Something for the Weakened

Archive for 2009

Happy New Year Scum

December 31st, 2009 by

And we’re back. That bit of Christmas downtime there, see? That bit just gone where nothing ‘appened? Where everything was broken and forbidded ‘n’ that? See that? Wasn’t meant to ‘appen. Not my fault, but now cash ‘as changed ‘ands, we seem to be back up ‘n’ runnin’ again. So, what wiv the date ‘n’ all, let’s ‘ave us a look back athe last twelve months and get my worthwhile opinions on what you should have all been perusing over that period. What? Oh, it was a character. I got bored with it quite quickly. Anyways, here’s a few things what I liked this year. I’m not going to one of a decade, as I’ll only end up misremembering and praising most of 1998 instead of anything that happened in the nothingies. Right. This year then.

Music

I didn’t acquire an awful lot of recorded music this year, due to my generally being out of touch with what was coming out and my being ethically unwilling to download stuff for free. Of what I did hear, I was generally disappointed by the new offerings from Tortoise (diminishing returns from TNT onwards in my opinion), Max Tundra (not listened to it much, but nothing compared to his previous two outings) and the Animal Collective (Merriweather Post Pavilion seems to be on a few best of the year lists, but seemed like a massive step back from Sung Tongs to me. Not heard Strawberry Jam so won’t comment upon it). Album of the year has to go to Sunn O)))’s magnificent Monoliths and Dimensions. Had anyone told me that a drone metal album would provide me with one of the most strangely moving tracks I would hear this or any other year, I would have called you a poltroon and beaten you around the head with a rolled up copy of the Daily Express. Yet that is what occurred, especially with the album’s traditional final song, Alice. I’m not sure if it’s just the addition of strings and brass to the ultra slow riffs that does it for me, but it’s a truly haunting, beautiful piece of music. The rest of the album’s pretty damned good too, but the closer really pushes it into exellence.

Track of the year must go to something I managed to discover nigh on four years after its initial release. A couple of friends of mine had been raving about Parts and Labor (damn their colonial spelling!) throughout the summer, which piqued my interest somewhat. One even played some on his podcast (more of that sycophancy later), which ws my first hearing of any. I liked it, but imagined I would never happen upon any within my meagre price range. Some months later I was rifling through the section marked ‘Cool Stuff For Hoxton Twats’ (not the exact name, but it honestly was labelled something like that) in one of the Notting Hill record exchanges, when, to my joy, I came upon three albums by Parts and Labor. I grabbed the cheapest two of the three – Mapmaker and Stay Afraid – (all three would have been overkill on a group I’d only heard one song of) for a fiver and went about my business. The next day I stuck Stay Afraid on and was instantaneously bl;own away by A Great Divide, the first track on said LP. I’ve subsequently played the thing to death, to the extent that I’m almost a bit sick of it, but not sick enough to still give it at least one listen a week. I think it’s the sheer energy that pummels you into submission, the absurdity of the drum work on display, the bagpipe noises, the vocal effect and the fact that it’s so low down in the mix that it’s just being treated like another instrument, the computer game zaps, God, I could go on. It’s just the most exciting piece of music I’ve heard in over twelve months and I really do love it to pieces. Do click on the link and have a listen – it’s not a download or anything.

Books

Inevitably I’ve not read a great deal of prose this year and of those that I have, the majority have been a bit gash. I received TOMAS by James Palumbo as a birthday present, so entirely apologise to my brother and his wife for the savaging I am now forced to give it. Palumbo was Eton educated, did some sort of high level banking before going on to found Ministry of Sound. This does not mean that anyone should have pub.lished his adolescent dribblings. The best part of the book is the fact that he’s managed to get cover quotes from Kathy Lette, Rory Bremner and Pete Tong, the incongruousness of which amused me to begin with. Having only got half way through this sputtering pile of old wank, I may be doing it a disservice, but I honestly can’t imagine the turgid prose improving any or the hackneyed ideas becoming any less laboured. A lot of it covers similar ground to The Crow Gets Comfy (for the benefit of new readers, it’s a novel I failed to finish between the ages of sixteen and nineteen and entirely available in the April 2008 section of this site’s archive), so perhaps I’m jealous. The writing is better than that of my teenaged self, but that’s hardly a challenge. Look at how well I can do the writings now though! Take that wealthy businessman!

