name, of whom I am aware through the wartime illusionism and being contemporaries of David Devant, although I can never quite keep them separate in my head - but the Astronomer Royal at the opening of Richard Holmes' Age of Wonder, their presumable ancestor. What a dynasty!)

Also: one of the problems with/interesting side effects of Google Alerts is that you're kept informed of the activities of namesakes. I know an awful lot more than I used to about the fireman Alan Moore, for instance. And today, I learn of a stem cell scientist Alan Moore who is involved with a project called 'Regenesis', also the title of a Swamp Thing collection - albeit not one of Moore's, but the six Veitch issues which immediately followed him.
alexsarll: (bernard)
My hopes were, in all honesty, not high for Are Friends Eclectic? on Friday. It was being held at the Cross Kings (of 'rapey murals' fame) and I've been suspicious of the word 'eclectic' in club names ever since I saw the press for a night which was called simply Eclectic, on the grounds that it played all the different subgenres of drum'n'bass. But [livejournal.com profile] xandratheblue and [livejournal.com profile] retro_geek were DJing within an hour's walk of mine so it would have been churlish not to give it a try, and I'm very glad I did. With the exception of one DJ who seemed intent only on playing fashionable young people's music in remixes which removed all the good bits (why does a version of Wiley's 'Take That' without the buzzing noise even exist?) and had the treble up too high, the music was a good selection, and there were soon enough people in to obscure the walls. Well, except the one which had anime projected on it, that was fine, especially the one about the flying turtle rescuing its friends from inside a giant stone turtle on some island with an ancient turtle civilisation. Yeah, I know it's a bit of a hackneyed plot but they did it with charm. Hightlights included:
[livejournal.com profile] exliontamer doing the best gun action I have ever seen to MIA's 'Paper Planes'.
[livejournal.com profile] augstone hanging himself from the ceiling with his feather boa during 'She's Lost Control'.
[livejournal.com profile] steve586 using the same feather boa for a spot of skipping, which since he's already in The 18 Carat Love Affair, and 'Skipping' is also an Associates track, set me off on the idea of him doing a comedy quest in the manner of Dave Gorman or Danny Wallace (except less sh1t) where he literally enacts other Associates song titles, by eg driving a white car in Germany or playing the spoons in the nude.
We then made the arguably ill-advised decision all to pile back to Aug's for wine, American confectionery and singalongs. [livejournal.com profile] cappuccino_kid was the first to leave, only to find that his door was stuck and nearly have to come back. He managed to kick it in in the end but I was concerned that, being from Belfast, reflex might then take over and he'd try to kneecap the hamster, which would be hard enough sober.
On Saturday, after four hours' sleep, I got up for what was meant to be a lovely walk in the country. Except the member of the party who had suggested this specific walk was 'ill', a story the rest of us soon began to walk. I can hardly complain that the Lea/Lee Valley doesn't even know how to spell itself when I live so close to Har(r)ing(a/e)y, but the directions we had from Waltham Cross station used terms like 'right' and 'left' in ways which didn't really fit the late Soviet concrete feel of the surrounds. Yes, once we found Waltham Abbey it was historically and architecturally lovely, if still rather too actively christian for my liking (even attempting ti claim orthodoxy for the Zodiac on the ceiling). And at first, the riverside walk seemed lovely too. But soon the Tottenham reservoirs were looming on our left (being raised, they essentially look like motorway embankments with the odd life-ring at the top); to our right, a river with no apparent life but the coots, and beyond that, decaying industry. And above us - pylons, diligently following the path. We thought we'd found some signs of rural life with the glimpse of horses ahead, but close up they had upsetting and peculiar growths, which was possibly the last straw (even the horses were out, having moldy bread instead). We bailed at Ponders End - where the only pub seemed to be a Harvester. Cultural tourism ahoy.
Then home via the library for lots of tea, and out again to see the 18 Carat Love Affair, or rather the 14.4 Carat Love Affair, as the bassist was ill (you could maybe subtract further given the fragility of other band members, but the maths would start getting dubious). They were supported by two baffling but keen Japanese bands who had very loud singers; it was perhaps because of this that Steve could barely be heard in the mix when he went for a more subtle/hungover approach. Still not a bad show, though. Headliners Black Daniel were quite something - essentially Har Mar Superstar joining the Dandy Warhols to fill in for a show the Black Eyed Peas couldn't make - but a band like that requires energy, and by this stage I had none. Home again, and bed. Where I pretty much stayed yesterday.

