Posts from 28th January 2005

Jan 05

Adventures In The Alaskan Skin Trade by John Hawkes

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 289 views

Adventures In The Alaskan Skin Trade by John Hawkes

Hawkes had been on my mental list for a while, since he seemed to be grouped with some Postmodernist writers I love – there are blurbs on the back of this from Barth, Gass and Barthelme, rather confirming that – but I’d not got around to him until now. Oddly, what I liked best about this seemed to have very little to do with Postmodernism.

In the ’60s, Sunny is running a brothel in an Alaskan town, but most of this is flashbacks to the ’30s, when she was a kid, and her dad was a big, colourful character, brave and adventurous and very upright. I kept expecting the yarns to get more over the top, less real, but they stay just about within reasonable bounds, lively and big without being really fantastic. The central characters are memorable ones, but there didn’t seem anything in this that qualifies it as PoMo, really.

The reason I loved it and will look for more by Hawkes is the prose – this is something that many of the best American PoMo writers are pretty ordinary in (I mean, I love Barth and there is intelligence in every sentence he writes, but he’s not a great stylist). Hawkes isn’t a beautiful, flowery, lyrical writer with extraordinary metaphors, like my other big favourite prose stylists (Updike, Harrison). With him it’s about rhythm – his prose sings and bounces like no other I’ve come across. Listen to this opening: “Where are you, Dad? To the north. To the west. To the far north and the receding west. Where the seas are black and the fish dead. Where the rivers flow and the mountains rise. Where the fog drifts and the rain falls…” No unusual images, all plain language, but it reads like very good poetry. This could have been about anything at all, and it would still have been an absolute joy to read. A writer like this surely can only have produced excellent books, and I’ll read them all.

The Physics Detective Part Two — The Investigation Begins

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 378 views

The Physics Detective Part Two — The Investigation Begins

This week’s installation was about 100 times funnier than last week’s. As a result, I now have the enthusiasm and motivation to see this story through to the end — and bring this twisted tale of deceit and murder to YOU, the physics-loving Proven By Science reader! (even though I fear I am the only one reading this)


What did I tell you about that Russian postdoc? I thought the technician’s comments were very revealing … she was having an affair with Jaeger, I just know it!

I want to know what kind of laser they were using. I imagined that they were using a laser with fast pulses and high peak power, but with low average power. In other words, not something that would burn through flesh (it would maybe burn through a piece of paper if focused). And the guy who wrote Part 2 is a metallurgy and material science prof, so he would surely know what types of lasers would be capable of drilling a hole in a man’s head. Either he’s suspending laser physics reality for the sake of having a conveniently placed murder weapon, or there’s a lot more to be learned about the composition of that experimental setup.

They’re setting it up to make Trotman, the technician, look guilty, but a) that’s way too obvious, and b) the guy is just a technician — he knows how to operate the lasers, but doesn’t know laser physics. For instance, if a — I don’t know, let’s say a RUSSIAN POSTDOC IN A SPURNED LOVERS RAGE — decided to switch or alter the lasers somehow, then he might not have suspected that anything unusual was afoot.

Day 14: Massachusetts AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 LOUSY TUNES

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 469 views

Day 14: Massachusetts

Jail. Four walls holding me in. Bars on the window. Really rather oppressive. Not a place for a sophisticated girl like me. It turned out that they did not have the kind of specialist holding facility (pink ladies jail) in Maine, so they shipped me a couple of states down. It was all movement as far as I was concerned.

One thing about women’s prisons, is that you are not quite so afraid to drop the soap in tea shower. However I advocate the use of shower gel anyway, which gives a far more pleasing lather. Of course I would have preferred a bath with waiter service, but I did get a meal, a shower and a kip ina room which handily had a toilet in the same room. Just as well as the food went right through me.

Apparently tomorrow I will be shipped to the big city to stand trial in front of a judge. They asked if I wanted to see a lawyer, but that seemed a terrible waste of my time when the facts of the case (ie I am not Angela Lansbury) are so apparent. So I’ll just spend an idle evening in this Massachusetts jail, trying not to listen to every other female prisoner who seems to thinks he is some kind of Whitney Houston.

That said, a jail for over active songbirds. Now that appeals.

THE BEE GEES: Massachusetts

Teeth. I’m all for teeth in general. They provide a good solid barrier to sound coming out of the larynx and if clenched properly can almost completely stop singing all together. Unfortunately in the case of the Bee geek even their prodigiously large gnashers could not stem the tide of never ending banal hits from their mouths.

