Cakes and Money

Friday, May 30, 2003
 
World Cup Drumming

You know your brain has ceased functioning correctly when the first thought you have in the morning concerns the fact that you typed "infer" where you should have typed "imply" in your last blog entry.

What a weird thing to think about first thing in the morning. What a weird thing to think about at all. Ach well, at least that's one mistake fixed...

[Edit: heh - again, this sounds kinda dramatic, like my life is in a state of terrible disrepair or something. It's not, by the way; life is pretty damned good, and I intend to keep it that way.]


 
Another Love Song

Eh?

Mclusky were playing King Tuts tonight (Thursday night)� and I missed it. What�s going on here? I love Mclusky�their refreshingly raw noise-pop has frequently provided the soundtrack for my life during the last couple of months�and have been aching to see them live for quite some time now.

I have no idea how I didn�t notice that this concert was on, but I know that I don�t intend to let it happen again.

Heh - I know that sounds dramatic, but it�s also kind of true.


The Best Thing About Summer Is Tea On The Lawn

An earnest little rant of mine taken from an e-mail to a friend:

�Just a random point--I realise I've been going on about "art/entertainment" a bit in my e-mails, and I just feel the need to vent a mini-rant of mine right now:

I hate-hate-hate the divide that some people put up between art and entertainment. This is something I run up against every now and then in my University course. Don�t get me wrong, there are many lecturers who are very interesting, intelligent, open people, but there are a couple of them who are� well, lets just say that I�ve heard a couple of them say or imply (in all seriousness) that you shouldn�t expose yourself or waste your time with �lower� forms of entertainment such as TV or any form of genre fiction.

This just seems so unnecessarily limiting to me.

For one thing, I am one hundred percent sure that there is some artistic value in many TV programs, comic books, genre novels etc.

For another, what does it matter if something has genuine artistic worth and why should that be all that someone looks for?

I understand the divide on some level�entertainment merely, erm, entertains, while art strives to do more�but, y�know, there�s a lot of crossover, and I don�t think that either is superior to the other. To me, it�s all a part of the same thing�the wonderful world of human manufacture, play and achievement. That people can get something, anything, out of something that someone has created is utterly amazing to me. I don�t care whether something purely entertains me or gives me a brilliant insight into life, the universe and everything, just so long as I get something out of it.

And I love being in contact with so much stuff that strives for and achieves so many radically different things� it�s amazing, really, and I have no intention of ever limiting what kind of art, entertainment, whatever that I experience... I spent enough time doing that when I was younger and had preconceived notions of what I should and shouldn�t like.

I know this is all very oversimplified, but still� it�s something that I�ve been thinking about a lot recently.�

Hmmm... now that I think about it, this brings to mind the review of Grant Morrison�s New X-Men that was in the Comics Journal a couple of months ago.

Before I start here let me assure you that I�m not about to go off on a �the Comics Journal is evil and elitist� rant, because that would be both predictable and dumb (on the whole, I really like the Comics Journal). Nor am I going to complain about people criticising Grant Morrison. I�m not some slavish fanboy who thinks the man can do no wrong�maybe one day I�ll sit down and write about all the bits of his work that I don�t like or think he could have done better, but I doubt it, because it would take too damn long, just like it would with any artist who I like enough to have thought about in any depth. Instead, I am going to take issue with one line in the review that bothered me on some level.

The review was�for the most part�pretty positive, talking about how Morrison�s stripped down approach works well and praising Frank Quitely�s artwork. There were a couple of wonky bits (stuff about how the reviewer found it in a comics shop, not a bookstore, and how this disproved the idea that the series was reaching new readers*), but on the whole the review was ok, not particularly good, but not particularly bad either. Hell, to tell you the truth, the reviewer didn�t go near a few of the criticisms that I would have raised, much as I love the book in question.

But there was just one line, near the end, that seemed a bit mad to me.

It went something like this (I don�t have the issue to hand, and thus can�t be entirely sure of the accuracy of this quote): � Cyclops isn't Steven Dedalus, and is never going to be.�

Now, to be entirely fair, I think the reviewer wrote this while discussing whether or not this comic book was a work of art or not, but still� it seems like such an utterly irrelevant thing to say. There is no comparison between James Joyce�s language-bending modernist novel and Grant Morrison�s sci-fi soap opera, and neither work seems to pretend to be in direct competition, so I really don�t get the point of this comment.

I mean, as much as I like Ulysses, as a snappy soap opera, it�s a load of shite. Utterly useless, in fact. That James Joyce fellow� he was ok with the language and all that, but he wasn�t very good at the whole light entertainment thing now, was he?

I would perhaps understand this comparison if anyone seemed to be claiming that New X-Men was high art in the vein of James Joyce, but� I really don�t think that anyone is making such claims. Most people I know who like (or even dislike) it talk about it as intelligent pop fun. Grant Morrison himself, in his manifesto for the book, mentions stuff like Buffy and the Matrix as being the sort of thing he�s aiming to compete with. Surely it should be judged purely on the grounds of what it sets out to achieve, with reference to other works that attempt similar things if needs be?

Now, I�m not coming full circle here and claiming that art and entertainment should be thought of separately, but rather coming back to my argument that everything should be enjoyed, criticised and understood on its own terms. I can get a lot out of both New X-Men and Ulysses you know, and I can�t think of any reason why I shouldn�t be quite happy to experience both without worrying about how they compare.

As a fairly random aside, one of the reason�s that I like Roger Ebert�s movie reviews is that--whether I agree with him or not--I always feel that he has judged a movie on its own terms; that he has reviewed the movie in its proper context rather than by some bizarre abstract standard.

Again, I�m sorry if this is all a bit simplified�I know there�s more to it, and that, yes, some things are probably �better� than others etc, but I don�t think it�s as easy as �art: good � entertainment: not so good� either. Like I said, there is crossover between the two, and different works set out to achieve different things and� I�m starting to go round in circles so I�ll shut up.

In conclusion: I like stuff... stuff is great.

I thank you!

*I�m not claiming that New X-Men actually has grabbed a bunch of readers from outside the normal comic book market by the way, merely stating that the logic of the reviewer seemed a bit off to me.


Thursday, May 29, 2003
 
Fantagraphics

So, Fantagraphics Books are in financial danger and need your help.

Fantagraphics put out many of the finest comics currently available�comics by people like Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, Peter Bagge, Jessica Abel & Los Bros Hernandez�and the world of comics would be much, much poorer without them. These are some of the most intelligent and relevant comic books around, created by people who are capable of conveying the complexity of the world through their chosen medium. From the minimal, but yet wonderfully fleshed out, character sketches of Dan Clowes to Joe Sacco's deeply human political journalism, these books are a showcase for some of the very best that comic books have to offer, and I�d urge anyone who has the cash to purchase some of their comics directly from them in order to help out with their current situation.

Here�s the official press release:

�Fantagraphics Books Needs Your Help!
Buy Books! Keep Us Alive!

To Comics Lovers Throughout the World:

Fantagraphics Books has just celebrated its 27th year publishing many of the finest cartoonists from all over the world as well as our flagship publication, the magazine people love to hate, The Comics Journal. We are proud of our long-term commitment to comics as an art form and our dogged determination to push excellence down everybody's throats. This is all very well and good but it doesn't mean much in the face of brute economics -- and it's the wall of brute economics that we've just hit, hard.
Due to two major financial obstacles over the last two years, we're hard against it.

Our former and now bankrupt book trade distributor went out of business owing us over $70,000 -- which we will never see. (To add insult to injury, we learned that the owner is selling copies of our books that he should've returned on e-bay!) This unexpected shortfall necessitated taking out a couple loans which have now come due. In late 2001, our line was picked up by the W.W. NORTON COMPANY, who took over our bookstore distribution, and has done a magnificent job of providing us unprecedented access to the bookstore market. Inexperience with the book trade resulted in our erring on the side of overprinting our books too heavily throughout 2002, so that our anticipated profit is in fact sitting in our warehouse in the form of books. Loans must be paid in cash, not books. The only way to get out of this hole we've dug ourselves into is to sell those books. Which is where, we hope, you come in.

Over the last few weeks, we've worked to fix our in-house problems (which included, most painfully, laying off several fine and long-term employees). We have put in place a system of checks and balances by which we will watch our inventory growth scrupulously. But, we have a debt to pay down and wolves at the door. It's so severe that this month we envisaged shutting down our active publishing, seeking outside investors, or similarly odious measures. (Fantagraphics continues to be owned 100% by Messrs. Gary Groth and Kim Thompson. We'd like it to remain that way.)

If you've respected what Fantagraphics stands for and what we've done for the medium, if you've enjoyed our books, and if you want to insure that this proud tradition continues into this new and ominous century, we're asking you to help us now in our especial hour of need by buying some books. Put simply, we need to raise about $80,000 above our usual sales over the next month, and the only way to do that is to convert books into cash.

We've spent the last quarter century trying hard to produce the best comics the world has ever seen. You've rewarded us over the years with your loyal patronage, your moral support, your praise, your intelligent and honest feedback, all of which are more than we could ever have hoped for. We know we have tens of thousands of loyal readers: if even a fraction of you come forward and order two or three books that you've been meaning to buy, we'll be over this hump. We've published some some of the best books ever over the last year -- Gene Deitch's (yes, that Gene Deitch!) THE CAT ON A HOT THIN GROOVE; B. KRIGSTEIN, Greg Sadowski's definitive biography of the pioneering artist from the '50s; the magnificent FRANK collection; and the third volume of the extraordinary KRAZY KAT series. Our publishing plans for 2003 include a huge coffee table book by Will Elder (WILL ELDER: MAD PLAYBOY OF ART); KRIGSTEIN COMICS, a 240 page follow-up collection of Krigstein's best comics from the '50s, and new collections and graphic novels by Gilbert Hernandez, Jason, Dave Cooper, Robert Crumb, A.B. Frost, Bill Griffith, Gary Panter...

