Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Festivus

May you be touched by his noodly appendage this festive season.

The editors of the Wildebeest Asylum will be unavailable for the next few weeks, as they pilot the galactic mothership Wotan to the far reaches of the Andromeda galaxy in order to battle their hated enemies, the dreaded Merovingian space demons. See you in the new year!

Friday, December 23, 2005

But All The Cool Kids Are Doing It

So I'm coming home from town early one morning and I see George Bush and Karl Rove disposing of the body of a prostitute in the Avon river. "Hey George Bush!" says me, "I know you're the president of the United States and all, but you can't just go round murdering people, it's against the law!"

"Now now Jon," replies Karl Rove. "We all know that you're really just out to hate on Bush because you're a poxy liberal and you can't stand to see a conservative president do such a fantastic job. Besides, I didn't hear you complaining when Bill Clinton killed prostitutes and hid the bodies did I? He used to do it all the time!"

"Is that so?" I muse thoughtfully, "Well gee, if someone who represents a vastly simplified version of my political views did it, I guess it must be OK to murder prostitutes..."

"That's right!" says Karl Rove. "Plus Jimmy Carter, he had a grisly trophy room containing the decaying bodies of hundreds of his victims hidden under the White House. The unspeakable acts he used to commit on them... ah, it brings back such sweet memories."

"Well you've got me convinced Karl," says I "How about I give you a hand with that violated corpse there and then we'll go out for a drink?"

"George doesn't drink..." whispers Karl. I quickly recover and say, "Oh sorry, I meant for some cocaine!"

"Now that sounds like a party!" says George, and we trot off hand in hand into the sunrise.

And For The Sake Of Posterity...

Links to last year's entries.

Year End Roundup Part III

Best Albums (in no particular order):

I know it's the typical year end list wanker thing to say, but it genuinely wasn't a very good year for new music. The following albums were all decent, but none of them truly made me cream myself.

Stop press! Last minute update!
The last coil album saves this year from being a total washout. I'll write more about it next year.

Coil - The Ape of Naples
Fantomas - Suspended Animation
Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth
Einsturzende Neubauten – Grundstueck
Rammstein - Rosenrot

Best Album That Actually Came Out Last Year, But Can Pretty Much Win Every Year As Far As I'm Concerned:

Dillinger Escape Plan – Miss Machine

Best Concert:
Mark Knopfler
Runners Up:
System of a Down
Velvet Revolver

Biggest Disappointment:
System of a Down - Mezmerize

Most Obnoxious Band:
Green Day

Dishonorable Mentions:
Gwen Stefani
50 Cent
Fucking Crazy Frog

Worst Song By A Good Band That Should Have Known Better:
Rammstein – Strib Nicht Vor Mir

Runner up:
System of a Down – Old School Hollywood

Most Unbelievably Overrated Band:


Runners up:
Green Day
Foo Fighters
The Killers

Best Career Suicide By A Totally Shit Band

Limp Bizkit

Biggest Sellouts:


Trent Reznor Award For The Best Album That Was Supposed To Come Out This Year But Didn't:

Tool – the new album and the new DVD.

Runner up:
Trent Reznor – the Closure DVD.

Year End Roundup II

Best Game:

God of War
Runners-up: Psychonauts, Civ IV

Webmasters Choice Award For Special Achievement In Gratuitous Sex And Violence:

God of War

Year End Roundup I

I've become a bit of a TV geek over the last few years. It's commonly believed that all TV is shit, but I find that with skillful application of a PVR you can find a lot of good stuff.

Best TV:

Doctor Who

Best Show That I Shouldn't Admit to Enjoying:

Desperate Housewives

Biggest Downturn in Quality:


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Lucifer: Inferno

by Mike Carey

Another installment in the Lucifer series. The last one was pretty good, and the story came to a bit of a mid-point climax. By contrast there's not a lot of action in this one, and it's not as good in comparison. As usual though there are some cool new characters and places, in particular the artificer demon Scoria who lives in a huge mechanical tower filled with diabolical machines.

Not bad, but not the best entry in the series.

See also:

Volume 1
Volume 2 & 3
Volume 4

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Damn Right Motherfuckers

U.S. judge tells the Intelligent Design people to fuck off.

