alexsarll: (default)
Went to the eerie free-standing church tower in Crouch End last night for an evening of music and ghost stories. They had it done up wonderfully, at once properly uncanny and not too terrifying for such kids as were brought along...and then blew it completely. The first teller seemed to be reading his tale for the first time, and it wasn't like the material was going to save him when it had Mayor Richard Whittington in the 17th century (or, at one point, the 19th) and gargoyles falling where no gargoyle had been. Site-specificity is not a cheap way to add heft, it needs work. We left still disagreeing over whether the subsequent cellist's faux-rap was outright racist, or just really shit. A missed opportunity.

Last weekend, though - that was the first big weekend of the summer. You could even measure it from Wednesday (because normally Thursday is the new Friday, and I had Friday off) when, in a happier use of a normally disregarded space, the funny little community hall on Whittington Park hosted Philip Jeays' comeback show. At first a little uncertain after 18 months away, by the end he looked ten years younger and reminded what a gift he has. The support included two acts who were good if they were character comedy and alarming if they were not, plus - most unusually - a quite good poet, Sophia Blackwell. Don't think I've seen that happen since Murray Lachlan Young.

Then into the long weekend proper, celebrating lovely [livejournal.com profile] xandratheblue's birthday. First comedy; Josie Long (whom I'd never seen do a full set before) and Thom Tuck. Thom's show this year didn't make me laugh so hard I couldn't breathe, unlike his last one (and unlike John-Luke Roberts, who with Nat Metcalfe had done the first Edinburgh preview show I caught this year - yay local comedy mafia). But it's lingering with me like few comedy shows I've seen. I'd like him to get famous, at least cultishly Kitson-style (because I somehow can't see him doing arenas). Then on Friday, to East London and its already famous (though oddly, not to other cult East London businesses) cat cafe. Which does indeed have a lot of cats, even if only two of them seemed particularly keen to talk to us. I suppose if you wanted guaranteed friendliness, you'd have a dog cafe instead. Up to the Geffrye Museum, one of the dwindling band of London museums I'd never visited (it has good chairs), and pubwards for the evening. Saturday, picnic; no pinata this year, but my first ever go on Cards Against Humanity, which is every bit as excellent as the Daily Mail's hatred of it suggests. Plus, someone brought a dog! See above re: friendliness thereof.

On Sunday, because it was if anything an even lovelier sunny day, I went to sit in a municipal building to listen to a grumpy man. But it was Jonathan Meades, one of our finest grumpy men, so that's OK. The Stoke Newington Literary Festival is somehow even more North London than I'd expected; you even get given a free atheist periodical on the way in.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Last weekend, I got the equivalent of one of those experiences where people who baffle me go into a sauna (bad enough in itself), then run out into the snow. Saturday night: the first big gig I've been too in a year or more, Crystal Castles. Who at least have an audience smaller than those at the last big gig I went to, Magazine - they mostly appeared to be tiny children with brightly-coloured hair or Siouxsie Sioux eye make-up, which makes for an adorable agglomerate. Brixton Academy remains a great venue, despite the management's best efforts, and Crystal Castles continue to be one of the few modern electronic bands who really impress me, on account of having a bit of Digital Hardcore somewhere in their make-up - that old idea of a song at once physically painful and catchy. Plus, all the lightshow one generally only sees at gigs which are supposed to be A Bit Much in films. In short: delicious overstimulation. And then, on Sunday, Boring, a day of talks devoted to the mundane. Obviously the idea is that considered in enough detail, the most superficially tedious things can reveal fascination - or terror, in the case of ASMR, a subculture of which I was happily unaware before [livejournal.com profile] rhodri's talk.
Conclusion: they were both lots of fun. But I still have no intention of rushing out of a sauna into the snow, thanks all the same.

Otherwise: went for a wander with Paynter and found various odd little London delights along our way, all of which were supposed to be closed but, because it was one of those evenings, weren't. Such as a Soho gallery full of clocks become castles, and mutant taxidermy. Or an enormous free tire slide plonked in Leicester Square as promotion for a film where Wolverine plays the Easter Bunny. Finally managed to beat Charlie Higson and David Arnold at the pub quiz - but on a week where they weren't on form, so as to still only make third. Perhaps we shouldn't have named ourselves after a supervillain team, given their success rate? Saw the Pre-Raphaelite and Turner Prize exhibitions, each containing some good stuff alongside a great deal of embarrassing filler, though obviously the dead guys' ratio was a bit better. Went to another gig, at more my usual level, where Joanne Joanne were again delightful (they've started to incorporate songs from the cocaine soul years now), and Shrag played their song very well. Went on a Tubewalk, and discovered that in Lambeth it's easier to find leopard pigs than a bearable pub; the first was playing the sort of jazz that gives jazz a bad name, the second too full and too gastro for words (and had signs urging us to 'follow our banter online'), and the third was set on closing half of its floorspace for no apparent reason. And they wonder why people prefer to drink at home now.

