Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Sunday Lessons

Absinthe: Twice the drunkenness, half the hangover.

Party Pills: So much fun it's almost worth the huge mother of all hangovers you'll have the next day.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lucifer – Devil in the Gateway

by Mike Carey

This is the first collection in a spin-off comic series from Neil Gaiman's Sandman. It's taken a while for me to check it out, since the character of Lucifer in the Sandman books never seemed interesting to me, but other places around the booklogosphere have been giving it the thumbs up so I figured it was past time I gave it a chance.

Like the Hellblazer collection I also read recently, Lucifer tries a little too hard to emulate its progenitor series. The Sandman has a theme of reality being determined by dreams, which makes perfect sense, considering its protagonist is the king of dreams. When they bring up the same idea in Lucifer, it doesn't really fit. Secondly, one of the clever things about the Sandman is how the story reused characters from past plotlines that you thought were out of the story forever, and did so in a way that tied all the threads together elegantly. Even at the end of the first collection it's obvious that Lucifer is going for the same trick, which is not a good thing since the clever thing about the way Gaiman did it in Sandman was that these old plotlines kept popping up unexpectedly.

But Lucifer has a lot going for it too. Despite not being engaged by Lucifer's character in Sandman (this is the biblical Satan we're talking about, by the way) he turns out to be a pretty entertaining protagonist. In the Sandman we learn that Lucifer isn't all that evil, but this is still the guy who was in charge of torturing people in Hell for aons so he's not exactly a nice guy. It's fun to watch him callously use the people around him and ruthlessly punish those who get in his way.

This collection contains two seperate stories, each of which does little more than set up a larger overarching plot. In the first, Lucifer (who in the Sandman story retired as lord of hell) is asked by God to take care of a spate of irresponsible wish-granting on Earth. Along the way we get a reiteration of some ideas taken out of Sandman, as well as some cool new ones, plus we get to see Lucifer taking advantage of his companions and showing off his cool powers. In the second, worried by events of the first story, he attempts to consult the tarot, which for him has to be the original tarot, a bunch of malicious anthropomorphic representations of the cards.

It's a pretty good read, I'm glad I tried this series out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Miscellania 2: Politics Edition

So the Black Caps are off to Zimbabwe after all. No Right Turn thinks the government should be ordering them to come back, but what does it really matter anyway? It would be a good political statement for them to boycott the tour, but if it's going to be costing someone (either the public or NZ Cricket) millions of dollars, is it worth it just to make a statement that will have no real impact on what's happening over there?

And, (via every political blog in the country) Labour have released their student loan policy; no interest charged for anyone staying in New Zealand. Sounds reasonable to me, but the right wing bloggers are up in arms about it, pointing out that ultimately it will only increase the level of debt further. And they're right, it will cost the taxpayer a lot of money, so wouldn't it be better to spend that money on more adequately funding the universities? That way students have to borrow less in the first place, and the goverment isn't giving out interest free loans. I'm no economist, but I think that works out cheaper in the long run for everyone...


I've been pretty busy over the last week or so, which is why I haven't posted too much recently. But there are a few little things I want to make a note of...

Every couple of months I get a bunch of search engine referrals searching for stuff along the lines of 'girls getting knocked out by chloroform video'. I realise that by pointing it out everytime it happens I only encourage them, but it always gives me a bit of a giggle.

On Blabbermouth today - Fantomas are touring Aussie in September... pity I'm already over there to see Nine Inch Nails in August, it would be a little expensive for me to go over again so soon. I'll just keep my fingers crossed that an Auckland date might be added.

And on the subject of Blabbermouth, here's a sample headline:
OZZY OSBOURNE: 'I'm Not Going To End Up Like A F**king Pickle In A F**king Wheelchair' - July 25, 2005
Do they really think that your average Slayer or Meshuggah fan needs to be protected from the word 'fuck'? Jesus, grow some balls already.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sunday Lessons

Absinthe doesn't give you a hangover.

