alexsarll: (Default)
Went back to Bright Club last week for the first time since talking there; you do start regarding the talks with something of a professional's eye, but I think I would have laughed at the bioengineer and disdained the sociolinguist just the same without my experience. Josie Long, meanwhile, made the ideal compere. Well, joint-ideal with Ince, maybe. Then on Wednesday the patchily amusing Your Highness - possibly the first time I've ever seen a film marketed around its comic character actor lead stolen by the straight man. I can see why James Franco winds people up, he does seem to be infuriatingly good at everything to which he sets his mind.

And then - the long weekend. Ridiculously sunny throughout, barring that rather wonderful little storm circa Doctor Who, just as people want bank holiday weekends to be - though for me it was maybe a bit much. Started off by going to see The Vichy Government (alongside various other bands who don't deserve even the meagre publicity of a mention here) in storming form upstairs at the Garage, and coming away with a hurled Marguerite Yourcenar which some philistine had abandoned but dammit, it was meant for me anyway. Then picnicking, the last London Stay Beautiful (band and bar queue awful, otherwise a fitting send-off), a local pub crawl for local people, and more picnicking, complete with William Tell rocketry. And on the fourth day, I rested. Before heading out again last night to see Bevan 17 and Pan, the latter in particular playing to far too few people - I've never seen the Old Blue Last so empty. Presumably the usual clientele are either partied out or overseas to dodge the wedding which, by the by, is driving me closer to republicanism than I've ever danced before. Then home via Shoreditch High Street, which for a new overground station feels oddly like a grand old-fashioned airport.

You know how when Green Wing started, it was generally slated, with people complaining that it was more silly than funny? And how gradually the tide of opinion changed, and people realised that it was just painting a very strange little world, and people were going back and catching up on what they'd missed? And now there's Campus from the same team, it's being generally dismissed in the same terms Green Wing initially was?I'm wondering (albeit not enough to actually go Google-digging) whether it's really the same critics, and they are that incapable of learning from their own mistakes.
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)
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: (gunship)
So we're sending two Nazis to Europe. On the plus side, at least the christians don't have any seats - though aren't there some still to declare? That would put the sour cherry on the carrot cake and no mistake. And I see this news just after reading the Captain Britain and MI13 annual. This being the best new superhero comic in years, one which took a character even Alan Moore couldn't make sing, and made him into the national icon he always should have been, our own Captain America as opposed to a cheap knock-off. The series hit around the same time as Garth Ennis' Dan Dare reboot, and they shared an attempt to build a sense of a British patriotism which was strong and unashamed, but which gave no quarter to the racist scum who profane the flag and the history they so tattily invoke. And the annual? Well, that's the first issue to come out since the news that Captain Britain and MI13 is cancelled. There's just not enough of a market for it. And as above, so below. It's not that I feel any shame over how this will make us look in Europe's eyes, you understand - enough other countries are sending their own fascists, and as per last century, I'm confident that ours are hardly the biggest threat of the bunch. Besides which, the European Parliament is a bad joke in the first place. I'm more embarrassed over how this makes us look to ourselves, how much it exacerbates the national mood of bemused decline. Hopefully, it'll at least be enough of a wake-up call to improve matters, but it could as easily be another step down that sorry road. In the meantime, yesterday's jokes about "ask David to bring The Final Solution" (which worked better verbally, italics and capitals being silent) and the unicorn lynching seem slightly less amusing.

Othergates:
I don't normally mind waits at the doctor's; in accord with Sarll's First Rule, I always have plenty to read about my person. Except my surgery has now installed a TV broadcasting inane health programming, noisily. Desist!
Unusually old-school Stay Beautiful this weekend, both in terms of those attending, and in not having a live act. "This is how we used to do it in the olden days!", I tell bemused youngsters for whom the night has only ever been at the Purple Turtle. The playlist is less old-school, which is a shame as such a direction might have saved me from accidentally dancing to La Roux.
Two Grant Morrison comics out last week, and while Batman & Robin was a great, straightforward superhero story with art by the ever-impressive Frank Quitely, it wasn't a patch on the glorious, tragic, yearning final issue of Seaguy's second act. Guess which one sells about ten times as much as the other?
alexsarll: (Default)
The new Torchwood trailer is not filling me with hope, to be frank. And if Peter Capaldi is making a second Who appearance, as a government official of some sort, I want this to confirm that Malcolm Tucker is in fact a direct descendant of Caecilius from the Cambridge Latin Course. I don't know why, I just do.

