alexsarll: (Default)
Got another reminder last week of how much I dislike big gigs these days, whoever's playing. Maybe if I go to another I should get a seat? Not because I'm getting older, but because the rest of the crowd are - at Magazine I think the only punters I saw younger than me had been brought by their dad who, like most of the audience, looked like he'd been into Magazine first time around. And really, trying to be part of the energy down on the floor doesn't work so well when it's just a load of old blokes (plus a very occasional woman) standing around. And did venues all look the same like this before a few years back? I remember the Shepherd's Bush Empire and the Kentish Town Forum having their own personalities, but now I can barely remember which one I'm in (and that's not down to intoxication, not at their drinks prices). Magazine themselves you'd expect. They played a little more of the new stuff than I'd hoped, and 'Because You're Frightened' was a surprising omission. The banter was a little embarrassing. Devoto describing them as "Magazine version 6.0 service pack 1 - thank you for upgrading" just emphasised the sense that, whereas on record their music still evokes a sense of vast, alien horizons and urban nightmarescapes, live it's always going to be forcibly grounded by the fact you're watching a bunch of old guys (plus a couple of ringers).
Far more satisfactory - and far stranger - was Luke Haines at the Old Queen's Head. I don't even especially like his wrestling album - its reference points are a little before my time - but seeing it done in that living-room-like space, with Kendo Nagasaki sat at the side of the stage watching TV, and a psychedelic rabbit stew recipe for an encore...well, that's not a gig where you end up wishing you'd stuck to the recordings on your headphones, is it? Or the weekend before, where I'd seen Thee Faction punching out songs about GDH Cole in a community centre where one of the crowd was dancing with a small dog. These are shows to cherish, not just part of The Live Music Industry.

Seen on the screen: the new Tintin film. Which, in 3D at least, is staggering. Most of the 3D films I've seen, it's been a gimmick which made for one or two impressive moments. Coraline was the only one to use it thoroughly, and well. But Tintin simply uses it better. It helps that the motion-capture world has a real physicality - one which reminded me somehow of Frank Quitely's art, cartoony yet still solid; only Bianca Castafiore teeters into the uncanny valley. Whether it will grip on the small screen, or flat, I couldn't say, but on the big screen it seemed a far worthier adaptation that many commentators are giving it credit for. I suspect they're just even older than me, and as such were rendered even more queasy by the rollercoaster ride of it.

Underneath one of Islington's libraries is a museum, where there's currently a Joe Orton exhibition called Malicious Damage. Containing, principally, the Islington books which Orton and his lover were gaoled for defacting. 1962 to 2011 could almost seem like a record time from outrage to assimilation if I didn't remember the Times giving away a Pistols CD, but even leaving that aside...they deserved to go to prison for this crap. The detournements of books' covers and blurbs, even taking into account that they predate Photoshop, are clunky and unfunny. Orton and Halliwell claimed to have been treated harshly "because we were queers" - but if this was a gay rights thing, how come they vandalised a book by Auden and Isherwood? If it was a protest against "endless shelves of rubbish", then how come the most common author by a long way is Shakespeare? And most of the rest is blameless guidebooks and handbooks. Set against all this, the exhibition also holds their diary of a trip to more liberated climes, and their sexual adventures there - and it is dreadful, dreary stuff, successful neither as literature nor filth. They were, in summary, louts, not revolutionaries. So if nothing else, with this exhibition Islington libraries get the last laugh.

*Primrose Hill on Bonfire Night. Going out among the people made for a change, if nothing else, but not one I am in a hurry to repeat.
alexsarll: (seal)
Interesting how they decided to get all the Doctor Who fanservice out of the way over the course of one weekend. So the Comic Relief special not only had the promised dual Pond action, but two Doctors as well, and then on Saturday we got to see Matt Smith being Christopher Isherwood in gloriously gay detail. Neither broadcast had the least bit of substance, obviously, but both were reasonably charming. Interesting to see batrachian Toby wotsisface, formerly seen as the Dream Lord, once again playing Matt Smith's unappealing alter-ego, and Lindsay Duncan again playing an unhappy sort of mother to him. Anyway, because that's not quite enough Doctor for one weekend, I finished off The Holy Terror too. Which manages to move from gleefully silly satire on religion, through horror and metafictional Invisibles-style shenanigans, to a terribly sad meditation on time travel, without shortchanging any of the genres.

Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London is not, contrary to the way some places are marketing it, his debut novel. I read a couple of novels by him back in the 1990s but they're not talked about in polite society because they were Doctor Who New Adventures. Very good ones too, though being a callow youth I was mean about the first at the time. Cyberpunk had no place in Who, I piously declared. Silly oaf. Now he's one of the two classic writers I'd most like to get back on the series. Aaronovitch himself is of course far too sensible to disown his Who past, and Hell, would you distance yourself from Doctor Who if you'd written the best Dalek story ever? Of course not. Anyway, Rivers of London is the start of a new series which, in outline, looked dangerously close to China Mieville's Kraken: a strange little department of the Met investigates occult crime and its links to the hidden history of London. They feel very different, though; Aaronovitch's book is lighter and more straightforward, without feeling dumbed down. It just...had a more straightforward story to tell in the first place. It's in love with the city, and it's funny when it needs to be yet not afraid to get serious, and I romped through it in next to no time. My only real objection was that it took the characters half the book to work out whodunnit, something I'd picked up before the end of the first chapter - and these are people who should know the relevant material even better than I do.
(Speaking of the old New Adventures writers, Paul Cornell's just wrapped up his British Batman miniseries Knight and Squire, and as ever when Cornell does Britishness, it was lovely. An interesting take on the Joker, too. Too often, the Joker is simply a psycho. The best writers - Gaiman, Cornell, Moore - have generally been the ones who could make him at once comic and terrifying, simply because they were better writers than the usual hacks so they could make a tricky mix come off. But Cornell finds a new angle. Cornell's Joker is the guy who thinks he's funny, the loud bully who hates nothing more than a joke which is actually funny and which he's too dumb to get. I'm not sure how much mileage it would have in another story, but for a character used so often, and usually badly, it's amazing nobody else has hit on it before)

Things unrelated to Doctor Who: much the usual, really, albeit somewhat less of the boozing and somewhat more of the QNIs. There was the relaunch of Black Plastic, though, which was excellent. Since the Silver Bullet opened on Finsbury Park station, I had been there twice, both times for gigs I probably would have skipped if they hadn't been so local. But with Black Plastic, finally something I would have attended no matter what was stupidly convenient, and there was free whiskey for early arrivals. Win. It's a smaller venue, but not uncomfortably so by any means, and I think it suits the music. I'm looking forward to more.
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.
alexsarll: (menswear)
Courtesy of [ profile] alasdair: Nick Clegg aggressively positions the Lib Dems properly in favour of gay rights, and promises a crackdown on faith schools where homophobic bullying - surprise, surprise - is more common. I don't like the positioning as anti-Tory - because Labour have been guilty of major dereliction of duty on these topics too - but this is the first thing he's done since that pathetic, stupid me-three-ing on the deficit at last year's conference which has made me feel good about his party again.
(On a related-ish note, had our first pub quiz outing in a while on Wednesday under the name Quizlam4UK. Drew the main round - because the Queen's has a fair policy of docking one point for each team member past six - and then missed out on the tiebreak by one measly year. But it's the muffled PA and the music still faintly playing over it during the first half of the quiz which mean we probably won't be going back, not the failure to win. Honest)

The French agency charged with policing online copyright infringement and three-strikes disconnection of filesharers, HADOPI, has a logo which manipulates a copyrighted font without permission. Further evidence (as if any were needed) that these schemes (see also our own Digital Economy Bill) are nothing to do with protecting the rights of creators, they're just about protecting the revenue streams of big business. Although in this instance, they've managed to infringe the copyright of exactly the sort of communications giant they should be protecting, which demonstrates that cluelessness still outweighs conspiracy.

And sticking with France, Alizee's 'Mademoiselle Juliette' video, overlaid with an English translation of the lyrics. I've liked this song and video for ages, for reasons which should be obvious, but I'm still pleasantly surprised by how smart those lyrics are. This is the problem with listening to music in other languages; because there are none where I'm fluent enough to fully follow lyrics (Hell, it's often hard enough in English), I think a buried strain of rockism surfaces in me, so that I'm prepared to take it on trust that Edith Piaf or Serge Gainsbourg's lyrics are terribly witty and wise and passionate, but I presume that Alizee's will just be bubblegum.
alexsarll: (bill)
Stringer Bell is going to be in Branagh's Thor film. And we already knew Titus Pullo was involved, probably as Volstagg. I SAY THEE YAY. And speaking of things HBO, while the final Generation Kill did editorialise a little, while I don't think it's ever going to be as beloved as The Wire, that was an extremely good series - maybe even more so than The Wire it did a brilliant job of humanising the characters you hated, showing why they were such utter dicks, with even Godfather getting his moment at the end.

To my amazement, the proposed internet laws in the Queen's Speech were even worse than expected. If you've not been keeping up with the minutiae: the Government commissioned a report, Digital Britain, on how to reconcile the interests of the creative industries with those of net users. This report said that while unlicensed file-sharing was indeed rather naughty, internet disconnection was too draconian a penalty even for the guilty, never mind how many innocents would also be punished (Mum and Dad for the kids' filesharing, or a whole town for one illicit movie). So obviously, because we know how the government regards facts as dangerously subversive (just ask Professor Nutt), Peter Mandelson elbowed the relevant minister out of the spotlight, countermanded the report his own government had commissioned (they obviously didn't appoint a tame enough investigator, Hutton must have been busy), and countermanded anything sensible in it to put three-strikes disconnection back on the agenda. And, we now learn, so much more.
This in a world where Rupert Murdoch, until recently New Labour's bestest pal, talks about putting a pay wall around the websites of his various ghastly papers while stealing content from Edgar Wright. But you can bet that even if that happened two more times, even under the new rules, News International wouldn't get disconnected. In spite of how even musicians who don't make nearly as much money as they should would rather be ripped off online than live in a country which thinks disconnection is acceptable. The only consolation is that the relevant bill is profoundly unlikely to make it through before Goooooordon Brooown loses the next election. Not that I expect the other flavour of scum to propose anything better, you understand, but sometimes delay is the best you can hope for. After all, the horse might talk.