The weekend's viewing:
Anatomy of a Murder: Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick star in the Murder One of its day, with a surprisingly frank treatment of rape for 1959. Coincidentally, the Saul Bass* titles were homaged in Alan Moore's 'The Anatomy Lesson', which I reread this same weekend because, in the library, I found the new Saga of the Swamp Thing hardcover which finally reprints Moore's first issue on the series, rather than starting with said 'Anatomy Lesson'. Some lovely page layouts, presumably Totleben's, but you can see why prior reprints never bothered with it.
Around The World By Zeppelin, a fabulous compilation of archive footage and diary readings telling the story of a 1930 journey which, were it fictional, would seem heavy-handed. Our protagonist - an aristocratic English journalist, junior partner to an American. They had an affair a while back, and it ended badly, but feelings remain. In Germany, there are extremist riots against reparations; in Japan, meetings hailing a new age of German-Japanese friendship. Stalin blusters as they fly over the endless wastes of Russia, and they are feared lost after a great storm over the Pacific. Back in the US, alive, the men ignore the Midwest passing beneath them, too obsessed with the novelty of being the first airborne traders in stocks and shares. Thinking about it, maybe Glen David Gold or Michael Chabon could do it justice - but they don't need to, because this film exists. Do watch it.
Sons of Anarchy, which having come from a Shield writer, now brings in a Shield actor - and it's poor compromised old Dutch, playing an ATF agent who's a lot more human than he'd like to be. Oh, this is going to be good.

*I always get Saul Bass confused with Lance Bass, the former 'N Sync member and thwarted space traveller. Checking Wikipedia to see if there's any connection, I see no sign of one, but it does claim that his mother's maiden name was Haddock. Is this true? Because Haddock marrying Bass sounds distinctly fishy.
alexsarll: (seal)
The reason I didn't get straight online to share my thoughts with the interweb...well, yes, I was also busy on some hard-fought games of Othello with the parents, but beyond that, I simply don't know what to make of it. The first time since the comeback we've had a named Part One and Part Two on TV, and fair enough because it's just too soon to say. I could have done without the Matrix bits, I guessed what "they are coming back" meant as soon as I heard it on the trailers, but the key Being John Simm stuff - I don't know yet whether that was good or not. I have invites for NYD which I may decline simply because I cannot wait one second longer than I need to before finding out where this all goes. Curse you, RTD, you glorious bastard.

In other news, I've finally caught up with Alan Moore's new 'underground' paper Dodgem Logic and...well, the articles by Moore, Graham Linehan and Josie Long are pretty entertaining, as you'd expect, if not any of their best work. The contributors you've not heard of mainly make clear why you've not heard of them; there's a lot of the sort of kneejerk hippy claptrap which eventually saw me lose patience with The Idler, the worst being the Lejome Pindling screed which rehearses the tired old complaints about 'manufactured pop'. Pindling loftily pronounces that Lady Gaga's "lyrical content is trash at best"; I suppose at least that quote is literate (if inane), which is more than can be said for most of his piece. Later he declares "The majority of albums I listen to nowadays have 2 tracks which I would consider good and a further 12 which I would say are questionable", unaware that he is himself one of those filler tracks. In between is the local content, one piece again by Moore, which I almost compared to a Northampton version of the less good bits of the capital's delightful Smoke before realising how unfair that would be. All Moore's previous Northampton work - and presumably his novel-in-progress, Jerusalem, have found the same wonder and strangeness in the town which most other psychogeographers can so much more easily pick up in London. Here, he and his collaborators are just taking the simple route and showing provincial Britain as a denatured, grotty dump. I'll give it another issue or two to settle in, clearly, but I really expect more from Moore.

