Archive for the 'Books' Category

RIP Thom Jones (1/26/45-10/14/16)

I saw him speak at Powell’s in PDX in 9?… let’s just say late 90’s. Looking back over the info, I guess I’ve ready all of his published collections, though I certainly hope there is more stuff coming posthumously.

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One aspect of his life you might glean from some of his stories, but not mentioned in Wikipedia he shared with us at Powell’s that night. At one point he was living in Africa, possibly through the Peace Corp or similar, and possibly acting as a medic. Anyway, he had access to this like…oil barrel of morphine, and as one can imagine, some of the down time of village life… Anyway, not a good combo, but he came through to tell about it.

If you can imagine enjoying short stories revolving around themes like boxing, philosophy, medical school, naughty partying, the Vietnam war I highly recommend him. Crazy to see also he might have adapted Larry Brown’s The Rabbit Factory for film, as I happen to be reading it right now. One of those synchronous things. I also add, and this is so selfish I’d be appalled to admit it, if I didn’t know this was just my lil’ blog and of no more consequence: it’s strangely refreshing that this gem of a writer didn’t get “huge” and blown out, have his work turned into mediocre films, have quotations and impression bantered around by coffeehouse philistines etc. I’m sure the $ would have been sweet, but have started it’s own unknown path. And who knows what cult status maybe be yet to come, because he deserves it. Wait am I contradicting myself here? Anyway read and find out for yourself…

Dragoncon 2016

Several years I’ve gone down just to take pictures, but as the event has grown, security and the fire marshal have become more of a drag for free roaming. So I told myself the next time I was in the country over Labor Day, I’d get the pass and do it right. And even cosplay!

Steampunk Jedi

Uncle Iroh finds the missing piece

Staying at my friend's in nearby People'sTown, I biked down each day. I only dressed on Saturday, and in addition to people thinking I was Uncle/General Iroh, which I was, people also guessed Kung Fu Panda and Raiden. Saturday was the main party night and I was well rocked. Over the course of the con I saw Battlebots fight (smaller/lighter versions than on the show: #Season 3) and went to panel about that show, one on space colonization, the history of Sci fi, effective writing of SF, a collection of animated shorts, two panels on Hammer Horror films (one just the 70's), one on metal and horror, a short Korean film, and a live reading of a lesser known Tolkien work.

anime character with huge gun

DSA girls take aim

Shining Twins

The entire event has grown, the merch area now taking two full floors of the Merchandise Mart. I got a few goodies at the end, D+D artifacts and small movie posters. It was a blast and I'll do it again right if I'm in town next year. And also start my costume a bit earlier, so I'm not running to CVS hours in to try and save it with safety pins. Shout out to the Cosplay repair squad who hooked me up.

Bitching about the 80’s and Nerd Culture

I was writing a review of David M. Ewalt’s ‘Of Dice and Men’ just now and spiraled to topics beyond D+D. I’ll re-purpose some of that here…

It’s strange how I love seeing references to things my former nerdy self did, as it felt so isolating at the time, even though I had a close group of friends also involved. On the other hand, it drives me nuts how EVERY nerdy pursuit, comic, character which was a secret joy for the outsider/underdog has been drawn out into the the mainstream and gone blockbuster. Thanks to the nature of the game, this can only happen so much with D+D. If you were doing it right, no one could ever interpret or capture your unique characters.

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In a way, young people can never fully appreciate how much the 80’s generally sucked and how special underground culture of the time was. I’m tempted to make some analogy about how hardcore punk wasn’t something you could lazily research or download, “put on” with a uniform you got at Hot Topic in the mall. (Wait, do they even have Hot Topic…or malls…anymore? Jesus, how old am I?) And nerd culture wasn’t on TV or the big screen calling out to you, if not shoved down your throat. Pixels were too big. Hobbits were animated with pen and ink, not green screens. Computers were expensive, didn’t actually do much, AND you had to program them. But I’m just an aging Gen x’er ranting. And it wasn’t as great as drug-fueled orgies I was too young for in the 70’s. But maybe as those attend-ies would make claims to REAL partying, we are want to make claims to REAL nerd culture. But as much as I might sneer at kids born into the developed world since the nerd has been on top, calling the shots, I definitely envy modern level of female involvement. Playing video games and watching Adventure Time a “date”? I hope you appreciate it Youngblood! And I’m certainly glad things didn’t swing the other way and what I lived wasn’t the heyday of Nerd Culture, even if in a way it seemed more genuine/less commercialized.

