Sunday, March 28, 2010

The girl with the dragon tattoo and The girl who played with fire by Stieg Larsson - book review

Stieg Larsson, the Swedish writer of these books, died shortly after he delivered them to his publisher in 2004. He had been a well-known political journalist. He had apparently been working on these books for several years and had eventually planned to write a series of 10 books.

The books deal with an investigative journalist named Mikael Blomkvist and a young researcher named Lisbeth Salander. In the first book Blomkvist is hired to investigate a family mystery and Salander is employed to help him. Salander is an unusual person with some strange skills and various problems in interacting with other people.

The books are very fast paced and plot driven, filled with lots of unexpected twists and turns. Bad things happen to a lot of characters in the books and are described in unflinching detail. My mother gave me these books to read and told me that they were 'dark' although I never really believed her initially. I soon came to agree with her.

While these books are enjoyable they would probably have benefited from some gentle editing. I guess this may not have been possible after the death of the author. Some of the plot twists are so unexpected that they lack credibility. If Larsson had lived I'm sure that this would have been fixed.

Overall, these books are a good entertaining read if you are not an overly sensitive soul.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jerry Sadowitz live at the King's Theatre, Glasgow

People sometimes forget about Jerry Sadowitz which is wrong. In a perfect world Sadowitz would be everywhere, spreading his genius. Sadly this is not a perfect world and we don't get enough Sadowitz.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Jerry Sadowitz he is a Glaswegian Jewish comedian/magician. He has been ripped off and watered down a thousand times by people like Frankie Boyle. The stand-up comedy of Sadowitz contains as much aggression as Damaged by Black Flag or Screaming at a wall by Minor Threat. He is an angry man and a funny man.

I've liked Sadowitz since I was a kid. I remember watching him on TV in the late eighties/early nineties and thinking that he was a genius. Unfortunately the conservative media in the UK think differently and it seems to be almost impossible to either buy a Sadowitz DVD or see him on TV. Life is unfair.

So I picked up a couple of tickets to see Sadowitz at his late night comedy festival show. He was great. He probably said the words 'fucking cunt' about ten times a minute for the duration of his 80 minute show. He managed to offend every liberal sensibility that I have but I still fucking loved it. Frankie Boyle can only dream of having the presence of Sadowitz. Where Boyle feels like a bully Sadowitz feels like a messiah.

I was fairly tired when I saw the show and my throat hurt from laughing so much. Sadly, my brain wasn't working quickly enough to catch all the rapid fire jokes in the show but I would love to see him again. I really hope he puts out a CD or a DVD at some point. It would be great to see some of his old TV stuff again but that may be unlikely.

Jerry Sadowitz is a fucking genius. Cunt.

His comedy is like an enema - cleansing and refreshing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Govan vampire of 1954

Weird story involving Glasgow, vampires and comic books. Ticks all my boxes.

Sir James Black - Cool dead guy

On the 22nd of March Sir James Black, the Scottish medical scientist died at the age of 86. He won the Nobel prize for medicine in 1988. He helped develop both beta-blockers and ranitidine. As I doctor I have prescribed beta-blockers on several thousand occasions helping patients with heart problems. As an individual I take ranitidine whenever I have acid reflux. Black also has a building named after him at Glasgow University. I spent a long time in that building as a science undergraduate.

Black has left an indelible mark on medicine.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Frankie Boyle, live at the King's Theatre, Glasgow.

Last week was a good week for live comedy. After seeing Stewart Lee on Monday I went to see Frankie Boyle at a sold-out show on Tuesday. I was in the vertigo-inducing cheap seats of the gallery but I did have a good view.

I do like Boyle but he is a shock-comedian. He has some funny material but he relies on saying outrageous on controversial things. There were a lot of jokes about Madeline McCann which just felt a wee bit unnecessary. If I was a member of the McCann family I would have been tempted to give him a quick slap. I also found a few of the rape related jokes slightly unpleasant.

For most of the show I was laughing, as were the majority of the crowd. I wasn't sure afterwards that I would pay to see him again but it was funny (apart from the slightly cringe-worthy stuff that I mentioned earlier). This show was the first of a 100 date tour and hopefully Boyle will mellow-out a bit as time progresses.

When I compare Stewart Lee and Frankie Boyle I have to say that objectively Lee is both more intelligent and funnier. I know that 'funny' is an abstract concept but at least Lee is not a bully and Lee often avoids the easy laughs. Incidently, Boyle has a weird laugh that is often edited out of his TV material. Strange.

Glad I saw the show. Probably won't pay for it again.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Stewart Lee - live at the Citizen's Theatre, Glasgow

I have vague memories of Stewart Lee as part of the 'Lee and Herring' comedy partenrship in the early '80s but I was never a massive fan. I only really started to appreciate Stewart Lee after seeing his BBC2 Comedy Vehicle series last year. He's now one of my favourite comedians.

