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Monday, March 29, 2004

Your Own Real Life Top 10

My current top 10 things:

1. Dueling Malkmus style (no, this joke doesn't make any more sense from the inside).
2. Listening to the Fiery Furnaces on the bus (rapidly changing scenery = key).
3. Dancing badly with people who can dance well.
4. Marlowe's Dr Faustus - god is this ever good!
5. Briefly meeting someone who claimed to be related to Peter Falk by marriage.
6. Drinking copious amounts of orange juice. Mmmmm... orange juice!
7. Downloading episodes of TV shows I've never seen before on slsk.
8. Listening to Pulp's This Is Hardcore again and realizing that hey, I do really like this album after all!
9. 'Miss Teen Wordpower', by the New Pornographers.
10. This. It's kinda obvious, but it cracks me up anyway.

This idea stolen from ilx, because there's not a single original thought in my head.

p.s.

Yeah, yeah -- I know that lists are pointless, but the purposefully vague/throwaway nature of this particular type of list feels really fun to me!
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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Out Of Control

Here's a short review I wrote in work the other day (for those of you who don't know, I work in a bookstore at the weekends). I'd originally intended to write a review of the book in question that was both informative and usable, but things spiraled out of control from the first line onwards, so the book will have to sit un-reviewed on the new titles shelf for the time being.

The review:

"Love All The People, collected bits and bobs scrounged up from Bill Hicks' back pocket.

Are you that boring bastard that somehow manages to turn every conversation into a discussion of how right Bill Hicks was about everything?

Do you want to be?

If so then this is the book for you! Packed full of Hicks' rants, routines, and observations, this book is perfect research material for all of you "free thinkers" out there who like to reguritate the man's opinions at every possible opportunity. Intense stage presence and critical adoration not included."

Now, the weird thing about this review (snide and pithy as it may be) is that I don't really have any problem with Bill Hicks himself. He was very good at being both angry and funny at once, and as I jokingly hinted in the review, the man's sheer presence crackles even on CD or video tape. But yet... there is something slightly icky about the way that some people cough up his routines and opinions as unquestionable truths. And some of them can get quite carried away with it. For example, one of my friends has this story about a guy who she went out on a date with once. He was a couple of years older than her, and she'd fancied him for ages before they met at a club one night and he asked her out. So far so good, right? Well, when it came to the date itself, what did our man do but spend the entire evening talking about Bill Hicks. And we're not just talking about a guy nervously bringing up one of his favourite topics here; no, apparently this guy turned almost every single conversation into a discussion of Bill Hicks, and when they later retired back to her house he actually produced a Bill Hicks tape from his back pocket and subjected her to it in its entirety. As far as she could work it out, his entire philosophy on life was modeled on Hicks' comedy routines, with little or no deviation! In addition to making for a lousy date, this also served to put my friend off Hicks' comedy for a good two or three years (she's still not sure whether she could watch/listen to Hicks again yet).

So what are the morals of this story then? That buying wholesale into someone else's fiery individualist philosophy is bloody annoying, and that dragging dead comedians with you when you go on a date makes you less attractive to HOTT girls/boys of course! But then, you knew all of this already, didn't you?
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BLAM!

"Only a bitter little adolescent boy could confuse realism with pessimism."

(from Flex Mentallo #4 by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and others)

"...you know, Victorian sentimentality is something we all sneer at now and find very funny... but I think people will look back at us and sneer at the way we've looked at the world, too. Because cynicism and sentimentality are just two sides of the same distortion."

(from this interview with author Paul Auster)

Sorry folks -- just compiling a couple of quotes I quite like. I've been thinking about the difference between maintaining a questioning view of the world and being a flat-out boring cynic/pessimist a lot lately.

It strikes me that this is not entirely un-related to some of the brief conversations David Fiore and I have had about Sleater-Kinney and Seaguy, where we've talked about how art, like life, can be fun while at the same time being full of tricky emotional and political stuff. Not that there's anything wrong with having something that is either entirely fun or entirely serious, but sometimes it's good to be reminded that while the world may be a complicated and frightening place, that doesn't mean it has to be a hopeless/joyless one.

This is one of the things I love the most about Sleater-Kinney's All Hands On The Bad One album; a lot of these songs tackle misogyny in popular culture head-on, but for all that this is evidently a very serious business, the band tear through these songs with a neat side-order of verbal and musical wit. The first song is called 'Ballad of a Ladyman' for god's sake -- it's not hard to work out that this is an album that is as playful as it is angry, something that is more than born out by the mixture of sunny harmonies, handclaps, and punchy pop-rock riffage with which the band embelish these songs. All Hands On The Bad One is the sound of a band who are enraged, but still confident enough to have fun while they're at it, and I like that.
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"I'm a quitter. I come from a long line of quitters. It's amazing I'm here at all."



Ah, Black Books -- the British sit-com that makes drunken logic look good! Needless to say, I love it!

I'm just saying, is all...

p.s.

Forget the Dawn of the Dead remake, Shaun of the Dead is where it's at!
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Wednesday, March 24, 2004

File Under "Links I May Come Back To"

A positive review of the new Courtney Love album.

(Thanks Dan!)
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Who Rocks The Party?

Cross-posted for hoots and grins:

Bringing to your attention "Joycore Comics - recommendations?" -- a Barbelith thread dedicated to fun, poppy comics!

