alexsarll: (bernard)
Had one of my occasional weekends at places outside the usual orbit - gay pop night Duckie on the Saturday, country at Come Down And Meet The Folks on Sunday. The former would be in my usual orbit if only it were as easy getting back from Vauxhall as it is getting down there; I can't recall the last time I went to a club and they didn't play a single dud song. The same cannot altogether be said of Come Down..., but they did adopt one innovation which would be welcome at other gigs: the opening acts do two songs each. Enough to whet the appetite, not enough to bore anyone. I've seen so many support acts who'd have benefitted from being restricted to that sort of teaser.
I did two numbers myself at Bingo Master's Breakout a couple of weeks back, covering GK Chesterton and Alphaville (and even my apophenia struggles to divine a common thread between those two). Ciccone were there as part of their comeback tour; one of the first bands I ever saw in London, quite by chance, long before I could know I'd end up knowing them, walking the other Parkland Walk with one of the core personnel. It all knits together, one way or another. The other show was at the Windmill, whose gents' is not exactly salubrious, but at least no longer reeks of piss. Likewise, returning to the Rhythm Factory for the first time in a decade or thereabouts, I was pleased to find it no longer full of bad drugs (even if they had been replaced by furries and steampunks; nowhere's perfect). These small tidyings-up, I can forgive; I'm not against all renovation, even all gentrification, but when a once-welcoming boozer like the Noble ends up looking like the departure lounge at a shit airport, something's awry. I try not to worry about London, knowing that every generation is convinced it lives at the end of an era - but sometimes, even knowing that, it's hard to resist.

What else? James Ward, formerly of this parish, seems to be attaining mild celebrity with his Adventures in Stationery; I went to the launch, where he was interviewed by fellow ex-LJ star Rhodri, and it ended up altogether too much fun for a Monday. John Watterson aka Fake Thackray is another for the list of tribute acts I've caught lately, though readier than most to play the hits, in so far as Jake Thackray had hits. The X-Wing habit is proving hard to kick, even if my results remain patchy. [ profile] tigerpig returned to the other side of the world, her passing marked by events including a noise gig which, perhaps down to the occasion, managed to fit a surprising amount of feeling in amongst those dissonant frequencies. Albeit not quite so emotional a show as Martin Newell's Golden Afternoon; Gershwin's 'Summertime' is one of the first songs I remember, one of the first things to make me feel melancholy, long before I knew the word 'melancholy'. Combine that with Newell's natural affinity for the moment where summer's waving goodbye, turn it into a duet with Lorraine Bowen on that most poignant of days, Sunday...yes. Bless the mad old bastard.
alexsarll: (default)
Feels like life has been fairly quiet of late, (except when it hasn't, of course - Hyde Park picnics, Leyton pubs that are at least decently apologetic about hating my people, SE14's answer to the Shaftesbury). But in early summer, especially this year as it's still picking up from the tardy spring, I don't mind that. The evenings are still simply beautiful, without that complex melancholy they acquire later on - though it would help if I had the park for them, when instead it's being turned into some sort of prison camp for Madchester arseholes (sorry, tautology, I know). Still, I've had my chances to go a-roaming - up trees, over banks, through hedges and across a Heath resplendent with buttercups like I've never seen. Even got to share a tree with a jay at one point - a much better companion than parakeets, who may be beautiful, but in prolonged proximity are no better than the sort of person who wears Beats By Dre headspeakers. Guessed a stranger's dog's name, too - though given my guess was Slobberchops, based on obvious physical features, I don't think that's much proof of psychic potential.

Been watching a lot of adventure series lately - The Avengers, Brisco County Jr, Adventure Time - and hardly any films. One exception: Night of the Eagle, which as the name suggests is close kin to the MR James adaptation Night of the Demon. Peter Wyngarde - excellent value as ever - plays a sixties Richard Dawkins who discovers his wife's a closet witch and makes her burn her "protections", after which their lives go about as smoothly as you'd expect. There are loose plot threads all over the place and it doesn't even seem quite sure whether magic works or not in its world, but it's thoroughly eerie nonetheless. Spartacus ended for good, and Doctor Who for now; the former was the downer it was always going to be, the latter much better than I'd dared expect, though it may have helped that I had the contrast of having just finished the rambling Reign of Terror, the first full Hartnell I've attempted in a decade or more.

And then after 'The Name of the Doctor' there was Eurovision, in which as ever the worthy victor was robbed - this time it was Romania (or rather Romoania) with the gay dubstep vampire. We left after that and Bonnie Tyler to see The French Electric live down the road, sounding like the National before they went boring, covering songs from Dare! and getting away with it. They were followed by a tragic act who could have sounded like Mazzy Star or Lana del Rey if only the drums had been turned down (or preferably off), which was my cue to depart. Thee Faction and Joanne Joanne at the Buffalo Bar were excellent, same as last time they played there together, and once again I drank entirely too much. Possibly because I'd realised that, if they're a genderswapped Duran Duran and Keith and I had been hanging with them in the pub earlier, that made us genderswapped 'Girls on Film' video babes. I should possibly be seeing them again tonight, but outside was calling, and I'm still in a certain amount of gig-shock after seeing the Art Brut birthday gig on what they weren't allowed to call the Glass Ceiling Tour. Ten years! They've learned a lot in that time, though. And the Scala...I'd forgotten how much I liked that venue. I'd forgotten how much I like the rare big gig - and it turns out they do still exist - where the crowd Get It. And the support slot from Keith et al wasn't bad either - I think the best show I've seen them do since the Devant support with the spiralling, near-infinite 'One Thing After Another'. They're a big band, a big stage suits them.

Anyway, my dears, I think I need another cup of decaf tea before Justified. It's a rock'n'roll life and no mistake.
alexsarll: (default)
Had a couple of weddings last month, out of London to varying degrees - one in a home counties barn, the other in Compton Verney, which is not the most accessible location but does mean you can have a reception surrounded by Cranachs, Holbeins and a coral nativity diorama which some enterprising Neapolitan crafted centuries back, and climb atop a bloody big rock if you need a break from the band. I'd decided to go straight from there to Devon the next day, simply because going back into and then out of London again appalled my sense of progress. This might have been a false time-economy, but the resulting vaguely diagonal journey did take me in a reasonably straight line across large swathes of the country I don't often see - a real 'How fares England? sort of journey. And despite what one might fear, every train involved was punctual bar one which was deeply apologetic over being a minute behind schedule. Inevitably, by the time I got to the seaside the warm spell had passed, so it was all sea mist and chopping up telegraph poles and being disappointed when local country acts didn't emphasise the side of their oeuvre which most appealed to me (the unspeakable bastards).

