alexsarll: (bernard)
I try not to post 'Stupid Columnist Is Stupid' stuff anymore, because really, what's the point? Half the time it's exactly what they want. But I read this article more than a week ago and it's still bugging me.
"Gentrification can be funny. A middle-class friend of mine recently moved to Brixton in south London. She noticed a chicken shop at the end of her road which always had expensive cars parked outside at night, and queues of people through the door. Assuming this was a reflection of the quality of its food, she went in asking for some chicken. Her request was met with astonishment by the owner and the great amusement of the other customers. There was barely a kitchen, and certainly no cooking going on.
If you are a middle-class person who has never lived in a poor area, it may not be obvious to you either that the chicken shop was actually selling drugs."

I'm not trying to be all street here, but I am aware of plenty of London commercial premises which seem to be fronts for something dodgy. At least one I can say with certainty was, because a week or so after we were in there buying after-hours booze, I saw footage on TV of SWAT cops raiding it and carting off lots of heroin. Plenty of these shops are not very good at their nominal trade - but they always make some desultory effort at a cover. And a chicken shop? Which, more than any other, will attract the drunk and uncomprehending customer who's going to get in the way of the real business? That seems like a very strange choice of cover.

Beyond that...well, last week I helped record 'a radio play', as we are now apparently calling the scurrilous collection of in-jokes and outright puerility that is The Oxford Dons; once it's uploaded for timeshifted listening, I'll put the link on here. I walked to Hackney for the recording, and while I was disappointed that Balls Pond Road doesn't seem to have a ball pond, it does have a deeply Dalston community garden, and an oddly hallucinogenic windmill, and a beautiful old supplier of colours to artists. Afterwards, astonished that we seemed to have got away with it, we sat in the infamously hipster London Fields (something else I've never done before), where even the beggars claim to be poets or foot masseurs. I'm sure if I'd stuck around longer one would have turned up insisting he was actually a DJ. Then down to the heart of town for a library raid (the next four volumes of Invincible were my goal, the fact that schoolgirls were tying each other up next to the comics shelf was strictly a bonus) and the newly restored version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis. If you were hoping it might make sense now, then sorry, much of the plot is still strictly to be inferred - but my word, it's beautiful. Then off for sushi - quite the Axis evening. I liked it, but I'm not sure I see it as making a whole meal, the flavours are great for treats but too complex for consumption en masse.
On Thursday I went for what should have been a civilised dinner, and then have a gap somewhere after I left, until I remember climbing out of the park. Which isn't even on any sensible route home from where I was. Hmmm. Friday also ended up involving a fair amount of red wine, although no park detours this time*, which meant that I felt not the slightest compunction about having a quiet night in on Saturday. Not done that for a long, long time. But there was another party to attend on Sunday, after all.

*There were some other detours earlier, because the route to Kilburn - which I had hoped might be simpler on foot - is in fact horribly tricksy, and seems to use either main roads, or the eerily deserted sort**. Shan't be trying that again. Was there to see The Vichy Government at No Fiction, where their fascist dance anthem 'Iberia' made its live debut. Good times.
**I usually like deserted roads, but sometimes you can tell they're deserted for a reason.
alexsarll: (Default)
The new Indelicates album is available for download on a 'pay what you want' basis. Which, for those of you who've never heard them before and need enticing, does include 'free'. Given it's the best album of the year so far, and I'd be very surprised if it weren't still the best come December, I think that's a pretty good deal. Hell, even if you can't spare the time to check out a whole album on my say so, just try one track: I would link to the beautiful, bereft acoustic version of 'Savages' except that's album-exclusive, so just for a change I'll recommend the disgusted Weimar cabaret stomp of 'Be Afraid Of Your Parents' instead.

Dean Spanley is an utterly charming film which I think will be loved by anyone who owned a dog as a child, especially if he was one of the Seven Great Dogs. Sam Neill, excellent even by his own standards, is an Edwardian clergyman who, when plied with Tokay, reminisces about his past life as a dog; Peter O'Toole, more cadaverous and cantankerous than ever, is the narrator's father. That narrator being Jeremy Northam, who makes for an excellent straight man and stops the whole enterprise capsizing into silliness, because this is a strange tale but emphatically not a silly one. It's based on a story by the great Lord Dunsany - though not one I know, so I can't speak to its fidelity or otherwise except to say that it definitely feels like Dunsany.

This lengthy David Simon interview - mainly about his new show Treme but of interest to any fans of his work - makes me realise how much I miss good lengthy pieces from the days when the Guardian's Saturday mag was slightly less flimsy. Compare and contrast this Jonathan Ross interview from the weekend, and note how much of the conversation is skimmed over, sketched in, especially when Ross talks about comics. This would not have been abtruse stuff - he's a smart man who realises he's evangelising to a general audience - but there's no space for it. What we mainly get, even while the paper tries to distance itself from the tabloid agenda, is a reprise of the Mail-defined talking points. Yes, from another angle, but wouldn't moving beyond them have been even better?
alexsarll: (bill)
In spite of having attended every Black Plastic to date, and having one of the promoters for a flatmate, I somehow managed to get the start time wrong and turn up half an hour early on Friday, which is quite special. In spite of that, and being fairly tired to begin with, I made it to the end - and beyond, even when the afterparty relocated. Admittedly I didn't last too long beyond that, but I still think this is a win for my new club strategy of having a banana in my pocket for midnight. And I'm glad I was around for it all, because it was a great night - perhaps in part because, as the usual postmortem conversations about who was incredibly drunk soon had us realising, pretty much everyone was incredibly drunk.
I wasn't about for most of Saturday, and even when I made it along in body, I was half-absent in spirit. Not that this was any impediment to continued boozing, of course, but once I hit Sunday and the Hangover Swish (a clothes-swapping event, incidentally, rather than some peculiar toxicological complication), one pint almost did for me so I bowed out early, and even then needed to take a break in Highbury Fields on my way home, and ended up having deeply peculiar fever dreams in which I was the one constant point in a universe which had been destroyed and recreated around me. Twice.

