alexsarll: (default)
Pootling around the Internet and my MP3 library for the first time in more than a week today. It may not be the most 'productive' use of a day off, but heavens it's welcome. I've been racing around doing fun stuff - living room stand-up from Matt Crosby and Joel Dommett; the Indelicates and the New Royal Family playing either side of a band so bad I think they might have been character comedy; a gallery launch in a Berkeley Square mews; a night of all-girl pop; a day of all-male drinking. And it was all thoroughly marvellous, but now, relax. Oh, and I saw Avengers [Assemble], of course. Which did not disappoint. All but one of the films leading to this nailed the characters perfectly; now they finally have the Hulk right too. Characterisation happens through dialogue and action as the story progresses, not through pausing for a tedious scene of Acting. The Helicarrier looks as awe-inspiring as one can sometimes forget it should, and then the thing happens which is crucial in any major Helicarrier appearance. And the mere fact that it exists, that franchises are being crossed in their prime and not as a barrel-scrape like Aliens versus Predator or Freddie versus Jason, and that it's all been *planned*...well, Grant Morrison already observed that the superheroes were jumping off the page and on to the screen like prehistoric life emerging from the ocean on to dry land. But this feels like the heroes have brought the structure of their universe with them.
Other films seen recently, for a given value of the word:
Drive and The Killer Inside Me; both essentially mood pieces. For me, the former is much more successful; its violence also felt far more shocking than that in the much more controversial Killer.
City of Lost Children - which feels more like Tim Burton than a lot of Tim Burton films. An impossible dock-side city, a steampunk science rig which feels much like I imagine Bioshock might. Ron Perlman in Jean-Paul Gaultier, speaking French, which feels like a violation of the basic laws of nature and that just contributes to the queasy yet oddly solid world that has been built here. Haunting.
Jackboots on Whitehall - a misfire. Tries to bring the Team America puppet vibe to a gleefully stupid alternate history of the Second World War, and in doing so demonstrates quite how smart you have to be to make something as successfully stupid as Team America. Also, the DVD is missing a key scene, but at least that means I get a refund on it.
The Lion in Winter - do you ever wonder how the wisecracking couples in screwball comedies might fare in later life? How all that plotting and quipping might start to wear after a decade or three together? Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf feels to me like a bit of an answer, but this is a better one, because here the couple are Peter O'Toole's Henry II, and Katharine Hepburn's Eleanor of Aquitaine, so between them they determine the fate of an empire. Also, Anthony Hopkins is one of their sons, and he's been having an affair with Timothy Dalton. This is as good as films without explosions get (there are some swordfights, but they're not very good).
The Lair of the White Worm: aside from the obligatory scenes of topless nuns, this doesn't even feel like a Ken Russell film, just a fairly bad horror film which happens to feature the young Hugh Grant and an unnervingly fresh-faced Peter Capaldi. Who, being Scottish, has bagpipes with him on an archaeological dig. Obviously.
Pretty Persuasion feels more like Heathers than any other teen film I've seen - that same deviousness, that understanding of just how nasty teenagers can be. The big difference here is that the boys are sidelined - mostly just fulfilling plot roles, rather than characters in themselves. And the adult men...well, like most men, they're really just teenage boys too, only older. Bleak, and I'm unsure about the ending - but then I don't like the ending of Heathers either.
alexsarll: (magnus)
So: DC have just relaunched their entire comics line. As part of a bold and/or desperate attempt to draw in new readers, a fictional world with a publication history stretching back to 1938 just began again from scratch*. Last month's Action Comics was issue 904; this month, like all their other comics, it resets to issue 1. The sense of a vast and complex, and in places beautiful, sandcastle erased by the tide is, of course, a little melancholy. But the advantage to this is that, whereas 1938's Action Comics 1 might have been the birthplace of Superman (and through him a concept - the superhero - which gave the West gods again after two millennia of a pallid Nazarene death cult) wasn't actually very good. Superman's creators, Siegel and Shuster, were pioneers, not professionals. 2011's Action Comics 1, on the other hand, is by Grant Morrison - visionary, comics scholar, and mad brilliant bastard. Unlike me, he likes the original Action Comics 1 - but he still retools it, makes something fit for modern purpose, compresses its kineticism and ambiguities down into something bright and shiny and *now*. This is Superman not as establishment superhero, a statuesque head of the superheroic pantheon, but as the bold young Horus-figure, the upsetter, the radical who takes down corrupt businessmen (just like Superman did back in the thirties, before being smoothed down). Whether this energy will last, I don't know, but the first issue is definitely the way to begin.

