Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yes, it is true. I have written a 50,783 word novel in the month of November, validated on the NaNoWriMo page and everything. I am looking forward now to going back to a life of aimless web browsing.

A couple of people have expressed interest in reading my NaNoWriMo draft. I'm not sure I can recommend this course of action, as there are many excellent novels in the world that were not written in a month during the author's spare time and made up as they went along. Also, other novels typically have been proofread and had typographical errors removed from them, and characters in them usually retain the same name all the way through the story. Even so, I am a great believer in giving people what they want.

So, what I am thinking of doing is posting it on a blog, as it is now (i.e., no edits, bar HTML codings for things like italics and emboldening). If I do this, I will do it so that it appears over the month of December at the same speed as I wrote it in November. The sequential format might well suit something written episodically, and by spinning it out like this then maybe by the end of the month people will have forgotten the strangely unresolved things that were introduced at the beginning.

Assuming that I go ahead with this, I will almost certainly delete all of the novel posts in Jamuary, maybe when I get back from Morocco. Two things demand this. Firstly, I don't want people stealing my amazing ideas. Secondly, I don't really want to be associated forever with a draft of a novel I wrote in my month, and fear it being spread around the internet as a new candidate for the worst writing of all time (taking over from this one*).

Actually, fear of public humiliation like that might yet mean that my work remains forever hidden on my laptop hard drive. We'll see.

*this linked to piece of LoToR fan fiction is complete genius; if you've never seen it before, check it out now. It's worth looking at even if you have seen it before (I had forgotten just how G*R*A*T*E it is, and when I found it again to link to it the roffles came back once more).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #16

Home stretch! Just under 5000 words written today, bringing me up to 40,015. Can I write 10,000 tomorrow and Sunday? Yes, I can.

Don't be afraid of the robot

I was reading a post on the interesting Angry Robot blog, and it linked to a truly terrifying post about the world's creepiest real life robots. I would include pictures here, but I shouldn't steal the roffle. Follow the link and see for yourself.

From there I followed a link to the world's most evil robots. They seemed initially innocuous enough, but when you get onto the second page you get the robot exo-skeleton for giant repulsive insects from Madagascar (it is not clear why giving these giant insects exo-skeletons is such a good idea), but the most terrifying is the Breast Massager Robot. It seems to have come from Japan. To massage your breasts.

Follow link, see terrifying pictures.

The Decline & Fall of Western Civilisation Part 3: The Britpop Years

Thanks to having a pal who toils in the book mines. I am now reading a proof copy of Bad Vibes, Luke Haines' forthcoming book about the Britpop years. This was a time he spent as the main man in brainy indie band The Auteurs, watching other people he considers less talented becoming far more successful. Thus far it is proving to be total genius, with Haines writing with the acidic pen of someone who is not letting bygones be bygones. It is also both funny and surreal, with the opening account of the time The Auteurs were joined onstage in France by a malevolent dwarf setting the tone. My current feeling is that this is one of the very greatest rock books, giving an insider's account of life in a band who never quite achieve the success he feels they deserve. It bears comparison with that book* by James Young about being in Nico's touring band.

I reckon anyone would enjoy this book a lot, even people who are not familiar with the music of The Auteurs. I reckon, though, that anyone reading it would want to hear music by this excellent band. Which reminds me, a while back I made a compilation of music by Luke Haines (from The Auteurs, his time with Black Box Recorder, the record he released as Baader Meinhof, and his solo career). If in the future you find yourself reading Bad Vibes and wondering what the music sounds like, contact your pal (me).

In case you don't know the Auteurs story, it goes like this. They formed as a Luke Haines songwriting vehicle, rapidly attracted some note and started selling modest amounts of records in Britain and even more so in France. Their first album was up for the second Mercury Prize, but they lost narrowly to Suede. At the awards ceremony Haines assaulted several members of that band, demanding that they hand over the money that was rightfully his. After that, the Auteurs were somehow left behind by Britpop, for all that Haines is sometimes seen as the inventor or inspirer of that dreadful scene. Not even recording a brilliant album with Steve Albini (who praises them in that recent poker website thing) could save them and they eventually split up. Along the way, Haines had released a concept album about West German terrorism under the name Baader Meinhof. The book, then, is an account of the Auteurs' initial meteoric rise and their then being stuck by a glass ceiling as various people Haines considers far less talented become incredibly successful. Much embittered comment ensues. It helps that Haines is a very funny writer, as otherwise this book would just be the inchoate whinings of a sore loser.