I don't normally link to Charlie Brooker's column, because by now I assume that everyone is aware of him and those who want to read it know to do so without my help. Furthermore, this Saturday's piece wasn't even one of his best. But I'm linking to it because, if you read it online, you got a censored version, and indeed one censored in such a way as to ruin the pacing. do not read this except in the proper context of the original piece )Anyone reading it in that context and failing to understand that it is satire rather than anti-Semitism is too stupid for their opinion to be worthy of consideration. But the 'Corrections and Clarifications' column says that while the piece was "intended to be satirical", it "should not hae appeared in the Guardian, before dragging Brooker himself on for a little Maoist self-criticism session. The Guardian: officially the paper for people too retarded or permanently offended to recognise satire.

Initially I had the same problem with Lizzie and Sarah that I have with a lot of Julia Davis projects; while I like dark comedy, she has the balance slightly skewed, and just having horrible things happen to your characters is not in and of itself funny. But because Jessica Hynes was also involved (and in spite of her last effort being that godawful drivel with David Tennant as her driving instructor), I persevered. And yes, come the twist it became rather entertaining, but given the nature of that twist, I now don't quite know how they'd get a whole series out of this pilot.
alexsarll: (Default)
The new Tindersticks album has a track called 'Peanuts'. "I know you love peanuts, I don't care that much, but I love you, so I love peanuts too", sings whichever underrated female singer they've got duetting with Stuart now (one downside of Spotify is that it never tells you these things). But when Stuart sings "I still love peanuts" back in that distinctive slur, it really doesn't sound like he's saying 'peanuts'. Any suspicion that this might be mere mischance is squashed on the next track when he's definitely singing "she rode me like a pony". I love that a band so elegantly heartworn can also be so thoroughly puerile.

First gig of the decade last night (unless you count that noisy mob everyone fled after the speakers at Bright Club, which I'd prefer not to). And it was David Devant & his Spirit Wife, which should have been a good kick-off but...well, it was good. It just wasn't great. But then nobody can be as good as them at their best every show, can they? Special mention to Foz? for an excellent jacket.

Went to [livejournal.com profile] jamesward's Stationery Club beforehand - or should I say, 'Hashtag Stationery Club'. The way Twitterers retain the @ in conversation feels oddly formal, like something from a couple of hundred years ago when you would always use the 'Miss' or 'Mr' before a name. And I felt strangely old-fashioned being introduced as someone from the real world, just because Twitter is about the only piece of online tomfoolery where I don't have a presence. The pen selected as Stationery Club's first topic was not entirely to my taste, but the advantage over a book club is that you can turn up and find this out with a minute's loan of someone else's, whereas with a book you usually have to invest at least an hour to convincingly justify the suspicion that it's not for you.

Last year, the Guardian ran an article asking why so few novels deal with work. I thought at the time it was asinine (just to pick one, possibly obscure example - Bridget Jones' Diary?) but having now read Matthew de Abaitua's 2007 The Red Men, it seems doubly so. Of course, it doesn't matter that de Abaitua can write better than any average Booker shortlist could if they all networked their brains and collaborated, because he excludes himself from 'literary' consideration by using science fiction elements (and not doing it in a dumb, 'this is not SF' way, which you can get away with). Plus a dose of Gnosticism, and elements of the techno-thriller. But how else are you meant to address the issue? If you just try to realistically address the office, you get The Office, a dull reflection, even more boring than the original and no more illuminating. When so many people don't even realise how work is taking over their lives, distorting their personalities, how do you address that without making the issue strange and thus noticeable again? So de Abaitua externalises the element of the personality which falls for all the corporate lines - the driven side with no time for family - as the 'red men' of the title, uploaded simulations of employees which turn on their originals if they feel the original is slacking by wanting to do things like kick back and enjoy the fruits of success. Which can hijack any electrical equipment to bug their lazy partners, because some people don't think it's crazily dystopian enough that they're being bugged with official business on the Blackberry, computer and 'phone when they're not in office hours. And so forth. It's not a perfect book - the resolution is so pat it could almost be Jay MacInerney - but as a vision of a very near future London (or rather, the London of a couple of years ago given a couple of twists - the North London Line hasn't even become the Overground yet), it's not bad. And as a novel of work, it's hard to beat.

Chance

Nov. 13th, 2009 01:57 pm
alexsarll: (manny)
It can't be good for Camelot that the week the price of Euromillions goes up by a third is also the week after the biggest UK wins ever (and why on Earth did the winners all go public? Surely they gain nothing from so doing, while making themselves targets for begging letters at best and kidnappers at worst?). Obviously, when you look at the maths then that extra 50p is a negligible investment and the prize is still more than ten million pounds. But, if you look at the maths, you don't play the lottery. It's all about what seems like a tiny enough sum of money to drop in order to take the chance of the fates smiling on you. And two quid, I think, crosses that line, especially in a week when the fates look so stingy compared to last week.

E4's 'young offenders get superpowers' show Misfits is off to a promising start; between this and No Heroics it looks like, on TV as in comics, it needs us to show the Yanks how to do superheroes properly. Though worryingly, the two shows look set to semi-crossover next week with an appearance by Nathan Barley/The Hotness as a rapey policeman. If the police getting younger is a sign of ageing, how much more so when it's TV police being played by the erstwhile epitome of youth foolishness? Like No Heroics, Misfits also looks to have a nice line in in-jokes, with the first episode based around the Wertham Community Centre.

Inez Holden "became a great friend of George Orwell, whose first meeting with Anthony Powell she engineered in 1941. A dinner party involving Orwell and HG Wells, in whose shed she once lived, was less successful. Wells afterwards sent Orwell a note urging him to 'read my early works, you sh1t'."
- from the end credits of Bright Young People

Good Night, And Good Luck: good film. In its loving (and very cigarette-heavy) recreation of the not-so-distant past it has something of Mad Men about it, as well as sharing one cast member - but a lot less of the moral ambiguity. The story of Edward R Murrow's campaign against McCarthyism is one of those rare, straightforward tales of a hero, a man who was in the right place at the right time, did the right thing, and succeeded. A brilliant cast, not all of whom I expected (it was George Clooney's project so I knew he'd be there, but Robert Downey Jr surprised me, and lots of the others are people you recognise as having given good work before but can't quite place). It did leave me wondering, though, how McCarthy ever managed to be taken seriously enough to start his reign of terror - they use archive footage rather than an actor, and he comes across as an unhallowed blend of Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Fred West.
The story of Murrow's triumph is framed by a speech he gives when winning some award or other, in which he expresses his fears for the future of television, worries whether information will survive or whether consolation and distraction will prevail. Which made it rather awkward that it screened at the same time as Generation Kill, a show whose truth I think he would have loved if he'd been able to follow it, meaning I had to use the bugginess that is 4OD to soldier through my weekly dose of Iraq clusterfvcks.

