Thursday, November 30, 2006

Something Awful

...used to kind of annoy me with its snide sarcasm but I have to admit they come up with some pretty funny shit. I was especially amused by their obnoxious antics on Second Life, the September 11th recreation is particularly good.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lost Girls

by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie

Being one of my favourite writers, Alan Moore is no stranger to these pages. With every project he takes on a different style and puts his own unique twist on it. Political allegory in Watchmen, an esoteric horror story in From Hell and parody in Top 10. Eager to learn what he was going to do next I was very pleased when in an interview with the Onion AV Club he announced that 'for this project I just wanted to write some really good porn' (it's a great interview, read the whole thing). And that's exactly what he did.

Still Moore's 'plain old porn' is a lot more sophisticated than most serious literature. The story is centred around three women, Alice, Wendy and Dorothy, who are real world allegories of their famous fictional namesakes. Over the course of three volumes they retell the plots of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz in flashback as kinky coming of age stories. In Alice's story for example the White Rabbit is replaced a nervous old paedophile who initiates her into a life of debauchery. Peter Pan is the boy who climbs in Wendy's window at night and 'takes her to Wonderland'. Obviously the original versions of those stories were intended to be coming of age allegories (especially Peter Pan), but I doubt that Moore's interpretations are quite what the authors had in mind (except maybe that dodgy bastard Lewis Carroll).

As you'd expect from an explicitly pornographic graphic novel, the art (drawn by Moore's fiancée Melinda Gebbie) is big, colourful and sumptuous. And yes, hot as hell. The books themselves come in a beautifully illustrated hardcover edition (with a nice slipcover to protect unsuspecting eyes from the explicit material on the covers of the volumes inside). I really like it when graphic novelists make nice physical artifacts out of their work like this.

Moore's writing is as good as ever here. Three volumes of just one sex romp after another could easily get boring but Moore presents each chapter with a different twist; the three main characters each have their own panel layout for their individual flashback chapters and other chapters are intercut with intertwining narratives from the erotic fiction that the characters have been reading offscreen, while some chapters show the same events from different perspectives.

Of course, Moore can't just let porn be porn. He stages his story against the backdrop of a world on the cusp of a transformation from the modern to the post-modern eras. The first volume ends with our protagonists attending the infamous May 1913 performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in Paris, which ended in a riot (Stravinsky consciously veered away from conventional rhythms and tonality in this piece, and the ballet as a whole is a celebration of the primitive (he was like a neo-classical Cryptopsy). The riot is very much symptomatic of a change in perspective from the absolutist attitudes of modernism to relativism). The second volume ends with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, obviously a different kind of trigger point for the new age that we now live in. I won't spoil the end of the third volume but it's an astounding passage, both poetic and morbid at the same time. It resoundingly refutes anyone who says comic books or pornography can't be art.

I think this is quite comfortably the best book I've read all year. Not only is it cleverly written and achingly poetic, it's also thoroughly refreshing to read some fiction with a genuinely healthy attitude towards sex, and if we feel a wee bit guilty when we enjoy reading such a lurid piece of prurience Moore placates our Victorian guilt with a monologue that is both eloquent and amusing:

[As our protagonists' host reads aloud from a Victorian erotic novel in which a pair of young twins engage in enthusiastic sex with their parents.]

“You see, if this were real, it would be horrible. Children raped by their trusted parents. Horrible. But they are fictions. They are uncontaminated by effect and consequence. Why, they are almost innocent. I, of course, am real, and since Helena, who I just fucked, is only thirteen, I am very guilty.”

I'm Listening To The Wrong Genre

This is a bit mean of me but:

First three results when you search by interest on for 'metal':

Contrast with 'hardcore':

Expect more Converge and less Cryptopsy in the future.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Phoenix In Flames

Converge – Jane Doe

It just goes to show that there's nothing new under the sun. After raving about how brilliant and original Dillinger Escape Plan are for the past eighteen months or so I've finally clicked on to Converge, the band Dillinger stole all their best ideas from.

Jane Doe is an intense barrage of almost non stop thrashy hardcore, with some of the elements of arrhythmia and disharmony that appealed to me so much in Dillinger's music. If you like one of these bands you're likely to enjoy the other, as they are pretty much of a fit genrewise. There are differences though, Converge is notably more intense and impassioned (the vocalist's sustained screaming is fucking impressive) while Dillinger have better production and a broader emotional palette, as well as being perhaps just a little bit more insane, so it's hard to say which one I enjoy more.

It's a no-brainer as to which one you bring up in a music snobbery conversation though, Converge were doing it first, so of course they must be better.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

1001 Albums – Number 3

The Louvin Brothers – Tragic Songs of Life

I'm pretty sure this is the first country album to show up on these pages.

