Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

I didn't want to say this was a bad book but it is. It's not as good as The Da Vinci Code or Angels & Demons. The plot doesn't really go anywhere and seems to end a bit too early. Avoid.

I guess the film will be worse.

Dan Brown likes Masons though.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Transition by Iain Banks

I've been going through a bit of an Iain Banks phase at the moment, reading all his science fiction books written with the 'M' middle initial, that I had previously ignored. I've always kept fairly up-to-date with his more mainstream 'literary' novels.

Transition (published without the middle initial) falls somewhere between his mainstream and science-fiction works. Transition is structurally ambitious with a self-confesed unreliable narrator and numerous different story strands that appear in different chronological orders. The story is told from several points of view and I found myself having to flip back a few pages to check what was going on once or twice.

The main characters in the book can move between different realities or universes. To do this they take a drug that lets them control the mind of a person in an alternate reality. There are communist realities and nazi realities. It's all a bit complicated and could be easier to understand with a diagram. A good plan is to stop trying to understand it and just enjoy the book.

The story deals with an organisation called the Concern that tries to improve realities by selected interventions. Something seems to have gone wrong in the Concern and one man tries to find out what the problem is.

This may not be Banks most accessible book but it is still good fun. Start with The Crow Road or Complicity if you've not read any of his work before. The Wasp Factory is also a classic (I did my higher dissertation on it about 16 years ago). Transition is also notable for the new interpretation of the term 'multiple orgasm' amongst the members of the Concern.

Monday, September 14, 2009

District 9 - film review

This film was made on a low(ish) budget but it's great. It's about an alien race who have landed in South Africa during the 1980s and now live in slums outside Johannesburg. It's shot in a grim videolike manner and it looks like a documentary. The casual racism of the humans who make derogatory comments about the 'prawns' feels real. Watching the humans kill a bunch of alien eggs while laughing about abortions is fairly unsettling.

The story is good and it's a fast-moving film with a few unexpected twists. I loved it and I hope to see it again. I also hope they make a sequel.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Nick and Noras infinite playlist

I picked up this DVD yesterday and I liked it. It's a bit of a chick flick but it was good fun. I liked the alternative music based storyline and I enjoyed the soundtrack.

Worth seeing.

Cool dead guy

A good friend of mine died 11 years ago today. He fell out a window at a party.

He bought me a ticket to the last Glasgow Ramones gig and went to see Sonic Youth with me. He was a good guy.


Saturday, September 05, 2009

Big A, Little A by Crass

Seeing Jeffrey Lewis during the week made me dig out my Crass records and inspired me to write about my favourite Crass track.

I first heard Big A, Little A on a compilation tape when I was 12. I was immediately drawn to the bouncy music and the intelligent lyrics. Big A, Little A was originally a 7" single in 1981 with Nagasaki Nightmare on the other side. For anti-capitalist anarchists Crass were fairly commercially successful and the single was an indie chart number 1 in the UK. The song also appeared on the Best Before compilation.

Big A, Little A is about being an individual and living your life the way you want to live. The song deals with the idea that religion is a means of social control and showcases a dislike of the monarchy and the British government personified by the then prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

Some of the lyrics to the song are beautiful. My favourite couplet is below -

Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do
I am he and she is she but you're the only you
No one else has got your eyes, can see the things you see
It's up to you to change your life and my life's up to me

The 'no one else has got your eyes' line gets me every time. People are beautiful because they are unique and have their own views and opinions on things. This song is about having the freedom to live your life in your own way.

The next few lines are great too:

The problems that you suffer from are problems that you make
The shit we have to climb through is the shit we choose to take
If you don't like the life you live, change it now it's yours
Nothing has effects if you don't recognise the cause
If the programme's not the one you want, get up, turn off the set
It's only you that can decide what life you're gonna get
If you don't like religion you can be the antichrist
If your tired of politics you can be an anarchist

This song may be unlistenable noise rock but it is inspirational. I love it. I suggest that you track it down and give it a listen. If noisy punk is not your thing look out for the Jeffrey Lewis folk version on '12 Crass songs'.


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Jeffrey Lewis lecture on Watchmen at the GFT, Glasgow

Jeffrey Lewis is an alternative folk (or 'antifolk') musician from New York. He plays folk music with a punk twist. I own one of his CDs, '12 Crass songs', which is a collection of his cover versions of songs by the old British anarchist punk band. It's pretty funny and I like it a lot.

Lewis is also a comic book artist and an arts graduate who wrote his thesis on the Watchmen graphic novel. He was playing a gig in Glasgow last night. Before the gig he was delivering a lecture on Watchmen at the Glasgow Film Theatre (GFT). Sadly I couldn't persuade anyone to go to his gig but I did manage to round up 3 other nerds to attend the Watchmen lecture with me.

I'm a big Watchmen fan. I first read the book when I was 11 or 12, over 20 years ago. I must have read the book 50 or sixty times. I own 3 copies (paperback, 1980s hardback, slipcase absolute edition) as well as several issues of the original series. I also own as many of the other works of Alan Moore as I have been able to locate. I am a major geek. I even liked the film although I realise that some fanboys would disagree with me

This lecture was comic book nirvana for me. Lewis apparently wrote his undergraduate thesis on Watchmen and he knows the book well. He spoke for about 90 minutes and he had interesting opinions on the underlying themes of the comic.

Initially Lewis described his idea that Watchmen is about the conflict between innocence and experience embodied by the Characters of the Comedian and Molok. He also discussed the recurrent images of a covered right eye in the book which Lewis feels represent a character being blind to a hidden truth. Finally he discussed the conflict between 'circles' (Dr Manhattan/nature) and 'triangles' (Veidt/man/industry). All reasonably convincing and interesting although Lewis appeared to be unaware of Alan Moores personal history of visual problems.

Totally geeky but good fun and thought provoking. A once in a lifetime opportunity. Wish I'd made it to the gig.