And is it just me (and my family, in rare consensus) or would Wall-E have been a better film if it were half an hour shorter?
alexsarll: (Default)
There are plenty of films with two actors playing the same character - usually an older or a younger version of the star. But I can't think of many with four plus actors in the same part. This week, I saw two, and in both cases one of the actors sharing was Heath Ledger.
I was interested in I'm Not There even before I eventually fell for Bob Dylan as a performer rather than just a songwriter. Because biopics bore me so easily - always the same few variations on the old arc - and because this was Todd Haynes, who already did the oblique approach so well with Bowie and Iggy and the rest in Velvet Goldmine. And the two films share more than a little: the transfer of power between different avatars of Dylan reminds me of the green jewel in the earlier film; there's a journalist out to unveil origins, though here it's not the backbone of the plot; above all, there's the question of whether music can change the world, and what happens to the musician if it can't. But the big difference is that Haynes clearly never felt betrayed by Dylan like he did by Bowie. He loves all his Dylans equally - even if, like most people, I was left a little cold by the Richard Gere outlaw Dylan. The others, though...I loved having Batman and the Joker both play the same part (see, Alan? 'The Killing Joke' did have some external resonance after all), then sharing it with the Virgin Queen. And did they know when they cast this, or Bright Star, that Ben Whishaw would be playing both Dylan and Keats, that old lit-crit cliche given (rather handsome) life. So much truer than the standard biopic, and probably not even that much less factual. Though I say that as someone who knows very little about Dylan's life - just enough to wince when he buys a motorcycle.
I'm Not There was planned that way. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus was not, but you'd never guess it. I have no idea what was changed in the script, but one can almost suspect that Terry Gilliam, so used to being shafted by whatever cosmic entity it is that likes messing with him, was filming in such an order that he could work around the loss of Ledger. Which would normally mean that instead Christopher Plummer would have died, or maybe Tom Waits, or the lad from Red Riding would have been eaten by foxes or something, but just this once the stupid obstacle in Gilliam's way was one that he could work around. There aren't half some queasy moments, scenes with Ledger's character that gain a whole new resonance - but always in such a way that it strengthens the film. spoilers ) among its many other flights of fancy. And such flights of fancy they are! I can't remember the last film I saw which was so visually rich, whether in its worlds of the imagination, or in its London. And it does have to take place in London, doesn't it? The grandest, most fabled city in the world - but also one with grabbing thugs spilling out of crappy pubs, and Homebases insisting you spend spend spend, and its perpetual building sites.
Ashes to Ashes fans should be aware that Shaz gets a small role, but the real revelation is Lily Cole. I knew she was pretty, but I'd never seen her move, or speak, and so I'd never realised she was beautiful, let alone that she could act. Which given that face, and that she's just gone up to Cambridge, seems terribly unfair, but then like the film is so intent on reminding us, the world is full of wonders.

I also saw Crank this week. There's not so much to say about that one; like Shoot 'Em Up it's the action movie distilled to its purest form and injected into your eyeball with a syringe made of guns - smarter than it lets on, while also being the best sort of big dumb fun. During its ITV transmission, there was also an ad for the ITV4 debut of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse - two hours earlier. Well done, ITV. Said trailer didn't do anything useful like inform me of a repeat, but I tracked one down and...well, when I first heard about Dollhouse I thought, hang on, isn't that basically Joe 90 - The Sexy Years? The first episode didn't convince me otherwise but, because it's Whedon, I'm persevering. Even though I realised a while back that if Buffy started now, I don't think I'd make it through the first season.
alexsarll: (Default)
A sign on the main gates announces that Finsbury Park itself will be closing at 5pm by the end of October, with even that shrinking down to 4.30 for the whole of December and the beginning of January. Now, aside from remembering that a couple of years ago it was never closed even in the middle of the night, I'm sure those times are ludicrously and unprecedentedly early, but I suspect that the joggers among you would be better placed to confirm that.

I've been having my old, epic dreams again lately, grand disjointed things that survive the interruptions even when they get crazed or loud enough to wake me. Which means that when they give the impression of continuing from night to night, I can never be quite sure whether they're telling the truth or just building on all those tricks about giving the appearance of a continuity which one picks up consciously and subconsciously from reading a lot of Grant Morrison. Lately there's been a lot of imagery which would suit a Saturday night TV take on Lovecraft - organic matter unfettered by contact with some nameless Unknown, extruding tendrils, faces coming loose - and it may or may not have been linked to the scene which mashed Seizure up with Gormley's Fourth Plinth to give us a slowly filling tank full of copper sulphate solution up there, the last Plinther drowning beatifically in the poison.

Not being an expert like [livejournal.com profile] cappuccino_kid, I've only seen three Joseph Losey films, enough/few enough that having taped The Damned I was surprised to find it a Hammer shocker with a young Oliver Reed in the main supporting role. There's a stilted Englishness I recognise in there, a menace, and a sense of perversion barely suppressed, but at times early in the film the stiltedness would just seem like bad acting if you weren't looking for it, if you didn't see that this came from the same year as his classic, The Servant. Without wanting to spoiler the film (old, but fairly obscure - the spoilering protocols there are always unclear, aren't they?) the Hammer elements seem strangely well-fitted to Losey's England.

Alan Moore is doing the libretto for the next Gorillaz opera.

voodoo

Oct. 5th, 2009 11:36 am
alexsarll: (bernard)
Alan Moore is launching a magazine, of all things. That Melinda Gebbie and Kevin O'Neill are contributing is no surprise, but he also has Graham Linehan, Steve Aylett and Josie Long involved.

The trailer for the remake of The Prisoner doesn't do much to change my original opinion that it's a fundamentally bad idea, even with Ian McKellen. It doesn't help that the trailer is nearly ten minutes long; trailers should not be so long that you get bored before you've even seen the show.