Like most country music the compositions on this album are quite sparse, and the focus is on the vocal harmonising of the brothers as they sing sorrowfully about unrequited love, untimely deaths and southern American states.

The first couple of songs are twang-mungus paeans to Alabama and Kentucky and their distillation of everything cringeworthy about country music provides a challenge to getting into the album, but once past them it's generally a pretty agreeable listen. 'Agreeable' as in 'good to listen to' not as in 'happy fun times'. These guys sure have a heavy morbid streak, well over half the tracks are grim murder ballads or not much milder tales of broken hearts. The 'tragic' part of the title is well earned, and their maudlin style is a good fit for Nick Cave who covered 'Knoxville Girl' on his b-sides album.

Country music is not the best fit for my temperament, but when the mood strikes this album goes down pretty well. What I wrote about Elvis definitely applies here as well, in that these guys sing like they mean it, and that makes their sad stories (mostly autobiographical I believe) resonate even so many years later.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Warriors Of The World Unite

Thank you Squirk, for bringing to my attention one more stupid website to waste my life away with.

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Crossing Of The Threshold

Mastodon – Blood Mountain

After subjecting myself to Dragonforce's embarrassingly stupid swords and sorcery nonsense it was just as well I had another metal album with similar subject matter to turn to that's actually worthwhile. Blood Mountain is a concept album chronicling the journey of a nameless adventurer as he (or perhaps she) scales the titular mountain. The reason it works where Dragonforce doesn't is that the story is kept very ambiguous. Despite having listened to it quite a few times and read through the lyrics I still only have a vague idea of what the narrative is about as the lyrics are more than a little opaque. For example:

Hunt for ogres and dwarves/
Lion slicer/
Run with death/
Run with death

is a fairly typical passage.

Still, the important thing is that the general feeling of the words and music and the incredibly cool album art are enough to inspire all kinds of fanciful interpretations.

The album's music all fits within the broad church of metal, but changes wildly between styles from song to song. The opening track 'The Wolf is Loose' is almost a hardcore song while 'Bladecatcher's spastic rhythms and gibbering vocals are more than a little reminiscent of Fantomas. 'Sleeping Giant's slow, ponderous riffs could have been lifted straight out of an Isis album. Throughout there's a general restlessness and schizophrenia to the compositions, so that it can be an offputting listen to start with but once it becomes familiar it's very good.

Another comparison with Dragonforce that I can't resist making is that of their guitar solos. Dragonforce's are tedious five minute wankfests, while Mastodon's are short, to the point and inspired. They're also infrequent enough to leave you wishing there were more.

The reason why Dragonforce is lame and Mastodon is cool is analogous to the difference between good and bad fantasy novels. The bad ones (or at least the ones that are only enjoyable when you're in your early teens) are nothing more than escapist fantasies, whereas the better ones reflect the real world, usually through metaphor but also just by presenting realistic issues or experiences in a different light. For example in the song 'Hunters of the Sky' Mastodon recognise that at times during our lives we all find ourselves running away from something, and in this case that something just happens to be a pack of ravenous flying lizard sharks.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Future of Entertainment

Interesting article at Wired about that lonelygirl business.

You couldn't pay me to watch that crap but it looks like the creators are very savvy about the potential of creating what amounts to interactive TV via sites like youtube. It's also kind of sad to see how completely clueless and stuck in their ways the TV executives they bought the idea to were. I think those guys will be kicking themselves in five years time for missing the opportunity to get on board early with this stuff.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Guitar Solo Will Go On (For All Of Eternity)

Dragonforce – Sonic Firestorm

Dragonforce is my first foray into the unfortunate genre of power metal. Hopefully it shall also be my last. For some reason occasional exposure to Manowar had predisposed me to looking into this sort of thing, and I thought it might make a nice change from 'serious' music. Sadly, Dragonforce is not a nice change from anything.

Sonic Firestorm starts out with its best riff and provides a pleasant fifteen seconds or so of ponderous, brooding buildup, promising an explosion into thundering heaviness. Unfortunately that promise is unfulfilled and the only explosion that happens is, it must be said, one of gayness, when the song busts into the first of many incredibly cheesy and annoyingly juvenile straightforward speed metal riffs while the vocalist (in his best Freddy Mercury impersonation) starts singing about dragons, demons and mighty battles. This is bad enough, but then the guitar solos start. To be fair Dragonforce do deserve credit for the fact that their two guitarists are simply amazing from a technical perspective, and for the first minute or so it seems as if it would be worth listening to the whole album just to hear these guys shred like maniacs. But then the solo keeps going... and going... and going... and even when it's finished you only get a few minutes downtime until they start up all over again. It doesn't matter how incredibly fast you can play, but an hour long album which is thirty percent diddly-diddly-diddly guitar solos can only be a trial of patience.