People on pills are entertaining, people on weed are boring.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Follow the God of Cyanide

Meshuggah – Chaosphere

Even though their new album 'Catch Thirty-Three' didn't excite me overwhelmingly, I quite liked a lot of its ideas so I grabbed a copy of 'Chaosphere', which I hear is Meshuggah's best album.

It's a lot more 'metal' than 'Catch Thirty-Three'; I wouldn't have done the mental double take I did when I heard one of their songs playing on the Axe Attack if they had picked a track off of this album. Having said that it's definitely still completely off the wall in the rhythm department. I looked up a tab for one of the songs that I thought I might take a stab at playing, and saw that it starts out in 23/16 time (personally I'd say it's in alternating bars of 10/16 and 13/16 time, but that's splitting hairs when it comes to sitting down and trying to play it).

While their trademark rhythms are no different, the format of the songs is a lot more accessible than on 'Catch Thirty-Three'. That is, more accessible if you like really heavy music. Each song is three to five minutes of full on thrash with deep growly vocals and squealy atonic guitar solos. Not as musically interesting as 'Catch Thirty-Three' but a lot more immediately, viscerally pleasing. The most unusual track is the last one, which starts out with five minutes of a normal song before slowing down into a deep drone for a few minutes with peculiar phase effects. Then it abruptly snaps back (the song is called 'Elastic') into a cut up, mashed together noise fest of all the previous tracks played together. It sounds fucking insane, but believe it or not, not a whole lot more insane than the rest of the album.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hellblazer: Original Sins

Written by Jamie Delano

I never saw the 'Constantine' movie, because I heard that it stank, but what I heard about the comic series it's based on (that's 'Hellblazer') sounded pretty cool. 'Original Sins' collects the first 9 issues of the comic, which is a spin off from Alan Moore's 'Swamp Thing' (another comic series I've been meaning to check out). Hellblazer stars John Constantine, who is a kind of magician/con-man, and follows his adventures as he continually gets into trouble with the infernal powers of hell and ends up saving the world.

There are a few things I didn't like about this book, firstly the art is pretty generic and not especially good, but then again maybe I've just been spoiled from my reread of 'Sandman'. Secondly the dialog is pretty atrocious in places, especially the sex scenes:

“Like scientists we fall to our experiment. Exploring complex tactile formulae. Tasting the arcane chemistry of sex.”
Yecch, give me a break! Lastly, the political overtones are far too explicit. While it's somewhat relieving to read rants directed at Thatcher and Bush senior that could apply to their counterparts today, since it reminds us that the world has seen all this sort of thing before and came through it OK, but the spittle flecked invective is still not pleasant to read so overtly in a work of fiction. I think Delano is trying to emulate Alan Moore's 'Watchmen', which made similar political statements but did so with a lot more grace and subtlety, mainly by not directly addressing it's targets and instead making arguments against the philosophies of the right wing governments of the day. It gets particularly bad in the Vietnam themed issue, but fortunately the rest of the stories mostly keep it to a tolerable level.

Having said that the plot is fairly good (although a few of the standalone stories are a bit weak, namely the aforementioned Vietnam issue and the first two issues in which Constantine fights a demon that feeds off hunger, are not particularly engaging). Constantine himself is a pretty appealing character, as a rogue who never confronts trouble head-on, preferring to use trickery and mind games. I'm of two minds as to whether I'll keep going with this series, but I guess it'll come down to whatever tickles my fancy the next time a shopping spree takes me to the comic book store.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Man Must Test His Mettle, in a Crooked Old World

Tom Waits – Blood Money

I was once very fond of this album, but unfortunately it was lost in the great CD drawer heist of Ought-Two, so I haven't listened to it for a long while. But over the last few years I've grabbed a couple of Tom Waits' other albums, 'Alice' which is good, but not as good as 'Blood Money', and 'Mule Variations', which I don't like at all.

