alexsarll: (Default)
One of Lynne Featherstone's opponents in the election is now standing as an independent. He was meant to be standing for the Libertarian Party, but the party rules were getting in the way.

"And how could anyone expect him to solve the thing when half of everything seemed to be broken, and half of what was broken was still beautiful." I've finished the third book of Daniel Abraham's Long Price and even beyond my usual reluctance to plough straight through a series, I'm going to need a break, because that was quite the most harrowing thing I've read in a while*. It must have taken a deep and inhuman ingenuity to so brilliantly construct a series in which every character is sympathetic, and everyone loses. Each novel in the series is a little crueller - though no less beautiful - than the one before, and while this need not necessarily carry through to the last book, I don't think the title The Price of Spring bodes well. For the meantime I've embarked instead on Michael Chabon's essay collection Maps and Legends, which ties in rather well with BBC4's current maps season, treating the map as a general metaphor for a way of seeing rather than anything so simple as the route from yours to the shops. I wasn't too enamoured of Power, Plunder and Possession, the Sunday series which seems to rather milk these ideas, but the daily Beauty of Maps strand is excellent, and comes at a good time for me because when it's not the Indelicates on my headphones at the moment it's normally Swimmer One, and as they say - "When all of this is underwater these maps will be all that's left, so we should try to make these maps beautiful." But then, I find most maps beautiful, except the really crappy ones you get on venue websites and the like.

Good Bright Club last night, and I'm not just saying that because beforehand they gave me a burger and a pint in exchange for my opinions on proceedings (I mouth off on the Internet for free and yet you're still prepared to pay for my musings? Awesome). Could have done without the poor woman who was covering Brian Cox territory while, crucially and tragically, not being Brian Cox, but otherwise I enjoyed the speakers, and while Rufus Hound may not have had a great deal of sea-related material, he was extremely funny nonetheless. Plus he likes Garth Ennis, which is always a good sign.

*Albeit with the small problem - for a Londoner at least - that the capital of the looming Galtic empire is situated to the West and called Acton. It's hard to be scared of Acton.


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.


Sep. 18th, 2009 12:08 pm
alexsarll: (death bears)
Black Plastic tonight, which is for the best as this week I have verged on the reclusive. Well, OK, there was pub quiz, and Bright Club (complete with Cockney singalong, a giant bedbug and Robin Ince being ace), and some time spent in the 41st millennium (albeit less than planned). But mainly I have been doing two things: applying for jobs, and finishing Cerebus. Now, if you don't know Cerebus, it was a comic which started back in the seventies as a parody of Barry Windsor-Smith's Conan adaptations (as loved by President Obama), the joke being that the warrior hero Cerebus was a three-foot tall talking aardvark. Except at some stage, creator Dave Sim decided that he could take this further, so he announced that there would be 300 monthly issues of this, following Cerebus' entire life (which turned out to be something like 300 years long, but we'll come to that). So first Cerebus became Prime Minister, then Pope, in two stories which at the time were probably as sophisticated as comics had ever got. Sim had his hobby horses (who doesn't?), but he was a very good writer, an even better artist, and probably the best letterer comics has ever seen. Nobody else can make dialogue ring true like Sim lettering can, which is why I'll try to keep direct quotes to a minimum here because without the lettering, they just look wrong.
And then he stripped it all back for the small-scale, domestic Jaka's Story, still reckoned by some to be the series' high-point, and certainly a beautiful, haunting story which - even in isolation - can stand comparison with the best comics has to offer on the theme of lost love, and which far outclasses the sort of middlebrow dreck on the subject that wins Bookers, Oscars &c.
And then...well, it's not entirely fair, but the quickest way to say it is that then Dave Sim got religion. Which in this case even more than most, pretty much equates to going mad. Read more... )
And, if nothing else, it was so gruelling that I ended up making plenty of job apps because comparatively, they'd become the displacement activity.
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.

