alexsarll: (crest)
So that was Christmas. Wondering whether to take the decorations down today or tomorrow; will Sunday evening or Monday morning have its inherent melancholy more heightened by the task? There were moments when I felt suitably festive - a binge of spooky BBC festive classics and mulled cider, seeing the Covent Garden lights and the miniature (but still pretty enormous) London made from lego in a walk-through snowglobe, the afternoon party with so much booze and so many small people one could barely move - but it always seemed to dissipate again. I suppose the late getaway, with the added stress of the transport Christmapocalypse, was always likely to shred that careful accumulation of misty goodwill.

I don't appear to have updated on my general movements since mid-October, either. Homerton, for instance, turns out to have some OK pubs and bars now, even if they are fuller still of beards than other areas of East London (the Islamic Republic possibly excepted).
The Museum of Childhood - wonderful, if it didn't have so many live children on the loose. Lots of toys one remembers fondly, at least one I used to have and knew even at the time was a bit shit, but the item that transfixed me most was that fabulous mother=-of-pearl Chinese diorama, like blue-and-white porcelain's pattern somehow brought into fragile, solid life.
My year's ticket for the Transport Museum has now expired, but I did manage to get in a visit without the Cthulhuchild who - fond as I am of him - does just tend to want to play on the trams and buses. Whereas solo, I can look at vintage posters and disused typefaces and letters from Victorian commuters, which for some unaccountable reason are things of no interest to toddlers.
The Inns of Court in autumn are fabulously autumnal. And do me the service of saving me a trip to Cambridge, because they feel so much like a college I never quite got around to visiting, and so the nostalgia is less pointed than if I went back now to one of the ones I did.
The Earl Haig Memorial Hall in Crouch End has finally opened up, its imperialist trappings intact, but now host to all manner of entertainments for the slightly-less-manic-than-we-were local. Perfect timing, really, given all the attention its namesake will be getting this year.
Lance Parkin, my favourite Doctor Who writer, launched his very good biography of Alan Moore, my favourite comics writer, with a live interview (and film screening, and so forth). The footage is here, though I've not listened to it myself in case I am too embarrassingly audible as the one person thoroughly amused by the line "What can Brian Lumley teach us?"

The slightly too pat, but still moderately fun, revenge-on-idiots comedy God Bless America appears to be the only film I've seen in ages, until I finally got round to Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa last night. Which was...quite good? Fairly amusing, surprisingly engaged with the very real plight of local radio in the 21st century, but not half so side-splitting as I'd been given to understand. There was also the Doctor Who anniversary, of course, which for all the furious initial back-and-forth on other, more rapid-response sectors of the Internet, seems to have bred a fair degree of consensus. With which I agree: 'The Fiveish Doctors' was amazing, ditto An Adventure in Space and Time bar Reece Shearsmith. The Day of the Doctor was a stunning achievement in making concentrated fanwank a coherent and exciting show for die-hard and casual viewer alike, which made the saggy mess of The Time of the Doctor all the more disappointing. But thank goodness it all came right at the end, and hurrah for Capaldi.
alexsarll: (howl)
Local venues the Archway Tavern and Nambucca have both had refits, but the latter is still the same bloody shambles it always was, with the same misguided belief that this is somehow endearingly rock'n'roll. The Archway's transition to some kind of weird nineties theme bar, on the other hand...well, at least the theme seems to extend to what now constitutes a cheap pint, but in the nineties would still have been a nightmarish three quid. The bands at both were led by Davids, and more an exercise in larking about than anything else; both were a great deal of fun. The supports at both were bloody embarrassments. And both were Hallowe'en events, of course*. Normally I'm adamant about celebrating the great festivals on the actual day...but it's Monday today. Even the restless dead don't rise with any enthusiasm on a Monday.

Speaking of the dead rising - I finally read DC's zombie superhero epic Blackest Night. Which, to my utter lack of surprise, has all of writer Geoff Johns' usual sins - including that unseemly tendency to get all metatextual about how comics used to be so bright and innocent, and why can't they be like that still, while taking a sordid delight in demonstrating the gruesomeness of the modern by repeated graphic dismebowelments &c. He wants to eat his tasty braaaaains cake and still have it, really. In total, Blackest Night sprawls across seven collected editions of tie-ins (for no real reason beyond perversity, I read the core series last). The Exterminators, on the other hand, covers a mere five books. One of the many comics from Vertigo (aka 'the HBO of comics') to be cancelled before it reached its proposed destination, this was a planned 50-issue series which only made it to 30. Largely because, as writer Simon Oliver acknowledges in a rueful foreword to the final collection, it's about bugs, and so at least a quarter of the potential audience would be too revolted to read it. And it is, make no mistake, a revolting series. But also, for all its fantastical elements, one which feels like it's saying something interesting about humanity, and nature, and the poor schmucks who have to hold the line between the two. Whereas Blackest Night, for all that it manages some lovely tricks with colour, really doesn't have much more to say than 'Dude, if Hawkman was a zombie he'd be even more badass!' Which is not only fairly hollow - it turns out it isn't even true.