Though I did also find time for Popular, drunken singalongs to the best album ever and setting myself on fire, this weekend was largely occupied with the Brontosaurus Chorus video shoot. If you've ever felt that between the 28 Weeks Later scene outside the Noble, and Shaun of the Dead in Crouch End, there was too big a zombie gap, then your worries are over - shambling undeath is now available atop Crouch Hill too. The first day of Parkland Walk filming was interrupted by joggers (including Bernard Butler), dogwalkers and children who will probably be scarred for life; yesterday we were next to a soft p0rn shoot.

Comics

Sep. 30th, 2009 11:19 am
alexsarll: (magnus)
I've cut down on how many comics I get lately - the obvious financial reasons don't intersect well with rising comics prices, and even beyond that there's a bit of a lull underway in the artform/industry anyway these past few months. But yesterday I picked up four weeks' worth, as well as having this week dropped in on a couple of libraries I've not visited in ages and found a stack of collections*. Not all superheroes, there are some crime ones and a goth sitcom thing, but mostly. And I've realised something - third-rate superhero comics are my celebrity mags. I can read a collection in twenty minutes or so, and if it doesn't improve my life in any meaningful way, I find it soothing nonetheless. And if it doesn't stand up by itself, it feeds into that vast tapestry that is a shared universe, just like the exclusive nightclubs of London and LA form a shared universe for a Heat reader; this would explain also why I can't continue reading a book or watching a TV show which I don't think is very good, but can carry on with a comic, so long as no expenditure is involved beyond time ie it's from the library. And fundamentally, you can't tell me Green Lantern is any more unreal than Lady Gaga.
Clearly I'm not talking about something like All-Star Superman, say, which is at once a truly first-class work of fiction and a holy book far preferable to any of the currently popular choices. A Watchmen or Enigma stands deservedly amongst the great literature of the past few decades, and even at the level below them you have stuff coming out at the moment like The Boys, Ultimate Spider-Man or Batman and Robin which, if not quite great art, are nonetheless so well-crafted as to justify themselves without embarrassment and outclass anything on this (or most) year's Booker shortlist.
Conversely, I'm not talking about the worst of the worst. Some of those I'll read when I get home from the pub, for the car-crash fascination of it. A little above them are the only things I won't touch at all, the ones which aren't atrocious beyond all reckoning but simply dull and miserable and confused - ie, the majority of DC's recent output. But between that and the good stuff there's a vast range of workmanlike, competent material - words I would use as an insult if applied to any other medium, pop especially, but which in comics, I find scratches an itch.
In summary: just because Facebook tells you I've read a comic, don't necessarily take that as a recommendation. I'm an addict.

*Plus a few actual books, I should add (Wodehouse, Arthur C Clarke, Anais Nin), but broadly speaking I still own literally hundreds of books I've not read, and almost no comics I haven't.

Dirghic

Aug. 17th, 2009 03:12 pm
alexsarll: (bernard)
Spent Friday night in the Queens, which I don't recall visiting since its brief stint as the local, a stint ended when [livejournal.com profile] missfrost ceased to be its most local local and the centre of social gravity shifted. It hasn't changed, except that it now employs a pirate, something I mentioned just as he picked up my glass from behind. Ooops.
On Saturday, I got the train to Oxford rather than the coach, which also meant using Paddington rail station for I think the first time ever. It has a disappointing lack of bears. I was amongst the dreaming spires for a wedding attended by many people from university who were already married, draped in children or otherwise giving me the fear. What I had thought a rather over-ambitious scheme for the day in fact worked very smoothly, and the river journey in particular was perfectly English - motoring gently along the Thames, gentle meadows to the side and gentler cumulus above, plenty of cava. And, inevitably, the goth boating party coming the other way. One friend of the groom refused to believe that my flatmate could be among them - "How can they have flatmates? They're river gypsies!" West Londoners can be so entertaining. Later, I attempt to scramble up some creepers. This is not a great plan - you can trust trees, but creepers are deceptive. I fall on my arse, and am in a not inconsiderable amount of pain for the rest of proceedings, and onwards. Between this and my cowboy boots (long story, but they really were the only sensible footwear given the itinerary), on Sunday in particular I am reduced to walking at the speed most people walk at. I honestly don't know how they cope - it takes so long to get anywhere! Suddenly I understand why so many people get public transport everywhere or are simply reluctant to leave the house.
On Sunday, [livejournal.com profile] fugitivemotel gets his send-off. All associated parties are late to the pub in various degrees, but some other people I know have been there since mid-afternoon, so I hang with them for a bit, then manage to disperse most of them with the assertion (I can offer no sources, but still recall hearing it somewhere credible) that one major omission from Gorillas in the Mist was quite how friendly Dian Fossey got with the gorillas. This means we can get their big table. Result. And have a nice USA, [livejournal.com profile] fugitivemotel.

