Saturday, November 28, 2009

Malarkey? or Effective Way?

Courtesy of the comments to Caustic Cover Critic, I have discovered the wonderful "How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way?" by Hiroyuki Nishigaki (author of "Rejuvenation and Unveiled Hidden Phenix: Carlos Castaneda Shamanism Plus a after His Death". The two books are frequently bought together, which suggests a new meaning to the word "frequently").

Pretty eneffable stuff, perhaps best exemplified by the following Statistically Improbable Phrases (Has there ever been a more precise description?)

happy lucky feeling, dirty stickiness, old black excrement, central energy pipe, denting navel, dirty energy bodies, constricting anus, white lukewarm water, dent navel, sticky inner space, bitter love trouble, subtle unpleasant lamp, times everyday following, bad stickiness, dirty energy body, peculiar inner silence, useful third attention, heavy oil sea, proper exercise everyday, constrict anus, sticky bloody pus, black solid excrement, bad bowel movement

People on my Christmas list may find a treat (or two!) under the tree.


Friday, November 27, 2009

The Man Who Loved Women

Guess who.


Salander... is a witch, and that is I think the secret of the novels’ extraordinary popularity. Her magic is known as “hacking” in the books, but it has nothing much to do with real technology. Her gadgets give her magical powers. She can read anyone’s thoughts off their hard disks, and listen to anyone’s conversations from their email or phones. The untraceable theft of a few hundred million dollars is the work of a couple of weeks. Even lying paralysed in bed with a bullet hole in her brain, she is able to communicate with her familiars all around the world and to discover and foil the villains.

All blockbuster novels of this sort are fantasies in which the heroes acquire superpowers; Larsson’s originality was to discover a new fantasy."


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Still more Stieg Larsson

I have to bump this one up....

David quoted Vargas Llosa below regarding the 'happiness and feverish excitement' with which he read the Millenium trilogy.

I have to say that I have been reading volume three (available from Amazon UK) with great h. and f.e. and I insist that everyone else do the same. Laughably readable.

A not-very-secret clue to the success of these books can be found here. If I were the father of young girls, I'd read the linked book (not Larsson) to them until they could read it themselves. Couldn't help but be good for them.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let's anchor the noise a bit

Charles Mingus Sextet in the early sixties. The amazing solo by Eric Dolphy on baritone sax begins at about 4:31. His playing makes sense because you know the tune when he starts and because he's actually playing the tune in a looped and fragmented way. Imagine watching this without the statement of the melody by the other players. You may think it was noise, even though it's completely structured and completely tonal.

UPDATE: The customer is always right -- even when the customer is a lazy dimwit... No more jazz -- just postings about the wonderful world of ham radio...

FURTHER UPDATE: I have been contacted with the suggestion that the phrase 'lazy dimwit' is offensive. Perhaps. In the spirit of the holiday, I will withdraw it in favor of the less provocative phrase 'The customer is always right -- even when the customer isn't --'


This explains it all.

The Tulkinghorn disease of obnoxious bluntness and snobbery has an etiology, discovered in an essay by Tory provocateur and climate change skeptic James Delingpole in this week's Spectator:

Diplomacy has never been my forte. Partly it’s because, despite my nostalgic affection for the old order, I’m an instinctive rebel; partly, it’s because since early childhood I’ve had this weird mental affliction where I’ve assumed everyone can read my thoughts just by looking into my eyes, so I’ve never thought it worth my while to practise lying.


Ellroy denounces Ellroy

Perhaps that armor of aggressive buffoonery is more easily penetrated than one thought:

American Tabloid was the novel we were here to discuss, but soon its sequel, The Cold Six Thousand, was mentioned – a novel that despite several attempts, I've never managed to penetrate beyond the first 50 pages. It's the gunfire short sentences that get me every time. I can sort of see the reason for such rat-a-tat-tat prose as "He ran a kitchen-help union. He rigged low pay. He had coin. He had pull." But it's just so relentless. And I suspected that Ellroy would have short shrift for those who found it too much to bear. Instead, he simply admitted that he had made a mistake, taken his style too far. It was both a surprising and fascinating admission.

The article goes on to discuss what you should do when a writer calls the middle book of a trilogy mistaken... (I read it with pleasure myself and look forward to "Blood's A Rover", which is volume three. You all owe it to yourselves to read at least "American Tabloid")


The offspring in China...

Part umpteen of a continuing series...


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Martin Beck, Maj Sjowall, Per Wahloo

Who would have thought that by 2010 the American hard boiled detective novel would have entered its rococo phase -- elaborately self-referential, nostalgic, decadent, rule-bound, (dare I say it?) dead?

What lives is the European model: Zolaesque examinations of society and its structures, political, leftish, unromantic (if not realist) -- what we used to call the 'gloomy police procedural.' Larsson, Mankell, Rankin, and Indriason win prizes and make millions.