Friday: [livejournal.com profile] renegadechic lends me a data stick the size of a packet of gum, containing multiple TV series and several films. This freaks me out not because of sleep deprivation but just because we are living in the future. Later I go to my first Poptimism at its new venue, and for the first time ever hear 'Put A Donk On It' in its alleged home setting of a club. I have planned to stay only for a couple of drinks but end up as one of the last dozen there, dancing like I'm in Queer as Folk whenever something vaguely handbag comes on. En route I am impressed by the attendance at the Critical Mass bike ride on Westminster Bridge (though is it not slightly excessive to have two bike protests on the same bridge within four days? Combining and co-ordinating them would seem more effective). I also pick up various comics including one which causes confusion among the Poptimists, and the existence of which I admit I find baffling: This Is A Souvenir, a series of short comic stories inspired by the music of Spearmint. The best of which - the Phonogram one - turns on a misheard lyric. It shouldn't exist, but it makes me happy that it does.

Saturday's mass of cyclists didn't disrupt my progress, but on Saturday I am glad I left far too much time to get to my coach, because the Victoria line is shut and the army are blocking roads between there and Green Park for their parade. I didn't even know we had that many cavalry anymore! Or gun carriages - what do you use a gun carriage for in the 21st century? Anyway, make it to Brighton in plenty of time to see the Pier and the Pavillion, neither of which I have ever encountered before having always been up near the crumbling West Pier, because I am 1 x goth. The Pavillion turns out also to be the site of [livejournal.com profile] simon_price's wedding (we are only along for the reception) so we admire the new Mrs Price's quite astonishing dress, and then meet a dog in a tie called Rufus. He wasn't anything to do with the wedding, he just ruled. As does Brighton generally, in spite of all the bad ink; for some reason East Sussex seems to have an unusually high proportion of pretty girls. Or maybe it's just that because they're near the sea, they tend to wear less, and I am an easily-distracted male.
At the reception, when I am not dancing, or falling asleep and then claiming that I was just "bored", I am mainly introducing people off the internet to each other's faces. It is great fun. Later we take gin to the beach, and meet randoms.

I do not see much of Sunday, but make it out again for [livejournal.com profile] missfrancesca's birthday and associated jollity. Yesterday, because I wanted to get caught up with the Harry Potter films before the new one and [livejournal.com profile] vivid_blue wuvs blokey from Twilight, she hosted a viewing of Goblet of Fire. The films really do improve as they go along, don't they? There's some savage cutting, to the extent that eg Snape barely does anything in this one, but that's a good thing - by being forced to reconfigure the story, it becomes more a film and less a theme-park ride connecting key scenes from the book. Also, I dread to think how much fanfic was launched by the bit where David Tennant licks Alan Rickman's wand.
alexsarll: (crest)
Greatly enjoyed Stay Beautiful on Saturday, though it's strange being at the eighth birthday when you remember the first night so clearly, feeling like some sort of elder statesman of glitter, even down to being startled at the younger generation's excitement over the Powerpuff Girls theme because it's slipped your mind that it doesn't get a regular airing anymore...