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: (manny)
It's a week since I updated - well, except to have an IT spasm* - and I'm not entirely sure why, because it's not like I've been short of things to report. I've seen my first of the new generation of 3D films, Coraline, and been impressed with how well the technology works, and how it doesn't just feel like a gimmick - whichever industry suit it was who said that if it wasn't quite the new sound, it was maybe the new colour, was for once not talking hype crap. I've finally been in a boat on Finsbury Park lake, and am glad to know that I can still just about row. I've found an opportunity to take direct action against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while en route to Richmond of all places, where I then received an eye-opening tour of the local attractions. I've played Necrons. I went to a revivalist goth club where my trousers melted - not that I was wearing them at the time - and it became clear that apparently all female goth vocals of the Batcave period either were, or sounded like, Siouxsie. I've discovered a splendid little venue within walking distance which seems to have a full programme of rockabilly-type stuff, because the Deptford Beach Babes were doing their surftastic thing there. And I've started the new Glen David Gold, which is thus far every bit as thrilling and beautiful and capacious as Carter Beats The Devil, itself one of the very few books I'm happy to recommend to pretty much anyone.

Further to recent discussions of SF writer Alfred Bester, I was surprised to learn while looking up something totally different that not only had he written for comics back in the 'Golden Age', but he created immortal supervillain Vandal Savage, something of a role model of mine. And the only other comics note which springs to mind is that while I don't think Garth Ennis' Boys spin-off Herogasm merits quite the appalled reception it got at yesterday's picnic, it does put one of my reservations about the parent series at centre stage. This is a world where superheroes are, almost without exception, utter bastards behind closed doors - degnerates, pawns of corporate interests, murderers, the lot. Our protagonists are the shady squad who keep them in check. Well, that's a good premise. But these heroes never seem to do anything useful - there are no real threats against which they serve. All we've seen so far is a rather cackhanded attempt to intervene on September 11th 2001. And I think that goes a little too far, and detracts from the strength of the story. If all the alien invasions and such are wholly fraud, spin and cover-up, it becomes rather one-note. I'd be more interested in the story of superpowered individuals who really are Earth's last line of defence, and also complete bastards. More dramatic tension than if they're solely and entirely tossers.

*Speaking of which, I was watching some early Buffy yesterday, for the first time in ages (and don't they all look so young?), and there was a terribly sad bit where Buffy asks Giles whether life gets easier, and he asks if she wants the truth and she replies, as per the episode title, '"Lie to me". And we were discussing this and I concluded that it doesn't get easier per se, but it's a bit like getting used to a horribly buggy piece of software - you gradually learn more of the tricks and workarounds, and get more adept, but of course this just makes it even more jarring when some new glitch arises.
alexsarll: (bernard)
On last night's Mad Men, did I mishear or were Peggy's nephews called Gerard and Mikey? Never thought I'd catch a My Chemical Romance reference in Don Draper's sixties.

Bionic eye! And apparently one good enough to sort socks, something I only attempt by natural light. Then again, my socks are mainly tiny variations on the theme of 'black'.

I've seen the guy who walks his ferret in Finsbury Park itself a few times, but on Monday, shortly before heading off to explore Tottenham (whatever the view from Harringay station bridge might do to seduce you into thinking otherwise, I can report that it really isn't a whole other London of wonderment hidden away to the side), I saw a woman outside Tesco with an...albino stoat? A mink? It definitely had red eyes as well as white fur, so not just a winter coat on the usual one, and it was very fluffy - you could see how a Cruella type would look at it and see a stole.

Sad news from CMU:
More doom and gloom. Nottingham independent record store Selectadisc is to close later this month, after its owner, Phil Barton, decided he can't pump any more money into the company. He told Music Week: "Everyone here has crawled across the field of broken glass to keep this open, but in the end it didn't work. I think it is one of the top three independent stores in Britain. But that doesn't stop it being uneconomic. Everyone here is aware of tough things have been for the last two years". High overheads, declining record sales and the credit crunch have all contributed to Selectadisc's position.
As previously reported, a recent Entertainment Retailers Association report said that there were now just 300 odd independent record stores left in the UK, compared to 408 at the start of last year, and 1064 ten years ago.