(OK he doesn't actually say fuck.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

He Was So Good At Fashion, They Had To Shoot Him

Father Ted Season 3

Probably not quite as good as Season 2, but still damn brilliant. The death of Dermot Morgan put an end to one of the best comedies ever made, and I guess there's not much more to say other than “He DID kick me up the arse!”

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Astro City Catchup

Life in the Big City and Local Heroes by Kurt Busiek

A few more Astro City collections. Life in the Big City is the earliest collection, and it's relatively dull as most of it is just introducing us to the premise and characters. There are a few good stories though. The first introduces us to Samaritan, Astro City's Superman analogue and examines how a real person would deal with the pressure of saving the world several times a day (answer: it'd drive a normal person batshit). The last story goes back to him again, this time trying to go on a date with the Wonder Women analogue. Very amusing, but also rather poignant. There's also a cool story about how the newspapers work in Astro City.

Local Heroes is much stronger. The first story is nothing special, just another look at the city in general through the eyes of another ordinary person. The second is a bit better, looking at the way superhero comics are written in Astro City. Some of the later stories are real gems though. In Shining Armour a women reminisces about her affair with a superhuman, and in Old Times a retired superhero tries to save the city one last time. All these stories do a great job of humanising supposedly superhuman characters. The real highlight is the two part series about a lawyer in the 70s. Not only does it look at how putting someone in jail would work in a world where evil twins and mind control are common place (I guess this is why those supervillians are always back out of jail so fast) it also does a great job of evoking the unease and sense of betrayal of the Veitnam/Nixon era.

Neither of these collections are as good as Confessions, but Local Heroes is good enough to make me keep buying them.

See also:
Family Album

Why am I not in Sweden?

But I'll give Newcastle a miss.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I Love You, Whore!

Rammstein – Rosenrot

Last year Rammstein released Reise Reise, which I initially found somewhat disappointing, but later ended up growing to like a lot more. Rosenrot is a kind of b-sides album for Reise Reise, but it is as least as strong as it's predecessor.

It starts out in good form with their latest single Benzin (which has a great video by the way) and Mann Gegen Mann which are both great stomping metal tracks in the best Rammstein tradition. They then turn to a more reflective and sad (but still heavy of course) style for the next three songs, which are all top class as well.

Then we hit a problem, Strib Nicht Von Mir (Don't Die Before I Do), a slow ballad in which vocalist Till sings a duet with the singer from Texas (the band Texas). Even from that description you can tell it's going to be bad, and believe me, it's even worse than what you'd expect. I don't know where the hell they got the idea to do this song from and I hope they've gotten it out of their system forever, because it sucks pretty fucking hard.

Fortunately we immediately get back on track with a few more good heavy songs, culminating in Te Quero Puta, a truly inspired track that ranks amongst the best music they've ever made. It mixes their traditional metal with Mexican music, complete with horns and hoochie backup singers. Just brilliant.

Finally there's a few more ballads, but good ones this time, the epic Feuer and Wasser and the very subdued Ein Lied.

Except for that one wrong turn, Rosenrot is absolutely classic Rammstein from beginning to end. Even the cover art is great, a lonely icescape with a frost rimed ocean liner plowing through it, overlooked by an old castle. Very Wagnerian, which is exactly what these guys do best.

Plus, it comes with a teaser DVD containing a few tracks from their upcoming live album, and it looks like it'll live up to the very high standards of Live Aus Berlin.

See also: Rammstein - Lichtspielhaus

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Middle Aged Hipster Day

Breaks Co-op – Roofers

So you might recall that I was quite taken with these guys when they played at Southern Amp, so even though this isn't the kind of thing I normally go for I grabbed one of their albums. As I mentioned when talking about the live show I'd written off these guys as annoying hipster bullshit, but their performance won me over. Well, the CD has reasserted my old opinion. There's nothing I find more boring than tame middle age oriented hip-hop with by way of easy listening jazz and this album fits that bill to a T, and as such sends me to sleep every time I put it on.

Jordan Reyne (who can pretty much do no wrong) provides a definite highlight on the last track Transister with a crunchy bass line that usually wakes me up and reminds me that it's time to listen to something different. The slightly single Sound Advice (more of a rap track) isn't too bad either, but the remaining ten songs get a severe thumbs down from me.