The rest of the relaunch...well, obviously I'm not buying all 52 titles, because some of them looked like guaranteed stinkers, and plenty more like strictly the sort of generic superheroics which I'll read from the library but wouldn't want cluttering the place up. Of the ones I have picked up, some of them don't seem to be bothering with the reboot angle very much no spoilers, but the ramble obligatory for any blog with comics content continues herein )In summary: I still have no idea what the Hell DC think they're doing, but they have managed to get five good comics out of it so far, which was more than they've managed any time in recent memory. So...yay?

*Well, sort of. This is part of what makes the entire enterprise even more puzzling - some of the events of the past 73 years of comics, already reset and tweaked multiple times, are still part of the universe's history. But we don't know which ones. And the in-story explanation for the reset means there are big, complicated, not-new-reader-friendly machinations behind the scenes, linking all the different comics to varying degrees. Which, again, is not really the way to win over a possible new reader who just saw The Dark Knight and wants to read a Batman comic.
alexsarll: (magneto)
On Tuesday, I went to the Houses of Parliament to see disgraced MP Phil Woolas give a talk which had nothing to do with his disgrace - he came across like a pretty nice bloke, in fact. Some tangents of the discussion related to that old, infuriating question - why do so many members of the working classes vote against their own interests? Why does the Right always do so well at getting traction for lies, from the Zinoviev letter to climate change denial? And at the heart of the answers, in that nagging way which you know is on the route to a much bigger answer nobody can quite find yet, was the suggestion that the Right has better imagery. Not in the SS uniforms sense; just that, particularly for working class women trying to run a household on a shoestring, the idea of national budgeting as being kin to household budgeting makes intuitive sense in a way the paradox of thrift never will.
And then afterwards, I came home and watched a documentary about bottled water, looking at how firms make billions selling people something that tastes the same as the stuff from the tap (more or less - I've known one or two areas where the tapwater does taste a bit iffy, but never one where it tastes worse than Volvic).
Both these things represented good work by smart people. But really, given neither of them had any suggestions on how to change the problems they were anatomising, I found a more satisfactory analysis in the past few weeks' Batman comics by My Chemical Romance* video star Grant Morrison. This is not unprecedented; when everybody was spaffing over No Logo, I was unimpressed because it was pretty much just the footnotes to one issue of Morrison's Marvel Boy miniseries, in which our alien hero fights Hexus, the Living Corporation. It's a truism to describe a writer as fascinated by ideas, but where Morrison is especially good is in seeing the connections between language, magic and branding. To briefly summarise what he's been doing with Batman, and anything which is a spoiler here has either been widely advertised or was bloody obvious anyhow: Bruce Wayne got thrown back in time by the evil New God Darkseid. He was presumed dead, so Dick Grayson, the first Robin, stood in as Gotham's Batman. In fact, Bruce was fighting his way back through time to the modern day as part of Darkseid's wider plot. So far, this is just a moderately diverting adventure story. But. Darkseid's wider plot is about the use of ideological weaponry, "hunter-killer metaphors", killer ideas. Twisting what Batman represents - the triumph of the human will - into a poisonous, negative force (easily done, when you consider what Triumph of the Will so often means). Turning all our efforts against ourselves. And having seen this, when he gets back to the present day Bruce Wayne does not do the obvious thing and simply become Batman again. He leaves Dick as Gotham's Batman, and decides to start a global Batman franchise; Morrison has ditched the rest of the comics to start a new one, Batman Incorporated, in which Bruce Wayne will tour the world** looking for these Batmen. Because Batman was always about branding, wasn't he? Bruce Wayne as a vigilante got a serious beating, but then that bat came through the window, he became Batman, and since then - in spite of having no superpowers - he's basically invincible. So when evil is everywhere, why not expand that brand?
Of course, how one applies any of this in the real world, I still don't know. I wish I did.

The other new comics of interest to crop up lately both involve work from Team Phonogram. Gillen's got a new X-Men spin-off, Generation Hope, which will hopefully last longer than his last X-Men spin-off, the delightful, tragically short-lived S.W.O.R.D.. And McKelvie - whom even Marvel editorial are now calling Kitten - illustrates Warren Ellis' back-up strip in imprisoned psycho supervillain miniseries Osborn. I read Freakangels online, but this is the first Ellis comic I've read on paper in a while, because he's a terminally unpunctual sod and both titles of his I read are more than a year overdue for another issue. And the main thing it made me think, especially with Jamie drawing, was that Warren Ellis now reads like a man trying to write like Kieron Gillen.

Beyond that, Peter Milligan's Extremist has finally been reprinted as part of Vertigo's anniversary celebrations. Whenever people misconstrue the name and assume that the Punisher is some kind of S/M superhero, I have to explain that no, that's the Extremist, except that's long out of print. Except now it's not! Hurrah.

