Posts from May 2004

May 04

Ever since I’ve been on this diet people are saying I’m obsessed with food. I’m not, but any time I switch on to the local radio station they’re playing a song that reminds me how hungry I am.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 349 views

Ever since I’ve been on this diet people are saying I’m obsessed with food. I’m not, but any time I switch on to the local radio station they’re playing a song that reminds me how hungry I am.

May 04

Essential Daredevil volume 2 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

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Essential Daredevil volume 2 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

This is mainly worth having for Colan’s lovely art. He doesn’t do the most dynamic and powerful action scenes, but he draws beautifully, and the quiet scenes are an absolute joy – although the inking in here is pretty undistinguished, so if what you want is great Colan art, you’re better off going for Essential Tomb Of Dracula 1+2, where he is mostly inked by the wonderful Tom Palmer.

But Daredevil is an interesting case study when assessing Stan Lee. Pretty much all of his other major work is with the world’s greatest superhero artists, who were also writers; Colan wasn’t a writer, so Lee is left to his own devices here, having to create all of the storylines and villains and so on all by himself. The stories here are pretty weak, especially the long-running one where Matt creates a groovy twin brother for himself to cover his secret identity – and no one ever seems to ask why Matt and Mike Murdock are never seen together. But an even more emphatic difference between this and Spidey, the Fantastic Four and so on is in DD’s foes. While the Ditko and especially Kirby titles got a great, memorable villain, who has stayed a major character for forty years, pretty much every other issue, Daredevil fought the feeblest and most unimaginative series of enemies any major comic has ever seen: Leapfrog (a man in a frog costume who can jump high), Frog-Man (another frog suit, less jumping, more swimming), Ape-Man (gorilla suit, strong), Cat-Man (cat suit, agile), Bird-Man (bird suit, flies), the Owl (looks a bit owly, also flies), the Matador (he’s a matador)… I’m not making these up. Stilt-Man (he has stilts) was probably the best of the megalame bunch, bar the odd second-rater borrowed from other superheroes (Mr Hyde, the Cobra, the Beetle, Trapster, Electro), and a dreadful Dr Doom tale, which shows how little grasp Lee has of this great character.

It’s impossible to read this and believe that Lee had anything much to do with creating all those great FF (etc.) tales and characters. Having said all this, the style is here, and I think that was a very important factor in Marvel’s success, all the groovy, palsy, swinging language that he added to all their titles, giving a consistency and a feel like nothing before them, making an audience feel special and part of it all. This contribution shouldn’t be understated – but it’s hard to stay balanced when Lee claims so much credit that plainly isn’t his.

White Apples by Jonathan Carroll

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White Apples by Jonathan Carroll

He’s an odd writer. I like his ghost stories, none of which seem quite like any other stories I’ve ever read, as if there is an endless series of different ways of handling this old genre. But are these variations much worth having? I’m not sure. The story this time is full of cosmic nonsense that seems vague and rather pointless, and it seemed a bit pleased with itself with all its ‘God is the cosmic mosaic’ wittering. Also, it builds up dangers well, then pulls rabbits out of hats to dispel them in rather lame ways.

The characters are good, fresh and mostly likeable, as is most of the writing (though he does write the odd rotten, clumsy sentence, and mystifyingly leaves them in), but the praise he gets seems a little out of proportion. One review compares him to Raymond Carver on acid, that tiredest modern critical trope, and Carver is surely in a very different league. I like him, and will keep reading him, but I really can’t see that he is as special as many people claim.

Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin

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Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin

Avril returns with a patchy kind of album, a busy mid ’90’s indie rock affair. The songs are a little difficult to remember, perhaps they should have been allowed to breathe and develop at a gentler pace (Rockist Bible 2001). At the worst of times she comes across as Alanis’s mini-me, wallowing far too much in teen angst and meeting the wrong guy (over and over), you wish she’d through in something a little more joyful, there’s no Sk8er Boi’s here. It’s not all disappointing, the best songs are the single “Don’t Tell Me”, “How Does it Feel” and “My Happy Ending”, which all have an anthemic feel that I like, and allow Avril to go through all her vocal styles.

The album tails off quite badly, from one mangled powerchord gloomfest to another, the last song proper is quite a nice ballad about loss and is only the real departure from a pre-occupation with ‘relationships’, and there is a UK bonus track “I always get what I want”, a laboured attempt at punk attitude, which really could have been left off. Overall, I want to like this more, “Let Go” seems a much more accomplished album in comparison.

Sacking the band and going blue grass would probably be a good career move at this point, or you know just trying to write some happier songs with sing along choruses. I?d really like Avril to cover Alice Cooper’s “How You Gonna See Me Now”, it would surely rock, or you know sit Avril down and play her some Journey, Cheap Trick and Heart.