The Guard is a black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson, a man whose face is so expressive that I could happily watch a film of him doing his weekly shop. It somehow comes across as low key in spite of all the swearing and violence - much like In Bruges, which also stars him and whose director is The Guard's director's brother. Also like In Bruges, the rest of the cast is packed with great actors - Liam Cunningham, Mark Strong as a particularly philosophical drug dealer, Don Cheadle as the FBI agent out of water in rural Ireland. Strangely moving, unlike How to Steal a Million, which I'd seen years ago and which is still as gorgeously empty as prime Wodehouse, a beautiful insubstantial rainbow which would evaporate without Peter O'Toole and Audrey Hepburn anchoring it by sheer charm. Both are of course vastly better than Prometheus, two hours of sound and fury signifying nothing but the bleeding obvious. But then, I've already discussed that on Facebook, haven't I? The same place we all now tend to put anything pithy, anything intended to get a mass response. The latest wave of spambots has taken me back to a few old entries on here, just to delete their spoor, and I'm amazed each time by what a busy poster I was. So young, too - there's a spot of anti-RTD hysteria in one of the entries I saw which makes me sound about 12. Even some of the longer, more considered content isn't here anymore - my book reviews are on Goodreads now. And yet, this is kept going, in part simply because it has been kept going, and so it would seem crazy to abandon it now - a very London attitude, beyond which, I never did like lines drawn under the past. And I suppose now, unlike February, June, July and October 2012, I've made it at least one more month with more than a single post. Livejournal Abides.
alexsarll: (magnus)
So: DC have just relaunched their entire comics line. As part of a bold and/or desperate attempt to draw in new readers, a fictional world with a publication history stretching back to 1938 just began again from scratch*. Last month's Action Comics was issue 904; this month, like all their other comics, it resets to issue 1. The sense of a vast and complex, and in places beautiful, sandcastle erased by the tide is, of course, a little melancholy. But the advantage to this is that, whereas 1938's Action Comics 1 might have been the birthplace of Superman (and through him a concept - the superhero - which gave the West gods again after two millennia of a pallid Nazarene death cult)...it wasn't actually very good. Superman's creators, Siegel and Shuster, were pioneers, not professionals. 2011's Action Comics 1, on the other hand, is by Grant Morrison - visionary, comics scholar, and mad brilliant bastard. Unlike me, he likes the original Action Comics 1 - but he still retools it, makes something fit for modern purpose, compresses its kineticism and ambiguities down into something bright and shiny and *now*. This is Superman not as establishment superhero, a statuesque head of the superheroic pantheon, but as the bold young Horus-figure, the upsetter, the radical who takes down corrupt businessmen (just like Superman did back in the thirties, before being smoothed down). Whether this energy will last, I don't know, but the first issue is definitely the way to begin.

The rest of the relaunch...well, obviously I'm not buying all 52 titles, because some of them looked like guaranteed stinkers, and plenty more like strictly the sort of generic superheroics which I'll read from the library but wouldn't want cluttering the place up. Of the ones I have picked up, some of them don't seem to be bothering with the reboot angle very much no spoilers, but the ramble obligatory for any blog with comics content continues herein )In summary: I still have no idea what the Hell DC think they're doing, but they have managed to get five good comics out of it so far, which was more than they've managed any time in recent memory. So...yay?

*Well, sort of. This is part of what makes the entire enterprise even more puzzling - some of the events of the past 73 years of comics, already reset and tweaked multiple times, are still part of the universe's history. But we don't know which ones. And the in-story explanation for the reset means there are big, complicated, not-new-reader-friendly machinations behind the scenes, linking all the different comics to varying degrees. Which, again, is not really the way to win over a possible new reader who just saw The Dark Knight and wants to read a Batman comic.
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.