One odd thing about this book is how young Haines was while he was in The Auteurs – he was only in his early 20s when they started, and the precocious little twerp had already been in another band for several years before that. His youth was underlined by my dredging up an old copy of Volume, in which he appears looking like he is just out of primary school, complete with obligatory shite early-90s indie haircut. It just seems wrong for Haines to have ever been this young, or at least for him to have been doing such great work then. It is not for nothing that sometime collaborator John Moore refers to him as Old Haines. Luke Haines is a man born to be old.

Reading this book has got me listening to music by The Auteurs and Baader Meinhof again. Oddly, I came to The Auteurs late, and it was only the Steve Albini connection that made me jump in and buy After Murder Park, their nasty third album (also a work of genius). I largely missed them while they were still going, though I have subsequently seen Luke Haines live thrice (once on his own and once with Black Box Recorder). Reading the book is making me interested in filling in the gaps in my Haines collection. Only yesterday I picked up the Auteurs second album Now I'm A Cowboy. At the time I think this was seen as a bit of a disappointment, but on the first couple of listens it seems to be a stormer. The opening track, 'Lenny Valentino' is an obvious classic, though I think having Haines explain the lyrics in the book is a bit of a help here.

Since writing the above I have finished reading the book and have more to say about it, but you will have to wait for that.

image source: eh, can't remember. I feel that reproducing this excellent photograph is both in the interests of the photographer (but who is he/she?) and the subject.

* James Young (1992) Songs They Never Play On the Radio London: Bloomsbury

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mojave 3 "Excuses for Travellers"

This is another charity shop purchase. Mojave 3 are the band that guy formed after Slowdive stopped On this he has left behind the washes of sound and sonic cathedrals, and instead keeps it real with some lame-o country-tinged yawnfests. I fear this is fated to return soon to the Oxfam from whence it came.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sentimental Moment

Today I purchased what will probably be my last ever Belle & Sebastian record.

I also saw the film about the Red Army Faction, in a week when one of the film's characters was approved for parole. It suffered a bit from the "Freddy's Dead" effect, in that when Petra Schelm shows up you do find yourself thinking "Well I don't think we'll be seeing too much more of you".

R.E.M. "Out of Time"

Yes, readers, in a fit of madness I have allowed an REM album into Panda Mansions. In my defence I can say that this came from a charity shop. I like it pretty well, apart from the track with KRS-1; aside from the rockist opposition to pop music on which the lyrics trade, KRS-1 raps like your dad.

My own opposition to REM is well-known. I think that maybe like a lot of people and the bands they hate, it is not really based on the music as such. I like a lot of REM songs (thought I also greatly dislike several). Two things really made me hate on REM. Firstly, there was the way the music press were so fond of them back in the day, at a time when there was a lot of other and perhaps better music out there for them to be excited about. In retrospect, the music press was just getting excited about one of "their" bands breaking through to the big time, kind of like I would if some weirdo band I liked managed to become contenders but without completely changing musical direction. The other thing I have always found a bit problematic about REM is the whole "we mean it, maaaan" schtick they have going. This is exemplified by 'Everybody Hurts', a truly dreadful song. But it is not on Out of Time, a record that, apart from the one with KRS-1, has loads of tuneful semi-acoustic songs.