We already sell books by mail, so, as clich�d as it sounds, we really do have operators standing by. You can view out catalogue online. You can order by calling our 800 number or on-line at our web site (all ordering information below.)

If this was a standard pitch, we'd offer you some extra incentive -- a discount or free books or knicknacks or whatnot. But, it's not. We're asking those of you who believe we've contributed something worthwhile and meaningful to help us continue to do so, that's all. We need the full retail value of our books. But we can offer something that won't cost us any money: anyone (individually or collectively) who buys $500 worth of books from us will get a personal phone call from Gary Groth thanking you for saving Fantagraphics' ass. Think how much fun this could be at a party!

1. via FAX: 206-524-2104
2. via mail: Fantagraphics Books, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115
3. Secure Internet Orders: http://www.fantagraphics.com
4. phone: 206-524-6165 or 800-657-1100�

Seriously guys�Fantagraphics have what must be the most consistant and accessible line-up of any comic book publisher, and in any sane world they would sell far more comics than they do. I know this blog isn�t read by many people, but still: this is important, and it needs mentioned. I�d write reviews or recommendations for half of their back catalogue if I had the time, but unfortunately, I don�t.

You can find a lot of reviews for many of these books over on Artbomb if you�re interested, and the Fantagraphics website itself contains quite a bit of information on all of the books that they sell, so if you're wondering where to start, that's probably as good a place as any.

Thank you for your time.


Wednesday, May 28, 2003
 
Like Beatings Follow Rain

Tuesday�s Wake Up Screaming is a very good one. After a good couple of weeks of giant robot/Dinobeast action, Scott has went for a slightly quieter approach that works really well. It's nice & angsty--go read it.


 
Crazy Right Now

A few thoughts on a couple of songs I�ve been listening to recently:

�Tonight, Tonight�, by the Smashing Pumpkins--I loved this song so much back when I was in high-school. Listened to it all the time. I haven�t been listening to the Smashing Pumpkins much--if at all--recently. I guess I haven�t been in the mood for their particular brand of bombast for a while, and I think the fact that I really didn�t enjoy the last couple of Smashing Pumpkins albums had put me off them somewhat. However, I recently listened to and enjoyed the first album by head-Pumpkin Billy Corgan�s new band Zwan, and because of this I�ve been giving their back catalogue a bit of a re-evaluation. And hey�there�s a lot of good stuff there. Sure, the last couple of albums are pretty dire, but the band still recorded a lot of very good pop rock in their time.

�Tonight, Tonight� is one of my favourite examples of this. It�s unbelievably overblown�crashing waves of instrumentation build up again and again from a steady, dramatic pulse while Billy Corgan stretches his cracked voice as far as he can, delivering grandiose claims that �the impossible is possible tonight��but, crucially, it works. It is huge, romantic and utterly glorious in its own preposterous way. I find it impossible not to be carried away by that last, frantic build-up at the end, with Corgan pulling out all of his most starry-eyed and theatrical lyrics. It�s cheesy, perhaps, but it gets away with it. At least, it does in my opinion� hey, what can I say: I like things that are over the top sometimes.

�Crazy In Love�, by Jay-Z & Beyonce--Oh god yes! I think that I vaguely needed to hear this song after the disappointingly mediocre �Me & My Girlfriend� (that it was uninspiring was a shock in itself; that it began to annoy me so quickly was just way too weird). Both Beyonce and Jay-Z are such talented and charismatic artists, and it�s good to hear them work together on something as fun as this. �Crazy In Love� sounds a bit like some of the tracks from the last Destiny�s Child album to me�there�s a kind of alternately stuttering/stomping feel to it that is familiar (in a good way). And it�s got Jay-Z, doing his thing with conviction and charm this time�it�s a combination that shouldn�t be able to fail really, and it doesn�t here. Needless to say, this will almost certainly be going on a couple of summer mix-tapes; it has just the right joyous, ass-shaking quality, I think.

�Strange Currencies�, by R.E.M.--There�s something perfect about this particular R.E.M. song�it sounds so sweet and graceful, especially when placed in its context as a part of the fuzzed up Monster album, but yet the lyrics carry this really weird, creepy feeling with them. Here, lyrics and music conspire to create a very interesting effect; the traditional prettiness of the song itself is more important than it immediately seems, I think. So many love songs have weird, stalker-esque (or at the very least possessive) overtones, and this song sees R.E.M. really playing up this factor�musically, it sounds lovely and romantic, but the words are so obviously loaded with more uneasy implications that the whole thing just turns upside down on itself.

As a random aside, I really like Monster. It�s not their best-regarded album, but I�ve always had a bit soft spot for it. It�s all about performance, I think, on a couple of different levels. Obviously, it was supposed to be R.E.M.�s �rock� record, and as such the majority of the tracks are swamped in this haze of scuzzy guitar effects. This adds to the directness of the tracks in an odd sort of way�despite the fuzziness of the sound, these songs are pretty straightforward, and have a very immediate feel that seems to demand live performance (oddly evoking a kind of sleazy small-club ambience). The vocals are often pushed slightly further back in the mix than you�d expect, blending in to the tracks somewhat, and I think that this bring to the fore the other kind of performance that is central to these songs; the lyrical performance. Monster is full of weird characters and perspectives� there�s a sense of slipping into lots of different (sometimes uncomfortable) roles here that is heightened by the slightly distant sound of Michael Stipe�s vocals. It�s curious stuff, really, and I think there�s a lot more to be said about it at a later date� certainly, I�d like to try and figure out what I think about the dynamics of the album as a whole, the way the clearer moments work in their context etc.

Maybe I�ll get around to it sometime�

�I Just Can�t Get You Out Of My Head�, by Kylie Minogue--A lot of people I know seem to think that I�m being ironic when I go on about how good this song is, but they are utterly, utterly mad, cos it really is brilliant; a towering slice of immaculate disco, sexy as all hell and yet run through with a weird, obsessive sadness. It is definitely one of my favourite pop-songs from the last couple of years� hell, it�s probably one of my favourite pop-songs of all time. There�s something about the almost flawless, robotic sound of the whole thing� it�s both really shiny and fun, and a little bit sad in a way� maybe it�s just me, I don�t know, but I think it adds something to lyrics� it gives it a kind of hollowness, a lack of fulfilment that is oddly fitting�

There's a dark secret in me
Don't leave me locked in your heart

Set me free
Feel the need in me
Set me free
Stay forever and ever and ever and ever
"


 
Re-evolution

There�s a brief interview with Grant Morrison up on Slushfactory at the moment. There�s nothing particularly new there, but it�s quite amusing all the same.

While, we�re talking about Morrison, here�s a mini-article from SPIN magazine, which has him talking about real-life mutant celebrities in an amusingly mad fashion.
[Text taken from this Barbelith thread]

GETTING INTO THEIR GENES
Are These Suspicious Celebrities Secretly Mutants Too?


"Every day I look in the mirror, I'm forced to concede that mutants are real," says comic book author Grant Morrison (The Invisibles, The Filth). He should know: Each month he chronicles the adventures of Marvel Comics' genetic misfits in New X-Men. "Back home in Glasgow," he adds, "we have mutants on every street corner with the ability to drink more than ordinary humans." Appropriately, Morrison was hungover when we asked him to evaluate the mutant potential of these equally freakish luminaries. - ANDY GREENWALD

Justin Timberlake
"Definitely a pure mutation - and he's trying to push his powers in a more evil direction. I think they inject all of those Disney kids, like Britney, with something when they're young. One minute, they're singing about mice, and the next, they're riding motorcycles and fisting each other."

Stephen Hawking
"He's in the larval stage of his mutation. I have a feeling that one day he'll shed that body, the prosthetic wheels. The husk will split open and a glowing energy life-form will emerge, one with the power to control entire worlds."

Kylie Minogue
"Tricky, but she's more of an android, like on Star Trek. They look perfect, but they've got strange plastic skin, and if you scratch them, a clear liquid flows out. She can be used for good or evil - like the bomb."

Yao Ming
"Classic mutant. They always come from other countries, they're always exotic, and he's gone straight to basketball, the one place where he won't look too suspicious. I wonder when they'll start testing for the mutant gene in all sports?"

Michael Jackson
"I think Michael Jackson wants desperately to be a mutant and can afford to get suspiciously close. Martin Bashir is more of a creepy character - I imagine that he's like the Toad, that he has the power to eat flies at a distance of 15 feet away and can bounce off the walls."

Simon Cowell
"Oh, now we're into the realm of demonology. What we need is for Yao Ming to put on a costume and fight people like this before they take over the world."


Monday, May 26, 2003
 
Angst on Wheels

I�m feeling a bit empty headed tonight. I�ve been working for the last couple of days, and while it hasn�t been unpleasant, it does seem to have drained my brain somewhat. Well, that�s my excuse and I�m sticking to it!

Also, as I work in a bookstore, I�m starting to get a bit worried about the 21st of June. The 21st of June, you see, is the day the fifth Harry Potter book is released. I�m telling you now folks, this is going to be a bit of an organisational nightmare in my shop. We have, like, 500 pre-orders, each of which has had a deposit put on it. Unfortunately, from what I can discern (and I�ve asked around a fair bit), we don�t seem to have a very good system for sorting out which books belong to who and how much they�ve already paid on them.

Should be interesting.

