I’ve started a new site about comics. Some very old fans may recall a mag called FA, which I edited decades ago, so I’ve revived it as a website. Old FA readers will recognise some names, and there will be some overlap with FT too. I’m very ambitious for the site – one of my targets is the quality of this site. It’s just launched, and I think we’re off to a decent start. Expect daily updates. (And thanks to Tom for letting me pimp it here.)
It took me a while to get the hang of my first kabuki show. A lot of it is very alien. The music is drums, very loud clappers and samisen, which sounds like an out-of-tune banjo, which is clearly my problem with their very different scales rather than suggesting anything wrong about it. The singing is very strange – sometimes high and wailing, sometimes guttural and forceful, never remotely familiar in style or tone. It also took a while to get used to the simultaneous translation over a headset, essential as that was for me.
The opening storyline was ludicrous, too. It starts with Yoshitsune telling his famous girlfriend that it is too dangerous for her to accompany him, as at this point he and his small band are on the run from a pursuing army. She refuses to leave him, so he ties her to a tree at the edge of the road down which the pursuing army are chasing him. Yes, that is how best to ensure her safety… The last sentence of the synopsis offered online proves this isn’t just an opening aberration: “A group of comical priests enter with the intention of capturing Yoshitsune, but the fox defeats them with his supernatural powers and joyfully flies off with the drum.”
I completely fell for Tina Fey when she pulled her sweater off as a schoolteacher in Mean Girls, accidentally lifting her shirt with it. This of course was strongly reinforced by the wonderful 30 Rock, and she was soon by far the biggest celeb crush I have ever had. I would marry Liz Lemon tomorrow, given the chance, and that may be true of Tina Fey too.
So I didn’t care about whether any reviews said Date Night was good or not. An hour and a half where I could reasonably expect Fey on screen most of the time => I wanna see it. Frankly knowing more might have put me off a little: the idea of an ordinary couple getting drawn into big-league mob violence sounds like a ’70s movie version of a British sitcom, The Terry and June Movie or some such. And do I really want a big car chase starring Fey and Steve Carell?
The plot is ludicrous: mistaken identity, killer cops, mob bigwigs, corrupt politicians, and our heroes battling to survive them. It is hardly plausible, but in the way that Bringing Up Baby was barely plausible, so that was fine with me.
Ronald Searle turned 90 earlier this month, and to celebrate that, the Cartoon Museum here in London has an exhibition of his work.
He joined the army in 1939 and his first St Trinian’s cartoon was published in 1941. The following year he was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and remained in their hands for the next three and a half years, much of it working on the so-called Death Railway in Burma. His great period was the 1950s, when the bulk of his St Trinian’s and Molesworth (this with Geoffrey Willans) material was published.
It’s easy to forget that most of his work has not been cartoon school humour: as well as countless other cartoons, he published his war drawings, and did a lot of other reportage and general illustration for Punch, Life, the New Yorker, plus some work in animation, sculpting commemorative coins, film design and credits, and many other areas.
I neglected comics aimed at girls when I wrote the first 25 parts of this series. I’m male, and I read few comics for girls when I was young. I have had some entertainment looking back later, from the extraordinary extremes they went to to torture their heroines, and the ludicrous contrivances. That’s not to say it’s all silly and unpleasant, but the good stuff is not easily found, and I can’t be of much help. The American market has been traditionally hopeless for girls, though in recent years it has improved.
But the Japanese comic market is completely different, and there I have found a few good comics aimed squarely at girls – and one masterpiece, actually aimed at young women rather than girls, which is what has prompted me to add to my series a year and a half later.
Ai Yazawa’s Nana is perhaps my favourite comic ever now, and I thank my friend Cis for pointing me at it. It’s about two young women who move to Tokyo for a new life, both called Nana. Nana K is sweet and rather naive – the punky Nana O calls her, in an exasperated temper, “puppy-dog-like”, and Nana K gets the happiest expression ever. Nana O is a singer, and it’s her band and that of her ex that provide most of the other characters, and the two bands are central to the developing story, which so far runs to 19 translated volumes of around 200 pages each.
I put one together on Spotify for my own entertainment over the holidays, but others might enjoy it too: my Xmas playlist. It includes jazz, pop, reggae, soul, R&B, hip hop, rock, funk and country, among other things. It’s nearly four hours long, so you can skip bits if you like, but I particularly recommend some fairly obscure favourites: the Drifters’ White Christmas, Oscar McLollie And His Honeyjumpers’ Dig That Crazy Santa Claus, Huey Piano Smith & the Clowns’ ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, the Surfaris’ A Surfer’s Christmas List…
I’m not very good at writing about pubs – my excuse is that I tend to care a hundred times more about the company than the place. Nonetheless, this was a regular haunt of mine for many years before I even moved to London. For no particular reason that I know about, it became the standard gathering place for my old friends, and still is. As it happens, when I moved here I ended up working five minutes’ walk away, so it’s still my most regular pub.
Two recent results from the South African Vodacom Second Division:
Young Pirates 2 Real Madrid (not that Real Madrid) 26
Namaqua Stars 50 Kakamus Cosmos 0
Extraordinarily, the South African FA is suspicious, and is investigating. They’ve already suspended all the match officials. My favourite bit, from this story from Kick Off, is from the spokesman for Namaqua Stars: “It’s quite possible to get 50 goals in one match. I wasn’t at the match, but the score at half-time was around 25-0. It is a genuine result, not fake, but we are concerned because how can Real Madrid score 26 times against such a good side as Pirates?”
Yes, 25-0 at half-time explains it all.
Lem was a Polish SF writer, occupying a strange place within the genre. He despised most SF (Dick was the only American SF writer he admired – an opinion that was not remotely reciprocated) for its vacuity and shallowness, which accurately implies the seriousness and philosophical bent of his own work.
His most famous novel is Solaris, made into a great film (the Tarkovsky version is my favourite science fiction movie) and later a decent one. It concerns a first contact with aliens: the distinct idea behind most of Lem’s several approaches to this standard SF trope is that Lem believed communication with an alien mind, or comprehension of it, would be all but impossible.
I like a writer who defies real comparison with anyone else in their genre. The closest to Jim Thompson would be Dostoyevsky, I think, except Thompson is far bleaker, far more negative about human nature. He’s also a stranger and more experimental writer. This is particularly surprising, given that his work was published far from any locus of critical acclaim: he wrote for crime pulps, and for cheap paperback novel publication.
You may have seen one or two films of his work: The Grifters was a fine adaptation of one of his last really strong works (his great years run from the start of the ’50s to the mid-’60s), whereas both versions of The Getaway graft on a lame happy ending. The actual ending is the most scary and depressing piece of writing I’ve ever read, creating a caged existence of constant terror.