The Chandler/Hammett of this new model were Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, whose novels about Swedish police detective Martin Beck are still compelling thirty years after publication. Wahloo died in 1975 and I've never read anything about them or their collaboration until this, which has a great photograph of the now 74-year-old Sjowall. Too many cool quotes to excerpt, but success-mongers should take note of this:

Today, Maj Sjöwall walks barefoot through her studio in a suburb in the south of Stockholm. Her hair is long and grey, and she's wearing a loose-fitting linen smock. The room is light-filled and simply furnished: carefully chosen pictures, notebooks, pens, everything placed just so. One might describe it as monkish, but Sjöwall's life has not been monkish, as I will find out. This is where she still works, aged 74, as a writer and a translator. There's a single bed, a fridge, a hob, for when the small apartment that she rents nearby is too stuffy during the long Swedish summer. She lives modestly. She can not afford a car. Unlike Rankin or Mankell the books she wrote with Wahlöö have not made her very rich. There has been a modest income recently from foreign sales, but the royalties she receives from her Swedish publisher are based on old contracts. She does not sound bitter about this. "Rather free than rich," she says.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

More Moorcock and The Doctor

Nice essay by Michael Moorcock in the Guardian. He's appropriately humble and provides the perfect answer to my snit about sequels and derivative movies:

......the vast potential of what I can write is beginning to dawn on me. Far from thinking in terms of fun I've become a little scared. All time and space is open to me. I have to mix comedy and melodrama while telling an epic adventure story featuring a complex protagonist capable of ranging across the entire multiverse. I'm increasingly overawed as I consider what I must live up to. Hardcore fans are already questioning my qualifications. I can only hope I'm equal to the job.

He's also working on an autobiographical trilogy, picking up some themes oft discussed here:

I have begun a series of autobiographical novellas and novels in which I examine my taste for romance and fantasy: my characters are thinly disguised versions of writers and others associated with New Worlds magazine in the days when we tried to find new approaches to literary novels by using the methods and ideas of science fiction. This trilogy of books, featuring a version of myself in a somewhat re-invented London, is intended to examine the appeal of fantastic adventure stories of the kind inhabited by my most popular character, the albino sorcerer-prince Elric of Melniboné. Elric is my Sherlock Holmes – a protagonist better remembered than most of my others, but in my case not the burden Conan Doyle felt Holmes to be. I'm very grateful that Elric continues to keep me in my old age


Friday, November 20, 2009


About five years before this clip was shot, Sun Ra and his Arkestra took up residence in a store- front theater on West 23rd Street in New York, and performed most Saturday nights from about 9 to 3. Since it was about a five minute walk from my apartment, I used to go in all the time. Changed my life.

A couple of things: The girl dancing in the aisle at about 3:00 understands everything. The guy playing the baritone sax at about 5:00 is the father of the current governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick.

This is what Walt Whitman meant when he said:

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.



"Writing in El País last week, Mario Vargas Llosa explained the Millennium trilogy's success by saying that Larsson had produced one of the great stories of "just avengers" in popular literature. He had read the 2,100 pages of the trilogy with "the same happiness and feverish excitement" with which he had read Dumas, Dickens and Hugo as a boy, "wondering as I turned each page, 'And now what's going to happen next?'"
More here

Cf. C.S. Lewis' claim that all the best supernatural fiction is written by Christians...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Monkey glands...

See here.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Coolest movie ever made?

You can decide here. Trailer on the right of the page will play without being told to.

It's called "Assault Girls", and I do not believe that it is based on "Red Harvest."

A picture of the eponymous "Girls" ....


Shocking? Not really

Take a quick guess. How many of the twenty highest grossing films of the decade were original properties, neither sequels, remakes, nor based on material from another medium (as they say)?

Check the answer here.

Now a lot of this is unfair, of course. Pirates of the Caribbean is derivative in name only. And there's not necessarily anything wrong with derivative movies. LOTR was pretty good. But really.

Cool quote:

Out of the top 50 grossing films of this decade, there are only 9 movies based on original properties. And five of those nine films were created by Pixar Animation Studios.

If you're curious, the two non-Pixar, non-Dreamworks-animation original films in the top fifty are:

The Day after Tomorrow

Have a nice decade.


Lovecraft for kids

R'lyeh is sinking again and it's time to go to bed....


Monday, November 16, 2009

News from the Guardian

Michael Moorcock will write a Dr Who novel and Richard Curtis is writing a script for next season, according to the Guardian. Interesting reactions:

(Moorcock) said he sensed "a suspicion of the 'outsider'" at the news from some Doctor Who fans, which he compared to the response "you used to get when someone with a reputation as a non-SF writer would decide to write an SF novel".

"All I can answer to this is 'wait and see'. I'm certainly not a non-watcher," he said. "Neither am I someone who ascribes a kind of religiosity to an enthusiasm. This phenomenon crops up a lot, these days associated with SF/fantasy, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight and so on. I hate these presumptions of exclusivity either in my own corner of the literary world or elsewhere. Mike Kustow, once director of the Royal Shakespeare Co, described this as 'the anxious ownership syndrome', when faced with his first confrontation with SF fandom in Brighton 1968. He'd found the same sort of expression with Shakespeare fans when someone from 'outside' showed an interest."