Are they English, are they Australian? Neither country seems to want the Gibb brother, and would you blame them. Falsettos that could make tins of paint spontaneously combust, chest hair that is guaranteed to turn the stomach of any girl. All of the Bee Gees package is so shoddy, so suspect that it is remarkable, nay suspicious, that they had a career at all.

Loathe as I am to suggest a conspiracy, their involvement as some sort of acceptable face of Disco smacks of some sort of racist whitewash. Used as unknowing (clearly unknowing as they barely had the capacity to know anything) a band who hitherto showed no affinity to slinky dance beats suddenly soundtracked THE disco movie. Saturday Night Fever, an affliction I still get when I walk past a club, should have been soundtracked by Chic or Ottowan (well it should have not existed but…) No, this is a conspiracy of the highest order.

As for Massachusetts. What do these boys of Empire know of the place? Again nothing. At least the band have finally split up, by dint of dying off – nature can be kind some time. Still, I have it on good advice that the remaining Gibbs can be hunted down in the West Country. Apparently its the only place they can still see Maurice Dancing. All those harmonies have impaired their thinking.

SCOOTER – “Shake That!”

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 295 views

SCOOTER – “Shake That!”

There is a very common trope in science fiction whereby a society of the future has evolved curious and inexplicable customs which turn out to have – oh irony – been based on misunderstandings of our own contemporary tat. I have seen the sacred oracle and OMG IT’S AN OLD RADIO!!! Hearing Sheffield Dave cry “I am a junglist man!” with the protestant fervour of a heretic at the stake you suspect that some similar process has created Scooter – this is not a definition of ‘junglism’ that Optical or Dillinja would rally round.

To the basic cult objects of Scooterism – a KLF record; a ’93 Simon Reynolds cutting; a glowstick – has been added a new relic, namely an old Stretch and Vern single. Pop success has gone to Scooter’s head and this superb single – which came out last year and I disgracefully missed – is the warped outcome. It is Scooter making an upfront handbag record, viz some boshing mid-90s pop-house with Sheffield Dave shouting things like “turn it on like killer bees!” on top. In a fairly crowded field it may be the oddest thing Scooter have ever done, especially when the tap-dancing bit comes in. Towards the end Dave yells “LIFE WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE IS DEATH IN DISGUISE” and it’s utterly exciting and even rather profound.

secret pash residue it’s actually kinda NICE to rediscover

Do You SeePost a comment • 398 views

secret pash residue it’s actually kinda NICE to rediscover
(potential quickly-abandoned series alert):

i guess all of us (except maybe those who occasionally throw stuff away above and beyond eg crisp packets) have things like these – cultural items bought or gather to be more at one with someone at some past point seriously (and unrequitedly*) crushed on: they said they loved [x], and you made a special secret effort to pore over [x], for clues how to get them to adore you, and they’re no longer part of yr life lo these 394857 years, yet here in a hidden pile, uncovered by Resolution-driven Spring Cleanin and uncharacteristic no-computer-at-home-driven spare time, its primary purpose gone to the dust it gathers. Except hurrah! It’s actually maybe worth more in its own right than it wz in yr (er = my) original cunning (=silly) plan.

In this case, the object in question wz Ingmar Bergman’s super-gloomy “lost of faith” trilogy – or actually just the first one, “Through a Glass Darkly” (1961, starring Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max von Sydow…), which i had been told wz “My favourite film ever!” (so yaroo! subtle route to deeps of heart ahoy!)

And C4, in an earlier artier time (c.1996-ish), had broadcast all three in successive weeks, and I’d set my video accordingly. But “TaGD” is tuff goin stuff (also i have now to say GIANT 500-FOOT-HIGH WARNING SIGN stuff, re objects of inadvisable romantic interest), and its successor “Winter Light” (1962, starring Bjornstrand, and Ingrid Thulin) is tuffer yet. eg TaGD = in a moomin-esque island-bound house, a young woman is succumbing inexorably to madness; WL = a Lutheran pastor and widower, losing his faith, is growing to despise the woman he lives with since his beloved wife died, the feeling somewhat mutual: the bitter film-long mutual recriminations are interrupted when a neighbour shoots himself in a nearby car-park