Other exotic locales I've visited include Walthamstow Village, where I attempted to convince people even less conversant with the area than myself that model butterflies were simply the giant fauna of Zone 3, and Peckham Rye, which seems to have a higher concentration of brilliant dogs than anywhere else in London (also a boy trapped in a tent, which is always good entertainment). And, as the year has made its stuttering advance into Spring, the Edinburgh previews have begun: I've already seen Thom Tuck (excellent as ever, even in the very early stages), Nish Kumar, Sara Pascoe and, as a late sub for Ben Target, Matthew Highton - who looks like Frank Quitely drew him and tells stories (perhaps not wholly true) of a life Peter Milligan could easily have conceived.

Not a great deal of clubbing lately - though Poptimism did offer a chance to dance to 'Only Losers Take The Bus', so what more does one need? - and my pub quizzing, if successful, has been sparse. But there have, as ever, been gigs. The Bull and Gate is no more, because apparently Kentish Town needs another damn gastropub, so Keith TotP et al played a send-off - the first time in a while that I've seen the Minor UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band on a stage large enough to contain them. In support, Dom Green's latest band, with a very apt set formed by pulling together songs from all the bands he'd been in before that had played there - and yet ending with a new one which may be the best thing he's ever written (but then, I was always a sucker for epics about London). Rebekah Delgado, supporting a bunch of steampunk tits at a rock pub, then off to Shenanigans. The Indelicates, still the best band of the moment, ever more romantic and ever more doomed. But I think my favourite overall event was the Soft Close-Ups show which was the only reason [ profile] augstone was allowed back over to visit us. They've always been a fairly melancholy band, but with the immigration-based reminder of how fleeting things can be, and a Housman poem set to music, this outing was especially mis. And yet, gorgeous. [ profile] icecoldinalex supported and, for a note of bathos, the venue was decorated in vintage soft p0rn. The sort of inexplicable afternoon which comes along too seldom.

The current series of Who has for the most part continued on its profoundly underwhelming course, with a revival of hopes occasioned by 'Hide', 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' and Gatiss' campathon undermined by last night's inexplicably middling Gaiman effort, but between Bluestone 42, It's Kevin and Parks and Rec's second season, there has at least been plenty of good comedy on the box, and these are surely times in which we need cheering up, so thank heavens for that. I've barely seen any films of late: Iron Man 3 at the cinema, which was a joy; Skyfall and Terror by Night on DVD, which were a little less so. I just can't quite buy Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, he's far too socially adroit - even clubbable.

When this goes up, I'll still have more than a year's worth of posts on one page, where once a page would have not been sufficient for some months. And yet, we persevere, in some limping fashion.
alexsarll: (crest)
Last time I posted here, I wasn't really aware of the comedian and Being Human star Colin Hoult. Since then, I've beaten him at a comics-themed pub quiz, where he was teamed with Stewart Lee (of whom I am very much aware), and seen him play the romantic lead in a musical also featuring Thom Tuck, Kevin Eldon and [ profile] catbo (ditto). So well done Colin Hoult for effectively increasing awareness of your work among the key [ profile] barrysarll demographic. Because I was watching Kevin Eldon narrate [ profile] martylog's adaptation of ETA Hoffman's "last and worst" book, I had to iPlayer the first episode of his deeply uneven sketch show, and then further wonder why it was scheduled against another BBC show clearly appealing to much the same audience, the excellent zombie rehab drama In the Flesh, which has been by some distance the best thing on TV recently. And Bluestone 42's not bad either - between the two of them, they're in danger of giving BBC3 a good reputation. Doctor Who, on the other hand...well, I went in to the mid-season whatever you call 'The Bells of St John' with low expectations after Moffat's last two episodes, and it was at least better than I expected, but I still can't decide whether it was actually any good.

In less grand gig news, not taking place in hidden Hoxton music halls, I've caught up with Bevan 17 successor entity Desperate Journalist, who have a very Banshees sound, and otherwise mainly seen former members of Luxembourg. 60% of them were playing 'Mishandled' and 'The 2 of Us' at a Suede tribute night in the Boogaloo, which was spine-tingling, and another 20% was taking pictures. I asked if he'd fancied joining in, but he insisted that it would only dent the chances of a big money reunion a few years down the line. And then the final 20%, Jonny Cola, was playing his first gig in a while, but given he's now down two of his old kidneys and up one of his fiancee's, maybe it was more like 19%? It's like a glam rock Ship of Theseus. Anyway, they were all better than hearing an oompah band covering Coldplay in a venue devoted to the consumption of beer and wurst, followed by a trip to Covent Garden's Roadhouse, a club where I suspect rohypnol and Red Bull is the house cocktail. A shame, as that day had previously been going pretty well, if you count loud discussions of dogging and Ulysses in a riverside pub as a good afternoon, which clearly I do.

Other than that? Photo exhibition launches, book launches, the general whirl of media scumbaggery. Waiting for the Spring to finally arrive, like everyone. Watching Yahoo Serious' Mr Accident (it's no Young Einstein). Being astonished that an unremarkable Earl's Court pub can charge £4.55 for a pint. Hoping that the Leisure Hive does well, because clubs like that make me feel a little less old. Writing this at a gallop because if I dither now it'll take another fortnight.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Snow again, and I've not posted since the last bout, in which I got to cross St James' Park by twilight. It's not my favourite London park, but that little chalet by the lake does look ludicrously idyllic when the weather's this Alpine. I was there in between my inaugural visits to the museums Petrie (dry) and Grant (terrifying), and Parliament, where I was headed mainly to see Paddy Ashdown talk. And good heavens, he's still full of fire. I miss him.

So I went to see a Tarantino film in the cinema, which I've never done before (and it was Dalston Rio, where I've never been before, but which is rather nice, isn't it?). Django Unchained is neither as thorough an explanation of the monstrousness of slavery, nor as gloriously OTT an exploitation romp, as Spartacus: Blood and Sand and its successor series. But it is pretty fine nonetheless, and oh, those landscapes looked magnificent on the big screen. Some - including Charlie Brooker, whom you would have hoped might know better - have complained that this isn't historically accurate, simply because it's not a tediously worthy slog, but the only time I found myself unconvinced by it was when they were discussing business at the table, with a lady present. Really? Beyond that, I think this is the most plausible South I've ever seen on screen. Interesting, too, to see Christoph Waltz, the link to Quentin's previous not-quite-history film, and wonder if his part as the Good German here was by way of an apology; certainly his last line was ventriloquising Tarantino.
Less seriously: Will Ferrell and the weird guy from The Hangover in The Campaign, a very silly film which, like Django, is far better on a serious issue (here the dirtiness of US politics) than an entire awards ceremony's worth of more desperately serious films on the same topic. It even has the alarming stuff liable to upset some viewers (warning: contains scenes of pug distress). Plus, it is clearly a love letter to Trading Places.