On a slightly brighter note, it appears that comic books have replaced pornography as the mainstay of our current shop sale. I picked up a Marshall Law collection for 99p, and there are still a variety of other comics lying in the sale box at a fairly reasonable price. There are perfectly undamaged copies of Ghost World going for four pounds (if you�ve not read Ghost World yet, please do�it�s very accessible and very, very good), a ten pound copy of Watchmen and a couple of other interesting comics as well. There are also an awful lot of very cheap, and very damaged, Spawn collections in there, though why anyone would want to buy them I�m not sure. It�s kind of weird actually, as someone seems to tear all of the pages out of any Spawn trade paperbacks that we get in. While this isn�t any great loss to the world of comic books, it�s still a bit odd.

Anyway, back to Marshall Law: I�m very interested at looking at Kevin O�Neill�s art in these stories and comparing it to his current work on The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Compared to the crudeness of O�Neill�s art here, his work on The League� looks somewhat classy, which is fitting given the bizarre old-fashioned adventure of that series. But still� no matter how different it may feel on the surface, it is still unmistakably drawn in his style. The jagged, exaggerated nature of his artwork still leaps out and grabs you instantly�it�s not a particularly subtle style, but that doesn�t matter here. Actually, there is an odd mastery of mood displayed in his work on LOEG. Partly I think this is just a sign of his maturation as a storyteller, and partly I think it�s down to the difference in the stories he draws for Alan Moore compared to those that Pat Mills wrote for Marshall Law, which while amusing, weren�t very subtle�it�s crude, bombastic deconstructionist superhero work, with a blood-splattered post 2000AD aesthetic, after all. We�re talking dismembered limbs and gratuitous machismo here (as much as I enjoy the energy in these comics, I can�t help but think of the Beard Hunter story from Grant Morrison�s Doom Patrol every time I read them). I also think the colouring plays a big part in this difference--Marshall Law boasts a suitably direct palette, while the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has much more texture, and I think that this choice of colouring works very well in both cases, emphasising the tone of the story appropriately.

The other thing that just leaps out at me about O�Neill�s art is how two-dimensional it looks. I don�t say that in a bad way, as it works very well for him, but there�s a distinct flatness to his work that is kinda fascinating. Again, it works very well for these stories, adding to the pulpy nature of Alan Moore�s stories as well as the bluntness of Pat Mill�s.

We got a big load of the paperback edition of Chris Ware�s acclaimed Jimmy Corrigan graphic novel into my shop today, and I think I�m going to talk to my manageress about getting them a more prominent table space. I think she�ll be up for it if I write a short review. The only difficulty is that I�m not really sure how to sell this particular book to the general public. Shouldn�t be too hard, but I�ll have to put a wee bit of thought into it.


Sunday, May 25, 2003
 
Did He Just Say �90�s Alert�?

It just struck me that my third year of University ended on Friday. Weird. I�ve still got a couple of essays to hand in, but my classes and tutorials have all finished, so I won�t be on campus much until after the summer. On the one hand, this is a good thing, as it means that I�ll finally be able to catch some sleep. On the other hand, the fact that I�m going to be leaving University soon is starting to worry me a little. It means thinking about what I actually want to do, which is cool, but not something I�m particularly good at. I�ll manage just fine though� it�s just a tiny bit daunting is all.


Saturday, May 24, 2003
 
the Wake-Up Bomb

My good friend Scott has started up a new blog here.

So far he�s posted some thoughts on the first Matrix movie and the Catwoman statuette, and I expect he�ll ramble on about a bunch of other stuff soon.

Keep it up big man!


 
Army of Me

I was going to write a lengthy rant about why Matrix: Reloaded is a terrible, terrible movie, but Flux has beat me to it and summed it all up quite nicely. Still, I think I�m gonna ramble on about a couple of aspects of this film that really got on my nerves, as even though Flux covered most of the important faults in this film, I think I just need to get some of this off my chest.

The thing about this movie is that it makes the first one look so much stronger in comparison. I stand by my criticisms of the Matrix, but at least that film had shape and rhythm. It built from point A to point B in a tight, cohesive manner, and there were enough problems to be solved for the movie to remain engaging as it went on. In sharp contrast, the sequel is a choppy, badly paced mish-mash of action scenes and terrible dialogue that never really comes together in any meaningful way. Hell, it doesn�t even come together in a way that is inanely entertaining.

A few points:

--The sex scene is truly hideous. I know that this is mentioned in the Fluxblog post, but I really feel the need to point out that this is the single least sexy sex scene I have ever seen in my life. Sex in movies is almost always piss-poor but this really takes the biscuit. There�s not one hint of love, lust, energy or tenderness between Neo and Trinity in this whole movie, and never is this more obvious when you are presented with this stilted mess of a scene. I�m vaguely fascinated by quite how empty this scene is� it�s remarkable really. It doesn�t help that this scene is mixed in with the equally awful communal dance scene (the rave in the cave). Man, was that ever lifeless. It felt like the Wachowski brothers had just discovered that women have nipples and were intent on drawing the attention of their audience to this fact as if it were utterly revelatory. For ten minutes!

--This is a movie about the struggle between man and machine, yeah? Well how come there is not one single moment in this movie where any of the human protagonists act like actual human beings? Are they all androids? Is this the extra secret final plot twist? The acting is almost unanimously terrible (be it Keanu�s trademark blankness or Laurence Fishbourne�s bloated pomp), and the writing is amazingly bad. Really joyless, perfunctory stuff that is utterly full of its own importance. Again, it�s actually kind of astounding in its own way. I just saw a �making of� program on TV, and was very amused by the way that all involved talked up this movie as being the one where we really get to see our heroes struggle with the choices they have to make and also get a look at the people behind the shades. Yeah right! That sounds like a pretty good movie. Shame this isn�t it.

--People have been comparing this movie to the Star Wars prequels, and not without good reason, I think. Certainly, Matrix: Reloaded shares with those movies an utterly uninteresting political/military set up (I tried to be remotely interested in the Zion scenes, really I did, but I found myself thinking about the reading I still had to do for Friday�s English Lit tutorial fifteen minutes into this movie, which cannot be a good sign). There�s also a certain similarity between the unconvincing romances and turgid exposition that is so prominent in both Reloaded and the Star Wars prequels, but the chief similarity lies in the fact that none of these movies have a very engaging visual aesthetic. Sure, they look great, but there�s something oddly distant about all of it� like you�re getting a flat, second hand experience. Watching Neo fight an absurd amount of Agent Smith�s was entertaining on some levels, but I just didn�t feel like I was being involved in the action. This feeling has been compared to the experience of watching someone else play a video game with loads of cheats on, and I think that that�s a fairly accurate description in this case. This may be fairly fitting (especially given the fact that this movie ups the idea of game playing as a part of journey the characters are undertaking), but it doesn�t make the baroque visuals any more exciting; this style doesn't really have any sense of dynamic weight in this medium. Still, Hugo Weaving was amusing in this one�his character�s motivation was a bit poorly defined, but his (oddly stuffy) OTT psychosis was one of the few genuinely entertaining things about this film. It�s all about him, him, him, I guess.

--I think that the scene between Neo and the Architect, while not perfect, was pretty important and fairly interesting. I�m about to drop a SPOILER in here, by the way, so be warned that you shouldn�t read on if you haven�t seen the movie yet.

Ok.

Everyone good with me rambling on about one of the movie�s central plot twists?

Cool.

I am genuinely very pleased by the introduction of the idea that Neo and the prophecy of �the One� are merely another control mechanism designed to focus the inevitable rebellion of humanity into a specific pattern. It doesn�t quite make sense of the overarching post-Terminator set-up that was introduced by the first film (which always seemed a bit too goofy and far out for me in this context), but it�s a nice twist all the same. It feels like the movie is all about this one scene, and that the rest of it is just stuff that the brothers have thrown in because they could (more money does not a better movie make). Oh, sure, there�s also the stuff about how the robots are digging down to Zion, but that could have been handled far more economically. Anyway, back to the Architect scene--it was ok, really. I mean, it would have came off much better if you had anyone but Keanu in the lead role (watching all six versions of �the One� go through the motions at once was a bit too Bill & Ted for some reason��No way!�), and it�s clear that the Wachowski brothers really gave their dictionary a good going over in order to try and tart up the Architect�s speech, but it was still a nice concept and one that was fairly well executed. I kind of like to think of this part of the movie as being a nice bit of meta-criticism�like the movie is admitting that it is just a manufactured strand of pseudo-rebellion.

But still�what a crappy movie! It�s not like I was looking for much�I loved X2 even though it wasn't particularly well written or acted for the msot part. It was a big simple popcorn movie, but it had a few characters you could care about, or at the very least be interested in. I certainly never felt bored during X2 which should surely be a pre-requisite for any good action movie. Additionally, while X2 may have been quite episodic and bitty at times, there was always a sense of excitement and humanity in there; crucially, it had charm, which is one thing that could never be said about the second Matrix film.

I didn�t stay in the cinema for the preview of Revolutions because I kind of just wanted to get out of there by the end of it, but I�m sure I�ll go check out the third instalment out of morbid curiosity. Right now though, the very prospect of seeing where this is all going feels a little bit painfull.


Thursday, May 22, 2003
 
Threshold Blues (part II)

It has just occurred to me that I have written very little about the comic books of Daniel Clowes on this blog. I think I wrote about a wee bit about the 20th Century Eightball collection a few months ago, but aside from that I don�t think I�ve ever really mentioned his work. This strikes me as being a bit weird, as he�s definitely one of my favourite comic book creators, and given how frequently I write about comics around here you�d think I�d end up talking about him more often.

Partly, I guess this is because he hasn�t put anything out since before I started keeping this weblog. That�s no excuse though, so I�m going to try and get my thoughts together and write something about him in the near future. There�s a lot going on in his comics, and sometimes it can feel hard to articulate just what it is that you want to say about his work, but I�m definitely going to give it a go.