Back in the days before London, before the internet, Selectadisc - or back then, the three Selectadiscs spread along Market Street - were my shops. Derby eventually got in on the act with Reveal, but really, you wanted Nottingham - with those three, Wayahead and Arcade you'd always find at least one thing of which you'd vaguely heard, or which just looked intriguing, and which was cheap enough to take a punt on. OK, the staff in the singles shop were surly dance snobs, but that was forgivable when you'd find all the singles that had been raved about in Melody Maker two weeks previously marked down to a quid each.

Contrary to previous reports, apparently Grant Morrison's Authority is still happening: "It'll come when it comes. He's working on it." But no word on his WildCATS which, as of that last interview, was the one which was still happening. I'll believe them when I see them solicited. Maybe not even then, given what happened to The Boys and Micah Wright's Stormwatch, both also at Wildstorm.


Feb. 18th, 2009 11:52 am
alexsarll: (bernard)
Anyone know how to find the Search toolbar in Mediaplayer? I didn't even know there was one, but having seen it in action I want it, yet am experiencing IT Fail in finding it. Hurrah for pressing random buttons.

I was unaware until I happened past it on Tuesday, but there's a new Book & Comic Exchange branch in Soho, just up from the MVE on Berwick Street. Which isn't quite so bursting-at-the-seams as Notting Hill yet, but I still got a pretty good haul - the Spider-Man's Tangled Web collection with the Garth Ennis/John McCrea and Peter Milligan/Duncan Fegredo stories for £3, the one issue I was missing from the Morrison/Millar Flash run (a rather lovely Jay Garrick one-shot, 'Still Life In The Fast Lane'), and an issue of Warren Ellis' Doctor Strange run. Except it turns out he only did plot, not script, and what's the point of a Warren Ellis comic without inventive insults? The whole thing is a bit of a mess, though, even with some of the art coming from Mark Buckingham; it was part of the Marvel Edge line, which was Marvel's attempt to get some of that Vertigo action, which is here represented by such cringeworthy details as Strange's cloak being replaced with an Overcoat of Levitation...
I was in that neck of the woods because I'd been invited to lunch at a health food place in Covent Garden. Accepting which, and then being off the sauce all day, was clearly foolishness, because last night I was quite as ill as I've been in years. TMI ) And of course, when your time's your own then sick days lack even the compensatory charms they hold for workers.
Before this kicked in, though, I also had chance to make my first visit to the Wallace Collection, which I think maybe made a better home than it makes a museum. The stuff they have is generally the sort of stuff which makes for a good background, rather than something I wish to stand and contemplate - although the gender balance amuses me, rooms of arms and armour balanced by all that froofy Rococo stuff.

Won the pub quiz jackpot on Monday, but only just - we were exactly as far off the tie-break as one other team, and then in the tie-break tie-break, which was essentially guessing a random date, we were only one day closer than them. Perhaps it was the tension of that which undid me last night? Nah, I'm still blaming the so-called healthy living.

edit: More comics news just in - DC Announces 'After Watchmen - What's Next?' Program? And it has been amazing me how the Watchmen trade is now *everywhere*, although that is a mainly happy amazement as opposed to some people's reaction, so this is a smart move. So what comics are DC suggesting as the next step?Read more... )Whenever I think DC might be regaining some small fragment of the plot, they pull a stunt like this.
alexsarll: (crest)
Granted, the last few times we were in the Noble we moaned, only partly in jest, that there were people drinking there, sitting in our seats, and generally lowering the tone. But if nothing else, shouldn't they have secured its future, meant it wouldn't have to be up for sale again, leave it in a position where one person's illness doesn't force us to resort to a nearby 'pub' no longer even fit to be named in this journal lest by doing so I pollute the servers and screens?
That's the thing about dark times - they're dark on every level. You can do your best to ignore the geopolitics, and heavens know it's tempting, but then you find your local's deserted you, your supermarket's discontinued your favourites, your shoelaces just won't stay tied. Once the entropy takes hold, it's as above, so below.
And then, of course, there's a reversal of fortunes in the war in heaven. And suddenly you see a pug acting the fool and a terrier with the yawns, and the moon's impossibly big and watching over Stoke Newington, and the setting sun lights the clouds behind the Gothic revival water tower like Camelot never fell.

