alexsarll: (Default)
Once again, I've failed to post anything here in approximately forever. First of all there's not enough for a post, and then there's too much but not enough for two, and so on and let's just bloody write something, eh? So:
I went on a walk around London locations from The Prisoner. Walking down the corridor from the credits was quite an experience, though I can exclusively reveal that the reason he looks so disgusted, and perhaps for the resignation itself, is the overpowering smell of urine. Some of the rest was a bit niche for me, and that was aside from the brief detour into the inevitably schismatic politics of UK Prisoner fandom.
I went on another walk across the Heath, and then down for a pint. And another pint. And a couple more, and half a bottle of wine. But it started with a walk, and thus it was a very healthy day, right?
I found out where Hither Green is (seriously, I hadn't even known compass points a few months back), and that not every 'Something Cottage' in London is bullshitting with the name.
Outnumbered, I was part of a quiz team up against a celebrity all-star line-up of Caitlin Moran, Charlie Higson, David Arnold and friends. And we almost beat them, holding it to the second tie-break. A brave effort, if I do say so myself.
I saw a play about a haunted sock in my normal comedy venue of choice, and a dozen or more acts on one evening's bill elsewhere. In the latter instance, I was there for Rich Hurley, who was as full of hate - and as funny - as I'd have expected from my first meeting with the splenetic bastard, more years ago than I care to put in writing.
I've had some quiet weekends, but also managed some clubbing - Nuisance twice, new boy Some Weird Sin, Black Plastic, [ profile] retro_geek's glam night in the implausible Cakey Muto.
I went to an alliterative gig, featuring Mikey aka Mr Solo and the Melting Ice Caps and Alexander's Festival Hall (who don't begin with M, but now sound like the Monochrome Set, so that's OK) at the Monarch, except it was the Madness for the night because it was hosting an album playback.
Best of all, though, Rebekah Delgado's album launch at Bush Hall. Which is the perfect setting for the Drugstore-y, Mazzy Star-like, late-night music she makes, all ballroom grandeur - but better still than the gig was being on the balcony early on and seeing [ profile] xandratheblue sweep across in her grand new winter coat and getting one of those moments of yes, this life is a film, and sometimes it's a bloody good one. And rather than just throwing some other friendly acts on the bill there was a guitarist as we filtered in, and an acrobat, and human puppets, and the whole evening felt like a Moment. Even if I did miss much of the main support because I was talking to Art Brut about dogs in the bar, he had something too - a young man, but with an old man's voice and suit, like he'd just regenerated. Name of Tom Hickox, and deserves to go far.
alexsarll: (bernard)
So. Installed on the new laptop, more or less, and able to update this again. To say what? To say that many Edinburgh previews have been seen and, James Dowdeswell aside, all impressed me. Stephen Carlin (dour), Daniel Simonsen (Norwegian), Tom Goodliffe (temporal), Michael Legge (shouty) and Ben Target (unnerving) were all courtesy of [ profile] diamond_geyser, while Richard Marsh & Katie Bonna's Dirty Great Love Story was in - shock! - an actual venue. A venue attached to Shillibeer's, at that, which is somewhere I've not been in a very long time, perhaps because it's in the middle of nowhere, by which I mean off the top of the Cally Road, but now the Cally Road is a TV star that doesn't seem fair. The show in question opening in what used to be the Islington Bar, home for me to the golden age of Stay Beautiful. That wasn't the only club to feel like My Place (I think AFE was the most recent), but lately, I've not had one; I've been to plenty, but always as a visitor. So since the last post, that would include a New Cross goth night where [ profile] xandratheblue improved matters massively with a load of pop, and a grunge night where I remembered I don't actually like that much grunge (and most of what I do like is 90 minutes of Nirvana), and even the grunge bands I like, I generally like the bits where they weren't grunge more (Hole, the Afghan Whigs, Smashing Pumpkins) - but again, there was [ profile] augstone on hand to play that stuff that wasn't strictly grunge. Hell, even the band's best song was Destiny's Child covered in the style of Tom Waits, so again, not really grunge at any point. And then there's Glam Racket, which has departed, and Debbie, which I think could benefit from a female DJ given they do play specifically female-fronted pop, and, oh I don't know, it's a bit Catchphrase, isn't it? They're all good, but they're not right. Not totally. I think the closest I've felt to that sense of being at home while being out was at [ profile] steve586's Wedding II: Electric Boogaloo the London party, as one of the six Doctors (plus Benton) assembled to mark the happy occasion.
alexsarll: (Default)
Most of the people I know in bands appear to be off in the Midlands this weekend. So what better time to be nice about them online, when I will feel less like I'm sucking up? Yes, I am totally brilliant at logic, why do you ask? In no particular order:
[ profile] steve586's new project aka Ladies & Gentlemen aka Steven Dogs In The Wild, who get points just for knowing certain members of the audience might be 'pedantic about Greek myths' and are influenced principally by Scott Walker when he was good. They are able to overcome even the fact of making their debut in a shamelessly greenwashed venue whose eco-cred seems to consist of predictions about car use in 2010 still collaged to the walls, a chandelier made of 'recycled' (by which they mean full) biros, and flogging Strongbow for £3.50 a can.
Jonny Cola & the A-Grades, playing the much more pleasing (but equally new to me) Black Heart in Camden (which I would definitely recommend next time someone asks me for venue ideas). Somewhere along the way, they appear to have become a proper band. They are also part of a theme where bands have supports who, if not good, are at least on the same wavelength as them. Here it's Thee Orphans, some of whom used to be the glorious These Animal Men, but who now sound like Slade without the songs.
Similarly with the lovely, bruised-but-unbowed slow anthems of Rebekah Delgado at the Lexington. The late-night-whiskey sound of Madam makes for a perfectly matched support, and while the third act is not to my taste (one Regina Spektor is enough for me, thanks), if she is going to find an audience then it will likely be among fans of Delgado and Madam.
The bands playing at Flabby Dagger in Dalston are none of them my thing. In fact, they're all making a bloody racket. And yet, they make complementary rackets, and rackets which do somehow fit with the excellent fare the DJs are mostly playing, everything from 'Ring My Bell' to the Dead Kennedys.
And then, of course, you have the exception, the more common London gigging experience. Quimper are playing a night which is running a week late, thus clashing with the comeback show by the New Royal Family. Apparently this was because the promoter told the headliners the 31st. It's unclear whether this referred to the headliners who don't show up, or the ones who have a Keith TotP-style revolving line-up and lack of rehearsals, and as such could presumably have done the 24th just as well. Fortunately, in spite of the thrown-together situation, Quimper's electronic poems of malice win converts, so the experience wasn't a total fiasco.