The one upside to the demise of the Observer Music Monthly (reported on a CMU update which doesn't seem to be on their website) is that at least it's taking Observer Woman Monthly down with it.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Two Edinburgh previews last night. It wasn't surprising that both included material about the expenses crisis, the smoking ban and the general decline of British civic society - but what are the odds on them both having jokes about raping horses?

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

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

Otherwise, what have I been doing? Finishing up Torchwood and the second series of Justice League Unlimited (both of which, surprisingly, have a greater degree of ambiguity to them than Alan Bleasdale's much-praised GBH, which I am enjoying but which is basically a pantomime). A (not quite) midnight picnic in the park - and the only hassle we got was a Fighting Fantasy-derived heckle when we were clearly playing a card game - stupid young people. Pubs, of course. A play on the Heath, or half of one. It wasn't a weekend that lives in legend, but it was fun.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Although these days he's more frequently seen in his guise of mediocre political journalist, John Harris doesn't want us forgetting that he started out as a mediocre music journalist. Apparently he edited "the now-defunct Select, a title that floated on the tide of Britpop and sank when it receded". Which is interesting, because I remember Select as being at its best just before Britpop, dealing with the bands who wouldn't quite fit into the grand narrative to come. And what does this rewriting of the past remind us of? That's right - Harris is a retromancer. Bemoaning how obsessed we all are with the past, he then goes on to rehearse the familiar old stories about how Lester Bangs and Nick Kent are the best music journalists ever (for the record - Kent was OK, but Bangs hated Roxy Music and as such, is never going to have anything to tell me. Or consider the Bangs quote Harris uses, of the mawkishness around John Lennon's death, Bangs wondering what "'the real - cynical, sneeringly sarcastic, witheringly witty and iconoclastic - John Lennon" would make of it all. If that's the real Lennon, who was responsible for 'Imagine' and 'All You Need Is Love'? Tosser). Obviously print dates are such that the article couldn't respond to the death of Steven Wells (for me, the saddest of last week's demises, even ahead of Sky Saxon). But consider all the other omissions. An article about the state of music writing which fails even once to mention Paul Morley is de facto worthless right there. But nor does it find space to mention any of the contributors to Melody Maker's nineties golden age. It bigs up a Mott the Hoople autobiography as "the best book written by a British rock musician" - well, I've not read it but if it's as good as Marianne Faithfull's first memoir, I'll be amazed. And recent years saw classics by Alex James and Luke Haines. Do they get a mention? They do not. The frequently-insufferable Pitchfork is cited as a good example of modern music writing; the consistently brilliant Popjustice is as absent as its predecessor, Smash Hits. I'm a fan of music journalism, and I don't recognise the field Harris is talking about.

Friday: Poptimism is less Jacko-heavy than expected, which is good given I only ever liked a handful of his songs. I inadvertently get far drunker than intended. Saturday: friends are drinking in my 'downstairs garden', and it would be rude not to join them en route to getting the paper, right? We end up cackling incoherently about eggs and realise that yes, we are no longer above this, we are drinking in the daytime in Wetherspoon's and we belong there. Although there is a break for Finnish bowling (actually just throwing a stick at some other sticks) and apocalyptic tempest, I proceed to get far too drunk, again. Sunday: Tubewalk day. I plan not to drink, but forget the sheer soul-shredding horror of the Edgware Road, End up drinking, on and off, for something like ten hours.
Today I really am not drinking.
(It's weird, though, almost as soon as you're off the road itself, the area is lovely, all odd little bookshops interspersed with I Saw You Coming-type establishments. Whereas on the road, you get girls proving if ever proof were needed that Rihanna's look only works on Rihanna. Also: the pub in Paddington station? It worries me. They have lightbulbs which are melting the picture frames beneath them, not to mention the clientele)