Whether you like REM or not, their ascent was interesting to observe. They managed to bring out three albums in a row, each of which brought them to a new, wider audience that people would previously have thought unattainable to a band of their type. Out of Time is the middle one of these. I'm not sure if this is significant.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #15

I wasn't going to post anything today, as having another update saying "wrote X number of words today, am now at Y total" would be too crushingly dull even for people avidly following my progress. But then, I decided, that it was necessary to make it absolutely clear to all readers that at no point in my efforts have I resorted to the BLOODY AWFUL FURRE GENERATOR

Jape 'Africa'

From MP3-land comes this, a cover of the Toto classic by local electronic act Jape. It is fine as far as it goes, but when it hits the chorus you find yourself thinking that Mr Jape's voice is a bit weedy. That is somewhat funny, as on the original song, the singer from Toto's voice also sounds weedy on the verses, but then goes into overdrive on the chorus. Mr Jape does not manage this.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #14

Wow, I somehow managed to write eighteen hundred words today, and now am up to over 33,000 words.

I found today's episode very exciting. I am in fact absurdly pleased with it.

The Sisters of Mercy "Some Girls Wander By Mistake"

I bought this so I can add the tracks to the iPod, already having the album on vinyl from years ago (and most of the tracks on that as 12" singles). This compiles all the Sisters of Mercy stuff from before their first album, and is full of deadly tunes like 'Alice', 'Floorshow', 'Adrenachrome', and so on. You probably do not like this kind of music, and maybe it has a certain "you had to be there" quality, but I like it. I particularly enjoy interesting to listen to gothic music from before the scene was thoroughly metalised, from when the music still nodded towards post-punk and had a bit of a dancefloor edge to it. The music is nevertheless very spare on many of these tracks. The drum machine technology then available was very basic, and the arrangements mostly eschew the lush orchestrations of the albums.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #13

Having written 8,157 amazing words this weekend, my total word count is now 31,310. Over three fifths of my great book written, with a quarter of the time left.

My field research yesterday went well, providing data that have fed into the verbiage produced.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

REMINDER: Pandas are fierce

Readers should remember that while pandas may look like they would love a cuddle, they are actually very fierce. Mr Liu, a student in Guilin, China, learned this to his cost when visiting Qixing Park. Despite many warning signs, he climbed into the enclosure of panda Yang Yang. "Yang Yang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him," he has said. Yang Yang however saw things differently and bit Mr Liu repeatedly.

Panda attacks in Chinese zoos are not uncommon. Gu Gu in Beijing zoo is always having a go at people who climb into her enclosure,as Mr Zhang Xinyan can vouch.

in Guilin, Mr Liu has been held in hospital but is expected to recover. Yang Yang is eating and playing normally.


Boring NaNoWriMo update #12

Right now, word count is 24428. Still not half way there, with only just over a week to go. But I got this.

My writing plans last night were scuppered by having to meet some friends to receive some "stuff*". As is customary, this handover took place in a public house, leading to the consumption of hearty ales. My interlocutors turn out to be not entirely down with NaNoWriMo. Harsh words and phrases like "stupid", "waste of time", and "contributing to the ever growing mountain of shite books" were used. But I am in too deep to stop now.

In mere minutes I will be heading out to do my field research.

*the shady contraband that is the latest issue of Frank's APA.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #11

So I managed to get over 2000 words written this evening, so now I am at 23,153 words. I cannot in all conscience claim that today's work represents over 2000 good words, but this is one situation where quantity counts.

I'm probably not going to get so much written before the weekend, which is a shame. I am still obviously well behind schedule, but I reckon that a 48 hour write-a-thon over the last weekend should see me reach the finishing line.

This weekend I am planning to get on my bicycle to do some field research for my great work. A fascinating development, I am sure you will agree.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #10

So now my running total is 19435. That means that my novel has more words than my thesis, though it is not quite as interesting. I am, nevertheless, getting a bit worried about how sleazy all my characters are.