Comedy: Ben Van Der Velde was a bit too Mission for me (Dave Gorman, so much to answer for - that structure really is the bane of Edinburgh shows), but James W Smith did very well considering his planned show about whether he was ready for kids was derailed by the fact that yes, he's now expecting one ready or not! And admitting that to strangers 12 weeks into the pregnancy = very brave. Given which, you could forgive the show being rather unformed - much like the baby at this stage, I guess.

Gigs: I've seen a fair few acts I've seen before and they were still jolly good, but the news is the venues. Like: the Water Rats is returned to us! And still has one of the same bar staff. Like: there's a half-decent venue just across Finsbury Park from me, and how come nobody I know has played there before? Or clubwise, the basement of Aces and Eights, which is just like all those basement venues we used to go to which I thought had all been tidied up and sold off. Pubwise, the Catford Bridge Tavern - a proper old pub, and I am much more likely to forgive the pint of cider I ordered being off if it is one of five draught ciders rather than the only bloody one.

Also, we completely owned the Monarch's Doctor Who quiz, even in the face of a BBC Worldwide team and other pro geeks. Result.
alexsarll: (Default)
Went to 333 last night for the first time since it was still vaguely cool. It's a lot better now it isn't, although there were still residual traces of venue-that-thinks-they're-it cluelessness. The ground floor has become essentially a normal pub called the London Apprentice, to the extent that I was wandering baffled around the frontage looking for where the venue entrance had gone to hide, and had to be assisted by one of the Ethical Debating Society (who are much tighter these days, though seemed surprised to hear it). Then there was another band who had a keytar in their favour but not much else, before The Murder Act who were looking very striking and sounding more so, somewhere between Gallon Drunk and One More Grain. After which we pissed off to drink cans in the street because we are that cool. Q and I, both having recently been touched for funds by our alma mater, got a picture complete with cap in hand, which we may or may not send them by way of explaining our refusal.

Other gigs seen since I last posted about gigs seen:
[ profile] augstone in acoustic troubadour mode on Upper Street, on the day when Upper Street was haunted by a most unpleasant smell. No connection, I should add. At least, not so far as I'm aware.
Brontosaurus Chorus Dom's new band, who were a bit loud for the 12 Bar, supporting Rebekah Delgado and her sexy weeping angels.
The Gonzo Dog-Do Bar Band, whose Bonzos tribute bafflingly omitted 'Sport (The Odd Boy)' in spite of the show coming right before the Olympics. Still, they finished with a damn fine 'Mr Apollo', and generally did justice to songs which can easily lose the appropriate strangeness. [ profile] martylog's Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra supported, with a very eerie new song about allotments the high-point.
The Thlyds - or rather a tribute - in a show which can be heard here. If The Thlyds did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them - a voice for disaffected young Britain which, crucially, isn't the risible Plan B. 'Let's Have A Riot' at the Olympics fell a little flat, what with us doomsayers having been proven wrong for once - but the rest was brilliantly sneering.
Gyratory System, in the perfect venue of the Social, which is to say a fashionable breeze block. They sounded - or more than sounded, felt - like a burning robot factory - but with a groove.
Thee Faction, incendiary in another sense of the word, and Joanne Joanne, an all-female tribute can work it out. But only the early stuff. More punk than Rhodes, Taylor and le Bon ever sounded on record, but that works.
Keith ToTP and Dream Themes. I've written about them both plenty on here before. Whatever it is they have, they've still got it.
alexsarll: (seal)
Quiet Fridays and big Saturdays for the past couple of weeks. But then most people seemed to stay in for Prince night on BBC4. The main thing I took away from the documentary was that I'd been too charitable in saying for years that 'Gold' was his last good song - hearing it again, it was in fact balls. Whereas finally seeing Purple Rain, I was mainly surprised by how ready Prince in his prime was to look a right twat. It's not something you expect of a...somewhat idiosyncratic pop star in their own vehicle, but as with Eminem in 8 Mile, it does wonders for my opinion of him. Or him then, at any rate,
And the first Saturday: a Deptford Beach Babes show in the Horatia, which aside from the small detail of being on Holloway Road, is clearly a provincial town's one alternative pub. In some ways that's good - a remarkably catholic clientele for somewhere as clique-prone as London. In others, less so - the gig ran an hour late and at one point there was a proper pub ruck.
Otherwise: pub, party, and a cancelled gig which instead became my first trip to Ed's Diner. I used to have arteries, I'm sure I did.

But, because too much normal social behaviour would never do, I was sure to balance it all out with a wodge of Doctor Who. An afternoon of Brigadier-centric stories had been mooted months pack by way of a tribute, both character and actor having died this year...but then you have to bear in mind that his prime underling is Sergeant Benton, and we ended up watching them just after the Richmond Park video blew up, and no, it didn't get tired, though that may have been because we were drinking. Day of the Daleks is really much better than I remembered. Jon Pertwee demonstrating his martial arts wizardry without spilling a drop of his wine! Jo Grant being so stupid that even the furniture judges her! And the human puppet ruler of the Dalek-dominated future Earth is clearly Charlie Brooker in metallic sheen make-up!
Not that it had anything to do with the Brig, but we also watched 'Night and the Doctor' the mini-episodes from the DVD of last season. You know how people complained that Amy never seemed to get the emotional reaction you'd expect to the theft of her daughter? That's explained here. So's every other continuity glitch in the history of Doctor Who. It's a lot quicker than you might expect, and also terribly moving, and true.
And then a couple of days later, Nightmare of Eden. A late-period Tom Baker story of which we knew little, and thus a presumed stinker, but in fact rather fun. Deeply, deeply 1970s - it's all jobsworths, dodgy facial hair and venality, but even the dastardly intergalactic drug dealers set their guns to stun. The stakes are low, but Who doesn't need to have the fate of the Earth or the universe at risk every time, something it was good to see the new series remembering this year.
alexsarll: (howl)
Local venues the Archway Tavern and Nambucca have both had refits, but the latter is still the same bloody shambles it always was, with the same misguided belief that this is somehow endearingly rock'n'roll. The Archway's transition to some kind of weird nineties theme bar, on the other hand...well, at least the theme seems to extend to what now constitutes a cheap pint, but in the nineties would still have been a nightmarish three quid. The bands at both were led by Davids, and more an exercise in larking about than anything else; both were a great deal of fun. The supports at both were bloody embarrassments. And both were Hallowe'en events, of course*. Normally I'm adamant about celebrating the great festivals on the actual day...but it's Monday today. Even the restless dead don't rise with any enthusiasm on a Monday.