In other news:
http://www.explosionsandboobs.com
alexsarll: (bernard)
I'm not especially into signings. I'll go along if it's a mate who might not be drawing a massive crowd, to show support, but queueing for hours just to be in the Presence...why? But, Gosh's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen signing was going to have copies of Century: 1910 weeks early, and that's another matter. Except, you could buy them in the shop, and the signing was around the corner. Well, since I was there, and my immediate agenda was to read '1910', and then read the Guide and the main bit of the paper, and since I was there, and since I could do all that reading while queueing...might as well hang around.
Two hours later, they're all read. I could make a start on the review section, but I wouldn't be doing that anyway. The question 'Why am I here?' no longer has a solid answer. I depart, and by the bus stop find that the Hawksmoor church has a deeply surreal exhibition in its basement, which I wander in perfect solitude. Alan Moore's From Hell turned me on to Hawksmoor; I feel more sense of communion with him down in that crypt than I would awkwardly saying 'Hiya!' in a crowded signing room. And then as I board the bus, a perfectly-timed text tells me there's a picnic in the park. If nothing else, the queueing means that relatively speaking, I'm one of the sober ones.
As for the new volume...well, I know there's been talk of each third of Century being a satisfying read in itself, so that the inevitable delays aren't a problem. But this is very much an opening chapter, and it's one whose animating spirit is Brecht, meaning that like him, at times it's rather heavy-handed for my tastes. But it's still Alan Moore, and it's still the League, so the intricacy of the patchwork is still staggering, the story still has more heart than it's sometimes given credit for, and the Iain Sinclair riff is absolutely hilarious - if you've read him, anyway. Whenever they turn up, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of Century, not least because the promised crossovers include Vincent Chase and David Simon's Baltimore. Speaking of Baltimore, there was a drunk perv getting thrown out of Power's on Friday who looked like an uglier Frank Sobotka, but who insisted he was a police officer. It wasn't until his attempts to taunt the bouncer expanded to include moonwalking that I realised, this must be what Michael Jackson looks like nowadays, whiter than ever (or indeed, red); minus the hat, mask and shades; and after the doctors' instructions to bulk up ahead of his London shows. I was there to see Borderville, whose singer weirdly turns out to have done the same course as me at the same college, while really reminding me of Jesse from Flipron. Extremely good band, but while they're great showmen, part of me wonders whether some of the subtlety and structure of the songs doesn't get lost live. They're also, I think, the sort of band who would benefit from a smart producer, as opposed to the sort who just spaff a load of money on one so's to have something to talk about in interviews. Other acts are Rubella (very pretty, shame about the lack of songs), and Alvarez King(?), who at least realise that they are 'freshwater fish in salt water'.
alexsarll: (crest)
Managed to get a bit further afield over the weekend. On Friday, to Old Street - yes, technically it's walking distance, but still. I've never been to the Foundry before, in spite of its KLF connections, but I like it; proper East London eccentricity, as opposed to East London dullards desperately trying to look eccentric like so many venues in the area. Admittedly I did briefly think that the latest Barley craze was for stupidly oversized bags which are really inconvenient in a crowded bar, but then I realised that the place was popular with genuine cycle couriers, which is fair enough. Then on to the Bedroom Bar, which looks like the 'cool club' set from a TV show, and for all I know may have been used as one. Not quite my scene, but in the sort of way where I can still wish it well and feel happy for the people who've found their place there, even the ones who aren't already my friends.
Saturday night was Hackney, specifically the Old Ship, return venue for [livejournal.com profile] darkmarcpi's birthday after a break last year. Formerly a pleasantly shabby pub, it is now an 'urban inn'. In brief, that means a gastropub with random capitalisation on the signage, a bit of apostrophe crime, and rooms upstairs. "Why not turn a Good night into a Great night." ask signs in the loos, without a question mark. Translation: "If you've pulled, but you reckon even the taxi ride will be long enough for her to sober up, why not drop £70 on a room upstairs and get right down to it? Yeah, this is Hackney and that's considerably more than you'd pay for a prostitute round here, but the clientele here are considerably cleaner and slightly less likely to nick all your money for crack." Classy.
Then on Sunday, properly out of home territory and down to Putney for the Tubewalk. Sunshine! Riverside! Flowers! Parkour! A large dead fish! A pub with a sign forbidding buggies that implied a terrible past! And no fewer than seven pugs, although I imagine [livejournal.com profile] atommickbrane will be blogging them in more detail.

I'm reading Jeff Chang's Can't Stop Won't Stop - A History of the Hip Hop Generation and, after the preamble setting the scene in the Bronx and Jamaica, I'm just at the part where DJ Kool Herc invents hip hop. The best bit of which is that, in a music subsequently so handicapped by an obsession with "keeping it real", Herc tells us about how important it was to lose his Jamaican accent, a process which in places involved singing along to his parents' Jim Reeves records.
(And the godfather of subway graffiti, Cornbread, was apparently just doing it to impress a girl called Cynthia. Just like poor bloody Davis in that Graham Greene book I was reading. Similarly, while reading about Kool Herc I also find myself with another volume of Marvel's The Incredible Hercules, featuring the original Herc. Connections everywhere)

Bruce Sterling interview which I strongly suspect has been filleted for a 'death of the novel' angle. The death of decent interviews in the mainstream media might be a better topic; see also that Pet Shop Boys interview in Saturday's Guardian mag, which devoted about half as much space to interviewing one of the best and most readable bands in Britain as it did to pictures of them in £1300 parkas which look functionally indistinguishable to the ones various of my friends have and which, in the cases where I know how much they cost, seem generally to have been in the low double figures. Still, not quite as offensive as the Alexa Chung 'recession chic' special a couple of weeks back (buy British - but designer British, ie still hundreds per cardigan and 45 frakking pounds for socks).

Off to Devon for most of this week; see you all on the other side.
alexsarll: (Default)
Recently took delivery of Saint Etienne's delayed new compilation, London Conversations, and have been thinking about how unlikely a band they are. Their danceable cover of hairy old Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' hit in 1990, the same year as Candy Flip's not dissimilar take on one of the few non-dreadful Beatles songs, 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. Would anyone have expected either of the acts behind these apparent novelties to go on to spend 20 years as one of Britain's most cherished, most quietly trailblazing cult bands? I can't think of such a deceptive start since Bowie first came to mass attention with 'The Laughing Gnome'.
And then a detour in my musings when, last night, [livejournal.com profile] cappuccino_kid took me to see Black Box Recorder. Because don't those two bands almost form a subgenre all their own? Two male survivors, who aren't fronting the bands but who definitely need to be on stage, not backroom boys. One frontwoman called Sarah, thought a bit flat by some but recognised by indie boys of a certain stripe as an aspect of the goddess; her stage persona is all about the innocence, maybe with a little tang of experience, but you know she's no puppet. And the songs all inhabit a world of England past. The difference being, Black Box Recorder are the England you hoped was past but fear might not be (behind the stage last night, a Union Jack emblazoned with ROCK AND ROLL NOT DOLE), where Saint Etienne are the past you hope is still there just below the surface (watching the 'Hobart Paving' video, I remember that King's Cross, and I miss it).
Support was Madam acoustic; I swear she looks younger than she used to when [livejournal.com profile] hospitalsoup was in her band, five years or more ago.