*Though unlike Christmas creep, Hallowe'en crawl has some limits. On Friday, even in Camden, there was little sign of sexy cats &c. Or at least, not specifically Hallowe'eny ones. The alleged retirement show of Steven Horry, Frontman, with support from Rebekah Delgado and Aurora, was many things, but spooky was not among them.
alexsarll: (seal)
The Doctor Who Christmas special became a tradition out of nowhere. But more than that, the Doctor Who Christmas special starring David Tennant and written by Russell T Davies became a tradition. All five of them, same team. Charitably, two and a half of them were good. One was the worst Doctor Who story ever. Could Moffat and Matt Smith follow that and do it better?

Of course they bloody could. Best Christmas Who ever. It helped that when it wasn't ripping off Moffat's own first professional Who, 'Continuity Errors', it was reworking Paul Cornell's 'The Hopes and Fears of All the Years. But with the exception of that slightly vexing swerve at the end, it was otherwise a thing of utter beauty, unashamedly soppy but never schmaltzy, smart without confusing the casual viewers. In other words: utterly, near-perfectly Doctor Who.

Merry Christmas.
alexsarll: (death bears)
Apparently the 100 Club should be saved - but only through a sponsorship deal and associated renaming. So last night I went for probably the last time before it becomes the Sony Rebellion 100 Club, or the George Osborne Tax Shelter 100 Club...just imagine how those giant zeroes at the back of the stage will look when they're replaced with Rupert Murdoch faces! Still, for one night only, David Devant and his Spirit Wife could make us forget that. After coasting a little of late, they've got new songs! A new spectral roadie! And the magic tricks are back, even some la-la-la-la-la-lead piping! Excellent stuff. Between songs, Vessel reads from My Magic Life, but it's his own running autobiography, not the original Devant's. It is an excellent way to mark a midwinter solstice after which we all hope things will get brighter - even if outside, all that's happened so far is that rain has replaced snow. Remember how, two winters ago, we all got massively excited and rushed off to build snowmen and have snowball fights, because we only had one chance? And now we're back to thinking of snow as a wintertime fixture, like we always imagined it was supposed to be from the Christmas cards.

The last weekend before Christmas seemed to be largely cancelled on account of snow and illness this year, and yet I found myself not minding too much. I just holed up with Powell & Pressburger's first collaboration and Howard 'Misfits'* Overman's underwhelming Dirk Gently adaptation, then moseyed through the snow to Dalston for a pleasantly subdued Sunday. It may have helped that on Friday I got through the following:
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
- Tom Baker being Tom Bakerish at some unsuspecting ancient Celts in the first of a new series of audio adventures, The Relics of Time.
- Volumes 12 and 13 of Robert Kirkman's superhero epic/soap opera Invincible.
- Nuisance, complete with house band playing Britpop covers.
Of each of these things one can fairly say: that was great fun, but also, really, what the fvck?

*Speaking of which, I was slightly underwhelmed by the Christmas special. Yes, any Christmas special which is motivated by a thorough hatred of the church is doing something right, but the religious plotline felt a bit too much like the first season finale, and I wonder whether the resolution might not be a cop-out. Still, I suppose a lot remains to be seen depending on the unseen choices they made.
alexsarll: (Default)
Doesn't the weekend seem a long time ago now? Even more so for the approximately 50% of people I know who were in chalets, falling in love with Frightened Rabbit, I suppose. But London had its share of inadvisable festive drinking too. Red absinth was a bad idea. I've also finally been to the new pub at the end of the road, the Stapleton. Which is a lot less depressing than it was in its previous incarnation as the Larrick, but then you could still say that if they'd replaced the Larrick with a concentration camp where the furnaces were soundtracked by Avril Lavigne. The Stapleton, on the other hand, is Actually Rather Nice, strangely cosy for such a large space, helped by the most enormous Christmas tree I've seen indoors in ages.

Otherwise: viewing! I have another DVD rental trial thanks to Aug, and while I'm startled at some of the films that aren't available (I'm not talking obscurities either, but stuff starring Liz Taylor, or Orson Welles, or directed by Cronenberg) they did start well by sending me Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Which I want to say is a great film, but that would in some ways be untrue. It has a particularly annoying use of that crappy fake night-time effect you see in old colour movies, where they film through sunglasses and hope you won't notice the shadows. And the entire supporting cast is rubbish. But that sort of works, because be they wise antiquarian, or land speed record holder, or great bullfighter, none of them is anything in the face of myth. And Ava Gardner, as Pandora, and James Mason, as the Dutchman van der Zee, have all the grandeur of myths. As they dance around each other in the dream-like, vaguely Felliniesque port of Esperanza (no, the names aren't subtle) they are simply mesmerising, and everything around them partakes of that and becomes so too. Meaning that a film about the cursed immortal van der Zee's quest to escape this world has a camera that's utterly in love with it. Flawed, but well worth seeing.

