Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comics Round Up 29/11/2007

This week I have decided to write about the comics I have bought before I read them, so you can understand my expectations.

Dan Dare by Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine

I like olde comics, so I am a sucker for this kind of Dan Dare reprint. This is written by Garth Ennis, someone I am pretty down on at the moment, but I reckoned I had to buy issue one, just so I could be disappointed by it. I wonder will Ennis insert some of his trademark homophobia and "ironic" sexism into the story?

Still, it could be that Ennis is at his best when engaging in pastiche of olde comics… a lot of the war stuff he has done over the last while has been quite impressive – I'm thinking here of some of the later war comics he did for DC (though not that moronic Adventures of the Rifle Brigade), or Battler Britton. The latter was like the kind of war comic I used to read when I was small, except that it was a lot better.

I nevertheless suspect that reading this issue will make me want to rush out and buy that Rian Hughes comic book with the Dan Dare story he drew to Grant Morrison's script.

Gotham Underground by Terri, Calafiore, and Purcell

Erm, why did I buy this again? It looks like a comic about second division loser supervillains and criminals in Gotham City. Maybe it will be like Gotham Central, only for the bad guys.

All Star Batman & Robin (the Boy Wonder) by Frank Miller and Jim Lee

Like the superior All Star Superman, the idea of this is to get giants of the form working on one of the flagship characters. I have bought the last couple of issues, maybe enjoying the art more than the story. This one has The Joker on the cover, so maybe this will get very exciting.

2000 AD Extreme Edition written by Tom Tully, drawn by a variety of artists, the most famous of whom is Steve Dillon

2000 AD Extreme is where they reprint the weirder and less remembered old 2000 AD strips. This one features the first run of episodes in "The Mean Arena", one of those future sport strips they used to run in the Galaxy's greatest comic. This particular sport was Street Football, a thuggishly violent game played over abandoned city streets. This was a very second division strip, though it did have nice art (by some J. Richardson character) at first, and the story initially packed a reasonable amount of thrill power. Sadly, it all went kind of rubbish as the story went on and on and on, with the slide into shite artists not helping either. My recollection is that the really tiresome thing about the story was the way the rules of the game became more and more outlandish, partially because they were letting the readers make up teams for the protagonist team to play. Still, this issue only has the first run of episodes, so I can stop here and enjoy the thrill power.

A Warning To All Readers

Yesterday evening I went to see the film "Shrooms". It was shite. Do not go and see this film, unless you like bad films.

A more incisive commentary may eventually follow, but I felt it necessary, as a public service, to warn people of the danger they could be in if they were to see this disappointing film.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A New Kind of Hero

The Orange Order is attempting to reach out to young people by creating a superhero character for their organisation. At present this chap does not have a name, but they are open to suggestions from the public.

This is all oddly reminiscent of the little known comic character Captain IRA. He made some appearences during the Troubles, usually with his sidekick Seamus, the Boy Provo.

BBC News report (and source of illustration)

Where I heard about this astonishing story

"Dracula" and Hammer Horror

I have really got out of the cinema habit. It is quite conceivable that the only thing I have seen there is Dracula (the first Hammer version, with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee). It features a lot of bombastic music and women who turn all sexy once Dracula has started doing his thing with them. It is not the best of the Hammer films (or even the Hammer Dracula films), but it is a good example of the Hammer template. I would love if cinemas would show more of these, with Dracula - Prince of Darkness, The Devil Rides Out, Brides of Dracula, Frankenstein Created Woman, Kiss of the Vampire, and Quatermass and the Pit being ones I would particularly like to see again. Is Countess Dracula (the one with Ingrid Pitt playing real life posho maniac Erzebet Bathory) a Hammer film? I never saw that one, but I reckon I would like it. The other unseen Hammer film I would love to catch is The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, an attempt to marry the Hammer-style vampire film with Chinese chop socky hopping vampire cinema. I gather it is seen as a failure, but the premise surely marks it as a work of genius.

