alexsarll: (crest)
Been playing Space Crusade again, after a gap of a couple of decades. Back then, I imagine people thought it would lose its appeal once I worked up the courage to talk to girls. More fool them.

Align is a tricky one to classify; not quite a play, nor a lecture. Call it a performance, it's probably as close as we'll get. Taking place, perfectly, mere yards from the actual Bridewell, it is a story of London's sacred geography which never gets too swivel-eyed, is far more 'wouldn't that be interesting?' than making foolhardy statements about what is or isn't true - and yet feels none the less mystical for all that. Rather than hang around afterwards, I feel driven to strike out along the Strand Ley about which we've just been hearing, and it's all delightfully numinous until I hit the smell of a freshers' event at the LSE. I doubt the bacchanals of our ancestors were any more fragrant, but I can edit that detail out of my daydreams.
Also tricky to classify: Neil Gaiman reading his new book Fortunately, The Milk, with Chris Riddell illustrating it live. Already a little multimedia, but then you have it being acted out and sung and generally turned into something quite its own creature through the assistance of TV Smith, Tom Robinson, Mitch Benn, Lenny Henry, Tori Amos' daughter, Andrew O'Neill, and Faith from 'Jimmy's End' (who is much less haunted when she's playing a pirate queen, so that's handy).

Lots of gigs by the people whose gigs I see a lot - to whose ranks the Soft Close-Ups were temporarily restored when [livejournal.com profile] augstone was briefly allowed back in the country. Neither show was quite as melancholy as the Sunday afternoon show a few months back, but still, when on a wet Wednesday night they played their adaptation of that Housman poem about death (tautology, I know), any plans I had for a straight edge gig crumbled. Good suppors at both shows, too - Parenthesisdotdotdot, aka Tim from Baxendale dressed as the chap from Dr Caligari, and Marcus Reeves, who is essentially my friend [livejournal.com profile] dr_shatterhand playing Marc Almond. At the latter show they also had me returning to the wheels of steel for the first time in some years. I always did prefer playing quieter sets. Read more... )

Other shows have been further from my usual orbit:
Martin Newell playing his annual show in a converted Colchester church in the shadow of the appropriately-named Jumbo water tower, bearing a curious resemblance to William Hartnell as a Teddy Boy pirate. He's a charmingly shambolic raconteur, an occasional ranter, and a mostly mediocre poet, but once he's singing, oh, the songs.
A violinist plays Bach in another church, this time right on the border of the City. I conclude that Bach may be the music to whose condition art is said to aspire.
A distinctly white trio, playing the hipster pub sat incongruously opposite the East London Mosque, play a nameless and heavily highlife-influenced jam. Against all odds, it works.
In a bar inexplicably decorated with biscuits stuck to bricks, a jazz band have one singer who thinks Seasick Steve is a role model rather than a terrible warning about the gullibility of authenticity bores. But the other singer sounds far more like Billie Holiday than any modern Briton has a right to.
(And because you can't win them all, there was also the act who appeared to be Jack Whitehall fronting Reef)

On top

Apr. 18th, 2011 07:59 pm
alexsarll: (magnus)
So that was the last two day weekend for a while, but it still managed to be large in spirit if not duration. Pulp hits from the Nuisance band, a leaving party in East 17 and then picnic action in Finsbury Park where, pleasingly, those horrid itchy white fuzz things are off the trees, meaning a wider range of climbing options for the season. Lovely. And I managed to fit in a viewing of Day of the Locust, one of Tinseltown's periodic bursts of self-flagellation, which starts out as a meandering slice of 1930s Hollywood life ("less a conventional film than it is a gargantuan panorama", said one wise critic), culminates in apocalypse, and yet never feels like it has betrayed its own inner logic. It also features a young Donald Sutherland as an uptight, spineless fellow called Homer Simpson. Which comes as quite a surprise the first couple of times his name comes up.

The American Library Association's list of the books the most people want banned is, as ever, composed largely of books which threaten to teach young people that sex is fun and homosexuality is perfectly normal. There is, though, one interesting anomaly: Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, which exposes the truth of life in the minimum wage, showing how big employers screw people and how, contrary to the corporate and political lies, a McJob will not improve your life. Apparently its 'political viewpoint' offended people; its 'religious viewpoint' also, presumably in that it emphasises what damage the Protestant work ethic has wrought. I wonder how many of the busybodies who objected to it were simply concerned private citizens, and how many were Wal-Mart managers, politicians keen on cutting benefit 'scrounging' and other interested parties?
(Continuing on the theme of 'USA WTF?', the finale of Sons of Anarchy's second series was a beautiful, brutal piece of television - until the very end, when it suddenly veered into utter silliness. And worse, silliness of a stripe which suggests that next season will see even more abominable attempts at Oirish accents. Foolish Sons of Anarchy!)

In the run of Neil Gaiman books, Interworld seems to be one of the ones people forget. Perhaps this is because it's co-written with someone other than Terry Pratchett? But I liked the one book I read by co-author Michael Reaves, and it was dirt cheap on Amazon, and so I thought I might as well take the plunge. And it's OK. The set-up: a kid finds that he can walk between parallel worlds, as can the versions of him on all the other parallel worlds. So most of the major characters are versions of the same person, teamed up to protect the multiverse. This means that Interworld joins Ulysses and China Mieville's 'Looking for Jake' on the short list of books I was planning to write before discovering that someone else had saved me the trouble. It's not as good as either of those, mind - and I was surprised not to find the twist I expected (ie, the one which my version would have had), in that the arch-villain didn't turn out to be yet another version of the protagonist. Still, it's a perfectly serviceable young adult romp, and now that story is out in the world I no longer feel any responsibility to it.
alexsarll: (Default)
Another film I'd been meaning to see for ages: Network. Like They Live, I wonder whether its anti-TV vitriol is still too much for it to be broadcastable? Strange if so, because if Network has one message it's not anger - even if it is the "I'm as mad as Hell and I'm not going to take this anymore" speech which everyone quotes. No, it's how the Spectacle will assimilate anything, spoilers, for a 1976 film, but still ) Just look at all the money Rage Against the Machine made Sony last Christmas.