Speaking of the dead rising - I finally read DC's zombie superhero epic Blackest Night. Which, to my utter lack of surprise, has all of writer Geoff Johns' usual sins - including that unseemly tendency to get all metatextual about how comics used to be so bright and innocent, and why can't they be like that still, while taking a sordid delight in demonstrating the gruesomeness of the modern by repeated graphic dismebowelments &c. He wants to eat his tasty braaaaains cake and still have it, really. In total, Blackest Night sprawls across seven collected editions of tie-ins (for no real reason beyond perversity, I read the core series last). The Exterminators, on the other hand, covers a mere five books. One of the many comics from Vertigo (aka 'the HBO of comics') to be cancelled before it reached its proposed destination, this was a planned 50-issue series which only made it to 30. Largely because, as writer Simon Oliver acknowledges in a rueful foreword to the final collection, it's about bugs, and so at least a quarter of the potential audience would be too revolted to read it. And it is, make no mistake, a revolting series. But also, for all its fantastical elements, one which feels like it's saying something interesting about humanity, and nature, and the poor schmucks who have to hold the line between the two. Whereas Blackest Night, for all that it manages some lovely tricks with colour, really doesn't have much more to say than 'Dude, if Hawkman was a zombie he'd be even more badass!' Which is not only fairly hollow - it turns out it isn't even true.

*Though unlike Christmas creep, Hallowe'en crawl has some limits. On Friday, even in Camden, there was little sign of sexy cats &c. Or at least, not specifically Hallowe'eny ones. The alleged retirement show of Steven Horry, Frontman, with support from Rebekah Delgado and Aurora, was many things, but spooky was not among them.

In brief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- The Tate's John Martin exhibition is excellent. Yes, maybe he couldn't do lightining or faces - the former more of a problem than the latter - but he's still the go-to man for shit getting real. When an empire - or a mountain - falls, John Martin is your man. Or, when you want the great timeless cities off in the corner of an immense Arcadian landscape where I could quite happily lounge for an infinity or two, he does those also. Wonderful.
alexsarll: (Default)
So Doctor Who came back, and 'Let's Kill Hitler' turned out to be a total bait-and-switch, and then Mark Gatiss supplied the closest thing he's managed to a decent TV episode, and while I'm still loving Matt Smith, part of me can't help but feel that just maybe the whole long-arc-storytelling business has got a little out of hand, such that the done-in-ones now feel extraneous. But Moffat has himself said he's scaling back from that next year, and of course we'll still have Matt Smith, so really there's no cause for concern. And it's not as if things have got so horribly out of hand on that front as in Torchwood: Miracle Day, a show which one increasingly feels is dealing with the modern fascination with/abhorrence of spoilers by making sure that nothing happens from week to week. Every point it thinks it's making was already covered much better in Children of Earth. The closest it came to interest was in the flashback episode, where the hackneyed journey to a predictable destination at least mentioned Sarah Jane's antagonist the Trickster, thus providing a brief, happy memory of a TV Who spin-off that didn't suck.
(Speaking of spin-offs, the last couple of Who books I read were an interesting pair. James Goss' Dead of Winter is aimed at kids, more or less - it ties in with the new series. Matthew Jones' Bad Therapy was one of the fabled New Adventures, which started off by filling a gap when the series was off-air in the wilderness years, but ended up creating much of the template for its return. They're both historicals - one 19th century, one 1950s. Both are about alien tech curing people through creating idealised companions for them. And while the adult book can be a little more detailed about stuff like The Gays (though arguably less so than the modern TV show), they both have a real edge of nastiness. There's one scene in Bad Therapy especially which caused a sharp inhalation on my part, where a boy pursued by thugs finds his escape down an alley blocked by the TARDIS, hammers on the door - and dies because the Doctor and Chris are in a nearby caff. Which isn't how things should work when the Doctor's around. But even Dead of Winter finds room for some chilling stuff, in particular the Doctor's line "I'm going to tell you a story about a man who travels, and everywhere he goes, he makes everyone's lives better. I'm not that man. That man doesn't exist. I wish he did. I'd believe in him.")

Unrelated to the blue box, I've also seen the utterly batsh1t mental French-Czech animation Fantastic Planet, and the epically epic Neville Longbottom and the Speccy Emo Kid Who Keeps Stealing Neville's Screentime. And when I got home from the latter, I watched David Hare's Page Eight, in which Michael Gambon has a mission to take down the Dark Lord (or 'Prime Minister') Ralph Fiennes, except he dies, and Bill Nighy has to execute Gambon's legacy. A perfectly competent middlebrow drama, but the Potter films did it all so much better. Band-wise, I'm in the unusual position that none of the acts I've seen lately are my Facebook friends (although Patrick Duff did end up staying at the Maisionette Beautiful). First up, Duff and Andrew Montgomery, each playing one old song ('She's Everywhere' and 'Fall Apart Button', respectively), each still recognisably the same man as in their post-Britpop almost-pomp. Spookily so in Montgomery's case; he still looks and sounds as cherubic as in his Geneva days. Whereas Duff...well, you could tell from the twisted ferocity of a Strangelove show that his life was never easy, and the haunted folk he's playing nowadays may not be as loud, but emotionally it's no easier. All of this works brilliantly in the upstairs of the Old Queen's Head, which previously had never really gelled for me as a venue; with acts like this, who'd have been right at home in the old Spitz, its faded living room ambience is ideal. Then over to Hoxton to see Thomas Truax, essentially a mad scientist who has realised that making music with his mad science is less likely to get him arrested than robbing banks. Mostly his self-constructed instruments manage to steer clear of feeling like a novelty act, though the inevitably metronomic nature of automated percussion doesn't suit a song like 'I Put A Spell On You'. His own material, conceived around his technology's strengths and limitations, is another matter - at its best there's an eerie fairground quality and also a genuine pathos to it. The headliner is Jason Webley, a man who's also navigating a tough course around the jagged rocks of novelty act status. The first time you see Webley, his ability to get the crowd involved is glorious. But then you get hold of the albums and hear some of the brave, fragile, beautiful songs on there which don't work with an audience bellowing along, and realise that he doesn't play them live (even though, as a solo performer with no band to coach, he can presumably play anything from his back catalogue at any time), and understand that like any strength in an artist, that connection with the crowd can also become a trap. Still, he does sneak 'Against the Night' into the set, and then explains how as of November, he's taking a break - not because he's sick of music but because of how much it means to him, and how much he wants to make sure he's doing it for the right reasons, and the speech isn't 100% coherent but I got the feeling that he was maybe struggling towards the same worries about himself as I'm dancing around here. And he finishes with the gorgeous, self-explanatory 'Last Song' ("Maybe the world isn't dying. Maybe she's heavy with child"), and it's a perfect, cathartic climax...
And some berks start bellowing 'More! More!', because sod structure and artistry and rightness, at the end of a gig, shouting 'More!' is just what you do, right?
This is why I mainly go to gigs where I know most of the audience.