On top

Apr. 18th, 2011 07:59 pm
alexsarll: (magnus)
So that was the last two day weekend for a while, but it still managed to be large in spirit if not duration. Pulp hits from the Nuisance band, a leaving party in East 17 and then picnic action in Finsbury Park where, pleasingly, those horrid itchy white fuzz things are off the trees, meaning a wider range of climbing options for the season. Lovely. And I managed to fit in a viewing of Day of the Locust, one of Tinseltown's periodic bursts of self-flagellation, which starts out as a meandering slice of 1930s Hollywood life ("less a conventional film than it is a gargantuan panorama", said one wise critic), culminates in apocalypse, and yet never feels like it has betrayed its own inner logic. It also features a young Donald Sutherland as an uptight, spineless fellow called Homer Simpson. Which comes as quite a surprise the first couple of times his name comes up.

The American Library Association's list of the books the most people want banned is, as ever, composed largely of books which threaten to teach young people that sex is fun and homosexuality is perfectly normal. There is, though, one interesting anomaly: Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, which exposes the truth of life in the minimum wage, showing how big employers screw people and how, contrary to the corporate and political lies, a McJob will not improve your life. Apparently its 'political viewpoint' offended people; its 'religious viewpoint' also, presumably in that it emphasises what damage the Protestant work ethic has wrought. I wonder how many of the busybodies who objected to it were simply concerned private citizens, and how many were Wal-Mart managers, politicians keen on cutting benefit 'scrounging' and other interested parties?
(Continuing on the theme of 'USA WTF?', the finale of Sons of Anarchy's second series was a beautiful, brutal piece of television - until the very end, when it suddenly veered into utter silliness. And worse, silliness of a stripe which suggests that next season will see even more abominable attempts at Oirish accents. Foolish Sons of Anarchy!)

In the run of Neil Gaiman books, Interworld seems to be one of the ones people forget. Perhaps this is because it's co-written with someone other than Terry Pratchett? But I liked the one book I read by co-author Michael Reaves, and it was dirt cheap on Amazon, and so I thought I might as well take the plunge. And it's OK. The set-up: a kid finds that he can walk between parallel worlds, as can the versions of him on all the other parallel worlds. So most of the major characters are versions of the same person, teamed up to protect the multiverse. This means that Interworld joins Ulysses and China Mieville's 'Looking for Jake' on the short list of books I was planning to write before discovering that someone else had saved me the trouble. It's not as good as either of those, mind - and I was surprised not to find the twist I expected (ie, the one which my version would have had), in that the arch-villain didn't turn out to be yet another version of the protagonist. Still, it's a perfectly serviceable young adult romp, and now that story is out in the world I no longer feel any responsibility to it.
alexsarll: (howl)
Not that Nuisance ever sees much in the way of sobriety, but everyone seemed even drunker than usual on Friday; possibly because I'd already been for drinks beforehand at T Bird (which is good again! Hurrah), within an hour of arrival I found myself thinking what a beautiful ceiling the Monarch has. Yeah. That aside, it was largely a picnicky sort of weekend, the greyness of this August notwithstanding; on Saturday I was in Kensington Gardens with Stationery Club, and Sunday was Brumfields in Highgate Woods. Both had plenty of comedy passing dogs (especially Brumfields, where one joined in most tenaciously with a game of frisbee, and another snaffled two Jammy Dodgers in one mouthful), and other Local Colour en route. Alongside the Serpentine I saw a teenager on a penny farthing with no idea how to get off, and someone on rollerblades using an umbrella as a sail; in Highgate I was asked for directions by an unusually attractive tranny just as the Passage's polymorphously perverse 'XOYO' started up on the headphones. Then later, back along a Parkland Walk which seemed oddly still, even where someone was playing woodwind - not apparently for money - under one of the darker bridges.

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

I remember Jimmy McGovern's The Lakes being much-discussed in the nineties, mainly in terms of the sex. For whatever reason, I never saw it, but on a free trial of one of those DVD rental services I thought, well, John Simm stars, has to at least be worth a look, right? Only problem is, Simm is playing a scouser. Within minutes of his arrival in the Lake District, he's twice faced prejudice over this - ah, thinks I, this is about him showing the locals not all scousers are feckless gobshites. Except it rapidly becomes clear that he is; he's a thieving, idle little weasel who gets a local girl pregnant and whose compulsive gambling leads to the death of three kids. And Simm is still at least a little charming, but he gets that whiny voice down pat enough to almost extinguish it. Oh, I forgot to mention the music, which is like some nightmarish antimatter universe Nuisance; in the first episode alone, two major emotional scenes are soundtracked by Cast. There are some fine performances - especially the village priest - and lovely touches (some business with milk-sniffing, threaded lightly through the whole show, is astonishing) but overall it's a nasty, mean little show. And I really don't get why even my hormonal peers thought it was sexy.
alexsarll: (bernard)
A few weeks back I wrote about a Ray Bradbury story I read which made me feel terribly sad that in the intervening years we haven't made more progress into space. Bradbury himself just restated much the same thoughts, which is nice - but then, by a freakish transformation which would not be out of place in his own books, turned into a silly old fool. "We have too many cellphones. We've got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now." Oh dear.