In less happy news, the latest bunch of people complaining about a film getting a superhero wrong, are making themselves look even more like morons than usual because it isn't. Pity's sake, there was even a ginger Green Lantern before there was a black one. And as for 'the only black superhero', well, yes, if the cast of the Justice League cartoon in its early, less good seasons is the complete roster of superheroes you know, but in that case, shut up until you get 1 x Wikipedia. Hell, War Machine was in Iron Man 2, hardly an obscure production.
Oh yeah, and it turns out that even when, staggeringly, he manages not to fall out with the publisher - J Michael Stracynzski is incapable of finishing his promised run on a monthly comic! Anyone else remember when he used to be a genius? I'm starting to wonder if I dreamed it.

*If anybody lets me DJ anytime in the foreseeable future, I am totally going to open with 'Na Na Na' and its intro, because it is one of the year's best pop songs. However, thus far I am not loving its parent album. As with The Black Parade, MCR have become a fictional band to free themselves from perceived constraints, which is fair enough. But whereas the Black Parade were a goth Queen, which is to say bloody brilliant, the Fabulous Killjoys are a pop-punk band. Something of which the world is not short and, as a rule, they don't have that many great songs.
**Despite the timing, there seems to be no cross-marketing with the Batman Live World Arena Tour; I'm reading the damn comics, and I only learned of the tour from ads on the Tube.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Harold and Kumar Get The Munchies is not only a very funny film; it has more to say about race in America than all that Oscar-winning dreck like Monster's Ball and Crash could even dream of.

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

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

*Speaking of evolution, I loved the way David Attenborough's First Life packed the whole story of vertebrates into its last five minutes. And pointed out that the way insects come together into colonies, or superorganisms, is basically the same process which first saw cells aggregating into multicellular life. But in particular, the section on eyes - ranging from the adorable Cambrian sea creature which had five, to trilobites with crystal lenses - should be injected directly into the brain of every creationist moron who says "What about the eye, eh?" and then thinks they've won.
alexsarll: (seal)
After a week which at times saw the first three TV channels all simultaneously screening oafs in shorts bothering grass with their balls, thank heavens for Channel 4 which, while it may be airing the undignified death throes of Big Brother, an experiment superseded before it even began (on which more in a moment), brought back The IT Crowd. Still far from revolutionary or life-changing, still a good, direct, paradoxically old-fashioned sit-com. Not that the other three channels had entirely lost it, because right on time (and thank heavens, I couldn't have waited a minute longer) along came the Doctor Who finale ) Though, semantically it's wrong to say that the Doctor is a Jesus figure. Jesus was a Doctor figure, or equally a Superman figure - the best a pallid, nasty, ersatz religion-substitute could come up with in the dark centuries between the fall of the old gods, and the creation (or discovery) of superheroes and Doctor Who. And just as christianity stole the festivals from the old religions, so Doctor Who is stealing them back. The prime significance of Easter? NEW SEASON! The prime significance of Christmas? SPECIAL!

That Big Brother comment above? Don't worry, I'm not watching the new series (and if anyone else is, they've not mentioned it, which is in some ways a shame as following it through my friends' posts was far more edifying than watching the real thing). Rather, I watched We Live In Public by Ondi Timoner, the maker of Dig!, and if you follow that link any time over the next 17 days then so can you. As in Dig!, she follows someone generally regarded by those around him as a genius/messiah, but who would in fact appear to be a loon. Internet pioneer Josh Harris is essentially Nathan Barley as played by Eugene Mirman. He starts off with, an internet TV network, but is edged out after attending business meetings dressed as a scary clown. Instead he sets up Quiet, which is something between a Berlin squat and a cult bunker (and this in the run-up to the Millennium), but is also the Big Brother house, except less boring (there's loads of shagging, unlimited booze, and guns in the basement - what could go wrong?) and less humane (CIA-trained interrogators, cameras in the loos). And after that's run its course, he sets up home with his (first) girlfriend in full public view - there's even a camera in the bowl of the loo, pointing up, though mercifully the only footage we see from it is the cat having a drink. There's a bit of a rubbish coda, but the film is otherwise a fascinating look at a very damaged man - and proof that the Big Brother 'experiment' was outmoded from the off.