I recently re-read Ghost World for the first time in ages, and it still stands up as one of the best comics I�ve ever read. I think it was the first comic book that I read that came from outside the comic book �mainstream�, such as it is. Before that the only comic books I�d read had been by guys like Grant Morrison, Alan Moore and Warren Ellis, and while I am still very fond of a lot of those kind of comics (particularly the ones by Morrison and Moore), I�m very glad that I branched out a bit, as I�m not sure my passion for the medium would be half as strong as it is today without my current (still somewhat patchy) awareness of the variety of comics that are out there.

But yeah--Ghost World: I love it. The first thing that struck me about it upon re-reading was how nicely it actually encapsulates the casual harshness of the average teenager. Enid and Rebecca are sympathetic characters, but Clowes doesn�t sugarcoat them or gloss over the fact that they occasionally do things that are cruel and unpleasant. This is a very surface-level observation, but I found it refreshing when I first read it and I still do today.

There�s lot more to it than that, of course� Clowes does a very good job of conveying the relationship between the two girls, and their struggles to find some kind of place world they inhabit through the little snapshots of their lives that he presents us with. You come away from it with such a good sense of who everyone was, which is really quite remarkable given the brevity of the comic.

This is why I can�t agree with those who say that there isn�t any reason for Clowes to work in comic book form. There are those who claim that there is nothing in his work that couldn�t be equally well conveyed in either a play or a short story. This may sound reasonable enough in theory (though I�d argue that he sometimes mixes textual narrative and visual storytelling in a way that disproves this theory), but I think that the fact remains that Clowes is a master of the comic book form, and has a real gift for pacing a story and conveying the nuances of it via his chosen medium. He�s not an obvious formal master like, say, Chris Ware is, but I think that his storytelling skills are equally sharp.

There�s an interesting discussion of Clowes� David Boring graphic novel over on the Comics Journal message board. Well, it starts out as a thread about David Boring and quickly gets a bit wider, but still.

I like David Boring, but it�s far from my favourite example of Clowes� work. I think that I really should give it another look some time though, as it seem like the kind of story that will only really come together after you've read it more than once.

While you�re browsing the Comics Journal boards, you could do worse than to check out this thread, which contains some very amusing musings on Steve Ditko, objectivism and Spider-Man. It's got nothing to do with Clowes, I know, but it�s entertainingly mad stuff nonetheless.

I�m going to try and post something about the second Matrix movie tomorrow (Friday), but this may prove difficult as I�ll be writing Left Hanging with Kenny all day before having a few drinks with Gemma in the evening. Still, I�ll try my best to get it done at some point�not sure when I'll have the time, but I'll try.


 
700mb

Scott has brought it to my attention that I really didn�t give a very good description of quite how hideous that Catwoman statuette was during yesterday�s post.

As he reminded me, the statuette actually depicted Catwoman tearing off her own costume, with the resultant split stopping just short of her crotch. It was, quite frankly, very sad and more than a little bit creepy.

I forgot to mention all this yesterday partly because I�d tried pretty damned hard to block it out and partly because I was writing quickly in order to get off the spew-encrusted University computer that I was typing on. Charming stuff all round, really.


Wednesday, May 21, 2003
 
Suffocated Love

I�ve been reading Ed Brubaker�s Catwoman recently, and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by how fun it is. Catwoman isn�t really a title I thought I�d ever find myself enjoying, partly because it always looked like a vaguely titillatiory book for die-hard Batman fans (which just isn't my scene), and partly because� well� because of that fucking Catwoman statue!

Let me explain: There�s a comic store near Glasgow University called �The Dream�. It�s a fairly unimpressive wee place, remarkable only for the sheer amount of Beanie Babies they stock. For a few months at the start of the year, this shop had the most hideous looking Catwoman bust in its front window, for the entire world to see. It was, basically, a model of Catwoman with her boobs out that reinforces every bad stereotype of the average comic book reader that you could think of. It was just so� desperate, and I can only imagine what catching a glimpse of that fucking thing would do to the average person's perception of the world of comic books�

The stupid thing is gone now (thank god!), but still� I walked past it far too many times on my way to my friend's flat, and it just left this really bad impression of Catwoman in my head that I still have a bit of a hard time shaking.

Thankfully, the new book has a revamped (and less embarrassing) aesthetic, and is a fun read all round. Brubaker�s writing is straightforward, but effective. He seems to be aiming for a feel somewhere between the crime noir atmospherics of Batman: Year One and the slightly jauntier tone of the Batman Adventures cartoon, and I think he pulls it off. It certainly doesn�t hurt that he�s working with a variety of very talented artists such as Cameron Stewart and Darwyn Cooke, all of whom can handle the balance between mood and energy that this book requires.

As I said, it�s simple stuff, but in a good way. Brubaker�s handle on the character is solid and entertaining: she�s a trouble ex-crook who looks after those who others won�t give the time of day�it�s not original, but it works. Additionally his habit of cramming in a lot of panels per page works really well in this context and is a refreshing change from the 'widescreen' style that dominated mainstream comics (or at least felt like it did) a couple of years ago.


 
Zebra

So it looks like Scott and I will be going to see Matrix: Reloaded tonight. I think we�re both a little amused by this, as it makes us look like we are both desperate to go see it when neither of us are really bothered about the Matrix movies at all.

I quite like the first film� it took itself a little bit too seriously, and It felt like the writers were trying make it all sound far more deep and complicated than it really was but� yeah, it was an ok action movie. The special effects were good (captured moments and superpowers�very comic booky), and the movie had a fairly nice aesthetic, so I enjoyed it on a surface level. Plus it was amusing to watch the ever wooden Keanu trying to bring to life the under-scripted transformation of his character from vague, baffled computer geek to vague, baffled kung-fu jesus. "Whoah!"

I just don't feel that the movie really made anything of it�s premise, and that it is�in essence�a very calculated movie that sells itself on the notion of outsidership/rebellion. That's fair enough as far as it goes, but... I dunno. I think my main problem with it is the air of importance it carries around with it. I know this isn�t a particularly original criticism of this movie but meh, what can I say? They didn�t really go into the characters enough for me to care about any of them, and the sub-Terminator package that it was all wrapped up in didn�t really didn�t work for me at all.

Scott would be somewhat harsher on the first movie than me, I think, so as I said, we�re both amused by the fact that we�re technically going to see a preview screening.

The advanced word on this sequel seems to be mixed, so I�ve got my expectations set to a suitably low level just to be sure. At the very least, there�s little chance that I�ll be disappointed by the movie, and I�m sure there�ll at least be one or two bits that are shiny enough to carry me through all the stilted exposition� or at least, I hope there will.

More soon�


Monday, May 19, 2003
 
Like Some Form of Satanic Cancer

A few more things about 100%:

(1) That scene in the first issue where Kim and Strel barter over the price of the gun they�re buying is a classic. Such a neat storytelling concept (numbers accompanying glances and gestures illustrate how the bartering process is going)�simple, but yet very unexpected and surprisingly effective.

(2) Sound effects. Pope makes great use of them. In his hands they feel fresh and visceral, adding dramatically to the intensity of a scene. People seem to be a bit unsure of sound effects in comics these days, but I reckon that there�s a lot of life in them yet, and I think that this comic shows that they need not be goofy and distracting if used right. There�s also a lot to be said for using them goofily in the right situation, but I digress...

(3) The last scene in which John throws a dart at the world map is brilliant! It embodies so much of this comic book perfectly, I think. John, in a fit of dejection cause by the manner in which Daisy ditches him, decides to throw a dart at a world map and go wherever the dart takes him. It says so much about his character�a bit earnest and over-dramatic in a rather sweet sort of way�and is thus a suitably melodramatic resolution to his story. But when it lands in New York, at exactly the place he is� it�s just� it�s so cheesy, but it�s also funny, warm and deeply reassuring at the same time. It�s kinda hits on this big, daft sentiment while undercutting its own seriousness, and I like that.


 
Going Underground

I just read Paul Pope�s recently completed mini-series 100% in its entirety, and I have to say that I am very, very taken with it. More so now than I was when I was reading it in individual instalments.

It is�as Pope himself admits in the letter pages�essentially a modern romance comic dressed up in futuristic garb. This is very important to the appeal of this comic, as Pope�s artwork has an ultra-cool sheen to it, and it would be easy to mistake this series for something purely style-centric. Which isn�t to say that it is aesthetically unpleasant (or indeed that there is anything wrong with being fashionable/stylish): this comic looks utterly gorgeous on every single level I can care to imagine, and Pope does �cool� better than most. His linework is fluid, dark and very sexy and every page is a gorgeous mish-mash of murky greys and gnarled, inky blacks that just plain breaths. As I�ve said, it would be possible to take a look at this book and think it was an exercise in style, but even if this were true, it would be a damned pretty one, and one with a lot of vitality to it. There are crowded clubs, dancers, boxing matches and dark city streets, all of which just seem so full of energy, character and life.

But behind all this Pope�s high-cheekboned cast have a little secret in store for you�they�ve all got a lot of heart, you see. This is a very loose story about three couples, all of whom are interconnected on some level. This is about how they get together and, in the case of John and Daisy, how they fall apart again. It is unashamedly romantic, and because of this, it transcends its (admittedly rather swish) surface appeal.