I've been listening a lot lately to the Spoiler Alert! EP, the work of masked musicians who quite coincidentally resemble Eddie Argos and Keith TOTP. Now, as a rule I don't like songs which simply restate the plot of a book or film, because it tends to feel clodhoppingly Literary and a bit sixth form (hence 'The Seventh Seal' being a major reason why I think Scott 4 is the worst Scott Walker solo album called Scott). But possibly because of the sheer lunacy of this project - trying to fit decades of convoluted, multiple-writer backstory into one pop song, Spoiler Alert! works. In particular, the song about Booster Gold brings out an aspect of the comic which I'd never really considered - the extra layer of secret identity implicit in a hero who has to carry on acting like a berk around other heroes, while covertly saving all of space and time behind the scenes. And, it's a lovely song. Whether it will have any appeal whatsoever to the distressingly large proportion of people with no idea who Booster Gold is, I could not say.

Otherwise: I've seen the artist formerly known as [livejournal.com profile] verlaine, back from the frozen North for a quick visit; I've been up Primrose Hill for the first time this year, which proceeded to do a fairly good impression of said frozen North; and I've finally seen the British Library's maps exhibition, which is gorgeous but has the problem of all themed or single-artist exhibitions - after three or four rooms of beautiful, enormous old maps, whatever wonders are in the next room can't help but feel, quite unjustly, like more of the same.

Dreamwidth

May. 1st, 2009 12:17 pm
alexsarll: (menswear)
Why is half my friendspage posts about moving there? Have the Russian Overlords done something drastic, or is everyone just getting Gadarene on my ass in the spirit of these swinish times?

In other news: watched a bunch of Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes, and every story involved an animal as a crucial player in the crime. I'm now waiting for one in which the murderer is a quail with a blunderbuss.

The new Phonogram: I can see why everyone is getting Best Issue Ever about it, but feel less so, simply because while I can appreciate that it is an astonishingly well-constructed and resonant tale, Marc is essentially a fairly normal chap, and as such, not really like anyone I know. And a large part of why I love Phonogram is that the characters are the sort of people I might easily know.
(Really looking forward to the Mr Logos issue, though, if he gets one. He deserves one)
Gillen's contribution to this week's Dark Reign one-shot, on the other hand, is exactly the sort of thing I'm after, because the utter superciliousness of Namor...well, he's long been a role model of mine, clearly. Except for the (lack of) outfit. Peter Milligan's Loki effort and (surprisingly) Jonathan Hickman's Doom bit also very good, but I still don't really get why everyone loves Matt Fraction, and Rick Remender...well, his name sounds like 'remainder', which always put me off his comics, and this story gives me no reason to reconsider that.
alexsarll: (bernard)
Theory: neckties were not an echo of the Roman soldier's neck-rag in the past, but a precursor of earphone leads in the future. Which is why the period of their die-off coincides so closely with the gradual arrival of that for which they played John the Baptist.

Friday: to the Wilmington, where you must not step past the green pillar with your drink because of 'Residents'. No, not in the sense that eyeball-headed monsters will get you. Well, I don't think so. This in spite of the fact that the other side of the same residential block is a square solely occupied by teenage girls getting raucously drunk in a manner which would doubtless provoke an appalled Skins reference if the papers got hold of it. The other risk of being outside is that you get girls at that stage where you genuinely can't tell if they're mixed-race or just really overdid the fake tan trying to get you along to Venus 'nightclub' (and it shouldn't need saying, but that's arguably NSFW). Do they really get much success touting for that outside indie gigs?
The band bringing the drums were late, and aren't quite cute enough to make up for the lack of songs. Because of their lateness, no soundchecks: [livejournal.com profile] myfirstkitchen and her Maffickers are having monitor trouble but sound fine in the crowd. However, Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring seem to suffer, their usual magic tragically absent on a day when our hearts were full of spring. I decide that although I ought to check out headliners Cats on Fire, particularly now I've finally got it straight in my head that they aren't middle-class student wankers Cats in Paris (three of the top 10 Google results for that phrase lead you to blogs written by people I know called Steve), this is not the time, and hightail it to the Noble, where the Addlestones is now 10p more expensive, and tastes soapy.
Saturday: [livejournal.com profile] fugitivemotel's engagement party. The transition from the glorious, barely-even-evening sun of the walk down to the gentle gloom of the bar leaves me feeling suddenly sleepy, and I initially worry that the rape jokes are not giving his fiancee the best impression of his friends, but by evening's end we're siding with her in an argument, which should count for a lot.
Sunday: join the second half of a genteel Soho pub crawl compered by [livejournal.com profile] my_name_is_anna. Well, I think it's genteel, but I'm only half as drunk as the rest of them. Soho really is horrifically gentrified these days though, isn't it? Then up to the Noble again. Pints still priced too high, but no longer soapy. That's something.