I have, meanwhile, found the solution to plots that go nowhere: PLOT TWIST GENERATOR

Help the cap'n

So tell me, what should I think of the band Tilly & The Wall? I nearly went to see them when they came here recently; I decide against it because seeing a band just because they have a 30 Years War general in their name and attractive (if garishly dressed) young ladies on their poster is not always a good idea. But then I read about them in local music magazine The State. The detail I was most struck by was that instead of having a drummer, they handle percussion by tap-dancing on stage. This must surely make them either the greatest live band ever, or a band so astonishingly bad that the freakshow aspect alone would justify the price of admission. So tell me, readers, what did I miss?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #9

I've slacked off a bit this weekend – I wasn't in the form for writing yesterday, and I kept managing to do other things today (like write about NaNoWriMo writing, which is what I am doing now). My running total is now only a paltry 17,801 words, way less than it should be at this half-way point.

Nevertheless, I got this. As you know, I am kind of busy next week, but I will still squeeze some writing in each evening. I also intend to get up slightly early each morning before work, and I reckon I can probably get a bit done at lunchtime each day. Stakhanovite labour on Friday* and next weekend should see me back on target.

*apologies in advance to anyone I know playing in a band next Friday night.

"The Nose"

The Nose is a short story by Nikolai Gogol. The Performance Corporation are currently doing a stage version of it in the Project Arts Centre, with Tom Swift doing the adaptation.

The story is simple enough. The main character is an upwardly mobile civil servant, intent on improving his status by marrying some rich heiress. But then things go horribly wrong – his nose is somehow detached from his face. Worse, the nose starts running about town on its own. The protagonist is soon horrified to discover that his nose has been promoted to a higher civil service grade than he occupies himself. If you've ever read anything by Kafka (or seen an adaptation thereof) then you'll get the basic idea. Like Kafka, this flicks backwards and forwards between being all about the existential angst and being all about the roffles.

You may be wondering, how do you represent a disembodied nose running riot on the stage? What they do is give everyone in the play a golden nose. Then, when the protagonist's nose goes AWOL, he loses his golden nose and the audience creates the mental blank. The disembodied nose's antics largely happen offstage, and funny lighting effects are resorted to when the nose's onstage presence needs to be suggested.

The drama is largely set up as a morality play. The protagonist is venal and exploitative (including towards his aged father), and losing his nose serves to thwart him in his rise. Towards the end he recovers his nose, but he throws away this second chance by acting in the same unpleasant manner as before. This all backfires horribly on him. If the play ended there, it would straightforwardly be a tale of overarching ambition leading to catastrophic failure, instructive but somewhat downbeat. But the play actually ends with one last scene between the protagonist and his father, with the two of them reminiscing over how they used to play together when the civil servant was a child. It is very poignant. The scene introduces an element of ambiguity to the ending – does the protagonist regain a sense of what is important through reconnection with his father, or is he crushed by a sense of how good things once were for him?

Anyway, I recommend this highly. Even if I have just given away the ending (to what is, after all, an adaptation of one of European literature's highpoints) anyone who likes theatre that strays away from dull naturalism will love this. My only real criticism of it would be that the scene with the TV news reporter goes on far too long. The play is pretty short, and it struck me that they might have padded this scene to give audiences the sense that they were getting value for money.

Bird Secrets Revealed

Scientist have discovered that when Zebra Finches sing, they compare the noise they are making with an inner recording of what their song ought to sound like. They do the same when listening to others of their kind singing. This process helps them to make sure they are singing their songs correctly. It is thought that other birds must do the same.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #8

Now I am on 15,520 words. This is a bit under a third of the target, but I have used up just under a half of my allocated time. Uh oh.

Attention Stalkers!

This is a post for my obsessive fans, the ones who want to follow me around everywhere I go over the next week. To make things easier for you, I thought I'd post my programme here.

Tomorrow evening (Friday the 14th) I am off to the Project, to see an adaptation for the theatre of Nikolai Gogol's The Nose. The poster has a little dog in it, so I have great expectations for this play.

On the evening of Saturday the 15th my itinerary takes me all the way to Sugar Club, where the US-Khmer sensations Dengue Fever are playing. Dengue Fever sound like the kind of exciting foreign band that never plays Dublin, so actually getting them here is very exciting. I'm hoping they have some of their records for sale (Dublin record shops seem to operate a No-Dengue-Fever policy) and that the place is full of real fans, not event people.