I've finally finished a manga! Libraries have a nasty habit of getting enough volumes to hook me, and then never buying the rest - or in the case of Koike & Kojima books going one worse and, as sadistic as the stories, getting in the first couple - and then a random smattering of later volumes, just to tempt me. But well done Westminster, for completing their Death Note collection, even getting in the fairly superfluous companion and offcuts collection How to Read. Even leaving that aside, I can't deny there's some fat could be trimmed from the 12 volumes of the story proper, and that it never entirely gets to grip with the questions its central premise raises (vigilante killings of criminals by means of a magic notebook - I'm in favour, myself, but there's an emotional weight to the question which never quite makes the page). It does, however, manage some real moments of shock as it twists and turns, and one of those curious little tropes I always love is the ridiculously convoluted fight scene between incredibly smart antagonists, each of them revealing that they've anticipated the other's anticipation of their anticipation of...and so on. Consider the Seventh Doctor at his most Machiavellian, or Vandal Savage versus Resurrection Man in DC One Million, or Iron Man versus Black Panther in Enemy of the State II. Consider even, as comic incarnation of the type, the time-travelling fight scene in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey - Death Note is fit to stand among them.

Meanwhile in Western comics vigilante news, Garth Ennis' epic Punisher run has concluded. Now there's a comic prepared to address its moral issues, albeit one which never collapses into the pathetic hand-wringing which has often haunted the series when other writers were doing it wrong. The problem was that the Punisher - who is sensible, and shoots criminals in the head - was co-existing with allegedly more admirable heroes who beat criminals up, and then leave them alive to escape from gaol and kill again once another writer wants to use the same villain. By shifting him ever so slightly out of that context, Ennis could cut loose - without going too far the other way and turning it into a puerile celebration of violence for violence's sake. There's a very good scene in Warren Ellis' new issue of Astonishing X-Men in which Cyclops takes a similar clear-sighted line on how, in the superhero's line of work, sometimes killing is the only sensible thing to do. Contrast this with this week's editions of Secret Invasion and Captain Britain - they're both good comics, but in both heroes who normally make a big deal of the Heroic Code and how they Never Kill show no compunction whatsoever about killing invading Skrulls. So implicitly, even the life of an intractably evil human is sacrosanct, but those green alien mofos? Waste 'em. Leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, doesn't it?
Startlingly, DC also managed to put out a good comic this week - Grant Morrison's latest Batman RIP reassures me that, the evidence of Final Crisis aside, he hasn't been totally subsumed by Levitzseid's Anti-Fun Equation just yet.
alexsarll: (Default)
I still don't know quite what to say after the H Bird show. Obviously I knew it was going to be a night of top pop entertainment, and as bittersweet as a farewell show's always going to be, but I honestly wasn't expecting to get a song dedicated to me just for hectoring them all into playing a gig, much less a cover of my favourite Lifestyle song. Thank you, H Bird. You will be missed.
(There's always the possibility of a reunion show, of course. This was one, in a sense, but it felt like more of one; watching them on stage, they no longer seemed quite so in-the-same-band as they used to, and suddenly I had fully formed in my head the pop star biographies of what they've been up to in the meantime, biographies which were blithely heedless of my knowing mere facts to the contrary. [ profile] augstone has seen a million faces and rocked them all, possibly in a stadium version of Rock Stone; [ profile] ksta's soundtrack work led to her marrying a big Hollywood mogul type, I think a director; and [ profile] hospitalsoup became a sort of Laurie Anderson experimental music figure)
Also a surprise: Mr Solo's support slot was not in fact solo, he performed as a double act with Eddie Argos! Which meant mixing a bit of Glam Chops material in there too, plus Art Brut's 'Moving to LA' for [ profile] ksta. This made me very glad; since they cancelled their cancellation for tomorrow's SB, I was upset to be missing them on account of White Mischief (which reminds me - who else is going?). On top of which we got a Bowie/Ronson moment with a pink toy guitar, and a further guest on drums - John Moore (whose Bo Diddley tribute, incidentally, is the best one I've seen). Which I guess made them Glam Chops Recorder.