Otherwise: I've visited the new look King's Cross, and wished that all temples to consumerism could at least be this pretty. There's a station bookshop called Watermark, part of an American/Australian chain who seem to be aiming higher than those grisly WH Smith outlets which stations normally use. There's the Parcel Yard, which we decided could be London's biggest pub, though its labyrinthine structure makes it difficult to be sure.
I've been on a psychogeographical odyssey (and not, as one friend on whom I cancelled had thought, a pub crawl) in Shooter's Hill, where the palace of the moon goddess rises amidst sunny suburban streets straight out of a Ladybird book, in that strange patchwork land where London flickers out at the edges.
I've danced to girl pop in Stokey, and remembered how much I've missed pop in clubs, and got excited to have a new night about which to get excited for the first time in ages.
Life's pretty good.
alexsarll: (Default)
On Friday I was at Nuisance, and Spearmint's 'Sweeping the Nation' was spun before those bloody tables were off the dancefloor, and it made me sad that this hymn to the overlooked was being overlooked once more. But then on Saturday, as I arrived at the too-seldom If You Tolerate Bis, what should be the first song playing as I pay? Damn right. And this time, there was a floor! And dancing! And two songs later was 'You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve'. HELL YES.
Not that I only go to retro indie nights, honest. Two Saturdays earlier I was out in London's Fashionable East London at a self-parodic art opening, briefly elevated by dance-and-light elements which turned a clear plastic shelf (in itself, an Express writer's idea of modern art) into a sort of phantasmal butterfly. Though even this was accompanied by a soundtrack of abrasive noise obviously intended as some form of confrontation, but which I found quite soothing. At one point someone farted and I wondered if this was also part of the artist's multi-sensory assault. And on the intervening weekend I went, briefly, to a cocktail place on Covent Garden. You know when you're in the West End on a weekend, and you see the normal people up from the outer zones for a night on the town, and wonder where they go? This place is one of the answers, and they're welcome to it.
Also: Hillingdon, which I have passed plenty of times on the Oxford Tube. It always looked - by night, anyway - like a strange, shining city of glass and steel had left its outpost in the wilds. Up close...not so much. It is also very noisy, and what appeared to be a zombie pigeon was on the stairs. But the territory between there and Ickenham is lovely, that edge of the suburbs country where you get lots of waste ground, streams, trees, a rope swing or two on which a friend of a friend is always rumoured to have broken something, just because that keeps everyone alert. The sort of place that's fairly hopeless once you become a teenager but, up to about 12, is heaven.
And now I am in Devon, where I spent the morning in a weirdly Mediterranean fishing village, and have just finished chopping wood. Delightful.


Feb. 13th, 2012 08:14 pm
alexsarll: (bernard)
Not that I ever documented everything on here, because I am not that flavour of insane, but I do miss the old entries which, taken together, formed almost an encyclopaedia of oneself. Now it's just glimpses from the window of a speeding train, while the passing observations, the news and the baiting get spat out on Facebook instead. At least the Timeline over there, for all the inevitable complaints, mean that one has an archive of sorts again. So. What to report in this particular fragment? There was snow, wasn't there? And fine snow, of whose methods I approved: come down heavy for a couple of hours; turn Highbury Fields (my favourite part of London for snow) into a wonderland just in time for me to walk across it to Glam Racket in my big new boots, with Kate Bush in my ears and flakes settling on my shoulders; stick around one more day so that there can be snowball fights and snow Daleks on the Parkland Walk; and then off. The odd snowman can still be seen here and there, slowly shifting form like Ovid went monochrome, but there are no pavements of miserable slush, no desperate clinging on. I appreciate this sense of timing in a weather condition, and hope other seasons learn from it.

Oh yes, and I went to the Windmill - where I could also have been tonight, but there's only so much time and energy for jaunts to the wilds, and I must to Putney later this week. The Indelicates have a new song, in which Simon sings about disgust. I think he may inadvertently have nicked the intro from Jeays' 'Arles', though he denies it, and if he keeps telling his bandmates that since they don't know it, they'll just ruin it if he joins in, then I shan't complain. Pop needs more scorn.
alexsarll: (bernard)
London life appears to be cycling up again, the diary filling and the weeks of temperance (through illness or lack of event, not some talismanic fool belief in detox) coming to an end; if doubt remains, then you always know for sure that it's kicking off again once you're stood in the back room of the Wilmington watching giant robots fight off space dinosaurs with the help of indie rock. Back to the clubs and pubs and dinner parties - and back to Kentish Town. Did ever a district combine side street charm with high street horror to such an extent? Four places I wanted to go before Ale Meat Cider - one simply failed me, and three were on unscheduled shutdown (one by the fire brigade). In the meantime, I've been reading, and putting the new Necron list throught its paces on the tabletop*, and relishing Gregg Araki's Kaboom, which mixes his usual polymorphous perversity with apocalyptic conspiracy and creative swearing, and less so Arrietty which is, like every non-Miyazaki Ghibli film I've seen, faintly disappointing. The visual richness, the gardens into which you just want to melt, are present and correct - but the characters and the plot just feel a little...conventional, up until an ending which is at once conventional and not even a logical conclusion of what has gone before.