What else? Well, I went to the N19 two nights in a row, and the Camden Head two nights in a row, but my life is in no way in a rut, honest. Oh, and then N19 again, but only after heading up Parkland Walk for a picnic and some art (a bunch of installations up the Highgate end, returning this evening from 6 if anyone needs the excuse for a summer's evening walk). Oh, and I read Evelyn Waugh's final novel, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. An autobiographical account of an ageing Catholic writer who mixes his medicines and starts hallucinating, it may only be 150 pages but that's still too long - like the genuinely insane, Waugh was clearly unaware of the need to edit, of how little illumination one sheds by repetition with minor variation. It has also that nasty Ricky Gervais quality, where the supposedly satirised autobiographical pratagonist is still sneakily presented as indefinably nobler than most of the other characters. And it comes in a book with two horrid, pinched little stories, 'Tactical Exercise' and 'Love Among The Ruins', which remind one of nothing so much as the weaker, more tiresomely reactionary writing of Evelyn's son Auberon - and if you don't know Auberon's work then put it this way - at his worst, he was Richard Littlejohn with the occasional good turn of phrase.
alexsarll: (bernard)
On facing pages of Saturday's paper: competitors in a race complain that it is too fast, and parishioners outraged when their vicar quotes the Bible. For comparison, yesterday I sat down to watch Primer. I did this in the full knowledge that first time writer/director/producer/star Shane Carruth had made it with $7,000, a script more wibbly-wobbly and timey-wimey than Steven Moffat's finest, and a commitment to the philosophy of 'fvck the average viewer' which makes David Simon look like a commissioning exec for ITV1. But I knew these things going in, because I am not entirely stupid, and when the film did indeed prove rather hard to follow I did not complain, because I am not a whining tw@t.
(Once you've checked online to see how the plot untangles, though, it is very good - which is more than one can say for the olympics, or christianity. Possibly the best screen effort I've ever encountered to imagine how time travel might begin and work in the real world, using something close to the orthodox physics of the matter)

Otherwise, a weekend for farewells. On Saturday, the New Royal Family abdicated after a typically energetic but strangely elegiac show. And because it was their last, and because the supports included two with social overlap and one who were Proxy Music, a fairly good proportion of 'everyone I have ever met' was there. Some of whom I thought must have known each other but did not, so I was at least able to introduce them and feel there were beginnings to balance out the ending. I think in the end it felt more celebratory than not, but still a sad day. Not least because the previous night had been the end of another era. Not that you can ever definitively pronounce a death in comics, but the last issue of Phonogram for the foreseeable was out, and the creators were dressed for a wake. It's an atypical issue, too, addressing something I had wondered about - in Phonogram's frame of reference, is there anyone who really likes music but isn't a phonomancer? And of course the answer is nothing so simple as yes or no, more like 'magic happens'. It's the counterbalance to last issue and Lloyd's over-intellectualisation, to the point of being almost wordless. It is also wonderful, but by now you probably guessed I was going to say that.
Anyway, that was one issue, but due to overwhelming public demand* let's take a look at the rest of the last two weeks' comics. Includes legitimate use of the phrase PIRATE BATMAN! )
And since I started writing all this, I've learned of another exit - The 18 Carat Love Affair will be playing one more show, then bowing out. Sad times.

"I read naturalistic novels and they seem to me to be written by people who read too many naturalistic novels. They just seem to be full of convention, that’s all." - Will Self, from a very good interview which also explores his feelings on cities (more negative than I can agree with, but he couldn't write his books without them), the degree to which the novel's self-definition against film is obsolescent, and his sense of his own work's weakness. I know that the failings of the naturalistic novel are something of a hobby horse for me, but I was reminded just how limited a genre naturalism is the other day when a friend mentioned, quite legitimately, that the film she thought had best mirrored her own recent work experience was Tropic Thunder.

*By which I mean it got one comment, which is more than the entirety of Friday's post, so it's comparatively true.
alexsarll: (Default)
The weekend started with a bang at Black Plastic, but was subsequently a fairly quiet one. How terrifyingly grown up of me. Admittedly, Sunday's walk felt considerably less virtuous once we met [ profile] msdaccxx coming the other way from Hendon when we were only going to Ally Pally, and any health benefit we might have derived from the project was probably lost somewhere between the wine and the trifle...but I have now done the whole Parkland Walk. Because, in spite of knowing the Finsbury Park to Highgate stretch backwards (whichever direction that might me), I've never done the whole of the rest, not until this weekend. Which meant I'd missed out on one particularly stunning view/potential suicide spot in particular. The Palace itself was playing host to a make-up artists' convention, the crowd around which had more goths and fewer orange people than I would have expected. Also, one person dressed as Johnny Depp in his Alice role.