The Black Casebook collects a dozen strange Batman stories from 1951-1964, which is the period when the comic was as stupid as the old Adam West TV series, but without having to worry about the limited budget. So, Batman could be turned into a hulking monster, or find himself on an alien world called Zur-En-Arrh - which, if you've read Grant Morrison's run on the character, should explain why this collection has been put out, and why I was reading it. He contributes an introduction (although one which disagrees in some respects with the contents - he mentions 'The Rainbow Batman' when the book instead has 'The Rainbow Creature'. All the campy old elements are here - Bat-Mite and Ace the Bat-Hound - and by no sane standard are the stories or the art any good. Even the ideas are not so much "mad, brilliant ideas" as half-formed and hurries, born of desperation. Mainly it serves as a testament to Morrison's own talents, going back over the history of Batman and managing to find resonance even in these stupidest of stories which most modern writers would prefer to forget about.
Also, I know it's hardly novel to suggest Batman and Robin came across as a bit gay back in the day, but this book opens with 'A Partner For Batman' where you really can't avoid it. Robin has broken his leg just as Batman is about to train up a new Batman-type for an unnamed European country. Except Robin is convinced this is just a cover story and Batman wants to drop him in favour of Wingman! Cue such lines as, while Batman carries the injured Robin like a bride, "Batman's doing his best to sound gay. But I can tell his heart isn't in it!". And, from one onlooker, "A man is better than a kid any day!". Poor discarded twink.

Haven't had the energy or the funds to be out and about so much this week; even daytime wanders have been a bit sub-optimal, like yesterday when Highbury was deserted and instead of relishing this, I just wondered if it was anything to do with how very tentacly those red-leaved plants look once the leaves are finally gone. But, this just makes me look forward to tonight's Black Plastic all the more. Makes the weekend feel like a weekend, something which can rather slide when one is away from the habit of the working week.


Oct. 6th, 2009 01:59 pm
alexsarll: (seal)
Contrary to earlier reports, Primeval is coming back for another two series. Great news for everyone except ITV - it's a real nail in the coffin for their mad dash towards utter worthlessness as a channel.

"Two "offensive" number plates have been withdrawn from a Worcestershire auction. The plates F4 GOT and D1 KES"...would clearly never have been bought by a straight, only by a faggot or a dyke reclaiming the term. Over-sensitive idiocy.

Read Jeph Loeb's Ultimates 3 last night, expecting a comic at least as staggeringly bad as his Hulk, and was disappointed to find that it was merely mediocre. The plot makes no sense, the misogynist overtones are depressing, the pacing's shot, the art is clunky and the resolution's unsatisfactory - but you could say all of those things twice over about the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on the originals of these characters in The Avengers.

As already seems to be the common view, I prefer the DW TARDIS to the full DOCTOR WHO in the new Who logo. But then, I like all of it more than the last logo, or the McCoy era one, and those prefaced some of my favourite stories in the series' 46 years. And some stinkers too, of course, but it was ever thus - this was never a show anyone loved for consistency. For instance: I just listened to Time Works, which made me revise my opinion of Steve Lyons; I'd always thought of him as a pretty poor writer of Who books, but it turns out he's also a poor writer of Who audios. He's in love with weird fairytale ideas - the Land of Fiction, the Doctor landing on a cartoon planet, or clockwork men who move between the tick and the tock. But he forgets that for every time the series carried something like that off in a 'Blink' or a Kinda, there were messes like Warrior's Gate or the end of Trial of a Time Lord. Hell, even the original Mind Robber was of questionable merits, a few fine images aside. And yet, still, among the tedium and confusion he brings out the one great exchange which means I don't regret the time spent with this:
Villain: You! Do you realise what you've done?
The Doctor: "I've brought down an oppressive regime in a little over two and a half hours. Not my best time, admittedly.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Two Edinburgh previews last night. It wasn't surprising that both included material about the expenses crisis, the smoking ban and the general decline of British civic society - but what are the odds on them both having jokes about raping horses?

When the Observer music magazine first hit, it was briefly the best music mag going - between the decline of the weeklies and the way the monthlies seemed trapped in retro rockist amber, that maybe wasn;t saying much, but still. Picked one up this weekend for the first time in ages and it seems to have followed the same trajectory as the Guardian's Saturday mag, turned into a flimsy, shiny guide for confused consumers, written by churnalists incapable even of contradicting a press release (I'm enjoying Neil Hannon's Duckworth Lewis Method album a great deal, but anyone repeating the lazy lie that it's the first album entirely devoted to cricket needs their genitalia used for a wicket until they apologise to the Cavaliers). One exception, though - Paul Morley talks about his crash course in classical composition. As much as I like Paul Morley's writing, a lot of his journalism lately has been on autopilot - still ahead of the competition, but far behind what he can do. This one has had all the usual tricks pruned away, without for a moment feeling compromised.

Finished Joe Haldeman's The Forever War yesterday. I'm not sure where spoiler etiquette points when you're discussing a book from 35 years ago, but Ridley Scott's film of it comes out in a couple of years, so let's just say that I can see exactly why he feels there'd be a wider audience for it now, geopolitically speaking. One element I'm not sure he'll get on to the screen is the bit where, as our time-dilated protagonist encounters humans from 500 years in his subjective future, everyone on Earth has turned homosexual. A trope which also appeared - coincidence again - in the Cordwainer Smith story I read yesterday, 'The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal', written a mere decade earlier but considerably more terrified by the Planet of the Gays.