Julien Temple's Pandaemonium has little on its Wikipedia or IMDB pages to flag it up as Romantic Poetry - the Hollywood Years, but by blazes it should. All IMDB manages is to flag up the anachronistic jet-trails in the sky during the balloon ride, having perhaps not also spotted various other modern features throughout the film, intended to convey a sense of Coleridge as a prophet whose visionary powers (and opium habit) cast him loose from time - even though the opening scene says as much, explicitly, in among some astonishing camerawork. And there is a lot of that, and it does make a change from the normal slavish biopic template of which I am so, so bored. But plotwise...Linus Roache's Coleridge is the brave rebel, undone by opium but still a visionary hero - no mention here of that government job in Malta, or of the boringly conventional strain in his criticism. John Hannah's Wordsworth is a vindictive hack, almost incapable of writing - even 'I wandered lonely as a cloud' is here his sister's suggestion. Wordsworth is the person from Porlock and, not content with that, later convinces Coleridge to burn 'Kubla Khan' in spite of Lord Byron's efforts to huy and publish it. But! All is well. For Wordsworth's loyal sister, although also reduced to a wreck by the dastardly sell-out, remembers the poem in its entirety! In your face, Wordsworth! Of course, to better emphasise the picture we get no quotes from Wordsworth's few genuinely great poems, while all the Coleridge quotations are from two of the three masterpieces he produced over a poetic career which was broadly acceptable but unexceptional.
There is a grand tale to be told in the relationship of Wordsworth and Coleridge - I picture something like HBO's John Adams. This hero vs villain melodrama is not it. Although it turns out that the bit about Southey writing the original Goldilocks story is pretty much true. Who knew?

Have never quite known whether I should investigate the works of WG Sebald. I like psychogeographical odysseys - but these ones get good reviews in the literary pages, such that I suspect them, and the tone of self-indulgent wispiness which seems to get literary fiction types all hot under the collar sounds stronger here than elsewhere in the genre. Will Self's short essay on Sebald would, I hoped, decide me one way or the other, but no. still up in the air. And in a world with so many books, when you can't decide whether you're likely to like one, then it's better to read one you're pretty sure you will. Once I'm finished on the current crop of books - and that could take a while - I think it's flying cities in space for me, rather than lonely trudges around East Anglia.
alexsarll: (seal)
Just as the Large Hadron Collider seems to have left us in the same lousy universe we were in on Tuesday, so its associated Torchwood episode was a bit of a disappointment. Part of the problem is that what counts as mad science for us should be positively passe on Earth-Who - "Large Hadron Colliders? Oh yeah, UNIT has two. At Torchwood we only have one, but it's better. Pink. Of course, the Doctor didn't need one at all, he trained Higg's bosons to come when he played the recorder." It's the same mismatch we got in Marvel's various foolhardy attempts to have the events of seven years ago be a big deal on their Earth, even though that New York gets its skyscrapers trashed pretty much weekly. But even beyond that, spoilers ) You'd do better having Keith Richards warn against the evils of drugs.

There's been a lot of going back this week. I don't mean in the wider world - that seems Hellbent on beating a course back to the Dark Ages, to the extent that I can't be bothered to keep charting it on here, it depresses me to no end. I mean personally, whether it be the old gang back together at the wedding, or my plans for tonight when I'm off to the Verge (as was), scene of many a drunken night back in the Fan Club days, to see the New Royal Family, sober. Last Saturday I went to Stay Beautiful for the first time this year, an experience I half-expected to be valedictory, but which left me feeling much less out of place than I expected. And last night, even with Indelicates and David Devant shows on offer, I went to see the Blow Monkeys. Now in a sense, Devant or the Indelicates would have been more 'going back' - I've seen each I don't know how many times, and the Blow Monkeys never. Nor, in my decade or so of London gigging, have I previously been to the Jazz Cafe*. But the Blow Monkeys...I was introduced to them getting on for 15 years ago, just as my music tastes were starting to get beyond what the inkies and Select (RIP) were feeding me. Their infectious sense of calm and beauty, the genuine venom mixed in with an understanding that you can sometimes revolt better by transcendence than opposition - that wasn't very teenage, and in some ways it's still not very me, but it became quite formative nonetheless. I'd heard Dr Robert had moved on in something of the same wrong direction his contemporary Paul Weller did, and never expected a new Blow Monkeys album, or a chance to see them live. But then, that was before eternal recurrence came early and everyone started reforming.
Now, obviously I know that for the time being, time impacts on beings. But I've seen eighties acts before; Hell, I've seen seventies acts before. And most of them seemed to have jumped on to that celebrity track where ageing really does make people look cooler somehow, more lived-in and not just lived-out. Which is why it still came as a surprise when the chap in the audience I'd unconsciously pegged as 'the big lad who needs to stop trying to carry off the Dr Robert look these days' was, inevitably, Dr Robert. Dr Robert who was one of the reasons I initially got into the band because a few people had mentioned that I looked like him - and not putting myself or my younger self down here, but he looked like a much prettier me, which obviously had this narcissist hooked. Still charming, still sparkling, still with that voice and even that lisp - but not the young Apollo anymore.
And there weren't that many people there. First London date in 18 years, people know at least a couple of songs, not that big a venue - it should be fairly full, if not perhaps sold out. Not so. And predictably, some of that crowd are lig zombies who chatter through the new stuff - of which we get a lot but hey, I like most of the new album, I'm not complaining. What does puzzle me is the selection from the classics. Obviously they wouldn't get away without 'Digging Your Scene' or 'It Doesn't Have To Be This Way', and they don't try, or seem anything less than happy to be playing them again and comfortable with their past. But then we get songs that hit as duets, sung solo - 'Celebrate', 'Wait' and 'Slaves No More', the last of which I didn't even like much in the first place. Likewise 'Heaven Is A Place I'm Moving To' and 'Springtime for the World', songs I usually skip on CD. I wasn't honestly expecting 'Beautiful Child' in the current climate, or 'Cash' which I imagine would be a nightmare to play live, but wasn't 'This Is Your Life' a hit? Wasn't 'It Pays To Belong'?
I'm not saying I regret going, but I still feel like I missed something.