Tom Waits has the most incredibly deep gravelly voice, death metal vocalists would kill to sound like that. God knows how it got that way, but it sounds great. The music is very unique too, full of off-kilter, obscure instruments, giving the album an dreamy old-fashioned vibe, which works whether the songs are gentle or menacing. Waits writes great lyrics too, on this album they're very dark, just look at these song titles, 'Misery's the River of the World', 'Starving in the Belly of a Whale' and 'Everything Goes to Hell'. Coupled with the peculiar music it creates a great ambiance, reminding me of Lewis Carroll in his more twisted moments ('Alice in Wonderland' was part of the inspiration behind 'Blood Money's companion album 'Alice').

It's not quite as good as I remembered, mainly because there are more filler tracks than I recalled, but this is still a very good album, and I'm really glad I got round to buying it again. Given that I like this one and 'Alice', but not 'Mule Variations', would anyone who listens to Tom Waits care to recommend which of his albums I should check out next?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Oh My Townspeople, What are You Thinking?

Alexander Hacke – Sanctuary

When a member of an obscure experimental band goes off and does his own thing by releasing a solo album, I kind of assume it's to get away from the commercial pressures of their main band and take the opportunity to really go round the bend. Hacke's main band is Einsturzende Neubauten, not a band known for their popular appeal or their mainstream ambition, so I figured his solo project would be well and truly bizzare. As it happens I was surprised by how accessible this album was. Sure, there's the occaisional minute long theremin freakout with rhythm provided by an alarm clock, but most of the music is quite catchy.

Hacke displays a wide range of styles. In 'Seven' he combines heavy metal guitars with jazz rhythms (a very cool idea, but Foetus did a whole album of it a few years ago), and 'Per Sempre Butterfly' has a more classical arrangement of strings performing a beautiful movie score type song with a female vocalist. And of course there are the aforementioned avant-garde weirdness.

Neubauten is an awesome band so I had high expectations from this album, but it's exceeded my expectations considerably. Of course, you have to be in the right mood to sit through the weird bits, but as long as you are they're very enjoyable too.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Meme Worth Spreading


Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers' personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace. Full details and explanation can be found on the original posting:

Instructions (to join in the experiment):

1) Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.

2) Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use 'compose' mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)

3) Replace the answers in the "survey" section below with your own.

4) Add your blog information to the "track list", in the form: "Linked title - URL - optional GUID".

5) Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.

6) Post it to your blog!


Age: 24
Gender: Male
Location: Christchurch, New Zealand
Religion: Athiest
Occupation: Software Engineer
Began blogging (dd/mm/yy): 08/04

Political Compass results
Left/Right: -2.25
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.85

IPIP-NEO results

Friendliness 28
Gregariousness 72
Assertiveness 1
Activity Level 80
Excitement-Seeking 46
Cheerfulness 46

Trust 61
Morality 81
Altruism 57
Co-operation 26
Modesty 74
Sympathy 52

Self-Efficacy 0
Orderliness 41
Dutifulness 54
Achievement-Striving 1
Self-Discipline 4
Cautiousness 72

Anxiety 81
Anger 52
Depression 95
Self-Consciousness 67
Immoderation 96
Vulnerability 58

Imagination 89
Artistic Interests 60
Emotionality 32
Adventurousness 0
Intellect 87
Liberalism 97

Track List:
1. Philosophy, et cetera - - pixnaps97a2
2. ferrouswheel - ferrouswheeladef2
3. Wildebeest Asylum - - wildebeestasylumppp8


Some of those personality results are a bit worrying... no assertiveness or achievement-seeking, and near maximum scores for depression and immoderation. At least those are tired, hungover Jon's results, maybe I'd score differently on a different day of the week.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

You Won't Believe the Brutality

God of War

This game generated a lot of good buzz on various game blogs so I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately it's taken months to be released here, which annoys me a bit. I thought with games becoming bigger and bigger business over the last few years the market would be getting big games like this over here faster than it used to. But I guess it'll take a while longer before games get over here as fast as music or books. I'm just hoping that Katamari Damancy gets over here eventually. A lot of quirky games like that don't get released here at all.