Otherwise, what have I been doing? Finishing up Torchwood and the second series of Justice League Unlimited (both of which, surprisingly, have a greater degree of ambiguity to them than Alan Bleasdale's much-praised GBH, which I am enjoying but which is basically a pantomime). A (not quite) midnight picnic in the park - and the only hassle we got was a Fighting Fantasy-derived heckle when we were clearly playing a card game - stupid young people. Pubs, of course. A play on the Heath, or half of one. It wasn't a weekend that lives in legend, but it was fun.
alexsarll: (crest)
"Chris Bryant, the new Foreign Office minister, who is gay, has started writing personal letters of congratulations to British diplomats who show public support for gay rights. He is praising them for such support even if it draws anger from national governments or local homophobic groups." Which is splendid news I'm surprised I've not seen more heralded, even if it is coming from one of the same ministers who recently tried to score some fairly cheap points with distinctly nebulous accusations of Tory homophobia - particularly weak given that, while Labour may have made progress with civil partnerships and the like, their consistent appeasement of homophobic monotheist scum has dented whatever pink kudos they should otherwise have earned. Of course, if they really want to cement the gay vote, Gordon could always come out. Not that I have any idea whether those rumours were even true, but if not it'd be even funnier watching him try to fake it.

I'm in Devon at the moment, wrestling once again with the most erratic cursor of our age. But before heading down here (maugree Sunday's efforts to beat previous records for One Of Those Days), I spent Friday confirming that the Landseer may be considerably more pleasant under its new management, but remains too expensive to be a viable local watering hole, and Saturday listening to country, and then watching the Indelicates. Now, I may previously have mentioned that they're a bit good, but I somehow failed until this unfairly truncated and thus blisteringly, magnificently angry performance to realise that they are, quite simply, the best band of our generation. My only regret is that [ profile] thedavidx wasn't quite drunk enough to do a Jarvis during their closing cover of 'Earth Song'.
alexsarll: (crest)
Visited Kew Gardens for the first time yesterday, and it's magical. For somewhere so popular, it still doesn't feel crowded; for somehere so labelled, it doesn't feel lifeless. I suppose it's a combination of two of my favourite things, a mad old-style library manifest as a country house garden. Plus, dragonflies! The day before I'd been worrying that I'd yet to see any this year, but clearly that's because they're all getting busy down in Kew.
We also saw some guinea fowl. Even speaking as a vegetarian of nearly two decades, their combination of unflappability and fat-assedness screamed 'lunch'.
Then on to see the magnificent Philip Jeays, chanson supergroup in tow, launch his new album (and yes, I'm going to keep linking to him whenever the subject arises until you all become fans, buy his albums and send him straight in at Number One). The Jeays Battersea Barge shows are the social event of the season, but that season is early December; I have seen him here at other times of year before, but not for bloody ages. The usual supports make jokes about this, and it turns out that last December, when I thought the Speech Painter was maybe improving, I was just overwhelmed by red wine and christmas spirit; his presence is once more justified only by the extra piquancy he gives 'Geoff', Phil's song about shagging the Speech Painter's wife. We expect the new album set to be followed by a hits encore, but in spite of finishing early, there are only three old tracks. Stranger still, the new album doesn't include 'Thank You British Airways' - but then, 'Mr Jeays' was being played two albums before it was released. The new stuff is, however, brilliant - and he seems to be playing to his strengths, with fewer 'war is stupid' songs than ever, more lovelorn and timeworn heartbreakers. Thank you, Mr Jeays.

For the first time since he died, yesterday I deliberately listened to a Michael Jackson track. Not one of the ones blaring out of every car and shop, but the last one I remember having any interest in, before it became clear how wrong he'd gone: 'Scream'. And it's a bloody mess. In his paranoia, you can tell he's almost approaching that wonderfully dehumanised sound R&B revelled in around the late nineties and early noughties, but perfectionism and endless second-guessing just leaves it clattering and confused. Shame. For a happier Youtube experience, I recommend Nathan Fillion from Firefly as Green Lantern; alas, this is a fan-made trailer for a film that does not exist but still, how good does it look? That was from the mailout of one of the UK's best comics shops, Page 45; the other, Gosh, also alerted me to a gem: Comics creator stopped by Transportation Security Administration for carrying script about writer under suspicion by Transportation Security Administration.

