Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Am Legend

I watched the film. For the first hour I was thinking: "this is pretty good, quite scary and entertaining". Then it all went to shit just as I thought it was getting good. I don't want to go into detail, because I don't want to spoil it.

Then I thought: "the book is a classic of SF, and horror - surely this must be a case of Hollywood tinkering with a good story, improving it for focus groups and merchandising purposes". So I read the book.

It kicks arse, specifically vampire arse. If you've seen the film, read the book and think: "why the steaming fudge did they not just film this?". If you haven't seen the film, and don't want to, read the book. It is a classic, and rightly so. If you want to see the film, read the book afterwards. Not before. Otherwise you will sit there thinking: "oh fuckety-arse, they've shat all over the great story and now the title of the film makes no fucking sense".

In the book, Robert Neville smokes a pipe, grows a beard and uses paper plates instead of doing his washing up. Damn straight the last man on Earth is absolutely going to do those things. Will Smith didn't. I rest my case as to the relative merits of the two versions.

All Star Superman

A short review for a short book: "All Star Superman" makes the iconic hero a rounded, interesting character; someone you end up feeling sorry for; a lonely man that you want to take out for a pint. Pretty impressive work by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant.

Also, Lex Luthor is batshit crazy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Summerland

Here's what I know about baseball: it's a bit like rounders, except the rules are more complicated. That's about it. All I know of the game I learned from watching Charlie Brown. "Summerland" by Michael Chabon, is mostly about baseball. Oh, and werefoxes. Oh, and giants and fairies and that trickster, Coyote. But mostly baseball.

This is a children's book, in the same vein as Narnia, and Harry Potter. Boy discovers he is the hero, doesn't think he can do it, does. With talking animals. What's different about this is that it's all about American mythology and fairy stories, and it's also written by a Pullitzer prize winning author. So you already know it's not as badly written as Potter, or as upper-middle-class-Englishy as Narnia.

You don't need to know what a short-stop is to enjoy the book, the baseball parts were exciting and interesting even to someone who has never been to the bottom of the ninth. That's near the end of the game, you know. See, my knowledge of the game has increased enormously. The fantastic parts of the story are fun, believable and made me want to visit the world he created. Well worth reading, and I hope it gets to be as well-loved as Potter and the Narnia books.

Oh, it's also got a bigfoot, called Taffy. Come on, when's the last time you read a book with a sasquatch as one of the characters? Never, that's when.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

ouch


ouch
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

Estate agents are getting scarier. Mind you, it won't be a surprise any more.

The Hero's Journey

"Please, sit down. We've been waiting for you for a very long time."
"Where am I?"
"You are in the Land of In-between-and-a-little-to-the-left. The Prophecy said you would come to us."
The hero sighed. "There's always a prophecy."
"Yes, it says that-"
"Don't bother. They never make any sense until afterwards."
"Oh, but our interpretation-"
"I said not to bother. Let's get on with it. There's a MacGuffin, right?"
"Eh?"
"A magic sword, or orb, spell, holy toenail, sometimes a princess, sometimes a prince. You've got something that you think I need to defeat some bad man, monster, god or giant chicken. Only it's been lost for years, or eaten,or sealed in a crypt, or fired into the heart of the sun, and I have to get it. Right?"
"Well, sort of. There's the Jaunty-angled Cap of the Flamboyant Sorceror-King, we believe it is the only hope against the murderous King Marjorie."
"Cap, eh? That's a new one, I'll give you that. Anyway, let me give you the executive summary: I'll get the thingy, after a lot of irritating adventures, involving talking animals, but in the course of the final punch-up with King Marjorie I'll realise that the power I needed was inside me all along. Now, let's save us all a lot of tedious mucking about and just go and have a chat with King Thingy, explain that all you need is love and then I can bugger off back home in time for tea."
"You truly are the Chosen One. That's exactly what the Prophecy said. Word for word."
"Shut it."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Blogger as OpenID Provider

Now anyone can use their blogger account as an OpenID account. Only OpenID 1.1, though, so a lot of sites won't work properly.

To get OpenID 2.0 support, you still have to use this method. It's a good step in the right direction, though.

Friday, January 18, 2008

threefer

A couple of months ago I decided to write a little review of each book I read, mainly as something to make me write but also should anyone else on the interwebs need some half-baked, meandering drivel with a low signal to noise ratio to help them make reading choices.

But I'm afraid I must confess a heinous crime.

Sometimes I can't be bothered. I read a book and then can't think of anything particularly interesting to say. Shocking, I know. No fault of the books themselves, it has nothing to do with their quality or level of interest. It's a deep-rooted problem of my own - sometimes it's just too much bloody effort to hold an opinion on something.

Anyway, here are three short reviews of books I read recently, but could not be arsed to write anything about.

"Stories of Your Life And Others", short stories by Ted Chiang. All very clever, nicely writtten, but lacking...something for me, not sure what and I might just be being picky. Standouts were the Tower of Babylon, and the last story in the collection which was about a treatment to make it impossible for you to recognise if someone was pretty or not. It made me think about my life and our society, which is what all good science fiction should do. Well done, Mr. Chiang.

"Neverwhere", a novel by Neil Gaiman, so you already know it's good. Read it, if you like Gaiman's stuff. Apparently some people don't, but they're not to be trusted. I've yet to read something of his I didn't enjoy.