The Sunday wobble about which I've posted previously wasn't the whole weekend, of course. There was a leaving do for [livejournal.com profile] rosamicula, which doubled as a welcome home for [livejournal.com profile] dawnage and whatever Rick's LJ is, as if in obedience to some hitherto unknown Law of Conservation. At the Walrus, which I've always wanted to check out simply for the name, but which I usually only pass en route to the more prosaically named Horse. I'm not sure what it would be like as a winter pub, but in summer, it has the garden to be a godsend. Then another new drinking destination for Saturday's birthday festivities, Bourne & Hollingsworth, which exists somewhere between wartime speakeasy and provincial tea-room, and serves cocktails in teacups, and where I made my first attempt at MP3 DJing, for a given value of 'DJing' and certainly not one which merits posting a setlist, before heading on to DSM where I remember very little beyond the presence of the DBB. I blame the Laundry novels for any current addiction to TLAs.

The sketch which made me laugh most in last night's (as ever, admittedly patchy) Mitchell & Webb was Caesar. But the ones which most impressed me were the one where they bit the Apple hand that feeds, and especially the opening self-criticism session. As against Peep Show, their own work sometimes gets accused of a certain traditional, cosy quality. Good to see them rolling with those punches and coming back with this level of savagery.

When it wasn't giving me the fear re: space, one of the things I like about that Ray Bradbury collection* I'm reading is that, for all that it came out through a science fiction imprint, it doesn't feel obliged to be all SF. I'm only a quarter of the way through, but if a story doesn't need to involve a spaceship or a time machine, then Bradbury doesn't throw one in just to keep within his genre; sometimes all you need is two men meeting on a beach. As I may have mentioned once or twice before, I'm not too keen on genre boundaries, which is why a project like the Neil Gaiman co-edited anthology Stories interests me. If you know McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, this is basically a less confrontational, more entryist approach to that. The cover, instead of a masked lion-tamer, is just contributor names - it's almost as studiedly uninformative as the title. And where Chabon's introduction railed against "the contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory short story", Gaiman simply extols the joy of the story in which the main question is - "what happened next?" The two share a couple of authors - two of the big beasts, in fact, Michael Moorcock and Gaiman himself, both among the main reasons I'm reading either collection in the first place. Beyond them, Stories makes a deliberately wide-ranging selection. There are other people I actively want to read - Gene Wolfe, Joe Hill. There are people I've vaguely meant to read - Michael Swanwick, Walter Mosley. Then there are people I'd never have thought to read, some reviewers' darlings - Joyce Carol Oates - and some big sellers - Jodi Piccoult. The clever bit being, of course, that for any reader, each of those four categories is going to include a completely different selection of names. In the interests of fairness, I'm reading every story, and if I've not been convinced to investigate the oeuvre of any of the writers I wasn't already interested in, nor has any of them been quite as bad as I expected (though there is something of a fixation on stories of elderly siblings). Obviously, part of me hopes that the people coming in for Oates will be rather more impressed by Gaiman...but the world's not quite that satisfying, is it? And if nothing else, I will probably read some more Mosley. Maybe even some Swanwick, though I was put off by the self-evident falseness of one of his central conceits: apparently characters in books don't read books. Even leaving aside the bookish heroes of MR James, Lovecraft and Borges, what about Dorian Gray, Don Quixote, Scott Pilgrim?

*I put the non-Bradbury part of Monday's post into the 'who do you write like' meme currently prowling Livejournal, and it told me Edgar Allen Poe. I was quietly pleased, but then realised I was missing a trick, especially when I saw Bradbury himself was one of the answers, and entered his contribution instead, but apparently he writes like Douglas Adams.
alexsarll: (crest)
The Foreign Office circulates internally a lighthearted memo suggesting that it would be jolly nice if the Pope started behaving like a civilised member of the modern age; they apologise. The Pope, among his many and various other crimes, runs a global paedophile ring; he has not apologised, much less been prosecuted. And yet loathsome turds like Peter Hitchens and George Carey (the latter a Lord, of course, with a say in Parliament simply because he was in the racket) have the temerity to claim that christians are now the underdogs. When Pope Sidious is where he belongs, behind bars and being regularly raped by his burlier fellow inmates, then you can complain that christians are now the underdogs. And I shall smile benignly, suggest that the term 'prag' might be more precise, and carry on about my day in that brighter world.

Anyway. Friday. Wow. I approached the Evelyn Evelyn show with some trepidation because, while I find complaints about 'appropriation' and such from special interest groups uniformly tedious, I wasn't that impressed with the album either; a handful of good songs didn't save the general effect from being queasily sub-Lemony Snicket. Really, though, it is better conceived as the soundtrack to a show - and in the ornate Bush Hall, with a red velvet backdrop, we got that show played very well. Seeing the twins yoked together, playing guitar or keyboard or accordion with one arm each, or pausing for huddled conferences, the effect is very different. And, just to scotch any lingering arguments about disablism, there was someone in a wheelchair right down the front.
We also got a support band called Bitter Ruin who had very pop voices but cabaret songs - which worked out well - and solo and collaborative sets from Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley. The latter wasn't as good as I've seen him before - perhaps because he'd only just made his way in through the volcano aftermath, but surely that was all the more reason to play the bafflingly absent 'Dance While The Sky Crashed Down'? Palmer I've not seen before, but she was very good, doing a staggering duet on 'Delilah' with Bitter Ruin's female vocalist. Plus, we obviously got Neil Gaiman, initially on soiled kazoo but then with tambourine in one hand and a sign saying LOUDER! in the other.

Then up to Stay Beautiful where I thought we'd only be missing Ladynoise - no sacrifice at all. Except we get in and apparently we've missed a secret show by Adam Ant. Man! But then his band (aka Rachel Stamp) are setting up again and we're going to get to see him after all. This is brilliant, right? Well...no. As soon becomes apparent, he is not a well man. I've seen a few attempts to rework Springsteen's 'Born in the USA' as 'Born in the UK', and it never quite comes off, but this is still a low. 'Land of the brave, and home of the free, but they fvcked it up with CCTV', runs the chorus, biut mainly he's hectoring us about the killing of Sophie Lancaster. An admirable cause and I don't think there's a person at SB who would say otherwise, but for some reason Adam has a really hectoring tone, as though we don't care enough. Is it because we're not singing along to lyrics we've never heard before and he seems to be making up as he goes along? The song rambles along interminably in a way 'Born in the USA' never should; I go to the loo and the bar and when I get back he's still shouting that SHE GOT HER BRAIN SMASHED IN FOR BEING A PUNK ROCKER! I don't even dance to 'Prince Charming' later on, though I'm sure I will again soon enough.