That turned into a lengthier rant than I’d planned for it to be. Let’s try and concentrate on the good. Armando Ianucci’s Audacity of Hype was my companion for many a tea break at this end of the year and most pleasurable it was too. A collection of newspaper articles, it would make for very fine toilet reading, should you be in to that sort of thing. Most compelling prose for me was Most Outrageous by Bob Levin. This 2008 biography of Dwaine Tinsley, cartoonist for Larry Flint’s Hustler, for which his most famous creation was a recurring character named ‘Chester the Molester’. The creation of said chacter went on to have greater significance when Tinsley’s daughter accused him of abusing her when she was a child. The court case that followed these allegations is the hook upon which most of the book is hung and it is a genuinely fascinating, if disturbing, tale. Levin interviewed all participants in the trial that would allow him to do so and paints a very balanced portrait of everyone involved. By the end, I was still uncertain as to whether Tinsley had committed any of the crimes he was accused of, mainly down to the peculiar acts of smoke and mirrors the American judicial system seems capable of. It’s a compelling read and the introduction is available if you’re interested.

Comics

As the majority of you will have guessed, I have read an awful lot of comics over the past twelve months. As such, let’s try and bang through this sharpish like. Finally got round to reading Lost Girls, which I will try and finish writing about some time soon, though that might necessitate re-reading it, which’ll cost me a day and a pint of fluids. It was good, but flawed for reasons I will eventually go in to, so it doesn’t quite make this list.

Let’s start with some of the things I was sad to see the back of. The greatest disappointment was the cancellation of David Lapham’s Young Liars. If I’m perfectly honest, I had no idea as to what was going on towards the end of its run, which is more than likely what drove so many readers away from it. For me though, that was the fun. Plus it was the first new, properly creator owned material Lapham had had out there since the seemingly endless hiatus Stray Bullets endures. Why does he need to keep taking these well paid jobs when he could be working on one of the greatest independent comic series of all time? Let his family eat gruel! After the last issue came out, I sat down and read the whole of Young Liars in one sitting. The first dozen issues are astonishing, masterful work, as are the half dozen following it. These are rather let down by the whole thing having to be tied up in two issues, which unsurpisingly, feels rushed and is massively inconclusive. A great shame all round really.

Another series’ cessation I was sad to see was Doug Paskiewicz’ Arsenic Lullaby. His annual releases of dark/sick comical comics had always been a high point in the year for me and the tiny notice in this year’s saying it was to be the last was very saddening. Still, it is at least at his own behest and the plan seems to be to continue the ‘brand’ in some sort of animated form, so all is far from lost. I wish him limited success in the endevour, only so he might realise the folly of the plan and return to the sequential art he does so well.

A couple of other series of note came to their natural conclusions this year, both of which I have been sad to see the ends of, but happy that, having told their stories, they are complete, without having to be dragged on in endless soap opera fashion as is so often the way in the world of the comic. First mention goes to Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets which reached it’s hundredth and final issue this year. I’d followed this title for ten years, knowing at an early date that it was due to only have 100 issues and had spent a highly enjoyable couple of days working my way through all of them. About half way through the run, reading it just the once on its (mostly) monthly schedule, I had entirely lost track of what was going on, such is the delicate plotting and subtle reveals that go on throughout the story. I reread the first fifty or so issues and began to see the much larger picture appearing beneath the tales of petty crime and occasionaly grisly slaughter. The climax was actually pretty satisfying as everyting fell into place and then fell apart again as rapidly. If you’re going to read it, start at the start.

T’other natuaral conclusion reached that excited me in some way was the completion of Warren Ellis and John Cassady’s Planetary. Again, close to ten years in the making, though this time due to both creators working on too many other projects to actually get their schedules in alignment through the latter half of the decade. Under a third of 100 Bullets‘ length, it only took me a day to get through the whole tale in one sitting, but again a very satisfying one. Once again, Ellis pulls off a magnificent switcheroo in the closing pages of this one. You may have thought the whole thing was about archaeologists of twentieth century genre fiction having spurious adventures, but actually it’s not. That’s almost a subplot to a tale that’s far more human and which is causing me to well up slghtly thinking about. Not as great as the climax to Transmetropolitan (which involves the greatest piece of reader interaction I have ever seen with a physical object – really can’t see it working on a Kindle), but frankly very little is. Again, I would recommend you begin at the beginning.