I've been meaning to watch lesbian cult classic The Killing of Sister George for about a decade, and it was worth the wait. They don't make battleaxes like Beryl Reid anymore.

While I no longer hate Colin Baker Doctor Who like I used to, I still can't deny that most of his TV stories were rubbish. Vengeance on Varos is an exception. Mostly. Shown in 1985, it's a prescient vision of a society sedated by watching people tormented on TV (Jason Connery is a bit wooden in the victim's role, though still considerably more lifelike than Gillian McKeith) while rations are cut. The rulers are powerless figureheads, while unaccountable corporations grow fat through the insistence that there's no other way, and if their demands aren't met they'll simply leave. Admittedly, some of the enactment of this theme involves the old Who standby of wandering around corridors, narrowly avoiding a series of baffling and inconsistent traps, but the sentiment and vision are there, and so is most of the script. Excellent work from Martin Jarvis as the poor bloody Governor, too. He almost makes one feel sympathy for modern politicians. Almost.

Le sigh

Dec. 21st, 2009 01:18 pm
alexsarll: (bernard)
Snow ahead of's been a while, hasn't it? Proper blizzards of the stuff sometimes, even if by morning it always seems to be mere ice and slush. Which has slowed me down a little, made me less prone to randomly striding about the place, but is nothing like as claustrophobic as having my laptop suddenly keel over on me. Updating from the library now, I can occasionally get a little life out of it but it still feels like something between losing a sense and having the walls close in on you.

The last normal weekend of the noughties, and I started it by going to a nineties night. Then on Saturday, a glam night. Really Sunday should have followed with a fifties night and Monday be set for a thirties event, but nothing suitable was available (though Eddie Argos was just back from Nuremberg, and come to think of it, if Holland Park yesterday didn't feel quite fifties, it didn't feel like the modern day either. West London is weird). The glam night wasn't all seventies, they played 'Glam Rock Cops' and 'Christmas Number One' too, and Glam Chops are technically a noughties band, but when you have Proxy Music playing, that tends to outweigh other factors. When their James Nesbit-a-like Eno took the mic for 'Baby's On Fire', [ profile] cappuccino_kid noted that it was a bit like a Smiths tribute act doing 'Getting Away With It'. Which it is, and that would also be awesome. He also proposed an act who, instead of this emphasis on the early material, only cover the last three albums: Roxy Muzak.

Recent viewing:
Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster is the most straightforward of the three films of his I've seen, the closest to a normal B-movie, but it still has moments of the peculiarity only he could bring, most notably the police chief's budgie.
Dollhouse has finally moved away from 'generic TV action format of the week', and even scaled back the sheer rapiness of the concept (they're all volunteers for mindwipes, for a given value of 'volunteer', and get paid off after five years. So that's OK then). It's even had two consecutive episodes with actual plot and progress and, y'know, *watchability*.
Hung ended with the ex-wife plotline we'd all seen coming months back, and I'm hoping the next season dials down the sex comedy aspects (particularly since our gigolo lead never even seems to get any really unattractive clients) and puts more emphasis on the industrial collapse, the death of the American dream and the rest of the properly HBO stuff.
Misfits demonstrated its distance from Heroes even further by going from strength to strength, ending with possibly its best episode. Can someone please put a backing track on Nathan's big speech? Because I loved it and I want to dance to it.
alexsarll: (Default)
On Wednesday I went to Catch, which has changed a lot in the past few years, to see a show headlined by Tim Ten Yen, who hasn't. The bill also featured a band called Hot Beds, who had a song about how Christmas now starts in October which worked both as a critique of festival creep and a big overwrought festive ballad which they can get away with playing outside December because it's about precisely that. Good work. I was, however, primarily there for the 18 Carat Love Affair who, as well as the usual delights, deployed a top hat and ace new track 'Dominoes'.
Catch might not be quite as typically, terribly East London as it used to be, but Friday found me in an even more atypical East London venue, in that it was seven storeys up (I think that's even higher than Collide-A-Scope) and done up like some kind of voodoo surf kitchen. Even before I started drinking, I saw a pink elephant trot past; fortunately, investigation confirmed that others could see it too and it was in fact a small child wearing a pink elephant head. Probably. It says a lot about The Deptford Beach Babes that they find places like this to play. That's a compliment, by the way.

As Peep Show bows out (and was this series the best extended advertisement for contraception ever aired?*), the comedy baton is handed over and The Thick of It returns. The new choice of minister interests me; Chris Langham having been, shall we say, rather too open-minded about acceptable sexual behaviour, they've this time opted for Rebecca Front, who if anything has the opposite problem; we should probably expect a Jan Moir cameo before season's end.