It�s not perfect: some of Pope�s actual writing seems a bit heavy-handed (which is a shame as the characterisation here is great and he can get so much across in the silent scenes) and elements of the speculative/reflective side of the comic don�t quite ring true. The �Gastro� thing (where projections of strip-dancers insides accompany their dancing), while an interesting permutation of the current trend for increased media-voyeurism and a visually distinctive idea, seems a bit off to me, for example, but still�. the feeling of the world is right. There�s a lot of scary stuff going on in 100%. The first issue starts with the discovery of a corpse in an alley, there�s mention of bombs in Istanbul, and a few sleazy characters lurk around the edges of the story, and Pope excels at creating an atmosphere. One look at the page and you are right there. But this sense of atmosphere, of the big, busy world that the characters live in, makes the romantic element of this comic work. The characters all feel like people with a couple of dreams or hopes in the middle of all the chaos, and there are just oh-so-many moments where you get that genuine sense of awe here. Eloy�s kettle orchestra, for example, or that bizarre (but brilliant) date that John and Daisy go on� you know, the one in the four-dee booth where they are sitting there in a simulated varsion of the atmosphere? It�s breathtaking stuff, given that little bit of genuine weight due to how it stands out against the grimy backdrop of the story. It feels celebratory on some level... there's a love for life here that doesn't just boil down to some forced hedonism. It's great, basically.


Sunday, May 18, 2003
 
Outer Geek

Weird but true: I�ve really started to enjoy CSI recently. It is pure precision TV: short crime stories, stuffed to the brim with geeky details and very little else. It�s meticulous--if somewhat cheesy--stuff, free of flab or anything beyond that which is necessary for the plot. The characters are all very broadly (perhaps even minimally) drawn, but have just enough personality to get by. Most of the characters exist on the verge of utter anonymity, with the viewer being provided with only the most nominal details about who these people actually are, and yet somehow it hangs together. Just. Warren Ellis wrote about this a while ago, but I think that he overstated this lack of character somewhat. He claimed that CSI: Miami was just as good because the cast didn�t matter, only the details of the crime-of-the-week. While the details ARE what that carries the show, no one I know can stand Miami. Why? Because there isn�t enough character there. Funny that, eh?

But still� it feels odd that I enjoy it so much. It�s not really very� me, which is a terribly strange thing to say. I just like how slick and efficient the show is. It�s really easy, I guess, and sometimes that�s exactly what I�m in the mood for.


 
Tonight's Blog-Post Has Been Cancelled--Going Out In It's Place Is The One That Would Have Been Up Instead

I forgot to mention in my last post that I'm quite looking forward to seeing Maggie Gyllenhaal actually do something in a movie.She's been in a lot of films that I have really loved recently (Donnie Darko, Adaptation and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), but has had very little screentime in any of them, so it'll be nice to see her in a prominent role for a change.

Also: speaking of Donnie Darko, didn't that just come out on DVD? Damn... there goes another �20!


 
Great Chins of Quitely!

Secretary: apparently a slightly skewed romantic movie that stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as a new employee who becomes involved her boss, as played by James Spader. According to my friends Graeme, Kenny, and Zoe, it�s quite unusual, but very amusing and with a very well handled sadomasochistic relationship at it's core. They all saw it at an exceptionally early preview screening, and what they�ve told me about it has peaked my interest somewhat.

I�ve yet to actually see the film, though I intend to do so later this week, but one thing that has leapt out at me about it is the discrepancy between the way the advertising has made the movie seem and the picture that my friends (alongside all of the reviews I've seen so far) have painted for me.

To be entirely honest with you, I think the promotion of the movie has been fairly terrible. Did any of you see that horrible "Assume the Position" poster? The one with that big ass sticking up in the air, vaguely attached to a pair of very leggy legs? It was a bit cheap, wasn�t it? It strikes me that it�s probably aimed at the frustrated lad/dirty old man market. Compare this to the movies trailer, which tries it's hardest to emphasise that THIS IS A ROMANTIC COMEDY despite the slightly unusual subject matter.

Neither of these angles really sold the movie to me at all. I guess that this is partly down to the fact that I'm not the target audience for either approach (which is entirely fair), but from what my friends have said, neither of these promotional angles have anything to do with the movie itself.

This in itself is understandable and not entirely unusual: they're trying to sell this movie to the public, after all, and have thus been trying to give people something familiar to hook on to. But when you take into consideration the fact that this is a movie that (apparently) explores territory that could seem deeply reactionary and anti-feminist if it was handled wrong (the useless male wank fantasy of the utterly submissive woman--see, she WANTS to be told what to do!), this promotional campaign seems a little more questionable.

I know that Maggie Gyllenhaal hates the "Assume the Position" poster. She had been worried that the movie would end up feeling like a sleazy wank-fest, and apparently talked long and hard with the director in order to ensure that this didn't come to pass. These posters, apparently, embody everything she had feared this project could end up being.

I think I've been overstating quite how bad the poster is; it isn't porn-movie bad, but it does reek of FHM/Maxim style laditude. I think it's supposed to be cheeky, but instead it just feels a bit sad.

I feel a bit horrible talking about consumer markets etc but that�s just life, isn�t it? Almost everything is over-calculated and precision launched these days� it�s just amusing to see how inept this process can be sometimes.

Still, I�m very much looking forward to seeing it, and no doubt I�ll write a little something about it after I do so.


 
An Actual Update!

This place has been a bit quiet for the last couple of days, hasn't it?

I seem to have been very busy for the last 48+ hours, which is odd. While I don't actually have any exams this year (3rd and 4th year being one big year on my course), I do have a wee bit to do at the moment, and this, combined with me trying to maintain some kind of social life, has ensured that I've barely been on the computer at all during the last couple of days. In all honesty, this has made for a nice change of pace (sometimes Ioose whole hours to the internet without looking at/doing anything of worth), but I'm hoping to post a bit more this week.

Right now I'm just thinking about my physical health again... a few fairly random factoids for you:

(1) For the past however many years I have drank practically nothing but Irn Bru, a particularly sugary and obnoxious fizzy drink of which I am perilously fond.

(2) Since last year's (far too lengthy) bout of glandular fever I have been drinking far more Lucozade than Irn Bru (which I'm not really convinced is a good thing, to be honest with you).

(3) Recently, I have been consuming far more water than Lucozade (yay!).

(4) I rarely, if ever, eat microwave food now, which makes a nice change from a couple of years ago. I'm also kind of slowly trying to work out how to, y'know, actually cook things at the moment... which is fun. I like cooking; I'm just not very good at it is all.

(5) My sleeping patterns still need sorting out. I rarely manage to go to bed at a reasonable hour, and when I've been getting up at seven-thirty every morning in order to commute to University in time the results have not been pretty.

Minor things, but important nontheless...

I've got to start making some big decisions soon... I'm looking at the idea of moving out next year, and because of this I'm currently trying to work out how much I'll need to work during the summer to afford this, and whether or not this will let me do all of the stuff that I feel like I need to do at the moment. I really, really need to just kick-back and relax for a bit... to write stuff... to have fun with my friends... to just sort myself the hell out. I'd like to travel around a bit at some point soon... I'm planning a brief visit to London with my friend Gemma, but ideally I'd like to jaunt around a bit more sometime in the near future.

It'll all work out nicely, I'm sure... I've just got to make sure that I actually give things a go from now on. I think I have a slight tendancy to give up on stuff before I really get started because I'm scared it'll all fall through if I give myself to it. This character trait really needs to go if I'm ever going to get anything done in my life, and I've been working on it, honestly I have. That said, it's easier to say you're going to change than it is to actually do it, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see how that all turns out.

More soon.


Thursday, May 15, 2003
 
...

Wow! Just looked over my last post (the one about the Straight Story), and even by my standards that was a masterpiece of terrible typing and fractured grammar! I've patched it up a bit now, but still... man, do I need to learn to type properly at some point in my life.

Currently writing a presentation about villainy in Richard III... it's going fairly well, but I think It's going to be largely improvised tomorrow, depending on what the girl who is doing a presentation about villainy in Othello says. I'm starting to get kinda good at this sort of thing. For so long I was totally paralysed when it came to speaking in front of large groups of people, but lately I've started getting a bit cockier. I'm still nervous as all hell, but I tend to kind of get into this rambling groove when I do presentations these days, and I'm pretty sure it's all going to work out fine.


 
Power Music Electric Revival

Kenny and I finally got around to watching the Straight Story yesterday afternoon, and we both loved it. In all honesty I don�t think that either of us was expecting it to be anything more than a curiously interesting example of David Lynch playing it straight (Fnar!), but as it turns out it�s a really, really good movie. The story�about a stubborn old man who decides to visit his estranged brother after hearing that said sibling has just had a bad stroke�is the kind of human-interest story that everyone loves, but many people (myself included) have become slightly disillusioned with due to the mechanical and dehumanised way that such tales are trotted out (this may just be me, by the way� I dunno). It�s a feel-good movie, basically, but it works. While it would be easy to overdo this kind of material (it�s very earthy, old fashioned stuff about a perceptive old guy who does things his way and is trying to patch it up with his brother, after all), at no point does it feel like Lynch or any of the cast are trying too hard to get the point of all this across. Richard Farnsworth is brilliant as Alvin Straight, bringing out the stubbornness, pride and genuine human decency of the character without ever overplaying it. His quiet matter-of-factness is central to the tone of the whole movie, allowing the actual worth inherent in this kind of down-to-earth approach to life to shine through without any of the unpleasantness that could accompany it. The most telling example of what I�m talking about here would be the scene early on where Alvin meets and has dinner with a young runaway girl. While Alvin is observant enough to understand that the girl is in the early stages of being pregnant, and tries to convince her to go back and try and work things out with her family, there doesn�t seem to be any judgement in him when he talks to her; he isn�t looking down on her here, and I think that this is what this movie is all about. In other words, this may be a movie that treasures family values, but it does not do so in a way that condemns people that don�t fit in with a certain set of 'standards'. This may be a somewhat idealistic set-up, but I don�t think that�s a bad thing to encounter (either in fiction or, if you're lucky, in real life) every once in a while.