Read Poul Anderson's Brainwave on Tuesday - a novel in which the Earth exits the intelligence-dampening field in which it's been stuck for millennia, and everybody suddenly gets a lot smarter. Reading it in the park at least served to keep me posted that no, this was not really happening, but it's still an astonishing book - and one with which I especially sympathise in weather like this, because I can feel the heat making me dumber. It's from four years before Flowers for Algernon, and while I've never read that (science fiction which gets mainstream critical acclaim usually leaves me suspicious), I've read enough things which riff on it to suspect that it got a lot of inspiration here. Poul Anderson is a weird one - my dad is a fan, so realistically I must have read some of his stuff as a kid, but I have no idea what. The only one I could tell you for sure is The Broken Sword, an impressively bleak fantasy novel he wrote before fantasy became entirely codified, set in the real Middle Ages (complete with all the stuff people then knew about but we tend to ignore) rather than an analogue, which always gets me on side. This...this has almost nothing in common with that, except a certain majestic clarity of vision. It's not flawless; it does at times feel like the cosmic vision of Olaf Stapledon forced into a format which looks something a little more like a novel, and suffering accordingly (Anderson's evolved humans, for instance, still all seem to be locked into heterosexual monogamy - because he was more stuck in his ways than Stapledon 20 years earlier, or just because he had less space?). And the idea that the superbrains of future Man find no consolation or worth in any of the species' past achievements...well, I'm as contemptuous of humanity as the next person who'd gladly sell us out to the first civilised species that made contact, but I don't buy that. Anderson's brain-boosted humans abandon TV for magazines, then magazines for books; after the change, one simpleton thinks 'I can read a comic book. Maybe I can read a real book now.' Well, as someone who can happily go from Ulysses to Mighty Avengers, and always hated John Stuart Mill's spurious distinction betweem 'higher' and 'lower' pleasures, you can guess how I feel about that. In the end, the advanced humans become something not unlike Iain Banks' Culture - just a bit less fun. But still, that's an awful lot to fit in 160 pages. Plus, you know that thing from...Mickey Spillane, maybe? 'Whenever I don't know what happens next, a guy comes through the door with a gun?' Poul Anderson goes one better. One chapter ends when a chimp comes in with a gun. On an elephant.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
Finally saw cult 1979 New York gang classic The Warriors last night and dear heavens, was ever a film this side of 300 so stunningly homoerotic? All the gangs in their little uniforms - and the baseballers in Boosh make-up look positively hetero next to the Warriors themselves in their lovely little leather waistcoats. Any attempt to dally with girls instead leads to danger - and any resistance to the idea of eg pulling a train on a lone girl is taken to mean one is "turning faggot". Because we all know how straight it is for lots of men to share one girl, right? See also: footballists.
Then made the mistake of trying to watch My Monkey Baby, about Americans who treat monkeys as their children. Sounded cute, if fairly TV Go Home; was in fact deeply distressing. One woman who looked like every enveloping mother an insecure male author ever created to be feared talked about how, if she could, she'd have given her real children a pill to keep them babies forever - and now she had a monkey to dress up and make up, and that was the next best thing! A couple newer to the practice went to pick up their 'daughter' - and took her out through the breeding cages, where her real mother flipped out and ate the poffle from the microphone. And they were surprised. They were surprised that she didn't want her baby stolen by lunatics.

Still not quite sure what to make of the new Patrick Wolf album. Each of the others was a thing unto itself, a world entire - and I could see how people might like one album by him but not him as an act, which interested me. But the new one, for all the talk of how he had more creative freedom now and could do exactly what he wanted...well, it's mainly just a harder-edged Magic Position interspersed with Wind in the Wires ballads. Which doesn't make it bad by any means, because those are great templates of which I'm certainly not bored yet, but does make it less of a revelation than any of its predecessors. I've still yet to have an album really knock me over this year.
alexsarll: (crest)
All those Sam Tyler references in Ashes to Ashes had me thinking, whoever's mysteriously contacting Alex...could that voice be John Simm doing posh? It could, couldn't it? And then the trailer for next week blew my theory apart. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted, and now I'm back to having no idea at all where they're going with this, but being confident that it will be somewhere good. And I've been reading a 2000 issue of Select which I found while clearing out my desk, all articles about 'what are MP3s?' and *video* reviews and interviews saying how Embrace's second album will take them to the next level, and this isn't even from so very long ago - I moved to London in 2000 - and it makes me more than ever think that after Ashes to Ashes is done, the nineties are now strange and distant enough for Dead Man Walking to be a perfectly viable series.

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

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

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

*Of course, nerd polyfilla is easily applied here: in the League world Woolf's book is known by the title which is in any case its full title here: Orlando - A Biography. Woolf was one of those eminently readable but maddeningly agenda-led biographers, who in satirising the conventions of biography, ran roughshod over a real life rather than a fictional one.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Skins is set at the outset of sexual life, the Peter O'Toole film Venus at its end. But watching the two back to back on Thursday night, it was the correspondences I could see. Yes, that episode was largely Election with added Father Dougal, Art Brut and teenage sapphism, but it was also about the stupid, humiliating things the bewitched will do for beauty (shorn of the gender stereotyping Hanif Kureishi either displays, or allows his lead to display, in Venus, where O'Toole's Maurice suggests that while a naked woman is the most beautiful thing most men will ever see, for women it's their first child). And while the Freddy/Cook/JJ plotline was sidelined this Skins, you see that same sense of toxic male friendship in Venus when Maurice and his old muckers meet in the cafe each day, Maurice still trying it on with people his chums consider off-limits just like Cook would. Albeit with considerably more charm, obviously, because Maurice is Peter O'bloody Toole, isn't he? Pretty much playing himself, with admirable self-awareness (an actor who has cornered the market in corpses); beyond that, playing the himself he played in Russell T Davies' Casanova, the old roue not quite prepared to admit that the game is over and Time won.
(Speaking of Time - Peep Show being a comedy of my generation, how terrifying to see its love object, tarnished as she may there be, now playing the mother of a teenage lead character in Skins)
alexsarll: (crest)
Off to Devon by way of Watford shortly, and currently waiting for a rather jittery iPlayer to download Mark Gatiss' first Crooked House, and it seems as good a time as any to wish those of you who won't be online for the inevitable Next Doctor post-mortem a very merry Christmas. I just wish that the Buffy Christmas episode was recognised as the festive classic it is and given the annual repeat treatment, but hey, we watched it at [ profile] hoshuteki's party so I'm good for this year. That was before I mistakenly attempted to go Straight Through, an experience from which if nothing else I have learned that Sprite is on the Proscribed Drinks list for this stimulant-dodger. Speaking of proscription - the story "Pope puts stress on 'gay threat' is even more flabbergastingly infuriating than you'd expect from the title, which is saying something, so let's hope there's something extra big and hard in Santa's sack for Pope Sidious this year.
Right, Crooked House is ready to go. Have a good one, kids.
alexsarll: (seal)
Let's be perfectly clear - any appearance on the nation's screens of Brigadier* Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart is to be welcomed, but 'Enemy of the Bane' seems to have taken a big leaf out of RTD's book of Big Finales Which Make No Sense Whatsoever. spoilers )