"Parents who think the new film of Maurice Sendak's picture book Where the Wild Things Are is too frightening for children can "go to hell", the author has said." It's a long time since I read the book, I'm not sure if I'm even that bothered about the film, but this piece gives me massive respect for the man.

Like most people, my first Nabokov was Lolita; for my second I took a recommendation and tried Despair, which almost finished him for me, but last week I finally had a third try and plumped for Pale Fire and, well, he's not a one-hit wonder. sufficiently pretentious that I felt a cut was in order )
Also, the last king of Kinbote's distant homeland, Zembla, is called Charles Xavier. The book came out one year before the debut of the X-Men, but somehow I can't picture Stan or Jack coping with Nabokov's prose.

*Though I have just found the perfect childcare solution.
**Well, the third canto has some moments of beauty, but otherwise we're in the authentically bathetic territory of the sort of sub-Frost American poet who gets good reviews of their collected works in the Guardian, but in which reviews the quoted excerpts convince you never, ever to read any of the work in question.
***OK, there's Angie Bowie's autobiography, but even that involved a ghostwriter whom I suspect of setting her up for a fall. Certainly, spending that much time in her company would make me want to do the same.
alexsarll: (seal)
Have just been down to Seaton to see the hunt meet. One chap we met who'd been going all his life said that lately, every year there are more and more people come to watch, just to spite the ban. So that was political capital well spent there, Tony. Officially speaking, they were just hunting a marathon runner, of course - but whatever they're after, it's magnificent watching them all charge along the seafront and up the hill after it. Personally I was hoping the hounds might go for the unusually fluffy peke (yes, even by peke standards) who kept trying to pick fights with them. Stupid animal.

Less Doctor Who discussion on the friendslist than I'd expect, but then it wasn't really an easy episode to discuss, was it? spoilers cut for those playing zombies at the time or otherwise unable to watch )

That aside, mainly caught up with Wallace & Gromit. My big present was an external drive, and since my computer's not here then even unbubblewrapping it would be slightly silly.
alexsarll: (Default)
Had various things which I knew I'd remember to blog, and have now of course forgotten. So, the basics - am now redunded, exiting to tears, Prosecco and the best Christmas card ever (a 3D Santa's workshop!). Went for tea and Erte and then on to a young people's indie disco, an experience made enjoyable only by the young people, although this being a free night in Kilburn they were sharing the space with non-young Irish drunks, who to their credit were mostly exhibiting a confused tolerance of the event. Last night, the debut concert by The 18 Carat Love Affair, starring Steve 586 (who now looks like Matt Berry, and that's a compliment), Jim Rhesus and the newly de-Fosca'd [ profile] hospitalsoup because otherwise she would find the number of bands of which she's member dropping to dangerously low levels. Way, way more together than any band has a right to be on a first gig, starting off with two songs sufficiently pop that I already felt I knew them just from having been there in time for the soundcheck, and then topping them with the set closer. Because being named after an Associates song is good, but why not then have a song whose lyrics all come from Doctor Who classic The Daemons too?
And then on to a Christmas party where I may conceivably have drunk too much.

Oh, and has anybody else been getting passive-aggressive mails from store cards which seem to have gone a bit bunny boiler?
Read more... )
alexsarll: (bernard)
I don't think last night's vile weather can have helped the turn-out for Fosca's last hurrah; as I quited to a couple of the band, "You can spend your whole life trying to be popular but, at the end of the day, the size of the crowd at your funeral will be largely dictated by the weather." Not that Fosca did ever try that hard to be popular; they only mattered to those to whom they mattered, and it was better that way. I'm not entirely convinced that they're a band that need three guitars - indeed, I'm not entirely convinced that any band does - but it was still good to hear the old favourites one more time, and the two new tracks a first and last time - including an intriguing new 2 Tone direction on one. I'll miss them; I've got too few bands left to go see these days.
A less loving farewell earlier in the day: went to see what was to be seen at Woolworths. A shop I often found very useful in my Cambridge days, but which for years now has always reeked of desperation - and doubly so now. I was expecting to come away with some tat by way of a memento, but no...the reductions weren't all that, and even had they been...Donna Noble and variant Ood toys. Transformers you've never heard of. Films you already own in those ill-conceived boxes with other films which might share a genre but which you genuinely hope never to see. And that was the good stuff. My MP3 player, aptly, was playing We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank.

Bad Santa is one of those films which hasn't learned from the advance I've previously mentioned in American comedies, the one where plot is now pretty much optional. In so far as the film is Billy Bob Thornton in a Santa suit, swearing, cussing, fornicating and so forth - brilliant. But then they have to go and spoil it by bolting on a bloody 'character arc'. Do Not Want.