And, most importantly, I've been to the Isle of Wight with [ profile] xandratheblue. Yes, it's still definitely England, even if it's not Great Britain, but it's my first time overseas in years, or with her. So we meandered around the island on a bus that seemed to be the equivalent of the Circle Line if it had a view and was faintly reliable, and saw clicking owls and cartwheeling monkeys and a Roman mosaic of a cock-headed man (NOT LIKE THAT), and stayed in a hotel on a lake, and because she's a city girl she seemed almost as excited to have rabbits and sheep pointed out from the train window as to travel on a hovercraft. Though it was noticeable that the other passengers were a lot more subdued on the return trip, presumably because of the Costa Concordia footage on the screens in the waiting room. I don't know why, given we were using a totally different means of transport and the captain wasn't Italian. Though in his shoes I wouldn't have been able to resist a loud 'Mamma mia!' or two within earshot of the nervous travellers.

*With most pleasing results, except against Blood Angels.
alexsarll: (bernard)
So I'm reading back through the week's LJ, and seeing excited posts about the return of Soul Mole/Don't Stop Moving - which from the vantage point of The Future, I now know to have been gazumped, because most London venues are run by vermin. And I have a rotten cold. At the weekend. Thus far, 2012 is not going entirely to plan.
However! I did manage to drag myself out last night for a bit, so I've finally been inside Aces & Eights, which I've passed dozens of times and thought looked interesting - and indeed it does, having that American bar (but still doing pints) vibe that T Bird used to before their identity crisis. And on Friday Guided Missile put on a whole bill of bands who are all about the live experience (Keith TotP, the Angry Bees and the London Dirthole Company), and made me think Bill Drummond-influenced thoughts about the limitations of recorded music as a medium. Not that I'd go as far as Bill and write it off entirely, you understand, but part of the point of Bill Drummond is that he goes further than everyone else.
Also this week: I watched Hussein stand-in flick The Devil's Double, which is almost as good as I'd heard, and saw a Celeb! getting Papped! in Soho without having the faintest glimmer of a clue who she was.
Right. More Lemsip, then I need to brave Tesco. If nothing else, I suppose I can spread my sniffles to the gormless hordes who infest it on Sundays.
alexsarll: (Default)
So, last day of hols - and given it is general hols, I'm a little surprised there wasn't more going on yesterday. For a few years New Year's Day drinking seemed to be a thing, and I liked that, because it almost seems more important to get the new year off started than to round off the old - look forward instead of back. But Hell, the weather was frightful yesterday, and there was Sherlock to watch (best yet), and Hacks (passably amusing), and I also had Super, which is pretty much the mid-point between Kick-Ass and Defendor in terms of films about real-world superheroes. It stars that guy from the American Office who looks like an inbred dog, minor spoilers ) And it really shows up the problem with *real* real-world superheroes, which is that even the best of them, like Phoenix Jones, are failing to hit criminals in the head with wrenches.

Before that: a birthday, which went to plan, and a New Year's Eve which didn't quite, both at N19. Dancing to ALL THE NINETIES at Never Forget, which I've been meaning and failing to attend since its arrival. The annual Freaky Trigger pub crawl, which I joined as it went in and out the Eagle, then followed through the horror of the Bavarian Beerhouse to the archetypal old man's pub that is the Prince Arthur, then high-fiving a small dog as we headed through Hoxton and into unknown territories, where pubs look set to be horrific, but serve their cider from earthenware flagons. It hasn't been a bad little week, all told.

In brief

Oct. 18th, 2011 07:58 am
alexsarll: (Default)
- I imagine when Cronenberg's Shivers came out, the parasites and the sex zombie behaviour they cause were pretty shocking, but now they can't compare to the fear and revulsion inspired by the styles worn by uninfected 1975 suburbanites.

- I like the Buffalo Bar, which is why it saddened me that after seeing dozens of gigs there with my umbrella safely in hand, one of their bouncers has now decided it is a problem - and worse, started quoting bullshit 'Health and Safety' and 'it's the law' claptrap to that effect.

- I need to find out why part of the Regent's Canal, not far from Little Venice, is lined by the aggressively private grounds of oddly squashed Regency palances. But I know that when I do it will be a disappointment. Still, I love the almost post-civilisational greenery of that part of town.

- Bevan 17 covering the Sugarcubes' 'Hit' was lovely. 47th Street Demon Exchange covering Therapy?'s 'Nowhere' slowly was inadvisable. Mr Solo covering Cypress Hill was...I don't know what that was.

- Sons of Anarchy came back from the debacle of the Oirish season with a finale which used one of my favourite narrative tricks, and not one I would normally have associated with this show. But also lots of badasses staring each other down. Obv.

- If David Shah hosts another night at the Wilmington he needs to give himself more stage time with the Soft Close-Ups, and parodic examples of the singer-songwriter genre a lot less.

- Community choirs performing in pubs: a lovely idea, so long as you're not too close to them.

- Enjoyed the Nuisance band's take on Blur, with [ profile] steve586 as that hitherto inconceivable creature, a Graham Coxon I don't want to punch. And for all that Nuisance invariably attracts some bell-ends, we had already seen the evening's finest en route, when a yellow Maserati got into a race with our bus, and literally every passenger on it was making jokes about the motorist's inevitably inadequate manhood.

- Amusing to see Hamas agreeing with the line from the old Israeli joke about how one Israeli is worth a thousand of theirs.

- The Tate's John Martin exhibition is excellent. Yes, maybe he couldn't do lightining or faces - the former more of a problem than the latter - but he's still the go-to man for shit getting real. When an empire - or a mountain - falls, John Martin is your man. Or, when you want the great timeless cities off in the corner of an immense Arcadian landscape where I could quite happily lounge for an infinity or two, he does those also. Wonderful.

Early bird

Jun. 23rd, 2011 08:07 am
alexsarll: (Default)
Interesting Bright Club for June, on 'Science and the Media'. Not all of the acts had that much to do with the ostensible theme (plenty, including Strawberry and Cream, just went for innuendo-going-on-outright-filth, not that there's anything wrong with that), but those who did, the tech journalists...the self-disgust was palpable. They don't enjoy producing the reports which annoy Ben Goldacre any more than Ben Goldacre enjoys reading them. I doubt the editors and picture editors enjoy demanding them, either. It's just another of those messed-up Wire-style systems which screws everybody without anyone even enjoying the process. Which obviously we should have known in the first place, but the confirmation is welcome nonetheless. My other recent night out raised questions of its own: how can Jonny Cola, who has grown into a pretty good frontman, be so atrocious at karaoke? Why does a performance poet who looks like the poet in question does think that his work will in any way be enhanced by nudity? And why must the St Aloysius close when, based on my three visits there, it is a home to such reliably surreal entertainments?