Interesting that today should bring further confirmation of Stephen Fry's status as a national treasure, as I was already planning to write a little about him, having yesterday read Simon Gray's Fat Chance. Some of you may remember that in 1995, Stephen Fry, then in a play called Cell Mates, disappeared, and was briefly feared to have killed himself before turning up on the Continent (very Black Box Recorder, come to think of it). Simon Gray was the author and director of that play, and aside from having previously loved his Smoking Diaries, I was intrigued by the possibility of A Book Which Didn't Like Stephen Fry. I mean, don't get me wrong, I think he's great, but just as I enjoy Lawrence Miles' anti-Steven Moffat agenda re: Doctor Who, I tend to find devil's advocates fun. Come on, if you'd lived in the ages of faith, wouldn't you have wanted to read The Three Impostors* even if you believed, just for naughtiness' sake? So Gray was royally let down by Fry, and the front cover quote is "Makes Mommie Dearest read like a Mother's Day card" - Mark Lawson, The Guardian. Well, that should have been my first warning. Granted, Smug Slug does sometimes restrict himself to stating the bleeding obvious, but more often he misses the point entirely, and Gray himself notes that "The Guardian, ever vigilant in its defence of truth and the decencies, published an article quoting the unfavourable reviews, neglecting to mention that the Guardian's own reviewer had written both warmly and intelligently about the play." And if there is a villain here it is the media, and the media's delight in reporting what the media is saying without ever deigning to return to primary sources - something of which we see even more these days simply because there's more media and more pages and airtime to fill, with results I'm sure I need hardly list and decry again. Gray does accuse Fry of certain crimes - a tendency to play himself, for instance, whether he is meant to be playing someone else, or just honestly being himself. Well, that's hardly news, and nor is it delivered in terms significantly more damning than Gray uses of himself in The Smoking Diaries. Fry comes across more as a sad figure than a mad one, and more mad than bad - and since he's come out as a manic depressive, none of this really does much to contradict his own acknowledgment of his situation. Part of me's disappointed that there is no anti-Fry book, but mostly I just think 'bless'. And posthumously bless cantankerous old Gray, too. Though the real hero of the tale, would you believe, is Rik Mayall.

*Which reminds me, [livejournal.com profile] sbp - any joy locating my copy of the Arthur Machen novel of the same name?

Teetering

Jan. 23rd, 2009 05:41 pm
alexsarll: (magnus)
I'm surprised more hasn't been made of Mick Harvey leaving the Bad Seeds. Mick's been working with Nick since The Boys Next Door, and I've always wondered how much of what we think of as Cave is in fact Harvey, particularly when listening to Harvey's other projects. I suppose now we get to find out.

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond's second issue confirms that this is the comic Final Crisis should have been. Yes, Grant Morrison is reusing his old tropes again - breaking the fourth wall, Limbo, the self-evolving hyperstory, creators trapped in creation - but here there's a manic, fizzing joy and ingenuity I'm not getting from the parent Rock of Ages reprise. Some great 3D sequences, too - though should you happen, as I did, to look out of the window with your glasses still on, it brings a real moment of Crisis terror - RED SKIES!
Elsewhere in comics, Bendis' Dark Avengers may not have any lines to equal the best of Warren Ellis' Thunderbolts run, but in so far as it's taking that series' concept - Marvel's biggest bastards given the keys to the kingdom - to the next level, I'm very much interested. Thunderbolts, meanwhile, has gone deeper and darker under Andy Diggle, and this issue includes a considerably more substantial Barack Obama appearance than that meaningless fluff-piece of a Spider-Man back-up strip, albeit to considerably less fanfare.

Have been left with a nagging sensation that I've not used my leisure to best advantage this week, to the extent that I started getting quite angry with myself/the world and had to go wander the British Museum for a while to calm down. Silly, really - even aside from the nebulous business of Seeing Nice People, I've watched another Losey/Pinter/Bogarde masterpiece, Accident; seen the Soft Close-Ups and Mr Solo; and made a reasonably good start on Ulysses, so it's not as if I'm flicking myself off to Trisha just yet.

I know list articles are intrinsically pointless, and I know they're designed to provoke quibbling, so I'm not going to get up in arms about the omissions from the Guardian's Novels You Must Read, or the times where they've chosen a book which isn't the author's best. And I should be glad, I suppose, that one of the seven sections was science fiction and fantasy. But since when was Kavalier & Clay, The Man Who Was Thursday or The Wasp Factory science fiction or fantasy? They may not be dull enough to be literary fiction, but none of them takes place in a world that is not the consensus version of this one - except in so far as they are not true. If we say that the fictional comics in Chabon's book make it an alternate world, then so does the fictional MP in The Line of Beauty, and down that line every book bar the most tiresomely domestic becomes SF. Which would amuse me at least a little, it's true, but is patently nonsense.
alexsarll: (crest)
I find Scott Walker talking about the thinking behind his recent albums considerably more rewarding than the albums themselves. But mainly I find myself thinking, why do I still not own Nite Flights?

There is much in this world that, while undoubtedly unpleasant, is not really worthy of note or comment. For instance, one can no more be surprised that reliably loathsome Mail Grand Inquisitor Paul Dacre is ranting about the BBC "destroying media plurality in Britain and in its place imposing a liberal, leftish, mono culture that is destroying free and open debate in Britain" [free registration required] than one can be shocked to find Satanic Verses ban enthusiast and general errand-boy of the Caliphate Keith Vaz MP proposing laws against cheap booze. When Dacre says of the Max Mosley trial that "most people would consider such activities to be perverted, depraved, the very abrogation of civilised behaviour of which the law is supposed to be the safeguard. Not Justice Eady. To him such behaviour was merely "unconventional"...But what is most worrying about Justice Eady's decisions is that he is ruling that - when it comes to morality - the law in Britain is now effectively neutral, which is why I accuse him, in his judgments, of being 'amoral'" - well, one hardly expects Dacre to have the wit to recognise the distinction between crime and sin, which even a loon like Kant could spot. He's the Kommandant of the Mail, of course such niceties are beyond him.
But here's the first noteworthy bit - why is this poison being hosted on the Guardian's website? Has their moral confusion really gone that far?
And even more so, consider this passage:
"The judge found for Max Mosley because he had not engaged in a "sick Nazi orgy" as the News of the World contested, though for the life of me that seems an almost surreally pedantic logic as some of the participants were dressed in military-style uniform."
Paul Dacre appears to be saying that, as near as makes no difference, all members of any military are Nazis. I've heard that line from witless anarcho-syndicalists, but from the editor of the Mail? In the week of Remembrance Day? If ever there were something which merited national outrage, a campaign of complaints by people who've not heard the whole story and shamed resignation, I think this would be it.
On the plus side - hey, at least the old 'Hurrah For The Blackshirts' Mail finally seems to have concluded that Nazis are a bad thing.

After watching Pineapple Express, Step Brothers and Tropic Thunder on Sunday afternoon, I was musing on how glad I was of the self-indulgent state of modern American comedy, where they're increasingly happy to sideline the sappy romance elements and just make, y'know, FUNNY FILMS. My mistake was then to attempt to watch Bad Lieutenant, which was every bit as silly while being convinced that I IS SERIOUS CINEMA. Did people really get excited about this? It wasn't even gruelling, just bad pantomime.