Anyway, God of War turned out to be well worth the wait. It uses the same engine as Devil May Cry so like that game it's fundamentally an updated version of Golden Axe, where the gameplay mainly consists of running around smashing the shit out of zombies. While Devil May Cry 2 (which has been moved into the 'a bunch of shit I'll never finish' category over in the sidebar) made this gameplay mechanic into a tedious button mashing fest, God of War is just a hell of a lot of fun to play. The most obvious reason for this is the main character's fighting technique. Devil May Cry is all about the character Dante's graceful stylish moves, but God of War's protagonist Kratos, is a brutal thug in comparison. His weapons are a pair of blades attached to his arms by extendable chains, which provide for a wide variety of improbable but cool moves. It's incredible fun to turn Kratos into a death dealing whirlwind with enemies being thrown out in all directions. The combos and special moves are even cooler, some of the most memorable involve shoving your weapon down a minotaur's throat, and ripping the wings off of a harpy while planting your foot firmly on it's torso.

The real reason this game is so good though is the level design. The story takes place in ancient Greece, a setting that is suprisingly underutilised in computer games. This provides a huge number of cool enemies to fight, and plenty of neat plot devices. The locations are varied and interesting, and although they don't deviate from the standard action game settings (yes of course, there's a level set in the sewers of Athens), they're presented originally through the mythological theme. The most impressive location is the Temple of Pandora level, a huge dungeon that is carried on the back of the titan Cronos as he wanders eternally through the desert. The puzzles are both original and neither too hard nor too easy, and the locations are varied and interesting, even within the standard dungeon setting.

There are a few other things that should be mentioned, the plot, while not brilliant (you know you can't take the story too seriously once you fight the giant cyborg minotaur (whose appearance is still an awesome 'holy shit' moment)), is a little deeper than most console games. Kratos is a true anti-hero, a tortured soul with a brutal, evil past, now looking for forgiveness from the gods. The twists and turns of the plot are nothing completely unpredictable, but at least they're there and they're pulled off competantly with, gasp, decent voice acting. Lastly there's a clever gameplay mechanic where you can pull off special moves on wounded enemies by pushing the buttons you're prompted to by icons appearing over the enemies heads, it's not super original but it adds another element to the already frenetic battles.

There's really nothing to fault about this game, it even comes with a whole load of 'making of' videos, which reveal there's a sequel in the works. It's been a while since I played a new game I enjoyed this much so I'll be looking forward to it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Feeding Frenzy of My Starving Soul

Meshuggah – Catch ThirtyThree

The denizens of the heavy metal related parts of the internet seem to have a particular fondness for two bands, Dillinger Escape Plan and Meshuggah. Both bands are quite heavy, but there are a lot of bands heavier, what makes these guys unique are there extreme rhythms, or lack of them. I've already given Dillinger a listen, and they've become one of my favorite bands, but I only recently got around to buying a Meshuggah album.

Dillinger are completely off the wall, with no discernible rhythm, Meshuggah at first glance seem to be much the same, but after a few bars go by patterns start to manifest. They're not completely arrhythmic, the rhythms are just highly unconventional, often with different parts playing in different time signatures. It can be quite the mind melt, but underneath the apparent chaos it's actually fairly mathematical.

On this particular album, the individual track markers are almost meaningless, as the whole album is composed as one continuous piece of music. More often than not they just indicate a change in the rhythm guitar's riff, (the mathematical nature of the music means that it's very repetitive). But it's not all heavy grinding from beginning to end, there are quieter interludes found here and there, some of which are quite nice.

I can see why these guys are so popular, their style is unlike anything I've heard before and it's pulled off very skillfully. Perhaps a little too skillfully, the drumming on this album was all programmed and while this allows some insane rhythms it costs them a bit of passion. The other thing that lets these guys down is the lyrics. The first time I heard them I thought it sounded like someone taking the piss out of an overwrought Scandinavian metal band, but no, they're for real. Fortunately, the vocalist at least has a very good screaming voice and delivers the lyrics well.