Sunday the 16th brings me to the IFI, for a Barbet Schroeder film being shown in the French film festival. It is called Inju, la Bête dans l'Ombre, and is an adaptation of a piace by the writer Edogawa Rampo. I've been interested in this Japanese fellow for some time. Apparently he writes in a tradition bearing some relationship to American Gothic, only set in Japan, and he was so inspired by Edgar Allan Poe that he adopted a Japanese version of his name. I'm curious as to whether this will turn out to be a piece of crazy extremism like Audition, only in French.

Monday the 17th brings me to my Spanish class.

Tuesday the 18th is thus far free in my diary, so my deranged stalker fans can take the night off.

On Wednesday the 19th I will be back in the IFI for more French film action. This film is called Capitaine Achab, and tells the life story of Captain Ahab from Moby Dick. Yarrr. Now that I think of it, it is maybe significant that Herman Melville does not give Ahab a back story in the book, but I am a sucker for The Sea.

On Thursday the 20th I will be popping into Trinity for a seminar to launch a book of papers I heard delivered at a conference on Palestinian stuff ages ago. See my other blog for a series of dull write-ups.

And that is as far into the future as I can see.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #7

On my way home from work I ran into my old friend and quaffing partner Joe Smyth. "What's this about you writing a book?", he said.

"I'm doing that NaNoWriMo thing, where you write a novel in a month".

"I see, what's it about?"

"Eh, people who dress up in furry animal costumes".

I then explained that I didn't see it as having much commercial potential.

After that I came home and wrote 2300 words, bringing my total up to 13,869.

Fierce Panda

Never get between a panda and its bamboo.

Thanks to KVS for the picture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bad Film: Badlands

This is one of those legendary films you hear about, and it was being shown in the IFI. The music in it is great (lots of classical composers, including pieces by Carl Orfe), but the plot and characterisation lead a lot to be desired. The former is of "and then another thing happens" school, while the actions of the characters seem largely lacking in any kind of internal logic, though I liked the acting. So readers - Terence Malick, a director I can assign to the bin marked "overrated rubbish"?

this is another post that did not quite make it into Frank's APA

Boring NaNoWriMo update #6

11,553 words. In terms of verbiage, I've had a good evening, but I am getting a sinking feeling about the novel and starting to wonder if finishing it might prove to be a terrible chore. But it is a chore that I will do!

Film: "I've Loved You So Long"

Ou Il y'a longtemps que je t'aime (moi non plus) si vous parlez français. My beloved and I went to see this film mainly because we were worried that the cinema showing it (the Screen on College Street, formerly the Metropole) might be about to close down. Before getting to the film itself, there are too many cinemas in Dublin whose imminent closure I fear, making it very important to spread the love between the Screen and the Lighthouse in particular. These two cinemas represent interesting contrasts, with the Screen being a venerable old cinema in a city that hates venerable old cinemas, while the Lighthouse is an architecturally fascinating multiplex in the basement of an apartment block. The latter suffers through being slightly outside the city centre and not obviously near a car park, so although it is not actually that far away by LUAS, bike, or even foot travel, there are always other cinemas that are more accessible. OK, so they will be showing My Lovely Irish Holiday #7, but for too many people their closeness to town makes them a far more appealing prospect.

Eh, where was I? Oh yeah, I've Loved You So Long. I had stayed away from this previously, largely because it sounded like it would be a lovely film, and also because it had Kristin Scott Thomas in it. Some time ago, I decided that KST is a mark of not-quality, making avoiding all films featuring her my rule of thumb. I think this might be a generalisation from Four Weddings And A Funeral (avoiding all films with any involvement by Hugh Grant, Andie McDowell, Richard Curtis, John Hannah etc. is another path I have chosen). But I was rather impressed by this film and by KST's performance, and its largely understated depth.