Ellis has been doing a fair amount of work for Avatar (the publishers, not the Smurf porn) recently. The mini series (No Hero, Wolfskin, Black Summer et al) he’s been working on have been interesting, but I’ve found them ultimately unsatisfying. His ongoing Doktor Sleepless series is more enjoyable, but is on such an erratic schedule at the moment that it’s hard to keep up without rereading what’s gone before. Garth Ennis has been working for the same company too and his current collaboration with Jacen Burrows is fascinating me at the moment. Crossed begins with a premise massively similair to every zombie film you’ve seen – if you are bitten or exchange any fluids with one of the Crossed, you too become infected. Rather than joining the living dead though, the infection instead robs you of all moral scruples and induces genocidal levels of psychosis in the infected. My suspicion when I first read about the series was that it was going to be Ennis’ attempt to offend the largest possible number of people he could in one foul swoop. This would go along with his track record (examples include him being the first person to slip the ‘c’ word into both Marvel and DC comics, DC’s refusal to carry on printing The Boys because of it’s possible damage to the superhero brand, the Dicks mini series’, really I could go on) and to some degree is true, the double page spread towards the end of the first issue is testament to that. But I shouldn’t have underestimated Ennis as a writer. Even though he’s not produced anything as impressive as Preacher this decade, it seems that he still has the ability to create characters you really do begin to care about. This could also be said of the excellent Dear Billy strand of his Battlefields series of series’, but it came as a bigger shock to me in Crossed as I had been expecting something closer to fecking Eden Lake (new readers might want to endure my lengthy essay about that piece of shit film that robbed me of ninety minutes of my life, or they might not. I’m not your mother). There are some genuinely chilling moments i the series so far, made all the more so by the ‘human’ characters being so well drawn (in both an artistic and storytelling sense). There’s only one more issue left to go and I really don’t know how it’s going to end.I only fear it won’t be well.

Other ongoing series I’ve been enjoying in a quick round up kind of a way; Scalped – Jason Aaron’s writing just keeps getting better and better. The ongoing story of a corrupt Indian reserve deserves better superlatives than the ones I can think of. Keeps defeating any expectations I have as to where its going to go next and after over three and a half years of serialization, not much more than a month seems to have elapsed in story time. That you don’t see very often. R. M. Guerra’s gravelly, organic art compliments the stories complexity magnificently; Seaguy has to get a mention as it’s the only Grant Morrison I’ve been able to read since I started swearing off superhero comics. Yeah, alright it sort of is one, but not really. Probably works on half a dozen meta-levels I’m yet to understand. Really wish Morrison would go back to working on his own creations more, but you can hardly blame him for playing with all DC’s toys now that they’ve apparently handed them to him on a plate. At least there’s Joe The Barbarian to look forward to and it at least stops him mucking about with Robbie Williams; The Walking Dead continues to impress me. Zoap opera? Zomb opera? Soap zomera? Dunno, none of them really work, do they? See what I was saying about Ennis with Crossed? Well that’s sort of what Kirkman and Adlard are doing here. Characters in a hopeless situation. The hopeless situation is exciting, but it’s the characters that make it compelling reading; Echo, Rasl and Glamourpuss need to get mentions as they’re proof that there’s life in self publishing yet. Echo’s probably my favourite at the moment, primarily because Terry Moore has produced the most material since all three launched in quick succession. All three are fascinating in how far they are away from the series that all three creators made their names on (Moore on Strangers in Paradise, Jeff Smith on Bone and Dave Sim with Cerebus). Long may all three continue; I’ve been buying 2000AD weekly for two years now, following five or six years away from the title. There’s been some cracking stuff in there this past year, hence my continuing to go back there, but the stand out strip has been John Smith and Edmund Bagwell’s Cradlegrave. Smith has had a patchy career as a writer of comics, to say the least. His Indigo Prime and Tyranny Rex tales for the ‘Galaxies Greatest Comic’ are thought of as classics and I was always rather fond of the twelve pager Danzig’s Inferno and Firekind. Devlin Waugh is still a classic creation (“the head of Noel Coward on the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger” as the character description allegedly read) and Smith looked set to be part of the second wave British invasion of the States in the early nineties. Sadly, the purple prose (something he was often guilty of using excessively) that filled his Scarab mini-series put the kibosh on that. Those purply tendencies have been entirely reined in on Cradlegrave, a Cronenbergesque horror set on the grimmest of council estates during a heatwave hotter than ‘76. The pages ooze out at you, characters seemingly rotting on the page. It’s a real return to form and I hope to see more from the man soon. He’s only got one arm you know.

Film

In The Loop. There were no other films this year. Anything else was a figment of your diseased brain feeding on itself.