And Stay Beautiful in general? I had a lot of fun, but it didn't allay my suspicions that this is too soon for a reunion. The 'final' one felt like an Event, with all the old hands out again; this just felt like any latter-day SB. And there are worse things to be, of course, but also grander ones. I did particularly like the bit where only one CD deck was working, because I always said that one day Love Your Enemies would be influential.
alexsarll: (Default)
In the heart of town yesterday, it felt like spring - people starting to be that little bit less wrapped up, their skin breathing again and their glances no longer guarded against the winds of winter. I was there to make my first ever visit to the Prince Charles (good seats) and watch Miyazaki's latest, Ponyo. Which is at once nonsense, and a thing of joy and wonder. Miyazaki seems almost to take it as read that we know his themes by now, so there are nods to concepts like humanity's careless pollution of nature, or the grave consequences of taking reaction against that too far and becoming anti-human, without any apparent need to explore them. Instead we just get cute stuff, and exciting bits, and cute exciting bits. Having initially seemed like it was trying to set the new benchmark for mildness of peril, it builds into the sort of apocalyptic pastoral you might expect from JG Ballard if he'd ended up writing for In the Night Garden.
Plus, it omits the usual Miyazaki high-point of a flying sequence - but only because, when you've got underwater to play with, every movement can be a flying sequence of sorts. The underwater sequences here being so gloriously full of life and light that suddenly Finding Nemo looks almost bleak and minimalist in comparison.

Saturday: there are many fine daytime options available, but I was never likely to pass on a chance to spend the day sociably watching Doctor Who, eating cheese and drinking ginger wine. We open with the complete televised works to date of Steven Moffat, noting in among the known hobby horses (wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff) a few smaller tics (bananas are good). But even after a binge like this, which with many writers could be too much of a good thing, we end up mainly excited about what April will bring. But we can't watch it yet, so instead settle down to Peter Davison in Earthshock, which is EXCELLENT*.
I then head over to Don't Stop Moving. As I walk into the Camden Head, what should they playing downstairs but the Doctor Who theme; a perfect transition. To the surprise of nobody at all, the song of the night is GaGa's 'Telephone', but there is much fun and dancing to be had in general, fire alarm notwithstanding.

Friday: birthday drinks in a pub which is remarkably not Camden for saying it's in Camden. Not even very Primrose Hill - if anything it feels like it should be somewhere past Hammersmith. I'm always reluctant to name funny little pubs like this online now, in case Neil Morrissey is reading, but its garden was sunken and had old mirrors all over the walls, like the realm of Despair in Sandman except filled with booze, which is the opposite of despair. Thursday's pun was another odd one, hidden in what I think may be the mythical De Beauvoir Town, but then the Deptford Beach Babes seem to specialise in playing venues I have never visited before. As always they are a lot more fun than my face in their video** might suggest - and this time I wasn't even doing my usual video schtick of being the disapproving authority figure, it was just my face. The bar's selection is a little limited, but from the state of the bar staff this seems to be because they had drunk everything else themselves the night before, so good on them.

*Earthshock in-joke which probably doesn't even work in print, but sod it. It does have its moments but we spent most of it taking the piss.
**Still not online so far as I can see.
alexsarll: (Default)
I wasn't having much luck getting in the mood for the final Stay Beautiful on Saturday, until I realised that never mind the weather, my main problem might be that I was listening to a steady stream of grumpy Americana (Two Gallants, Drive-By Truckers, Tom Waits) - so I chucked on some Placebo instead, and I was back in the zone. Already knew what I was wearing; the same shirt and tie I wore to the first Stay Beautiful, back in 2001 when most of the recent regulars would never have got past even SB's splendidly lax ID policies of the early days (Hell, one of the DJs was underage). Back before I knew any of the people I've met at SB (and so many people that is, lovers and friends and mates and just people you know to nod to if you see them somewhere else), or all the people I then met through them. Even before the club existed the messageboard did, and that was probably my second regular online hang-out, long before Livejournal - indeed, it was a conversation-cum-running joke on the SB board which resulted in the creation of this very journal, because I refused to create my own.
So yes, same shirt and tie, plus black suit again. Like how in Sandman, none of the other Endless ever calls Death by her name, because she's not only and not always Death, and we always meet her twice, we just don't remember the first time. Look, it made sense to me, OK?
And right from the start, there were old faces and new and the whole thing is still in my head as a rush of sensations which can't quite be put into words and would really best be conveyed as some kind of vertiginous montage, helped by my spending most of the evening at exactly the right pitch of drunkenness, that sort where everything just seems somehow epic (in the real sense, not just the general term of approval), all dancing and kissing and glitter everybloodywhere.
Unless some of us end up in positions of (cultural) power, I don't think Stay Beautiful is ever going to enter the cultural discourse like the Hacienda or Studio 54 or Shoom; it never spawned a sound that took on the world, for starters. Hell, it doesn't even get talked about like Trash, and I went to Trash, and it was dreadful. Its legacy is more social than cultural, but for a time, it was our place. And then as we drifted away, it still managed to find a new 'us' and become their place, and what do you know, lately the old us and the new 'us' have got to know each other a bit more and we got on too. It's sad that it's over, but it managed so much more than most clubs ever do, knit the threads together. Even if it never gets to be on the noughties nostalgia checklist, we'll remember. Goodbye, Stay Beautiful.
alexsarll: (magneto)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the book I remember least - except for the ending, of course. Because it's basically Part One of the two-part series finale, isn't it? And the film's not even that - it's Part One of a three-part finale because they're splitting Deathly Hallows in two. Which is why I was surprised by how brilliant the film was, although I shouldn't be, because unlike the books they do consistently get better each time. The camerawork, the lighting, the locations all contribute to a sense of a widening world, but also a darkening one; the book is pared back mercilessly but sensitively, revealing its core. There's also, bafflingly, a sudden jump in the levels of innuendo, which I would say was just the effect of watching a film with [livejournal.com profile] curiousbadger except I've seen people who didn't say the same. Little things outside the director's control play into it, too - Luna Lovegood so effortlessly able to steal any scene she's in, or the lad who plays Draco being at that awkward stage of ageing where boyish good looks have yet to become adult handsomeness and the golden boy temporarily looks lumpish.
Also, have I ever mentioned that in spite of everything, I have even more of a crush on Bellatrix than I do on most Helena Bonham-Carter characters?