The support, incidentally, was Rhoda Dakar, ex of the Specials, accompanied by some bloke from Bad Manners on acoustic guitar. She played 'Racist Friend' from the old days, but not 'The Boiler'. Now, if you've never heard 'The Boiler'...it's getting on for 30 years old now and I'd say there's still nothing quite so harrowing ever to have been released in the disguise of a pop single. It wouldn't work in a cheery support slot for an upbeat band, it wouldn't work acoustic, and although she's aged incredibly well, one could hardly shout for it without the risk of being terribly misconstrued. But still, it seems weird to have seen Rhoda Dakar and not heard 'The Boiler'.

*Not what the name implies, is the short version. More a mid-size provincial venue, or the 12 Bar inexplicably rebuilt at double size. And £4.10 a pint? Get out.
alexsarll: (Default)
I still don't know quite what to say after the H Bird show. Obviously I knew it was going to be a night of top pop entertainment, and as bittersweet as a farewell show's always going to be, but I honestly wasn't expecting to get a song dedicated to me just for hectoring them all into playing a gig, much less a cover of my favourite Lifestyle song. Thank you, H Bird. You will be missed.
(There's always the possibility of a reunion show, of course. This was one, in a sense, but it felt like more of one; watching them on stage, they no longer seemed quite so in-the-same-band as they used to, and suddenly I had fully formed in my head the pop star biographies of what they've been up to in the meantime, biographies which were blithely heedless of my knowing mere facts to the contrary. [livejournal.com profile] augstone has seen a million faces and rocked them all, possibly in a stadium version of Rock Stone; [livejournal.com profile] ksta's soundtrack work led to her marrying a big Hollywood mogul type, I think a director; and [livejournal.com profile] hospitalsoup became a sort of Laurie Anderson experimental music figure)
Also a surprise: Mr Solo's support slot was not in fact solo, he performed as a double act with Eddie Argos! Which meant mixing a bit of Glam Chops material in there too, plus Art Brut's 'Moving to LA' for [livejournal.com profile] ksta. This made me very glad; since they cancelled their cancellation for tomorrow's SB, I was upset to be missing them on account of White Mischief (which reminds me - who else is going?). On top of which we got a Bowie/Ronson moment with a pink toy guitar, and a further guest on drums - John Moore (whose Bo Diddley tribute, incidentally, is the best one I've seen). Which I guess made them Glam Chops Recorder.

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

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

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

*The one tat there was ever any remote chance of me getting; having been beaten to it reduces the chance from slim to none.
alexsarll: (bill)
Stay Beautiful last night was so close to being good, if it hadn't been for a few too many people with a variety of attitude problems. Some of them blatantly townie types, but others looking like they belonged there. Even among a generation only a little younger, there's a real...discourtesy these days. Which in turn makes one feel like a disapproving old person, which doubtless only encourages them.