Lee has an intelligent style and he doesn't talk down to his audience. He uses big words and deals with difficult concepts and he expects his fans to be able to think. When tickets for this Citizen's theatre show originally went on sale I was slow off the mark and I missed out on tickets. An extra show at 5:30pm was announced but I couldn't find anyone able to get off work in enough time to make that show. I was very lucky on Monday afternoon when I checked my email and discovered that extra tickets had been released for the 'house seats' at the 8PM show.

This was his 'If you would like a milder comedian please ask for one' show that he has been touring for the past few months. The show was being filmed for a future DVD release as Lee likes Glasgow crowds. Several of his previous DVDs have been filmed in Glasgow.

When I arrived at the venue Lee was signing merchandise beside the front door so I was able to get a signed copy of one of his older DVDs which made my night.

The show itself was good. He put the boot into Frankie Boyle (who I saw the next night) and Richard Hammond. He did a bit about Napalm Death. I guess you should be able to see it on DVD in due course. I'm glad I was there. I hope to see him again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shutter island - film review

I think that Shutter Island is best described as a psychological horror film. It's the most recent film by Martin Scorsese starring Leonardo DiCaprio. They had previously worked well together on the departed. Shutter Island is based on a 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane.

The film tells the story of Edward Daniels, a U.S. marshal who is sent to the Shutter Island asylum for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a patient. He has an ulterior motive in visiting the island. He wants to find Andrew Laeddis, the pyromaniac who murdered his wife.

The film looks good and the plot is full of interesting twists and turns. As a doctor I enjoyed the elements of the film that dealt with the history of psychiatry. Daniels also suffers from recurrent flashbacks to his experiences during the Second World War when he was involved in the liberation of Dachau. I remember visiting Dachau on a school trip as a teenager and the horror of the place stayed with me. Daniels is worried that human experiments, similar to those that took place at Dachau, may have been performed at Shutter Island.

I enjoyed this film a lot and I'm intending to watch it again at some point although I admit that I had worked out the twist before I saw the film. My friend, who knew less about the film was more surprised by the ending.

Worth seeing.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Criminal - the deluxe edition by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Criminal is surprisingly enough a crime comic. It tells the story of several different criminals who live in a generic American city. It's clearly influenced by Frank Miller and Sin City but it's a bit more human. Sin City is a wee bit too superhero at times but Criminal is more like The Wire.

The stories in this beautiful collected edition are pulpy and violent with no real heroes. Nobody (good) ever wins and anyone could die. The art is suitably murky and the dialogue reads well.

A good comic if you don't like comics.

Also a good comic if you like comics....

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson

There has been a lot of attention focused on this book after the recent film starring Ewan McGregor and George Clooney. Having now read the book I think it's probably unfilmable so I'll be interested in seeing the film.

The book is about the American army and its attempt to harness psychic powers. It's crazy stuff and even a fraction of the material in this book is true the US army is populated by credulous idiots. There is discussion of ninja death touches, remote viewing and subliminal sounds, It's like an X-men comic mixed with James Bond. Seriously mental.

The book takes on a sinister feel in the later chapters with details of torture and atrocities in Iraq and possible LSD related murders as part of the CIA MK-ULTRA programme in the '50s. The dark side of the American dream is more like Watchmen than Superman.

If any of this shit is true the American army is stupid as well as crazy. Apparently a lot of Americans believe in creationism too. Mad.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Music I'm listening to just now

Here are some recent choices

1 - Mr. Bungle - California. I always thought Mr. Bungle were a bit of a joke when I was younger. Faith No More were OK and Mike Patton was a good singer but I never thought they were amazing. Many other people did. I recently stumbled accross the California album from 1999 and I was well impressed. The first song 'sweet charity' is amazing and well worth a listen.

2 - Built to spill. I picked up Perfect from now on a few years back but never really gave it a chance. The magic of spotify let me listen to some built to spill stuff in work over the past few weeks. You in reverse is a great album. The guiter parts are pretty cool, a bit Neil Young and the vocals remind me of the flaming lips. They're playing in Glasgow in May so I'll check them out.

3 - Refused - The shape of punk to come - This is an energetic and angry hardcore album. It's an evolution of the Fugazi sound but not as annoying as a lot of the emo/hardcore bands out there. It's fairly expansive which is unusual for a punk record. Worth a listen.

4 - Sonic youth - Not really a surprise but there is some good stuff out there. I like the recent acoustic version of Starpower and the Bob Dylan cover 'I'm not there'.

5 - Death cab for cutie - I've been listening to the Postal Service for a few years but I never really gave Death Cab a chance. I have now and my life is better for it.

6 - Moss Icon - Moss Icon are a legendary obscure punk band that I always wanted to hear. I managed to find their CD and I'm impressed. Not as good as Refused but worth a listen

Monday, March 01, 2010

Kevin O'Neill interview

Kevin O'Neill is a great comic book artist with a unique style. He drew Nemesis the Warlock for 2000AD as well as Marshall Law. Most recently he has worked on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with Alan Moore.

Here is a big interview with him from the Comics Journal website.

Good read!