Sunday, March 16, 2008

Comics Mountain

I typically buy comics by the issue. Many people are fond of the comic books that either collect the contents of floppies or represent an entire original composition. I am less enamoured of them, for functional and idiosyncratic reasons. Comic books are, fundamentally, books, and as such they join my mountain of unread books and are lucky if they are ever read. Floppies, on the other hand, are easily digested in a couple of minutes, so any issues that are bought should never remain unread for long.

Or so you would think. Lately, though, I have somehow managed to run up something of an issues mountain. I'm not sure why this is… maybe I have been spending too long looking for pictures of pandas to accompany short posts about some lamer music festival I was at a couple of months back.

Anyway, I know propose to list my recently acquired but unread comics issues.

The Programme #7, by Peter Milligan and C.P. Smith

I have somewhat lost interest in this nicely drawn tale of a mysterious Soviet Union superhero programme that has now somehow been reactivated. Maybe I will eventually read this and realise it is a work of genius and charge off to look for issue 8.

The Umbrella Academy #6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba

This series was written by a member of some well-known goth/emo band, but the real star has always been the art. This is the last issue, I must read it sometime to see if the titular heroes (a bunch of adoptive sibling superhero types) manage to save the world from whatever it is they were trying to save it from.

Star Wars: Rebellion #11, by Jeremy Barlow, Colin Wilson, & Wil Glass

I picked this up on a whim, because of its nice art. Colin Wilson was a 2000 AD artist, famous for his grotty high-tech work on the likes of Judge Dredd and, particularly, Rogue Trooper. Even if the story is rubbish, I will still have the art. However, one thing making me afraid to read it is that maybe the story will be total genius, and I will then become the kind of person who starts buying Star Wars comics, and you don't want that.

Secret Invasion: Saga by various Marvel hacks

Where the fuck did this come from? I think maybe this is some kind of thing you get free when you buy things in the comics shop or something. It looks like it some kind of Marvel Universe primer for whatever their latest suckass crossover is.

The Exterminators #27, by Simon Oliver and John Lucas

This is a rofflesome comic about these pest exterminator guys who spend their time killing cockroaches and rats and stuff. This is not everyone's cup of tea, but I like it. I must read this issue sometime, don't want to full behind.

Star Wars: Free Comic Book Day by Miles Lane & Nicola Scott

Look, it was given to me by a friend, I swear.

Apocalypse Nerd #6, by Peter Bagge

As was this. I actually bought and read the first issue of this one ages ago, but then missed the second and decided not to bother thereafter. It is about some nerds who have to survive out in the back woods after the North Koreans launch a nuclear strike on the USA. It will probably be funny.

Young Liars #1, by David Lapham

David Lapham is one of those comics auteurs you hear about. I bought this because first issues of comics always increase in value.

Batman: Detective Comics #842, by Peter Milligan, Dustin Nguyen, and Derek Fridolfs

I must have bought this on the assumption that Peter Milligan's name on the cover of a comic is a mark of quality. I'm not sure where I get these ideas… while I love his Skreemer, that was twenty years ago, and I am not aware of him doing much of consequence since then. But we will see.

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Concert: Anouar Brahem & Friends

This was concert out in the Helix. I went to this ages ago - like, totally before last Christmas. Anouar Brahem is a guy who plays the oud; his pals (who might be called Thimar) do not. I saw them the night before flying off to the Nightmare Before Christmas. I really wasn't in the form for this, mainly through not having packed for the festival and being dog-tired, but I had bought an expensive ticket and goddamit, I never wuss out of something for which I have tickets. I was also a bit worried that it might be a bit dull, like the Jan Garbarek unpleasantness, but this proved not to be the case. Brahem and his pals played music that was most engaging, fusing Arab and jazzy rhythms in a manner that worked without going all Wynton Marsalis. For all that there is a lot of bad jazz-Arab crossover music out there, you could see why people keep giving it a go, as they are both improvisational forms. Brahem's lot seem to have got the hang of doing this properly, deadly stuff. Watch out for them.