"The Vesuvius Club", by Mark Gatiss - a writer for TV (League of Gentlemen - a demented comedy programme, a Doctor Who episode or two), an actor (you might have seen him briefly in Jekyll, playing Robert Louis stevenson, and in an episode of Doctor Who), and now he's written a couple of books. The hero of these books is Lucifer Box, a flamboyant fop, dandy, gentlemen adventurer and secret agent. If you can imagine that someone boiled up "The Picture of Dorian Gray", added some minced James Bond and a hefty dollop of Sherlock Holmes, along with a sprinkling of gay sex, you'll have got the flavour of "The Vesuvius Club". Quite funny, and a good read. The subtitle of the book - "a bit of fluff" - is appropriate; don't expect a deep and meaningful discourse on Edwardian society, but you will have fun.

ming protected


ming protected
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

remember - he's merciless.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hobnobbing with the literati

To add to my once walking past Stephen Fry in London, almost knocking over Peter Ustinov on his way out of the bank, and pretending not to recognise Alan Titchmarsh in Leicester Square, I can now add Kirsten Bishop to my list of Famous(ish) People I Have Seen Or Have Commented On My Blog. I've only just made that list now, do you like it?

Luckily, I hadn't said anything too awful about her book, The Etched City. Anyway, go to her (really quite nice) website and start reading her comic here. Maybe slightly too smutty for work in parts, unless you happen to work for a smut-mongerer, but very funny and very well drawn.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Etched City

K.J. Bishop's book, The Etched City, is touted as one of the examples of the New Weird genre. Yes, that's right, there's a new weird - didn't you get the memo? You can throw out that old one you've still got in the cupboard under the stairs.

Anyway, this genre is all about things not being quite right, a slowly creeping wrongness in an otherwise normal(ish) world. This story about a charmingly dodgy man in a city full of dodgy people manages that very well. It starts off quite slowly, but gathers a lot of momentum and it is worth sticking it out to the end.

The main character is a slave-trading gunslinger of limited morality but a lot of style. He has a priest friend that regularly attempts to save his soul, in the hope that this will also redeem his own. Like Jeff Vandermeer's Ambergris or Mieville's New Crobuzon, the city of Ashamoil functions as another of the characters in the book. Bishop conveys the feeling of a fully working city, with this only one of the many stories taking place.

Remember, though, that this is New Weird. So that means ambiguously prophetic dream sequences, random encounters with odd stuff for symbolic purposes and artificially erudite conversations that are all about the nature of things and what it means to be real. That's not to say I didn't like the book, I did - it's very good. But there were sections where I didn't entirely understand what the characters were on about. That might just be me, though - too much booze has rotted what few brain cells I started out with.

There were also a few instances of rather confusing language, which just kicked me right out of the world and back onto the train, scratching my head and trying to work out what the fudge a "baleful quiddity" was. I like to think of myself as having a better than average vocabularly (much as I like to think of myself as a swashbuckling space pirate on occasion), but Bishop seems to delight in the perversely obscure areas of the dictionary. Sacrificing immersion and narrative flow for some flowery prose just annoys me, but maybe that's some people's definition of "literary fiction".

Altogether it's a fine read, though. I'd recommend it to anyone who liked 'City of Saints and Madmen', although I wasn't as bowled-over by this as I was by Vandermeer's work.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

smiles

"Constipated again?"
"No."
"What are you doing now?"
"New smile."
"Smile? Do you always cross your eyes like that?"
"If you must know I am smiling moth-like."
"Moths don't smile. They've got one of those long nose/tongue combination things."
"A proboscis, yes."
"Ah, hence the stuck-out tongue and the boss-eyed stare."
"thwt ww thrllft?"
"Stick your tongue back in and say that again."
"What do you think? Does it look moth-like?"
"Is this from that book again?"
"Yep. 'Etched City', K.J. Bishop. 'She smiled moth-like, beckoning him.'"
"Any good yet?"
"Haven't finished it."
"What's it about?"
"It's very atmospheric, but not one of your traditional plot-driven narratives. You wouldn't understand."
"You don't know, do you?"
"No."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Baleful quiddity

"You ok?"
"Yep."
"What's wrong with your face, then?"
"Nothing."
"You look pained. Or constipated. Or both."
"If you must know, I'm trying out a new emotion."
"Oh. What is it, exactly?"
"I'm looking at you with baleful quiddity."
"Does that mean 'constipated'?"
"No, it bloody doesn't."
"What does it mean then?"
"It's too complicated to explain to the likes of you. I doubt that emotionally stunted people like you have ever experienced quiddity, either in its baleful form or not. You need to have a certain level of maturity and accumulated life experience to even comprehend the feeling."
"You don't know, do you?"
"No. I read it in a book."
"Good book?"
"'The Etched City' by K.J. Bishop. Haven't finished it yet."
"Any idea what it means?"
"Nope."
"We'll stick to 'constipated' then. 'Ooh, pass the prunes, love. I've got a right baleful quiddity on me and I need loosening up.'"

UPDATE: it has been pointed out to me that it's actually "baneful" not "baleful". I'm a bad blogger, spank me.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ellen's lunch


Ellen's lunch
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

Party pies and tomato sauce. If that's not enough to get us Australian citizenship, I don't know what is.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New superhero


New superhero
Originally uploaded by No Middle Name

Raise a cheer for Benign Girl! She's a super cellular phoe.