What else have I been up to lately? A pub quiz, with mixed results, after which I accidentally intimidated a hoodie. At Clockwork I was impressed by one comedian's Seal of Rassilon tattoo* and another's Harold Shipman impression. On the screen, I was unimpressed by the original Deneuve Belle de Jour and vampire superhero sequel Blade: Trinity. Which may seem like very different films, but have strangely similar flaws - a lead who's restrained to the point of near absence, and hideous editing. It could also be noted that I liked both of the Daywalker's previous films; similarly, I liked the writing of Belle's namesake.

After a promising start, Marvel's Secret Invasion seems to be getting very bogged down; this week's issue had one lovely scene on the helicarrier, but was otherwise far too obvious for an event which initially seemed to be all about cutting the ground from under our feet. Ultimate Origins, on the other's clearly the original creators of the Ultimate U showing all the clever stuff they had hidden before Jeph Loeb comes in and craps all over the place with Ultimatum, but none the worse for that. A little too decompressed, perhaps, but that was the fashion at the time. Covering surprisingly similar ground, the new issue of Garth Ennis' The Boys is one of the strongest since the DC issues; he seems to have got the pee po belly bum drawers bit out of his system and got back to the really nasty stuff: business.
Single best comic of the week, though: the final part of Drew Goddard's Buffy story. Just like the best episodes of the TV show, there's not a page allowed past without doing something either hilarious, awesome or heartbreaking. Sometimes more than one of the above.

Anyone else been getting Scientologist spam lately? Way to win people over, cretins.

*The one tat there was ever any remote chance of me getting; having been beaten to it reduces the chance from slim to none.
alexsarll: (seal)
'Silence in the Library' was a Moffat Who story, so obviously it was brilliant. Yes, in some ways he's repeating himself, but so what? They're good tropes. Give them another airing. Spoilers! )

When the last night of drinking on the Tube was announced as a possible Event by an associate, I was keen, not least because it intended a keynote of civility. Not even as a protest per se (I see the ban as a regrettable necessity - one of those blunt instrument laws like the age of consent which undoubtedly leads to injustices, but which remains a least worst option while we have neither the social nor technological maturity to enjoin and enforce what should be the one immutable law: Don't Be A Dick). But once other people had the same idea - people for whose character I could not vouch, and whose agendas were not quite the same - I paused. And once it was on the front of both freesheets, that was me out: carnage was inevitable and I didn't want to end up as part of the statistics proving the wrong point. So when I went into town in the afternoon, I had a tot of absinthe* from my hipflask on the bus in, another on the Piccadilly Line home, and said my own quiet farewell. With the bonus that I realised it was so discreet, it could probably still be managed post-ban.

For reasons I can't entirely explain, my usual practice is to build up a big list of potentially interesting acts to check out on Myspace, and then go through them en masse. Maybe it's like heats, to limit how many will get chance to win me over? So anyway, I had one of these runs and lots of them, as usual, were weak. The best thing was probably a rather epic, Iain Sinclair-style new Madness track, but by now you should all know whether or not you like Madness (though if you don't, you've maybe just not heard the right bits). That aside, the highlight was 'Stuck on Repeat' by Little Boots. Which I ought to find as generic as I do much modern electropop by hot girls (this one's ex-Dead Disco), yet somehow I don't. Maybe I'm giving her a pass for naming herself after Caligula? Maybe Hot Chip production helped? Maybe sometimes a song just stands out from its crowd.
(Best Myspace, though, was the new Swimmer One side project. The music did nothing for me, but I love the bio and the name: Sparklegash.

