Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Old man and young boy

Last Bus #2, Patrick Lynch

Issue one of Last Bus came out an eternity ago. It was about a last bus, or last buses, and the people who travel on them. I do not remember too much about it, but I liked it a lot. This is not about a last bus and does not seem to have any direct link to the previous issue, which has disappointed me so much that I have not got round to reading it yet. But hey, should be a couple of years before #3, so no rush.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Children With Monster Heads

The Bulletproof Coffin #1 (of 6), by David Hine and Shaky Kane

I bought this before registering that it was partly by Shaky Kane. Older readers may remember him as that guy who did all the weird occult themed stuff in the British anthology title Deadline. I am actually surprised to see him draw something like this that is an actual narrative comic, as back then his technique was so stylised that I would not have thought him capable of it.

What lured me into buying this was skimming it and seeing that it had a comic-within-a-comic, done in the retro style of things from the 1950s and 1960s. I am a sucker for both meta-narrative and pastiche, if it is done well. This does not disappoint. The outer story is about these guys lifting stuff from a dead guy's house before it is turned into landfill. He turns out to have been a collector of outré pop culture material – bizarrely possessing what appear to be incredibly valuable comics thought never before to have been published. One of these is the inner comic - The Unforgiving Eye, about a dealer of unflinching justice with a giant eye for a face. "There is no escape from the all seeing EYE OF KA-BALA", he asserts to some luckless crim. But in the narrative, the inner comic was created by… Shaky Kane and Paul Hine.

Further odd things happen. I know I will want to read more of this, but as it is a limited series from Image, future issues will probably appear only intermittently and never make it to Irish shores.

image source

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Big Man Fights Robot On Mound Of Skulls

Did you miss me talking about the comics I buy each week? No, I did not think so, but despite everything I will talk some more.

Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #1 (of 6), by Peter Hogan, Chris Sprouse, and Karl Story

OK, so what is this? Tom Strong is a character created by Alan Moore and Chris Sprouse, kind of as a Superman analogue, but only kind of. Moore stopped writing new Tom Strong stuff, either because he was retiring from comics again, or because the publisher had been taken over by one of the comics companies with which he was feuding, or because he needed to wash his hair, or something, but Chris Sprouse has gamely tried to recruit other writers to keep the character going. Unlike some of Alan Moore's original characters, Tom Strong seems to have enough going on to make his further adventures at least theoretically interesting, though the general comics buying public may disagree.

Anyway, this one sees Tom getting ready to celebrate his daughter Tesla's wedding, but then due to a kind of rupture in the time space continuum he finds himself sucked off into an alternate world where TEH NAZIS won the Second World War! OMG. Worse, he finds himself captured by Albrecht, his evil Nazi son, who is now Der Fuehrer. And then Ingrid Weiss, the scary Nazi lady who stole his sperm to produce Albrecht, is trying to sex him up.

So yes, eventful stuff.

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mice and Pterosaurs

The BBC has some interesting stories on the re-introduction of threatened animals in Britain.

Harvest mice have been provided with tennis balls in which these little fellows can make new homes.

Meanwhile, in London, the pterosaur re-introduction programme has proved a great success. Conflict between humans and pterosaurs has been avoided by the fliers’ exclusively fish and carrion diet and also by the tough regulations protecting their roof-top nests. Oddly, the initial fascination with the spectacular re-introduced animals has largely given away to indifference.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Frank Sidebottom, Chris Sievey

Frank Sidebottom has died, as has Chris Sievey, with whom he was closely associated. Frank was most popular during the so-called “Madchester” era of the early 1990s, when his fondness for high-quality ties was oft remarked on.

Chris Sievey, meanwhile, is perhaps most famous for his time in The Freshies, who almost had a pop hit with “I’m in love with the girl on the Manchester Virgin Megastore checkout desk” (subsequently re-released, reputedly following threats of legal action, as “I’m in love with the girl on a certain Manchester megastore checkout desk”).

They will be missed.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


In the course of the Crystal Antlers evening, we found ourselves discussing Irish bands and how they are almost invariably rubbish. My old friend and quaffing partner [Redacted] advanced the theory that no Irish band has ever released a good album ever. Can you think of any exceptions to this?

If you are in an Irish band and feel that you have released a good album, please feel free to outline its virtues in a comment. You could even send me a copy of it and I may judge whether it is actually any good or not. See e-mail address on the right.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cuban Booty

v/a Nueva Trova Cubana
Sabor De Cuba En Tí Pensado
Las Cuervas De Mi Ciudad Te Traigo

These are three CDs picked up in Cuba. Nueva Trova is a particular musical genre found in that island nation, being (I think) kind of like a newly politicised post-revolutionary version of Trova, a song-based folk music. I was kind of hoping from reading about Nueva Trova that this record would sound a bit like East Germany's own Oktoberklub. Sadly it is actually a completely dreadful record with awful songs on which people over-emote. Maybe the lyrics are about the need to bring in the largest sugar harvest in Cuba's history, but this record is going straight to Oxfam.

Sabor De Cuba are people we saw in the Hotel Nacional, while Las Cuervas are some above average Buena Vista style types we saw playing in the café on the steps in Trinidad. They are both enjoyable albums to listen to, but the post-holiday effect makes the music a bit less exciting. Maybe I should mix myself a nice strong mojito and listen to them again.