I've started watching Castle, even though it isn't very good. A bestselling crime writer helps the cops investigate crime? Exactly the sort of 'high'-concept tosh the US networks churn out all the time. But when the writer is played by Nathan Fillion...yes, I'd rather he were still making Firefly. From interviews I've seen, so would he - he says he'd buy the rights if he won the state lottery and fund production himself. But, alas, he is not. So if we want to see him on screen, Castle is what we've got. And the bastard's charming enough that he can make me overlook everything I don't like about the show (which is pretty much everything else, especially the James Patterson cameo as himself) and keep going. Though I may just be saying that because at times Fillion seems to be auditioning for the role of me. Hell, I'd give him the job.
Because man cannot live by imported US crime dramas on Five alone, even though the summer schedulers seem to think otherwise, I also continued with my project of watching all the surviving Who I've not seen. This time: the surprisingly good Enlightenment, probably the most eerily Sapphire & Steel the show has ever been. Though I say that having only watched the special edition, which uses new CGI and cuts about 20 minutes from the running time - and you don't feel you've missed anything in those minutes, because old Who stories can be added to that long list of things which, though great, no one ever wished longer. As for what Eighties special effects made of the haunting central image of sailing ships racing majestically through space, I dread to think.

And then there's comics. Oh, comics. I love you, but you're getting me down. I bought three new comics yesterday, and bear in mind these were not just random, flailing picks, but carefully chosen on the basis of the writers' past work. Well, two of them were. The one I pretty much suspected was going to be dreadful was Brightest Day Aftermath: The Search for Swamp Thing. The title's a hint, isn't it? But it features the return of John Constantine to the mainstream DC universe, where he originated but from which he has spent many years separated by editorial fiat. And that's the problem here - it's not a comic which seems driven by a story the writer needed to tell, but by editorial - or maybe, worse, branding. Even since the preview DC had in almost all of their comics last month, details have changed, dialogue and art been altered to bring in different characters, and that is very seldom a good sign. And the writer charged with handling this exercise, Jonathan Vankin, comes in with this weird Ray Winstone-meets-Dick van Dyke speech style for Constantine. It is, in short, hideous, and does not bode well for DC's forthcoming universe-wide relaunch, which again looks to be an editorial decision at best. And in the wake of which all the other DC titles are winding down with stories which feel all the more pointless for looking likely to be erased from continuity in three months. Though Paul Cornell's current Superman tale felt pretty bloody pointless even without that looming. You may know Paul Cornell from his many fine Doctor Who stories, or 'Father's Day', but he's also done some very good comics. Having spent a year handling Action Comics (the original Superman comic) without Superman, he'd told an excellent little epic in which Lex Luthor wandered the DC world, meeting its other great villains, in pursuit of the power with which to rival Superman. Except then Superman came back in for the conclusion in issue 900, and everything fell apart, and now we've got a story in which Superman and his brand extensions are fighting the boring nineties villain Doomsday (back then he killed Superman - guess what, it didn't stick) and *his* new brand-extension clones. This is the sort of comic which makes people give up on comics.
And then, away from DC, there's Ultimate Spider-Man, which Brian Michael Bendis has been writing for 160 issues (plus various little spin-offs). And aside from occasional blips, he's kept it interesting that whole time. His alternate take on Peter Parker is still in his teens and, fundamentally, is less of a slappable schmuck than the classic take. Bad things happen to him, he makes bad decisions like teenagers do, but he never seems quite the self-sabotaging arse that the classic and film versions of the character usually do. But now...Can you spoiler a story called The Death of Spider-Man? )

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: (seal)
Interesting how they decided to get all the Doctor Who fanservice out of the way over the course of one weekend. So the Comic Relief special not only had the promised dual Pond action, but two Doctors as well, and then on Saturday we got to see Matt Smith being Christopher Isherwood in gloriously gay detail. Neither broadcast had the least bit of substance, obviously, but both were reasonably charming. Interesting to see batrachian Toby wotsisface, formerly seen as the Dream Lord, once again playing Matt Smith's unappealing alter-ego, and Lindsay Duncan again playing an unhappy sort of mother to him. Anyway, because that's not quite enough Doctor for one weekend, I finished off The Holy Terror too. Which manages to move from gleefully silly satire on religion, through horror and metafictional Invisibles-style shenanigans, to a terribly sad meditation on time travel, without shortchanging any of the genres.

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

Things unrelated to Doctor Who: much the usual, really, albeit somewhat less of the boozing and somewhat more of the QNIs. There was the relaunch of Black Plastic, though, which was excellent. Since the Silver Bullet opened on Finsbury Park station, I had been there twice, both times for gigs I probably would have skipped if they hadn't been so local. But with Black Plastic, finally something I would have attended no matter what was stupidly convenient, and there was free whiskey for early arrivals. Win. It's a smaller venue, but not uncomfortably so by any means, and I think it suits the music. I'm looking forward to more.
alexsarll: (bernard)
I was getting quite worried about the electoral reform referendum, because at the moment who doesn't want to p1ss on Nick Clegg's chips? But the No campaign's ads are so transparently mendacious and manipulative that I think someone may finally have succeeded in underestimating the British public. Result.