A Grant Morrison first issue is usually a big deal. The first Seven Sisters I read on a bus, spellbound, then went right back to the beginning and started all over again. The first All-Star Superman, I think that was three times. The first Final Crisis I read, shrugged, then read New Avengers 41 which is hardly the best Secret Invasion issue yet, but still made more impression on me. Then nipped in to the British Museum to reacquaint myself with the gods**, then came home reading the penultimate Dan Dare (real Single Manly Tear stuff) and the first issue of Millar's 1985, which is exactly the sort of supers-invade-our-poor-heroless-world stuff Morrison usually does so well. Those Final Crisis complaints in spoilerific detail ) It could yet improve. I really hope it does.
Grant's latest Batman issue, on the other hand, is brilliant.

France really doesn't make them like this anymore, does it? Why not?

*It was the only hipflask-suitable drink I had in the house. But beyond that, it seemed apt.
**I never formally decided, even to myself, that I wasn't going in while the terracotta army was there. I just somehow never found myself wanting to go in there during that period of time, and I don't really believe in coincidence.
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: (bill)
So this whole LJ Paedogeddon business, with loads of fandom communities and the like getting suspended for having illegally wrongcocked interests listed? I'm puzzled. OK, so no concerned citizens objected to my journal having interests such as 'acquiring WMD', 'world domination' and 'international jewel theft' listed - because hey, we know that protecting the dear little children is far more important than enforcing any other silly old laws, right? But this being the case, how come none of this lot seem to have been in trouble?

Will Self on Nick Cave.

My Rubbish Gaydar, season 17 episode 3: I genuinely never suspected David Hyde Pierce aka Niles Crane from Frasier, is gay.

Slightly disappointed by the return of Garth Ennis' too-hot-for-DC superhero satire The Boys. The first six issues were scabrous, but they had real substance to them. The new one, the first from new home's not very well-produced, it has one really glaring typo, but above all it feels as cheap artistically as physically. It was always puerile in places, but this issue was *just* puerile - rude words for rude words' sake, over and over. It has become like Ennis' lame 'The Pro', a risk this series always ran but previously escaped.

Disappointed also to learn that I'd misheard the lyrics to the Shins' 'Kissing The Lipless'. It's "and secretly I want to bury in the yard the grey remains of a friendship scarred." I'd always taken it to be ""and secretly I want you buried in the yard/the grey remains of a friendship scarred." Much more passionate.
alexsarll: (bernard)
There was something on the roof in the small hours of the morning. I don't mean the pigeons (I'm used to them), or the crows (I rather like them) - something heavier, and I think wingless. The problem being, especially when I'm still mostly asleep, I have no idea of the relative sound patterns caused by a fat rat, a cat, a particularly agile fox, an urban explorer, a cat-burglar or the killer doll thing from Terror of the Autons. Let's just hope the issue doesn't arise again.

Sighted at Nashville-on-Thames; a suedehead in a Trojan jacket, watching a bunch of cult indie types playing bluegrass cover versions. They talk about the end of youth tribes with a certain nostalgia, but I like seeing the boundaries this blurred.
About that band - they're essentially Hefner and Tompaulin - The Hillbilly Years. And I doubt they'll ever eclipse 'I Stole A Bride' or 'Slender' in our hearts, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.
(I was going to head this post "I shot a man in Neasden just to watch him die", one of the Nashville-on-Thames slogans. But given there was gunfire round my way last night, I don't want to inadvertently frame myself)

Continuing with the theme of London disturbances, I know I'm not alone in finding myself upset by the Cutty Sark fire, but what really struck me was...that ship's in 28 Weeks Later. London may be infested with the undead, whole areas aflame, but the Cutty Sark stands tall. Just like when I saw AI (not a good decision in itself, but that's by the by) in Autumn 2001, there were posters in the cinema warning that the film had scenes with the World Trade Centre which might upset some viewers. They flood New York, they freeze it...but still the twin towers stand sentinel. We envision these apocalypses, tearing down our cities on screen - but some things seem so permanent they survive almost as part of the bedrock. And then along comes some dickhead with a box-cutter, or a can of accelerant, and we realise we weren't thinking dark enough.