Lenny Henry talks about his love for A Matter of Life and Death. The programme is probably of more interest to Lenny Henry fans who don't yet know the film than to fans of the film who aren't that bothered about Lenny Henry. I used to like him, years back in the Delbert Wilkins days, and I suppose he still has the Neil Gaiman association, but it still seems slightly odd that we have the same favourite film. Though he is, after all, British, so nothing like as surprising as the show's revelation was that Martin Scorsese is also a massive P&P fan.

UK Drug Policy Commission's report shows signs of the Commission having seen The Wire, calls for 'smarter' drug policing with a focus on harm reduction; Home Office sticks fingers in ears, sings 'na na na I'm not listening'.

The Isle of Lewis, within two days, had its first Sunday sailing of the ferry, and then its first gay wedding. Less than ten days later, a mini-tornado wreaks havoc on the island. If the god-botherers don't capitalise on this, they're even more stupid than I thought.
alexsarll: (crest)
It's not often I find myself wishing PG Wodehouse books had footnotes, but as I sat reading the first Blandings in the twilight of Stationer's Park, I found myself deeply puzzled. A young lady suggests to the protagonist that if he looks at the ads in the paper, he may find something more congenial than the job he hates. He looks, but is disappointed to find only a series of philanthropists, keen to share their fortunes. How is that a bad thing? Was this the 1915 equivalent of a Nigerian email scam?

I've already mentioned that, given the acclaim Alan Bleasdale's received as a social realist, I was surprised to find less moral ambiguity in his GBH than in Torchwood: Children of Earth. I'm now more than halfway through GBH and would further add that Torchwood was much more psychologically realistic in its portrayal of how power corrupts, and how the struggles of political entities destroy the little human lives caught between them. But what really astonished me was that Children of Earth also had significantly less Doctor Who fanw@nk than GBH, in whose fourth episode crucial scenes in a hotel take place against the background of a fan convention, with drunken Earth Reptiles and Cybermen cavorting around, and eventually a Dalek pulling Polly while chanting "FOR-NI-CATE'.
I'm still watching, mind. It may be a pantomime, but Robert Lindsay and Michael Palin are giving such performances that it still compels.

Even in this age of reunions and reissues, I never thought 2009 would find me writing about Angelica, not least because I was never that bothered about them in the first place. But lo and behold, the headliners at last night's 18 Carat Love Affair gig (not entirely convinced by the whole drummer-in-front-of-stage idea, though I appreciate their reasoning) were the Angelica singer's new band. Just her and a drummer, who had a bike basket on the front of his kit, and a harness thing with recorders in so he could blow and drum at the same time. At one stage she hit the drums too with what appeared to be a skipping rope. Yes, they were fairly twee, as it happens. If you wish to investigate further, they're called The Lovely Eggs.

On Monday, in a charity shop, for 99p (well, a quid since they had no pennies) I found a copy of the old Neil Gaiman-conceived shared-world anthology The Weerde: Book of the Ancients. Which has an early Charles Stross story* I fancied rereading, and which I also knew was worth rather more than a quid. This copy was further signed by one of the authors, Liz Holliday, "To Alison, with thanks".
Between the pages of the Stross story, I found an autumn leaf. On which, in silver ink, "To Jess, Happy Xmas, love from Alison".
Now I don't think I can bear for it to be passed on again. Which is why, among the careers closed to me, is that of eBay trader.

*Interesting to read something of his from 1993, before he could write about the internet and expect anyone to have a clue what he was talking about. Yet his 'Red, Hot & Dark' nicely prefigures the Laundry books, with its intersection of ancient horrors, bureaucracy and espionage. Some of the themes of 'The Missile Gap' are here too, in particular the idea of communism as another preconception about the world which can be shattered by alien contact.
alexsarll: (manny)
It's a week since I updated - well, except to have an IT spasm* - and I'm not entirely sure why, because it's not like I've been short of things to report. I've seen my first of the new generation of 3D films, Coraline, and been impressed with how well the technology works, and how it doesn't just feel like a gimmick - whichever industry suit it was who said that if it wasn't quite the new sound, it was maybe the new colour, was for once not talking hype crap. I've finally been in a boat on Finsbury Park lake, and am glad to know that I can still just about row. I've found an opportunity to take direct action against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad while en route to Richmond of all places, where I then received an eye-opening tour of the local attractions. I've played Necrons. I went to a revivalist goth club where my trousers melted - not that I was wearing them at the time - and it became clear that apparently all female goth vocals of the Batcave period either were, or sounded like, Siouxsie. I've discovered a splendid little venue within walking distance which seems to have a full programme of rockabilly-type stuff, because the Deptford Beach Babes were doing their surftastic thing there. And I've started the new Glen David Gold, which is thus far every bit as thrilling and beautiful and capacious as Carter Beats The Devil, itself one of the very few books I'm happy to recommend to pretty much anyone.

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

*Speaking of which, I was watching some early Buffy yesterday, for the first time in ages (and don't they all look so young?), and there was a terribly sad bit where Buffy asks Giles whether life gets easier, and he asks if she wants the truth and she replies, as per the episode title, '"Lie to me". And we were discussing this and I concluded that it doesn't get easier per se, but it's a bit like getting used to a horribly buggy piece of software - you gradually learn more of the tricks and workarounds, and get more adept, but of course this just makes it even more jarring when some new glitch arises.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Theory: neckties were not an echo of the Roman soldier's neck-rag in the past, but a precursor of earphone leads in the future. Which is why the period of their die-off coincides so closely with the gradual arrival of that for which they played John the Baptist.