Waiting

Nov. 3rd, 2008 07:03 pm
alexsarll: (crest)
It may be the night when the boundaries between the worlds are at their weakest, but the main thing I expect from Hallowe'en is a chance to have a dance in my cloak. Which I got, plus the chance to stalk home through Stoke Newington and Brownswood Park afterwards. Although on this of all nights, I find it unbelievable that you can still get catcalls from oiks. It's Hallowe'en, you dreckwits! It's the one night of the year when you're meant to be dressed like this and are not being even mildly controversial by so doing! Also, you know how some people pronounce 'nuclear' as 'nucelar'? There's a reverse one about too, because I definitely heard a few 'Draclua's.
('Count Fvckula', on the other hand, is a perfectly acceptable alternative)
Anyway, Nightbeast - very rocking, but with a name like Nightbeast I fear they'll never find another gig which will live up to a Hallowe'en debut.
On Saturday I went to Feeling Gloomy's Leonard Cohen special. There should be more clubs playing Leonard Cohen.

Execrable hack Jeph Loeb has been sacked from Heroes, so I may give it another go once we get to the relevant episodes. Sadly, Marvel comics have not had the sense to do likewise. Maybe I should fake his voice, ring Sarah Palin and claim to have done her daughter?

In the run-up to the US election, I find myself very receptive to TV touching on the American Dream; I'm misting up at Simon Schama's The American Future: A History, and devouring HBO's John Adams. Which is a peculiar series, every episode seeming to exist in a different genre: the first sees a mild man radicalised, like a Mel Gibson film done right; the second, leading up to the Declaration of Independence, is the one brimming with patriotic pride; when Adams goes to Europe in the third, his hopelessly undiplomatic diplomacy in the structured courts of Europe turns the whole thing into a comedy of embarassment. And through it all comes a sort of higher patriotism - because I am, after all, not American. I'm British, hence one of the bad guys in this story (The American War of Independence - is it the only war it was ever right that Britain should lose? I'm struggling to think of another). But the ideal of America, like the ideal of Greece before it, is part of the shared heritage of humanity's better part - even if, being in the hands of humans, it has shown the human tendency to fall terribly short of the ideal.
It's weird, though - being a young country, America has a national epic where the facts and figures are a matter of record. The rest of us have myths we can recast and reinterpret, but theirs...well, the DVD finds the series accompanied by a feature called Facts Are Stubborn Things. They can play a little loose with some details - the editing of the Declaration of Independence feels like a scene from a student newspaper office, with Franklin distracted by Jefferson's other great creation, the revolving chair. But Franklin still talks mainly in Franklin quotations, and we have yet to see George Washington with an outfit or facial expression other than the one from that portrait.

In the same time period, I've finally finished the Talleyrand biography I've been reading on-and-off for ages. Was amused to read that after Waterloo, various well-meaning English liberals attempted to use writs of habeas corpus to prevent Napoleon's rendition to exile in St Helena. This, remember, is after he has already escaped from one, gentle exile on Elba, left Europe in tatters, caused the death of thousands and even left France in a considerably worse position than it was after his first defeat. And yet, still, some people are primarily worried about the possible infringement of his human rights.
I do love Britain's liberal tradition, but it hasn't half bred some soft idiots in its time.
(Talleyrand himself is a strange figure - a man who prized stability and good governance above all things, but had the misfortune to be born French. Had he lived in Britain, and been able to curb his taste for backhanders, he'd have done very well in the Civil Service**, and his name would now be forgotten. But living in France...he never managed to direct events half so much as he would like or even as much as this adoring biographer contends. Consider, this is a man who felt that among the things France most needed were a free press, the rule of law and lasting peace with England - and yet he ended up intimately involved with the Revolution, at the right hand of Napoleon, and in practice acted as precious little brake on either. And yet, for what little he did achieve, he has attained immortality - albeit by being remembered as a byword for duplicity, vanity and greed. Oh, and his legendary wit? Either it just doesn't translate, or it was rubbish in the first place and people only laughed like they do at any powerful man's jokes. Like Wilde in Stoppard's Invention of Love, he lives in history simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Suddenly, obscurity doesn't seem so bad. And if any of that seemed like patriotic chauvinism, I refer you to Talleyrand's own summary - "The English do everything better than we do". This in a letter to a countryman, mark you, not as part of his usual sycophancy)

*Cloaks are so great. I sometimes seriously suspect that as much as I want to set the world to rights, the primary appeal of superpowers is that they'd give me more excuses to wear a cloak.
**"They think I am immoral and Machiavellian, yet I am simply impassive and disdainful. I have never given perverse advice to a government or a prince, but I do not go down with them. After shipwrecks, you need pilots to rescue the shipwrecked. I stay calm and get them to port somewhere. No matter which port, as long as it offers shelter." - that could be Sir Humphrey in an unusually open moment, couldn't it?
alexsarll: (bernard)
Went to the New Royal Family's comeback show last night at the ever-baffling Lark In The Park - absolutely top hole. Lots of people out to see 'em, rewarded with [livejournal.com profile] icecoldinalex going back to blond. a new drummer in a very fetching sailor suit, and heteroerotic Bowie/Ronson guitar antics from [livejournal.com profile] charleston and [livejournal.com profile] thedavidx. Oh, and chocolate digestives, of course. New single 'I.W.I.S.H.I.W.A.S.GAY' made its live debut, except that live it's not a minute of electropop madness, it's 'Another One Bites The Dust' meets the Sugarhill Gang, especially once [livejournal.com profile] moleintheground got in there with the gay guest rap. That's gay meaning homosexual, obv.

