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.

Neverland

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

Oh yes, and I went to the Windmill - where I could also have been tonight, but there's only so much time and energy for jaunts to the wilds, and I must to Putney later this week. The Indelicates have a new song, in which Simon sings about disgust. I think he may inadvertently have nicked the intro from Jeays' 'Arles', though he denies it, and if he keeps telling his bandmates that since they don't know it, they'll just ruin it if he joins in, then I shan't complain. Pop needs more scorn.

...

Sep. 16th, 2011 12:08 pm
alexsarll: (Default)
The weekend again already, at least if one is using up annual leave, and as per last week it doesn't look to be the most raucous of weekends, but is nonetheless deeply cherished for all that. There are a lot of people moving away from Finsbury Park lately, and for all my science fiction-inspired futurism, on a domestic level I disapprove of change. Still, at least by happening in autumn it's seasonally appropriate (as ever, I prefer 'pathetic truism' to the nonsensical term 'pathetic fallacy' - because weather and human moods do tend to match up).
Often, the moments in life of which one feels proudest aren't really suitable for the internet; they're better held close and secret. But last Sunday, while picking up a book that makes dinosaur noises for my Cthulhuchild, I overheard a customer asking the shopkeeper where he should start with Avengers comics. And un-English as it was, I 'Excuse me, if I might assist'-ed, and explained the situation, and by the end of it the fellow was ordering the first volume of The Ultimates (because it's better than the originals, and much closer to the films, which were what had inspired him to ask in the first place). So I'd supported my local independent bookshop, done some comics evangelism and helped a slightly puzzled shopper, all in one. I fear this may make me part of the Big Society.

Beyond that...well, it's all been a bit science-fictional. Had my first games of Cosmic Encounter, a game which manages both to be very simple to pick up, surprisingly tactical, and completely different each time depending what combination of alien powers the players get. Went to the British Library's Out of this World exhibition, full of manuscripts, old editions, life-size props (though I could tell the TARDIS was a fake - no warmth or hum) of science fiction classics. But 'science fiction classics' as defined by someone who actually knows their stuff - Olaf Stapledon got due respect (they even had the original hand-drawn timelines for the millions of years covered in his majestic Last and First Men), and John Brunner was well-represented too (I never knew he'd come up with the computer sense of 'worm'). So much there that I'd love to go back if only I hadn't come along so late in the run, and a perfect gallery for it too, somehow. If I had one quibble it would be the absence of Simak, but then everyone forgets about Simak nowadays, and in an odd way that fits the backwoods, leaving-the-city-folk-to-do-city-things nature of his work. Seriously, though - melancholy pastoral SF. It's excellent.
Oh, yes, and there was Torchwood. Of which the best that can be said is that about half of the last episode was quite good, and maybe five minutes really kicked arse.
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 [livejournal.com 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: (magneto)
Managed a fairly major weekend without once going more than a few hundred yards from home. In the case of Sunday that was because the insane Death Valley heat meant I *couldn't* get more than a few hundred yards from home, but Black Plastic and [livejournal.com profile] asw909 and [livejournal.com profile] _pinkdaisy_'s party would have been must-attends even if I had teleportation capability. I also managed a third, and I suspect final, listen to Lady Gaga's Born This Way. Popjustice said it's "yet to feel like an easy listen. Maybe it will never be background music; it was clearly never meant to be". Which surprises me, because while I may not always agree with their enthusiasms, seldom do I feel so totally at odds with their whole assessment of a record. Even the dud tracks on Gaga's first two albums caught the attention, whereas with this one I have to struggle not to tune out. I can see what she's doing, I think - making a record that sounds mainstream, attempting to capitalise on her position and become even bigger, and using that massiveness to preach acceptance and openness and all that. And yes, in a big picture sense, that's for the good. Except that in the process she's made a record which is, like the Lex says, very sincere and direct. And I always liked the playfulness, the masks, the sense of theatre to Gaga - even before I came to like the music. Then, once the music had me snared, I liked its strangeness. So what I don't especially need is a record that, more even than the Madonna comparisons which only really apply to the title track, sounds to me like the filler on a Pink album, or the less exciting songs on Marc Almond's nineties Fantastic Star (this bit goes especially for 'Marry the Night' - "down the street that I love in my fishnet gloves I'm a sinner" and all). Oh well. At a less exalted level, Patrick Wolf also seems to have sacrificed much of his charming strangeness in pursuit of a wider crossover, and has also made his least exciting album in the process. In their defence, at least neither of them are the much-touted Wu Lyf, who sound like they're trying to rip off The Strange Death of Liberal England, who themselves were only quite good to begin with. If it hadn't been for the Wild Swans' beautifully English reunion album (and I wasn't even that big a fan of them first time around), it would have been a sorry few months for music.