There aren't many London venues with bones in the basement - or at least, ones that admit to it and display them. But Benjamin Franklin House is not like other venues. There didn't seem to be much in the way of mementoes of Franklin - who in my head is played by Tom Wilkinson - but it did feel old, and I like that in a venue. The show consisted of The Melting Ice Caps and The Soft Close-Ups, with both acts covering each other's songs too, quite an impressive set of permutations given that's only two people. Mr Shah namechecked me in 'Selfish Bachelor' too - "we can't all be glamorous like you, Alex Sarll" - which was lovely, but also quite surprising given that I'd just been thinking how true to my own life his line about eating breakfast in your dressing gown was.
Then on to Soul Mole, now at the Oak Bar. Which had made one rather puzzling alteration: when I've been there before for Lower The Tone, a lesbian night, the loos are stocked with free condoms. At Soul Mole, which in spite of the dancing and the bumming is mainly straight - no free condoms. This source of mild puzzlement aside, as ever a jolly good night - in particular, I'd been really needing a dance to '99 Problems'.

Battlestar Galactica having finished production, they're going to auction off the props. I'm still two seasons behind, so reluctant to investigate too closely for fear of spoilering myself.

*Technically a General since his role in foiling the Ice Warrior invasion of 1997, but everyone still calls him the Brigadier because, well, he's the Brigadier, isn't he? Geek polyfilla there, marvellous.
alexsarll: (magnus)
...which title I pick not just because the song's been stuck in my head since Saturday's Prom Night, but because the first issue of Grant Morrison's 'Superman Beyond 3D' is the comic I was hoping and expecting Final Crisis would be. Only in one spread does the 3D effect have quite the same mind-twisting force as it did in the Blazing World scenes of Alan Moore's Black Dossier, but even if for the rest of the issue it's just a gimmick then hey, 3D is a pretty cool gimmick. And this...this is what I want from a Grant Morrison Event. Dead worlds! Limbo! Dr Manhattan with the serial numbers filed off! Cross-time lunacy and alternate heroes and giant crashing spaceships and only Superman left to save the day. It's as if Levitzseid has got Grant enchained at the heart of his monstrous engine of destruction, perverting his mighty Morrison powers in the furtherance of DC's Anti-Fun Equation...but Grant's too good to go down without a fight, and so by some ludicrous contrivance freed an aspect of himself to write a good Final Crisis comic.
The second best comic of last week, incidentally, was the conclusion to Book One of Warren Ellis' Doktor Sleepless. Just when I was worried we were getting a Planetary-style loss of focus, it turns out that the mysticism and the techno-evangelism have a perfectly sensible reason for being in the same book. I think we were perhaps meant to come away from the book with the idea that Doktor Sleepless is not the hero after all; personally, I'm backing him all the way.

Speaking of mad science: never mind the cure for cancer - isn't unlocking telomere structure the first step on the road to immortality in the Fall Revolution books?

Finally got round to watching Brokeback Mountain on Sunday - yes, I know, I fail at gay. I was a bit puzzled at first; I was expecting it to be one of those manly American buddy movies where you're thinking guys, just bone already - except then they do. But whether this was intended or not, I really didn't feel any chemistry off them until it happened. Which worked, I think. As did the scenery, obviously; I'm sure if that hadn't been so beautifully, expansively shot then the film would never have been able to cross over to the extent that it did. I wasn't convinced by the flashbacks - I thought they upset a flow which was otherwise brilliantly established - but otherwise, it's just such a well-judged film. Details which don't sit right at first (are the women being deliberately established as deadening forces, in the manner beloved of misogynist homosexuals?) come clear in time: it's not that the women are dead hands, it's that society is. A homophobic rural society especially, but not exclusively; even if Jack and Ennis had settled down somewhere nice and friendly just outside San Francisco, the mere fact of domesticity would mean what they had couldn't stay as pure as it was when it was born up on Brokeback Mountain.
(For another consideration of how uneasily passion sits in a mundane world, consider My Zinc Bed, which features excellent performances from Jonathan Pryce and Paddy Considine, and a rather strange accent from Uma Thurman. Of course, neither of these made me cry a fraction as much as Kiki's Delivery Service; I already know how malformed this world is, it's seeing the contrast of what a decent one would be like which breaks me down)
alexsarll: (bernard)
Went to the New Royal Family's comeback show last night at the ever-baffling Lark In The Park - absolutely top hole. Lots of people out to see 'em, rewarded with [ profile] icecoldinalex going back to blond. a new drummer in a very fetching sailor suit, and heteroerotic Bowie/Ronson guitar antics from [ profile] charleston and [ profile] thedavidx. Oh, and chocolate digestives, of course. New single 'I.W.I.S.H.I.W.A.S.GAY' made its live debut, except that live it's not a minute of electropop madness, it's 'Another One Bites The Dust' meets the Sugarhill Gang, especially once [ profile] moleintheground got in there with the gay guest rap. That's gay meaning homosexual, obv.