Neil Gaiman's 'Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?' concluded perfectly; in spite of the title, I was reminded less of Alan Moore's 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?' than of the afterlife metaphysics his next novel, Jerusalem will apparently propose. One imperfection, though - you know those 'Got milk?' ads? There's one in here with Chris Brown, talking about how "the protein helps build muscle". Muscle you can use for beating your girlfriend Rihanna black and blue, for instance. Given some of the daft things DC have censored at the last minute (Superman with a beer, for instance) you'd think this could have been pulled.
At the other end of the Gaiman/Batman axis, I finally found in the library the first volume of Mark Waid's The Brave and the Bold, not as Bat-centric as the old title - and like most Waid it's good, undemanding superhero fun. Which makes a mockery of DC editorial's claims that Vertigo and the DC Universe are separate by having a plot turning around the Book of Destiny, and even a scene with Supergirl and Lobo meeting him in his garden. Next time John Constantine gets left out of a big mystical crossover, they're going to need a new excuse.
It's also the first time I've seen more than a couple of panels of the new Blue Beetle, but he seems like a nice kid, and if he was always this entertaining I can understand why people are upset about his title getting cancelled.
Over at Marvel, Apparitions and Ultraviolet writer Joe Ahearne spins off from Mark Millar's Fantastic Four and spoilers the end of his Wolverine in Fantastic Force, whose backmatter has something rather more interesting than the usual set of sketches - a first draft of the script, from comparison of which with the final issue we can see exactly how much a writer new to comics gets smacked around by editorial and told no, you cannot use that character, or have this one doing that. Worth a look even if you have no direct interest in the comic itself, though that's not bad.
alexsarll: (bill)
Monday night at the Salisbury: I am the first member of my quiz team to arrive. At the bar is a top financial pundit of my acquaintance, in the same position. We spot two adjacent tables and grab both, sat on the bench, chatting. I realise this is slightly irregular, but what comes next is still a shuddering breach of all canons of boozer behaviour. Three peons* turn up, and attempt to sidle into the end of one of the tables.
Us:"Sorry, we've each got a team coming for the quiz, we're going to need both tables."
(True: we ended up with 14 people between the two)
Peons: "This is our table, we just went out for ten minutes for a fag."
(Untrue: I had been there at least ten minutes by this point, m'learned colleage for 15)
Us: "Well, you can't just all wander off, then come back and reclaim your table."
Peons: "I beg to differ, but hey, I don't want to get in a fight about it."
Exeunt peons, muttering.
Now come on, that's not how pubs work, is it? Later I was briefly left minding both tables, while one lot were smoking and another buying drinks. But I was there, and so were various tokens of table taken-ness: drinks, books, coats. On Friday, after accidentally walking out of London, when I decided that I needed some food as well as a pint, I did leave my table unattended to order - but that was in a beer garden with spare tables a-plenty, and I left my 2/3-full pint *and* my book on the table, just to be clear.

Also annoying me on Monday: plot holes. Primeval merely required some of its characters to be uncommonly stupid (why did Dr Ethnic not think to ask who Helen was, or mention the woman she'd bumped into in the street after her pass turned out to have been stolen by a dead man? Why did nobody else think to show Dr Ethnic a picture of their arch-enemy as part of her induction briefing?), and tried to get too many genres into one show - on top of the usual dinosaur time-travel malarkey, 45 minutes gives you time to do either a story in the style of an MR James haunted house yarn, or the one with Jason Flemyng as an acknowledged tough cop cliche, but not both. But James Blish's third Cities in Flight book, Earthman, Come Home...well, the other three are all circa 130 pages long, and this is 230, and the length doesn't suit it, and it shows. The first one's a prequel, following a couple of strands through the stagnating Earth of fairly soon and showing us how in spite of that, humanity gets into space. The second is a bildungsroman, one Shanghaied spacer finding his way around the world of the stars in the manner of an early Heinlein. This one...it has more scope, more daring, more sense of what life is like in Blish's stars. It has prescient things to say about depressions in hi-tech societies, and a communication method which looks suspiciously like Twitter. The dubious gender politics, and the heteronormativity, I can forgive. Even the explanation of why pirates died out on Earth, asinine as it looks in the face of Somalia and the South China Sea, I can overlook. But the basic principle of these stories is that Earth's cities have become spacefaring itinerant labourers, trading on their inhabitants' technical know-how, with each city propelled through space by a Macguffin called a 'spindizzy'. Whose principles are so simple that even after Earth's government tried to suppress it, it was independently rediscovered by accident.
These endlessly resourceful space-faring technologists, who can take a whole planet for a joyride, can't manage more than a short-term jury-rigged repair on their own engines/life-support/way of life.
Now, if that were intended as a comment on the world of now, where we all rely on devices so far beyond our practical repair capabilities as practically to invoke Clarke's Law, then fair enough. But if so, no hint of that whatsoever. It's just a mechanism to get the protagonists to where the story needs them, and it will not do.