Watched two films this week. Freedomland was a quiet little urban drama; Samuel L Jackson and Julianne Moore were the marquee names, but it's awash with Wire alumni - based on a book by Richard Price, plus supporting turns from Herc, Lester and one of the Season 4 kids, as well as a bonus Carmela Soprano. Much more about individual responsibility than The Wire ever was, and with slightly Hollywood direction at times, but still, it felt like it was telling a truth about life as it is lived at the bottom. Not something you'd expect to be true of X-Men: First Class too, but its motor is the contrast between well-meaning, moneyed chump Charles Xavier (James McAvoy's take, at his best, comes across like the Eleventh Doctor if he weren't scared of girls, but at other points has terrible echoes of David Cameron's blase side) and Magneto. Magneto, who has seen life and people as they are at their worst, who has survived the concentration camps, and has seen what 'humanity' really means. Magneto, who has cool powers, and uses them to kill Nazis, which makes them even cooler (though sadly we only see flesh wounds for communists). Magneto who - eventually - even has a better version of the outfit than Ian McKellen (not something I say lightly given the strength of McKellen's performance). Magneto who, as per the t-shirt I wore to the cinema, was right. This is the first time in the films we've met a human who's not a dick - Moira. spoilers ) Third-best X-Men film? Which given the second remains my favourite superhero film ever, isn't bad.

Any other business? Bevan 17, still ace. Finally seen the Inevitable Pinhole Burns. Finally been to St Pancras Old Churchyard. The weather seems to have paused its wild mood swings and just settled for Nice And Summery. Life's not bad.
alexsarll: (Default)
Went back to Bright Club last week for the first time since talking there; you do start regarding the talks with something of a professional's eye, but I think I would have laughed at the bioengineer and disdained the sociolinguist just the same without my experience. Josie Long, meanwhile, made the ideal compere. Well, joint-ideal with Ince, maybe. Then on Wednesday the patchily amusing Your Highness - possibly the first time I've ever seen a film marketed around its comic character actor lead stolen by the straight man. I can see why James Franco winds people up, he does seem to be infuriatingly good at everything to which he sets his mind.

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

You know how when Green Wing started, it was generally slated, with people complaining that it was more silly than funny? And how gradually the tide of opinion changed, and people realised that it was just painting a very strange little world, and people were going back and catching up on what they'd missed? And now there's Campus from the same team, it's being generally dismissed in the same terms Green Wing initially was?I'm wondering (albeit not enough to actually go Google-digging) whether it's really the same critics, and they are that incapable of learning from their own mistakes.
alexsarll: (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)
I was in a radio version of The Oxford Dons. You can download it here. But change the price to zero before doing so.

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

I've watched two films this past week: Kevin Smith and Seth Rogen's Zack and Miri make a P0rno, which is a lot better than I'd heard, and Hot Tub Time Machine, which isn't. Both have Craig Robinson, an actor I have never knowingly seen before (though apparently he was in Pineapple Express), in supporting roles. This may be the least noteworthy coincidence ever, yet I am noting it nonetheless, because that's just how I roll.
alexsarll: (magneto)
I've got a suede jacket which I love but hardly ever wear, because it needs really specific conditions - a fairly cold day, but also one with no chance of rain. Which would appear to be exactly the conditions you get if Spring is interrupted by a massive volcanic eruption. I hope we don't get a reprise of the Year Without A Summer, but for now, I'm rather enjoying this little apocalypse.

Went to see a band called Thee Faction last night; the backstory appealed to the Devant/Kalevala fan in me. They say they were a socialist R&B band who, in 1985, ended up trapped in the collapsing Soviet sphere - they can't reveal the full details under the 30 Year Rule. They have onstage ideological arguments, and the photocopied fanzine interview handed out on the door (worth the price of admission on its own, even if said money hadn't gone to an MS charity) has them getting into a punch-up over Althusser. The only problem is, I'm not sure if the schtick is quite enough to sustain a ten song set (including the bourgeois pantomime of an encore). Which is a pity because the best of the songs - especially 'I'm The Man' and 'I Can See The Future' - are very good indeed.