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Sunday, June 13, 2010


So, yeah, Nostromo. I apologise for taking so long to write about this. I picked it for classic book club because its Latin American setting dovetailed nicely with the Cuban holiday on which I would be reading it (for all that the book is set on the South American mainland rather than a Caribbean island). I also wanted to read something that was not one of the books by Conrad that everyone goes on about.

Nostromo is a book about any number of things, but two of them are politics and economics. The book is set in a fictional Latin American country, in that period of history when railways, steamships, and the telegraph were together opening up that part of the world to commercial exploitation based on primary commodity exports. In the book we see the transition from the chaotic rowdiness of the first decades of independence to a more ordered environment where the local government enforces a stability that serves the interests of foreign capital and local magnates. The book also features some allusions to torture and human rights abuses as horrific as anything from military-ruled Latin America of the 1970s.

The book is, at least initially, descriptive rather than narrative, painting a portrait of the Republic of Costaguana (or, more particularly, of Sulaco, its occidental province). Conrad's powers of description are such that I feel like I have been there and encountered its leading citizens. The initially slow-burning narrative focuses on a silver mine that finds its way into the possession of an Englishman living in Sulaco. The narrative ramps up when a civil war breaks out in Costaguana, with possession of the mine and its silver being the key prize sought by the various factions.

Conrad's powers of description and characterisation impress greatly, but I was also struck by his ability to handle action. When the civil war comes to Sulaco, the languid pace of the previous sections gives way to a tense account of move and counter-move. Nostromo himself, the capable underling of the Sulacan elite, assumes centre stage now after hitherto being sketched only obliquely and in passing. In true Conradian fashion, he proves less reliable than his betters had hoped, yet they fail to notice and he still manages to be the hero of the hour. I was also struck by Conrad's ability to switch from wry humour (with one batch of soldiers who invade Sulaco seeming more like Keystone Cops than anything possessed of martial viguour) to things much grimmer (like when the body of a man tortured to death by said soldiers is found).

So yes, a great book. I am glad to have finally broken my Conrad duck, as he has been my official favourite writer of whom I have read nothing ever since I read about his work in some commentary on F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby.

Has anyone else read this? What did you think of it?

I hope to be quicker with a response to Hard Times.

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The next book

Maybe I will stop pretending to be running a book club, and instead just admit that I am setting myself books to read each month and seeing whether anyone decides to read them with me. Anyway, this months' book is The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, James Hogg's 1824 classic tale of the dark side of religious obsession. It is pretty short, so no one should have problems reading it by the 18th of July.

Is anyone going to read this with me?

Justified "Panda"

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs "It's Blitz"

This is the third album from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It is highly praised, though I suspect that those subjecting it to such praise may be suffering from cloth ear syndrom. On a first couple of listenings I found myself thinking that this was not really that good at all. More recently it has started growing on me (particularly tracks like 'Heads Will Roll') but I am still not convinced it is anything like as great as certain people were saying. Fundamentally, it does not sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and does not deliver what you want from a record by that band. The new electro-pop direction has its charms, but I miss the guitar-heavy sound of yore.

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Live Music Corner

All I have been to recently seems to be Crystal Antlers, supported by local band The Cast From Cheers. The support act seemed to be a bunch of good-looking young lads in tight trousers who played music that maybe bears some similarities to that jangly Congolese music you hear about. They also did this neat thing of occasionally sampling themselves playing guitars, so that they could play back the recording and dance around onstage. Lovely young lads, as I was saying.

Because Crystal Antlers were playing downstairs in Whelans (as opposed to in the suckass upstairs) I was able to see the entire band – and discover that not merely do they have a keyboardist but that said keyboardist is a young lady. Well I never. The rest of the band seemed to be all present and correct, including the guy on extra percussion. It was a bit hot in therrre so he took off his t-shirt (eventually throwing the sweaty clothing item into the crowd, for my beloved to pick up and now insist on making me wear, unwashed). But then, oh dear, slight rear-end trouser malfunction.

This did not stop the band rocking out, though maybe they took a while to get into their stride. The concert was perhaps a bit under-attended, and maybe it was my immediate pals who were the ones really going for it with the interpretative dance up the front, but I did manage to further my reputation as that weird old guy you see at gigs.

Crystal Antlers are one of those neo-psych freak out bands you hear about.

image source

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Classic Book Club: Astonishing Developments

Notwithstanding anything previously said, the next meeting of my awesome classic book club will be this coming Sunday, the 13th of June, at 5.00pm. And we will not be meeting in a pub, but in the Tea Garden on Ormond Quay. Follow link for map, if you don't know where it is.

You will recall that the book we will be discussing is Hard Times, by Charles Dickens. I noticed quite a few people were dismissive of this book, so perhaps they will come along and outline their reasons for disliking it so.

image source

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Darkie's Mob

They don’t make ‘em like this anymore; some might say this is just as well. Darkie’s Mob appeared originally in the British anthology title Battle, back in the 1970s. It told the story of Captain Joe Darkie, a British army officer who took over a unit of stragglers and led them deep into the Burmese jungle to pursue a savage campaign against the Japanese. The great conceit of the story was that it was supposedly a true story, based on a diary found surrounded by corpses at the scene of a horrific battle. So the reader is set up for a grim tale in which everyone dies.

This comic reflects the unenlightened attitudes of its time with a creepily racist attitude to the Japanese, who are presented, initially at least, as depraved savages in a manner that would no longer be acceptable. But for all that, the story really has something. The gradual killing off of the characters, the neverending mood of grim foreboding, and the levels of violence completely beyond what you would expect in a story aimed at ten year olds all make this one of the most memorable strips I have ever read.