FT Top 100 Films 93: ZOOLANDER

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A satire? On the fashion industry? Well that must be pretty redundant.

Yes. It is. Which is exactly why Zoolander is good. Writer/Star/Director Ben Stiller realised that turning a one minute VH1 Fashion Awards (!) joke into a fully fledged film had to do something else on the side. What usually happens here is fleshing out of secondary characters, complex plots and so on. But wait, the secondary character is also a male model, not much for contrast. And the plot is some guff about ex-models being used as assasins against regimes that want to get rid of sweat shops*.

No the space was filled up with some tremendously stupid jokes. Models are stupid is the joke: as proved when we see four go up in flames after a perfectly choreographed petrol fight. We have the juxtaposition gag – Derek Zoolander as a coal miner. We have the conspiracy theory gags. And out of the blue we have strangeness about Frankie Goes To Hollywood, illiteracy and the inability to turn left. Mainly though the film coasts on the goodwill caused by finding the double act of our generation. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have the easy camaraderie that is impossible to fake in movies, and (as recently shown to too much effect in Starsky & Hutch) can talk about almost anything together and be funny. Zoolander goes the extra mile because it is also remarkably stupid.

One should never be surprised by an unexpected David Bowie cameo in a film, the man is a media whore after all. But Billy Zane. Genius.

*The lack of political earnest on this plot line is also a joy to behold.

CLIFF RICHARD – “Please Don’t Tease”

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#104, 30th July 1960

Of all Cliff’s No.1s, “Please Don’t Tease” is the one where he tries hardest to be a ‘British Elvis’. Even Elvis at this point wasn’t really doing Elvis, and Cliff’s weedy glottals certainly don’t do the job. Everything you have ever suspected or heard about British pop’s lack of fire is on shame-faced show here: Cliff sings “You love me like a hurricane” with no indication that a hurricane might be any different to a mild breeze off the Isle Of Wight. His “doggone” is embarrassingly vicarish. It’s left once again to Hank Marvin to salvage something from the track, and even his perfunctory solo is clumsy. This milky trundle was selected as a single by a fans’ poll, and I’m sure they were delighted with it.

Corporate duty took me to Opium

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Corporate duty took me to Opium on Dean Street last night. A bar-cum-‘club space’ it was visually opulent but thematically hi-tack, a mishmash of orientalist cliches. Here was some Indian beer; there was some (frankly glitch-prone) ‘world fusion’ music; everywhere there were arabesque drapes; the rather good food was roughly Thai – and look! a belly dancer! Two!

The question of belly dancing in bars is not one I thought I’d have to deal with on the Publog. Basically I’m against it – it looked skilful but was a bit of a conversation killer, and at one point a gyrating odalisque positioned herself right between me and my drink. But belly dancers who used their sinuous skills to collect empties – now there would be a thing!

it’s true because it’s funny (= sad obv)

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 199 views

it’s true because it’s funny (= sad obv)

mainly i’m trying NOT to read bought-media commentary abt the east london warehouse artfire cz i. i have no doubt that abt 95% of it (pro OR con) will be more annoying and lamer even than the music reviews at amazon (even), and ii. the place i work had significant archival storage (non-YBA/non-conceptual) in the same building, which means that a woman that everyone likes – and who i pass in the corridor every other day – just saw her LIFE’s curatorial work go up in smoke

so i expect what follows has already been said plenty of times: but duchamp simply pointed out that this fire and this post and what you just said to yrself in response to this post are also all “art works”… how “good” they variously are to be explored by the conversation that follows (ie no one’s contribution, cheap OR pricey, and no one’s judgment, idiot OR EXPERT is intrinsically unworthy of notice)

Avril rebellious after all!

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Avril rebellious after all!

I used to vaguely agree

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 326 views

I used to vaguely agree with the notion that you didn’t actually need to see conceptual art; it was the concept that mattered. Then I did go and see some and of course I realised how wrong I’d been. A lot of Young British Art (& other art, but it’s YBA that’s sadly in the headlines this week) does operate from what seems to me a juvenile impulse, but not the ‘desire to shock’ some critics parrot. What seems to animate conceptualists is what animated me when I started off on some elaborate doodle in a boring lesson – “what would it look like if…?”. If I join up these dots or make this pattern; if Damien Hirst slices a cow in half. We can imagine half a cow, or a giant anatomical toy, but there’s a childlike delight in actually seeing these things, and I’d guess that’s what animates a lot of artists and a lot of art lovers. I don’t think that sense of gosh-wow wonder is the only thing art can achieve now, and maybe it isn’t the highest thing it can do, but it is a good thing to do.