Friday: to the Wilmington, where you must not step past the green pillar with your drink because of 'Residents'. No, not in the sense that eyeball-headed monsters will get you. Well, I don't think so. This in spite of the fact that the other side of the same residential block is a square solely occupied by teenage girls getting raucously drunk in a manner which would doubtless provoke an appalled Skins reference if the papers got hold of it. The other risk of being outside is that you get girls at that stage where you genuinely can't tell if they're mixed-race or just really overdid the fake tan trying to get you along to Venus 'nightclub' (and it shouldn't need saying, but that's arguably NSFW). Do they really get much success touting for that outside indie gigs?
The band bringing the drums were late, and aren't quite cute enough to make up for the lack of songs. Because of their lateness, no soundchecks: [livejournal.com profile] myfirstkitchen and her Maffickers are having monitor trouble but sound fine in the crowd. However, Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring seem to suffer, their usual magic tragically absent on a day when our hearts were full of spring. I decide that although I ought to check out headliners Cats on Fire, particularly now I've finally got it straight in my head that they aren't middle-class student wankers Cats in Paris (three of the top 10 Google results for that phrase lead you to blogs written by people I know called Steve), this is not the time, and hightail it to the Noble, where the Addlestones is now 10p more expensive, and tastes soapy.
Saturday: [livejournal.com profile] fugitivemotel's engagement party. The transition from the glorious, barely-even-evening sun of the walk down to the gentle gloom of the bar leaves me feeling suddenly sleepy, and I initially worry that the rape jokes are not giving his fiancee the best impression of his friends, but by evening's end we're siding with her in an argument, which should count for a lot.
Sunday: join the second half of a genteel Soho pub crawl compered by [livejournal.com profile] my_name_is_anna. Well, I think it's genteel, but I'm only half as drunk as the rest of them. Soho really is horrifically gentrified these days though, isn't it? Then up to the Noble again. Pints still priced too high, but no longer soapy. That's something.

Neil Gaiman's 'Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?' concluded perfectly; in spite of the title, I was reminded less of Alan Moore's 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?' than of the afterlife metaphysics his next novel, Jerusalem will apparently propose. One imperfection, though - you know those 'Got milk?' ads? There's one in here with Chris Brown, talking about how "the protein helps build muscle". Muscle you can use for beating your girlfriend Rihanna black and blue, for instance. Given some of the daft things DC have censored at the last minute (Superman with a beer, for instance) you'd think this could have been pulled.
At the other end of the Gaiman/Batman axis, I finally found in the library the first volume of Mark Waid's The Brave and the Bold, not as Bat-centric as the old title - and like most Waid it's good, undemanding superhero fun. Which makes a mockery of DC editorial's claims that Vertigo and the DC Universe are separate by having a plot turning around the Book of Destiny, and even a scene with Supergirl and Lobo meeting him in his garden. Next time John Constantine gets left out of a big mystical crossover, they're going to need a new excuse.
It's also the first time I've seen more than a couple of panels of the new Blue Beetle, but he seems like a nice kid, and if he was always this entertaining I can understand why people are upset about his title getting cancelled.
Over at Marvel, Apparitions and Ultraviolet writer Joe Ahearne spins off from Mark Millar's Fantastic Four and spoilers the end of his Wolverine in Fantastic Force, whose backmatter has something rather more interesting than the usual set of sketches - a first draft of the script, from comparison of which with the final issue we can see exactly how much a writer new to comics gets smacked around by editorial and told no, you cannot use that character, or have this one doing that. Worth a look even if you have no direct interest in the comic itself, though that's not bad.
alexsarll: (crest)
The radio adaptation of Iain M Banks' 'The State of the Art' reminded me how much that bloody story depressed me. Reading the Culture books out of order, because it doesn't really matter, I'd concluded that getting a native writer to introduce the concept of the Culture to a civilisation ahead of formal contact was exactly the sort of thing that wise and wonderful society might attempt. Except then I got to this one, where they find "the place with the genocide", aka Earth, and ultimately decide against contact. And all this set in 1977. I could have lived my whole life in the Culture, you bastards. Anyway. Good adaptation by Paul Cornell, and with the Doctor-who-never-was, Paterson Joseph, as one of the leads. Opposite Nina Sosanya, though race is never specified as an issue; I wonder if that would be as doable on TV? I'd like to think so. All the Who alumni reminded me that before I'd ever read Banks, my first encounter with the Culture was through their Who book analogues, the People. Even then I recognised it as perhaps the first utopia I'd ever seen which really felt like somewhere I'd want to live. Well, that and Miracleman, but if the latter ever does get completed, I now know that Gaiman planned for The Golden Age (where I thought the story ended, with balloons) to be followed by Silver and Dark Ages.

Channel 4 inexplicably scheduled the two things I wanted to watch this week opposite each other - nice work there, chaps. Well, OK, there was that Heston Blumenthal show in which he made absinthe & d1ldo jelly, but for all that I love his mad science, at times I was reminded that I was watching a cookery show, got bored and had to read a book on folklore. Which reminded me about the concept of being 'elf-struck' just as the ads showed that one about stroke symptoms - followed by one for Fairy. Terrifying moment. So anyway, C4 putting perhaps the most heartwarming episode of Skins ever opposite the terrifying Red Riding, a missive from that nasty old England of Black Box Recorder's that I was talking about recently, Life on Mars without the laughs. I had been looking forward to this flush of David Peace adaptations, but while this one (of a book I've not read) convinced me, I no longer have any interest in The Damned United given the producer 'said the film-makers had taken a conscious decision to lighten the book's tone. "We didn't dwell on his alcoholism or his decline. That wasn't the story we wanted to tell. In quite tough times, we wanted to make a film with an upbeat ending - you come out of the cinema thinking it was an enjoyable experience and that Clough was a good guy."'

Drayton Park - a station I've been through plenty of times on the train, but in spite of how near I knew it must be to me, not somewhere I'd ever passed on foot. This week I finally found it, part of a whole area sharing the name, tucked away between Highbury and Holloway with the same sort of tesseract magic as London uses to hide Somers Town away where there really shouldn't be space for a district. I love this city and its labyrinths. Passing through there en route to Shoreditch where 18 Carat Love Affair were playing with fewer bands than expected at the Legion, a venue whose refits have actually worked out pretty well, unusually for the area. Broke off from talking to their singer about Alan Moore to go to the bar, where the barman who served me had SOLVE and COAGULA tattooed down his arms; if the 'elf-struck' coincidence was terrifying, this one reminded me of the happier side of living in a world where magic happens.