Newsarama has a very good Garth Ennis interview, mostly about Hitman (a series of which I've read far too little). But the line that really caught my attention, since I think it may still be my favourite of all his many impressive works - "Hellblazer, it sounds bizarre, but half the time I forget I even wrote it."
alexsarll: (bernard)
Between the weather, pies, tiredness and the general lull which afflicts every club one month or another, a bit of a subdued Poptimism - but still good to see everyone after what seemed like far longer than it can actually have been. On the way there, I wondered how a station as demographically promising as Pimlico (nearest the Tate, for heavens' sake) can be so unpromising to advertisers as still to have advance posters for season 2 of Green Wing in pride of place. Whilst there, I wondered if there had ever been a J-pop cover of 'Turning Japanese', and if not, why not? And on the way home, I wondered whether I had a) stuck it to Tescopoly with my antics or b) made a drunken exhibition of myself in the supermarket.
This new regime reminds me of when I first got online; the internet was somewhere between home and out, a way to rev up or cycle down.

Was I the only person who didn't realise Garth Ennis' John Woo's 7 Brothers was a miniseries until the penultimate issue? And even then I expected two more issues, rather than one. Which is not to do down the ending, or indeed the story as a whole, which I think got Virgin Comics off to a fine start. I'm just surprised, that's all. Well, surprised and looking for an excuse to use Ronald's big line.

Oh look, the government's sticking it to the BBC again. Tossers. (edit: Actually it was the Met applied for the injunction. Ooops) Speaking of tossers, there's a longer piece on censorship percolating, preaching to the converted though it may be. But it needs a bit more work. Baited breath? I bet.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Do you ever find yourself, and I don't mean when you're without a book or companion, but do you ever find yourself staring out your reflection in the Tube window opposite, wondering what you make of that insolent piece of work who won't look away first?

A London Assembly press release reaches me, its subject: Travel arrangements for sporting events – your views wanted )
Notice how they talk about the plight of spectators? About making sports fans' lives easier? Notice how they ask for details of experiences travelling to and from matches? This even though they acknowledge that fans are coming from "far beyond traditional local catchment areas", ie, are not London voters or taxpayers. Whereas the local residents, who have to put up with the transport disruption and the yobbery, are by definition Londoners. So shouldn't it be the residents' views they want at least as much as the sportists'? I have mailed them to this effect; I even astounded myself by avoiding use of the words "footballist", "peon" and "scum", and questioning only the fans' claim on the attentions of London government, rather than their membership of the human race. Who says I can't do moderation?

Have I ever talked about Clifford D. Simak on here before? He was a contemporary of the big names of science fiction's golden age, but somewhere off to one side of them, even though he started out in the same pulps. He could do alien planets, parallel worlds, rocketships, all that business, and do it very well - but what Simak did best was a sort of pastoral science fiction. He sprang from rural Wisconsin, lived among the Mississippi bluffs, spent much of his life as a small-town newspaperman; and it shows. Imagine a sort of science fiction where the obvious lead for the films is Jimmy Stewart, and you've got Simak.
I mention Simak because I recently found a short story collection I don't have in one of Haringey's smaller libraries, and so have been getting new doses of his uniquely warm-hearted, worn-out prose. One of the earlier (and to be honest weaker) stories has a character called Kent Clark; it's copyrighted 1939, the year after Clark Kent made his debut. Wonder if that's just coincidence?

As well as gleefully brutal (anti-)superhero stories, gruelling crime and a certain subset of theologically-based horror, Garth Ennis is probably comics' best writer about war. This is in large part because he's not a cheerleader for either side; one feels that almost anyone who hasn't actually been to war could learn a lot from him. I was reading one of his self-descriptive War Stories last night, 'J For Jenny'. With perfectly bleak and evocative art from David V for Vendetta Lloyd, it shows us a fictional but throughly-researched British bomber crew, and their varying reactions to the raids they're carrying out on the Ruhr valley. Without ever preaching or compromising the believability of its characters, it reminds the hawks that war is a horrible, messy business - and the doves that it is a necessary evil, and one which can bring forth moments of nobility. I'd like to send copies to the extremist NeoCons, and some more to the Stop the War mob - but alas, I doubt any of them have the processing power to follow a decent comic.
alexsarll: (menswear)
As is usually my habit I am posting this before reading my friendslist, but I'm guessing that at least half of it will be either Snow! :) or Snow! :(, so in deference to your jaded sensibilities I shall avoid the topic.