One can point to plenty of templates for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's stitching together of different fictions into one grand tapesty - Philip Jose Farmer's Wold Newton series is often mentioned, or there are Kim Newman's Dracula books. In one sense it's a foolish endeavour, because back before copyright started messing intertextuality up, myths would always mingle - look at the way the Matter of Britain incorporated other chivalrous myths, previously self-sufficient characters like Lancelot being brought into Arthur's orbit. Nonetheless, I've found another work on the same theme which I'm rather enjoying, David Thomson's Suspects. Thomson is probably best known for his gleefully partial Biographical Dictionary of Film, though I only know it through the entries the Guardian sometimes runs; I was turned on to him by his experimental Orson Welles biography Rosebud, and then confirmed as a fan by The Whole Equation which explains all those bits and pieces you never quite knew you didn't know about how Hollywood works. Suspects started as an outgrowth of the Biographical Dictionary, except instead of actors and directors it addresses the characters, telling you what happened before the film starts and after the credits roll. In the interests of a coherent world, it limits itself to film noir - but Thomson defines this term pretty widely, taking it out to borders like It's A Wonderful Life and Taxi Driver which, if not canonical, become inarguable the way Thomson tells it. So in the style of a reference book, we learn how Noah Cross from Chinatown and Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond were lovers, say - and the identity of her child - and yet as it goes on it becomes clear that, non-objective as Thomson has always been, the narrator here is not Thomson, but someone involved in this noir-verse. I'm hampered by only knowing about a quarter of the films referenced, and none of them all that well, but still love it; if you're a film noir obsessive I imagine it's even better.
alexsarll: (Default)
The bit of Friday's post which seemed most to interest my public was the bit about buses I chucked in just before posting. So: buses. On Sunday all useful lines out of the area were out, because two had engineering works and some arse had thrown himself under other. Which meant I had to travel for longer than I usually would on a bus fuller than it would usually be. Last window seats available are near the back of the top deck, so I plonk myself down there and hope that the back seat won't then be occupied by some dismal little street gang yawping in second-hand slang. My prayers are answered; instead I get a gaggle of postgrads having an only occasionally infuriating chat about the nature of power. The one arguing that it's always essentially subjective had a surprisingly compelling case.
Clearly my seat of choice on a bus is top deck, front window. Obviously you get the view, but also if you do read, nobody can see that the final issue of Captain Britain & MI:13 has you in tears.
(Also out: the new Phonogram, whose success with the formal experiment of a fixed camera angle is all the more impressive given I just read a much-recommended Luna Brothers comic, The Sword, in which the first issue was cheating horribly with its artist's eye 'camera')

Spent much of the weekend sneezy and ill, so as far as I'm concerned I've now survived swine flu. But not too ill to make [livejournal.com profile] despina's lovely wedding, at which one particularly heartwarming sight: a dancefloor on which three generations are happily dancing together to the Prodigy's 'Voodoo People'. The tiny people were generally better behaved that one sees at weddings, in part because they'd been given something to do, wonderful things called Art Jars scattered around the place with toys and craft stuff for them. And for drunk adults, of course: the next day, in addition to their normal contents, my pockets contained:
One small rubber duck
One fortune, hopefully true
One boggly eye
One crayon drawing of a giraffe
One translucent blue pebble

The first man charged under those dubious new 'extreme p0rn' laws is Alan Moore. But thankfully, it's not because the authorities or their masters in the tabloids finally read Lost Girls, just someone else of the same name. In this case at least, the new charge does appear to be there as a safety net, in case he escapes the charge of misbehaviour with a 15-year old - but it's still dangerous to have on the books any legislation which depends so heavily on the good sense of those enforcing it, because you never know when you might get a Mail-reader running a police force.

I've finished Something Fresh, PG Wodehouse's first Blandings story - and yet I don't really feel I got my Blandings fix. Jeeves & Wooster sprang into life fully formed, ditto Psmith; but when first we see Blandings, there's no sign of Gally Threepwood, possibly my favourite Wodehouse character. Worse, there's not one mention of pigs! And while Lord Emsworth's absent-mindedness is the plot's motor, he's not quite the dreamy soul we know from later books; he even gets involved in a spot of gunplay! Dash it all, it's not even high summer, but instead a rather cold spell in spring. It's still Wodehouse, and the man was pretty much incapable of writing a dud, so I shouldn't want to give the impression of complaining; it just comes as a surprise that his world didn't always come to him complete.
alexsarll: (Default)
Finally seen No Country For Old Men and...well, OK, it's not actively awful like most films which win loads of Oscars lately, but I don't quite understand the fuss. But then, The Big Lebowski aside, I never did quite get the Coens - they make films I watch once and enjoy, but then feel no urge ever to revisit. I will concede that, in Anton Chigurh, the film has one mesmerising performance, and that its reluctance to go for one of the standard thriller resolutions is commendable. I'll further admit that their sense of whimsy does a lot to leaven the relentless, slightly monotonous bleakness which put me off Cormac McCarthy when I tried to read another of his - this is as much a film about bad service and dumb questions as heists gone wrong. But at no stage was I either as gripped, or as amused, as I was watching Psychoville. At no stage did I find myself thinking that yes, this is what film-making is about, which I felt plenty during last week's Ghostbusters marathon (and how had I never twigged before that the Warden from Oz = Winston the black Ghostbuster, aka Ernie Hudson?).
Also: while finding that No Country For Old Men link above, I learned that next year will see a Clash of the Titans remake. As much as I hate moaning about remakes - so predictable, so lacking in historical sense, so selective in its examples - I do feel fairly confident that this one deserves to be stopped by rampaging stop-motion monsters.