Obviously any film which the Mail described as featuring "one of the most disturbing icons and damaging role-models in the history of cinema" was going to be worth seeing. And even while I was reading the comic, I suspected Kick-Ass was going to work better as on screen. But then I started hearing about various changes they'd made and thinking, hang on, I'm not so sure about this. Turns out that with one exception, I had nothing to worry about - and it feels great finally to have a film of a specific comic - as opposed to a character, distilled - where rather than telling people that they should read the original, I can instead honestly tell them that they needn't bother. Because the changes aren't random, or based on some studio exec's supposed wisdom; they were made carefully and with an agenda. The comic shows you why nobody's tried to be a superhero; the film asks instead. Which is a much more dangerous message, but also a stronger one. Audience sizes aside, the comic was never going to inspire a real Kick-Ass; I think the film just might. spoilers ) Hell, if I'm going to pick one hole in the tech, it's that a film set in late 2007 has the main online communication be via Myspace.

At times like this I am reminded why I was so excited about Obama: "A landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it."
alexsarll: (Default)
In the heart of town yesterday, it felt like spring - people starting to be that little bit less wrapped up, their skin breathing again and their glances no longer guarded against the winds of winter. I was there to make my first ever visit to the Prince Charles (good seats) and watch Miyazaki's latest, Ponyo. Which is at once nonsense, and a thing of joy and wonder. Miyazaki seems almost to take it as read that we know his themes by now, so there are nods to concepts like humanity's careless pollution of nature, or the grave consequences of taking reaction against that too far and becoming anti-human, without any apparent need to explore them. Instead we just get cute stuff, and exciting bits, and cute exciting bits. Having initially seemed like it was trying to set the new benchmark for mildness of peril, it builds into the sort of apocalyptic pastoral you might expect from JG Ballard if he'd ended up writing for In the Night Garden.
Plus, it omits the usual Miyazaki high-point of a flying sequence - but only because, when you've got underwater to play with, every movement can be a flying sequence of sorts. The underwater sequences here being so gloriously full of life and light that suddenly Finding Nemo looks almost bleak and minimalist in comparison.

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

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

*Earthshock in-joke which probably doesn't even work in print, but sod it. It does have its moments but we spent most of it taking the piss.
**Still not online so far as I can see.
alexsarll: (howl)
Have abandoned the whole 'last two weeks' comics idea, because after a month we're round again to mostly the same titles and I would say mostly the same things. But I will mention that in the back of one was a preview of what I believe to be Jonathan Ross' first comic after many years as a fan and advocate. Turf looks rather gorgeous, as you'd expect from Tommy Lee Edwards (last seen on Mark Millar's 1985, but the writing's not letting it down either. It also looks promisingly kitchen sink, not in the sense of 'drama' so much as 'everything but the'. From a mere five pages, it looks as if it's going to be a Prohibition-era New York gangster story. In which one of the gangs is vampire. And then an alien spaceship crashes into Manhattan.
(No idea why talking about gangsters should seem like it naturally leads into this, but another reason I'm glad the weather has cheered up is that lately I've really been getting into Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely, and if it were still raining all the time, that might have been the end of me)

Otherwise, I've spent much of the week out East, one way or another. Not East London - I've gone no further that way than Stroud Green Library - but the Orients of the imagination. At said library, for the talk I plugged on Monday, John Man (who turned out to be a very dapper local gent) explained how he'd been researching the site, and talking to architects, and he was now on course to rebuild Xanadu! Except when you traced back Coleridge's "stately pleasure dome", it turns out to have been a sort of bamboo marquee. The only nearby river, not called the Alph, is unmolested by caverns measureless to man, and is in fact a rather sluggish stream - imagine the New River minus the plastic bags. I was happier with the fragments of Coleridge's opium dream.
The week's main prose reading, meanwhile, was Daniel Abraham's A Betrayal in Winter. Having realised how mined-out the pseudo-mediaeval crypto-Europe is as a setting for fantasy, Abraham has instead created a wonderfully ornate echo of the Orient (it helps that he's extremely good at writing smell and taste, and this is a world which smells a lot more of green tea than blood and iron). He has constrained himself to one outright fantastic invention - this is a world where a poet who describes a concept well enough may conjure it into life as a spirit to do his bidding - but in this book the main mover is the fratricidal succession customs of his ruling class. In fact if not in principle, plenty of our own world's monarchies shared this, and even now something not dissimilar is pretty much enshrined in corporate life (the very occasional outright appeals to this are the book's only weak moments). The dehumanising effect of this, and by extension of any society which founds itself on unbridled competition within formal parameters, are brilliantly delineated; characters make bad decisions through the terrifyingly inescapable gravity of their histories and their situation, not because the plot requires them to do something stupid. This contrasted with the much-praised The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I read a week or two back. There, when one character doesn't call the police, he's not calling the police because otherwise the book would have no denouement, so he temporarily becomes a headstrong idiot. Here, you're always *wishing* a character would make a different decision, while knowing that realistically, they can't.
Finally, I watched Miyazaki the Younger's Tales from Earthsea, in which an Easterner takes a resolutely non-Western fantasy...and transplants it to the timeless Europe his father created. I suppose in manga the Japanese look Western anyway, and Sparrowhawk is at least slightly swarthy, so it's not quite as egregious as the whited-up live action version of a few years back. It is, however, a bit of an unwieldy mess. Where I remember le Guin's books, or at least the original trilogy, being quite profound in their concept of the world's Balance - and where Miyazaki senior's films often advance something similar in a way which seems implicitly right, here it just comes across as the mystical hippy b0ll0cks common to third-rate anime. There are moments of beauty, to be sure, but overall it's too long and too dull and too generic. I hope he may learn and one day be worthy of his father's crown, but for now I can only be glad dad didn't quit film-making after all (not that I've seen Ponyo yet).
alexsarll: (Default)
Hurrah, the calendar and the climate are both agreed: it's Spring! Which after a week and weekend of that incessant, spirit-sapping, confining-to-quarters rain, is very much what I need. And this evening I get to walk through Stroud Green proper - which is always at its best on Spring evenings and Autumn mornings - because it is on my way to a very handily placed talk on Xanadu by John Man.