I always loved Charlotte Bronte's comment that "Miss [Jane] Austen being, as you say, without "sentiment", without poetry, maybe is sensible (more real than true), but she cannot be great.'' But I was still gladdened to discover yet another writer far better than Austen demonstrating similar wisdom: '"What is all this about Jane Austen?" demanded a baffled Joseph Conrad, writing to HG Wells. "What is there in her?"' If Wells did respond with anything more than a shrug, I think I'd rather not know about it.

Finsbury Parkers - or at least those of you on the Islington side of the street - apparently our MP is an associate of Holocaust-deniers. Fun.

*Just so we're all clear here - one of them's a white rasta.
alexsarll: (crest)
In Victoria HMV, there's a box set of all eight Alien and Predator films, including the two crossovers, for £15. It's shelved next to an earlier box set of what were at the time all seven Alien and Predator films, including the crossover. This costs £30. I know Alien vs Predator: Requiem is meant to be bad, but -£15 bad? And how much would a box with neither crossover cost?
(While musing on this, I caught an ad from the corner of my eye at Pimlico station, advertising Doctor Who - the Sylvester McCoy box set. Ooooh, how did I miss that? Turns out it's a Mock the Week ad with a list of 'Presents We Don't Want' or similar. Gits.

A bad week for icons; I have seen plenty of (richly deserved) tributes to Bettie Page and Oliver Postgate, but less about Forrest J Ackerman, superfan, inventor of the term 'sci-fi', honorary lesbian (this one was news to me) and inspiration to everyone from Ray Bradbury through Joe Dante to...well, pick someone cool, they were probably in his thrall. Rest in peace, all three of you.

Bands advertising tours on TV: is this normal? Genuine question, I don't watch much commercial TV these days, but it felt very odd when one of the breaks during the final Devil's Whore* incorporated a plug for Coldplay tickets. So odd, in fact, that it even bypassed the normal outrage I feel whenever reminded of this tour's existence - I am grudgingly prepared to forgive Coldplay's existence, but that they should reduce Girls Aloud and Jay-Z to support acts? Not acceptable.

"Gordon Brown has been called "Superman" in Parliament as the fallout from the prime minister's inadvertent claim to have "saved the world" continues. The Tories have been mocking Mr Brown after his slip of the tongue over the economy at Prime Minister's Questions...But Commons leader Harriet Harman told Tory MPs that she would "rather have Superman as our leader than their leader who is The Joker"."
1) Even by the standards of Parliamentary name-calling, isn't accusing the other side's leader of being a mass-murdering psychopath rather strong? I suppose there's always the remote chance that she appreciates the Grant Morrison perspective on the Joker's personality, whereby he has no essential 'self' and reinvents himself in line with each new circumstance; this would be a pretty good charge to level at Cameron, who has never really managed to articulate a stance or principle beyond 'I'm not the other guy'. Somehow, though, I doubt there's a copy of Arkham Asylum or 'The Clown at Midnight' on Harman's shelves.
2) Equally, I can only conclude that Harman has never read Kingdom Come, in which Superman's failure to confront the Joker with sufficient conviction leads to the death of Lois Lane, Superman's retirement, and the collapse of the superheroic age into carnage and anarchy.
3) At a simpler level, I think most of us would rather have Superman as party leader than The Joker. What her riposte signally fails to grasp is the difference between Superman, and an all-too-human leader who has made a slip of the tongue which looks very like it was as Freudian as it was hubristic.
(That third point is really banal, isn't it? And yet without it, the whole item looked that little bit too abstract/Comic Book Guy. Speaking of comics - I was a little worried about Phonogram series 2 starting with a Pipettes issue, but Seth Bingo's anti-Pipettes rant assuaged all my fears. Great comic, and the launch party wasn't too bad either. Yeah, get me with the schmoozing)

