Thursday, January 24, 2008

Embafflement

Today's Peter "Spanky" Roebuck column starts off ok:
AUSTRALIA must not be waylaid by nauseating nationalists convinced that the defeat in Perth was caused not by a combination of absent friends and wayward bowling but by a sudden bout of politeness. Nor must it take heed of backslappers arguing that India's celebrations and appealing at the WACA Ground matched Australia's excesses in Sydney.
But then goes to strange, incomprehensible places:
That is to confuse joy with rage. Likewise, the umpiring was acceptable and even-handed. Only lamingtons imagine otherwise. The game is up for that lot. It is time to move on. It is debatable whether people born in this country should be allowed to vote. It is no achievement to emerge from a womb. They could just as well be in Winnipeg. Australia is best loved by its settlers.
Eh? Does does Mr "Like, OMG! Cancel the World Cup! Sack Ricky Ponting!" even have an editor anymore?

I just realised...

...that Sterne is three years old today.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Elmore Leonard's Two Rules of Making Money

1. Write and get paid for a newspaper article extolling the virtues of simple and concise prose.

2. Expand said article into one hundred page book in which the virtues of simple and concise prose are extolled in a more complex and less concise manner.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Atta Boy

Will I read the new Martin Amis? Of course I will, and of course it will have me furrowing my brow and nibbling at my lip as I try to figure out where it all went wrong. The thing is, no matter how wrong it gets, I can't help but read Amis's stuff. Even the infamous Mohammed Atta story, included in The Second Plane (although Atta himself was in the first plane), has a compulsive quality to it. He is, if I may slip for a moment into blurbese, incapable of writing a dull sentence.

There's a post at the Guardian blog pointing out Amis's prior form when it comes to writing about/obsessing over apocalyptic themes, namely the 1987 short story collection Einstein's Monsters. I'm inclined to have another look at that book, as in my memory it exists as a kind of pale spectre of disappointment. According to the Guardian post, the "stories in Einstein's Monsters are graphic, repulsive and compulsive: time becomes a fatal disease, a huge dog with human-dissolving saliva attacks a village of mutated humans..." Which sounds a lot cooler and scarier than I remember.

If you can believe it, the Guardian post is written by somebody named Chas Newkey-Burden. I can't decide if that is Amisian or positively Nabokovian!

*

For further thoughts on Amis, see this ever-so-wittily-titled post. There's also this post, which notes Mart's physical resemblance to a Hollywood bad guy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ow, my swollen balls of infected throat tissue!

I have tonsillitis. Will hopefully get my voices - real and blogging - back soon.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Weekend Reading

- Ellis Sharp, who has unfortunately decided to terminate his blog, on Patricia Highsmith's The Cry of the Owl: "Highsmith gives us amoral characters but they are never evil in the simplistic sense of tabloid journalism. She shows how human weakness and the right set of circumstances can have unexpected consequences."

- Laura berates ABC's "Austen Fourplay": "You’ll laugh and then you’ll cry at the utter badness, in fact, in between bouts of being confused over what’s happening because the plots are so telescoped and hacked about."

- Matthew Guerrieri on Oscar Peterson and virtuosity: "A lot of the critical ambivalence towards Peterson may have also had to do with another 20th-century trope, the idea that harmonic innovation is more important than rhythmic innovation."

Interviews: RSB's Mark Thwaite interviews Lee Rourke; Bookninja interviews Tom McCarthy; The Elegant Variation talks to Steve Erickson about his new novel, Zeroville.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Village mildly surprised by savage moors murder

The sleepy Somerset village of Scruntock was last night plunged into a state of mild surprise by the news that a brutal double murder had taken place on nearby Corpse Moor.

Sergeant Barry Thistle, Scruntock's senior police officer, was reported to be "slightly flustered to his very core" when informed of the discovery of the corpses.

"Barry yawned and downed the last of his pint,” Irene Clements, barmaid at the Elephant & Shovel tavern, told reporters. "'e reckoned it were just kids - we 'ave problems with teenagers 'round here, always bein' brutally double murdered when they ought to be at school - but my Gerald said that Marjorie Baker said that Cliff Phillips who does Barry's garden when his back's not out said that it was that new couple up from London, the Speckled-Shites or whatever their bleedin' name is. Said they was done in with a fire hydrant and 'alf a gallon of rare South American frog's poison, which is a novel way to go even in these parts."

Sergeant Thistle told a press conference that at this stage he considers practically everybody in Scruntock a suspect.