The weekend: busy. Friday was Bou Tea then Poptimism then the first Cheeze & Whine, which surprised me by being how clubs used to be, ie strangers coming - but then actually dancing and getting into it and flirting with your mates. Because as much as I like the sprawling, overlapping webs in which I often move, sometimes it's refreshing to have an evening that's a bit more...exogamous? Then back to TOTP Towers where apparently I spent an hour shouting about Menswear, then fell asleep. Sounds like me. I also insisted that [livejournal.com profile] xandratheblue read All-Star Superman. She was not the weekend's only victim, either. Since I've mentioned it, that goes for all of you too. It's not that Superman is necessarily dull, it's just that until this nobody had ever done him right before.
On Saturday I was essentially ruined. I staggered out for drinks and then a party but was present in body more than mind; by the end of it I was so shattered that I took the lazy and profligate decision to get the bus back even though I was only in Seven Sisters. Poor show. Sunday saw me recovered, ish, just in time to get messed up on Space Raiders and cans at SF Film Day. Iron Man is still as good as I thought it was, Blade Runner gets better every time I see it even if the Final Cut is barely any different to the Director's, and the Star Trek prequel/reboot was a lot better than I expected given I hate Star Trek. I was only really interested in watching it for Simon Pegg, who was of course excellent, but Karl Urban as McCoy was possibly even better, and I love how they get around the problem of prequels by establishing early on that the actions of the film have altered the timeline - hence, jeopardy is restored.
Then we finished up with some crazy-ass Justice League set on Apokolips which meant explaining Jack Kirby to people in between giggling about Highfather 'communing with the Source'.
alexsarll: (menswear)
I've had a couple of serendipitous library finds recently. Having mentioned Seth Fisher a couple of weeks back, I came across the last collection of his work I hadn't read at the weekend. Which meant I had Batman: Snow there to read as the snow whirled down this week. As with his other work, it's only really worth it for the art - who else would ever have given Alfred bunny pyjamas and an expressive combover? JH Williams III is credited as co-plotter, but on this evidence should stick to the artwork too, because I'm still not convinced that Mr Freeze can ever be anything more than DC's second best cold-themed villain.
A couple of weeks earlier, I'd finally found Robert Macfarlane's The Wild Places, which came out a couple of years back. I've known Rob on and off since school and, unlike some acquaintances whose rise to celebrity status is face-crunchingly irksome (mentioning no names, Rick the Fister) his emergence as a sort of all-weather public intellectual has been as gratifying as it is richly deserved. This wander around Britain in search of wildness - and a definition of what 'wildness' might even mean - was, for me, a much more satisyfing book than his debut, Mountains of the Mind, and I was left wondering why it hadn't been picked up for TV.
So in Saturday's paper, there's Rob explaining how it's been narrowed down to Essex, and filmed, and will be on TV tonight. Which is handy. I also note that immediately afterwards is a show about the different orders of infinity - a concept I can just about handle, except that it's narrated by Steven Berkoff, which seems unduly sadistic.
(The Wild Places was also one of of two consecutive non-fiction books I read to mention Nevil Maskelyne. Not either of the two stage magicians of that name, of whom I am aware through the wartime illusionism and being contemporaries of David Devant, although I can never quite keep them separate in my head - but the Astronomer Royal at the opening of Richard Holmes' Age of Wonder, their presumable ancestor. What a dynasty!)