The great thing about the Sudan teddy incident is the way it has totally mainstreamed 'islamophobia' aka the legitimate realisation that just maybe this religion is not in fact making legitimate demands, but is dangerously insane. The Danish cartoon row...well, I guess political cartoonists aren't as sympathetic a focus for British public opinion as a well-meaning teacher overseas with good intentions, are they? In a sense they are setting out to offend, so protecting their right to do so isn't quite such an easy sell. Of course, the average liberal acquaintance is one thing - but you can be sure that if anyone is prepared to defend the islamic outrage, they'll be a Guardian reader. Step forward Tom Snow, who places the blame for the incident not with a bunch of psychos looking for offence wherever they can find it, but with the European tendency to like animals! "Many Muslims find our relationships with dogs particularly distasteful", he notes - so to avoid the risk of offending these reasonable chaps again, let's not have any tedies at all, and all shoot our pets!
Tosser.
In fairness to the Guardian, they have also printed Martin Amis' latest word on the absurd accusations recently levelled against him. Realising that everyone except the very slowest children in the class should already understand that islamophobia is not racism, but aware that said children really do need to be brought up to speed, for everyone else reading he really cuts loose with the rhetorical fireworks. I've always liked him more for his essays - and no, not just on this topic - than his fiction, and suspect that's how he'll be remembered.

Speaking of the slow children - Frank Miller seems to be making it increasingly clear for their benefit that All Star Batman And Robin is a comedy book. Not that I mind, because it's bloody funny. Even if the goddamn Batman didn't describe himself as the goddamn Batman once this issue.
alexsarll: (crest)
Pynchon. Why did it take me so long to get round to him? I'm sure I vaguely meant to read The Crying of Lot 49 for the American paper in my third year; instead I read it today, and now I'm wondering if things would have been very different. So rich and vivid and *dense*, I can only imagine what the hefty ones are like (and prepare myself for such an ascent at a later date). Just as I'd expected, somewhere between Don DeLillo and Illuminatus!, though given the dates I suppose it's more that they each specialise in aspects of Pynchon's whole.
(Another recent discovery - Ken MacLeod. You know how it is with SF these days, so many also-rans cluttering the field that I've become very sceptical of any name I don't have good reason to trust. But when he was being recommended by Banks before him and Stross after, those count as good reasons, and it didn't hurt when I realised his future - bizarrely dated as any future conceived in the mid-nineties must now be - was set in my manor. The Haringey parts of which, I only today noticed (inspired by MacLeod and especially Pynchon? Could be) bear as their mark this rather alarming crest - the Wheel of Chaos writ with lightning, and the legend PROGRESS WITH HUMANITY. How many alternate readings of that can you construe?

Speaking of North London, as all good souls should, it saddens me to report that the rumours were true - the hypergentrification of Barnsbury has filleted the Albion, turning one of my favourite London pubs into a soulless mess, aiming for gastro classiness but coming off more like a regional Harvester, and with a kitchen that's closed on Sunday afternoons anyway. Ended up in Nando's for food - a first for me; it's far better for vegetarians than I'd expected.

You know when your needle slips out of the night's groove and suddenly you're just not there anymore? Happened again at Stay Beautiful, why I don't know. But the trip there was still worthwhile, even given that it involved passing up free Jack, simply for the T-Witches. Tribute bands don't normally do it for me, but when you know the members can cut it with their own material too, and when the songs include 'Dandy in the Underworld' - well, then it feels more like channeling than impersonation, more like ritual than Ritzy.
alexsarll: (bernard)
I feel quite exhausted. Danced the (first part of the) night away at SB, until all my energy had burned itself up on getting down to Prince et al. Then out the next day to walk through a London whose summer had come with a vengeance; a mercy that we didn't have too far to travel through her baking streets, both journeys being ones which (in their more direct form) I've done plenty of times before; even getting lost in Gray's Inn couldn't slow us down too much, but lollies were still needed to cool the party down. Lollies which, for some reason, everyone else got through long before I did. Hmmm. Then a brief pause for reflection in the steampunk caverns of the Porterhouse before heading up to PopArt. The Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes is a deeply strange venue; as [livejournal.com profile] thedavidx said, it's like a venue from a dream - "I was trying to play a gig and there were all these people bowling, and to get there you had to walk through a cinema and past an American diner..." If only they hadn't run out of the rather yummy cider (or cyder, as it blotted its copybook by describing itself) I could have backed the motion to never leave. The sound's not perfect, but the atmosphere made up for it - and the eighties covers didn't hurt. It came as no surprise that the New Royal Family would attempt Adam Ant, and Lux's 'Manic Monday' tied in with London's current Prince fever, but I was surprised, impressed and terrified by The Low Edges' 'Power of Love'; Huey Lewis as he'd sound covered by his number one fan, Patrick Bateman. Thence to the John Russell, and thence to ruin; I just wish someone had got my comedy side-slide in the Irish pub on camera, I'd have Del Boy falling through the bar beat in no time.