The story is simple enough. At the start, Lea (Elsa Sylberstein) picks up Julie, her older sister (KST), at an airport. Their conversation seems a bit awkward, and you pick up quickly that they have not spoken for a great many years. The younger sister is taking the older to stay with her and her family for a while, and you rapidly get the sense that Julie has been off in chokey or the funny farm for the last number of years, for reasons that are initially unclear. The film follows the sisters as they rebuild their relationship and as Julie attempts to adjust to life outside the institutional world. And that's kind of it, really. The film is all about the characters, both Lea & Julie but also the other people who hover around them (notably Lea's husband, her mute father in law, the depressed cop Julie has to sign in with, and the colleague of Lea who takes a shine to Julie).

You do learn early enough where Julie has been for the last number of years – she was in jail for murdering her son. My one real criticism of the film was that it did not leave this terrible event unexplained. Late in the film we learn the truth – cue cathartic emotional scenes between Lea & Julie. It's not like this was all dreadful, but I think something a bit more enigmatic might have suited the film more.

One thing I have noticed people saying about this film is "why is Kristin Scott Thomas appearing in a French film?" My researches suggest, however, that KST has spent most of her life living in France, speaks French, is married to a French bloke, and is basically all about the French. So no problem. They throw something in here about her being half-English, so maybe her accent is still a bit unconvincing.

space issues prevented this appearing in the current issue of Frank's APA

Monday, November 10, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #5

9509 words. Way behind schedule, but I am at least back in the saddle.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #4

Hello readers. I expect you are wondering how I am getting on with the novel I am writing. Sadly, I am still on 8,016 words, as the last couple of days I have had to write about music and stuff for Frank's APA. Having said that, I have written just over 7,000 words for Frank's, so maybe I could just paste them into the novel and bring myself up to 15,000 words. I'm not sure how I could work this so that it would not look too obviously like padding. Maybe I could do it like in 1984, and the main character could find a copy of Frank's APA lying around, pick it up, and decide to read my zine. In fact, given that I am writing a detective novel, maybe he could somehow be led to think that the zine might contain important clues for the case he is investigating, so the rest of the novel could be an in-depth analysis of my thoughts on Luke Haines, Nazi Jazz, Nurse With Wound, and other favourites.

Or maybe not.

One big problem with taking any kind of break from NaNoWriMo is that it is very hard to get back into it, and you find yourself wondering if what you have done so far is so rubbish that there is no point bothering with any more. Well, that's what I find anyway. Ultimately you have to wonder, does the world need any more novels about people who dress up in furry animal suits?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Play: Further Than The Furthest Thing

This was a play set by Zinnie Harris, set on an unnamed remote island (but clearly one modelled on Tristan da Cunha). This production was by some theatre company called HATCH, and took place in the Project Arts Centre under the direction of Annabelle Comyn. I enjoyed this so much that I found myself wishing I went to the theatre more – good job there is a theatre festival coming up*. The play does the usual thing of comparing the isolated islanders to the people living in the wider world, suggesting that the islanders lead a simpler and more real life, but then we learn that the island folk have their own ways and so on. It is so evocative of living in the world's most isolated community that I am now pondering the practicalities of visiting Tristan da Cunha (for what would probably the world's dullest holiday, but such is life). I doubt this is somewhere I will ever actually make it to, but I can dream.

One thing I wondered, though, is whether the film really played fair with the islanders. It is very evocative of their culture, and does make you favourable disposed towards them, but it does fall back a bit on the old "They've got their own ways" clichés about people in isolated communities. I found myself thinking this a lot in the second part of the play… there is a very powerful scene when we learn the dark secret of the islanders. I would be curious as to what the actual inhabitants of Tristan da Cunha would make of this revelation, as a cursory bit of historical research (looking at Wikipedia, basically) reveals that the terrible events described could basically never have happened. Now, of course, you could say that well, the play is a work of fiction and nothing in it ever names the island as Tristan da Cunha, but so much of the other incidental detail of the play points to there (the volcanic eruption, crucially) that you could not really have anywhere else in mind for it. But this is just a bit of a quibble, and it does not stop the play working as a powerful piece of drama.

I won't say what the islanders' dark secret is, but I will say that it is not like that of the Pitcairn people. I reckon only leaves two possible "own ways" for a clichéd isolated community, so you've got a 50% chance of guessing correctly.