Also on this weekend's Guardian/Observer book page: A favorable review of the new Stephen King novel by M. John Harrison, an appreciation of J.G. Ballard by Will Self, one of their bloggers finds George R.R. Martin's Ice and Fire unputdownable (he's right about that), and Kim Stanley Robinson discusses his new time-travelling Galileo novel.

Too many links... Just go here and look around. Wouldn't it be nice if SF were as mainstreamed here as in the UK?


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Woo Butchered

I believe that US theatrical releases of foreign movies is pretty much a waste of time and money -- small audiences, expensive ads, publicity wasted (because forgotten by the time of the real release of the movie, which is on home video) -- but accept that ego and, to some extent, aesthetics, require that a gesture be made.

This WSJ article about the excision of two and a half hours from John Woo's new film "Red Cliff" is maddening for any number of the usual reasons: philistinism, lost opportunity, commercial and aesthetic suicide.

But in a market dominated by home video, it's not necessary to pander to the short attention spans and historical ignorance of the LA/NY West Siders who constitute the only theatrical audience for subtitled movies. Most of us will watch at home anyway.

Of course, a domestic release of the real movie on DVD is not guaranteed, because the fools who cut the movie in the first place don't understand this.


Luckily you can get an all format player and go here. Thirty bucks.


Lacking only Seth Rogan...

...who is currently shooting "Green Hornet" on my block in Koreatown.


Trailer Park | MySpace Video


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A stopped clock

Even the most profoundly unhip occasionally (as the winds of fashion change) hit the right note:

Critic Simon Reynolds writes in the Guardian:

Standing on a subway platform waiting for the L train, I saw a group of young men with that slightly scruffy, indeterminately hip look that screams "Williamsburg". I was struck by the fact that every one of them had a beard. Later that same week, walking down a single block in the East Village, I passed something like a dozen men, all in the 18 to 35 age range and all bearded. A few days after that, watching New York Noise, an alternative rock cable TV show, I saw several videos in a row in which most members of the group sported one form or other of facial foliage, climaxing with Fleet Foxes' hairier-than-thou He Doesn't Know Why.

It was then that it struck me: the beard has become one of the crucial, era-defining signifiers for non-mainstream rock in the noughties.


Return of the Repressed

My old Boston Phoenix collegaue David Edelstein on Lars Von Trier's latest:

Should you see Antichrist? It’s good for a few bad laughs, but you have to be up for a castration, a clitoridectomy, and a lot of symbolism. You have to be up for watching Dafoe and Gainsbourg—the latest in a line of masochistic stars to submit to this high priest of cinema and film-festival darling—humiliate themselves. Von Trier has said he wanted to make a genre horror picture, but he couldn’t even come up with a decent metaphor: The climax is out of a Grade C hack-’em-up with people chasing each other through the woods with axes and knives. David Cronenberg explored a similar theme in The Brood, in which a male psychiatrist’s est-like exhortation to a woman to “go all the way through” her trauma produces not inner peace but deformed psychotic babies that hammer people she doesn’t like to death. Now, that’s entertainment!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If on a Winter's Night.....

A one line review of the new holiday album by the former lead singer of the Police:

"Oh, Sting, where is thy death?"


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Glenn and Oprah

What do they have in common? According to the New York Times Glenn Beck is the Oprah of the political thriller....

Vince Flynn and Brad Thor are very happy he is.

Cool quote:

Mr. Beck is quite canny about using novels as a vehicle for talking about issues he cares about. When Mr. Flynn was on Mr. Beck’s Fox News program last month to talk about “Pursuit of Honor,” Mr. Flynn’s latest novel, a thriller about a C.I.A. operative chasing Muslim terrorists who kill 185 people in Washington, Mr. Beck zeroed in on a chapter in which the main character, Mitch Rapp, goes before Congress to defend the C.I.A.’s record of using harsh interrogation tactics with suspects.

“Let me just say, it’s almost conservative porn,” Mr. Beck said.

I hope they use that as a blurb for the paperback.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Boris!

Boris the crime fighter... Is there nothing he can't do? According to the woman he rescued:

"I was texting on my phone so didn't notice the girls until they pushed me against the car, quite hard," Armstrong said. "At first it was quite funny, because they were only about 12. Then I saw that one of them had an iron bar in her hand. It was more than a metre long. It was as big as her.

"Then along came a cyclist. And I thought, 'Good, he's a big bloke,' and shouted, 'Can you help me please?'

"He stopped and turned around and I thought, 'Oh, my God, it's Boris Johnson.'

"He asked the girls what was going on, and at first they didn't move, so I said, 'That's the mayor of London!' and they ran off. They must have thought they were going to get in trouble. One dropped the bar, so Boris picked it up and cycled after them. He returned a few minutes later and walked me home....