I've finally seen Scott Pilgrim, and it's not bad, is it? Some of the stuff they necessarily lost in the transition from comic to film, I wasn't that sorry to see go - the moping around, the wilderness trek. It lost emotional weight, but it gained energy; the whole story was told with the sugar rush romp feel which in the comics had to be complicated after the first couple of volumes if it weren't to become exhausting. And Michael Cera was a very different Scott (which had been my main objection to seeing the film), but he was still a recognisable one. I was more thrown by the cinema take on Knives (insufficiently psycho) and Envy (insufficiently hot). But on balance I think I prefer the other work to come out of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's temporary split, Paul. It's a charming autobiographical bromance (Early on Pegg and Nick Frost even give themselves lines like "Can you believe it? Us! In America! We've dreamed about this since we were kids!") and a big geeky action comedy all rolled up into one big bag, I suppose. It's a lot less bittersweet than the Pegg/Wright films, and I don't mind that one bit.

Otherwise, I've largely been thinking about how strange time is (mainly while drinking). There was a Nuisance, of course, and the usual glimmer of surprise that in 2011 the night I attend most frequently plays the same music I was hearing when I first started clubbing. But also seeing Circulus, and being slightly disappointed that a band who come across so temporally alien on record would engage in such standard band-on-stage-at-small-venue activity as making suggestions to the soundman about the monitor mix. They shouldn't even admit they know what the monitors are, dammit! But then, they should probably be playing an enchanted glade somewhere rather than a venue sponsored by an energy drink, and in that case how would they power the instruments? It doesn't quite work, but on headphones on a country walk you can pretend that it does, so long as you don't think too hard about the headphones. Which all tied into [ profile] al_ewing's latest (and best) book, Gods of Manhattan. It's set in a shared steampunk universe but, being a smart man working in a near-exhausted genre, Al pushes and prods at the boundaries, having realised that "The only rule is no electricity" and even that can be subverted. The main story is great pulp fun - the serial numbers have been filed off, but essentially it's Zorro vs the Shadow vs Doc Savage (except also Superman and living in a menage a trois) in a retro-futurist dream of New York. But the setting is almost better than the story, simply for the way it mixes so many odd little bits of our culture into the new context, and while being funny also makes emotional sense. And within that you've got the beautiful idea that the people in the alternate reality are themselves dreaming of our reality - the ageing Warhol makes models of impossible devices like miniature telephones, too small for steam to ever power, in a movement that's been called 'dreampunk'.

*Though even back in Derby - where you soon realise that Royston Vasey is an accurate portrayal of the county - we seldom had anyone quite so creepy as the guy in the red blazer in. Cross Louie Spence with a new ad campaign for Rohypnol, then picture the result breakdancing to My Life Story...
alexsarll: (Default)
Just when the prequel webisodes and the first half of the series opener had me worried that the new series of Primeval was a bit straightforward compared to the inspired lunacy of last series, that skating so close to cancellation had them scared - they had the character played by Hannah from S Club distract a totally enormous and temporarily non-extinct dinosaur by playing 'Don't Stop Moving' really loudly at it. Excellent. But it still feels very odd that the only exciting original programming on TV all week is two hours on ITV1.

So, New Year's Eve. I've not been to anything but a house party since the Islington Bar glory days of Stay Beautiful, or to anything which required public transport for nearly as long, and I think maybe I had the right idea. I like Bevan 17, I like the No Fiction resident DJs, I even liked the odd singer-songwriter/accordionist/beatboxer opening act who seemed even more out of place than I was as they did a surprisingly good cover of 'So Long, Marianne'. But the crappy 8 bit duo in between who spent 15 minutes fiddling about as though it was going to make them sound any less piss-poor, and the Whip's DJ set of headache electro, and the boozed-up populace of Kilburn who just wanted somewhere to get lairy, and the hordes of mad-eyed partyers on the Tube of whom half seem only to go out on this one thanks. I'm still not sure if I was actually ill or just in some form of existential shock, but having only had two pints while out, by 2am I was in bed, and on New Year's Day I felt considerably worse than if I'd been overdoing it round a friend's house the night before as per usual. But I do like the way the unusual shape of the weeks this time round has stretched out the holiday season - it has less of a direct effect on me than on a lot of people, but the sense of a proper extended break, almost of carnival, is contagious.

Mark Gatiss' history of horror reminded me that years back, m'learned colleague [ profile] dr_shatterhand had recommended I watch seventies Brit horror The Blood on Satan's Claw. Gatiss brackets it alongside Witchfinder General and The Wicker Man as 'folk horror', and I'd agree with the first half of that; as far as I'm concerned The Wicker Man isn't horror at all, but an Ealing comedy by another name. This, though...this is definitely horror. Sometime in the early 18th century*, somewhere in the English countryside, a demonic relic is unearthed and the village children's games turn sinister. Very gradually, at first, yet it's still terribly sinister, and I love that - it reminds me of Arthur Machen's 'The White People', or the final Quatermass, or Robert Holdstock's Lavondyss from before his Mythago books got dull, when they still captured all the strangeness and terror of myth. What could have been a Merrie Englande fiasco is instead just grotty enough and grey enough to feel like the real countryside on its off days, as the diabolic forces bubble up from beneath.
(Added points of interest for Doctor Who fans: sh1t eighties Master Anthony Ainley plays the vicar, and sixties companion Zoe aka Wendy Padbury is the centrepiece of a ritual gang rape scene which, alarmingly, was apparently pretty much improvised on the spot)

*The blurb says the 17th, but a Jacobite character toasts James III, so no.
alexsarll: (death bears)
Apparently the 100 Club should be saved - but only through a sponsorship deal and associated renaming. So last night I went for probably the last time before it becomes the Sony Rebellion 100 Club, or the George Osborne Tax Shelter 100 Club...just imagine how those giant zeroes at the back of the stage will look when they're replaced with Rupert Murdoch faces! Still, for one night only, David Devant and his Spirit Wife could make us forget that. After coasting a little of late, they've got new songs! A new spectral roadie! And the magic tricks are back, even some la-la-la-la-la-lead piping! Excellent stuff. Between songs, Vessel reads from My Magic Life, but it's his own running autobiography, not the original Devant's. It is an excellent way to mark a midwinter solstice after which we all hope things will get brighter - even if outside, all that's happened so far is that rain has replaced snow. Remember how, two winters ago, we all got massively excited and rushed off to build snowmen and have snowball fights, because we only had one chance? And now we're back to thinking of snow as a wintertime fixture, like we always imagined it was supposed to be from the Christmas cards.