Good suggestions that have been put forward so far:

Love & Rockets -- Some of the liveliest comics I've ever read. There's a fair bit of angst in there, but the work of both Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez is just so damned vibrant that I can't help but recommend it regardless!

Madman -- He's got a yo-yo! He fights Street-Beatniks! He's drawn by Mike Allred! Of course he's joycore!

Calvin & Hobbes -- Pretty much everyone I know loves this, even folk who normally claim that they don't like comics! It's just so damned charming, y'know?

Kill Your Boyfriend -- Mmmm... improper joycore deluxe! Sure, it's a black comedy, but man, what a rush!

Kyle Baker's a good nomination too -- he's sharp, funny, and draws real purty to boot!

Anyone else got any suggestions?
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Thinking Out Loud - Literature Since 1900

Right, so this exam, which was originally going to be my last one, has now been moved forward to April 13th. Which would make it my first exam then. Shit. Okay, what authors am I going to take on in this exam?

Hmmm... at a rough guess, the list would look something like this: Kafka, Borges, Nabokov, Eliot, Conrad, Larkin, Pinter, Orwell, Huxley. My Irish and American 20th Century Lit exams take out a lot of the other obvious candidates right away, so yeah; looks like these are the authors I'm going to have to focus on. Hmmm. That's cool, I like most of them and have something interesting to say about the others, but I still can't help thinking that maybe I should re-read a bit of Woolf, just in case things get a bit tricky during the exam itself...
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Encouraging The Overlap

Over on Insult to Injury I just stitched together a couple of other people's opinions about Grant Morrison's excellent New X-Men run and tried to pass it off as a post. Go check it out if you like that sort of thing!
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So Crazy Right Now

Here's a little pseudo-review of the new Courtney Love album that I wrote a week or so after it came out:

"Regardless of some of the harsher beatdowns it's recieved in the press, the new Courtney Love album, America's Sweetheart, sounds pretty good to me. I don't think it's particularly brilliant or anything, but it's certainly not terrible either!

So far only 'But Julian...' and 'I'll Do Anything' have really left a big impression on me... I still can't decide whether or not I like the album's lead single 'Mono' yet - I seem to go back and forth on it constantly, thinking it sounds a bit flat one minute, and pretty damned great the next. Weird...

Anyways, right now, I'm not particularly interested in how this album compares to any of the records Love made with Hole -- my main concern is how well these songs stand up on their own merit, and... well, as I said before, I like it just fine, but it's not exactly blowing me away either. I'll give it a couple more listens to see if any of it grows on me particularly, but hey - if it's just an okay album, it's just an okay album, and there's nothing wrong with that really."

And hey, whadda ya know - it has grown on me since then! Oddly, I'm still not sure whether or not I like 'Mono', but on the whole I'm pretty damned into it now - warts and all! I really think that Flyboy was on to something when he said that the record is "a distillation of the artist's public persona which captures the things which are great about them, the things which aren't so great, and the things they've been castigated for by the media (including both the previous categories and also simple media fictions)" -- yes! This is perfectly expressed in the lyrics - both the witty ones and the clunky ones - and is implicit in every cracked vocal, every scuzzed up guitar line... basically, I love it!

Anyways, to get back to the press reaction for a moment, the majority of Love's critics really need to stop being so completely fucking boring -- "Who's writing her songs for her this time?"/"She killed Kurt Cobain the stupid starfucking bitch!"/"Her only talent is to draw attention to herself" etc = stop being so bloody tedious you bastards!

Look: I've got no problem with people not liking the music that Love makes (that's just, like, your opinion, maaaan), and if you find her public personna disagreeable and/or tiresome, then I can certainly understand that. But please, please, please try not to be so dull and obnoxious next time you write her off! I mean, pretty much every review of America's Sweetheart that I've read felt like it had been created using some sort of random Courtney Love insult generator for god's sake! People, critics -- if you've gotta complain, at least put some effort into it for a change!
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Monday, March 22, 2004

MP3 Watch

Today's MP3 of choice - 'Blueberry Boat', by the Fiery Furnaces, which is available on Fluxblog right now.

I liked the first Fiery Furnaces album a lot, but this song is just something else. Gallowsbird's Bark was a really nice, playful collection of folky, bluesy, dubby pop-rock songs that was shot through with a very evident love of strange, but sometimes quite beautiful, narratives. This song, which is the title track from their upcoming second record, sees the band really push this approach to some sort of charmingly wonky extreme. Suddenly the fact they namedrop The Who a lot in interviews makes much more sense! 'Blueberry Boat' is a keyboard saturated slice of prog-pop storytelling, and as such it's a little out there, but after only two or three listens I'm already finding it to be an incredibly rewarding slice of music, and if this is as indicative of the new album as Matthew says it is, then you can consider me officially excited!
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Warm Up Post

Testing, testing, one, two...

Right - here we go then: Cakes and Money 2.0 -- the same as the first version, except better (hopefully).

We're still supposed to be doing the whole group comics blogging thing over on Insult to Injury at the moment, but I have a really short attention span, so to blog about comics and only comics doesn't really appeal to me in any big way.

With that in mind, there should be a nice mix of material up here - I want to write about movies and music mainly, but since my final exams are only three weeks away I'm probably going to use this place to think out loud about certain English Lit topics from time to time, so watch out for that!

Anyways, I'm off to write a couple of posts now... take it easy out there.
David
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