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

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

I realise there are few lower forms of blogging than 'point and laugh at the interweb mentalist' but what the Hell - go here, skim the article (which is filler, frankly), and then check the comments from a prize pillock I may have mentioned before, 'anytimefrances'. ATF's feeble brain is entirely consumed by a knot of obsessions - chiefly, the notion that rock and rap music (they're interchangeable) are synonymous with drugs and noise pollution, and that they're leading to the demise of Real Literature and Proper Music. In and of itself this would be of strictly historical interest - in an age where even the Mail covers Glastonbury without much hysteria, seeing such retrograde opinions in the wild is a bit like finding a living coelacanth, except uglier. What raises the experience to the level of comedy is that while ATF grandly proclaims its own cultural and intellectual superiority to the foolish rock fans, its incoherent arguments are unfailingly delivered with worse spelling and grammar (never mind sanity) than anyone else on there: "wake up to reality. don't pretend, we can turn it up 'real loud' because everyone loves it. it's sick humiliation detritus." Though I admit that's an atypical quote - for starters, the apostrophes are in the right place.
alexsarll: (crest)
Spent the first half-hour or so of Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull not really feeling it; the fifties colour was laid on too heavily, the conviction seemed lacking...it felt like watching a tribute act. A good tribute act, sure, but not the real thing. And it didn't help having Ray Winstone along; it really was just that one role as Beowulf where I liked him, although I guess here he was playing a venal berk rather than anyone we were meant to respect. But then there's that map/'plane bit one always needs in an Indy film, and we're in the jungle, and yes, it all fits into place. I stay on the edge of my seat for the rest of the film, except when I'm cracking up at the sheer audacity of it all. I'm not entirely sure I'd want a fifth but yes, this is a worthy addition to the series.

On Saturday the song 'Jolene' became linked in my head to Joe Lean of rubbish indie combo Joe Lean & the Jing Jang Jong, aka Sophie's brother in Peep Show. I have not yet been able to decouple them, so I might as well share the misery.

The Guardian's redesigned Review section announces "Starting next week...52 - a novel in weekly instalments by Jeanette Winterson, Ali Smith, AM Homes and Jackie Kay". A novel called 52, in weekly instalments, with four authors? What a terribly original idea.
(Although, one strand of the first 52 did concern two lesbian lovers hounded by an evil religion, so Winterson at least would have been right at home)

Now if you'll excuse me I need to get some breakfast, clean out my cupboard and watch the season finale of Mad Men. I'm glad that the weather is not of a sort to make me feel like these are bad uses of my bank holiday.
alexsarll: (crest)
Withnail & I cast, director reunited for self-indulgent but fun radio show in which they talk about the making of the film. Bit of a disconnect for those us who now mainly associate Paul McGann's voice with Doctor Who audios.

The only downside of weeks off is not having 52 of them a year. Have been contentedly moseying around London, reading in parks, being inexplicably good at bowling and watching others prove somewhat disappointing as trappers. Only the North so far - from Golders Green to Barnsbury, but even that has so much in it (Arthur Machen knew that London was a sort of infinity, even if he was hampered by not having the word 'fractal' yet and having to talk around it); I think I'll head West later, that being my terra incognita and my having no plans today past the haircut.
The MP3 player is really coming into its own on these wanderings, too - whether it's Stars on the nightbus, or Beirut and St Etienne in the sun. Not Los Campesinos! so much, though; they were my most-played for a while, but since I got them on the DLR as we emerged from the Bank tunnel and into the sunshine pre-Tubewalk...well, that was just too perfect.

Finally saw Robin Ince last night; I realise I'm a couple of years behind the comedy curve here but he's bloody brilliant. And before the gig, our new leader cycled past the venue. It may have been for the best that none of the acts saw him.

Another day, another attempt to undermine the BBC - this time by claiming that Head of Fiction Jane Tranter is some form of localised Stalin, intent on asserting control over all BBC drama and comedy output. Nobody seems to have noticed the key flaw in this scenario; almost every piece of British TV fiction worth watching comes from the Tranter empire, and it's not as if there's a uniformity among them. A little too much emphasis on 'feelings' and 'human interest' in shows which should be about something more interesting, perhaps, but that's endemic across UK and US TV, so I'm hesitant to blame its expression in BBC programming on one woman.
alexsarll: (Default)
Anybody else coming to see The Indelicates launch one of the albums of the year at Madame Jo Jo's tonight?

An unknown unknown: I was unaware that I did not know whether there are moles in Ireland. Apparently there are not. Whereas the snakes so famously driven out by St Guinness are not absent as such, only "poorly represented".

Since the century turned and everything started going madder, I've often said that there's no such thing as contemporary fiction anymore - you're either writing SF or historical. That Joe Stretch novel about which I was enthusing turned out to be both. Like Atomized, it had a framing narration from the future - but that future stemmed directly and divergently from the book's 'present', and that present must have been the past because the characters kept smoking in bars and cafes. Speaking of which, 2000AD is currently running a Savage strip in which Poptimism's venue, The Cross Kings, is one of the key locations. An alternate Cross Kings in an alternate London, one under neo-Stalinist occupation - but for all the brutalities of life under the Volgan jackboot, there are ashtrays on the pub tables.
In other science fiction news: wasn't 'The Fires of Pompeii' splendid? Having found Tate's performance one of the less dreadful aspects of 'Partners in Crime', here she was definitely the weak link. Not enough to ruin the episode by any means, but I did wish for Martha.

I suppose it was inevitable that should the Guardian publish an eminently sensible article questioning the vogue for China among galleries, and the dubious tone of some of the accompanying commentary, in light of recent reminders of the Chinese regime's failings, then the comments would instantly decline into name-calling and facile moral equivalence.

Finished The Wire last night. Not really ready to talk about it; what is there to say? It is what it is. Maybe in five, ten years - if we last that long - some kids who grew up on it will make something that compares. For now and for myself, I can only say that I'm glad I never got round to getting any LJ icons from it; right now I wouldn't want to identify as anyone in there.
alexsarll: (magneto)
That line was when I knew Mad Men had got me. Until then, its vision of the ad men of sixties Madison Avenue had all been very nicely done and well-acted and period authentic and ultimately, so what? I've got Ashes to Ashes, I don't need Life on Mars without the time travel. I need more than period recreation, and in that line I knew I could get it here. And to then follow it up with something even better, with "You're born alone and you die alone, this world just drops a lot of rules on top of you to make you forget those facts"...I am, appropriately, sold.

Went to Kilburn last night for The Low Edges' last hurrah. Another name to be added to the rollcall of my own hypothetical version of 'Sweeping the Nation', another great band who never quite made it to fame and fortune, or even the level of momentum which sustains a band in their absence. They will not be missed by enough of us, but they will be missed; all the more so for having lighting which suited them so well last night, and for ending the end with their finest song, 'Carfax'.