Also: one of the problems with/interesting side effects of Google Alerts is that you're kept informed of the activities of namesakes. I know an awful lot more than I used to about the fireman Alan Moore, for instance. And today, I learn of a stem cell scientist Alan Moore who is involved with a project called 'Regenesis', also the title of a Swamp Thing collection - albeit not one of Moore's, but the six Veitch issues which immediately followed him.
alexsarll: (crest)
Another fine Don't Stop Moving on Saturday, even if our hostess [livejournal.com profile] angelv was too unwell to make it, poor thing. Between the weather outside (if you hadn't noticed, it's a bit nippy) and the Camden Head's tendency to be a bit of a sweatbox I didn't know what best to wear, so ended up with the open-shirt-over-T-shirt look for the first time in ages. A lot of that about these past few days; I also went sledging for the first time in I don't know how long on Friday. I'd gone in search of a sledge on Snow Day 2009 but everywhere which might have sold one was shut on account of the snow, and I can't recall any other opportunities since I've been in London, so it could easily have been a decade. Went down to Richmond Park which always seems quite hilly, but when you specifically want a slope they suddenly prove elusive. We found one in the end, though, and one marked by a ramp constructed at the top to help get that little extra speed at the beginning which makes all the difference between 'OK' and 'GERONIMO!' Oh, I've missed it. But with the way the climate's going, I doubt I'll have to wait so long again, even if by this time next decade we will probably be using the carcasses of rival tribes instead.
With the light glittering off the snow - that unearthly orange when the sun's overhead, shifting purply-pink as it sinks to the horizon - and the parakeets brilliant green against the white background, it went some way to redeem the book I'd taken for the trip, JG Ballard's The Crystal World. Which is only the second novel I've read of his, and has all the problems of the other, Crash. He's a brilliant maker of settings or images - here, a flaw in time which has resulted in a spreading area within the African jungle becoming "that enchanted world, where by day fantastic birds fly through the petrified forest and jewelled crocodiles glitter like heraldic salamanders on the banks of the crystalline rivers". But then he doesn't quite know what to do with them so we get these rather blank characters being pointedly ambiguous as they wander around trying to show the settings to best advantage. Worse, he then starts to tell, not show, as he explains the schematic by which they're driven: "for a man so uncertain of his real nature, you can be very calculating"; "Outside this forest everything seems polarized, does it not, divided into black and white? Wait until you reach the trees, Doctor - there, perhaps, these things will be reconciled for you". Because the crystals make everything all rainbow instead, DO YOU SEE?

Something else I'd not done for a long time: watch South Park. My parents had insisted I should watch Imaginationland, then forgot, but [livejournal.com profile] xandratheblue obliged and...yes, it's still hilarious. And you can still defend it as satire if you're embarrassed about laughing at silly stuff. Calling it 'shocking' is a cliche, but one thing did shock me - all the copyrighted characters running around. Totoro, Snarf, a bunch of DC heroes...for sure, there are satire exemptions in the US, but I've read a ton of US-published satires of the Justice League which still had to use analogues of Flash, Superman and Wonder Woman, not the real (or real imaginary) things.
(And I've since seen an EDF ad for some new eco-tariff which not only uses Superman, but gets in footage from what looks to be every film and TV incarnation of the character. For a big name I could understand it, but EDF?)