Thursday was [ profile] angelv's birthday, the first time I'd been into town in a while and the first time I'd ever had lovely, lovely strawberry and lime cider. On the bus afterwards, I was sat reading a comic when I was accosted by a stranger. Now, I often daydream about the potential meetings which reading material on public transport might unlock - I blame The Divine Comedy's 'Commuter Love'. But the only time anything ever came of it before was when I was reading Houllebecq's Atomised and, just as we got off the train at Derby, had a brief conversation with a girl who had recently read it and agreed that it was a massive disappointment. And this was no better, though in some ways more interesting, because Thursday's stranger was a psychologist, and having just come from some form of professional function, she was off her bloody face. She asked me whether I identified with any of the characters, and I said it wasn't so much about that as about a form of ritualised conflict, circumscribed yet open-ended and thus always available - much the same as some people find in sport. She asked whether I thought there were superheroes in the real world, and I said no, though there are supervillains - I instanced Dubya and the way he stole the thunder of the DC storyline about Lex Luthor becoming President by being real, and worse (then worried that this answer might sound a bit Tony B Liar, but decided against the balancing example of bin Laden as R'as al Ghul because even after Batman Begins, nobody ever recognises his name). Whether she even remembered any of this the next day, I have no idea, but it was definitely a higher calibre of conversation than one normally gets with drunk randoms on buses.
And because of that, because I haven't really got much else to post, because I needed some warm-up writing to do over the weekend and because I was vaguely thinking about doing something like this after my last general moan about the topic, here's what may or may not be a new regular feature, starting with the title which so interested the drunk psychologist: The last two weeks' comics )
alexsarll: (death bears)
This one's going to get geeky, so let's start by establishing that yes, I do sometimes engage in more socially well-adjusted activities. Well, if you can count going to the V&A (they have so much pretty stuff, but what is it *for* when lots of that stuff would be equally at home in the British Museum?), or attending a Britpop night in a Geneva t-shirt, or hanging out with [ profile] fugitivemotel and at one stage uttering the phrase "Oz Season 7, starring Wizbit". And OK, at the party I attended on Saturday I did have a conversation about the Sisters of Mercy's much-better-than-other-bands-called-Sisters cover of 'Comfortably Numb'. So yes, it would seem I am in fact a hopeless case. Oh well.

It was September when I last posted a general State of the Comics Union moan. Since when, not much has changed. I've dropped an increasing number of series which, even if I vaguely want to read, I know I'll never want to reread. More are coming - when Astonishing X-Men and Ultimate Avengers reach the end of the current stories, they're out, because they're not bad little superhero romps but nor are they worth more than a quick read courtesy of the library and, if I've mis-guessed what the library will get in, I'll live. Buffy was in line for the same treatment after the sheer galling idiocy both of the identity of the season's Big Bad, and of the manner in which said identity was revealed (online via fake leak, not in the comic itself) - but Joss Whedon wrote the most recent issue himself and reminded me that it was seldom the big stories which made Buffy so much as the little moments, and this was they. Of course, the next arc is by Brad Meltzer and is going to have a Mature Readers warning, between which and his previous work we can doubtless expect some gratuitously rapey mess which gets me right back to quitsville.
But there's just so much coasting going on - and miserable coasting at that. Both DC and Marvel claim that a bright new direction is coming once the grim'n'gritty carnage of current events is done, but I've heard it all before (and I'm barely been reading anything from DC in ages, they're in such a joyless tangle). At Marvel what seemed like a brilliant idea for a while (businessman Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin talked himself out of responsibility for his crimes and ended up effectively running the country, as the very rich always seem to manage - ring any bells, bankers?) has just been plodding on and on and remorselessly on. And now it has finally reached its endgame - Osborn and his forces attacking Asgard, home of Thor and his fellow gods, which J Michael Straczynski's run on Thor had relocated to Oklahoma. But the comic telling this story, Siege, feels from its first issue more like it's going through the motions of amending the status quo than like the epic story it should be. Brian Bendis, the writer, has previously had problems with the pacing in the middle acts of his big event comics, and this one was shorter so should have been better, but it's as if he's cut not the padded kidriff, but the kick-ass opening.
There's still good stuff, of course; of the titles I praised in September, Ultimate Spider-Man and The Boys are still delivering. The Walking Dead gets better and better, and I don't even much like zombie stories. Vertigo, previously responsible for Sandman, Preacher and The Invisibles among others, has become relevant again with Mike Carey's The Unwritten and Peter Milligan's Greek Street, two very different examinations of the unexpected legacy legends and fictions can have in the modern world. But, will either of them last? The economics of comics are so horribly marginal, it can never be guaranteed; both writers have a string of prematurely-cancelled titles behind them. Word of another casualty has just come in; Phonogram's Kieron Gillen has been doing some lovely work on a space-based screwball comedy X-Men spin-off called S.W.O.R.D., but weak sales mean it ends with the fifth issue. Meanwhile, he's trying his best on Thor but the aforementioned Straczysnki run left him with having to pick up from such a moronic start point (Latveria Is So Bracing!)* that he's really swimming against the current.
Another writer I usually think of as reliably great, Grant Morrison, is in more position to be master of his fate and work, but isn't really putting it to best use. His Batman & Robin hasn't maintained its strong start, getting bogged down in themes he's already done better elsewhere; I feel a real lack of anticipation for the imminent Joe the Barbarian; and as for his Authority...well, OK, it's not really his anymore. It's Keith Giffen scripting Morrison's plots, because Grant stormed off in a huff. And Giffen's a competent enough writer, usually, but it turns out that he can't write British. So Morrison's most thoroughly, heartbreakingly British lead since Greg Feely in The Filth now talks about leaving things in his other 'pants', and his first 'apartment'. The issue of The Boys set amidst the baguette-jousting inhabitants of the village of Franglais had a better ear for dialect than this.