The worst song ever finally finds its natural level.

Having seen This Film Is Not Yet Rated, I appreciate that US film ratings are somewhere between a lottery and a conspiracy, and I have no reason to believe the situation's much better here, but I still find them baffling. This clicked when I realised that Blackadder, on which I pretty much grew up, is rated 15 (except Christmas Carol, which is PG. And that was the one with the loincloth scenes). 15 is also the same rating as seasons 2 and 3 of The Wire (the first season, which I would say is less disturbing than the second at least, is an 18. No idea why). Tim Burton's Batman, which I remember distinctly as the first 12 in cinemas, is 15 on DVD. Yes, obviously people develop at different rates, but even taking that into account I don't think I'm being too idiosyncratic if I say that I think kids can safely see Blackadder a bit younger than Batman, and both of them a long time before they're ready for The Wire.
alexsarll: (Default)
While I think Popjustice may have gone slightly overboard as regards Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad, it really is a lot closer to being consistent and consistently very good than most R&B/pop albums. And when you've got something like 'Umbrella' which could so easily make even pretty good tracks seem like irrelevances by comparison, that's no small achievement.

I used to draw images of tanks and bombers all the time as a child, but I recall no international court taking that as evidence of war crimes in the Midlands. And mine had robots, sorcerors and Cthulhoid entities to boot.

When The Shield returned a month or so back, I was worried that it might suffer by comparison with The Wire after my recent binges on the latter. I needn't have; their moral universes are sufficiently different, the violent disorder and brutal corruption of LA is more than the width of North America away from the inertia and decay of Baltimore - even the hopelessness has a different flavour. But there remain, inevitably, points of connection. I have to avoid watching them too closely together simply because the gang slang of one tends to throw my ear for the gang slang of the other. And in last night's Shield spoiler, also for Wire s3 ) Absolutely staggering.

Relaxing at the moment, in the knowledge that I have a real flurry of activity coming - Paul St Paul & the Apostles at Stay Beautiful tonight, then two Tubewalks tomorrow running straight into the free New Royal Family/Low Edges/Luxembourg show at the Bloomsbury Bowl tomorrow.
alexsarll: (crest)
That line makes more sense now the charts mean nothing much, doesn't it? And David Devant's show on Friday...it was only an inchoate feeling until someone else put it into words for me, but it had an air of finality. Ten years on from the debut album, which was meant to make them stars, they played it in order. First track of the encore, the track which came as a free 7" with the vinyl version. And then apparently thrashing through every other song that came to mind...they did say that they'd see us in three years for the Shiney on the Inside anniversary show, but I'm not especially expecting to see them before that. I don't know, maybe it was just the hearing-album-in-order thing that got me. I've only seen that done before at launch shows, not commemorations.
As first support, the Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra were as delightful as ever; I especially enjoyed watching their effect on the uninitiated. And Boogaloo Stu was entertaining enough, even if his outfit was a little *too* tight. But The Reality (edit: apparently these were They Came From The Stars I Saw Them, lying)...I can only surmise that they're sponsored by tobacco industry, because they had the non-smokers heading out on their mates' fag breaks, just to get away. The 100 Club itself, it should be noted, *stinks*. Not the gym fug of the Borderline, more the hospital corridor smell of cheap industrial cleaner. David Devant did provide card Fantasy Fags, but they never got round to enacting whatever magic might have empowered them. And on top of the smell...I saw a psster for a George Melly show. And this set me thinking, a little later, all we need now to sum up everything that's made this past week so abysmal is a Fopp poster. Turn around, and there's an ad for an instore right behind me. From that point on I was just surprised by the absence of Catherine Tate.