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On the Road – film and 50th anniversary audiobook

Kerouac gets a lot of shit. The cliche young male reader, using this novel as blueprint for all sorts of half-baked and irresponsible behavior and rambling conversations. But it had a big influence on me. Judge if you want.

This Summer/Fall I’ve sort of rediscovered the tale through film and audio-book versions. It’s funny how skewed my memory of it all was. For all the “positivity”, there is also a lot of friends letting one another down, child abandonment, etc. Some of it makes more sense now in my 40’s. I think the film does a decent job. I’m glad Walter Salles got to direct the project. It’s interesting a Brazilian can capture late 40’s America so well, also that so little of it was shot in the US. Sam Riley (British) is a solid Sal Paradise, and Garret Hedlund a solid Dean. I thought Viggo was having fun doing Bull Lee and worked great, maybe not quite ectomorphic enough, but certainly fitting in tone. Kristen Stewart was a perfect Marylou (I also really enjoyed her as Joan Jett). Tom Sturridge doesn’t quite do justice to Carlo, but perhaps as Ginsberg was more of a neurotic nerval who hadn’t fully come into his own at that point, it works. I also find it interesting Buscemi chose to do the small role he did, but is as perfect as most all he does these days.
With my first viewing, I wasn’t floored with the film. But repeat viewings of bits of it on cable having it growing in importance in my mind. A slow powerful burn. There are subtle details you might not fully appreciate the first time.

But Will Patton does an amazing job in his reading on audiobook for the 50th anniversary! His Dean IS Dean Moriarty, in all it’s manic babbling brilliance. He does justice to all the other voices, and hardest of all switching between. If for some reason you found the reading unpalatable, or just want to re-visit the story yourself, I definitely recommend a listen. As an actor, you’d recognize Patton, but his history doesn’t show him really excelling in lead roles. But after hearing this, I’ll definitely seek out more of his readings.

Cloud Atlas

First all of all, thanks ATL for hanging on to at least one cheap theater. $1.75! And not shabby seats or anything.

I’m a huge fan of the book (novel? it’s a collection of s stories really) and wonder why anyone would want to tackle this. In the end, I can’t say it “failed” but plenty of issues. I read it about 5 years ago and some of my memories may be incorrect. I’m just gonna do this review scatologically:

*not sure why they wanted so badly for actors to play multiple characters. Maybe it lends cohesion to confusing stories. Anyway, sometimes it’s done well – Doona Bae as a red haired, green eyed European VS. making many of the European descent look Asian. No excuse for making the literary agent’s brother look older than he was…a fucking bad Halloween mask.

*I have an irrational hatred of Tom Hanks. Some of what he does here is passable, but I must call WORST PAN BRITISH ACCENT EVER on him as the gangster.

*Halle Berry in ’36 and ’73 = hot. Halle Berry in the future = no thanks. And I swear she slips in the final moments of her future scene from “pidgin future English” to plain ol’ Jemima.

*Gratuitous nudity from Doona Bae is nothing to complain about, but it made the replicants uprising seem to have something to do with sexual harassment, which is not in the book. Logically, in such a Neo Seoul (is the jpg graphic intentional in it’s mis-spelling?) future, every creepy, undersexed male would have a high-end sex replicant in their home – why bother those in a restaurant, even if drunk? If you have a fancy late maker at home do you even notice the industrial coffee maker at a convenience store?
Also, my memory of the restaurant is more McD’s, which obviously they couldn’t do. Somni 451 is much more of a badass in the book, and therein it’s much more believable how a replicant could become a goddess figure. Also: too many tears. I’m not saying replicants can’t cry, and her’s was a tale of humanization and self-awareness, but one or two tears, not so many.

*Gratuitous action scenes in Neo Seoul weren’t necessary. The fights against the cannibals on the island are straight out of the book and appropriate. Hell, could have been more.

*I remember Zachary being younger in the book, at least before he’s telling kids the story. I don’t think making him older adds anything. Nor does making Ol’ Georgie look like the Noel Fielding character from the ‘Jazz’ Boosh skit. What’s with that hat? He should have been more reptilian and cold. Demons, or even future people’s fantasies about demons, don’t have to be so melodramatically hokey. But the cannibal savages were good-

*I’m quickly developing an irrational hatred of that Agent Smith fucker (Hugo Weaving). Every time he was on screen I was irritated, which I guess was sort of the point. But not with the bad Asian eye make up; not in bad drag.

*Not sure why they made such a point of 70’s dope smoking when it was actually part of the plot explaining how the literary agent ended up in the old folk’s home. On the train he meets a rasta and ends up absurdly baked, later coming to, and realizing he is essentially imprisoned.