And as if that little diatribe weren't bad enough, today the main thing lifting me out of the sense of 'meh' which comes with this horrible sinus-y cold is the storming victory my new-look Tyranid army managed in last night's game of Warhammer 40,000.

*I love Babylon 5 - mostly - but JMS' comics career has been one frustration after another. Either he loses the plot, or he falls out with the publisher and storms off, or in extreme cases, both. People told me his Thor was excellent but having been burned before, I waited. And I finally read the first two collections recently and lo and behold, this was one of the cases of 'both'. There's a lot to love: instead of talking in cod-Shakespearean English as previous writers so clumsily attempted, his Asgardians speak formally but coherently; it's the themes which echo Shakespeare now, with the prince uneasy on his father's throne, the adviser who whispers poison in a good but naive ear. And the abiding question: what do gods do when their legend is over? If they survived Ragnarok, what now? Yes, in a sense it would have been a better theme back in those days when we were told we'd seen the End of History, but it's still a fascinating one.
However. There are scenes in post-Katrina New Orleans and war-torn Africa which demonstrate that Straczynski hasn't learned a damn thing since his legendarily bad Amazing Spider-Man issue where Doctor Doom stood in the wreckage of the World Trade Centre and wept. And, though I've yet to read the third volume which fully explains how he got to where he left the series, I've seen enough to know that yes, what looked like a stupid idea which Gillen was obliged to pick up, was also a stupid idea approached from the other end.
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.
alexsarll: (crest)
Sometimes we all get anxious - if time is money then it explains how time and money can get wrapped into a sort of unified field theory of worry which then starts pulling in everything else, however outlandish. And London, being not half so stony-hearted as some have made her out to be, tries her best to cheer you up, pulling aside the curtain so you catch sight of side-streets you've never seen before in all the times you've gone down that road, but you're so convinced that you're in a hurry that you mark them for future investigation, so she makes them more and more enticing until finally you crack and trot down there and suddenly, even though it looks like a normal enough little street, the light and the birdsong and the breeze all come together and counteract that knot of troubles and everything's alright again. And you carry on along your way, lighter of spirit, and accomplish your missions and find time to drop in on the British Museum too, where while looking for something else entirely you find a statue of the Remover of Obstacles which contains at least enough of his essence to convey the appropriate sentiment of "Hey, we got this! Relax." And you know that something will turn up - it always does.

Went for another walk later on, to take in the fireworks - and I've no idea what most modern Britons are celebrating these days, whether it's an expression of anarchist tendencies which I can hardly begrudge even if they have chosen an iffy figurehead, or if they just like blowing sh1t up. Personally, commemorating the defeat and brutal execution of the seventeenth century's answer to al Qaeda still works for me, but whatever it's nominally about, the lights, and the bangs, and the smell of gunpowder in the's magical in itself. And this year there was no magic in the air on Hallowe'en, in spite of all the witches and vampires on the streets, but it's stupid to be purist about these things, for the nature of the magical is not to be constrained by formulae - if it were just another science then what would be the point?

In spite of not having to fit myself around a working day at present, I still find myself fitting more or less to a standard diurnal schedule - most of the time. Last night was one of the exceptions, charging drunkenly around Youtube looking for gems I half-remembered or never caught, like this Whipping Boy video, and making the sad discovery that 'Stranger Than Fiction' by Destroy All Monsters is not half so good as I remember. I also watched '£45 zombie movie' Colin; obviously the same thing that made me keen to see it (zombie Al!) is the thing which most hampers my suspension of disbelief, but even so it has some haunting moments. I worry, though, that telling the story from the zombie's point of view, making the zombie-killers such unsympathetic characters, will be very counterproductive come the zombie apocalypse.

Other items of interest:
- Grant Morrison and Stephen Fry are pitching something for BBC Scotland.
- A rather entertaining drubbing of Florence & the Machine.
- "Presenter Lauren Laverne has signed up to write a series of novels for teenage girls." Anyone else remember when that news would have been terribly exciting?
alexsarll: (Default)
A sign on the main gates announces that Finsbury Park itself will be closing at 5pm by the end of October, with even that shrinking down to 4.30 for the whole of December and the beginning of January. Now, aside from remembering that a couple of years ago it was never closed even in the middle of the night, I'm sure those times are ludicrously and unprecedentedly early, but I suspect that the joggers among you would be better placed to confirm that.