I had always thought that, while Noam Chomsky is a disgusting joke as a political philosopher, it sounded as though he was a pretty good linguist before he got seduced by the charms of pronouncing beyond his expertise; it's a situation I'd seen plenty of times in literary theory, where someone who's OK on their own turf wanders into literature and starts embarrassing themselves, yet is somehow welcomed because their external authority feels like some kind of validation. Anyway, turns out he's also a rubbish linguist, because an Amazon tribe called the Piraha have a language which violates many of his supposed universals. Of course, he'll probably just claim they're an imperialist plot to discredit him.
alexsarll: (Default)
Am finally getting in the festive spirit, I think - I'll put the decorations up in a minute and then this evening it's Soul Mole. But in the meantime, think of this as Newsnight Review only with better comics coverage, or The Culture Show if that weren't just a sad comment on how far Lauren Laverne has fallen:

I must have visited the British Museum after dark before, but if so I've forgotten how much that suits it - with some galleries closed, no school parties and that sense of being hunkered in, you feel much closer to the past. Which leaves some areas almost too much - the Egyptian room in particular. Dropped in last night with an eye to catching the 'Statuephilia' works (and please, can whoever called it that be the subject of the next of the current series of press witch-hunts?), although the only one of which I was specifically aware was Marc Quinn's solid gold Kate Moss. Which, for the biggest gold statue made since the days of the Pharoahs, of an iconically beautiful woman in a more-than-suggestive position, is curiously inert. The Gormley angel on the way in is, well, the Angel of the North but smaller, so cheers for that, and Ron Mueck's giant head is a nice special effect misrepresented as art. I've not heard of Noble & Webster before, but their rather ghoulish piece is worth a look - and I won't say more than that because I think the surprise of the gradual recognition is a big part of its effect (skip the brochure description until after, if you go). The real stand-out, though, is the Damien Hirst. He's in my favourite room, which helps, and he's worked with it, almost snuck his gaudy skulls in to those bookcases which line that Enlightment room like it's the ultimate gentleman's study, which in a sense it is. For all the media fuss around him, Hirst does impress me in a way few of his generation manage - because for all that I couldn't tell you what the best of his work makes me feel, for all that I doubt he could either, it makes me feel something, something vertiginous and important. And that's what art is for, and why he'll be remembered and his work treasured after the hype and his peers are consigned to the art history books and back rooms.

Even if you didn't know about the lead times, it would be obvious that the conclusion of Marvel's Secret Invasion was plotted some time before the result of the US election. Spoilers, obviously - well, unless you read Thunderbolts )

Apparitions gets more splendidly mental by the week - even knowing that last night's episode would feature demonically-possessed foetuses at an abortion clinic didn't prepare me for the magnificence of spoiler ) And next week - Father Jacob has a gun! Fvck knows why.
Switched over for Star Stories (which still hasn't recaptured the charm of the first series) just in time to catch the end of a documentary about Health & Safety officers, and find myself in an awkward position. The show ended with the most stereotypical H&S bore you could imagine - think Steve Coogan's "in 1983, no one died" character, minus the verve and spontaneity - talking about how it was absurd to say Health & Safety culture had gone too far when people still had accidents; as far as he was concerned, and he said this explicitly, Britain would not be safe enough until there were no accidents. Now, this guy is at best horribly misguided, and clearly in need of a nailgun enema, right? But, he was upset to read a newspaper column in which he was being savaged by Richard Littlejohn. Health & Safety bore. Littlejohn. How do we resolve this so that they both lose?
Then, having abandoned Star Stories, instead watched The Devil's Whore, which really seemed to pick up this episode, possibly because we've got to the bit where it becomes clear that Oliver Cromwell was not in fact a hero of democracy but a hypocrite, an oathbreaker and a racist war criminal.

I love the Dexy's brass joy and heartfelt yelps of the Rumble Strips, and 'Back to Black' is one of my favourite Amy Winehouse songs, but the former covering the latter? Bit of a car crash, TBH.
alexsarll: (magnus)
Yesterday I was handed a flyer for Czech mail-order brides, "unspoiled by feminism". Which is not just sleazy, but baffling. If you want the loaded and lonely, surely you flyer on Friday night as the City bars are chucking out, or in Knightsbridge tobacconists, not in Victoria on a Wednesday lunchtime?
Then again, this was shortly after I learned that Cardinal Place has a wind consultant called Professor Breeze, so it may just have been one of those days when plausibility goes out the window. Consider also the state of the Comedy that evening, where they had hybrid Hallowe'en/Christmas decorations up - so there's a werewolf menacing the tree, for instance, which has been decked with a string of skulls. I was there to see The Melting Ice Caps, aka Luxembourg's David Shah solo. And that is *solo* as in a one-man show, just him and a backing track (except for the two songs where he's joined by a flipbook wrangler). It can't be easy to stand up there and perform with no band, no instrument, no Dutch courage, not even any of the overacting and performance art techniques you'd get from someone like Simon Bookish, but he does it - stands there and sings his songs, beautiful songs about love and time and making the best of it all. Lovely, if heartbreaking - both for the songs in and of themselves, and that this is happening at half eight in a pub basement, rather than in the grand setting it deserves.
So of course because it's an implausible day, why wouldn't he be followed by a band with Foxy Brown on vocals, a total Shoreditch refugee on rhythm guitar and one of the From Dusk 'Til Dawn vampires on histrionic lead?