More Catholic hilarity as helping a nine year old, raped by her stepfather since age 6, to obtain an abortion is judged excommunicable! No word whether Pope Sidious has personally approved this decision, but I think we can assume so. He's probably offered the stepfather a job too, he seems to have the main skills required for the priesthood.
edit: This Vatican endorsement of the Brazilian church's position just in.
alexsarll: (bernard)
I've learned my lesson when it comes to talking online about pubs I hope to use regularly (curse you, Neil Morrissey!) but since I'm not in West London very often, I have no hesitation in making this recommendation to those who are. The Pelican, near Portobello Road, loses points for a lack of draught cider, but since all the drinks seem to be the same price anyway, I object less to Bulmers. Good decor, properly twilit like an old-style pub but not scuzzy. Not bad music, except for the reggae. But here's the clincher - Thursday, from 6pm to 9pm, you order your drinks and then roll two dice. The bar also rolls two dice. You roll higher - your drinks are free. You don't - you just pay what you would have anyway. Obviously the gamer in me thinks that this lacks nuance - double 6 should be a critical hit, where you also get champagne, while on a double 1 you have critically failed, pay double and get punched in the face. But hey, it's their business. And I did see three double 1s rolled by punters, once twice by the same guy, so I can see how that might lose custom.
Portobello Road, though - that was one of the first London locations etched in my mind ("street where the riches of ages are sold"), and it looks to be dying on its arse. Half the shops are shut and look like that's long-term, and the rest were short on customers. Really took me aback. As did the 'coming attractions' signboard still up on the Astoria, and the realisation that Don Draper is only 35. Meaning that in the first series of Mad Men, set 18 months earlier, he was presumably 33. He can't only be two years older than me, he's a grown-up!

The first issue of Neil Gaiman's Batman story...maybe it was just because I read it drunk, but I have no idea where he's going with this. It is nonetheless brilliant, and coming so hot on the heels of Grant Morrison's third definitive take on the character, that's impressive. In other comics news, Kieron Gillen's Sabretooth one-shot is probably not essential reading for all Phonogram fans, but is pretty good, and the new issue of Captain Britain has DRACULA MEETING DOCTOR DOOM ON THE MOON. I love comics.
alexsarll: (Default)
As of Thursday evening, I'm heading off to Ireland for a long weekend. I will likely be away from the Internet as well as London; if all goes according to plan, I should be returning to both late on Sunday, and then out on Monday to see Los Campesinos! live for the first time - anyone else planning on attending that? Meanwhile, am mainly emptying bottles of eg bubbles in order to transport <100ml of shampoo, facewash &c. I really would take a slightly increased risk of being blown to smithereens over all this faff.

As with The Sarah Jane Adventures, it was only through iPlayer's 'you may also like' smarts that I learned of the existence of The Scarifyers, in which Nicholas Courtney (basically playing the Brigadier) and Terry Molloy (basically playing a cuddly, ineffectual Davros) ally with Aleister Crowley against the horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos. It's neither as funny nor as thrilling as I think was intended, but still, it does have the Brig! And through its outro I also learned that Paul McGann's Doctor will be back on Radio 7 in a six-part adventure from this Sunday. The title, and whether it's already been released as by Big Finish, were not divulged, but I know from the excerpts that I've not heard it.
And speaking of the Cthulhu Mythos - you might thing that investigating the 'ghost peaks' of Antarctica is about as Mountains of Madness as it comes, but just to make sure, read down the article. Read down to the bit where one of the scientists explains how these mountains should not be, how "it's rather like being an archaeologist and opening up a tomb in a pyramid and finding an astronaut sitting inside. It shouldn't be there." Then lose 1d6 SAN.

Far too often I hear from the semi-literate that a given deck-monkey has "literally blown the roof off the club" or a particular slice of vinyl "literally set the club on fire". Saturday's Seven Inches/Penny Broadhurst/New Royal Family Show did end with the club at least smouldering; even if causality cannot be proven, that leaves them well ahead of the pack.

I didn't think it was possible, but I find myself feeling as if I've had enough Stephen Fry for the moment. Perhaps it's just that his tour around the USA launched over the same weekend as Simon Schama's American Future: a History; I get very picky when multiple things seem to cover the same ground (consider how much less forgiving I am of Heroes now it's not only overlapping comics territory, but screening in the same weeks as No Heroics). This is the sort of stuff Schama does best - big ideas, neither yoked too much to specific camera-friendly events nor floating off into the swamp of spurious Adam Curtis generalisations. It's what first drew him to me back with Landscape and Memory. The only problem is that as he tells us how the US has always had a tension between an optimistic belief in perpetual abundance, and the cautious counsel of realists, he is operating on a BBC far too awed these days by the false idol of 'balance'. So he can select clips which hint that Obama is a wise man and McCain another dangerous snake-oil salesman, but he can't say as much, only make vague references to the importance of this election. It's still worth watching, but I hope that once the good guys win in November (please gods), it can be repeated in an extended, re-armed version.

Kenneth Branagh would appear to be confirmed to direct the Thor film if he's cancelling other engagements. If anyone can handle it so as to make Thor sound Shakespearean, as against the ghastly Renaissance Fair approximation with which the ever-incompetent Stan Lee burdened him, then it's probably Ken. Still, after Stardust I think the loss of Matthew Vaughan remains unfortunate.
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 [livejournal.com profile] icecoldinalex going back to blond. a new drummer in a very fetching sailor suit, and heteroerotic Bowie/Ronson guitar antics from [livejournal.com profile] charleston and [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com 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: (magneto)
The Dark Knight is not, contra IMDB, the best film ever (but then look what they've got at #2 - ugh!). It's not even the best film about a non-powered billionaire playboy superhero released this year - Robert Downey Jr is Stark is Iron Man, whereas Christian Bale, though he plays a brilliant Bruce Wayne, only in the car chase and the climactic fight ever convinced me he was Batman, as opposed to just a guy in a Batman suit. It is, however, bloody good. All this talk of a posthumous Oscar for Heath Ledger - well, I'd approve, obviously, because it'd be an Oscar going to a frakking SUPERVILLAIN as against some sententious middlebrow issue movie, and because his death-by-Method would really raise the bar next time Tom Hanks or similar git wants a cheap win by playing a retard - "No, sorry Tom, these days that would actually require you to suffer severe brain damage". Well, I'd be happy to help 'coach' him with an iron bar...but I digress. Heath Ledger plays a damn fine Joker, drawing on both 'The Killing Joke' and Arkham Asylum and managing that rare feat of actually making him *funny*, as against a Stalin whose crap jokes you laugh at because otherwise he'll kill you. But this is not his film, it's Aaron Eckhart's; this is Harvey Dent's story and he plays a better Dent than I think I ever saw the comics manage.
minor spoilers )

Went to have a look at Burne-Jones' Sleep of Arthur in Avalon at the Tate yesterday. Obviously he's my King in a way no Windsor could ever be, but I was still reminded that Burne-Jones is really not my favourite pre-Raphaelite; this painting is acknowledged unfinished, but set against Rossetti or Millais or Waterhouse (as he is in the Tate) his works all look a little that way, lacking some final glaze - or the breath of life - to really give that great pre-Raphaelite impression of being a glance though some charmed casement into faerie.
(They've also got Flaming June in from the same lender - both the paintings are in the free access areas so if you're a fan, drop in, but be warned their lighting is still atrocious, reflection and glint all over the place. Also, there's some asinine Martin Creed conceptual piece going on next door which as so often, is based on an OK idea but not really thought through)

Club night becomes religion to dodge anti-flyering byelaw.