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

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

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


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.
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: (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)
Well, after some pretty half-arsed efforts over the past hour or so, the rain looks to be picking up to a proper bank holiday level now, and any plans of sitting in the park are dissolving nicely in it; a game of Gloom would mark the day better than a dance around the maypole. Yesterday, though, was lovely; after 18 Carat Love Affair's set (including [ profile] hospitalsoup's second best 'Pink Glove' cover) we fled Sexy Kid (remarkably, worse than their name suggests) and a definition of Britpop which encompassed Finley Quaye (though also, to their credit, Ultrasound's 'I'll Show You Mine') for Tavistock Square and the sun, from which it's a lovely walk through the backstreets to Fleet Street (why didn't I know London had a pub called The Knights Templar?) to Fleet Street, where Mr Punch serves ruinously tasty West Country cider, the rogue.

If you want to get overexcited about the new Grant Morrison multiverse comic, or just want to see a picture of Batman punching out Rorschach, click here.
alexsarll: (menswear)
Black Plastic on Saturday was a classic example of how London's greedy venues threaten to cripple their own trade with the short-termist desire for a buck; the Star had also booked in two or three birthday parties, taking up lots of space (including, for the first few hours, what should have been the dancefloor) with people who had no particular interest in the music or the night. Or indeed, much interest in music in general; they were in a trendy East London venue, so whatever they were hearing, must be cool. Not cool enough to make them dance or anything, but cool enough that whatever had been played, wouldn't have been able to scare them off. Even once the tables finally moved, there were too many of them standing around talking, making the place feel like a bar, and have I ever mentioned how much I hate bars? I salute the courage and indefatigibility of the DJs for making sure that there were still classic moments in amongst all this, but why does doing a night in this city have to be such an uphill struggle?

The temperature seemed to be trying to cycle through three seasons in a day, but I finally made it down to Shooter's* Hill on Friday. I'm not sure quite why this had become such a goal of mine, even with the Luxembourg lyric bolstering the Alan Moore story about local boy Steve 'No Relation' Moore. Perhaps it's just like when you're looking for a particular pen absent-mindedly, and it imperceptibly mounts to become an obsessive hunt, because I can't claim any particular epiphany as the lodestone which was drawing me there. Although it is lovely...well, not so much the main road which takes you there, but you can start from Greenwich and wander through the bit of the park which always seems to get neglected in picnic season, with the flowers and the woodpeckers and deer. And then out across Blackheath, which is so open and happy in the sun, when the werewolves aren't out. And then the rather dusty, concrete, Ballardian stretch - but then you're between commons and woods and the sudden apparition of a tower which claims the awesome name of Severndroog Castle, and these are proper broad-leafed, light, English woods, where bluetits titter and kids are still making rope swings rather than doing anything edgy or urban or Mail-baiting. And if you carry on over the hill, and come out of the wood, you'll realise there's no postcode on the street sign, and you've accidentally walked out of London, and you need a drink and a sit down.

When Grant Morrison released Seaguy back in 2004, it wasn't very well received. The story of a superhero born too late, living in a world where everything is perfect (isn't it?) and there's no evil left to fight (is there?) just didn't seem to strike a chord in the boom years. Now we've realised that the whole age of ever-rising prosperity and ever-bigger plasma screens was a mirage, it looks so astonishingly prescient that one wonders at people ever missing the point. Perfect timing, then, for the sequel over which Morrison essentially held DC to ransom for his big event work, Slaves of Mickey Eye. Except now his point (those cuddly institutions who told you everything was OK? Do you really trust them?) seems almost too obvious. Prophecy's a tough game. Fortunately, there's quite enough Mad Brilliant Ideas TM, moments of genuine pathos and mysteries as yet unsolved to keep one interested beyond the obvious message. If you prefer the Invisibles and Filth Morrison to the superheroics (not that I've ever felt the distinction was particularly noticeable), then this one is for you.

*The apostrophe seems to come and go, but I prefer it with one.
alexsarll: (bernard)
I find myself worrying that Charlie Brooker might be the new Bill Hicks - ie, awesome, and usually right, but too easily quoted in too many situations in a way which makes the over-quoter seem a bit of a prick. And I'm as guilty of this as anyone, and I think maybe I need to scale it back a bit. Except why did this revelation hit me in the same week he returns to our TV screens? Ah, my timing.