Just in case you are not an aficionado of Gothic horror, Hammer were a British film company who evolved into a style of film based around eroticised versions of horror classics (though in so doing they were picking up on features always there in source material like Stoker's novel or Carmilla, Sheridan Le Fanu's lesbian vampire story). Typical Hammer features include: women in low cut tops, location non-specific central European settings, girls boarding schools in which the pupils are all played by women in their mid twenties who spend a lot of their time helping each other into their nightclothes, superstitious locals, bumptious comedy characters, numerous "My God!" moments, driven heroes almost as fanatical as their fiendish adversaries, surprisingly lush sets, bombastic music that often spells out the name of the main character, and so on. Hammer also made some other great films like The Wicker Man or The Nanny (this relatively obscure film featuring Bette Davis in particular highly recommended), but these do not fit the classic model. Nor do such frankly embarrassing attempts to update the genre as Dracula AD 1972 (Dracula and some hippy Satanists in swinging London, OMG) or The Beast Must Die* (big game hunter v. werewolves to blaxploitation soundtrack). But the classic Hammer films have a certain charm, even the duff ones, and I would love to see them again.
The pictures are from the Wikipedia entries for Dracula and The Vampire Lovers (an adaptation of Carmilla). I've not seen the latter, but it looks like a classic Hammer film.

This was meant to feature in the latest issue of Frank's APA, but somehow failed to do so.

*not actually a Hammer film, though it feels like one, or an attempt to do one set in the then present day

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"No! Let Me Drown - etc."

Scientists have found the claw of a PREHISTORIC GIANT SEA SCORPION. This abomination (the scorpion, not the claw) was larger than a modern human being, reports the BBC.

If you don't know what the "No! Let Me Drown - etc." title refers to, click here: No! The Pincers!

More

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ian Moore "Luminaria"

Frank's friend Rory Carr provided me with this addition to my collection of Ian Moore records. As you know, Mr Moore is this guy from Texas (possibly Austin Texas) who makes music that rocks out, albeit in a somewhat folky troubadourish kind of way. Because I am unique, I was initially somewhat perturbed by this fellow's arrival on the music scene, but my concern dissipated when he failed to become the kind of guy who plays the local enormodome. Listening to this album I think the same thing as with his others – Mr Moore is certainly not awesomely brilliant, but he is not dreadful either, and listening to his music is not unpleasant. On balance, though, this is not really my thing, and more than a couple of songs at a time can be a bit wearing.

I think I would actually prefer if my namesake was some totally awful cock-rocker. He could issue Zodiac Mindwarp style t-shirts with his name on them, and I could wear them and watch the ladies roll in. Mmmmm.

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Irish Music action

This blog looks like it is potentially an interesting source of information and views on the brainy end of the Irish music scene: Forum for Music in Ireland - Fóram don Cheol in Éirinn

"The Journal of Music in Ireland"

I bought a copy of the Journal of Music in Ireland recently. This seems like an interesting magazine, being a kind of Irish Wire, albeit one more oriented towards contemporary classical music than the popular British magazine. The record reviews (including one by a former member of Frank's APA) seem to focus exclusively on Irish acts, presumably because you can hear about the others elsewhere, but the live reviews and so on cover a broader palette.

My own musical tastes are moving in this kind of direction at the moment, so I found much of what was in the magazine fascinating. Particularly engaging was an interview with some fiddle player guy called Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh. His thing is that he has discovered sampling technology and is making music that he feels is rooted in Irish traditional music but moving so far beyond it that he does not bring the CDs of this music to sell at his more straight down the line gigs, for fear of being lynched by an army of geansaí wearers. He compared the way traditional music is approached here to the more innovative practices in the Nordic countries, especially Sweden; I wondered what he would make of all those Fonal bands from Finland. His big gripe with the Irish trad scene is that it is pretending that there is still an oral folkish tradition when there is not, and that there has been no development in the genre since the 1970s, with everyone being content to re-hash Planxty. The article was endearingly provocative, and it definitely made me interested in hearing Ó Raghallaigh's more innovative music. I did wonder, however, if in pushing against traditional music's envelope he has broken with genre conventions so much as to no longer be making anything we can still consider part of the world of Irish traditional music.