Stardust is of all Neil Gaiman's works the one to show the most evidence of Lord Dunsany' influence - and that's saying something. Nonetheless, even the success of the lovely film version did not prepare me for news of a Dunsany film. I confess that Dean Spanley is not a work I know, but if Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill and Jeremy Northam are all in the film, then I have reason to be optimistic. Though I note they have all also worked together on the dismal Tudors, so maybe I should be expecting an announcement of Joss Stone joining the project as the King of Elfland's daughter.

I've noticed the whole Georgia farrago has been mostly absent from my friendslist, and I don't blame people, because there's not much to say; Russia's throwing its weight around again, there's sod all we can realistically do about it, and certain sections of the Left are creaming themselves with glee and blaming the US, just like the old days. But this one I cannot let past without comment: "It is rare that all the blame is on one side. In fact, both sides are probably to blame. That is very important to understand," Germany's Chancellor, there, talking about a war. Perhaps she should acquaint herself with the biographies of some of her own predecessors, she might find a rather startling counter-example. That sort of moral equivalence and equivocation gets my back up whoever's spitting it, but coming from someone in that particular job, is simply chilling.
(And while I'm back off the current affairs wagon:
Paul Duffy, 35, from Castlemilk, was part of a four-strong gang who smashed their way into a car dealer's home...The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Duffy was freed on bail nine days before the raid in February. He had 52 previous convictions for crimes including robbery and carrying a knife.
And this man has been sentenced to...50 months. It being deeply unlikely that he will even serve the whole of that. Seriously, what are the odds that this man's continued existence will ever do other than taint the lives of other, better people? What possible purpose is served by allowing the continued existence of a human being so fundamentally rotten?)

I realise there are few lower forms of blogging than 'point and laugh at the interweb mentalist' but what the Hell - go here, skim the article (which is filler, frankly), and then check the comments from a prize pillock I may have mentioned before, 'anytimefrances'. ATF's feeble brain is entirely consumed by a knot of obsessions - chiefly, the notion that rock and rap music (they're interchangeable) are synonymous with drugs and noise pollution, and that they're leading to the demise of Real Literature and Proper Music. In and of itself this would be of strictly historical interest - in an age where even the Mail covers Glastonbury without much hysteria, seeing such retrograde opinions in the wild is a bit like finding a living coelacanth, except uglier. What raises the experience to the level of comedy is that while ATF grandly proclaims its own cultural and intellectual superiority to the foolish rock fans, its incoherent arguments are unfailingly delivered with worse spelling and grammar (never mind sanity) than anyone else on there: "wake up to reality. don't pretend, we can turn it up 'real loud' because everyone loves it. it's sick humiliation detritus." Though I admit that's an atypical quote - for starters, the apostrophes are in the right place.
alexsarll: (seal)
The Wilton Road exit of Victoria underground - why exactly was it closed for a fortnight? They've not even stuck up electricity-hungry mediatronic ad screens, which seems to be the main 'improvement' visible after all the other disruptive works on the station, or replaced the broken tiles on the floor.

The British Museum's Hadrian exhibition is well worth a look if you get chance. It's nothing like as caught up in tendentious claims of contemporary 'relevance' as the advance press could suggest - yes, we get it, Hadrian pulled out of Mesopotamia aka Iraq. And Rome was very dependent on olive oil. And...the Wall has something to do with the rise of the SNP, maybe? Forget that, all of it. If you get chance, read Marguerite Yourcenar's literal ghostwrite of Hadrian's Memoirs* beforehand, that'll bring you closer to how much he has in common with us simply by being recognisable as a human and an individual across all that gulf of years. Somehow it helps that one of the statues of him - the only one native to Britain - is rubbish, making him look like a monkey. The most impressive one's at the entrance, fragments only pulled from the Turkish sands within the last year, unseen between Then and Now. Flawed and human, but with all that gulf of brings time home to you, or it did to me. Surprisingly few things can do that.
The statues of his lover Antinous are interesting. The giant head is beautiful, but the one of Antinous as Osiris is a puzzler. I've never seen a statue look embarrassed before; noble, nonplussed, even long-suffering like the !William Huskisson statue in Pimlico Gardens, but never like they'd been caught in a sex-game by someone inappropriate. And really, who makes a statue of a male lust object as Osiris with a notable bulge under the loincloth in place of said god's mythical lack? These Romans were crazy!
What else? Some giant metal peacocks from Hadrian's mausoleum - I wondered whether people living in an age before Ray Harryhausen would have been as certain they were about to come to life. And a glass bowl from the Jewish revolt which didn't even look old, much less historical; if you found it you'd just use it for fruit, not call a museum. That says so much more about the relevance of history than some cheap line about the turbulence of the Middle East.