That’s all we have time for now. Because of time constraints I’m now going to have to do a graphic novels list. Blech. Maybe I’ll call it something else. Bet this is all in italics because I’ve fucked the coding somewhere. Must learn to edit. Anywhich way, I shall try and finish this nonsense off in the morrow. Byeee.

The Interminable Interrim

December 13th, 2009 by

Okay, I have started the second part of Reading Lost Girls, but have probably left it a little too long since part one as all my arguments have gone a bit shoogily. Once I’ve knocked into some sort of shape I’m happy with, I shall present it for your delectation. I’ve spent ten minutes trying to find a video to amuse you with, but have come up with nothing. Go and make your own amusement.

Reading Lost Girls – Part One

December 6th, 2009 by

Yesterday I spent four or five hours reading Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie’s pornographic opus Lost Girls. My attempt to now discuss this experience, without resorting to dubious Carry On single entendres or discussion of what my non-page turning hand was up to will almost certainly end in dismal failure. With luck I’ll get through this and cause nary a snigger, though I apologise now if this descends into smirking filth now – it’s not my intention at this, the outset, but my general tendency to descend into schoolboy tittering might become too much for me, for which I only apologise. I will try to purge any of my natural smuttiness from the body of the piece, but might stick some footnotes at the end if I find myself unable to keep a good entendre down (fnarr). Anyway, I’ve got under an hour to knock this part out (Matron!), so let’s get down to it (oo-er) (that’s all for now – promise!).

For those unaware of the work in question, a brief synopsis. The story concerns three women, Dorothy, Alice and Wendy, arriving at an Austrian hotel shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. While there the three become friends and begin discussing their own sexual histories, which are depicted in flashback. As their friendship grows, so do their own sexual explorations within the confines of the hotel and the Austrian countryside. This builds to a series of orgiastic climaxes before everyone finally gets dressed again and attempt to depart the hotel before the military arrive. That was pretty much all of the plot that I knew before I went into reading it, so should any of you wish to, I don’t believe that I’ve laid down any spoilers there.

The main device that the plot is hung upon (and the reason for the delay of it’s British distribution) is one which Moore seems more and more fascinated by as the years pass – that the protagonists are not of his making, but are instead borrowed from long established works of fiction. In this case, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan (the bone of contention in the UK release – go two posts down from this one to find my writings on the reasoning behind this from a couple of years ago). These are not the characters as they appeared in their original stories though, but at the ages they would have been in 1913, having aged naturally since their original publication/staging dates (Peter Pan was originally a play, fact fans). Thus Alice is in her sixties, Wendy is approaching middle age and we find Dorothy in her twenties.

With this conceit set in place, the second falls into place naturally – that these lost girls’ (a Peter Pan allusion, in case you hadn’t spotted it) sexual awakenings are all based around the tales originally told about them. As a structure to hang the pornography on (Moore and Gebbie have both described the book thusly, so I have no problem describing it as such, though we might have to get into some semantic debate about that later), it does make a great deal of sense. The fact that you have some connection with the chacters before you go into the story adds another level of intimacy to the already intimate scenarios. No matter how unfamiliar one might be with the original works, their three stories are ingrained enough into the cultural conciousness that almost any reader in (at the very least) the western world will feel that they already knows something of the characters. As if they have already had some sort of relationship with them, maybe even a childish crush. This is where the book moves away from standard pornography; in its attempt to involve the observer. Yes, it is still repeated representations of (mainly) humans rutting, but there it differs from the modern expectation of pornography. It has something else.

Warmth.

And that’s where I’ll have to leave it for now. More to follow shortly.

Stop! Gap!

December 6th, 2009 by

All being well, I should have some sort of lengthy post up later this afternoon. In case I run out of time, I present this anecdote in video form as a bit of a buffer. I’m rather loathe to link to anything on the Torygraph site, let alone to embed something of their’s here, but it’s just about worth it. Much as I liked Sir Clem’ it isn’t the funniest joke in the world, even though it does mention pants. Enjoy and hope to reconvene around these parts in a couple of hours. Toodles.

Found Girls

November 29th, 2009 by

Almost three years after it was actually released, I am finally in possession of my own copy of Lost Girls. After some unfortunately failed attempts at acquiring a copy (initial legal wranglings, price of the original three volume edition, vague embarassment at ordering one through work), it is finally in my sweaty mitts. I will attempt to give some sort of lengthy critique once I’ve got through it (assuming I’m still able to type and that my hands aren’t withered claws), but as homework for you, you might want to have a gander at my original posts about the debacle. More to come soon (fnarr).