I like this album quite a bit, I've been thinking of it as neo-classical meets metal which is a fairly unique combination, but it's missing something, like they've come up with this brilliantly original style but haven't quite figured out how to use it to it's full effect. I've already bought another of their albums, but I don't think they come close to Dillinger.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005


So I saw the final of Lost the other day (yeah, I know I'm a bit late with this), and it kind of annoyed me. The show had started to drag a little towards the end, although the final was pretty action packed. It's fair enough that they end on a cliffhanger, but I would have liked a bit of a conclusion for the season finale, and maybe some small bits of information about the shows mysteries.

There are two reasons why, firstly because the show had a structure, so I was expecting some things to be wrapped up at the end of the first season so they could start doing something a bit different next year, but instead it looks like it'll just be more of the same. The other reason is that most TV shows don't last long nowadays, and by dragging things out it seems like they're just asking to get prematurely canceled.

Of course, the other potential problem is that it goes on forever like the X-Files and turns into a big load of crap that no one watches.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The White Rose

by Glen Cook

Long before Steven Erikson decided to write the grimmest, darkest fantasy series ever, there was Glen Cook's Black Company series. Cook's protagonists are a band of tired, world weary mercenaries, with all the unpleasant behaviour you'd expect of such people in the real world. In a more conventional fantasy story, these would be the flunkies who get chopped to pieces by the heroes on their way to the final confrontation with the big bad.

'The White Rose' is the last book in the initial trilogy (although the series has ended up going on for another seven books after this one). In the first book 'The Black Company', the company is hired by The Lady, an immortal sorceress recently resurrected from her grave and in the process of restarting her attempted conquest of the world. 'The Black Company' is brilliant from beginning to end, mainly because of the nuanced morality of the characters on all sides (which can for the most part be described not so much as 'grey' as 'light black'), but also because of the cool battle scenes, which are as epic as they come, even in the genre of epic fantasy.

The second book, 'Shadows Linger', was a total disappointment in comparison to the first. I couldn't tell you exactly why, because I remember very little about it. Fortunately the last entry in the trilogy, while not as good as the first one, was still worth reading. It ties up all the loose ends and finishes off the Lady's war in grand fashion (but of course leaving enough open plot threads to carry on the series). It doesn't measure up to the first book in terms of cool sorcery battles, or in terms of the characters, which more or less resolve themselves into good and evil categories by the end. Still, there were enough cool plot ideas to make it an entertaining read, and Cook has an original style and has designed an original interesting world, which he has only begun to start showing us at the end of the first trilogy. I'll get the rest at some stage, but it's not at the top of my list.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Quiet Day

Even though this isn't a political blog, I definitely don't feel like posting anything wry or flippant today, so here's a couple of links to other peoples posts about the London bombings.

A Making Light thread on the subject with some interesting insights.

A Public Address post which appealed to me in how it illustrated the stoic British reaction.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Thee Goode Doktor

I'm live blogging the start of the new Dr. Who series. The first post is down here.

Currently we're in an ad break.

Dusty the talking vacuum cleaner! (Not a working vacuum cleaner.)

OK we're back. Wow, they cut away from that dude getting shot. I'm pretty sure when I was a kid I saw people getting killed all the time on this show, but apparently we can't have kids seeing that sort of stuff anymore.

At least they finished off the climactic battle with a satisfactory number of huge explosions.

So, that was actually pretty good! Maybe took itself a bit seriously, and it wasn't quite as funny as it thought it was, but well done BBC, for not completely fucking it up.

More Still Even Yet Some Stuff Who Dr.

Pizza pizza pizza biga pizza biga pizza!

A big fight scene in a restaurant. Pretty funny actually.

Now we get to see the inside of the Tardis. Spooky music again... I don't like it. The old ones looked much better.

Of course your boyfriend's dead sweetie. We need to remove anything that ties you to Earth before the end of the episode, so you can leave with the Doctor. I think your Mum will probably be OK, since we've established that she's an obnoxious slapper. Funny that, in American show it'd definitely be the parents that had to die before the hero could let themselves leave. British stories on the other hand always have this Roald Dahl sort of thing going on with regard to parents.