At times it seems that these guys might be verging on 'so bad it's good' territory. The most appealing riffs are those when the guitar's ultra clean 8-bit sound is at it's most Pokemon, and the uber-cheesy ballad 'Dawn Over A New World' is so ridiculous that I can scarcely believe that it's not intended to be ironic. Try these lyrics:

Across the highest mountains/
And through the endless seas/
I journey ever onwards/
Fight until we all be free.
By the time it reaches the climax and pulls out a truck driver's key change straight out of the Michael Jackson textbook of shitty pop songwriting the listener is unsure whether to applaud their subversive commentary on the shallowness of popular culture or to shoot themselves in the face to escape the lameness.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Shit

The new Fundy Post blog. Keeping an eye on the loonies back home.

Dan Savage's podcast. Great stuff as long as you're comfortable hearing about diaper fetishes or proper etiquette when contacting a transgendered prostitute while riding the bus or walking to work.

Plus this blog just moved to the new version of blogger. If it eats your pets or murders your family let me know.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

American Psycho

by Bret Easton Ellis

A truly great work of art in any medium, be it a novel, a piece of music or a film, can leave you with a feeling that permeates into your day to day life. Most of the time these feelings are happy ones; wonder, hope or belief in the goodness of humankind. Not too many good artists set out to make their audience's lives worse, but some of them do, and those that are good enough produce an experience so unpleasant that it casts an ugly pall over everything you see in the real world afterwards.

And so we have American Psycho, not only do it's unbelievably gory torture scenes pop into your head at inappropriate times (try attending a design meeting at work when images of a woman being tortured by having a car battery attached to her nipples while her eyes are burnt out with a cigarette lighter keep popping into your head), but its whole perspective of modern life as shallow, worthless and without compassion, leaves the reader with a lingering morbid depression.

Of course from an unemotional point of view it's a very good book. I certainly appreciated the clever way it was constructed. Our protagonist, executive and serial killer Patrick Bateman, seems like a normal rich arsehole at the beginning of the book and to start with the story is a goofy black comedy about shallow yuppie idiots. As we make it further through the tale more and more evidence of Bateman's true nature is dropped and the book becomes more and more gruesome. By the halfway point we start getting snippets of Bateman's murders in flashback, and then we begin to see them in more and more detail from a first person perspective. At the same time Bateman's psychosis becomes more and more pronounced, and the novel climaxes in a murder scene so disgustingly gory that I can't even bring myself to mention any of the details here.

All the meanwhile Bateman's idiot colleagues and brainless girlfriends carry on performing the same repetitive running gags (not being able to remember anyone's name correctly, not listening when Patrick tells them to their faces about his crimes) right up to the end. Their unchanging stupidity contrasted against the continually escalating horror scenes makes it seem as though our murderous protagonist is somehow admirable in comparison to them, as he at least realises what a pointless mockery his life is and rages against it (although perhaps killing people in unbelievably horrific ways is not the most ideal way he could have chosen to express himself).

So while it's a very intelligently constructed book it's very hard to read and its bleak theme, that our modern lives are devoid of meaning and that too much leisure and aimlessness is driving us to self-loathing and cruel inhumanity, is not likely to make anyone feel better about themselves for having read it. And yet for some strange reason, I am glad I read it. It made me feel bad at the time but once I'd finished it I felt like I'd learned something or gained something from it. Of course, I fucked if I can explain what that 'something' is...

Behold, The Flying Spaghetti Monster

Sunday, November 12, 2006


I'll never eat McDonalds again:

Oh wait, maybe I will:

Random Observation Of The Day

Kylie Minogue died of cancer over a year ago, but they just kept it quiet and replaced her with computer animation.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Lucifer: Mansions Of The Silence

by Mike Carey

Well it's been a while since I read an instalment of this series and it seems that absence has made me less fond of it than I was. The plot still seems to be going somewhere interesting so I will continue reading it, but without much enthusiasm because the details (little things like the characterisation, dialogue, and art) are fairly plain and uninspired.

The set up for the plot arc of this collection is quite promising. In a fit of loose end tying, all the remaining major characters of the series (save Lucifer himself and a few other exceptions, such as the archangel Michael and, to no great surprise, God) are bundled up on a boat together and given a quest. In a Gaiman-esque detail, the boat is forged by Nordic giants out of the fingernails of dead men, and the quest is to retrieve the soul of a little girl from the afterlife. Sounds pretty cool right? Well unfortunately Carey found a way to retell a soul imperiling journey through the godless nether realm between the worlds of life and death and neglect to include any memorable events of note or exciting encounters. If the best you can do is a bunch black bat people and a wall of thorns, it's probably best to leave this sort of thing to the experts.