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

*Speaking of which, I was slightly underwhelmed by the Christmas special. Yes, any Christmas special which is motivated by a thorough hatred of the church is doing something right, but the religious plotline felt a bit too much like the first season finale, and I wonder whether the resolution might not be a cop-out. Still, I suppose a lot remains to be seen depending on the unseen choices they made.
alexsarll: (Default)
A second trip to the Silver Bullet on Thursday to see Electricity In Our Homes, about whom I had heard good things. And I enjoyed them - it's not as if angular post-punk stylings are in short supply these days, but they do it well enough that I was thinking 'this is Joy Division if they weren't miserable'. I had been drinking, admittedly. And I loved that they played a short set, five songs or so, which when I first encounter a band live is about what I want. I imagine that for the established fans it's less good, but the ones I was with didn't seem to mind.
The Vichy Government, on the other hand, I know somewhat better, well enough to be excited when they bring 'Loneliest Man in Ancient Rome' out of mothballs, or mash up 'Death of a Mummy's Boy' with 'Iberia'. [ profile] cappuccino_kid has a sore throat; Andrew says he sounds like Lee Hazlewood, at which I ask if that means Andrew is Nancy. He's under a red light against velvet curtains like an austerity era Bryan Ferry video, spitting bile with an even harsher tone than usual, when a young lady in massive false eyelashes and a corset enters. Her manner says hen party, not goth, and I instantly know no sale has been made. Indeed, I'm not sure the audience makes it past double figures, and some of that was the next band. They are called Monkey Chunk, and are worse than that sounds. The drum has a cannabis leaf stencilled on the side, the drummer's hat is even more offensive, and two of them have ignored Tropic Thunder's advice and gone full retard. The standing-up cello freakouts at least mean that they are uniquely bad, but this is the best that can be said for them. And finally, Jonny Cola & the A-Grades, who have had an emergency rhythm section substitution which, alongside the reappearance of 'Disappearing Act', has made them a considerably better band. Clearly the previous A-Grades were in fact B Pluses at best. The bum cleavage issue does need to be addressed, though.
I don't stay for much of the club; some good goth tracks are getting aired, but I'm feeling too hibernatory, and need to be up in time to swap books on Sunday. I came away with a good haul, reminded of the happy days of the freebox.

Beyond going out, it was a bit of a Fifth Doctor weekend, and I don't just mean that I'm left with a nagging sense that it could have gone better, though his faint ineptitude was very much on display in The Haunting of Thomas Brewster, where a Victorian urchin nicks the TARDIS. And then, Warriors of the Deep, which I assumed couldn't be as bad as its reputation. How wrong I was. I was under the impression that it was a good story, badly realised, but it's not even that. Yes, the (now inexplicably self-described) Silurians and Sea Devils look dreadful, and their pet monster the Myrka (seen here in its baffling confrontation with Ingrid Pitt) is worse. But beyond and beneath all that tat, the plot is already a series of nonsenses. The Doctor tries to buy time and prove he's not a saboteur, by sabotaging the Seabase's reactor! The Doctor's head has barely gone underwater before Turlough convinces Tegan he's drowned! Nobody seems to have mastered the basics of 'holding someone prisoner'! All one can say in its favour is that the last minute is powerful stuff - and by that point, any viewer will heartily agree with the Doctor that "There should have been another way".

"Every two years [the United Nations] draws up and passes a resolution calling for states to eliminate extra-judicial killings motivated by race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, language or other identifying characteristics.
In the past, sexual orientation has been on that list. This year, the phrase was dropped. An amendment to that effect was passed by 79 votes to 70. It was proposed by Benin, the chair of the African group of nations, supported by Morocco on behalf of the Islamic conference."

Good old international law, eh?
alexsarll: (Default)
I was in a radio version of The Oxford Dons. You can download it here. But change the price to zero before doing so.

So. The last week, what's to report? Let's start with Saturday, because Saturday was awesome. I like Glam Racket but I'm not sure I've ever stayed for a whole one before. This time I did and...Bowie and glitter and kissing, oh my. Plus bonkers songs I'd never heard before ('Pantherman') or had never realised were quite as dodgy as they actually are (Slade's 'Skweeze Me Pleeze Me', there, with the lyric "And I thought you might like to know that when a girl means yes she says no"). Proxy Music were live, showing off their new Eno who definitely looks more the part, but perhaps doesn't quite have the presence to front two solo tracks. Other expansions include a very fetching new female Andy Mackay, a Lene Lovich cover (a bit off-message, but still pretty good) and the encore - 'Mother of Pearl'. I always said their repertoire should include at least the third Roxy Music album, which even Eno (who had just been sacked) knows is their best. And now it does. Bliss. Before that I'd been in the Pembury. I'd heard a lot about the Pembury but never been there before, and it seems to be essentially a family-friendly Ale Meat Cider, without the cider. Well, they had one, and it was OK, but it seemed to take them about half an hour to change the barrel at one point. Why must they persecute my people so? This was an especially severe contrast given Ale Meat Cider had this week had something like seven or eight ciders on, including one called Moonshine which tasted like Christmas.
Friday was [ profile] rhodri's birthday, meaning the entire internet was crammed into the Hope & Anchor, even down to such rarities as [ profile] dafinki and [ profile] strange_powers. The birthday boy's own Gentlemen's Agreement are still way too smooth for the venues I see them in (they should be in an eighties cocktail bar at all times, ideally one with red leather sofas), but headliners Scaramanga Six suited the sweaty rock'n'roll basement perfectly, even if one of their singers does look uncannily like Derren Brown's tougher brother. I especially liked the track which begins with a breakneck spoken word section ending "You should have killed me when you had the chance!"
Then on to No Comment, the first time I've been upstairs at the Garage since it had the refurb and embarrassing rename. I'm nothing like an expert on industrial, meaning I only recognised two tracks and one of those was Empirion's mix of 'Firestarter' which at the time I didn't really approve of. But after all these years, I can admit that it's very good for stomping around in. There is, however, a limit to how much stomping one can do in cowboy boots (my only shoes capable of taking the weekend's torrential rain) so I didn't make it to the end.