"Was it Major Stonewallet, the stiff-upper-lip WW2 veteran who was known to be infuriated by the Shackled-Slythes ostentatious modern ways? Was it young Billy Logan who was, according to gossip, gettin' it off with the late Mrs Spackled-Thighs? Or was it Glenys Pillbrook, the kind-hearted yet emotionally-fragile neighbour who was fighting tooth-and-nail the Straddled-Pies' plan to turn their property into an S&M theme park called Spank World?

"Honestly, it could be anybody - even me. There were 800 murders in Great Britain last year, and at least 750 of them were committed in the greater Scruntock area. It's getting so you can barely walk out your front door without being 'orribly slain."

Sergeant Thistle was later found dead on the village green. Preliminary reports indicate that his head had been severed and inserted into his urethra in a manner that acting Sergeant Reg Teasedale described as "suspicious".

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bar Kokhba

The Bar Kokhba Sextet performs "Khebar" in Warsaw, 1999.

I'm in awe of Marc Ribot's ability to look like a mean jazz mofo and somebody's dorky dad at the same time. John Zorn's tracksuit inspires awe of a different kind.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Satirical News Archive

Have we got fake news stories? You bet your sweet bippy we do! Are many of them topical and therefore by now hopelessly dated? You bet any bippies remaining in your possession they are!

- Elites Won't Let Right-Wing Columnist Join Their Gang (Feb 8, 2005)

- Children's Summer Holiday "Ever So Crappy" (Feb 12, 2005)

- New Band Destined For Chart Success, World Domination, Says NME (Feb 14, 2005)

- Death Squads To Put The Terror Back Into Australis (Feb 16, 2005)

- Politically Incorrect Celebrity Actually Just An Arsehole (Feb 27, 2005)

- Poor Man Not Missing Out On Bullshit Cultural Ephemera (March 1, 2005)

- Channel 31 Joins Fight For Footy Rights (March 17, 2005)

- Make-Up Sex Not As Much Fun As Preceding Argument (March 25, 2005)

- Pretentious Parent Convicted Over Ulysses Incident (April 2, 2005)

- New Play Slammed As "Too Stagey" (April 5, 2005)

- Report: You Can Fuck Off And Die (April 8, 2005)

- Indie Rock Snob Suicides After Unwittingly Enjoying Bloc Party Album (April 19, 2005)

- Teenager's Drug Experiment A Success (April 20, 2005)

- Tribute Album Pays Tribute To Bands That Have Paid Tribute (April 27, 2005)

- Academic Gets Medieval On Civilisation's Ass (May 18, 2005)

- Are You The Next Washed Up Member Of A Formerly Popular Band? (May 26, 2005)

- Benefit Concert Fails To Benefit Concert-Goers (June 5, 2005)

- Canada In Gay Sex Romp Shock (June 29, 2005)

- Downer To Pyongyang: Eat My Sports (July 2, 2005)

- Briton Will Be Intimidated By Terrorists (July 15, 2005)

- Imaginary Friend Starts Non-Imaginary Fire (July 21, 2005)

- Left-Wing Comedian Celebrates 1000th Obvious Joke (July 15, 2005)

- Inappropriately Touched By An Angel (July 29, 2005)

- Vampire Movie Buff Mainly In It For The Lesbians (Aug 3, 2005)

- Man To Sue Government For Causing Impotence (Sep 6, 2005)

- Goth Teen Shunned: Not Sad Enough (Oct 14, 2005)

- Batman Begins (Questioning His Sexuality) (Oct 25, 2005)

- Controversial Dress-To-Thrill Legislation Passed (Oct 27, 2005)

- Aussie Battler Trapped In Asian Hell-Hole (Nov 24, 2005)

- Leslie Converts To Ninjaism, Silences Critics - Forever! (Nov 27, 2005)

- Man Celebrates Not Celebrating Christmas (Dec 21, 2005)

- Upgrade To Make Mall Look Crap In Entirely Different Way (Jan 8, 2006)

- Ringo Starr Publishes Pro-Capitalism, Pro-Ringo Children's Book (Jan 22, 2006)

- PM Bridges Racial Divide: "You're All White, Now!" (Feb 1, 2006)

- Nerd's Cyber Sex Addiction Goes Too Far (March 27, 2006)

- Radiohead Don't Like Your Recent Stuff Either (April 8, 2006)

- New Tool Album Released In Time For Mother's Day (April 30, 2006)