Michael Moorcock interview in which we learn that he doesn't read SF, and feels something of the same rage towards the steampunk he helped birth as his mate Alan Moore does towards the grim'n'gritty trend in comics. Bless the old curmudgeon. If nothing else it got me to dig out some more of his End of Time stories - possibly my favourite of his work, given they concern near-omnipotent immortals heavily inspired by the 1890s, who live out Earth's twilight in a round of parties and fads. My people, in other words.

I've already bemoaned the cancellation of Captain Britain and MI:13, but the new issue suggests that it's not even going to go out with its standards intact. By which I mean no slur on the writing or the art, but someone in lettering and/or editorial has let through a 'your' for a 'you're', a 'corps' for 'corpse' and a couple of other, lesser infelicities. Poor show. Phonogram, on the other hand, came through with my favourite issue so far of the second series, because after sweet little Penny and normal Marc, now we have an issue devoted to the first series' Emily Aster, a vain, damaged and in many ways quite annoying young woman. ie, just the kind of person who it's great to have around because she keeps you on your toes - and doubly so in fiction where she's can't really cut loose on you. I'm also left intrigued as to whether, for instance, we'll ever find out what that townie girl was doing at an indie night like Never On A Sunday. Although, I do slightly dispute Emily's test for whether a club's indie (is she more likely to hear a record which sold eight copies in 1977 than whatever's Number One now?). The rules are: if the flyer lists bands - whatever those bands are - then it's an indie club. If it lists DJs, it's a dance club. And if it lists drinks promotions, it's a pop club.
alexsarll: (crest)
So it's precisely 105 years since the day on which it's set, and I've just finished Ulysses. Which in places is precisely as obscene and as incomprehensible and as up its own (and other) arses as the haters ever claimed - a particularly trying section for me being 'Sirens', which felt like trying to read a ringtone. But which is also so rich and so full and so alive. Whenever people bug me to write a novel, I tell them that I've only ever had two ideas for one, and I got beaten to them both. One was about a city in a state of existential collapse, citizens caught in the fall-out from a war they couldn't even comprehend - and just as I was starting to work out how that might play, three other people produced it (two of them called Jeff, which left me suspicious of Jeffs for a while). All very good, though, so if anything it just saved me some trouble. The other didn't even have a plot, so much as a style - the idea of a story which was perfectly in every moment, protean, shifting its form to follow the defining mood of each incident. Well, it turns out James Joyce beat me to it 55 years before I was even born, even if he left out the full-on action adventure chapter I think might have made it even more complete. I suppose in expressing the infinite richness of a single day, Ulysses might have inspired my favourite album ever, The Divine Comedy's Promenade, and that was always going to incline me in its favour. But still I thank heavens that I read it for pleasure rather than studying it. With something like this, or Gravity's Rainbow, I have to get into the flow of the prose, let it wash over me, appreciate it like music rather than trying to make sure I have the full measure of each individual word. If I'd run into it during my degree, I'd have managed maybe two chapters of notes, quit and bluffed, like I did with Henry James (to whom I've never returned). And I was going to say now that this was the last book I felt any obligation to read, that now I'm truly free...except I just caught sight of that copy of Don Quixote on the shelf. Not just yet, though, eh?
(I forget - has League of Extraordinary Gentlemen referenced Ulysses yet? If not, the obvious point of contact would be M'Intosh. We never do find out who he is, so I think maybe Quartermain)

Of course, because I had to finish this on Bloomsday, and didn't really want to get underway on any other big reads in the meantime, I was rather kicking around for shorter stuff to read these last few days, having got to the end of the penultimate chapter on Friday. So I very nearly finished Saturday's paper on Saturday, and have been getting through a lot of short stories, and yesterday I went to the park to read about two outsiders who rose to lead great empires - Benjamin Disraeli and Conan. Somehow I don't think those points in common would have seen them become great friends, though. Anyway, there was some canine event in the park, but I didn't notice any more dogs than usual - just bigger dogs. At least three which were bigger than most people I know, each of a different breed and each with a different owner. Also, I noticed grave goods. I'm used to floral tributes and pictures when someone has died young, but on a tree in the park it was instead a birthday of the deceased being marked, and as well as photos, notes and flowers, the friends had left vodka and Red Bull.