I've watched two films this past week: Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen's Zack and Miri make a P0rno, which is a lot better than I'd heard, and Hot Tub Time Machine, which isn't. Both have Craig Robinson, an actor I have never knowingly seen before (though apparently he was in Pineapple Express), in supporting roles. This may be the least noteworthy coincidence ever, yet I am noting it nonetheless, because that's just how I roll.
alexsarll: (Default)
Yesterday I finished a peculiar little book which left me almost more interested in its publisher than itself. Capuchin Classics have borrowed the green Penguin are no longer using for their modern classics - or perhaps one a shade away from it. They otherwise have a more uniform look, though - and not a bad one, pencil drawings for the covers, all very tasteful. The indicia lists not a publisher or editor in chief, but a chatelaine. And their selection includes a few standard, public domain classics - and then a lot of books like this one of which I had never previously heard. Clearly a labour of love; I approve.
The book itself was The Green Child by Herbert Read, of whom I knew little except that he wasn't conventionally known as a novelist - apparently this was his only one. Apparently he was an anarchist poet and critic; of those three descriptors, only 'poet' would you deduce from The Green Child. There are parts where I was reminded of Graham Greene, who supplies the introduction - except that this is a Greeneland where everything works out for the best, in peace. Something about the quality of the light made me think of Firbank, except that there's none of his fussiness in the style or his loucheness to the content. As the title suggests, the story deals with the myth of green children, except updated to the nineteenth century. Or at least, half the story does, because while the protagonist is returning to the sleepy English village where he grew up, he spent much of his life - and more than half the pages - leading the South American republic of Roncador (yes, of course it got namechecked in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) - hence a Study in Scarlet situation where for most of the book we're away from the ostensible interest. Still, it does mean we get two rather unsettling but apparently sincere utopias in one short novel, and that's some going.

Not a week of great eventfulness, unless you count the strictly local excitement of a new Sainsbury's on the Maisionette Beautiful's block. The weekend saw another fine Nuisance and another Dons rehearsal (we shall be on the internet wireless tomorrow at 2pm), and an engagement party en route to which I again took the gamble of a 'shortcut' along the canal. If this has ever worked, it doesn't with the works currently underway, but it can produce other, more interesting results. Such as finding oneself on a floating walkway which leads, ultimately, to St Pancras Old Church and Coroner's Court - two key locations in the Bryant & May book I read recently, as spookily London as one could wish in the autumn twilight.

My free Blockbuster trial* is up now, and the last of the DVDs have been watched and returned. Odd blighters they were too: both Youth in Revolt and Observe and Report star stars of Superbad, but neither is funny. At least in the latter case it seems to be deliberate. The set-up - mall security guard with delusions of grandeur - could easily have been funny. Keep the exact same script and cast Will Ferrell, you'd have a comedy. But the way Seth Rogen plays the part, it's really quite upsetting. And intermittently brilliant, especially when it skewers the standard Hollywood rhetoric about sticking to your dreams &c.
Also seen: Joe Meek biopic Telstar, which is very good though I preferred the early, funnier hour; and Centurion, in which Dog Soldiers director Neil Marshall basically remakes his bonkers Doomsday, except this time it's the real Hadrian's Wall instead of a near future one, and shot in the real Scotland instead of South Africa. Whether it has the right idea about the fate of Rome's Ninth Legion I don't know, but it does have a damn fine cast (David Morrissey, Noel Clarke, Dominic West whom some readers might like to know spends much of his appearance topless and/or in chains), and some Iraq resonances which are fairly deftly handled, and an awful lot of gore. Albeit some of it historically inaccurate gore, because the Roman legionary's gladius was not a slashing sword.

*Not strictly free, in that it's a quid for a month. But because I'm signed up to Cashback Kings, I get £7.50 back, so in fact it works out better than free. I got a tenner from a Lovefilm trial via the same method, but that only lasted half as long. Swings and roundabouts.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
...though at times it still didn't feel all that massive. Saturday night, for instance, seemed to have nothing much doing so we just ended up down the local, where a possibly misguided attempt was made to embiggen proceedings via the medium of pink vodka. And on Sunday, walking down through Islington to see the Deptford Beach Babes, every pub I passed was Sunday quiet not Bank Holiday Sunday busy, and most other venues seemed to be shut. The DBB were playing the Cock Tavern in Smithfield, of which I'd heard but never before had cause to visit. And if I ever do again it won't be in anything like peak time, because as a man who should know observed, the bar staff seemed to be on ketamine. Weird place even beyond that, feeling like it should be hosting a provincial wedding reception rather than a suave rockabilly crowd. The Babes were excellent, and for the first time I was in a position to see their drummer, who can only be described as real horrorshow - not just fun to watch but a proper performer, miming ennui, possession and craze as appropriate. The only other acts I caught, given the dearth of service, were two burlesque girls. I have seen burlesque performers who did something a bit different, every now and then, but these were more at the 'striptease except it's classy because there's no fake tan' end of the bracket. Not that they didn't have nice breasts, but it's still not really art, is it?
(Also: bad form of the promoters to say the night was £6.66 and then actually charge seven quid. Yes, I was wondering what the Hell their float must look like, so I'd brought sixpence in coppers because I'm thoughtful like that. Charge what you like for your night, but stick to what you said, no matter what. There was also a terribly intrusive photographer, but I'm not sure whether he was theirs or an independent)

Before that - Friday, with a trip to see Don Juan in Love at the Scoop. The comedy and the horror worked a lot better than the romance, though I may have been slightly distracted at times by certain people giggling at "an impoverished and corrupt nobleman" comparing himself to Alexander*. Then on to Cheeze & Whine, of which what I remember includes 'Rhythm Is A Dancer'. Oh yes. And on Monday, off to Devil's End (which for security reasons goes by a different name on most maps) for a pint at the Cloven Hoof, titting around Mr Magister's church in a fez and general hijinks, culminating in a small child on the village green getting mouthy about the crack in time and space which could be mistaken for a tear in [ profile] steve586's trousers. Good times. Especially given we were out of there by sundown.