The play does well with neat juxtapositions and contrasts – island-mainland, tradition-modernity. The first half is set on the island, while the second sees the islanders uprooted and dropped into the modern world. The geographical shift changes them, with some of them becoming like the mainland people. The play is a bit ambiguous on whether the contrast can also be seen as one of good-bad. The only character not from the island appears initially as almost an avatar of The Devil, there for nothing but to tempt the islanders into the modern world; but he is humanised and given enough depth to be more than just a cartoon villain. The islanders themselves seem to represent a simpler and purer way of life – but they have their own dark secrets. Or do they? Their secret is not something your would want to tell everyone about, but you would probably have done the same in their situation.

One thing that makes this play so enveloping is the accents and phrasing adopted by the characters. I've never been to Tristan da Cunha, so I can't say how accurate they were, but they were very evocative of how the speech patterns of an isolated community would develop (or not develop – isolated communities often retain forms of speech that die out elsewhere). I subsequently joined the I-Wuv-Tristan-Da-Cunha group on Facebook, and sure enough, it seems from there that the islanders do indeed have the most unusual form of speech. Of the actors, Fiona Bell was maybe the most impressive, but her role was the most central so she had more to impress with. You could not fault any of the others, all of whom delivered unforgettable performances in an exceptional production of an unforgettable play.

The first paragraph of this appeared previously in the pages of Frank's APA

image source

*I ended up going to dick all in the festival, such is life.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Film: "The Big Easy"

I saw this on TV down in Sligo. My beloved thinks I should let it go, but it is one of the worst films I have ever seen, and I reckon people should be warned against it. You might think "Hey, film set in New Orleans, this will be good", but you would be wrong; trust me on this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Film: "Batman: The Dark Knight"

You probably saw this when it was in the cinemas ages ago, as did I. It is about this guy who dresses up as a bat to fight crime, and about this crazy criminal guy who tries to thwart him. It goes on a bit, but it's all good, and features the kind of well-drawn characters and kewl action sequences that are something of a rarity in long-underwear films. I enjoyed it a lot, liking how it never relented and how all the characters in it seemed very well realised. It also has some great action sequences, with the big car chase bit being a particular favourite.

image source

Boring NaNoWriMo update #3

Not that much to report, except that I have crossed the psychologically significant 8000 words barrier. I don't think 8000 words is even that significant, so as you were.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Film: "Man on Wire"

This was a documentary about this crazy French guy who tightrope walked between the two towers of the World Trade Centre. It was fascinating and very enjoyable, and not just for the character who said "I spent thirty years of my life being stoned every day, so yes, on that day it is probably the case that I was high". It was also interesting for the sense that while doing the walk catapulted yer man into a world of celebrity and easy sex, he seemed to have lost a lot from it (notably his best friend and his amazingly rowrsome girlfriend of the time). I think maybe that the tragedy of the tightrope walker was that he did not seem to have realised what he had lost. But yeah, great film, see if on the big screen for full vertigo action.

I wrote that ages ago, when Man on Wire was still in the cinema. It's long-gone now, so you'll have to watch in on TV or something. Well I'm sure it will still be very good. Most of the film is people talking about what they did to make the tightrope walk happen. I knew basically nothing about the incident before seeing the film, so I was a bit surprised to learn that to go ahead, they needed to approach the whole thing like it was a heist. I suppose when you think about it, if you approach the owners of a big building and say "allo, I am zis crayzeeee French guy, and I would like to tight-rope walk from one bit of your building to another" you have to assume they will tell you to fuck off. So the film is all about the tight-rope walker and his team preparing to do the job, then about them actually doing it. It's all so tense.

One thing you get a real sense of, though, is of tight-rope walking as a team endeavour. The walker could not have done this on his own. He needed his partners in crime to get the equipment onto the towers and to play the cable across between them, and he needed them in the planning stage to get it all sorted out so that he would not fall to his death when doing the walk. I'm not sure the walker himself fully realised how much the others did for him. There is a very sad moment in the film, where one of his former colleagues breaks down at the thought of how close they had been, but how the walk between the towers ended their friendship. It was interesting, I thought that it was him who broke down and cried over the past, and not the walker's then girlfriend (whose generous support was re-paid by his shagging some slapper the moment the cops released him from their custody).