*Which was still a bit of a mess, wasn't it? Moments of genuine power eclipsed by the overall sensation of a story whose truncation made it didactic and rushed. Not to mention repetitive, in the way that over four episodes Angelica Fanshawe managed four deaths for four shagpieces. Has anyone yet written a crossover in which she turns out somehow to be an ancestor of Torchwood's Tosh and her Fanny Of Doom? If not - please don't.
alexsarll: (gunship)
Because he has nothing better to do - it's not as if we're in an economic crisis and the pound is at an historic low against the Euro or anything, after all - our Beloved Leader has joined in the chorus of moralising hysteria directed at Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Because politicians love to knock the BBC for being so terribly mean to them, and all the rest of the media loves to knock the BBC because it's better than them, and worst of all the BBC loves to knock the BBC because like everything else that is good and noble in our culture, it is currently beset with a crippling overdose of self-doubt and consequent belief in the virtue of self-flagellation. And so one of the few institutions of which Britain can still be rightly proud takes another hit as the jackals circle. I mean, have any of these shrill nonentities actually read the damn transcript? (NB: many purported transcripts available are woefully incomplete. The Times, for instance, with all the fidelity to truth one expects from a Murdoch rag, omits the 'Satanic Slvts' (NSFW, obviously) line - either because they were too stupid to understand it, or because it would militate against the impression of slurred innocence they're trying to summon re: Sachs' granddaughter. Not that I have the slightest thing against burlesque performers, you understand - but treating a suggestion that one such might have done the sex with a man in a manner befitting similar suggestions levelled regarding a small child or Victorian princess does seem rather bizarre).

Consider:

- Andrew Sachs cancelled on them. He was not a random victim. It is acceptable to leave voicemail for someone who belatedly cancelled on you in a tone which might be considered poor form on other voicemails.

- Andrew Sachs is only famous because he was happy to play the whipping boy in Fawlty Towers; he can hardly start standing on dignity now. Cf Stephen Fry on fame, specifically the differences between his own and Nicholas Lyndhurst's.

- And this one is the clincher: IT WAS FUNNY. Even without the voices of Ross and Brand, reading a bad transcript that's supplied for purposes of damning them rather than making me laugh, even overwhelmed with anger at the absurd storm around it all, I was cracking up. They made a comedy show; they engaged in nothing more dangerous than the use of harsh language (and even that was not as harsh as the coverage would have you think); they made people laugh. They offended some other people, for sure, but as we should all know by now, offended people are the very worst people on the planet.

As far as I'm concerned, Ross and Brand are both due a pat on the back if not a raise, and everyone who has objected can piss off to somewhere with a suitably deferential press for their tender sensibilities - Saudi, say, North Korea, or Iran.
alexsarll: (magnus)
Yesterday I was handed a flyer for Czech mail-order brides, "unspoiled by feminism". Which is not just sleazy, but baffling. If you want the loaded and lonely, surely you flyer on Friday night as the City bars are chucking out, or in Knightsbridge tobacconists, not in Victoria on a Wednesday lunchtime?
Then again, this was shortly after I learned that Cardinal Place has a wind consultant called Professor Breeze, so it may just have been one of those days when plausibility goes out the window. Consider also the state of the Comedy that evening, where they had hybrid Hallowe'en/Christmas decorations up - so there's a werewolf menacing the tree, for instance, which has been decked with a string of skulls. I was there to see The Melting Ice Caps, aka Luxembourg's David Shah solo. And that is *solo* as in a one-man show, just him and a backing track (except for the two songs where he's joined by a flipbook wrangler). It can't be easy to stand up there and perform with no band, no instrument, no Dutch courage, not even any of the overacting and performance art techniques you'd get from someone like Simon Bookish, but he does it - stands there and sings his songs, beautiful songs about love and time and making the best of it all. Lovely, if heartbreaking - both for the songs in and of themselves, and that this is happening at half eight in a pub basement, rather than in the grand setting it deserves.
So of course because it's an implausible day, why wouldn't he be followed by a band with Foxy Brown on vocals, a total Shoreditch refugee on rhythm guitar and one of the From Dusk 'Til Dawn vampires on histrionic lead?

Newsarama are running a pretty revealing ten-part interview with Grant Morrison about All-Star Superman, one of the best superhero comics ever. I post this for the fans but seriously, even if you're only a casual/Greatest Hits comics reader, even if you think you don't like Superman, I don't blame you but this is the exception.