The Purple Turtle, on the other hand, doesn't smell at all bad; surprising, I know. But the evening...in terms of the music and such, I still like Stay Beautiful. I find Client fairly boring, but inoffensive, especially since they seem to have laid off the faux sapphism. But the clientele, my dears! So many very ugly people. And I mean that in terms of behaviour as much as anything, though be assured, many of the faces and outfits definitely qualify too. I'm sure it's not normally like this, but it has really rather shaken me.

Bear in mind, I couldn't (until now) investigate people's objections to the end of Heroes in any depth for fear of spoilers - but I get the impression that it was widely loathed. Whereas I'm just vaguely disappointed in the way I often am at the end of big superhero stories by the decisions taken with too much of an eye on the franchise's value and too little on the story. Some bits, though, just don't make sense. Queries, incorporating spoilers )
As ever, it is Hiro's arc whose development interests me most.
Still, at least The Shield is still on top form. I've meandered enough before about the bleakness of its moral universe, to general disinterest on here, but this week's episode found another marvellous way to play that.

"Speaking in Hull, the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said..."I'm hoping that the central government will match up to what the council is trying to do. The response should be quick, fast and swift.""
Is there even a word for going past tautology and using *three* synonymous terms? Perhaps we should just file this as further evidence for Hitchens' argument that, where once the finest minds had nowhere to go but the clergy, times are very different now.
alexsarll: (merlot)
If I'm honest, I spent some of the early part of 'The Family of Blood' not being that impressed. But then I realised...it's deliberate that John Smith was being so hopeless. Like Martha said, he's rubbish as a human. Like the Family said, 'human' and 'idiot' are the same thing, aren't they? I basically spent the second half in tears, even when I was also laughing. Best Who ever? Well, best TV Who ever, possibly. Joint with 'The Doctor Dances', maybe.

Good Stay Beautiful also, even if the buses on the way over were diverted (which is acceptable) and lying about the extent of the diversion on the shelters (which is not). Those fibre-optic countdowns - there is no excuse, ever, for them to say buses are coming to a stop when they are not. And whoever set up the system such that they do should have their own severed head announcing the truth at bus stops instead. Anyway, got there in the end, and was still sufficiently buzzing from Who not to have been put in a bad mood by it. Though I do wonder if I should go back to the Wicked model of straight-edging SB, as a night which doesn't need alcohol to get the appropriate...shimmer.

"Truth about Kyoto: huge profits, little carbon saved". Corruption in UN and EU projects? Well there's a surprise.

If only any goth clubs had £50 million to spare, Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted platinum skull would surely be the best discoball ever.
alexsarll: (Default)
Are we all enjoying the feast of the goddess Eostre? Splendid!

How good was last night's Doctor Who? Whatever you just said - no, it was better. It may even have challenged Moffat's record as the best writer in the new series, that's how good it was. It was good enough to get the highest praise this old heretic can give TV Who - it could have been a book. Compare the effortless charm of "You can have that" with the cringeworthy annoyance of Rose trying to make Queen Victoria say that she was not amused. Consider that opening where Martha made all the objections any sensible person would make to time travel, so that we didn't have to worry about them. Regard the way in which it fits pretty well around the known facts of Shakespeare's life and work (well, except that maybe he should have been acting) without ever turning into a mere history tour. I spent much of it bouncing up and down with sheer glee.

Stay Beautiful - also pretty ace. I'd saved the sad kitten from Poptimism's focus group, just in case


A sad kitten, yesterday

but with no guest DJ it really wasn't necessary. Much irreverent crucifixion-themed fun, Sputnik entertaining even if one of the stand-ins had eaten all the 21st century pie, and general shiny pop aceness.