And I'm going to politely gloss over the abysmal punk band who marred the early stages of Saturday's Glam Racket. They wouldn't even be interesting to insult.
alexsarll: (Default)
So yes, hasn't there been a lot happening since one could last log in to LJ? Though somehow it seemed that Russian spammers could post comments even when I couldn't get in to delete same. Not cool. Also not cool: too many deaths, near, far and famous. Unnecessary. Possibly the best bit of Jerry Sadowitz' set this week (first time I've seen him, unless you count his Channel 5 show back when they were what seemed at times like the only TV home for stand-ups, and what a strange thing that is to remember) was the Norway/Winehouse material, because it was where you could most tell that he was a man howling out his anger at an unfair world the best way he knew how, somehow being funny in the process like Elsinore's gravedigger is, and not just Frankie Boyle or some such twerp.
(Other comedians seen: Nick Doody and Henry Packer, both less famous and less wrong than Sadowitz, though the latter was pretty bloody wrong in places by any normal standards. As is hopefully obvious, this is not a criticism. Also Richard Marsh, although that was more of a comedy/poetry hybrid, or a storytelling show, or just a very strange thing for a man to do if he doesn't especially like Skittles, but v.good nonetheless)

What else? London is empty lately, isn't it, or emptier than usual, outside the tourist areas anyway. Some people say they're all on summer holiday, I suspect heat death. Which would be for the best, I mean, what's with all these people I don't know or like who don't even work in sectors of use to me, daring to clutter the place up? I went to some community art a week or two back in the Andover, more normally known for stabbings than experimental dance, and while obviously it's laudable that the denizens were watching the dance rather than stabbing each other up, their understanding of audience etiquette was sadly lacking. Oh, and courtesy of [ profile] exliontamer's concubine I've been revisiting some classic board games of my youth. Well, first of all I had to visit one that was new to me, Dream Phone, which just felt like a queasy exercise in pre-Internet grooming. But then we got on to the classics. Well, I say classics but it turns out that Ghost Castle is barely better than Snakes and Ladders in gameplay terms - there's precisely one choice in the whole game and nobody ever takes the slower, safer route - and yet it does have a glowing skull tumbling down a chimney causing havoc, and that counts for a lot. But Escape from Atlantis, and Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs - these remain pinnacles of the form. Atlantis in particular is sufficiently spiteful that you wonder if Luke Haines' books somehow omitted a period as a games designer, its mechanisms encouraging needless nastiness and even at times a gleeful suicide drive from any player who knows they can't win. Excellent stuff.

I've also found the first new London venue I like since, what, the Silver Bullet? Namely Native Tongue in Smithfields, where the Soft Close-Ups played on Tuesday. An underground bar in the Buffalo Bar sense, but a little airier, a little more choice at the bar. Definitely to be encouraged. And I've been watching Torchwood, of course, though addiction aside I couldn't necessarily tell you why. The science fiction side of it all is being handled very well, in terms of the ramifications of death just...stopping. So's the horror, with that basic uncanniness and revulsion of a thing that should be dead or even more simply immobile and yet refuses to stop moving. But as drama, it's nonsense - and as evil as I am prepared to consider Pfizer et al, buying their stand-ins as villains for something like this just doesn't gel. So inevitably it's going to be aliens behind it all, but if so, why bother with the false reveal? Why, in general, is it all taking so long?
alexsarll: (Default)
I am in a church social club where one of my favourite bands are launching their concept album about David Koresh. I want to go to the loo, but it is marked 'DANCERS ONLY'. Two of my favourite singers are waiting for their guest spots as ATF agents, and insist that I should do a dance to make sure I am able to use the loo. Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary story. And from there the weekend went pretty much like the last days of the Roman Empire, except I don't think the Romans had cider. [ profile] charleston's birthday gig was at the Silver Bullet, which I may have mentioned before is one of my favourite venues what with the whole being-at-the-end-of-my-road thing, but the cider on tap there is Addlestones, which while very tasty is maybe not the best idea for prolonged sessions with dancing, so apologies to anyone caught by what I'm told was some impressive flailing.

A poor Doctor Who this weekend from Matthew 'Fear Her' Graham, supplying the opening to the dull, plot-holed two-parter which each new series season seems inexplicably obliged to offer. It was not entirely without merit - the setting was excellently atmospheric and Fang Rock, the lack of any aliens was a welcome escape from the formula of recent years* and Matt Smith was as excellent as ever - but boy, was it boring. Run through every cliche in the clone/replicant book, and just for good measure, add in a few moronic errors - "only living things grow" was a particular corker, but I think I may have winced even more at "cars don't fly themselves", simply because it thought it was so science-fictional and clever, while failing to notice that automation of driving is progressing a damn sight faster than getting cars airborne. Got the bad taste out of my mouth on Sunday with Planet of Fire, where Peter Davison goes to an alien planet which looks authentically alien because it was filmed on Lanzarote - although they do rather undermine that by then having a few scenes on Lanzarote too. But still, Turlough being a devious little sh1t! Peter Wyngarde as an evil high priest! And tiny Master in a box! That, Graham, is how you write a cliffhanger.

The news, as ever, is mostly too dismal for comment, but I find the whole Strauss-Kahn business especially grim. The IMF has its uses, but on the whole it has tended to take advantage of circumstances to screw low-status workers from poor countries, and not give a fig for their objections. And then suddenly the managing director is headline news because he tried to do that to one low-status worker, instead of a nation's worth? Just goes to prove what Stalin said about how one death is a tragedy but a million is a mere statistic...

*If the Flesh turns out to come from space, I will not be impressed. I suspected my hopes for a return to pure, alien-free historicals were not going to be met, but in their absence, strictly Earth-born near-future threats in the vein of WOTAN, Salamander and BOSS at least move us a step away from invasion-of-the-week.