- Gatto Blasts Media: I Am Not A Cake (June 9, 2006)

- Father Of Emo Kid Understands Son Only Too Well (June 28, 2006)

- Scientists Warn New Movie Could Be Crap Enough To "Explode The Sun" (June 29, 2006)

- New Comedy Duo Debut "Ambient Slapstick" Routine (July 24, 2006)

- Boy Saved From Fate Worse Than Death (Sep 15, 2006)

- Report: Teagan Doesn't Suck Nearly As Hard As Graffito Suggests (Sep 19, 2006)

- Sitcom Dad Looking Forward To Kids' Future Antics (Sep 22, 2006)

- World Leaders, Geographers, Slam Iran Denial Conference (Dec 13, 2006)

- Postman Knows Where You Live (Feb 7, 2007)

- Big Brother Criticised For No-Brainer Stance (June 12, 2007)

- PM Denies Ordering Sandwich (Nov 9, 2007)

- Village Mildly Surprised By Savage Moors Murder (Jan 3, 2008)

- Religious Nutcases Picket "Fag Enabler" Milk Bar (Feb 4, 2008)

- Car Accident "Like Something Out Of A Really Shitty Movie" (March 1, 2008)

- Channel Ten News To Be Replaced By High-Pitched Buzzing Noise (May 13, 2008)

- Old Guy From The Bill & Ted Movies Dies (June 24, 2008)

- Santa-Skeptic Child "Still Fundamentally Credulous" (Dec 8, 2008)

2007: Listening

I'll finish this burst of nostalgia for ye olde 2007 with a list of my favourite new albums for the year. As usual, the majority of my listening was to older material, but of the new releases I got around to buying, these were the ones that stuck:

Battles, Mirrored
Bjork, Volta
Frank Bretschneider, Rhythm
Sylvie Courvoisier, Signs and Epigrams
Dillinger Escape Plan, Ire Works
Githead, Art Pop
Gravenhurst, The Western Lands
Grinderman, s/t
Mick Harvey, Two of Diamonds
PJ Harvey, White Chalk
Radiohead, In Rainbows
The Tuss, The Rushup Edge

2007: Reading

I read an awful lot of crap books in 2007. Some of these I was obliged to read in order to review them; the rest I managed to select and endure entirely under my own volition. Eventually I gave up: between October 28 and November 11 I didn't read anything save for blogs and (probably) the tv guide. Salvation, when it came, was in the form of Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men and Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke, both of which I enjoyed immensely.

Other quality reads were: various Nabokov novels, Gabriel Josipovici's The World and the Book, Rohan Kriwaczek's An Incomplete History of the Art of the Funerary Violin, M. John Harrison's Nova Swing, Geoff Dyer's The Ongoing Moment, and Coetzee's Diary of a Bad Year.

I carry half-read into 2008 Joyce's Ulysses, a Great Book that I have been pleased to discover is, indeed, a great book. I abandon half-read in 2007 Clive James's tiresome, turgid, and frequently nauseating Cultural Amnesia. I hope that the decision to read Ulysses and the decision not to continue reading Cultural Amnesia will set a precedent for my reading in 2008. That is, I want to read more of what genuinely interests me and less, if any, of the kind of books I have in the past tended to pick up merely to pass the time or because they were new and shiny and "topical".

Celebrity Movie Reviews

Million Dollar Baby, reviewed by W.G. Sebald

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, reviewed by Hunter S. Thompson

Robots, reviewed by Ovid

The Pacifier, a dialogue between Vin Diesel's pectoral muscles

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, reviewed by Lynne Truss

Cheaper By The Dozen 2, reviewed by Wilson, the Limey

The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe, a (non-celebrity) family dialogue

[Insert Film Title], by [reviewer]

The Shaggy Dog/The Pink Panther, a rather round-about review by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (uncredited)

2007: Some Personal Stats

Books read: 62

Movies seen: 8

Children adopted/fathered/kidnapped: 0

University courses enrolled in: 2

University courses dropped out of: 1

Governments voted out: 1

Concerts/gigs attended: 3

Blog posts written: 92

Novels started: 3

Novels finished: 0

Short stories written: 2

Nights spent in hospital: 1

Interesting, remunerative jobs acquired then inexplicably lost within the space of four months: 1

Not-at-all-interesting, low-paid jobs held: 2

Approximate percentage of year spent in state of indecision, confusion and depression: 70%

Ideas for new year's day posts, none of which I had time to finish, hence this hastily thrown together load of cobblers: 3