A Facebook friend has directed me to a way around Spotify's invite process; obviously, as I have an account I can't confirm it still works,but I offer it in the hope it does. The great thing about Spotify is that now you can listen to albums you wouldn't even have bothered stealing. Consider The Kinks' ill-adised rock opera Soap Opera, a rather clunking satire on the celebrity machine. As a product of one of the great bands of the sixties (it's basically between them, the Stones and the Zombies for the crown), I want to hear it. But, given how much better stuff they made, and how much great music other people made, and how much my heart is already pledged elsewhere, then realistically, within a hundred-year span, I'm only going to want to listen to Soap Opera a handful of times. Is it really worth having it sat on my hard drive all the rest of that time? Nope. And this way, Ray Davies may eventually see thruppence ha'penny from my listens, and I wish him well of it.
alexsarll: (Default)
So I've finally taken Foxbase Alpha out of the CD player - but only to swap in another St Etienne reissue and start reading London Belongs To Me. I vaguely recall hearing that it was the film rather than the book which inspired their song of the same name (see also 'Wuthering Heights'), but the book feels a lot like an old British film anyway, the sort of black&white minor classic BBC2 shows during the daytime. It has the same sort of narrator, wise but homely, timeless and omniscient but thoroughly rooted - "And what about Percy? After all, it was his morning as much as anybody's else. How is he getting on by now? Well, take a look in his bedroom and see for yourself."
It's also the exact sort of slice of life, state of the nation cross-section which I so despise in the modern middlebrow literary novel. And yet, somehow the distance makes that less of a problem (maybe now it's half-forgotten it has found its level). This even though being published in 1945 yet set in 1938-9 gives it the same pseudo-prescience about the war which I felt lessened Patrick Hamilton's Hangover Square (and Hamilton is the closest other writer I know to Norman Collins, about whom I know nothing except that he wrote London Belongs To Me.
That's all pretty ambivalent, isn't it? And I'm not entirely sure why I'm still reading this, but I am, and fairly certain I'm going to read all 700 plus pages, and I think a lot of that is just down to that narratorial voice, and how well it suits London, and how if you can get London right I'll forgive an awful lot else.
(Timing may have helped too, in that it starts at Christmas. In December I kept reading things which I hadn't realised finished at Christmas - from Ian Hunter's Diary of a Rock'n'Roll Star to Batman: The Resurrection of R'as al Ghul and X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Now, another timely choice)

On the whole, it's been a gentle week so far - a milkshake under the Angel's wings, slow progresses through the ice and snow. I missed frolics in the snow yesterday because I assumed there'd be at least another day of it (slightly mistaken, but nevermind, eh?) and because I had a prior appointment for a Doctor Who binge. My route did take me through Clissold Park, though, and I can only assume that young people in Stoke Newington don't play enough violent computer games, because their aim with snowballs is dreadful. But, Doctor Who. In reverse order of merit:
Timelash: any arse who says that the new series isn't as good as the old should be forced to watch this, repeatedly, until they admit the error of their ways. Technobabble, crappy sets, an incoherent plot, risible monsters...Paul Darrow hamming it up is about the only thing which salvages matters, because Colin Baker is trying his best but there's really not much to work with. DVD also features a Making Of in which all the survivors blame the producer and director, who are safely dead, which is cowardly but fun.
The Sontaran Experiment: Tom Baker, Sarah Jane (in a less stylish wardrobe than she now boasts) and hopeless buffoon Harry Sullivan fall down holes and are pursued by a camp robot for two episodes. It was originally meant to be six. Dear heavens. The Sontarans here are not so much a warrior race as galactic bureaucrats (they can't invade without a proper risk assessment). They're not as short as nowadays, but the faces are even sillier.
An Unearthly Child: the unaired pilot version of the very first episode. This is where it all began and the focus on the human characters is closer to the new series than a lot of what came in between. Parts of it still send shivers up the spine, and not just from nostalgia.
City of Death: Tom Baker and Mrs Richard Dawkins charge around Paris at the show's peak, even if the plot by Scaroth, last of the Jagaroth, doesn't make a lick of sense. The DVD also has a fly-on-the-wall documentary following Sardoth, second-to-last of the Jagaroth, as he tries to make a life for himself in the British countryside ("EU rules oblige the government to give Sardoth an enormous house"). It's funny, but not quite as funny as Douglas Adams' script for the episode proper.

Brilliant if too-short interview with Andy Serkis. Apparently method posture for his portrayal of Ian Dury has left him with a "massive weird muscle" in his groin, and Ian's widow and son both responded to early drafts with "He's so much darker, so much more of a cvnt than this". For all that rock biopics tend to disappoint me (so samey), I may make an exception here.
alexsarll: (Default)
So here I sit in the library on a dismal day at the fag-end of a decade on which nobody quite seems able to put their finger, but a decade at the start of which I wouldn't have been sat writing anything like this, having been strictly a messageboards and emails boy. The post-christmas milestones have been passed; thank you to all who made my birthday, and I remain amazed that the Freaky Trigger pub crawl could find an OK and a great pub within minutes of where I worked for eight years but neither of which I had ever entered (and about how many viable post-apocalyptic Ant&Dec TV formats there are, but over that topic it is probably best to draw a veil). Which means now it's just about waiting out the last 36 hours. Back home, my CD player currently contains one of the first great albums of the previous decade, St Etienne's Foxbase Alpha (albeit in that most noughties of formats, the 2CD deluxe reissue) and a burned copy (the second most noughties format) of what may be one of the next decade's first great albums, the new one from Los Campesinos!. I have no idea what I'm saying here, I just felt the moment should be marked, even if it's not much of a moment.