I've always known there was something bothering me about Klaxons, beyond the praise they were accumulating for fairly mediocre records. Then I read that they wanted to go R&B, 'Ghetto Fabulous' started playing in my head and everything slotted into place. Three post-indie kids who've done dance, done pop and have their eye on R&B? Klaxons are the rubbish Baxendale! And is is so often the case, they're snaffling all the plaudits and sales which eluded their vastly superior predecessor.

The Boys is back in town.

Further to yesterday, it seems I spoke too soon about the Lords: "A Church of England spokesman said: "We...acknowledge that in a house with reduced numbers consideration needs to be given to the appropriate number of Lords Spiritual. We also welcome and agree the recommendation that the wider religious make-up of the UK be reflected by the appointed element of a reformed House". Now, if they meant ensuring that representatives from the National Secular Society, pagan, Satanist and Jedi bodies got seats, fair enough. But why do I suspect that's not going to be the case?

Virgin was full of posh schoolgirls this evening. The world does enjoy its little puns.
alexsarll: (Default)
The Girls Aloud Vs Sugababes version of 'Walk This Way' for Comic Relief, yes? It's hardly essential, but then neither band has ever been at their best on cover versions. The video is pleasing enough to the eye, as one would expect given the cast. But it isn't remotely funny. There are a few mugging comics towards the end of the video, but they come across as a total afterthought (and in the olden days, the vid would have been faded out by then). This may be for the best given how badly most Comic Relief records have aged, but it still seems slightly inappropriate.

Anybody who would still draw a definite line between 'fan fiction' and 'literature' should read Michael Chabon's The Final Solution without delay. The name refers to the Holocaust, of course, and it's not the first time Chabon has written at a tangent to that subject (as all those who've read his deservedly Pullitzer-winning Kavalier & Clay will know) nor the last (his next book is set in an Alaskan Jewish homeland, apparently a serious proposal at one point) - but it is also the perfect title for a story about the latter days of Sherlock Holmes, a last fitful effort by one of the world's great minds as it fades. I'm no Holmesian, so I'm not sure how much of this Conan Doyle laid out (he said that Holmes retired to keep bees, but did he ever explain why that made perfect sense in quite the inarguable terms Chabon does?) - nor any real expert on stories about age, Dunsany and Cabell aside. But for me, this could hardly be better in either direction, nor tie the two threads more naturally together.

While it's true that Garth Ennis is one of the comics writers currently producing extremely good work on a regular basis, I disagree with the reviews which are hailing his new series Wormwood as one of his better efforts. Based on the first issue it's an entertaining little piece of fluff (premise: the Antichrist doesn't want to bring about Armageddon, so instead lives in New York with a talking rabbit and runs HBO), but nothing Ennis hasn't done better and before. The scatologically brutal application of superpowers? Preacher. The Second Coming as a dreadlocked black kid who falls foul of American riot police? Hellblazer Special, more than a decade ago. And that had one beautiful detail this omits, even though the years have only made it more resonant - "a man named Geldof will kiss him on the cheek." Yes, it's true that The Boys and The Punisher have little to say about the real world, but who cares? Within the worlds they delineate, everything is perfectly pitched. Whereas here, though it's more recognisable as our world, though the story is more 'relevant', there are clumsinesses I thought Ennis had long since outgrown - in particular, a televised debate on the proposed regulation of cable TV is so rah-rah-rah heroically one-sided that it could almost have been shat out by The West Wing.

Charlie Brooker facts I never knew: Charlie is short for Charlton (which explains some of the bitterness), and he began by writing for Oink! So I was, as ever, way ahead of the curve there. Wonder which strips he did?

Garth Marenghi on
Oxford Street, not Darkplace; still
has that stern face, though.

January 2016



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