Tunage

November 22nd, 2009 by

I have nothing to add.

Brown Tailless Lynx

November 16th, 2009 by

My fragile frame seems to have recovered now, so I seem to be back in rudish health. Which is good. I was tempted to go into ludicrously unpleasant detail as to the particulars of my explosive emissions, but good taste and my own potential nausea have on this one occasion prevailed. Instead, I thought I’d point you at a couple of things to listen to.

First up, regular readers might recall my mentioning a podcast that I had designed a logo for (irregular readers might want to have a look at it here) and wondering aloud if I’d be able to link to it. Well, the show’s host has given me the go ahead to link to the latest edition which can be downloaded by clicking on that blue bit back there. I think the link degrades after a week, so you only have five days left thanks to my tardiness. It’s definitely worth a listen as Markuss has a nice ear for a tune (two in fact) and generally plays an interesting selection of stuff over the hour’s duration. If you don’t want to do no downloading, you can stream earlier shows through Mixcloud. Like this one, which featured my theme choice.

I should probably mention the theme thing too. Each podcast features seven songs which are loosely linked together for an unnamed reason, be it something in the title, the music or possibly even in the band names. These are chosen by whoever manages to be the first to guess what the theme of the previous podcast was. As I have no desire to display Markuss’es mailing address here, if any of you want to have a go, please forward a guess or any other correspondence to the usual address around these parts. Yes, the Contact icon is still refusing to behave, so if you want to email things to theweakened at gmail dot com, then you might be in with a chance.

All being well, I should be appearing in a future webisode in early December.

My second tip comes from my constant source of fascination Cook’dandBomb’d. No, wait, come back. Fascinated by the forums though I am (while still being unable to join them out of some churning existential dread), this doesn’t involve you having to visit them. I should also point out to some detractors that all of the writings on the forums are not the outpourings of my own schizoid subconcious. But I digress. What I am directing you to are Chris Morris’ Radio One Shows. I only spotted that they’d put them up for individual downloading/streaming a couple of weeks ago and I can’t recommend you’re giving them a listen highly enough. Seriously. If twenty-five hour’s worth of funnier radio exists, I have yet to happen upon it (sacrilegious though it might seem, I’m including Clue there). It probably helps that I’m vaguely nostalgic for a lot of the music played there too, but most of that’s pretty cracking. Honestly, you owe it yourself to go and listen to these now. If you’re unsure, I’d highly recommend starting with show 22 or 23, to hear him at the top of his game, then just go back to the start and listen to the lot. There’s such a lot of great stuff in there.

MARVEL at him not actually faking the death of Michael Heseltine like every news outlet still reports!

WISH that there wouldn’t be a press furore today were someone to doctor a Bruno Brookes tape until he says “Cunt,” and then broadcast it on Boxing Day afternoon!

LAUGH at the sound of a pencil being pushed into dead Johnny Walker’s larynx.

That’s me spent for the night. Service will return when you ring for it, you filthy peeg dogs.

Recovery Position

November 12th, 2009 by

Anus gushing like a geyser over the past couple of days. Not pleasant and I’m very much glad it’s over. Now watch this. It’s on a lighter note. Promise.

Aborted

November 9th, 2009 by

It would appear that my novel writing attempt for the month is well and truly scuppered. At time of writing, I’m well over seven thousand words behind where I should be and foresee no way of catching up. My hopes of getting something done on Sunday were dashed by some kind of lurgy that led to my chundering my guts up, which wasn’t really conducive to working and wrote the rest of the day off too. This combined with my not really seeing where any of it was really going and not particularly enjoying writing any of the characters (save for two perhaps, though even that bit felt a little too much like Peep Show fan fiction for me to be really happy with it) leaves me pretty content to let the thing die. Some bits may be salvageable, though I’m not entirely sure what for. I might instead use the month to try and knock last years into a more satisfyingly servicable state, though I’m not promising owt. As such, anyone who has requested a copy recently, please wait until early November and I’ll try to make the ending less horrifying.

Seven out of Thirty

November 7th, 2009 by

Terrible couple of days. Boozing last night led to a complete lack of work today. Combination of hang over, depression, massive lack of inspiration and uncertainty about directions have led to my spending most of the day staring into space and failing to write a word. Am now about four thousand words behind. If nothing comes out tomorrow, I fear I will have to abort. Which is a bit shit.

Contact icon remains fucked. Well wishers may wish well by addressing writings to theweakened at gmail dot com.