May. 16th, 2011 09:18 pm
alexsarll: (bill)
And so the summer of superhero films kicks off with Thor, and we now seem to have reached the point where - thank the Allfather - a lot of the genre mainstays can be taken for granted. So rather than going through the standard plot beats and the origin and blah blah blah, Kenneth Branagh can stitch together a culture clash comedy, a conspiracy thriller and a high fantasy take on Shakespeare's histories, and it's still a viable blockbuster, even with near-unknowns in the lead roles. Both of them perfect for their parts, as well - Thor the affable dickhead, and a plausibly devilish Loki (and the idea that Hiddleston initially wanted to play Thor is baffling - if it were ever even remotely plausible then he must be an even better actor than he seems). The support includes some more familiar faces, almost all of whom seem perfectly at home in their roles - Idris Elba as Heimdall owns the role as well as winding up Nazis, Anthony Hopkins is a perfect Odin. The Warriors Three are a slight misfire: Hogun was always The Other One and the guy from Ichi the Killer can't change that; and even Titus Pullo was never going to convince as Volstagg when I'd so recently seen Orson Welles' Falstaff. Great Errol Flynn-ing from the guy playing Fandral, though.
And what do they do with all these ingredients? Smart things. Like, having the Earth action take place in a New Mexico town, because that's jeopardy enough and it makes a change from all the big cities that usually get imperilled, and besides there's Asgard for all that, and Asgard looks amazing - just Kirbytech enough without feeling like a clunky homage. And speaking of the comics references, spoiler ) in the post-credits sequence for which surprisingly few people stayed around. And it felt properly cosmic - stripping out the comics' usual compromise with christianity, when Jane Foster gasps 'my god' at the sight of Thor, you know it's meant literally. It helps that the whole thing looks and sounds so solid, right down to those end credits with Yggdrasil as a nebula. These are not aliens who've been taken for gods - they are gods.
Problems? Well, the Warriors Three I've mentioned, and Sif's not much better. Indeed, the female roles generally are a bit thin, except for Kat Dennings as Darcy, a character who if she was in the comics, I completely missed. Dennings is also in Defendor, an altogether less glitzy superhero film I watched this week. Essentially it's Kick-Ass with one quite plausible change: the would-be superhero is not an idealistic kid, but a mentally ill middle-aged man. Played with a brilliant mixture of anger, confusion and faith by Woody Harrelson. Well worth a look - but, let's be honest, not a patch on the punching-right-through-monsters fun of Thor.

On Saturday two places I've been past hundreds of times finally became places I'd been into. The Finsbury Park Nando's first, and later - after 'The Doctor's Wife', which was glorious in concept, and mostly in execution too, yet seemed oddly slow in places - the Unicorn. Which sits along the 29 and 253 route in that nowhere territory that is neither Camden nor Holloway, and which turns out to have the atmosphere and prices of a pub in at least Zone 4, and to feel oddly like a venue from a dream - "I was watching my flatmates play in a band, but when I turned around, we were all just stood in the corner of a suburban pub". And for all that I am now the non-musical inhabitant of the Maisionette Beautiful, the Indelicates album on which I am part of the backing choir is now available. And, regardless of my small contributions, very good indeed.

I picked up Edward Hollis' The Secret Lives of Buildings in the library more or less at random, but it's a fascinating read. Hollis is an architect by trade, but is fascinated by the great lies and false dreams of architects - the ways that buildings never quite turn out how they were supposed to, and that even if they do, people get in the way. And that then people get to a point where they start trying to pin down the authentic form of a building that never quite had one. It's psychogeography of a sort, I suppose, but nothing like the wandering, gonzo style with which the field has become almost synonymous. From the Parthenon to Vegas and Macao, it pieces together the story of humanity through what we've dreamed and built and repurposed.


Jan. 31st, 2011 10:58 am
alexsarll: (Default)
One can't say he was taken too soon or anything, but it's still a shame about John Barry. I watched a film he scored this weekend, Boom. Tennessee Williams' favourite film adaptation of his own work, and directed by the great Joseph Losey, it is nonetheless a dispiriting, messy slog. Elizabeth Taylor, after so long as the epitome of female desirability, has here become the sad, pilled-up drag queen's pastiche of herself that we know today - a much-married woman still convinced of her own desirability, hemmed in by injections and paranoia, the fleshiness of that face already running to fat. Noel Coward queens around in a role that contributes little beyond exposition and some baffling innuendo. Richard Burton has a certain battered dignity, looking surprisingly plausible in a kimono, but he can't do more to save the film than help with the couple of scenes near the end where Taylor remembers she can act.

I'm reading a Bogart biography at the moment, so it's appropriate that this weekend was mainly spent at gigs watching the usual suspects. Bevan 17 in Brixton first, and then much of the PopArt weekender, with Brontosaurus Chorus (if 'Louisiana' really was their last song ever, it's a shame Johnny and I didn't barrel on stage and start in with the chainsaw); Subliminal Girls (I spent almost the entire set at the bar, the service at the Bloomsbury Bowl was so bad); Keith TotP et al (vocals inaudible, but hey, lots of guitars); MJ Hibbett (I was obliged to contribute a sort of civilised heckle over his buying into Fantastic Four death hype, but the song in question mentions 'sulking like Black Bolt' so I can forgive much); The Laurel Collective (since I last heard them, Mystery Jets have happened, so now the poor sods sound like they're ripping off Mystery Jets even though they were doing this first); Abdjouparov (Les Carter was a young Bowie fan, and alas, he is now in his own Tin Machine phase); Mr Solo (minty Polo); and the PopArt Allstars (complete with Mr Solo mixing 'Space Oddity' and 'The Laughing Gnome' into the 'Modern Love' outro, Hibbett's 'Live and Let Die' accompanied by terrifyingly exothermic party poppers, and a 'Brimful of Asha' which I genuinely thought might never end).
Perhaps more importantly, I also confirmed that I have not lost my table football skills. Excellent.