Still, the overall series story arc, involving God and Lucifer's competing plans for the universe, has me hooked (plus these things are a quick, easy read) so we shall see if future volumes improve.

Lucifer: Inferno

Lucifer: The Divine Comedy
Lucifer: Children And Monsters and Lucifer: A Dalliance With The Damned
Lucifer: A Devil In The Gateway

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Motions That Make Gods Cringe

Dillinger Escape Plan: Plagiarism

Poor old Dillinger Escape Plan. A year or so ago I couldn't stop singing their praises but now, for two reasons, I've gone a bit dark on them. The first is their new EP, Plagiarism. When I first heard about it I was quite excited about the idea of these guys doing a covers album. They have such a fucked up, unique style that I expected them to come up with some interesting reinterpretations of the songs they'd chosen. Sadly, it was not to be.

The EP starts out with the radio edit of their single 'Unretrofied' which is utterly inferior to the album version. It's surprising how just a few small cuts of ambience and interludes can completely neuter a good song.

'Unretrofied' is followed by four covers. Nine Inch Nails' 'Wish', Massive Attack's 'Angel', 'Jesus Christ Pose' by Soundgarden and (for some reason) Justin Timberlake's 'Like I Love You'. There's a lot of potential here. I think all of those songs could have been twisted in interesting ways to match Dillinger's style but unfortunately every version is played more or less completely straight. It is impressive how vocalist Greg Prusciato does bang on impersonations of the voices of Trent Reznor, Justin Timberlake and Chris Cornell, but a cover version that sounds exactly like the original does little to interest me, and it's especially frustrating when a band like Dillinger, whose original material is so distinctive, chooses the easy route.

The last track is a live version of 'The Perfect Design' and it's pretty good. Perhaps they should have released a live EP instead.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Friday, November 03, 2006

Soulfly Video Clip

Soulfly at the gig I attended the other weekend:

Don't you think Max looks kind of tired?
Marc is going nuts though...

The Sun Sets Forever...

Opeth: Blackwater Park

I must admit I'm rapidly running out of ways to say how awesome these guys are. Blackwater Park is by common consensus Opeth's masterwork (at least to date) and, with the caveat that I'm still working my way through their back catalogue, I'm not inclined to disagree. The style and tone is much the same as that of Deliverance and Ghost Reveries; melancholy, elegant and heavy. Once again I'm very impressed with Akerfeldt's vocals, no other cookie monster singer I've heard manages to convey as much emotion as he does while growling. The truth is that I could go on fellating this guy for paragraphs, his guitar solos are always brilliant, and his songwriting is even better. One of the things I find so great about Opeth's songs is the way that every riff and passage segues perfectly into the next. Each song comes across as a wholly conceived piece where every part has it's meaning in the greater context.

Blackwater Park starts strongly and only gets better as it progresses. Every track has something special to recommend it as a candidate for 'most brilliant song ever', 'The Leper Affinity' is a good album opener, and is notable for a beautiful extended piano outro. 'Harvest' is probably the best acoustic ballad they've ever done, 'The Drapery Falls' has a haunting, sad main riff that will stay in your brain for days and 'Blackwater Park', the finale, just fucking rocks out more and more before culminating in one of the most powerful album climaxes I've ever heard. However I think my favourite track is 'Bleak', which manages to pack excellent examples of every style of Opeth's writing into nine too short minutes. Moody gothic passages, heavy metal, quiet peaceful interludes and a surprisingly catchy chorus. It's definitely a good place to start with these guys, and if you've never heard them before then your homework for this week is to listen to this album.

How To Make A Truly Realistic Computer Game

At Curmudgeon Gamer.

Speed Dating

Ever get tired of spending a long time getting to know someone only to be rejected? Ever wish there was a way to simplify and streamline the elaborate social rituals of meeting new people? If so then speed dating might just be for you! Now you can save time by being rejected by up to a dozen people in a few short hours! Recommended for everyone looking to lose a whole lot of excess self esteem.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Random Search Phrases

People have used the following terms to get to my blog:

"balding retaining widow's peak"
"wildebeest catfight artist"
"is there a song called stuck in your eyes?"
"you're still alive of course i'm alive no one can defeat me"
"the great singer jhon cash"
"chloroformed sleep video"
"falling out of my top"
"starfuckers britney comic"
"tequila and gatorade"
"good old fucking"
"buffy his sex slave"

and one that makes me feel this whole blog thing is worthwhile:

"midnight tides review steven erikson capitalism"

...possibly the first searcher who has found exactly what they were looking for (and it wasn't something dirty or inane).

N.B. forgive typos. Been speed dating. Very drunk.