Newsarama are running a pretty revealing ten-part interview with Grant Morrison about All-Star Superman, one of the best superhero comics ever. I post this for the fans but seriously, even if you're only a casual/Greatest Hits comics reader, even if you think you don't like Superman, I don't blame you but this is the exception.

I finally remembered to check for an update on the story about the pirates stealing 30 tanks, which has been driven from the news by the small matter of the world's economy falling over and bursting into flames. Apparently:
"United States warships have surrounded the Faina for weeks to prevent the pirates from trying to unload the weapons, and a Russian guided missile frigate is traveling to the area."
It was seized a month ago! If the Russian navy is always this slow, we have so little to worry about from Putin.

For anyone given to complaining about txtspk as part of the decline of modern literacy &c, I give you 1880s emoticons.
alexsarll: (crest)
Just returned from the Bankside 12th Night celebrations - unfortunate that the thing which best gets me in the relevant festive mood is the one marking season's end. It's vastly more popular than last time I went (I think I missed last year), but I still managed half-decent views of the Green Man's arrival and the wassailing, and was in a pretty good position for the mummers' play. There's a nagging sense in my mind of a half-formed connection between this and Popular last night - the Number One single as a British folk tradition, perhaps? - but I don't want to force it. Suffice to say, both were great fun. Highlight of Popular: 'Welcome To The Black Parade' into 'Boom! Shake The Room' (it may have a 100% strict concept, 'God Save The Queen' controversy aside, but how many nights can honestly equal that variety?). Highlight of 12th Night: the blithering arses next to me as the Green Man sails in justify their yapping by noting what I would otherwise have missed - there's a fragment of rainbow in the sky above us, and it's on a curved cloud. In other words - the sky smiled.
Post-mumming, took a look at the Tate's crack. I've seen better. Still, rather that than Catherine Tate's crack.

Don't know why I never got round to seeing Die Hard With A Vengeance sooner, given I love the first two, but the delay has made parts of it queasily prescient. Shots of the twin towers looming as New York is attacked I could have expected, but the real know the plan Jeremy Irons and his accents are supposed to be undertaking, to beggar the USA? Dubya's pretty much managed that, hasn't he? And done it all while speaking in almost as silly a voice. Still, with Barack Obama's campaign regaining momentum, for now there's still hope. And in the Andes, two of the USA's hyper-rich are helping to fund an eye on the sky which will not only increase the sum (and accessibility) of human knowledge, but could well save us all from apocalyptic meteor impact. Isn't it odd how the merely super-rich seem content with vulgarity like diamond-studded mobiles and £35,000 cocktails, but the hyper-rich seem to rediscover altruism and vision? See also Warren Buffett.

A pretty quiet week for comics, but there were excellent new issues of Buffy (the first slow, character-centred episode of Whedon's Season Eight, but worth the wait) and Moon Knight. I still don't know what part of writing Entourage has equipped Mark Benson with a knack for brutal vigilante thrillers, but between his Punisher annual and this, I'm impressed. Just a shame about the art. Otherwise, it's Warren Ellis' week; Ultimate Human may not be the obvious title for a series marketing would probably rather have had as Ultimate Hulk Vs Iron Man, but fits the story Ellis has started telling, one of the happier vehicles for his recurrent fascination with the nature of posthumanity. Thunderbolts, on the other hand, is leaving the smart politics aside for the moment and concentrating on insanity, treachery and Venom eating people. Which also works.
alexsarll: (seal)
I know that for a lot of people New Year's Day is the 'never drinking again' day, but past experience suggests that for me that policy gets the year off to a depressingly sensible start from which it can struggle to recover. Unhelpfully, however, the Noble was shut, which left us in the Dairy. Now, taking it as read that the Dairy is not what it was, the place still feels even more dismal than it did right after its ill-advised refit. Why should this be? I think it may be that it faces the Larrik. The Larrik is probably the most depressing pub in London, this much we know, but I swear its baleful field of influence is spreading. Even walking (swiftly) past earlier on NYD, casting barely a glance inside, left me feeling somehow drained and grey. I think it must be the Dementors' local. I know it must be stopped.
Speaking of the festive wind-down: Poptimism's all-Number-Ones-all-night incarnation Popular is on Saturday, to which I would link except they still have the December details up, the rascals. And on Sunday, Bankside's annual Twelfth Night celebrations actually fall on Twelfth Night. Heartily recommended, subject to being up at that time on a Sunday.