One unfortunate thing about all this was related to my habit of listening to oud music while falling asleep. Given my *tired* state, Brahem's pluckings soon had me snoozing away, much to the annoyance of people who don't like those who sing songs by Journey in their sleep.

The support band were a load of saxophonists called The Rise Quartet (I suspect there were four of them). I liked them too.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friendly Dolphin Rescues Beached Whales

The BBC reports that recently two pygmy sperm whales got confused and kept beaching themselves in New Zealand. Conservation Officer Malcolm Smith had tried to get them to go back into the sea, but to no avail. Then Moko, a well known local dolphin, came along; she somehow communicated with the whales and led them off to deep water, saving their lives.


Thanks to James Wallis for discovering this important piece of news.


SKOPJE, March 13 (Reuters) - A Macedonian court convicted a bear of theft and damage for stealing honey from a beekeeper who fought off the attacks with thumping "turbo-folk" music.

The beekeeper, Mr Zoran Kiseloski, tried to frighten away the bear by playing music by turbo-folk star Ceca. This was initially successful, although it is unclear whether the bear was more frightened by the music, or by Ceca's husband, the notorious war criminal Arkan. However, when the generator powering the music ran down, the bear came back and attacked Mr Kiseloski's beehives, causing 140,000 denars worth of damage.

The current whereabouts of the bear are unknown.

hat tip

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What am I reading?

I am reading three books at the moment. They are the following:

Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes

This is by the guy who wrote that book about the Russian Revolution a couple of years back. More recently he has brought out a book about everyday life during Stalinism. As the title suggests, this one is about Russian culture, with a particular theme being the conflicting tendencies towards Europeanisation or Russification (or even Asiaticisation*) in the country's culture. At any given moment, either of these tendencies might be seen as progressive and positive, depending on circumstances. At the moment I am up to the bit about the Decembrists, a crazy bunch of army types who were infected by liberal ideas during the war against Napoleon; they subsequently staged an ineffective revolt against czarist autocracy and were all either killed or exiled to Siberia. The Decembrists are funny in their devotion to the common man and their instinctive elitism, or in their combination of liberal values and blood-curdling anti-semitism.

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor

Beevor wrote another book years ago about the Spanish Civil War. This new one comes in the light of greatly improved access to Soviet-era archives. Reading about the Spanish Civil War is always rather depressing. On the one hand, you have the robotic march of Franco's lot and their ongoing reign of terror. But on the other side, the story is very much about the Communists infiltrating and taking over the Republican apparatus, suppressing the more progressive elements, and then waging a ruinously incompetent war against the enemy. No one really comes well out of this.

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk

This is by a superstar of I Love Comics, and was a recent find in my kickarse local library. The title is somewhat portentous, but basically this is firstly a description and analysis of how comics have developed, and then a trawl through some authors about whose work Wolk feels he has interesting things to say. A big part of the books theme seems to be the distinction between the comics mainstream and the world of "art comics", with the former in decline and the latter in the ascendant (albeit from a low base). He does not deny the pleasures to be had from well-done mainstream comics, but the auteurist art-comics are implicitly seen as more worthy of respect. I am not so sure of this… my big fear is that this sea-change in comics will lead to a depletion of the form's thrill-power levels, with disastrous consequences for us all. Read more on the thrill-power crisis here: Is the amount of Thrill Power in comics declining?

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*I've just made up this word, but I'm guessing you can work out what it means

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Face of Bath

After the Nightmare, my beloved and I visited the well-known town of Bath. In particular, we went to the Roman baths there. If you haven't seen these… go! They are awesome. Apart from the baths themselves, evocative as they are of of the passage of time and the strange world of the past, the museum also features this sculpture of a face that would have appeared on a shield on the temple's pediment. The Face is one of the strangest artworks I have ever seen, with its expression suggesting the most alien of emotions.

Image taken from here. They have a link to a much larger picture of the Face.