Le sigh

Dec. 21st, 2009 01:18 pm
alexsarll: (bernard)
Snow ahead of Christmas...it's been a while, hasn't it? Proper blizzards of the stuff sometimes, even if by morning it always seems to be mere ice and slush. Which has slowed me down a little, made me less prone to randomly striding about the place, but is nothing like as claustrophobic as having my laptop suddenly keel over on me. Updating from the library now, I can occasionally get a little life out of it but it still feels like something between losing a sense and having the walls close in on you.

The last normal weekend of the noughties, and I started it by going to a nineties night. Then on Saturday, a glam night. Really Sunday should have followed with a fifties night and Monday be set for a thirties event, but nothing suitable was available (though Eddie Argos was just back from Nuremberg, and come to think of it, if Holland Park yesterday didn't feel quite fifties, it didn't feel like the modern day either. West London is weird). The glam night wasn't all seventies, they played 'Glam Rock Cops' and 'Christmas Number One' too, and Glam Chops are technically a noughties band, but when you have Proxy Music playing, that tends to outweigh other factors. When their James Nesbit-a-like Eno took the mic for 'Baby's On Fire', [livejournal.com profile] cappuccino_kid noted that it was a bit like a Smiths tribute act doing 'Getting Away With It'. Which it is, and that would also be awesome. He also proposed an act who, instead of this emphasis on the early material, only cover the last three albums: Roxy Muzak.

Recent viewing:
Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster is the most straightforward of the three films of his I've seen, the closest to a normal B-movie, but it still has moments of the peculiarity only he could bring, most notably the police chief's budgie.
Dollhouse has finally moved away from 'generic TV action format of the week', and even scaled back the sheer rapiness of the concept (they're all volunteers for mindwipes, for a given value of 'volunteer', and get paid off after five years. So that's OK then). It's even had two consecutive episodes with actual plot and progress and, y'know, *watchability*.
Hung ended with the ex-wife plotline we'd all seen coming months back, and I'm hoping the next season dials down the sex comedy aspects (particularly since our gigolo lead never even seems to get any really unattractive clients) and puts more emphasis on the industrial collapse, the death of the American dream and the rest of the properly HBO stuff.
Misfits demonstrated its distance from Heroes even further by going from strength to strength, ending with possibly its best episode. Can someone please put a backing track on Nathan's big speech? Because I loved it and I want to dance to it.
alexsarll: (Default)
"The Portugese have done what? Ensign, activate War Plan Lemon." Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] alasdair posting the 50 most interesting articles on Wikipedia, though given one item on that list is a subsidiary item of another, really it's only 49. I already knew about 12 of the...things is really the only word...which they cover, and a couple of them I don't think are all that, but I doubt anyone could fail to find something splendidly odd and new in there somewhere.

Martin Gore called as expert witness on sadness, alienation, as gamer sues World of Warcraft.

Everything else I had to say, I've already said in Facebook status updates and I don't like duplicating material. Good clouds today, though.
alexsarll: (menswear)
Saturday night: a double bill of bands whose videos I've been in, so I was expecting to get mobbed by Youtube enthusiasts but people just seemed to watch the bands instead. I suppose they are both ace, so fair enough. If further proof were needed, I heard Loyd Grossman tell Brontosaurus Chorus "that was really good" in his actual Loyd Grossman voice. Didn't stick around for his band, though. Watching Loyd Grossman's pub rock band is a bit like shagging the Queen - worth it for the pub anecdote if you've got nothing else on, but if there's another offer you'd enjoy, it's just perverse. Of course, that did also mean missing Mr Solo but hey, it's only a fortnight since I saw him. The Queen-shagging analogy doesn't extend to that bit, I don't think. But off to Don't Stop Moving for pop we went. Whenever I go to two things with music in one night, however varied the remits, there will always be at least one song played at both, and this time it was 'Uptown Top Ranking'. Not the Black Box Recorder version, alas. In between playing 'Identify What The Own-Brand Confectionery Is Imitating' (and usually very well, both as in I guessed them all and they were all indistinguishable in taste from their more famous prototypes) I danced rather a lot, including twice to Lady Gaga's 'Bad Romance'. I think that, helped by the Camden Head's pleasingly overpowered soundsystem, I may be on the verge of being worn down/won over.