There was also a fascinating but problematic article by composer Raymond Deane about the relationship between classical and popular music, triggered by some remark of John Adams' that classical music starts to die when it loses touch with the vernacular. The problem I had with the article is that Deane does not really engage with "popular" music and seems to use this term to cover everything that is not classical music. As a result, he fails to register that non-classical music has its own avant-garde and "difficult" traditions that could not be described as popular in any real sense. He also implicitly creates a false dichotomy between rock musicians (who are all rolling in cash) and impoverished classical musicians, something that the vast majority of rock musicians who never make any money whatsoever would regard with wry amusement. I was going to write a letter on this subject to the JMI, but I have not got round to it yet, because I am a slackass.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

PLANET TERROR

I saw Planet Terror, the Robert Rodriguez half of the Grindhouse thing he did with with Quentin Tarantino. I will write about it in due course, but it will probably be gone from the cinema by the time I do that, as it is only on in two cinemas here in Dublin right at the moment, one of them at a strange time.

For now, all I need say about Planet Terror is: See It Now. Your very life might depend on it.

Picture from Wikipedia.

Little Bear In Big Trouble

The Sun Bear is the world's smallest bear, but it is also the bear at greatest risk of extinction. The Sun Bear lives in south east asia, but habitat loss has seen Sun Bear numbers decline by 30% in the last 30 years.

The BBC and the Guardian both have reports on the problems faced by the Sun Bear and other bears:

Concern grows for smallest bear (Sun Bear picture from here)
More bear species threatened with extinction

The Guardian also has a gallery in which the survival prospects of various bear species are discussed: Bears under threat

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Three Records by Planxty lead me to A NEW GAME

Planxty The Well Below The Valley
Planxty Cold Blow and the Rainy Night
Planxty [Untitled first album]

My beloved bought these to play on her new iPod. Rather than talk about the music and all that on them, I will instead introduce you to THE PLANXTY DRINKING GAME. The rules for this are simple:

  • If the song mentions a soldier, take a drink
  • If the song mentions a beggar, take a drink
  • If the song mentions a young lady being relieved of her maidenhead, take a drink
  • If the song mentions a young lady being relieved of her maidenhead by a soldier, empty your glass
  • If the song mentions a poor Irish emigrant pining for his home, take a drink
  • If the protagonist of the song beats the shite out of someone, take a drink
  • If Andy Irvine sings about how sad he is because some stage of his life has passed, take a drink
  • If the song is called "As I roved out" take a drink


    And so on. Actually, these records are great, featuring excellent playing and excellent choice of tunes, mostly trad arrrrrs but the occasional Andy Irvine composition. And they also do well-known Provie classic 'Only Our Rivers Run Free', which is not actually from time immemorial but was written only the other day by some whiny nornie.

    I should not actually mock the old 'Only Our Rivers Run Free'… not merely do I value my kneecaps, it is also a rather gentle and affecting tune, not like the come-all-ye-s one normally associates with Irish patriotism. One great thing about this tune is that it makes its way into a RuneQuest scenario; I think it is in one of the Sun County or Shadows on the Borderlands books, though I am open to correction.

    These records merge into each other, so I have difficulty recommending one over another. The Well Below The Valley maybe wins thanks to the title track, a song that is musically charming and easy on the ear, while lyrically it is about incest and infanticide.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Man Marries Dog

    The BBC reports that Mr P Selvakumar, of Sivaganga district in Tamil Nadu province in India, has married a dog named Selvi (pictured). Mr Selvakumar is endeavouring to atone for the stoning to death of two other dogs some years previously, an act that has led to him being cursed. It is not known if Selvi is trying to atone for the past biting of any humans.

    more: Man 'marries' dog to beat curse

    A Happy Christmas To All Readers

    OMG, Black Box Recorder have reformed and teamed up with some guy from Art Brut to record a Christmas single called 'Christmas Number One'. This is the best news ever. The song sounds great if you listen to it in fits and starts over a 56K modem.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    The Great Problem of Our Times

    I am getting really fed up with blogging websites where you have to register before you can leave comments.

    Lolbirds

    I discovered this blog on Irish Blogs the other day: ragamuffins

    If you like nice pictures of garden birds then check it out.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    Old Haines


    I have finally made a compilation of great Luke Haines tunes. If you would like a copy, let me know. I will eventually send it to you, having first checked that you are not a narc working for the record industry, or Luke Haines himself.

    I do not have a complete collection of music by Luke Haines, missing at least one of his solo albums and two of The Auteurs'. I do not have Das Kapital either, this being a weird compilation of his stuff he released himself, only with all the songs re-recorded with lush orchestral backing and then released with a cover indistinguishable from Brian Eno's Before And After Science. But I have a fair bit nevertheless. I list the tracks on the compilation below, with some notes. They are chronologically ordered, apart from the two that envelope the collection.