I might still be tempted to get their new album, as there's an eight year gap between that one when Roofers was first released, and it's the one that has earned them their current success so I have tentative hopes that it might prove more appealling.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Neil Gaiman – Anansi Boys

Gaiman's American Gods was one of the best books I read last year, and probably one of my all time favorite novels full stop. I was very much looking forward to Anansi Boys, which is a sort of sequel to American Gods.

None of the characters from the earlier book appear in this one, save for a few cameos by the title character Anansi (the African trickster god, transplanted to modern day America). The protagonist is Anansi's son Charlie, who knows nothing of his father's divinity until his (Anansi's) untimely death. While the premise sounds fairly typical for a fantasy novel, the style is actually that of a broad comedy. It resembles Good Omens more than any other Gaiman novel, and indeed it has a very Pratchettesque style.

The setup is a pretty good one, and the book starts out with a lot of promise. Gaiman writes with a wry laid back tone, one that sounds a little like a updated Anansi story. I imagined it being related by some old black dude from the American south-east. Unfortunately it doesn't remain so charming all the way through. The voice of the author gradually deteriorates into what I can only describe as 'generic Terry Pratchett', complete with footnotes. The plot doesn't end up being all that interesting either, becoming more predictable as it goes on, and by the end it reminded me of nothing more than a boring Adam Sandler movie, with all the humour and plot events being telegraphed well in advance.

Having said that Gaiman is of course a pretty clever guy and there are plenty of laughs to be found right up to the end of the story. I particularly liked the way that he never explicitly states that almost all the characters are black, it's only hinted at by the way that every now and again it explicitly mentions that a minor character is white. However the actual emotional content of the story is rather flimsy. In particular the romances were eye-rollingly cliched and unconvincing. Not to mention rather creepy in some respects.

It's not as bad as I might have made it sound, I don't regret buying or taking the time to read it, but it's far below my expectations for Gaiman, as he's normally brilliant.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mow Down The Sexy People

System of a Down – Hypnotize

After an excellent live performance at the beginning of the year System of a Down managed to produce one of the most disappointing albums I've ever heard with Mezmerize. Hypnotize is the second disc in the two album set, and I must say my expectations were very low. Fortunately they have been exceeded, but not by much.

The album certainly starts out reasonably well with Attack, the angry, passionate anti-war song I've been waiting for them to release since the war in Iraq began. It continues in a reasonably competent vein for a few more tracks, Dreaming is a mellower track a little reminiscent of Aerials and is followed by the silly but enjoyable Kill Rock'n Roll and the mediocre single Hypnotize.

From there it goes through a mostly regrettable middle section, the only bright spot being another aggressive anti-war song Tentative which alternates heavy sections full of thrashy tritones and gentle sad parts where Serj sings “Where do you expect us to go when the bombs fall?”

The album ends on a few high notes however. The obligatory 'Let Serj Do Silly Voices' track Vicinity of Obscenity is a winner (a large step up from Mezmerize's execrable This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm On This Song). Lonely Day overcomes some eye-rollingly bad lyrics (“The most loneliest day of my life/ Such a lonely day/ Should be banned”) with a truly passionate delivery and a killer guitar solo to be one of the best tracks on the album. The last track Soldier Side isn't too hot, but I'm a sucker for the whole returning to the beginning of the album (or in this case the beginning of Mezmerize) so I'll give it a pass.

Taken together Mezmerize and Hypnotize could have easily fit on to a single album, and it's obvious to me that what they should have done is cut out the crap, released it as a single album and had another worthy addition to their discography instead of a pair of disappointments.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Let Us Sheathe Our Swords In The Beating Hearts Of Our Enemies

Civ IV

So I've had a few games of this now and I think I'm ready to make a judgment. With an indepth strategy game like this one it can often take a long time to really get to know all its ins and outs, so my opinion may change in time but for now I'm very happy with it.

Civ 2 is one of the best games ever made, no question. A completely open ended strategy game that allowed you to govern a nation from the dawn of history through to the modern era, its endlessly addictive gameplay has stolen many days, nay weeks, of my life over the years. Civ 3 was released a few years ago and while it updated the graphics very nicely, some of the new gameplay changes didn't work so well. With Civ 4 they seem to have used Civ 2 as a model and either rolled back the changes from Civ 3 or tweaked and updated them.

There are relatively few completely new features. The major one is religion, which affects the attitude of other nations towards yours. It doesn't actually come into play a lot, but it introduces a fun element by allowing you to send missionaries into neighbouring nations in order to convert them.