On Friday I wasn't going to go out because of the storm, but then it hit me - that's precisely the reason to go out, because hearing the great wind batter against the windows is fun but seeing the leaves lashed by air and water, the hurrying shadows from the Fullback's smoking pagoda is so much better. The best moment came when one gust caught a pub table umbrella, sending it pirouetting high into the air - and then plummeting clumsily down the central well, like the suicide of a ballerina attempting one final gesture against gravity. Except obviously I didn't say that at the time, going instead with 'oh my god' followed by 'sack the juggler'.

Thursday was the release party for the new issue of Phonogram, except it's not out yet because of some printing cock-up, but I did end up with an issue anyway. Don't bother trying to follow that. The point is, I think this is my favourite issue of The Singles Club. I said earlier on in the series, and [livejournal.com profile] azureskies notes from the other end here, that with this prismatic run of individual experiences of a night, it's not so much about the craft of the comic, because that runs at a consistently high standard; it's about which issues are your experiences, your people, your bands. And of all the music so far (yes, even 'Atomic') my favourite is the Long Blondes. This issue reminds me why, while also reminding me why I took them off my MP3 player - "My life is neither as good or bad as a Long Blondes song, but I have the sense and understanding that perhaps...well, perhaps one day it may be". More so even than the work of Greg Dulli, they are music to do bad things to. And yet after this issue, the first album is back on the MP3 player.
(Also out this week from Gillen and (partially) McKelvie, S.W.O.R.D. which Gillen correctly describes as His Girl Friday in space. Top fun, but I think I may enjoy it even more once the obligatory Dark Reign tie-in is out of the way because for all that it was a timely and smart direction for the Marvel Universe, I am starting to get a leetle tired of it)

The House Beautiful is having the Bathroom Slightly Grotty renovated, which while it's not before time, is mildly inconvenient in the meantime, especially what with me not needing to be at a job during the day or anything because of the whole 'epochal depression' business. Meaning that by the time I'd normally be surfacing in the morning, today I had already showered, dressed and watched Hard Candy. I remember this being much praised at the time - a hard-hitting but thoughtful and taut drama about paedophilia. Mainly, though, I just found myself thinking that now To Catch A Predator does the entrapment bit for real, TV doesn't exactly need this, and that as a two-hander which mostly takes place in one house, it would work much better as a play.
Also, I totally failed to register that the male lead was the guy who played Nite Owl.
alexsarll: (crest)
Autumn's here, isn't it? The leaves have been falling tentatively for a while, but the chill came on Thursday night (after Glam Racket, which had played a song that would also appear at Poptimism, but because it's an instrumental and nobody else was at both, I have no way of knowing what it was), and then yesterday the barbeque had to move inside earlier than you'd think, and not just because the incompetent cat was too distracting, and then in the Open Air Theatre (and what a magical little grotto that is after dark, I've only previously been for a daytime Romeo & Juliet where if the weather wasn't wet, the leads certainly were) Daniel Kitson told a story about a story about Upper Thwackley, a lovely little village with an unusually high population of assassins, and in Upper Thwackley it was snowing and we could feel that winter on its way. A beautiful story, about a funny story - not something many people could carry off with a largely half-cut audience at midnight on Saturday.

Last time I tried to watch Stalin-son-com Children of the Revolution, my tape cut out halfway through because some asinine sport or other had over-run in the usual rude fashion which should see the whole pack of them exiled to specialist channels. Last Saturday it was shown again, and this time when it was promised. I love those weird low-key Australian comedies, which interchange the same set of actors (Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill and Brenda Griffiths are all in this one) and have the same...deadpan's not quite the word, but there's a sensibility there which really works for me. The latter half was maybe not quite so good; well, it was for a while, but towards the end the serious fact that a lot of Western communists genuinely did believe the USSR was a good thing starts to overwhelm the comedy a little. Which may be correct, but is also inartistic; I don't let Wilde's rules on these things slide just because I agree with a given agenda.

"My local Oxfam throws out hundreds of books every month. Before they are binned, the front covers are ripped off, or the first few pages torn out, so no one else can benefit. There are three other charity shops within a radius of 100 yards – any one would welcome these books and probably arrange to collect."
Anyone who purposely renders a book unreadable is scum. Godwin be damned, this makes comparing Oxfam to the Nazis entirely fair game as far as I'm concerned.

In other news, my Tyranid army had their first outing this week and the lead monster punched a tank's face off. Geek relapsing is awesome.

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