And after I wrote all that, the boyfriend shows up alive again.

Yet Even Still More Dr. Who

Well, now I feel dumb. That search engine is a special page that exists just to be used in TV and movie productions. Who knew such things existed? How hard is it hire someone to write a couple of webpages?

And we're back... with more exposition that those of us older than 14 already know...

Sweet! The girls boyfriend just got eaten by a rubbish bin, and replaced with a mannequin! This is more like the Dr. Who I remember!

Still More Dr. Who

Here comes the exposition... snore...

Well at least not all the jokes were forced and lame.

Ooh, he's getting into the Tardis... spooky music! Lame spooky music!

Hey! Now she's using an internet search engine of never heard of! And it actually exists too. What kind of search engine needs product placement?

More Dr. Who

Damn it, sent that last one off early by accident.

Hey, it's the walking shop dummies! I remember when the third doctor fought them...

Oh look! The Doctor saved the girl! Because of course she wasn't capable of running that way until he showed up and said 'This way!'

The new Doctor is kind of a smart arse, but he's fairly funny. Still nowhere near as good as any of the old ones, but they haven't completely arsed his character up.

Now it's the news (the real news). Apparentely it's raining. Thanks Prime News!

Dr. Who

In the absence of any real purpose or meaning to my life, I'm going to live blog the first episode of the new Dr. Who series, which has finally crawled its way to the antipodes.

I don't like the new music. The old music was much better.

The Doctor's new tart is kind of cute. I think. I get crappy reception of Prime here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Unfamiliar, Unremorseful

Team Sleep - Self Titled

Team Sleep is the side project of Chino Moreno from the Deftones, along with about half a dozen other people who aren't as famous. If you're familiar with the Deftones, you might have some idea what to expect. 'Teenager' off of 'White Pony' started life as a Team Sleep song, and 'Lucky You' from the Deftones self-titled album guests DJ Crook, who is another member of Team Sleep. Another good reference point would be that Team Sleep is to the Deftones what A Perfect Circle is to Tool, the vocalists mellower, more melodic side project. Team Sleep is gentler than A Perfect Circle though, while there are still a couple of 'rock out' songs, they're nowhere near as heavy as the likes of 'Judith' or 'Pet'.

Chino sings on about half the songs, and his style is still the same twisted howling he does on the Deftones' albums, but given a different context by the quieter, more restrained music. His songs tend to be the louder ones though, the other main vocalist, Rob Crow, sings on the gentle, upbeat tracks. There are also a few nice instrumentals, which tend towards the moody, ambient side.

The album has a wide variety of guest musicians (Mike Patton was rumoured to be making an appearance, but he hasn't shown up in the end), so the music has a lot of variety, both in terms of the genre, varying between electronics and analog instruments, and in terms of mood. There's happy, gentle, upbeat songs, heavier rock songs, and moody downbeat ones. My favorites are, uncharacteristically, the happy upbeat ones, but the album as a whole is pretty good almost from beginning to end. Like the last Deftones album it takes a couple of listens before it really starts to appeal, as the songs aren't very hooky. Hopefully these guys will be making a new album at some stage in the future, but it probably won't be anytime soon as the Deftones have a new album out later this year.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Mildly Belated Link Roundup Day

Another music article from Arts and Letters - why pop vocalists suck, and why American Idol is making them worse.

No Right Turn explains why the Greens latest burst of anti-GE scaremongering is particularly wrong-headed.

And lastly, via Hard News, the blog of some psycho in America who just got done for murder and kidnapping. Warning: might give you the willies.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Perils of Alcohol

So due to a combination of being a) drunk and b) asleep, I missed out on seeing the Pink Floyd concert at Live 8. A quick inspection of bittorrent reveals some audio captures but no video. Gutted.

I guess this means I'll have to wait until the Live 8 DVD comes out, and I can see a bit of their set sandwiched between Mariah Carey's bleating and Bono's Generically Uplifting Happy Clappy Band. Yay.