I've finally read David Mazzuchelli's much-praised graphic novel (and for once, the term does apply, instead of just being an embarrassed synonym for 'comic') Asterios Polyp and yes, it is excellent. Remember a few years back when the mainstream critics were getting over-excited about the miserable piece of crap that was Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth? Because being, quite often, middle-aged men who feel they have wasted their lives, a lot of critics like works addressing similar themes (a good example in cinema: Sideways). Asterios Polyp, like Jimmy Corrigan, is a miserable middle-aged man, but instead of taking it to the absurd and risible lengths of Ware's effort, Mazzuchelli's protagonist is a success, of sorts...just one who still doesn't feel like he's succeeded, because how many people do? And beyond being more believable, it has vastly more to say. The one thing I did like in Jimmy Corrigan was the architecture...well, Polyp is an architect, and that gives us the way in to what Mazzuchelli is getting at here, expressed in a staggeringly versatile art which gives key characters their own art styles and then lets those spheres of influence ebb and flow into each other as a way of investigating how our own subjective worlds sometimes, somehow do manage to connect.
I don't want to get carried away here - obviously it's no All-Star Superman - but for people who really can't stand reading anything involving superheroes or robots or magic or teenage antics (ie, anything genre; ie, anything fun) then this may be the best comic in the world.
alexsarll: (Default)
If you haven't been keeping up with Luke Haines' recent ventures, he's just released 50 albums. Which so far as anyone can work out are 50 versions of the same album, Outsider Music each recorded live in one take, and each costing £75. I don't have it, no. There's various Bill Drummond-style rhetoric about this restoring the sanctity of the physical album &c, but given the old bastard has always made an art out of wilful perversity, I suspect a large part of it is making a few grand quickly while seeing what the fans will put up with. In much the same spirit, last night he played the new material live at the Hoxton Pony, a venue whose name is in a sense honest, but perhaps a little too disguised by the Cockney rhyming slang. The intro tape doesn't seem to be able to stay at the same sound level for a whole song, and two of those songs are by the Doors. And the support is a berk who is apparently from a band called Silvery, and who seems to have been booked just so Haines can remind himself how much he hates Britpop because his stuff sounds like something which [ profile] steve586 would refuse to play at Nuisance. Haines himself is sounding a little odd on account of some missing teeth, and horribly plosive because he's doing stuff with the mic which even I know how not to do. It is, in short, not the ideal setting. On top of which, as Haines says while introducing the song about a friend who met Alan Vega of Suicide, "the new songs were rather like the old songs". One song, more recent even than the Outsider Music stuff, is introduced as part of a forthcoming concept album about seventies wrestling, and concerns the domestic arrangements of Kendo Nagasaki. From anyone else, you'd know that intro was a joke. But from Haines? (Suggested heckle: "Play the one about the seventies!")
Haines is in that spot a lot of artists get to where they've found their territory and, if they do get any new fans, it'll be through a critical rehabilitation rather than a sudden shift in the material. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I was listening to the new Twilight Singers album on the way to the gig, and there's not a surprise on it, but that doesn't stop it from being the third best album of the year so far (not the faint praise it may seem in mid-January, the H Bird and British Sea Power records are excellent). But if these songs really don't get any wider release...well, most of them I won't honestly feel as gaps in my life, the exception being the brilliant 'Enoch Powell'.
And then we get the old songs, and a reminder of why we put up with all this because yes, the man has written several dozen absolute and eternal classics, and here's a selection. Most terrifying is to hear 'Future Generations' in the company of a fan born in the nineties*, proof that Haines was, as usual, right when he first sang "the next generation will get it from the start".

I hadn't even been planning to go to that show until mid-afternoon; I had other plans, and I'd assumed it was sold out. And by that point I'd already reached my standing goal of doing at least two things per day beyond pootling around on the net or reading a comic or two or other minor stuff; I'd filled in my tax return, and I'd finally watched Videodrome (which is basically just 'Blink - The Queasily Sexy Years', isn't it?). This in spite of having developed a problematic addiction to "I am the man who arranges the blocks" after having heard it at Bright Club the night before, with which I had thought I should re-familiarise myself given I'm performing at the next Wilmington one on February 15th.

*edit: Actually 1989, I am informed, and unlike Wikipedia I trust people to correct their own biographical data. But I feel the point stands.
alexsarll: (death bears)
Apparently the 100 Club should be saved - but only through a sponsorship deal and associated renaming. So last night I went for probably the last time before it becomes the Sony Rebellion 100 Club, or the George Osborne Tax Shelter 100 Club...just imagine how those giant zeroes at the back of the stage will look when they're replaced with Rupert Murdoch faces! Still, for one night only, David Devant and his Spirit Wife could make us forget that. After coasting a little of late, they've got new songs! A new spectral roadie! And the magic tricks are back, even some la-la-la-la-la-lead piping! Excellent stuff. Between songs, Vessel reads from My Magic Life, but it's his own running autobiography, not the original Devant's. It is an excellent way to mark a midwinter solstice after which we all hope things will get brighter - even if outside, all that's happened so far is that rain has replaced snow. Remember how, two winters ago, we all got massively excited and rushed off to build snowmen and have snowball fights, because we only had one chance? And now we're back to thinking of snow as a wintertime fixture, like we always imagined it was supposed to be from the Christmas cards.

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

*Speaking of which, I was slightly underwhelmed by the Christmas special. Yes, any Christmas special which is motivated by a thorough hatred of the church is doing something right, but the religious plotline felt a bit too much like the first season finale, and I wonder whether the resolution might not be a cop-out. Still, I suppose a lot remains to be seen depending on the unseen choices they made.
alexsarll: (Default)
Get Smart amused me - much as the original series did, when that was repeated during my childhood, because in many respects my tastes have not changed much - but even by his own recent standards, Terence Stamp was really 'phoning it in.

As it starts to feel properly autumnal, it's good to have seasonal events as a bulwark against the cold and the dark. Last night was a delayed Hallowe'en ghost walk, and even though I thought I knew the Covent Garden area very well, it's honeycombed with so many alleys I must have passed unwittingly. Half of them have a haunting, and half of those are William Terriss, the spectral version of those celebrity slags who'll turn up for the opening of a crisp packet. And on Friday, [ profile] darkmarcpi once again hosted a fireworks viewing from his tower, London laid out before us with its competing displays like a happier, sparklier version of Beirut - even if the gas main that was up around the corner was too much of a spoilsport to do its festival bit and join in.

Whenever I've listened to Mitch Benn's 'Proud of the BBC', I've been watching the video, and it's been a heartfelt anthem, a rallying cry. Until Saturday, when I was walking through the dark and heard it for the first time on my headphones. And there, in isolation, it had me on the edge of tears. Especially when my MP3 player's alphabetical play followed it up with Morrissey, and specifically 'Interesting Drug' - "There are some bad people on the rise..." And indeed there are. I worry for the BBC. Hell, I worry for all of us. I was on route to Dalston's Victoria, a local pub full of old black dudes playing dominoes, who seemed bemused rather than upset by the arrival of Bevan 17, their fans and various other bands for a gig in the back room. Odd place, but I like it. Then over to the Lexington for a birthday downstairs, which was the most crowded I've ever seen it, plus occasional visits to Glam Racket upstairs, where the innards of eviscerated Kermits were emulating snowdrifts. The next day was backing vocals for [ profile] augstone at [ profile] keith_totp's studio, before which Aug got mistaken for a homeless by one of the cast of Doctors, whom the young ladies were accosting even though he was stood right by the unmolested Victor Lewis-Smith. Young people today. As for the recording itself...well, Bolan recorded there, and Bowie made Scary Monsters, but really it was all just preparation for Sunday. Links will doubtless follow once the beast is unleashed.
alexsarll: (pangolin)
A few visits this week to remodellings. Around where I used to work, there's a whole stretch along the edge of Pimlico which seems to have suddenly gone up in the world, and most shocking of these gentrifications is the Cask. Formerly a dog rough estate pub, I suppose it always had potential if only because the estate in question consists of buildings called Noel Coward House and Aubrey Beardsley House, and looks like a red brick Hanging Gardens of Babylon. And now the old Tram is a genteel, polished wood affair, more gastro than I normally like a pub but somehow getting away with it, and offering booze that wouldn't be out of place at Ale Meat Cider. Approved.
Similarly, North Library's renovation has worked out nicely. Too often library renovations seem to end up with more 'accessibility' and fewer books, but this is the opposite, and while the old shelves are gone, there's a delightfully labyrinthine aspect to the new ones. And, one of the books in pride of place for the relaunch is a shiny new copy of Alan Moore's Voice of the Fire.
Finally, the Silver Bullet, another rubbish pub reborn; it's now the venue which I'd always felt was the one thing Finsbury Park really lacked. It's been there for a while, I was just waiting 'til it hosted a band I wanted to see. Last night was Performance, and they played 'Surrender', so I was happy. Now all we need to do is see about getting all the bands I know with local members to play a local gig for local people there.