I didn't even know there was a film adaptation of Jan Potocki's Manuscript found in Saragossa until I saw the DVD at my parents'; they had never heard of the book and had just had the DVD pressed on them by a friend. Neil Gaiman summarises the book better than I could; the film manages a remarkably full and faithful adaptation of this bizarre mish-mash of a book, getting the Goya-style chills and the absurdist sitcom in there as close as can be. Apparently lead actor Zbigniew Cybulski was considered 'Poland's James Dean' - which shows you how bad things must have been behind the Iron Curtain, 'cos to me he's more Brendan Fraser meets David Mitchell. Fortunately, that's just what you want in Alphonse van Worden.
alexsarll: (bernard)
That was a good week off capped by a great weekend; starting with Pimm's and Peep Show, moving on via Greenwich and Ealing, then lounging around in the local park yesterday. We even got to contribute some local colour to a hip hop video, sitting around on the grass looking middle class with a picnic hamper and plenty of wine while the chap behind us lamented the gun culture on London's streets. The setting seemed slightly incongruous, but his lyrics were fairly conscious so I can only surmise that it was deliberate, pointing out to the kids on Green Lanes that rather than shooting each other, they could just go and sit on a tree stump like he was. Good luck to him.

I'm not quite prepared to go with the 'best superhero film ever' plaudits - for me Burton's two Batman films and Singer's two X-Mens are still to beat - but yes, Iron Man is extremely good. Given this is Marvel's first in-house production, there was a lot riding on it. Obviously, if comics writers are being asked to the set, consulted on the script, bringing the benefit of their experience then the end product is more likely to appeal to people like me than it is when the Hollywood studios start fiddling. But that's not going to do us a lot of good in the long run if the general public stays away. Fortunately, Iron Man appears to be making obscene amounts of money - which not only means that Marvel are likely to continue with this strategy, but that a similar fidelity is likely to roll out across other comics films. And I don't mean fidelity in the unthinking 'no organic webshooters' sense - but fidelity in spirit, not making changes for change's sake. spoilers )

On my wanderings last week, I managed to fill a few gaps in my comics collection - those last elusive issues of Warren Ellis' Excalibur among them - but I think my favourite finds were a few Dreaming issues. The Dreaming is widely, and for the most part rightly, remembered as a bit of an atrocity - the post-Gaiman Sandman spin-off which flailed around for a while before being turned into the ultimate unintentional Vertigo self-parody by execrable goth Caitlin Kiernan. But before it lost sight of its anthology remit, they got a few stories from better writers, among them Peter Hogan. Peter Hogan is one of those mid-period 2000AD writers whose American career never quite took off - John Smith is the other great example. I'm not going to claim him as a great writer, at least not on this evidence; his stories are a little too pat for that. But they also show great charm, a deft wit, and a better grasp of the unique atmosphere Gaiman conjured for The Sandman than anyone else who's played with those toys. At the very least Hogan should have had a career as a sort of lieutenant to Gaiman, the Millar (as was) or Waid to Gaiman's Morrison.

"I don't want to live in a country that emasculates the BBC," says Stephen Fry. One of England's great treasures defending another; if only there were some reference to or endorsement from Alan Moore it would be three for three.
alexsarll: (howl)
I never wanted an MP3 player - I worried about being cut off from the world by it, losing my radar and becoming one of the bovine obstacle people. But offered one free, I could hardly refuse, and I'm finding it slots into my life pretty well. I still don't wear it all the time - not if I'm reading something complicated on the Tube, not if I'm somewhere especially crowded, not if I'm somewhere with its own music, whether accidental (a park) or deliberate (a bar). I keep it low enough to hear the world (and it would hurt to have it loud enough to drown out the Victoria Line), but that's still high enough to soundtrack me. Which means I have to be careful what I put on it, because not every soundtrack is the hero's; Robyn Hitchcock on Upper Street at night made me feel like the first victim in an oblique slasher flick. Nor have I quite adapted to hearing people I know singing quite so intimately. But if nothing else, it was the perfect accompaniment when I went along for a spot of disaster tourism the day after the Great Fire of Camden; I'd still yet to work out how to choose tracks properly, but what should come on as I considered the smoking shell of the Hawley Arms but 'This Is How You Spell "Hahaha We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux-Romantics"'.

I finished this weekend with a nagging sense of underachievment, which is foolish really; if I lazed around a lot, that was largely down to ruin resulting from two grand nights out, and I still managed to get the last 200 pages of Gravity's Rainbow read. I'm glad I read it, though I'm not sure if I could intelligently say much about it yet; perhaps my back brain will have finished processing the torrent of information in a month, or a year, or three. Or not. The problem with which this leaves me is, what to read next? I like a change, but GR covers so many bases, what does that leave from my To Read pile? The Glass Books Of The Dream-Eaters is another kinky trans-European conspiracy romp. John M Ford's The Dragon Waiting is another unreal epic of European war, while The Unfree French will take me right back to the moral destructiveness of the Second World War. Even Tim Moore's fluffy Do Not Pass Go is a psychogeography of London, like Gravity's first section - albeit by way of Monopoly rather than V2 impacts.
So far I seem to be attempting to read them all. I'm not sure that's wise.

Next time somone complains about BBC3, set Being Human on them. Reviews mostly seem to be comparing it (unfavourably) to Buffy, but I suspect that's because it has supernatural creatures in a modern setting without quite being horror, and most reviewers are lazy. Impressively, for such a crowded field as the modern vampire story, it managed within an hour to establish a tone that was all its own, but if I had to reference it I'd say it's more Ultraviolet meets Spaced. The conclusion was rather naff, but that was the only mis-step; I loved the balance between the domestic comedy and the menace (the latter especially coming out in that description of the afterlife).
Note also that it's picked up a star and a writer from Doctor Who, already shaping up as the Kevin Bacon of 21st century British TV.
alexsarll: (bill)
Of possible interest to some of you: new Gang Of Four demos free online.