Also on NYD: watched two films whose ghosts don't really prescribe their genre. Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, even more than its sister film Pan's Labyrinth, is a film of the Spanish Civil War which encompasses some supernatural elements. They're relevant, they're integrated, but they don't feel like they rule the story; I'd call it a war story or a school story before I called it a ghost story. Interestingly, it does briefly hint at a dissonance which Pan's Labyrinth didn't mention at all, but then backs away - it's odd to make films of the supernatural which back the republicans, when they were so opposed to that sort of thing.
Similarly, Viv Stanshall's Sir Henry at Rawlinson End, a film I appreciated so much more with a few more years on me and a better grasp of the Bonzos' unique lunacy. The ghost is again part of the scene, driving the plot without dominating the tone. Having seen so many films derailed by a foolish insistence on following the rules of the genre in which they think they're confined, it's heartening to see two which can use genre conventions as a toolbox, not a straitjacket.

The fine publisher Dedalus Books, especially good for European and decadent classics, are likely to lose most or all of their Arts Council funding as part of the funding cuts for which the accursed Olympics take most of the responsibility. The Bookseller reports that the Council has concerns about their "business planning, inconsistent marketing and building new audiences". That sort of talk is dispiriting enough from shareholders, but from a body intended to subsidise the arts? The arts, that is, as distinct from commerce, if anyone else remembers the difference? Meanwhile, the Olympics budget spirals ever higher, with any nonsensical claim about its eventual rewards passing more or less unchallenged. Sham. Despicable sham.

Right; quick scan of the friendslist and then I'm settling in for the evening with my newly-arrived Oz DVD. January 2008: it's all about the bumming.

*Yes, like its opposite number 'The day the Earth caught fire', this is one of the meteorological titles which gets an airing most years. What of it?
alexsarll: (seal)
Well, that was more like the real meaning of Doctormas, wasn't it? Read more... ) No 'The Hopes And Fears Of All The Years', probably not even a Christmas Invasion, but not a disgrace like last year either. And what do you know, in the trailer at the end, Tate even managed a couple of lines that didn't make me want to tear my ears off!

Also: Merry wobs to you all, even the heretics like half my family who ignore the real meaning of the season and don't watch the Doctor Who special.
alexsarll: (crest)
Another cleric joins in the Newspeak warnings against 'atheistic fundamentalism' - but, oh dear, one of the examples he quotes is the renaming of christmas as Winterval by politically correct types. The problem being, if you google 'Winterval', several of the results on the first page will inform you that the whole thing is a myth, a bogeyman from under Richard Littlejohn's bed.
So the Archbishop would seem, whether disingenuously and deceitfully or just through extreme stupidity, to be propagating utter nonsense which can be disproven with the slightest research or thought.
The punchline writes itself, doesn't it?

Thursday's Unity Mitford documentary was a frustrating beast; they had half an hour on a fascinating individual, but felt the need for a sensational hook (because a thirties British socialite obsessed with Hitler and accepted into his inner circle apparently isn't enough) so built the whole thing around a They Saved Hitler's Baby! investigation. Which eventually revealed that...they didn't. Oh. They were also somewhat lacking in historical sense, apparently believing that Unity's Nazism would have been as shocking to thirties Britons as it would be to today's, failing to grasp that at the time many among the upper classes saw the Nazis as a useful bulwark against Bolshevism - if anything it would have been Jessica Mitford's communist half of the bedroom which would have appalled them.
Still, information obtained:
Unity may have been an idiot, but it can't have helped that she was conceived in the town of Swastika and given the middle name Valkyrie.
Roderick Spode, as seen in the Fry & Laurie Jeeves & Wooster, was not just a comic grotesque, but a very accurate spoof of Oswald Mosley - the mannerisms, the 'tache, everything.
Unity Mitford looked eerily similar to the twins from Big Brother. So if they did save Hitler's baby, maybe they're the grandkids?

Loved the fog on Friday night; in the absence of snow it was just right to get me into that Victorian christmas mood. All I was missing was a top hat and a large knife. And in its own way yesterday was even spookier, with the capital (or at least Clapham) seeming to already be pretty much deserted for the holidays. An exodus I shall be joining this afternoon; look after London while I'm gone, and I'll be seeing some of you on the 27th.
alexsarll: (crest)
Oh, Internet, I really thought we had something! In spite of the slash and the spoilers and the people on the BBC's Have Your Say pages, I liked you, and part of that was because you always told me about the new stuff first. But the news that Pixar are doing a John Carter of Mars trilogy? Well yes, you can give me a link now, but I learned about this from some dead trees! What do you have to say for yourself?
What's that? You have some spoiler-free mini-episodes of The Wire?
Oh, dear Internet - how could I ever have doubted you?