Zowie Bowie's debut feature, Moon, perhaps impressed me less than viewers without a science fiction background, because conceptually there wasn't much new to it - but it was beautifully executed. And if you're going to make a film that's pretty much all one actor, who has to be both versatile and mesmeric, then Sam Rockwell is a hard choice to beat.

Russell T Davies' The Writer's Tale is excellent. I know we all loved nitpicking his Who, comparing his scripts unfavourably to Moffat's and so forth - and we were right to do so, and if you come to this book expecting much in the way of mea culpa, you're going to be disappointed. At times, you'll even be shocked by how close he came to being even worse - it's only his correspondent here, DWM's Ben Cook, and Moffat, who dissuaded Rusty from bringing back the sodding Daleks, again, for David Tennant's finale. But this is also the man who wrote Midnight and Turn Left. Who moved heaven and Earth to bring back Doctor Who, and made of it something which the public and - mostly - the fans could love. And this is the behind the scenes story of how he did it, or at least the bit from Voyage of the Damned onwards. It is also a very useful book for writers generally (anything Who-specific is footnoted), not to mention a hefty 700 pages which can be applied firmly to the head of any luddite fool who says the era of the email and text means we'll no longer get collected correspondences. There are fascinating glimpses of stories as they might have been - Planet of the Dead was almost a Star Trek pastiche, or might have brought back the Chelonians long before Moffat did. Kate Winslet was the first choice for River Song. There's a brilliantly slashy Master/Master scene that was never going to make it to TV, but the script survives here. The title 'Death of the Doctor' floated around the main series for a while before ending up on Sarah Jane, as did the idea of a mysteriously empty London from this week's episode. And so on. But the most exciting bit is that sometimes, as Davies is tapping out an email to Cook, he's basically thinking aloud, and we see the exact moment an idea is born into the world. Here you will find the exact moment when it becomes clear that Wilf knocking will mark the Doctor's end. And for all the things I'd have liked him to have done differently, for all the moments where he comes across as a bit of a daft old queen, the abiding feeling which remains is of a man who loves TV in general and Doctor Who in particular, and good on him.
alexsarll: (crest)
Since last posting, I have:
- Kicked arse at the Man who Fell Asleep's bookshop quiz, then wandered home drunk on victory (and possibly alcohol) singing along to the World/Inferno Friendship Society and not realising it was out loud until I registered the funny looks.
- Seen The Melting Ice Caps' new line-up and Mr Solo at the Library, which has stroboscopic loos that make you feel like you're being hypnotised by the KGB, and light-stands which are uncomfortably close to book burning. Fine shows by both, but while some gigs leave you in the mood for a RAMPAGE, others leave you a bit dreamy and more fitted for a slow wander home through the trees with the closing movement of Promenade on the headphones. So I didn't go on to Nuisance.
- Been to various birthday and engagement celebrations. At one, in the park, we celebrated the miracles that are mobile internet access and Wikipedia by seeing how much of the entry for Uranus is funny if you read it out loud (pretty much all of it, obviously).
- At another we made the sad discovery that you really can't go back; even if Ale Meat Cider has rum cask cider, it may not be the same rum cask cider. Sad times.
- Seen a fan club show by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, whose new logo looks a bit like a cock, but whose new songs include at least one which is fit to stand alongside 'Electricity' and 'Enola Gay', which is handy given they played those two as well.
- Got drenched en route to another birthday which was in fact a pub quiz. So it goes.
- Seen Let The Right One In, which is a charming Swedish film about childhood, being alone and finding someone who understands, and Crank 2: High Voltage, which is none of those things except 'film', and even then you could argue that it has more in common with pop video and computer games. Still, they both have a bit of the old ultraviolence, and that's the main thing, isn't it?
alexsarll: (pangolin)
...though at times it still didn't feel all that massive. Saturday night, for instance, seemed to have nothing much doing so we just ended up down the local, where a possibly misguided attempt was made to embiggen proceedings via the medium of pink vodka. And on Sunday, walking down through Islington to see the Deptford Beach Babes, every pub I passed was Sunday quiet not Bank Holiday Sunday busy, and most other venues seemed to be shut. The DBB were playing the Cock Tavern in Smithfield, of which I'd heard but never before had cause to visit. And if I ever do again it won't be in anything like peak time, because as a man who should know observed, the bar staff seemed to be on ketamine. Weird place even beyond that, feeling like it should be hosting a provincial wedding reception rather than a suave rockabilly crowd. The Babes were excellent, and for the first time I was in a position to see their drummer, who can only be described as real horrorshow - not just fun to watch but a proper performer, miming ennui, possession and craze as appropriate. The only other acts I caught, given the dearth of service, were two burlesque girls. I have seen burlesque performers who did something a bit different, every now and then, but these were more at the 'striptease except it's classy because there's no fake tan' end of the bracket. Not that they didn't have nice breasts, but it's still not really art, is it?
(Also: bad form of the promoters to say the night was £6.66 and then actually charge seven quid. Yes, I was wondering what the Hell their float must look like, so I'd brought sixpence in coppers because I'm thoughtful like that. Charge what you like for your night, but stick to what you said, no matter what. There was also a terribly intrusive photographer, but I'm not sure whether he was theirs or an independent)

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

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

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

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

*Finally watching Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes the next day, I am amused to see that film also mentions a performance of the tale, albeit in its Don Giovanni version, as Holmes and Watson pass Tower Bridge, or at least its beginnings. It's heartening that, when either Guy Ritchie's version or the BBC's could so easily have become Sherlock Holmes in Miami, neither did, both Cumberbatch and Downey sharing an essential Holmes-ness with Brett and Rathbone. Also - age suits Downey a lot better than I'd ever have thought.

January 2016



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