I finally remembered to check for an update on the story about the pirates stealing 30 tanks, which has been driven from the news by the small matter of the world's economy falling over and bursting into flames. Apparently:
"United States warships have surrounded the Faina for weeks to prevent the pirates from trying to unload the weapons, and a Russian guided missile frigate is traveling to the area."
It was seized a month ago! If the Russian navy is always this slow, we have so little to worry about from Putin.

For anyone given to complaining about txtspk as part of the decline of modern literacy &c, I give you 1880s emoticons.

Solstisn't

Jun. 20th, 2008 10:59 am
alexsarll: (pangolin)
There have been some really good clouds this week, haven't there?

I only had a three day work week, and over the last two nights I've seen two of my very favourite bands, The Indelicates, and David Devant & his Spirit Wife. I have rambled ecstatically about both of them on numerous occasions before, so let us just say that this makes me very happy.
Before the Indelicates, we had Lily Rae (who reminded me at different points of Kirsty MacColl, Ute Lemper and PJ Harvey, but more than anything reminded me of the experience of listening to Amy Winehouse's first album and knowing that there's something remarkable there, but it hasn't quite hatched yet. Definitely someone on whom I intend to keep an eye.
Also, Keith TOTP And His Minor UK Indie Celebrity AllStar Backing Band, who possibly bit off more than they could chew by playing 'Anyone Fancy A Chocolate Digestive?' when less than half the band had heard it before, much less played it. At one point I did fear they might be stuck playing it forever if [livejournal.com profile] thedavidx didn't work out a way to tell them when to end it.

Before Devant, though...that was something else. Met [livejournal.com profile] augstone in Dray Walk, which is clearly the epicentre of Earth's hipness. I could feel it pressing in on me, like the atmosphere of Jupiter but with haircuts. Then returned to Vessel's art exhibition for the closing show, with performances by Mr Solo and [livejournal.com profile] martylog. After which...a procession. I like processions, it's just a shame they're normally associated with causes. I suppose this one was too, a bit, but the signs were stuff like THIS IS HEAVY, and DOWN WITH SIGNS, and CLAP. Initially Aug had the CLAP, but then he left me with it, which I wasn't that happy about. Until, as we made our way along Portobello Road, some people did clap. And then outside a restaurant, Foz? (who was dressed as an orang utan) serenaded some diners with his pink ukelele, and I held the CLAP sign above him, and people clapped. This may be the proudest moment of my life to date.

Why did Day Watch get such bad reviews? It doesn't have the shocking novelty of Night Watch, obviously, but otherwise it seemed a worthy successor in every way. Possibly it even had more of an emotional core, without that feeling as tacked on as it can in genre adventure films. Plus, some great bodyswap comedy. I love bodyswap comedy, so long as I don't have to watch a whole film of it.
alexsarll: (seal)
And with the line "You used to care about people", it became clear that 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang' was an anomaly, and we should still expect anything written by Chris Chibnall to suck. Once boring, boring Gwen and her even duller husband started trying to *breed*, it was just beyond the pale. Can we have the alien parasites back please? The main amusement came from the name of the puny human who'd gone missing: Jonah Bevan.

Yesterday - possibly even after I'd heard the sad news about Anthony Minghella - I was looking at Arthur C Clarke articles on Wikipedia, wondering which of his books I should read next. I had it pretty much narrowed down to The Fountains of Paradise or Imperial Earth, depending which one I found first.
Maybe I should stick to reading Wikipedia entries on authors I don't like.
The other obituary which caught my eye recently saddened me less, simply because I had no idea the Duchy of Medina Sidonia still existed, let alone that the most recent holder of the title was an anti-Franco sapphist. But now I know she was around, it's a shame she's not anymore; she sounds splendid.

Was it Chuck D who described hip hop as the black CNN? He does talk some right cobblers, so probably. But bearing that in mind, consider rapper DMX's thoughts on presidential hopeful Barack Obama:
"What the fvck?! That ain't no fvckin' name, yo. That ain't that n1gga's name. You can't be serious. Barack Obama. Get the fvck outta here."
And this from a man trading under the name 'DMX'.

Anyway, did anyone see The Things I Haven't Told You on BBC3? Of the pilot season so far, I don't think it made quite such a wonderful hour of television as Being Human, but I can see this one as maybe making for a better series. The vampire/werewolf/human set-up has been done so many times now that even with a good writer and engaging leads, you're always going to be dancing perilously close to cliche. But Skins meets Twin Peaks? That's newish.

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