The 'great leader' concept from Civ 3 has been kept, but significantly changed. Rather than either being used to stack military units or finish wonders, the new ones are purely non-military and come in a range of roles, such as great merchants and great scientists.

The culture concept has been kept virtually unchanged from Civ 3, as it was easily the best innovation from that game. It's always been a hell of a lot of fun to watch an enemies cities flip over to your possession with no military effort required on your part, but it's still very hard to do on the higher difficulty settings.

Civ 4's similarity to Civ 2 has meant that the novelty has worn off quite fast for me. That doesn't mean it's a bad game at all, it is in every way an improvement on it's predecessors, and far better than the disappointing Civ 3. I'm sure I'll be playing it more in the future but for now I've moved onto my other pet obsession, overblown Japanese RPGs.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

He Knows All The Chords

The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler – Private Investigations

Earlier in the year Mark Knopfler's live performance in Christchurch completely blew me away, and I said that I'd make it a priority to get some of his albums. Well eight months later I actually did, getting myself a copy of this best of.

The first disc contains almost all of Dire Straits' hits, such as Sultans of Swing and Money for Nothing. Those songs are indeed classics, but lesser known, moodier tracks included here such as Your Latest Trick, The Telegraph Road and Private Investigations show off Knopfler's true talent as a song writer. The latter two in particular have a strong emotional effect on me. Dire Straits' Love Over Gold is one of the first albums I remember listening to as a kid, and I really loved it. The songs off that album have an effect on me that nothing else can, simply because they're the songs that first awakened a love of music in me.

The second disc has some leftover Dire Straits songs but is mostly Mark Knopfler's solo stuff. I'm not familiar with much of it, but a few of the songs are as good as anything he did with Dire Straits (I particularly like Why Aye Man and Sailing to Philadelphia), and I'm tempted to look into some of his solo albums. Which I guess was the ulterior motive behind the record company releasing this double disc set.

The Tuesday Lessons

1) As God is my witness, I'll never do herbals again. And this time I mean it!

2) If you're ever lacking for female attention, try wearing big fluffy bunny ears into a feral metal bar.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Stupid Quiz Day

This one from David Farrar.


First Best Friend: A kid called Jordan at kindergarten. He was actually a bit of a wanker, but I guess all kids are at that age.
First Screen Name: Mad Jon Nut. Still occaisionally in use.
First Pet: My cat Mushka, who was my first birthday present.
First Piercing: None (yet...)
First Crush: Well it depends on how you define crush but we'll say my high school Japanese teacher.
First CD Bought: Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral
First Car: My current Toyota Corona. The beast that will not die!
First True Love: Patricia
First Stuffed Animal: Bunny. Full of holes but still sitting at my mum's house somewhere.
First Words: As my mum never stops telling me: “Light”, she probably thinks it's deep and meaningful now.

First Game System: I played games on the old BBC Acorn when I was very young, but my first console was a Sega Megadrive.


Last Alcoholic: A Coruba and coke at some stage last Saturday night.
Last Movie Seen: Serenity
Last CD Played: System of a Down - Hypnotize
Last Bubble Bath: A very very long time ago.
Last Time You Cried: Can't remember exactly, but probably some drunken sunday morning.
Last Time You Laughed: Can't remember, I laugh too often.
Last Time You Fell: This morning doing Aikido.


Have You Ever Dated One Of Your Best Friends: Yes. And I don't recommend it.
Have You Ever Been Arrested: No.
Have You Ever Been Skinny Dipping: Not since I was a kid.
Have You Ever Been On TV: No
Have You Ever Regretted A Kiss: Strangely enough, no.
Have You Ever Been Drunk: That's an affirmative.
Have You Ever Slept For 24 Hours Straight: No.
Have You Ever Worn the Same Pants for 3 Weeks Straight: No.


1. Pants. Black.
2. Stripy shirt.
3. Gold satin boxers.
4. That's it!


1. Aikido training this morning.
2. Shopping in town – CDs, costume for a party and herbals.
3. Practised guitar.
4. Played Xenosaga.
5. Read a bit of Anansi Boys
6. Parsed the blogroll.