which is probbly why i had never even embarked on the third, “the silence” (1963) (and had in fact convinced myself it had not recorded). well, first, here is the ever-estimable LESLIE HALLIWELL (an un-tidied-up halliwell original review, this, mind, givin you a fine insight into the Grebt Capsule Reviewer’s mind and attitudes):
the silence (tystnaden): ingmar bergman 1963, cameraman sven nykvist
ingrid thulin; gunnel lindblom
Plot: “Of two women in a large hotel in a foreign city where the military are dominant; one masturbates while the other sleeps with a barman”
Review: “Bergman may have known what this was all about, but it’s a certainty that no one else did: so everyone thought it must be very clever and went to see it. Superficially, as usual, it is careful and fascinating’ (= this from the man whose review of Taxi Driver said – from memory sadly, as THIS review has been tidied into unhistory since LH’s death – “Its later scenes make no sense”)

OK, well, i did record it (all but the end credits) and my ph34rZ were groundless: “The Silence” is way more watchable and lyrical than its two predecessors, bcz it features something he wd later make the centre of his great late semi-autobiographical “Fanny and Alexander”, which is to say a small boy – the son of one of the two women (who may be sisters or may be lovers, or even both i spose) – wandering around the hotel, bored and unsupervised, and totally not told what’s going on and not really understanding it, even as he takes it all in (inc.the sex, the arguments, the war, a troupe of performing dwarves in a neighboring hotel room ,who adopt him for the afternoon then spurn him, and so on and so forth). The sense of the weird incomprehensiblity of adult behaviour is exactly (and I’d have said really OBVIOUSLY) the thing the entire film is “about”, and it’s moving and seductive and dream-like, even as the adult world is turning very horrible (actually what it most immediately reminds me of is the early section of kidlit classic The Secret Garden, when newly-orphaned Mary has arrived in the big empty house in Yorkshire and is wandering alone through its many empty rooms, trying to invent ways to pass the time: it’s obvious something awful or sinister or strange is going on, but – brought up in India not Yorkshire – she is an outsider and thus the last to realise this). The odd thing is that the boy (played by Jorgen Lindstrom) is often not even mentioned in summaries of the film, Halliwell more symptomatic here than anomalous.

bergman has become a bit of an easy target, for the pitiless bleakness of his portrayal of adult failings and weakness, for making movies you “feel you ought to admire” rather than actually like, but the payoff – as in fanny and alexander, as here – is his gift for re-visioning the world from a child’s perspective… today this seems almost an obvious dimension to access (maybe even over-explored), but i really don’t think it was yet at the start of the 60s

*this is u&k btw i suspect: memorabilia tied up to those who loved you back is a lot harder to see clear or new (and why wd you want to?)

My soundtrack hell:

Do You SeePost a comment • 349 views

My soundtrack hell:

Problem 1 with Closer
It opens with a really dull Damien Rice song.

Problem 2 with Closer
It closes with the same really dull Damien Rice song.

The bits in between are okay, but hearing the same rubbish song twice is more than a man should have to endure. Oh and it does seem to think that ll strip clubs have Smack My Bitch Up on a constant loop, which may be true but seems awfully provocative to the clientele.

Yes please.

Do You SeePost a comment • 210 views

Yes please.

1. This is 2 weeks before my birthday.

2. WarioWare Touched, that will do nicely.

3. One of the other launch titles is called PROJECT RUB!

Disco! Disco! DIS-DIS-DISCO!

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 574 views

Disco! Disco! DIS-DIS-DISCO!

Told you it would be a good one.

My head is a little bit sore today so I may not get around to firing up The Poptimizer in order for it to take its Nena decision.

Here’s a question, though. What is the most danceable REM song?

Rodney Marsh’s tsunami / toon army pun was pretty poor, truth be told…

TMFD1 comment • 1,676 views

Rodney Marsh’s tsunami / toon army pun was pretty poor, truth be told. Was it offensive? No. Of course not. So why has Rodney been vilified in this way?

Obviously post Ron Atkinson (who was racist and was a rare example of political correctness gone sane) sports shows are very sensitive. And since the matey banter atmosphere of such shows encourage loose talk, they can also encourage rubbish jokes. But looking through the entire media output on this story, the real reason for Rodders falling on his sword is clear. Nowhere does he describe this joke as “just a bit of fun”. Tut tut.

You Dirty Old Bugger

Do You SeePost a comment • 503 views

You Dirty Old Bugger

“My wife and I were very shocked but we watched it until the end because we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.”