Philipp Blom's The Vertigo Years aims to overturn the idea that the first 14 years of the twentieth century were a peaceful, if shadowed, idyll, the last days of the old world before the wars and revolutions made the modern world. Like most history with an agenda, the hand is overplayed, but if only as a counterbalance, it's a valuable take on how much was as new and strange and unsettling a hundred years ago as whatever's causing the latest panic now. More than the old 'how very similar then was to now' trick, though, it was little details which caught my attention. Wooden ships of the line, Trafalgar-style, when would you think the last of those was launched by the Royal Navy? 1879. The creator of Bambi also wrote p0rn (I'm surprised that didn't somehow make it into Lost Girls, though the Rite of Spring riot is here in detail). The borders between 'a very long time ago' and 'a long time ago', in other words, are as permeable as those between 'the old days' and 'I remember when'. Oh, and while I knew the Belgians had been utter gits in the Congo, I had no idea the death toll was ten million. Hitler gets all the press, but he doesn't even have the twentieth century's second highest total for genocide by a European ruler. Lightweight.

Obviously it's great news that Grant Morrison is back with Frank Quitely for (some of) the new Batman & Robin comic, and that he's getting to continue with Seaguy and do a Multiverse book and various other bits and pieces. But..."I’ve just been doing an Earth Four book, which is the Charlton characters but I’ve decided to write it like “Watchmen.” [laughs] So it’s written backwards and sideways and filled with all kinds of symbolism". It was obvious from the first time we glimpsed Earth Four in 52 that it was very much a Dark Charlton world, playing up the Watchmen correspondences; they even showed Peacemaker in a window as a nod to the exit of his analogue, the Comedian. I assumed that world would be used in passing for the sort of third-stringer-written continuity frottage that makes up so much of DC's output - it may have cropped up in Countdown for all I know, and that was very much the sort of place where I assumed it would stay. Morrison's use of a multiversal Captain Atom as a Dr Manhattan piss-take in Superman Beyond...well, it was one of the weakest things in there, but it was forgivable. A whole series, though? Morrison is the second best comics writer in the world. Moore has pretty much departed comics. Is it not about time that Morrison got over the anxiety of influence?
(In arguably related news, I swear our team could have done better at the pub quiz last night had it not been for the distractingly cute girl two tables over with a copy and a badge of Watchmen)

Last week I was asked to write something about my journey, and it turned out rather well, so in the parlance of Nu-Facebook, I thought I might 'share': Stroud Green )
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.
alexsarll: (crest)
Finally saw the hilarious Superbad on Friday; I loved it, though being shown it by a female friend I could see that her amusement was purer, in that it wasn't tempered with that terrible recognition anyone who's ever been a teenage boy must feel. Mentioning it to [ profile] augstone later, he thought I was asking if he'd seen Superman; I wasn't, but if his secret identity were McLovin instead of Clark Kent, wouldn't that be glorious? Also on Friday night: got lost in Emirates, impersonated a chessboard, saw Sex Tourists/Doe Face Lilian/The Firm. As is traditional on Holloway Road love-ins, the roster also included one band I didn't know; as is traditional, they were pants, ie so pants that even being pretty girls in knee-length socks covering 'I Wanna Be Your Dog' couldn't save them. Let's hope tradition stops before the Gaff burns down, though.
Saturday and Sunday also fun, but Monday...that Monday was overacting. It hammered its point home with a scenery-chewing excess of Mondayness. I did not approve.

Glen David Gold's Carter Beats The Devil was, quite deservedly if unusually, a success both with the general public and with people I know. His follow-up has been delayed and delayed, but should finally be with us this year. Except, just like various bands have had exclusive distribution deals with various chains (mainly in the States), in the UK Waterstone's get Sunnyside in July, and everyone else has to wait 'til Autumn. What makes this even stranger - that's the hardback, ie the prestige edition aimed at people who have money to spare and really can't wait for the book. Which comes out in the US in May, and can be pre-ordered from for $17.79. That's not quite the bargain it would have been two years ago, but if you're into the book enough to get a hardback in July, for about the same price you can get one in May instead. So what do Waterstone's and the UK publishers get out of this, except for winding up other booksellers?

Comics links: have a bunch of Grant Morrison rarities, including Batman and Superman text stories from 1986 - two decades before he got to do definitive runs in the main titles - and Alan Moore interviewed on the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Obama, and his grimoire-in-progress:
"We want it to be a lot of fun and we also want it to be exactly like the way you would have imagined a book to magic to be when you were a small child and had first heard of such things."
As someone who has attempted to read Crowley, that sounds like just what Doctor Dee ordered.

I'd been looking forward to Tin Man, a reimagining of The Wizard of Oz starring Alan Cumming, Callum Keith Rennie and lovely, lovely Zooey Deschanel. Not only was I disappointed, but I don't even have much to add to USA Today's disappointment when they say that "Ambitious and intriguing though it may be, Tin Man is simply too long, too grim and too determined to impose a Lord of the Rings universe-saving quest on top of a simpler, gentler story." It perhaps doesn't help that Alan Moore so recently finished showing how you could reinvent that story to a darker end, so long as you had a point, rather than just mashing together various fashionable SF and fantasy tropes into a world with no thematic consistency or resonance, much less plausibility.


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.

January 2016



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