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland didn't leave me feeling massively festive, but I think the weather may have been to blame for at least part of that - rainy but warm is surely the antithesis of all that is meteorologically christmassy? I was more impressed by the impromptu excursion afters to Itsenaisyyspaiva which if you didn't know, and I didn't, was the 90th anniversary of Finnish independence. Good night; global warming, Eschaton and Putin permitting, the centenary should be awesome.

An edited Torchwood transmission for the tinies? This strikes me as a bad idea. Either you're saying that the adult content is tacked-on - a few swears and breasts thrown in to spice up a Doctorless Who spin-off - or you're going to end up with disjointed stories that don't make any sense, like those godawful teatime transmissions of Angel on Channel 4. Neither is good.

Those of you on the SB board will already have seen this, but for the benefit of everyone else - my albums of the year. There was some really good stuff out, but nothing as OMG THIS IS AMAZING as the top albums of last year, where stuff like Amy Winehouse, The Long Blondes, Muse and Neil Diamond genuinely startled me with sheer radiant magnificence.
My Top 40 Albums Of 2007 )

And remember, kids - last Black Plastic of the year tomorrow - don't miss out! Or get sufficiently drunk and engrossed in Graham Greene beforehand that you end up in a small home counties station which later investigation suggests doesn't actually exist!
alexsarll: (Default)
Finally I can get stuck into all those festive songs I've been quietly amassing on here but unable to play...

Sat on the Tube reading Ken MacLeod's The Sky Road, I'd already looked up from one character's visit to the rejuvenation clinic to see the headline "Scientists Close To Elixir Of Youth" (only the Telegraph's take on this, alas - but what really grabbed me was that the font was slightly off, as in a film where you see a newspaper and they've not quite designed the one plot-relevant fake article right). So I was already in a signs and portents mood when I saw that the chap next to me had what looked like a yellow passport, with which he was fumbling around as he rearranged his pocket. Keeping a subtle eye on it, I saw that it denoted membership of the Order of the Secret Monitor. Hang about - that sounds important, and esoteric, and is surely not something one should be letting slip on public transport!
Turns out they're just a soppy subdivision of the Masons, albeit one with the entertainingly homosexual alias 'the Brotherhood of David and Jonathan'.
Speaking of mysterious documents letting you down, the idea of finding the Question's notebook would be GrantMorrisontastic, if only it weren't tying in to another bloody Countdown comic in which I have absolutely no interest.

Other recent disappointments:
- The Heroes comic. How can you make a comic which is officially canon, and yet still have most of it feel like you're doing a no-account licensed project? The Wireless stuff has its moments - we know from how little of her we saw on screen that there's more to tell - but even that doesn't quite satisfy, and the extra scenes of the others...this isn't stuff that couldn't be told on TV, just stuff that didn't need to be. And even if it is official, an awful lot of it simply doesn't ring true.
- Burial. Ever since Underworld's dubnobasswithmyheadman, I've wanted to hear another dance record that captured the feel of cities by night that well. When I heard there was an outfit called Future Sound Of London who'd done an album named Dead Cities, I thought I might have found one - but no. Same when I was hearing about Burial; alas, the record all those reviews and raves that were everywhere for a week or two created in my head was a lot better than the one I actually found.
- It's not so recently that I was disappointed by the Spice Girls' dead dog of a comeback single, but it was only on Thursday night that the full enormity hit me: they'd made a significantly worse comeback single than All Saints. How was that even possible?

Garth Ennis' Dan Dare relaunch is, as expected, utterly wonderful - and respectful too, which might surprise those who've not encountered his straight war stuff before. I think as his Punisher run winds down, he might just have found his next long-run character (though this is only a miniseries for now).
alexsarll: (menswear)
I may have spent Friday night walking with gods and monsters, and yesterday on the psychoactive lemonade with the chattering classes, but it's still 'Time Crash' for which I'll remember the weekend so far. Hell, even remembering it's getting me all misty-eyed. 'You were my Doctor.' Sniff.

I've had a great idea for a film, except because I watched it in a dream, now I'm vaguely concerned it might already have been done: Father Christmas invades the USA. I don't know what happens with Canada - non-aggression pact, presumably - but he sweeps down from the North Pole and soon subjugates the majority of the US (I didn't see this bit, but presume that with his manufactories on a war footing, and the FTL superstealth sleigh, it wouldn't be too hard). And I have no idea why he was doing it - was the film a 'real meaning of christmas' story, a political satire, or just crazy for the sake of it? I don't know, I didn't see the whole film. I just remember him in a khaki camouflage version of his outfit, in a Patton stance.

Why I shall not be going to the Tutankhamun exhibition.

Much-hailed talk of a 17% fall in heart attacks in Scotland since the smoking ban revealed as at best exaggeration, at worst another outright lie by the neo-puritans:
"It is conceivable, although perhaps unlikely, that the smoking ban had no effect at all...what appeared to be hard medical evidence now looks more like over-hasty and over-confident research, coupled with wishful political thinking and uncritical journalism."

January 2016



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