It�s amusing to compare this to the majority of Lynch�s output, as while it obviously feels very different on the surface (warmth and a clear chain of causality are not two qualities that leap out from, say, Eraserhead), the movie often feels like it is simply Lynch looking at some of his standard concerns from a different perspective, or rather looking at different permutations of some of his core concepts. Lynch is often accused of simply making nonsensical movies about a load of weirdo characters. Straight a weirdo of sorts; his decision to travel an obscene distance on a sitting lawnmower is a tad eccentric, and his refusal to take lifts from anyone adds to the idea that he is somewhat over-determined to do things his way. And this is a movie that, like much of Lynch�s output, essentially deals with the weirdness at the heart of America (particularly small-town America). The only big difference here is that this movie does all this in a way that revels in the good side of these weird people and places, rather than getting into the fractured, seedier side of things.

In an odd way, the Straight Story reminds me of Amelie. I don�t mean to say that there is much in the way of similarity between the two movies, as it is obvious that they are different on so many levels, but both of them are total feel-good movies that shouldn�t really work (quirky stories of rural kindness and romantic fairy tales can both go very wrong very easily), but yet do somehow, leaving you feeling very warm and satisfied without feeling the least bit cheated.

And the ending of the Straight Story is wonderful; the way that Alvin and his brother just kind of sit there for a moment is pretty much perfect. It�s all so awkward, and yet somehow you know that everything is alright (at least within the confines of this story).

There�s something very weird, but poignant, about the way that in order to undo a bit of stubbornness (i.e. his refusal to talk to his brother), Straight acts so damned stubbornly. There�s a determination here that is oddly admirable, despite the seeming lack of logic inherent in much of Straight�s activity. There�s something here about being stuck in your ways, but trying to make sure that this doesn�t interfere with your relationships with people, I think� not sure quite what I mean here, but there�s something to it� something about reaching out, despite the fact that you�ve sealed yourself into being a certain way. I think it goes back to that stuff about just accepting people for who they are and trying to treat them like people, in a roundabout kind of way.

It�s definitely not the kind of movie you want to watch when you�ve got something to do, though. Despite the amount of time that passes in the film, the pacing is very slow and measured (which is very fitting given the pace at which Straight travels), and there�s little drama in the whole movie, just lots of lovely looking scenery and a few random encounters with a smattering of odd people. It is gorgeous though, and as I�ve already said, it doesn�t hurt to watch something that celebrates the better side of human nature every once in a while.


 
Does Kevin Sorbo Have A Kung-Fu Grip?

This is old news now, but I�ll mention it anyway because I'm a total geek for Hellboy stuff: they�ve finally released the first image of Ron Perlman in his full Hellboy make up.

First impression: I find the fact that he has hair far more amusing than I should (it just looks kinda funny in real life).

Second impression: this doesn�t really tell you much about how this will actually look in the film, but is quite amusing nonetheless. Thinking about it, it looks slightly better than the pictures of Nightcrawler that were released before X2 came out, and given how swish he looked in the final product, this bodes fairly well.

Third Impression: It doesn�t show you his right hand (of doom!) though, which is kinda important to the overall look of the character (being as it is, a giant stony fist that could either look really cool or really terrible). Heh��the right hand of doom is important�: I want that on a t-shirt!


Tuesday, May 13, 2003
 
Say It Like You Mean It Now

As a couple of people point out in this Barbelith thread, issue ten of the Filth doesn�t exactly cover any new territory for a Grant Morrison comic. It is, as someone pointed out, the Beard Hunter issue of Doom Patrol crossed with the Flex Mentallo mini-series. But while the poster who made this connection was annoyed by this, I liked it, as the piss-taking aspects of the Beard Hunter story ("I'm the Beard Hunter: I. Hunt. Beards.") are this time focussed on Morrison's own work rather than that of others.

After a few cryptic mentions in previous issues, we finally get to see who Max Thunderstone is, and he�s far goofier than I expected him to be. He�s a self-made superhero in the �real world�: a drugged up loon who has beefed up his physique and loaded up on gibbering transcendental philosophy with which he intends to fight the secret, world-controlling organisation that is the Hand. He can even manifest his thoughts in the form of real though-balloons that appear above his head. As such, he is a note-perfect parody of much of Morrison�s rhetoric, and I�m well chuffed by his inclusion here. Just check out the following example of Thunderstone�s bombast:

�I�m just trying to give you some idea of what it�s going to be like to be me as I finally go public and change the destiny of humankind forever. I�m going to expose your secret conspiracies in the name of freedom. And when I�m done, I�ll step up to the microphone and say �you too can be like me: Max Thunderstone� Man-Made God.� And they�ll all cheer like children, you watch.�

One of the things that drew me most to Morrison�s work when I first encountered it was how positive it was; how it always seemed to be striving for something. Crucial to my appreciation of this, however, is the fact that Morrison never forgets that this is a lot more complicated than it sounds, and I think this issue was a neat acknowledgement from Morrison that he knows that his own philosophy can sometimes come across as hyperbolic nonsense.

I think that balance and the difficulty of making actual, meaningful progress are fairly central themes in Morrison�s work. It�s there in the way the Invisibles critiques itself as it goes on, and in the fact that Morrison seems unable to maintain the ultra-violent super-spy fantasy of King Mob. It�s in the way that Buddy Baker has to wrestle with the implications and consequences of his animal rights activism in Animal Man, and in that series� overarching themes of kindness, power and responsibility. Look at his Doom Patrol from this perspective: the book itself feels in many ways to be a celebration of weirdness and the possibilities therein (an idea perhaps best exemplified in the text by the idea of Danny the Street becoming a world of infinite novelty for people to escape to) there�s also quite a bit in there at the end about people struggling to maintain their humanity in the face of all these bizarre post-modern concepts.

In a similar way, I think this issue of the Filth serves as the obvious counterpoint to the enthusiasm of Flex Mentallo, and while the critique it provides may be obvious, I really do value the fact that Morrison explores his favourite concepts and themes from multiple angles, often exposing the flaws in them as he goes along. I think that this makes the positive note he normally ends on seem less forced and more valuable. Implicit in this kind of approach is the idea that while it may be difficult to change yourself and the world around you for the better, it is possible. Positive change can be accomplished; you�ve just got to work for it, and not ignore the negative side of anything you are doing. There�s also a lot of stuff in his work about not forcing your ideal world on others, which I appreciate, and I think that one of the key ideas in the Filth is that being Greg Feely (a middle aged bachelor who just wants to look after animals) isn�t that bad a thing in the scale of it all. Feely has certainly served as a nice counterpoint to some of Morrison�s more glamorous main characters. We�ll have to wait and see how this all turn out though, as anything could happen in the next three issues, really.

Scott and me have been talking about this kind of stuff a wee bit recently (due in part to the fact that Scott has had to be thinking about a lot of Morrison�s work as a part of his Scottish Lit dissertation), and I�ve came to something of a pseudo-theory. I reckon that the mix of superheroes (with all the benevolent pseudo-fascism and power & responsibility shtick that comes with them) and anarchic punk-rock stuff that is key to much of Morrison�s pop-culture sampling forces him into having to consider things from multiple perspectives at once when he writes. This is obviously a very reductive way of looking at his work, but I do think that there is something to it, and as I�ve made clear, I don�t think it�s in any way a bad thing.

Erm� getting back to the actual issue of the Filth in question, while I�m not sure how this series is going to end (or indeed how positive the conclusion is going to be), this issue seems like an odd one to throw in at this stage in the game. After the last issue�s hints as to the nature of the universe in the Filth, and the dramatic cliff-hanger it presented, it was somewhat disorientating when this issue to skipped right past the consequences of this kind of stuff and onto the Max Thunderstone story, but I�m sure all will become clear next issue. The story itself was very amusing, though: the overabundance of thought-balloons makes it read like the work of Chris Claremont on a sugar-high (which is a laugh), and Thunderstone�s grotesque musculature is utterly perfect for Weston�s hyper-detailed, but slightly awkward, art style. It�s got a Dolphin that swears in it for god�s sake! You just don�t see enough of that sort of thing in comics, in my humble opinion�

Another amusing issue, then... roll on the next few.


Monday, May 12, 2003
 
Blind Navigator

Just a brief post today as I�m a busy boy at the moment. Basically, I�ve neglected a few important things involving the bank and the library and have thus been running around all day trying to sort it all out. There are no major problems here, just a wee bit of laziness coming back to bite me in the ass.

I picked up quite a few comics on Friday (100%, the Filth, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wolverine/Doop etc), most of which I reckon I�ll talk about at some point later this week.

But for today, I�m just going to share a brief trip down memory lane with all of you.

This afternoon I found a recording of the guitar part for a song I wrote a couple of years ago. I�ve got tapes lying around of various bits and bobs of music that me and my friends made when we were younger, but this one had somehow gotten lost for a while, so it was a nice surprise to dig it up again. It isn�t that good a song, and it�s a pretty sloppy performance all told (the first chorus is cut off way too soon, and the playing is a tad overzealous at times), but there�s something about it I�m quite taken with. The chorus is really nice (when it doesn�t end prematurely), and there�s something very scratchy and sweet about the way the whole thing builds up that I still find endearing. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight I was moderately bemused to find that the verses borrow the chords from �the Drugs Don�t Work� by the Verve, which is odd as I was never into the Verve, really. I�m still trying to remember what the lyrics were� I think this one comes from around the time that I was just stringing together words that sounded kinda cool, so they shouldn�t be quite as embarrassing as some of my other, angstier lyrics.