So yes, maybe this film could be viewed a cautionary tale.

The film makers could not afford Philip Glass, so they got Michael Nyman in instead.

Boring NaNoWriMo update #2

I'm not sure how long it will take me to start pretending to have written way more than I actually have, but my current word count is 6,681.

My novel also has a working title, Furry Folk*, though this will probably change. I'm still rolling with the plot idea that came to mind over breakfast on saturday, though I expect to have hit a wall by the weekend, in which case I will either have to bring on the zombies or abruptly switch to another time and place.

Picture from my pictures taken at a Halloween party.

*a homage to the classic Funny Folk comic by Al Ewing.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Live in concert: Yungchen Llamo

This was at the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire. I had wanted to go the Éthiopiques again, but they were sold out, so we took a chance with this Tibetan lady. This was on in the Monkstown Church venue.

A sinking feeling manifested in my stomach.From the moment the support act (some Tibetan bloke with an Irish woman singer and some other people of indeterminate nationality) started. The singer opened with an unaccompanied song in Irish about the plight of the Tibetans, and nearly burst our eardrums when she hit the high loud notes. This was not her fault, but the Monkstown Church sound munter had obviously turned everything up to eleven and then headed off to the pub, suggesting that we would be in for a treat when Ms Llamo (or Ms Yungchen) took the stage.

The rest of the support act, thankfully, was fronted by quieter vocals from the Tibetan guy, with the others doing a lot of waving little bells and things like that. This reminded me of the Fonal bands and their fun with chains and beads, and was certainly appealing visually. It also reminded me a bit of that micromonic stuff you get in Al-Amarja.

Yungchen Llamo's own performance was somewhat problematic. The sound munter had her vocals up wayyyyy too loud, which was almost literally painful given her fondness for sustained very high, very loud notes. The other cross she had to bear was her backing band. I reckon something more approximating to traditional Tibetan instruments would have suited her vocal style; instead she was accompanied by jazz-rock combo from another musical planet. They were all excellent musicians and all, but they didn't really seem to go with Yungchen's style of music; I liked them most when they were playing on their own while she was taking a break.

But it wasn't all bad. I gradually acclimatised myself to both the incongruous backing band and the over-amplification, which meant I was able to appreciate Yungchen Llamo's impressive voice and singing style. Her funny lady persona and strange philosophising were also rather endearing. What was particularly, enjoyable, though was the element of audience participation involved in the concert. The first time she tried this, it maybe did not work so well, as the line she wanted us to sing while she sang over it was a bit too complex. The second time, though, she just wanted us to make a drone noise as a backdrop for her singing. Being in a packed church full of people going "AAAAAAAUUUUUUUUMMMMMMM" is an experience to savour.

And then, when the night was drawing near to its close, Yungchen announced that she had an Irish guest star who would now be joining her for a few tunes. It could only be Liam Ó Maonlaí, and it was. Next to someone with the vocal skill of the Tibetan he seemed a bit out of his depth, and his traditional Irish attack brought another undigested musical element to the table, making for a difficult end to the evening.

Talking about this concert to people who weren't there, I did get a comment about how fusion never works, as an explanation for why the band and Liam Ó Maonlaí jarred so much with Yungchen Llamo herself. I see where they're coming from, but I'm not entirely convinced by this, thinking that ultimately musical forms will always cross-pollinate and should never be kept in their separate boxes. It may just be that some things cross-pollinate better than others, or that there are good and bad ways to make different forms engage with each other. This may be a fruitful avenue for future research.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Boring NaNoWriMo update #1

Welcome to the first of many updates of how I am getting on with my attempt to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month, something no one in the world has ever attempted to do previously.

Current wordcount: 2,782. That's 218 words short of my target for today. I might write a bit more before I go out later, or try to pick up the slack tomorrow.