1 & 2. My parents.
3 & 4. My sisters
5. Barnes


1. radio or cd: CD, I hate the fucking radio.
2. German chocolate cheese cake or vanilla bean cheese cake: I want both!
3. black or white: Black.


1. Write the best fucking music I can.
2. Finish Final Fantasy X, no wait, that'll never happen. How about I take a cue from DPF and say 'have a threesome with Alyson Hannigan and Jessica Simpson'.


1. Only one? Neglecting my musical education between the ages of 13 and 21.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

by Susanna Clarke

Well this mammoth book has taken me over three months to read, but it was well worth it. Despite being a quirky fantasy novel this book has met with quite a bit of mainstream success, and deservedly so.

The premise of the novel is that of an alternate history: in ages long past magic, magicians and fairies were commonplace in England, but none now (the early 1800s) exist, although scholars take the subject very seriously. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell are the first English magicians in four hundred years. The books' clever conceit is that it is written in the style of the novels of the time (think Jane Austen), so these bizarre, fantastic situations are described in a very prim and proper manner.

Clarke is a very witty writer so the whole novel (all 900 pages) is a real breeze to read. Just one classic passage:

“The Foreign Secretary was quite a peerless orator. No matter how low the Government stood in the estimation of everyone, when the Foreign Secretary stood up and spoke – ah! how different everything seemed then! How quickly was every bad thing discovered to be the fault of the previous administration (an evil set of men who wedded general stupidity to wickedness of purpose). As for the present Ministry, the Foreign Secretary said that not since the days of Antiquity had the world seen gentlemen so virtuous, so misunderstood and so horribly misrepresented by their enemies.”

It struck a chord in the run up to the election when I read it a few months ago at any rate. (But not so much with our current Minister of Foreign Affairs of course.)

She has a lot of fun poking fun at the prejudices of the era, particularly the disdain for novelists:

“[T]he other Ministers considered that to employ a magician was one thing, novelists were quite another and they would not stoop to it.”,

and the quirks of the British in general. For such an upbeat book it was perhaps a little long, but that's the only criticism I could make of it.

While this book was mainly light hearted the author has a flair for unsettling descriptions of the supernatural. The magic performed by the protagonists was pretty benign, but their otherworldly antagonists were appropriately sinister.

The ending leaves rather a lot unexplained, so perhaps she's planning to write a sequel. Or maybe not, British authors are weird like that.

Friday, December 02, 2005

It Is Not The Actual Finding Of The Shoes That Is Important

Einsturzende Neubauten – Grundstueck

For the last few years Einsturzende Neubauten have been trying a new distribution model for their music. Their most dedicated fans sign up online and pay a moderately steep fee, in exchange they get to view live footage of their concerts and the recording process via webcasts as they work on their new album. Plus they also get a special supporters only album in advance of the new CD. The money raised from this is used to pay for the creation of the new record so they can produce an album without being attached to a recording label.

Grundstueck is the second supporters album released under this scheme. The first supporters album turned out to be a bit of a let down, with most of it's material being replicated on the following publicly released album, but they promised to do better this time.

Firstly they included a DVD containing live footage of a special performance at the Palast Der Republik (a Neubauten due to be Einsturzende-d) where they set up a large number of unusual percussive instruments, involving industrial machinery and even the building itself. They also invited their supporters to form a backing choir which they used in some clever and creative ways. It's a pretty cool concert, and is much more interesting than most live DVDs because of Neubauten's unique musical style.

Some of the DVD tracks are replicated on the audio CD, but that's OK as they work pretty well in that context too. The band have moved away from the more accessible style of their recent releases Silence is Sexy and Perpetuum Mobile, and back to their more experimental roots. The live tracks are mostly hypnotic percussive tracks in unusual meters, with the exception of Vox Populi, in which the band lead the choir in a haunting wordless vocal piece, interrupted by random stabs of noise.

The remaining songs are more song-like and have proper lyrics. They sound a little b-side like and don't fit together quite as well as a proper album should but are still solid efforts from a damn fine band. The highlight is the opening track Good Morning Everybody, which uses cut up vocal samples in a raucous wake up call in many different languages. The album closer Tagelang Weiss is a meditative track about addiction (as near as I can tell anyway) with Blixa murmuring his lyrics over a subdued drum and bass line. Plus you've just got to give them points for a song called Wo Sind Meine Schuhe? (Where are my shoes?)