*it is abundantly clear from their films that the Wachowski’s (and I should no longer say brothers…) feel that in the future, people WILL wear sweaters made of ratty netting material. And since I already mentioned it, I feel Lana W had more fun with the actor gender-bending than I did. I don’t see what it added – didn’t especially make the actors reach, and when badly done, more in the racial and age instances than gender, it was flat out distracting…illusion broken, which is what you don’t want in a film.

Nick Nostitz

When I was walking around Melbourne last month on a pathetic budget, I saw plenty of things I wanted to buy. Included was this coffee table book by Nick Nostitz called Patpong: Bangkok’s Twilight Zone discounted in one of the great discount bookstores down there. Then when I got some money, I bought it and have just now enjoyed reading the text bits, which are mostly notes on the characters photographed, quotations which seem to be things overheard in many cases, and one insightful ex-pat interview.

The Bangkok I love doesn’t even really include Patpong. I’m not sure I’ve ever been there. Maybe late night, a tuk tuk has taken me somewhere on the edge. And one evening I spent with this guy Glen, we wandered by, as he lived quite close, and we were in wandering state of mind. But I’ve never “done” Patpong: intentionally immersed myself in the district, never done the ping pong show etc. But of course much of what is documented goes for the city in general, and similar scenes elsewhere in Asia.

There are some great photos (though I wish I had the full version of the one above with the dog as well, which is the dust jacket for the book) and an unapologetic and real look at that scene, or as it was in the ’90s. I definitely recommend it, especially if you’ve ever enjoyed certain works of WT Vollmann, Hollebecque, or Bukowski – though this has nothing to do with Bukowski’s LA…well, maybe 70’s LA…in a way. Anyway, Nostitz is still in Thailand working on other projects, maybe a bit more political in feel but I sense still with a heart “in the street/scene”.

Holy shit: Melbourne!

So I’m in danger of falling completely and hopelessly in love with this city. And like any new relationship, I should check myself, lest I become gushy, go on and on forever. It seems, after three days impression, like NYC crossed with PDX with a dash of SF, then chocked full of European and Asians, with freaking parrots flying all over, at least in St. Kilda. World class street art is everywhere, both cheap and antiquarian bookstores, music festivals, a foodie paradise, indie film galore… My flicker account is out of whack for now, so pics will come later.

After a night downtown (well actually my first night was spent killing time until a morning check in…and sadly spent in a 24hr McD’s, not wanting to roam the streets with all gear in tow, I sheepishly later realized I’d been very close to several of the great graffiti alleys) I’ve moved to the St. Kilda hood and have a private room for a week for only slightly more than the 4 room dorm was downtown. It’s a flophouse, with the whore stroll nearby, but the St. Kilda music fest is going on and most all rooms are filling up. I was lucky to get a spot at Oslo Hotel.

I already randomly ran into a guy I met at Iron Maiden in Bali last Feb., friendly folk in galleries and video stores, got my first pho in a year in Richmond and roamed Collingwood whilst trying to hit Richmond. Even being beat cash wise, there is enough culture that it’s a treat to be here. Maybe my bad luck I happen to have come during the best times in Australian economic history, maybe not.

I’m filled with a feeling like when I fist went to PDX in the Fall of ’94: I must live here some day!

18 Days

I’m not sure where I first read about Grant Morrison‘s 18 Days, only know I was in China at the time. When I got back to ATL, I went looking at Oxford comics (lame site I’m afraid), discovered it hadn’t come out yet, so pre-ordered. When it arrived a few weeks later, I was surprised to find it closer to an elongated, thin coffee table book than a graphic novel. No problem, but if you get one, beware looking through the pages unless the book is completely horizontal, as the long pages will fall, fold, and can be creased easily.

I haven’t read the entire thing yet, am sort of slowly savoring it. And Mukesh Singh’s art is beautiful (he worked on Devil, among other things I have yet to see). It’s a retelling of India’s Hindu epic Mahabharata. The actual story is better than Morrison’s uber-pop “notes” in the beginning. Not to judge him too harshly: despite whatever other genius he may posses, the guy is essentially a comic book writer. But as he mentions, name dropping from Star Wars and LOTR help give readers a reference in trying to keep up with the multitude of strangely (to western minds) named characters. And ultimately to understand the story, we will have to go beyond the western duality of good guys/bad guys.

If, down the road, this is turned in an animated feature film – or more likely a multi-part franchise – it could kick supreme ass. But for now, let’s be just as please to enjoy it in this form.

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