    Baader Meinhof
    'Baader Meinhof'

    This is from the concept album about the Red Army Faction that Haines released as Baader Meinhof, probably after reading either Tom Vague's Televisionaries the issue of Vague on those crazy West German ultra leftist nutjob revolutionaries who terrorised their country in the 1970s. This track is an odd bit of very sparse mutant funk with middle-eastern elements and handclaps in which Haines introduces the subject. The lyrics are perhaps incomprehensible to anyone who does not share Haines' interest in the RAF. If you need a primer, check out http://www.baader-meinhof.com/ . I love this tune a lot, though I did find myself wondering subsequently to what extent its recording was influenced by Felt's 'Space Blues'

    The Auteurs
    'Show Girl'
    'Bailed Out'
    'Early Years'

    These three are from New Wave, the first Auteurs album. I've picked more up-tempo numbers. These show off Haines' guitar playing and his rasping vocals. The great story about this album is that when it failed to win the Mercury Prize, Haines assaulted Brett Anderson of winners Suede, claiming that he had stolen the prize money.

    The Auteurs
    'Light Aircraft On Fire'
    'Child Brides'
    'Unsolved Child Murder'

    These are from After Murder Park, the fourth Auteurs album. This was produced by famous record producer Steve Albini. I find that Albini's spare sound suits the Auteurs well. 'Child Brides' is a particular favourite of mine, though 'Unsolved Child Murder' packs its own punch and always remains topical.

    Baader Meinhof
    'There's Gonna Be An Accident'
    'Kill Ramirez'

    More Baader Meinhof action. I don't get all the references, though 'Kill Ramirez is plainly about Carlos The Jackal.

    Black Box Recorder
    'Girl Singing In The Wreckage'
    'England Made Me'
    'Kidnapping An Heiress'

    These three are from England Made Me, the first Black Box Recorder album. This band saw Haines collaborate on songwriting with louche individual John Moore, while Sarah Nixey (the then Mrs Moore) provided vocals to songs largely written for her. It took me ages to get the lyrics of 'Kidnapping an Heiress' – for a long time I just saw them as a succession of somewhat threatening one liners ("And we're searching for your daughter", "Nine hundred dead in Jonestown", "And she's lying in the basement" etc.), though closer listening reveals this to be lyrically linked to the Baader Meinhof stuff, in that it is about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a bizarre episode that eventually saw Hearst changing her name to Tania and helping her former kidnappers to rob banks. As for 'England Made Me', while the Black Box Recorder is excellent, the solo version I once saw Haines perform live took it to a whole other level, making you finally understand the deeds that made the Empire.

    Black Box Recorder
    'The Art Of Driving'
    'The English Motorway System'
    'The Facts Of Life'

    The second Black Box Recorder was called The Facts of Life, and saw Haines and Moore writing loads of songs about driving and sexual comings of age. A lot of the male vocals on here sound like they are by John Moore, so maybe he did more of the writing? Or maybe not. Anyway, these three songs are great, but there are loads of other top tunes on the album, if this is the kind of thing you like.

    Black Box Recorder
    'The New Diana'
    'Andrew Ridgeley'

    These are from Passionoia, the third Black Box Recorder album. I do not like this one so much, feeling that it is a bit swamped by the poppy production they use on a lot of the tracks. 'Andrew Ridgeley' is a total classic, though, a hymn to the other one from Wham!. I wonder what he thinks of it?

    Luke Haines
    'Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop'
    'Leeds United'
    'Bad Reputation'

    These are from Haines' recent solo album Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop, the second or third album released under his name. Some of the songs, like the first one here, are quite popped up, but this seems to work better than with Passionoia. If you are very young or unfamiliar with English culture then maybe the second or third songs contain elements that pass you by. 'Leeds United' talks of a time in the 1970s when Leeds United were a serious force in football and Peter Sutcliffe was murdering women in and about the Red Light districts of Yorkshire towns. 'Bad Reputation' is about Gary Glitter, the 1970s pop star latterly more famous for nonce-crime, a figure so notorious that Haines has to point out at concerts that the song does not imply any sympathy for Mr Glitter. This song for me is a career highlight for Haines, with the delivery of lyrics like 'I was born to be a monster' dripping with malevolence.