Primeval cancelled; should have known ITV wouldn't want to spoil their record by continuing to produce a decent show. You can't leave Danny Quinn stuck at the dawn of man, you sods!
alexsarll: (gunship)
So we're sending two Nazis to Europe. On the plus side, at least the christians don't have any seats - though aren't there some still to declare? That would put the sour cherry on the carrot cake and no mistake. And I see this news just after reading the Captain Britain and MI13 annual. This being the best new superhero comic in years, one which took a character even Alan Moore couldn't make sing, and made him into the national icon he always should have been, our own Captain America as opposed to a cheap knock-off. The series hit around the same time as Garth Ennis' Dan Dare reboot, and they shared an attempt to build a sense of a British patriotism which was strong and unashamed, but which gave no quarter to the racist scum who profane the flag and the history they so tattily invoke. And the annual? Well, that's the first issue to come out since the news that Captain Britain and MI13 is cancelled. There's just not enough of a market for it. And as above, so below. It's not that I feel any shame over how this will make us look in Europe's eyes, you understand - enough other countries are sending their own fascists, and as per last century, I'm confident that ours are hardly the biggest threat of the bunch. Besides which, the European Parliament is a bad joke in the first place. I'm more embarrassed over how this makes us look to ourselves, how much it exacerbates the national mood of bemused decline. Hopefully, it'll at least be enough of a wake-up call to improve matters, but it could as easily be another step down that sorry road. In the meantime, yesterday's jokes about "ask David to bring The Final Solution" (which worked better verbally, italics and capitals being silent) and the unicorn lynching seem slightly less amusing.

Othergates:
I don't normally mind waits at the doctor's; in accord with Sarll's First Rule, I always have plenty to read about my person. Except my surgery has now installed a TV broadcasting inane health programming, noisily. Desist!
Unusually old-school Stay Beautiful this weekend, both in terms of those attending, and in not having a live act. "This is how we used to do it in the olden days!", I tell bemused youngsters for whom the night has only ever been at the Purple Turtle. The playlist is less old-school, which is a shame as such a direction might have saved me from accidentally dancing to La Roux.
Two Grant Morrison comics out last week, and while Batman & Robin was a great, straightforward superhero story with art by the ever-impressive Frank Quitely, it wasn't a patch on the glorious, tragic, yearning final issue of Seaguy's second act. Guess which one sells about ten times as much as the other?
alexsarll: (crest)
All those Sam Tyler references in Ashes to Ashes had me thinking, whoever's mysteriously contacting Alex...could that voice be John Simm doing posh? It could, couldn't it? And then the trailer for next week blew my theory apart. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, and now I'm back to having no idea at all where they're going with this, but being confident that it will be somewhere good. And I've been reading a 2000 issue of Select which I found while clearing out my desk, all articles about 'what are MP3s?' and *video* reviews and interviews saying how Embrace's second album will take them to the next level, and this isn't even from so very long ago - I moved to London in 2000 - and it makes me more than ever think that after Ashes to Ashes is done, the nineties are now strange and distant enough for Dead Man Walking to be a perfectly viable series.

Speaking of changing eras, I read Virginia Woolf's Orlando yesterday, and what a glorious confection of rhapsody, absurdity and time it is. Yes, it's 13 years since I got into the band of the same name and followed up plenty of the other reference points, but I'd seen the film and I don't like reading books too soon after seeing the film, even in cases like this where knowing the plot is a fairly abstract concern. It's the starring role The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has now found for Orlando (the androgyne, not the band, though that I would also love to see) which had me investigating, because the infuriating braggart of '1910' is not at all how I remembered Tilda Swinton in the film. And indeed, is not what I find in Woolf's original. I think Moore and O'Neill have the promiscuity and the rough-housing down better than Swinton, but she has that distracted quality which they've lost. And while inserting side adventures during and after the novel's timeline works perfectly, I question whether LoEG has not done a certain damage to the premise by making Orlando an ancient who fought at Troy and Actium; one of the features which I feel most strongly in Woolf's novel is the sense of Orlando's rootedness in the English countryside, the ancestry which ties Orlando to the soil regardless of gender or distance. And it's a shame, because the way in which Woolf's Orlando moves so self-consciously yet seamlessly from age to age - a gigantic cloud rolling in as the 18th Century gives way to the 19th, for instance, and England suddenly, gradually growing damper - is just the sort of play on the eras' conceptions of themselves and each others to which the League project draws such delightful attention*.