I was never much of a Dungeons & Dragons fan myself - like many another originator of a genre, it was a flawed and clunky beast soon overtaken by the others which sprung up in its wake - but Gary Gygax's death still hit me in the much the same way I imagine Stan Lee's will; a chancer, and a glory hound, and in many ways not that much cop, but without what he enabled the world would be an even worse place. Which reminds me, there are plenty of entertaining obituaries of the flamboyant publisher Anthony Blond online, but oddly (given how thorough they normally are about putting everything online), the Guardian's isn't among them. This annoys me, because while it isn't as good as the Telegraph's it ended with a variant of one of my favourite phrases - "he added greatly to the gaiety of nations". Which set me wondering, aside from a very few genuine heroes of history, can any of us hope for a better epitaph?
alexsarll: (menswear)
Technically adept types: would it theoretically be possible to make an Oyster card virus?

When I first saw that Virgin 1 was on Freeview, I was mainly excited about The Riches. Then I saw a trailer, and...I'm meant to take that accent of Eddie Izzard's seriously? Like I am Hugh Laurie's in House? There's no punchline? Yeah, maybe not. If I couldn't bear My Fair Lady or The Lady From Shanghai, no way can I take it in an ongoing series. So then I was excited about Battlestar Galactica until I realised it was the crappy original, and while I'd love to see Boston Legal, they've scheduled it against The Sopranos. But just before I dismissed this new channel as a bust, I remembered why I was recognising the name The Unit. It's the collaboration between Shawn "The Shield" Ryan and David Mamet about a US covert ops group (I would say Delta Force except these guys appear to be competent, so maybe think of them just as a US SAS), starring President Palmer from 24 as the operational commander and the T-1000 running things back at base. Tense and manly decisions are made, and stuff blows up. The other plot strand is basically Desperate Housewives except not achingly sh1t, with the unit's wives attempting to maintain both a semblance of normal domestic life, and the pretence that their husbands are in some boring logistics division and certainly not off about to get themselves killed in deniable ops behind enemy lines.
It is on Wednesday evenings. Thus far I have only seen one episode (the second of the first series), but I strongly recommend it.

Phonogram readers and the more-or-less sane will note that everyone interviewed in this piece about the Britpop revival is one of the era's war criminals. Why aren't Menswear touring? Why wasn't the return of Marion met with this sort of mainstream coverage?
(Still, even reading a Northern Uproar interview in 2007 can't be as sure a sign of the End Times as a really rather witty piece appearing in Observer Woman magazine)

Am more excited about Black Plastic later than I've been about a club in a while. I think it helps that this month's cover is the front of John Foxx's Metamatic, an album I somehow only discovered this month.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
[livejournal.com profile] publicansdecoy reckoned that by walking the streets of Greenwich on a Sunday afternoon, dressed as Noel Coward and swigging milk, I had crossed the line into actually looking like a crazy person. Or at least I think he did, but maybe he was just my imaginary friend and I was actually talking to myself.
(The Coward outfit isn't something I was wearing specifically to lose at Scrabble in; I'd been at a party in Lee the night before. That being Lee the slightly scuzzy district of South London, not a young gentleman, though I can see how my being dressed as a noted homosexualist might be construed as misleading. Not a bad party, either; you can probably get some measure of it just from the phrase "Swingballs of Fire". Plus, two people asked if I was older or younger than my sister, which given she got ID'd earlier in the week is really saying something)

There are aspects I don't buy in the set-up of bleak infertility thriller Children of Men. If the human race has been sterile since 2009, surely immigration would be less of an issue, not more? Isn't breeding one of the main engines both for immigration (people wanting a better life for their children) and for the fear of immigration (the indigenous population terrified of being outbred and overwhelmed by the fecund Other)? And for all the terror attacks and prison camps, I found the elegiac vision of humanity winding down to be strangely soothing - especially since there was no sign of sterility affecting the animals. It's a marvellously directed piece, though - everyone talks about the impressive extended shots, and they are good, but what grabbed me was the determination never to let it get too glamorous or Hollywood, even down to having someone as impeccably cool as Clive Owen get stuck in flip-flops for half the film, just to bring him down to Earth a bit. Also, Michael Caine in one of the roles where he actually acts, which is always pleasant; I'm glad he seems to be getting back to that a bit more.

And I suppose we can segue from there via the far darker infertility thriller Y: the Last Man to Brian K Vaughan's first issue of Buffy. His cardinal sin has always been a tendency to over-research and then drop in undigested gobbets of that - here, this manifests as a Buffy in which every piece of dialogue goes for the show's verbal pyrotechnics, forgetting that it never attempted to keep that pace of patter going *all* the time. Still, it has minor spoilers ) and of course lovely, lovely Faith. He'll do.
(In other comics news, Dan Slott's final issue of She-Hulk comes up with an explanation for continuity errors which is approximately 100 times better than DC's Superboy punches, and at least 1,000 times more fun. And why do hauls of Mike Carey comics always seem to turn up at the same time as Murcof albums?)

For all the Guardian's sins, I love the Guide - the single best listings source available, it's a masterpiece of formatting. It is pretty much why the Saturday edition is the only paper I still buy. Except this week, it has on the cover Ian Brown, plugging an article inside in which he expounds in his usual fvckwitted fashion on the good ideas the Taliban had, &c. Now, even were it not for the contents of that piece, I wouldn't want his ghastly mug staring out at me all week, would I? People say he looks like a monkey but I have never seen a monkey which looked so hateful, so churlish, so unutterably stupid, so plain ugly. Normally, under these circumstances, I'd tear off the cover. Except the back page of the mag inside is an interview with perhaps the only man in Britain more purely loathsome than Brown - George bloody Galloway.

Fiddy Cent, not content with losing horribly in his chart battle with Kanye, makes an even bigger tit of himself by insisting Kanye must have cheated. That's right, Fiddy, just keep digging - this pathetic wheedling is just the sort of thing to destroy your misbegotten cred even with the sort of knuckleheads who think that getting shot makes you cool. Although he has just announced the 'postponement' of his European tour, so maybe he's not wholly without honour. Either way, he loses, and music wins.

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