    Baader Meinhof
    'Baader Meinhof'

    This is also from the Baader Meinhof album. Haines liked this tune so much that he did it twice, with this being the elegiac version in which Andreas Baader et al bemoan their failure.

    EDIT: I subsequently acquired the second Auteurs album and updated this compilation to include some tracks from it, but I am not going to bother fully editing this post to reflect the new tracklisting.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    Prison Love: "A Night In The Box"

    Wow, I seem to have forgotten to mention this record, which is a shame as it is most excellent. Prison Love are a local cajun bluegrass old-timey band who play both actual old-timey songs and ones from other genres given the treatment (e.g. 'The Ace of Spades' or 'The Auld Triangle' (only one of which features on this record). They are to be saluted for continuously reminding us of how enjoyable this music is, and I urge all right thinking people to buy this record. Claddagh Records sell it (and they host the picture of the album cover as well).

    WORLD'S GREATEST FESTIVAL FOUND!


    Nepal is currently celebrating the festival of Tihar, the local version of Diwali. The second day of the feast is known as Kukar Tihar; on this day the Nepalese honour the country's dogs.

    It's all down to some religious thing in the Mahabharat, where dogs accompanied some Dharmaraj Yudhisthir guy to heaven. Or maybe it's because dogs guard the underworld. Either way, the dogs are not complaining. On this great day they are garlanded with flowers and given lots of treats to eat. Even street dogs - normally treated rather badly and lucky to scrape a living from scraps - are fêted on Kukar Tihar.

    The BBC has more on this festival: In pictures: Nepal dogs honoured

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Doctor Who and THE DAY OF THE DALEKS

    In an oh-the-nostalgia kind of way, I am re-reading this classic Terrence Dicks adaptation of a Pertwee-era Doctor Who story. This was always one of my favourites of the Target novelisations, and it still has it. The story is one of those ones about people from the future coming back in time to change their past. In this case, the future is one where a nuclear war left the world so weakened that the Daleks were able to come along and take over, herding the survivors into monster concentration camps and forcing them to engage in back-breaking toil for unspecified Dalek purposes.

    The two best things in this are the future resistance people and The Controller, the Daleks' quisling administrator of what was once Britain. The resistance people are plainly modelled on the kind of ker-azzy urban guerrilla and Palestinian militant types you have knocking around in the 1970s, with their favourable portrayal mirroring the almost film star qualities of people from then like Carlos The Jackal or Leila Khaled. At the same time, the book is not afraid to portray some of them as being just a bit too driven in their commitment to the freedom struggle. And in an interesting touch, they all have Middle Eastern sounding names.

    The Controller, meanwhile, is probably the book's most complex and sympathetic character. His job involves being permanently bossed around by the Daleks and threatened with extermination should he fuck up, but for this he gets status and various little luxuries that his enslaved fellow humans can only dream about. Much of the book is told from his point of view, so you get a lot of the rationalisations he uses for self-justification. The Daleks are invincible, after all, so he might as well make the best of it for himself. And as Controller, he can do little things here and there to make the lot of the humans slightly less terrible. Or so he thinks.

    Some years after reading this for the first time, I actually saw The Day of the Daleks on video. Like most Pertwee era Doctor Who, it was pretty rubbish. The lesson I have learned from this is simple – for Doctor Who from before Tom Baker, stick to the Target novelisations.

    (book cover from the Wikipedia page on Day of the Daleks)

    If you would like to read more about Day of the Daleks without bothering to read the book itself, the Kaldor City people have an article about it: Day of the Daleks, but Alan Stevens with Fiona Moore. The are looking more at the TV series than the book, and there is a worrying air of Continuity Nerdism about the article, but it does give a taster.

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    Taking Sides: Mr Brain's Pork Faggots v. Pork Brains in Milk Gravy

    12 Products From Hell. And it's not all tasty food - the stick-on Joke Breasts are like something Otto Sump would come up with. My eyes.

    Link from Jim's Occasional Journal of Sorts

    film: "In the Shadow of the Moon"

    I saw that film this evening. It is about the so-called moon landings, and features many interviews with the so-called astronauts the authorities claim to have landed there. They did mention those who suggest that the entire Apollo programme was plainly faked by the US government to divert attention from the Vietnam war, but only in a dismissive and off-hand manner.

    If only they had looked at the real evidence. Do not follow that link if you are not open minded.