The weekend was especially welcome because last week had been so thoroughly quiet and wet and dreary. Spent most of it watching films, many from another DVD rental free trial but one I'd taped years back (and the property show trailer beforehand was more of a blast from the past than any of the wartime setting). Contraband was an early Powell & Pressburger which initially seems like a forgettable flag-waver about how important the decency of neutrals can be. But then their strangeness and charm take hold, especially once we hit blackout London, and like everything else they did, it becomes very special. Not something one can say of another war/espionage film, GI Joe - The Rise of Cobra, which I watched mainly to see prima donna prick Christopher "too good for Who" Eccleston as Destro. Also with tax bills due when they got the call were Joseph Gordon Leavitt, Jonathan Pryce, and Adebisi from Oz who at least gets to cradle a bazooka in each arm and be a hardass. It's really not very good, but I am of the demographic that is always going to find some appeal in a film where ninjas Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow fight in a pulse cannon generator in an undersea base beneath a polar ice cap. Oh, and the Team America comparisons you may have heard are unfair - well, except in the Paris scenes.

Sillier still is Frank Miller's take on The Spirit. This is not the charming action-adventure strip which is about the only early comic I can read with enjoyment; instead we get a brooding Central City which looks uncannily like Sin City, a Spirit who wear's Dwight's Converse and is generally somewhere between Miller's Batman and Looney Tunes. So yes, it's Miller's spirit not Eisner's, but what are the alternatives? Another unnecessary panel-to-screen transition of a comic which, even more than Watchmen, was designed to work precisely as a comic? Or another Spirit comic in which Miller does his take? At least this way we kill two birds with one stone, and probably up the sales of the Eisner collections into the bargain. And one thing Miller and Eisner do have in common: they like the girls. So Sand Saref is here, out for "the shiny thing to end all shiny things", and Silken Floss is Scarlett Johansson in a Nazi uniform, smoking, which excuses a lot in a film (and makes a Hell of a lot more sense than Samuel L Jackson in a Nazi uniform) "Is every goddamn woman in this goddamn Hellhole out of her goddamn mind?" asks a very Frank Miller take on Commissioner Dolan. Well, yes, but that's what Frank Miller does.

Oh yes, and I finally saw The Hurt Locker - accidentally good timing given this was the weekend of America's withdrawal from Iraq. The basic idea is brilliant; so often the climax of a film is a ticking time-bomb, so why not make a film about bomb disposal teams where the whole damn film is like that? And Kathryn Bigelow films violence like Oliver Stone on a good day, than which I can offer few higher compliments. A rare film to win big Oscars without being preachy middlebrow dreck.

*Finally watching Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes the next day, I am amused to see that film also mentions a performance of the tale, albeit in its Don Giovanni version, as Holmes and Watson pass Tower Bridge, or at least its beginnings. It's heartening that, when either Guy Ritchie's version or the BBC's could so easily have become Sherlock Holmes in Miami, neither did, both Cumberbatch and Downey sharing an essential Holmes-ness with Brett and Rathbone. Also - age suits Downey a lot better than I'd ever have thought.
alexsarll: (howl)
Not that Nuisance ever sees much in the way of sobriety, but everyone seemed even drunker than usual on Friday; possibly because I'd already been for drinks beforehand at T Bird (which is good again! Hurrah), within an hour of arrival I found myself thinking what a beautiful ceiling the Monarch has. Yeah. That aside, it was largely a picnicky sort of weekend, the greyness of this August notwithstanding; on Saturday I was in Kensington Gardens with Stationery Club, and Sunday was Brumfields in Highgate Woods. Both had plenty of comedy passing dogs (especially Brumfields, where one joined in most tenaciously with a game of frisbee, and another snaffled two Jammy Dodgers in one mouthful), and other Local Colour en route. Alongside the Serpentine I saw a teenager on a penny farthing with no idea how to get off, and someone on rollerblades using an umbrella as a sail; in Highgate I was asked for directions by an unusually attractive tranny just as the Passage's polymorphously perverse 'XOYO' started up on the headphones. Then later, back along a Parkland Walk which seemed oddly still, even where someone was playing woodwind - not apparently for money - under one of the darker bridges.

Watched two films the last couple of days, both sequels which don't require any familiarity with the original, both featuring possession by ectoplasmic mists. And that's about all they have in common apart from being damn good. Evil Dead 2 is a gleefully gory romp, man versus the supernatural presented as almost slapstick. Whereas Hellboy II - which feels much more like a Guillermo del Toro film than its predecessor, even though he directed them both - is a terribly sad and elegiac thing in amongst all the fighting and 'aw, crap'; every monster vanquished is a strange and wonderful thing which has now passed from the Earth, and when Hellboy is being tempted by the genocidal elf-prince (played, bizarrely but very well, by Luke from Bros), you at least half-want him to go for it.

I remember Jimmy McGovern's The Lakes being much-discussed in the nineties, mainly in terms of the sex. For whatever reason, I never saw it, but on a free trial of one of those DVD rental services I thought, well, John Simm stars, has to at least be worth a look, right? Only problem is, Simm is playing a scouser. Within minutes of his arrival in the Lake District, he's twice faced prejudice over this - ah, thinks I, this is about him showing the locals not all scousers are feckless gobshites. Except it rapidly becomes clear that he is; he's a thieving, idle little weasel who gets a local girl pregnant and whose compulsive gambling leads to the death of three kids. And Simm is still at least a little charming, but he gets that whiny voice down pat enough to almost extinguish it. Oh, I forgot to mention the music, which is like some nightmarish antimatter universe Nuisance; in the first episode alone, two major emotional scenes are soundtracked by Cast. There are some fine performances - especially the village priest - and lovely touches (some business with milk-sniffing, threaded lightly through the whole show, is astonishing) but overall it's a nasty, mean little show. And I really don't get why even my hormonal peers thought it was sexy.

January 2016



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