You wait ages for a Neil Gaiman film, and then two come across at once. Beowulf didn't have me blubbing sentimentally like Stardust did, but in its way it's sadder. And it doesn't have so many comedians in it, but it's just as funny, in its own bleak way. In tone, if not style, it betrays Gaiman's debt to James Branch Cabell - to Cabell's fascination with the flaws and the humanity and the lies behind any heroic myth, his fear that even when you accomplish your goals, "Nothing was as good as it should have been". But with Cabell, Gaiman recognises that mere slash-and-burn demythologisation is easy, and as false as the shiny, superficial account. "It is solely by believing himself but a little below the seraphim that man has become, on the whole, distinctly preferable to the chimpanzee", said Cabell (I may paraphrase slightly) - similarly, Gaiman knows that because a hero is a bullsh1tter, doesn't mean he's not also a hero. Granted, it is very hard to take this line without seeming by extension to justify every grubby lie and manipulation perpetrated in the name of leadership image and 'the greater good' - but intuitively, if not in a way I can quite verbalise, I know the difference, even if I can also see how people lose sight of it.
It is a very faithful adaptation, in its way - it assumes the poem to be a historical record, notes how historical records can distort the facts, and reads backwards. If you want that with more spoilers, try here; for particular clarity on Angelina Jolie's (excellent) take on Grendel's mother, there's a phrase here which I'd quote if it didn't give far too much away. Of course, I usually like Angelina, especially in femme fatale roles - the surprise was that I thought Ray Winstone perfectly cast. I've never thought that before, but never before has he played the last of the barbarian heroes, a man who knows he may have more in common with the monsters he slays than with those who come after him. It helps too that the motion-capture technology makes him considerably less offensive to the eye, yet at the same time plausible - which is odd given it makes the Queen look like she's made of putty.
(Coincidentally, my current bag book is the unfortunately-titled Black Man, which is also fascinated by the idea of the hyper-male warrior, who fights society's battles, but whom that society also regards as kin to monsters. I thought about trying to pull Grosse Point Blank in here too, because I saw that while Ill and it also concerns the melancholy of the killer's life, but for all that John Cusack is superhott in it, I don't think you could call him hyper-male)

Department Of Offended People Missing The Point: posters for the sly and satirical Shoot 'Em Up have been censured for glamorizing violence. Clearly these people haven't twigged that the poster of the prick from Sideways with a gun captioned "Just another family man making a living" is *meant* to offend - to point up the moral blindness of all those whose jobs make the world a worse place.
And when it comes to slapping down Ronan Bennett's "clumsy tirade" against Martin Amis, well, I think I shall just hand over to the ever-clearsighted Christopher Hitchens to enumerate Ronan the Accuser's muddles and slurs and sheer foolishness.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
I'm surprised this wasn't higher profile, and sooner, but London Overground launches this Sunday. Which in practical terms means that Oyster prepay will now work on various overground stations, including the quite remarkably handy-for-the-Noble Crouch Hill.

I keep on failing to get round to updating, but happily this hasn't been through any lack of things to write about. I've been up to plenty to distract myself from the gnawing void at the heart of everything, I just haven't really had much to say about it. From dressing as a vampire and dodging overenthusuiastic cobwebs, to fireworks and freebies, via the discovery that while there is indeed a real Grange Hill it could never support a school of any size. I've found a street called Savage Gardens (which isn't quite another Knightrider Court, but isn't bad), and seen for the first time one of the peculiar maintenance trains which thread our Underground - and this wasn't even while I was on the ghost walk, but at either end. I've fallen head over heels for Stardust (the fairy story, that is - though it's not long since I saw the rock film of the same name, and that's not bad either), which took liberties with the book's details, but conveyed exactly the same cocktail of wit, adventure and charm.
Really enjoyed the inaugural Clockwork Comedy night, too; James Kettle's gleefully doomed attitude and Steve Hall's thoughtful offensiveness were always going to work for me, and Michael Legge won me over by basing most of his material around Pete. Reginald D Hunter was a strange one, though - good, but seemingly at a bit of a crossroads and in search of a new direction. As I said to a couple of people afterwards, never having seen him before I felt a bit like I'd heard a band's weird mid-period album before knowing any of the hits. Anyway, next one's December 4th. I have no idea who's playing, but trust the hostesses not to book rubbish, so shall doubtless be along.

Freeview watchers - is anyone else finding that Virgin 1 has its 'see you at 6pm' screen up during the evenings too? This is all I've found whenever I attempt to tape The Unit, and I know it wasn't the timings I had wrong because on one occasion I came back just as (had the channel been operational) my recording of the show was ending.
alexsarll: (howl)
Maybe not quite, but I have rather been dashing around the place - down to Christ Church & Upton in Lambeth for Riffs & Fragments, a night and a space I'd definitely recommend to anyone looking for a bit of an unusual venue and show. The supports were essentially Mikey Skinner dressed as Ian Curtis and Bjork doing Nico, and as for the headline and voyage home...well, the returned [livejournal.com profile] augstone has already written up the shocking truth.

I'm watching the Sopranos endgame on E4, and find myself ambivalent. It all seems so stately and formal; each episode sees most of the cast relegated to background colour as we follow Tony, and see two or three other characters in depth - except now they feel less like characters than pieces whose position we're being shown for the final moves. The Sopranos always excelled at capturing the irrelevances of life - lines like "Fvck blue, red sells!" and "You know how I feel about feet". Now, everything seems charged with meaning. It's a little too consciously Shakespearean.

Posters advising the people of Afghanistan that blowing heroin smoke in their children's faces might not be best paediatric practice; I'm surprised I've not yet seen this denounced as 'cultural imperialism' by the usual suspects.

Belated thoughts on Jonathan Ross in search of Steve Ditko: Neil Gaiman's voice has got much lighter and more transatlantic lately, hasn't it? And when he says Stan Lee was "obviously" right to insist on making Norman Osborne the Green Goblin, against Ditko's objection that "In real life, you wouldn't know who it was" - as fond as I am of the idea that everyone knows everyone really because there are only actually a few thousand real people, I don't know if that should extent to arch-enemies. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Ditko was *obviously* right.
(Although when he described Watchmen's Rorschach as "like Mr A, except he's insane", I had to disagree. Not that I think Ditko's super-Objectivist Mr A was insane either, you understand. Just...principled)

On holiday this week, and off to Devon for a couple of days shortly; I'm sure I shall see some of you on my return, when I hope to attend Brontosaurus Chorus' Wednesday gig, and should definitely be at Thursday's Luxembourg show.

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