Guy's hospital is so much more impressive and ominous than the cheap facsimile they had the Judoon nick in Doctor Who, isn't it? I do wish they didn't always have to use the London Borough of Cardiff, it's really not an adequate substitute.

*Her manuscript is there, tucked away to the side of the route in, easily missed.
alexsarll: (bill)
Londoners; when you vote for the Mayor on Thursday, please remember that this is not a first-past-the-post election. I've never liked the usual defeatist line about votes for third parties being wasted; here it simply isn't true, and anyone who says otherwise is either underinformed or has a covert agenda. Here's m'learned colleague's explanation of how the system works, but in summary: if you're just voting Ken To Stop Boris, or Boris To Stop Ken, then your second preference vote is perfectly adequate to that task. Give Brian Paddick a chance, or Sian Berry, with the first preference, if only to help erode the deeply unsatisfactory idea of the two party system; a little more each time and maybe next election, it could even be a real three way battle. Or four.
And no, I'm not saying this as part of some convoluted plan to get Boris in; it's just about really wanting Ken out. For his cronyism, appointing unqualified members of his old fringe socialist group to high power at our expense. For smearing Peter Tatchell when Tatchell dared to criticise one of Ken's fundamentalist associates. For endorsing the appalling George Galloway's bid for a London Assembly seat. For describing Boris as a "19th century liberal, with a small L", and yet somehow intending that great compliment as a criticism.
I voted for Ken last time, albeit with reservations; I still think he did a lot of good in his first term. But this last term, the balance has tipped. London is not his personal fiefdom, and I would like to see him reminded of that, at the very least by a shaky performance in the first round.
alexsarll: (seal)
See, that's how we wanted Torchwood first time round - The Sexy Space-Time Adventures Of Captain Jack. Minimise the moping, and instead give us the polymorphous perversity, fighting and kissing, Alabama 3 on the soundtrack. Bit of tension, sure, but don't get hung up on being Serious Drama when you can be Entourage with guns and coked-up blowfish. If this means we don't get the heights of 'Out Of Time' or 'Small Worlds', well I can live with that so long as we go nowhere near the lows.
edit: And they even got an Excalibur gag in there! Maybe it's only Paul Cornell and I who'll appreciate that, but who cares?

Have I ever mentioned that I want to be a Time Agent?
alexsarll: (pangolin)
Tomorrow, this journal will have been running for five years. Five years! Which is not to say I've been writing it for five years, of course. Still. Blimey.

Churchill: The Hollywood Years is even better than I expected. While I would say that I love the Comic Strip's earlier films on this theme, Strike and GLC, when I sit down to watch them I find myself uncomfortably reminded of their flaws. But here, perhaps because Peter Richardson had something closer to a Hollywood budget, he could manage a better facsimile of the Hollywood style - and if you're attempting parody then you should always attempt to be as close as possible to your target, all except for the one axis you alter. So, having Christian Slater instantly puts you ahead of having a Comic Strip regular playing a Hollywood star playing the lead, and so forth. The remarkable thing is that as well as mercilessly mocking Hollywood's take on British history (I especially liked the loveable Irish Cockneys of Ye Olde Dick Van Dyke Street), they also manage to skewer a few targets within the real Britain both today (the nightbus scene) and historically (if Neville Chamberlain wasn't quite Leslie Phillips carrying Hitler's bags for him, he wasn't far off). Oh, and I realise that outside this context the following would be de facto evidence of insanity, but: Princess Margaret? Superhott.
Compared to which, Black Snake Moan could hardly compete. Put it this way - if you think a film with a nymphomaniac Christina Ricci chained to a radiator in her underwear sounds awesome, you'll be disappointed. If you think it sounds atrocious, you'll be pleasantly surprised. If the whole thing had been sold more as a film about the blues with a surprisingly effective supporting turn from Justin Timberlake, maybe everyone would have had a better idea what to expect.

In one of those handy developments where my interests intersect, the new Mountain Goats album has a song about HP Lovecraft.

Listening to the sixth series of Andy Hamilton's Hell-com Old Harry's Game, I found it entertaining enough but didn't quite get why some people esteem it so highly. They seem to have been casting around for new set-ups by that series, is that the problem? I mean, yes it works as a light topical and theological satire, but I'm not sure it's something that would reward repeat listening any more than HIGNFY? is rewatchable. And if it's not the case that everyone goes to Hell, why was Gandhi there? I just assumed from mentions like his that nobody makes Hamilton's Heaven, but apparently that's not it. So at least get a gag out of consigning someone like Gandhi to the flames!

Meanwhile, all the real world can offer is a new gay plague in San Francisco, why we were right to be scared of In The Night Garden and some fairly atrocious weather. I think I'm staying in hiding 'til February.

January 2016



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