Nightmare Before Christmas 2007: Aftermath

You will be pleased to hear that this is my last post on the Nightmare Before Christmas. Looking back the festival now, I am reminded of how each night seemed to trail off a bit without the kind of climactic event that you would get as a closer in traditional Camber Sands ATPs. I do not know if this is down to pricky programming or is a feature of some sort driven by the venues here in Minehead. If I had my way, they would finish the bands around midnight, with a big league headliner, and then go straight to non-stop Jarvis Cocker DJing. But I never have my way. However, the niceness of the chalets pretty much trumps anything the other venue has to offer.

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Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Monday Morning

We saw a bit of Trisha on Monday morning, in which some young lady suspected that her Albanian husband might have a secret Albanian wife on the side. I wish I had seen to the end of this, I was wondering what the twist could be. Maybe the Albanian fellow could turn out to also be jazzing her mother, always good for an OMG moment on this kind of programme.

ATP TV also showed the episode of What's My Line? on which Salvador Dali appeared as a guest. I found it strange that someone like Dali could be such a household name that he could appear on this time of programme, or that he would want to. You can see it for yourself here.

After that, no TV.

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Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: Blood Island Raiders


These were the last band we saw; there were others playing, but by now I was getting puppy tired. Blood Island Raiders are another metal act, probably from Geoff Barrows' label. They are a somewhat odd band. Musically they seem to be uncompromising, but they are metal in a fairly old-school way. By this I do not mean so much lamer false metal, but more like metal from way back before the young people were even born. The other funny thing about them is that although their singer sang lots of songs about proper metally things (like TEH DEVILLE, Armageddon*, the shiteness of humanity, and so on), his in-between song banter established him as something of a lovely bloke. This maybe ran against the OMG EVIL nature of the band's music, but it did make them a surprisingly pleasant band to round off a festival. One particularly amusing bit was when he was listing all the other acts that Blood Island Raiders had seen and enjoyed. "Anyone see Atavist?" he called out to the crowd. "ATAVIST!", the metallers grunted back. "Or Black Mountain? They were great!" "BLACK MOUNTAIN!". "Or what about Lucky Luke – they were one of my favourites!" "LUCKY LUKE! HAIL SATAN!" replied the throng, the air full of goatfist salutes.

In contrast to the singer, Blood Island Raiders' guitarist came across as a more straightforwardly evil character, not the kind of chap you would like to meet in a dark alleyway, especially if you had a haircut.

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*"Armageddon, what went wrong? / why'd you have to take so long?"

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: Atavist


Or ATAVIST*, as they prefer to be called. These are a British grunty metal band, from Geoff Barrow's own grunty metal label. They seem to be very evil fellows, with their singer like a ball of malevolence. At one point he railed against all the "fucking haircuts" who had come to the festival. Rock on. I was glad I had picked up one of their records earlier.

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*is there a HTML tag for "change into ludicrous Gothic font"?

Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: Crippled Black Phoenix

(Centre Stage)

Some people scoved at these fellows for being a dullo Godspeed knock off band, but I found their music an enjoyable accompaniment to a quiet pint.

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Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: Malakai


A few seconds were enough to reveal that Malakai: are unreconstructed turgid old metal, definitely not purveyors of crazy sounds for kewl aesthetes like me. Run away!

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Sunday, March 09, 2008


Pichu and Isla are two Red Pandas, a mother and cub. They are apparently still at large in Scotland, after busting out of Galloway Wildlife Park in Kirkcudbright, some time on the night between the 7th and 8th of February last. Red Pandas are much smaller than the better known Giant Panda, to which they are not believed to be related. They are however a bit fierce, though the escaped pair pose no threat to the public and should be able to live in the Scottish wilds indefinitely.

This is not the first time that a British Red Panda has escaped; in 2005, Babu escaped from a zoo in Birmingham, but was subsequently found in a tree where he had been eating fruit.

Follow links for image sources.

Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: SUNN O)))

(Centre Stage)

By now you surely know the score with (((SUNN))) – capes, dry ice, high volume, irresistibly slow guitar lines that do not sound like guitar lines, non-existent or incomprehensible vocals, ritualisation, and so on. At this concert, the Sunny Boys were a bit hampered in how theatrical they could be. Their dry ice was setting off the smoke alarms, so they were unable to bury the stage as much as they surely would prefer. So they had to perform on a stage where most members of the band were relatively visible. The horror. Their vocalist sat more or less on top of the limited dry ice dispenser they had, which was something of a shame, as I would have liked a closer look at him. He seemed to be a tree, or a tree stump, albeit one with a limited ability to move and make strange guttural noises. Later inquiries revealed that he was none other than ATTILA, one of the surviving members of MAYHEM.

The concert was a bag of fun. As is the way of SUNN-O))), the band playhed very slow guitar chords, occasionally holding their fists in the air or giving us the goat's head salute (I replied with The Devil). Deadly stuff. A lot of people had come along to check out the Sunny Boys. Some of them were lured in by the spectacle, while others found it all too repetitive and boring, so they scurried off to see if Rosie Red Rash were playing somewhere (these being some lovely ladies who have formed a band that reputedly had people fleeing from Reds on the previous day).

The leavers missed the Spinal Tap-esque end of the concert. The grunting tree had made his way off the stage, but the band were still playing, when one of the hooded figures went over to one of the others and punched him in the face. He then decked him again, so that his victim fell against the wall of speakers, causing them to fall over. Oh dear. And that was the end of that.

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Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: Black Mountain

(Pavillion (sic) Stage)

We stayed in the chalet for a while, drinking port and eating cheese, lazily putting off returnding to the venues. As a result, I only caught the last minute or two of Black Mountain, but it was enough to make me wish I had seen more. Black Mountain's music has an endearingly epic quality that makes them a perfect festival band.

They are actually playing Dublin in the near future, but there are those who suggest that they are such a festival band that they should not be seen in any other context.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: BORIS

(Centre Stage)

Boris were one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing, expecting them to be some kind of crazy piece of extreme metal music from Japan. Sadly, they were not a little dull; basically, these fellows play the most turgid style of old-school metal, not the kind of extreme metal that trend hiptsters like me dig. So I left early to go eat a load of cheese, sadly missing the following act, the probably mighty EARTH.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Gary Gygax

Apparently Gary Gygax has died. Gygax was the inventor of Dungeons and Dragons and, by extension, of the entire RPG hobby. I've spent a lot of my life scoving at Gygax and the world of character classes, byzantine tables, and clunky game mechanics he brought us, but the games I actually like playing would not have existed without him.


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Sunday, March 02, 2008


From recent conversations in public hostelries, I discovered that there are some people who have heard of Slovenian sensations LAIBACH, but do not really get what they are about.

This link should help.

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Nightmare Before Christmas 2007, Sunday: John Cooper Clarke

(Centre Stage)

Mr Clarke is one of those punk poet fellows, though part of his act was oddly reminiscent of the kind of act you get in Working Mens' Clubs. I'm thinking about when he did a saucy strip-tease all the crazy jokes he was telling. All those man-comes-home-from-work-early* jokes… they sounded like they were as old as the hills, yet I had never heard them before (indeed, I had never heard of this category of jokes before, but then I am a stranger to the world of humour). But he did some punk poetry stuff too, most notably doing the well-known 'Beesley Street' and then doing it again as the gentrified 'Beesley Boulevard'. So yeah, very enjoyable, though I gather this was just a truncated version of the set he always does.

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*As in – A man comes home from work early, to find one of his mates shagging his wife. He grabs his mate, kicks the crap out of him and throws him out of the house. The wife then says "You'll have no friends left if you carry on like that."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

OCCULT SECRETS of the 1970s!

Wood has chanced upon a treasure trove of forbidden knowledge - advertisements from the magazine Prediction. Thus far the wonders available to the reader of that magazine include the following:

Katrina's Everlasting Calendar

Your Path To Real Magic Is Only A Phone Call Away

The Incredible Sensor II Pendant

Could This Be The Most Powerful Ring Known To Man?

The links will bring you to blog posts with thumbnail links to SCANNED IMAGES of the ads themselves. Do you dare to investigate further?

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