In much the same spirit of meditative Englishess as Orlando, I finally watched Cloudspotting, which I apologise for not plugging while it could still be caught on iPlayer. I've raved about Gavin Pretor-Pinney's Cloudspotter's Guide here before, I'm sure, and the new appreciation it gave me for the beauty which floats above us most every day. But the concept works even better on TV, with the BBC's archive of near Miyazaki-quality flying footage to plunder, and Pretor-Pinney himself so naturally and thoroughly engaging, like a cross between Jim Broadbent and Mark Gatiss, except more fun. One credit did surprise me, though: Script editor: Steve Aylett.

Never got around to writing about that Keith TOTP/Glam Chops show last week, did I? In part because I only wrote about them a week or so earlier, and not much changed except that Eddie was drunker and Glam Chops have a new song called 'Thunderstruck'. Which kicks arse. Oh, and I finally watched a Gregg Araki film, Mysterious Skin. Which was much as I expected in terms of tormented small-town US gayness, but all that UFO stuff and missing memories made me think of Velvet Goldmine and Flex Mentallo, which can never be a bad thing. Also, it has Dawn from Buffy as an off-the-rails fag hag with great eye make-up! It is, alas, let down by the standard problem afflicting any film which addresses wrongcockery - even in a world where cinema can convincingly show us an army of thousands of orcs and undead rucking in front of Minas Tirith, if you're showing a kiddy-fiddler on film, the effects and editing have to be so clunky as to make entirely clear even to madmen and magistrates that the child was not on stage while the nasty man said the rude things.

*Of course, nerd polyfilla is easily applied here: in the League world Woolf's book is known by the title which is in any case its full title here: Orlando - A Biography. Woolf was one of those eminently readable but maddeningly agenda-led biographers, who in satirising the conventions of biography, ran roughshod over a real life rather than a fictional one.
alexsarll: (bernard)
I'm not especially into signings. I'll go along if it's a mate who might not be drawing a massive crowd, to show support, but queueing for hours just to be in the Presence...why? But, Gosh's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen signing was going to have copies of Century: 1910 weeks early, and that's another matter. Except, you could buy them in the shop, and the signing was around the corner. Well, since I was there, and my immediate agenda was to read '1910', and then read the Guide and the main bit of the paper, and since I was there, and since I could do all that reading while queueing...might as well hang around.
Two hours later, they're all read. I could make a start on the review section, but I wouldn't be doing that anyway. The question 'Why am I here?' no longer has a solid answer. I depart, and by the bus stop find that the Hawksmoor church has a deeply surreal exhibition in its basement, which I wander in perfect solitude. Alan Moore's From Hell turned me on to Hawksmoor; I feel more sense of communion with him down in that crypt than I would awkwardly saying 'Hiya!' in a crowded signing room. And then as I board the bus, a perfectly-timed text tells me there's a picnic in the park. If nothing else, the queueing means that relatively speaking, I'm one of the sober ones.
As for the new volume...well, I know there's been talk of each third of Century being a satisfying read in itself, so that the inevitable delays aren't a problem. But this is very much an opening chapter, and it's one whose animating spirit is Brecht, meaning that like him, at times it's rather heavy-handed for my tastes. But it's still Alan Moore, and it's still the League, so the intricacy of the patchwork is still staggering, the story still has more heart than it's sometimes given credit for, and the Iain Sinclair riff is absolutely hilarious - if you've read him, anyway. Whenever they turn up, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of Century, not least because the promised crossovers include Vincent Chase and David Simon's Baltimore. Speaking of Baltimore, there was a drunk perv getting thrown out of Power's on Friday who looked like an uglier Frank Sobotka, but who insisted he was a police officer. It wasn't until his attempts to taunt the bouncer expanded to include moonwalking that I realised, this must be what Michael Jackson looks like nowadays, whiter than ever (or indeed, red); minus the hat, mask and shades; and after the doctors' instructions to bulk up ahead of his London shows. I was there to see Borderville, whose singer weirdly turns out to have done the same course as me at the same college, while really reminding me of Jesse from Flipron. Extremely good band, but while they're great showmen, part of me wonders whether some of the subtlety and structure of the songs doesn't get lost live. They're also, I think, the sort of band who would benefit from a smart producer, as opposed to the sort who just spaff a load of money on one so's to have something to talk about in interviews. Other acts are Rubella (very pretty, shame about the lack of songs), and Alvarez King(?), who at least realise that they are 'freshwater fish in salt water'.

January 2016

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