In fact, the only thing which went any way to spoiling my day was all the red-faced, red-shirted vermin on the streets of Finsbury Park. D'you reckon there's any chance we can subcontract the Italian police to cover Arsenal home games? Oh, well that and the sheer up-is-down-and-black-is-white bloody cheek of Iran: "State television also claimed the British military had "dictated" words to its sailors which were read out at a pre-arranged press conference."

edit: One Israeli is worth a thousand Palestinians, admit Palestinian militants.
alexsarll: (savage)
Before I get into the censorship post - SB would have been ace if it weren't for the mash-ups, the lunar eclipse was fabulous (the remarkable thing for me being not so much the colour, as that it truly looked like a sphere rather than its usual disc), I am very much looking forward to Jason Webley's show tonight even if it is in Shoreditch, and if there remained any faint chance of me voting Lib Dem again, it just evaporated.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated is a documentary by one Kirby Dick* about the rating system run by the Motion Picture Association of America. You know - PG13, NC17, those ratings. Unlike the BBFC over here, they don't ever seem to demand cuts - only to assign ratings. Now, in theory that's something with which I have no problem; while I'm utterly opposed to any film ever being banned or even cut, nor do I think that toddlers should be watching Requiem for a Dream. Except I was only dimly aware that if a film gets an NC17 rating, that means huge swathes of the US won't get it in their cinemas, and some of the megachains won't stock the DVD. Except I'd never realised how inconsistent the system was (the film shows clips of sex scenes from independent films which were rated NC17 next to near-identical excerpts from big studio films which got the less restrictive R rating), or how secretive the board is, or how it doesn't even live up to its own claims about how its members are chosen (allegedly Speaking As Parents of children up to 17, some have none younger than 22).
Above all, I hadn't realised what a sinisterly folksy mofo ran the show. Until very recently it was still in the hands of founding father Jack Valenti, a man with the same air of covertly menacing avuncularity as Buffy's Mayor.
It's not a perfect film - they have no sense of the situation outside the US except to consider homogenous 'Europe' as a liberal utopia for titillating films, for one thing. More damagingly, they seem to want to attack the MPAA with whatever weapons come to hand, whether complaining about the comparative tolerance for violent films, or about the lack of 'child behaviour experts' on the panel. Such 'experts' are at least as dangerous as 'concerned parents', as anyone who remembers the accursed Fredric Wertham will know. Still very much worth a look, though - apart from anything else, there's a scene where John Waters claims that nobody actually felches; I never thought I'd find myself saying "Bless, he's so innocent!" about John Waters.
Meanwhile on this side of the fishpond, "former BBFC president Andreas Whittam Smith defended passing two sexually explicit and violent films - Baise-Moi and Intimacy - with 18 certificates. He told the Synod: "However they were marred by their sexually explicit content, they had something to say." They were not *marred* by that content, you cretin. That content was their *point*. Both films were addressing issues related to human sexuality, a core aspect of the species, as art should, and without any spurious requirement for coyness which wouldn't be applied to other such aspects. Personally I don't think either did it very well I'm surprised there's no mention of the excellent, explicit Irreversible), but that's irrelevant.
Elsewhere at the same event: "TV shows like Big Brother and Little Britain can "exploit the humiliation of human beings for public entertainment", the Church of England has warned." As opposed to exploiting the humiliation of human beings for covert entertainment and overt social control like the Church used to, you mean? Upset that you're no longer the only game in town, are you?
And one cleric had the gall to say "My only complaint with Channel 4 is that they did not think to have our Archbishop of York on Celebrity Big Brother". This is another case where he either genuinely didn't know that said Archbish had been approached for the series but had refused (in which case the idiot shouldn't have been discussing the matter in public, and his opinion is of no value) or knew and was cynically attempting to mislead his audience (in which case the disingenuous toad's opinion is of no value).
Please note also, "The Church's General Synod, meeting in London, voted unanimously to express concerns over TV standards." Consider the near-ceaseless flow of utterly excellent television being produced by HBO precisely because of their freedom from petty censorship, and remember that unanimously next time someone claims that it's only certain factions within the church who would cast us back into the Dark Ages.

*And is it just me who sees that name and starts thinking about Darkseid's johnson?

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