Much funnier is the other tune that was on the same tape: it�s some kind of wacky, effect and synth drenched reggae jam that has to be heard to be believed. No idea what was going on in our heads that day� it sounds like the soundtrack to some really bad 80�s computer game, and is very amusing because of this.

I also found a mini-disk that I made up last year, and it�s brilliant! There�s quite a bit of Clinic and Pavement on it, which is never a bad thing, but the real big thing here was that it reminded me how much I love Beyonce�s Work It Out. It is going to get so overplayed by me this summer, I can tell you. It�s weird how it sounds totally old fashioned and utterly modern at the same time, isn�t it? I think it�s probably my favourite thing the Neptunes have worked on so far and Beyonce is wonderful, as always. The whole thing is just so big, sexy, enthusiastic and fun� I can�t think of much more to say about it really, except that it is possibly perfect, or as close to perfect as you can get, anyway.

Erm� yeah!

With my slightly overenthusiastic appreciation of that particular song out of the way, that�ll be me going out to see Scott in Glasgow.

Take care!


Sunday, May 11, 2003
 
Don�t You Wanna Grow Up To Be Just Like Me?

I�ve had one of those odd days where I�ve had a lot to write about, but have experienced great difficulty whenever I�ve sat down and tried to actually type any of it.

Anyway, although this post will come up as being one that was written on Sunday, it�s really a Saturday post. I don�t now why I felt the need to say that, especially considering how often this seems to be true around here, but there you go.

Writing Left Hanging with Kenny is proving to be a lot of fun. Neither of us has ever written a play before, and we've never previously collaborated with each other, so this is proving to be an interesting process all round. It�s working out quite well so far though, as while we are both letting our pretentiousness get way out of hand (in a preposterously dumb and outrageous way), it�s quite obvious that we both love really simple, silly comedy. Hopefully it will all balance out in the end.

It�s all about literalising a lot of things. Both of us really love the way that (for example) certain American cartoons will sometimes base gags around the literalisation of abstract concepts and clich�s, and while we haven�t talked about this at any stage, it seems to me that this is a big part of what we�re playing around with. The whole thing is literally about gallows humour (hence the groan-worthy working title, of which I am rather too fond), and there�s a lot of stuff about suspension (of disbelief etc), tension, and characters choking on their words.

At the very least, I�m actually getting something done, and it�s been a good learning experience for the two of us, as I don�t think that it�s the type of thing that either of us would normally try to write.

Mr Pharmacist

There�s an interesting article on cartoonist Jack Chick here (via the ever fabulous Flat Earth). Chick is apparently the world's most published living author and is the man behind those strange, wooden looking Christian rant tracts that are apparently distributed most everywhere.

I have a train-wreck fascination with Chick�s work. To me, it skirts this thin line between being highly amusing and deeply disturbing. On the one hand, the sheer ridiculousness of the standard Chick track is so over the top as to render it highly amusing to a smug bastard like me. But at the same time, there�s something very distressing about the earnest hatred of some of his strips, and when you consider how many people actually read these things, and how many of them could potentially be nodding along in agreement, the whole thing starts to feel much bigger and more sinister.

In case you�ve never seen any of Chick�s tracts, there�s a wee selection of them over here. Be warned: it�s all a bit mad over there, and you�ll have to poke about to find the online tracts. To be honest with you, I actually feel a bit weird linking to it, which is an unusual situation to find yourself in, but I�ll go ahead in the name of providing a decent source of information on this kind of stuff.

For those of you who don�t want to go there, the following excerpt from the LA Magazine article does a pretty good job of summing up the bizarre content of the average Chick tract:

�The experience of reading a Chick tract can seem disarmingly familiar. In many ways the stories adhere to the standard rules and visual language of comic books: When people are angry or stressed, huge beads of sweat shoot off their foreheads. Bad men say things like "@#$%!"; exclamation points are everywhere. Characters, with their side parts, bell-bottoms, and stilted language, have the stuck-in-time quality of Archie comics. But behind the reader-friendly style is a disturbing, hateful message: There are demons hiding everywhere. There are devil worshipers in the federal government and gay men plotting to taint the nation's blood supply with AIDS. The pope is an agent of Satan. So is your next-door neighbour.�

There�s also a bit about how Chick�s pamphlet publishing format has allowed him to reach the areas that the Internet just can�t reach (makes him sound kind of like a Biblical cleaning product, doesn�t it?), and an attempt at finding out something about the man himself (apparently a hugely difficult task due to his extremely reclusive nature).

It�s all very curious, in a perturbing sort of way.

My favourite online tract has to be �The Curse of Baphomet�, which is all about the demonic stuff you�re apparently getting into if you�re a Mason. The thing that really amuses me about this one is that I think it provides a perfect Ned Flanders moment worthy of any Simpsons episode. I�m talking about the way that Ed just happens to have all this information about Masonry and it�s satanic permutations and origins in the back of his car. I can�t read that bit without hearing Flanders say the words ��get Daddy�s anti-Masonry kit from the car� in my head. Weird.

I�m not bashing anyone with any kind of faith, by the way. Believe what you wasn�t people; it�s got nothing to do with me. I just can�t stand the use of faith as an excuse for hatred and stupidity is all, and I'm thus both deeply bothered and�quite frankly�strangely compelled by stuff like this. I want to try and understand where these people are coming from, but at the same time the idea of getting my head round such a fucked up perspective is deeply repulsive and terrifying to me. Things like this just end up making me feel even more confused about people, really, but still: I find the process of reading chick tracts fascinating in some kind of funny-slash-creepy way.


Thursday, May 08, 2003
 
Day For Night

The storytelling in Lone Wolf and Cub is really something, isn�t it? Having only read the first collection �the Assassin�s Road�, I don�t yet feel qualified to say much about the story itself yet (the back story of the main characters only kicks in during the last two instalments in this book, and looks to me like it will be the overarching drive of this massive series), so the art is what I�m primarily going to focus on here.

First impression: the action sequences are amazing. There�s a knack to this sort of thing; you have to capture just the right snapshots of a fight and give them just the right space and rhythm, and Goseki Kojima does this wonderfully. It�s disorientating and� involving, but not in a way that is hard to read (that is to say that while it quickens your reading, and gives it a visceral edge, it is always completely understandable). It�s clear that Frank Miller (who draws the covers for these reprints) aims for a similar affect in a lot of his work (when his action scenes don�t involve old-fashioned super wrestling that is), and quite frankly who can blame him?

Beyond these kinetic actions scenes, the art is remarkable for its evocative quality. There are several landscape shots here that just plain put you there, if you know what I mean.

A similar quality can be found in the writing. Even though most of the stories in this collection are fairly similar in design (basically: the assassin and his son kill some people), they are all wrapped up in just enough historical detail to make it interesting. It�s good period stuff, basically, and I greatly look forward to seeing how this develops, as from what I�ve been told it just gets better as it goes along.

Gold Star For Robot Boy

I seem to have been a bit down on Warren Ellis lately. Many of his recent comics (MEK and Global Frequency in particular) haven�t felt very satisfying to me�there seems to me to be little to both projects beyond the research involved. Orbiter, while written in a similar tech-heavy style to the aforementioned comics, serves as a nice reminder of the fact that Ellis is capable of creating solid, entertaining comic books.

A hardcover graphic novel about a space shuttle that disappeared mysteriously finally returning to Earth a decade later, Orbiter has a sort of old-fashioned Twilight Zone feel to it, as the premise would indicate.

The main characters are three specialists who have been called in to unlock the secrets behind the shuttle's disappearance. What happened to it? Where did it go? How is there sand from Mars in the landing gear when it would technically be impossible for this vessel to have landed there? Where are the crew? What the hell is going on with the skin that now covers the ship? These mysteries, alongside the awakened romanticism of the central characters, drive this story, giving it a heart beyond the technical details. Most of the characters are pretty broadly drawn (characters have never really been Ellis� strong front in my estimation), but most of them function well within this capacity. The one exception to this is the character of Colonel Bukovic, who is just far too much of a Warren Ellis character for his own good. One of his first lines is �I am the one who brought you here. This is because I am a horrible old man and I like to spread the misery around�; talk about self-parody.

But� yeah, this is good stuff. You know that Twilight Zone comparison I made earlier? Well, I think there�s something to it in the weird, but warm, tone of Orbiters, but there�s one thing for sure: it would have to be one hell of a big budgeted episode of the Twilight Zone. While Colleen Doran�s illustration may not be the most expressive in terms of body language or facial expression, it is perfectly suited to the tone of the story here, giving the shots of the shuttle in flight the requisite sense of wonder and the alien technology the right level of weirdness while always telling the story clearly and with a certain soft, inky charm.

There�s something very romantic about the tone of the whole graphic novel. As I mentioned earlier, the re-appearance of the shuttle gives our three central figures something to strive for again, and it�s a nice change of pace to read a Warren Ellis comic where the (normally present) warmth and idealism is fore grounded ahead of the cynicism.

From the introduction by Warren Ellis:

�This is a book about returning to space in the face of fear an adversity. It�s a book about glory. About going back to space, because it�s waiting for us, and it�s where we are meant to be�

Dedicated to the seven astronauts who died recently when the Columbia shuttle crashed, Orbiter is clearly a labour of love created by people who have their hopes and dreams wrapped up in the idea of space travel, and while there�s a sense of disappointment here, it is at least dissapointment that is tempered with the sense that anything is still possible.

And if this all seems old-fashioned then perhaps that�s only because the future seemed closer back then�

One Last Thing�

The big downside to Orbiter: as a hardback graphic novel, it�s pretty damned expensive. Hopefully a paperback edition will come out in the not too distant future.

On the plus side it�s nice to see more original graphic novels coming out from Vertigo� I�d like to see more of that in the future (though to be truthful, going straight to paperback suits me just fine).


 
Are We Together?

I just saw Adam & Joe�s Goitre (a brief parody of Chris Morris�s Jam) for the first time the other night, and I have to say that I am quite amused by the fact that it was included on the Jam DVD.

Goitre itself is quite amusing, walking the thin line between being a dead on piss take and feeling far too bleeding obvious, but for me it seems more important in terms of the effect it has on the DVD package as a whole.

The Jam DVD continues what is fast becoming the Chris Morris tradition for not taking the idea of DVD extras very seriously: there are �undeleted scenes�, various bizarre viewing options (Ever wanted to watch a TV show that�s been filtered through a lava-lamp effect? Me neither!) and a sticker on the back promising that the DVD comes with �one crashing airliner, eight tons of geese and a 50ft plutonium bum�. This is only to be expected: from day one Morris has taken great joy in puncturing pretension and revelling in the ridiculousness of, well, everything. But the addition of Goitre to the mix really works for me. I think that in a way, Jam often felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be dark and surreal (This strikes me as an amusing thing to say about a show with such ridiculous content, but there you go) and Goitre acts as something of an antidote to this on the DVD package.

The Goitre sketch, though not brilliant in itself, really adds a nice (if thin) layer of humour to this whole set up that pleases me greatly. There�s a slight sense of self-awareness/depreciation here, and I appreciate that.

Anyway� all that aside, what do I make of the program itself?

Well� it�s kind of a mixed bag, really.

Jam (and the Blue Jam radio sketches which it grew out of) presents the world in a skewed, nightmarish light. There�s the four year old girls who essentially does the same job that Mr Woolf did in Pulp Fiction; the parents who don�t seem bothered when their you son is kidnapped from school, molested and then left dead in the woods; �the gush�, an affliction that strikes male porn stars, causing them to involuntarily ejaculate themselves into oblivion; and lots of deeply strange visits to the doctor. It mixes the mundane with the preposterous in a manner that alternates between being deeply unsettling and highly silly. On radio, this works really well (for reasons I�ll come to shortly), but on TV it doesn�t always come off.

Last time I talked about Jam on this blog I said this:

�I think that for the most part Jam lacks the atmosphere and sense of wrongness that made the Blue Jam radio shows work. Indeed, the effect generated by the show is different to the extent that the two may not seem directly comparable. Jam is a more grotesque, slapstick affair, for all of the weird effects that are used to prop up the sketches. In some ways, I think this kind of material is far more effective when suggested rather than shown. These differences aside (it would be unfair to evaluate the show purely by comparison), I just don�t think that it�s entirely successful as a TV show. It�s too silly to be as unnerving as it could be, and too distorted and bad-tempered to be amusing fluff.�

I�d mostly stand by that, I think, but that�s not to say that Jam is without merit. It makes for very interesting late night viewing, and there are moments of absurd genius, but on the whole I rate the Blue Jam radio shows very highly, and I guess my love of Blue Jam pretty much eclipses most of my thoughts about the televised version (quibbles about comparability notwithstanding).

The music in Blue Jam really adds to the ambience of the sketches while simultaneously breaking them up nicely, and it seems to me that the radio medium gives more room for Morris� brilliantly twisted syntax to shine with this kind of material.

In another previous Morris-centric post, I came out with the following nugget of nonsense:

��what I �m trying to say about all of Chris Morris� work is that it brings out stuff that is already there. That�s why Brass Eye feels so scathing and Blue Jam can be unsettling. It�s why all of his work is so funny and strange. His sharp comedy instincts latch on to the un-easy stuff that is thinly veiled by the surface. It is both the comedy of the uncomfortable and the comedy of the ridiculous.�

I�m not entirely sure what I mean by that, to be honest with you. I think it may have something to do with the mundane nature of the sensational in the modern world as well as the sensationalism inherent within the mundane, but as I said, I�m still a bit unclear as to what I�m getting at with this one. It feels like a comment with something to it though�

This kind of dark humour does raise questions as to whether it is insensitive or not to do jokes about child abuse or rape though� I think this�ll have to be another thing that goes on my big list of things to write about one day when I�m feeling more intelligent and articulate.

On another note: I found the scenes in the extras section that had an added laugh track to be oddly effective. It really made everything a little bit more awkward and unpleasant, particularly in the �Unflustered Parents� sketch, where the placing of the laughter was particularly effective.

Hmmmm� all this talk has made me want to read the next issue of Grant Morrison/Chris Weston�s the Filth, to be honest with you� hopefully I�ll be able to pick that up tomorrow.


Wednesday, May 07, 2003
 
Eep!

It appears that my little sister who was supposed to be paying my family a visit tomorrow has been hospitalised with a head injury. Erm� eep!

Apparently she collapsed earlier today, hitting her head off the pavement in the process. She�s a bit concussed at the moment, but hopefully she�ll be alright (they�re keeping her in overnight for observation etc). Apparently she fainted due to the fact that she was quite dehydrated, so they�ve currently got her on a drip to compensate for this.

Obviously this puts her visit on hold, but that�s hardly the point at the moment. As I said, she�s ok, but still� I�m sending big, electronic *hugs* her way.

In other news, my friend Gemma and I have came up with SILLY HAT DAY, a day of plane flights, train journeys and, erm, silly hats that shall hopefully take place sometime after both of us are done with our exams and essays. Should be fun.

More Free TV

A few links for you:

You should all seriously go read about then download The Apology Line mp3s that are up on Fluxblog at the moment. The mp3s are a collection of recorded apologies given by various anonymous members of the public between 1980 and 1981. Trust me when I say that this is some very fascinating stuff, but be warned: this stuff ranges from oddly amusing to just plain unsettling.

There�s a fairly sharp kick in the gut to the world of comic book reviews here, if you�re interested. It�s well written and on target, and is thus well worth a read.

It occurs to me that I haven�t mentioned Genre City for a while, which is strange, as it has been building up excellently of late. With the prologue completed, Benjamin really seems to be developing the plot now, and the results so far have been very interesting indeed.


Tuesday, May 06, 2003
 
Looking Forward

From a fairly mundane Mark Miller interview over on Slushfactory:

AN: In comics who has had the most influence upon your writing?

MM: Probably a combo of Moore, Morrison and Ellis. Moore got me hooked, Morrison (mostly through conversation) taught me the fundamentals of how a story actually works and Ellis is someone I swipe from endlessly in terms of the actual technical layout of the story, the beats, etc. I think Morrison and Moore have a very sequential style, quite classic in the tradition of Eisner, etc, whereas Ellis, Garth and I are a bit more like movie story-storyboards. The other discipline, I think, is the screenwriting style employed by Gaiman and Bendis. It's really different from the way I work.�


The comment about the differing writing styles used by certain mainstream comic book writers is, I think, is very interesting, and seems to me to be ripe for further investigation-slash-extrapolation. I�m not going to get into it much here and now, but I'm putting this up here so I remember to come back to it later.

There�s definitely something to it, regardless of what you may think of the comparative worth of the various scribes mentioned by Millar. While I�m not entirely convinced that Gaiman writes in a screenwriting style (this impression is perhaps down to the fact that the only Gaiman work that I�m particularly taken with is his work with Dave McKean) the others all seem to fit with their assigned niches and I think there might be some interesting think-through in this idea. I could be wrong though�


 
Lets Make A Scene

Last night I had a dream in which I was car-jacked by a deranged koala bear. I am not sure whether this is very amusing or just plain wrong, but at least it was vaguely original (for me anyway).

What hidden messages can be taken from this dream? I�m not sure� perhaps the message is that koala bears are not to be trusted, and are also really bloody strong for their size. Believe me, you would not have wanted to mess with this critter� he was a demonic looking little scuzzball, and I think that I was lucky to get out of my dream-car alive!

The bookstore that I work in is currently full to the brim with bargain basement pornography, which is surely good news for the dirty old men of East Kilbride! Maybe they can actually buy the books now, instead of touching themselves while giving them a good thumb-through. C�mon guys, they�re only 50p each now! Surely it's not too much to ask that you take it somewhere private?

All that nonsense aside, I had a fun day running around Glasgow with Scott, discussing everything from comic book martial arts to the ups & downs of Chris Morris� Jam (which I may or may not get into later). Overall, a lot of crap was talked (which is always a plus) and I had a nicely relaxed day all round.

Incidentally, Scott is still doing his big crazy robot storyline over on Wake Up Screaming, so you should check that out while you�re here. It�s a good laugh, and it�s always fun to see stretching himself visually, which he is definitely doing here. It�s a lark.

Sorry to anyone who I haven�t e-mailed recently: I�ve been running around like a mad man for the last couple of days, and I�m really sorry if I�ve been a bit slow in replying to anything. I�ll get there soon� honest guv!

Also: Kevin�I will make up those CD�s for you eventually!

I�m off to bed now. Tomorrow, I�ve got one lecture, and then Kenny and me are going to try to get together and write a play (presuming Kenny isn�t snowed under with dissertation work). The play has the working title of Left Hanging (which is really pretty cheesy if you know what it�s all about) and is both really fucking silly and highly pretentious all at once. This is a fun, if difficult, balance to try and maintain, and I'm looking forward to trying to get more of it done, even if the finished product is likely to smell quite heavily of Beckett (not a bad thing to smell of, all considered).

Various comic things are sitting in my head nicely, but I really need to start physically writing them before the ideas melt down or go sour in there. Stories tend to do that if you over think them� at least, that�s how it always seems to happen with stuff that I�m trying to write.

There are a couple of other collaborative ideas flying around among my friends at the moment, so hopefully we�re all actually going to get of our collective arses and finish something for once!

Should be fun