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Chock full of *stuff*

So this time it's been a month. I'm sorry if I've been uncommunicative to anyone who is reading this. It's been a morose old summer.

(1) In the past month I have managed to:
• break my computer and get it working again, sans pictures and email archive;
• dig my whole garden;
• have someone live in my house for three months who I didn't really know, which was awkward (but worked out okay);
• eat the entire chocolate output of Belize (approximate);
• fail to finish my ficathon assignment, though I am typing a desultory hundred words every couple of days and hoping for reinspiration;
• read more books this month than I did in the previous three;
• see more bad films than good ones (Pirates of the Caribbean I am looking at you);
• wallow in existential despair at my life;
• wallow in actual, non-specific despair at the state of the world;
• contemplate taking a flamethrower to my workplace;
• undercook a lamb moussaka with hi-larious consequences;
• go deaf – I SAID "GO DEAF" – in both ears at different times, one caused by who knows what, the other caused by a phenomenally boot-faced nurse who was all too free with powered jets of water;
• buy ten albums, four of them on a white wine-fuelled trawl of iTunes.

(2) Woe is me etc ::rends garments, eats ice cream::

(3) Is it just me or did fandom go completely insane this summer? More than usual, I mean. To the point were even spectating seemed uncomfortably unhealthy.

Just when I think we've reached a level of maximum batshit, someone turns it up to 11 with a whole new layer of guano. My favourite was watching someone who I had previously regarded as sane go totally fruitloop and start calling people fascists and imbeciles. I mean, even if people are stupid or insulting (and in this case they were neither) did anyone in the world *ever* look good going off on one like that?

(4) jood, leadensky, I miss your posts.

(5) The books thing is a bit of a cheat, as five of those books were chick-lit. Three were by Lisa Jewell ( Ralph's Party, Friend of the Family, Vince and Joy,) Lisa Jewell does not like women, fat people, anyone who is intellectual and this becomes more and more pronounced as you read through her work. Her male characters are pretty good but the women are often tissue thin rewards for nice guys. Also occasionally psycho. The books rely on coincidence and in one case a magical precognitive tattooed grebo who is about as sophisticated a plot device as "and then rocks fell on them and they died"

She's not a great writer at all -- I think she aspires to a state of Hornby but doesn't have the same insight that I think Nick Hornby has. What she has in spades is that pesky readability thing. I was really irritated by the books but damn it if I didn't keep reading to the end. I was annoyed by the books but read them anyway. In that respect I am the publishing industry's perfect mark.

Chicklit II: Life Swap by Jane Green. Which I got in return for the two Lisa Jewell books. Now Jane Green has been reading Fay Weldon and has decided that this style meshes perfectly with chicklit conventions. So what you get is the insipid single-girl cliche (getting older, works in the London meejah, healthy attitude to sex, can't stop trying to reform identikit alpha-bastard boyfriends); the unhappily married wife'n'mother in suburban Connecticut getting tired of keeping up with the bitchy snobs and a plot in which they swap lives.

Jane Green used to work in the London media and is presently a wife and mother in Connecticut. Shocker.

She copies the present tense, arch authorial voice of Fay Weldon but she doesn't have the guts to do the rest of it. She doesn't have the nous to make anyone really unhappy in the unsolvable ways that you get in real life. The husband isn't a wretch, or complicated in interesting ways; the heroines are, frankly, spoilt, and all the supporting characters are either lovely or modelled on the gang from Heathers 20 years on.

She takes 250 pages to get to the interesting bit, the big surprise is pants and it's badly set up and the novel ends abruptly when the author gets bored of it.

Geezerlit: The Crew by Margaret Mayhew. It's the kind of thing my aunt reads so I got it for her. It's set in the second world war, the characters are a Lancaster bomber crew, their relatives and girlfriends. The cover features an insipid WAAF twat in a tin hat. I think she's supposed to look anxious, sorrowful and brave, but she looks more like she's battling stress incontinence.

Also, the bitch killed the only character I gave a damn about in the penultimate chapter.

(5a) I would recommend without reservation The People's Act Of Love by James Meek. It's set mostly after the Russian revolution, as the Communists are taking over the whole country and has things to say about religious mania and terrorism that are weirdly.

Ostensibly a murder mystery set in a remote Siberian village, it's based on three historical facts: firstly, that Czech legions were trapped in northern Russia after the first world war; that up until as late as the 1960s, there was a secret Christian sect which advocated genital mutilation as a means of purification -- skoptsy -- and that escaping prisoners from Siberian gulags would induct a naive companion into their escape plots as a "cow", with the intent of eating him as they crossed the tundra.

Samarin the would-be revolutionary pitches up in a village of eunuchs, where a lost Czech company has billeted itself. He says he is being pursued by a serial killer, the Mohican, who helped him escape a labour camp but only in order to use him as food on the journey. Samarin says he has given the Mohican the slip, but the killer cannot be far behind. That night, a Tungus shaman is murdered. Around this is a cast of intriguing characters -- the widow Anna Petrovna, who has brought her son to live with the Skoptsy; the genuinely decent Mutz, a Czech soldier who is victimised by his madman of a superior officer for being Jewish, who is in love with her. Balashov, the leader of the skoptsy, who has a troubled past, and of course, the mysterious Samarin.

It starts as a story of strands and other people telling seemingly tangential stories until these strands twine together more and more tightly until they are one fat skein taking you to the conclusion of the mystery. There are a couple of parts that seemed a little OTT but I forgave Meek.

What I would say is that under no circumstances should you read the reviews of this book on the internet. DO NOT READ THE REVIEWS. If you intend to read it, you should particularly avoid the review by Jane Stevenson on the Guardian/Observer site because these reviews give away all of the great twists. These are not shock twists by the way, you can almost see them coming but you can't quite believe Meek is going to do it. If you read the reviews, you'll be robbed of the moment when it clicks into place.

This is not a book you want to be spoiled for.

If fanfic-style warnings were required I reckon I'd warn for cruelty to horses, scenes of castration and a particularly eye-popping sex scene which I had the dubious pleasure of discussing with my boss.

(6) Last week, sophia_helix kindly gave me a letter so I could participate in the post-5-songs-beginning-with-the-letter... meme. Less kindly, she gave me the letter J. Humph.

(1) Joy by Lucinda Williams
This is a *fantastic* pissed off song, with stompy drums, slide guitar and a refrain of "you took my joy; I want it back".

(2) Joy by The Sundays
This is all right, featuring a hypnotic beat and some Johnny Marr-style guitar work, but the rest of the album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic is much better. I always hear the lyrics as "Lois Lane stole my wardrobe". This cannot be right.

(3) Jacques Your Body by Les Rythmes Digitales
This man went on to produce Confessions on the Dancefloor for Madonna but here is a very early track by Jacques Lu Cont (or Stuart Price as his mum calls him)

It was used in the Citroen C4 ad in which the new Citroen model turns into a transformer and starts dancing against the Vancouver skyline, thus earning the adoration of small boys everywhere. The choreography was done by the bloke who choreographs Justin Timberlake. You can see it via Yahoo video here. There was also a version where the car turns into a speed skater but it doesn't have the same visceral appeal to your inner eight-year-old.

(4) Jasmine Hoop by Kathryn Williams
This starts with an old-fashioned organ then a gentle drum pulse, then a lovely plaintive acoustic guitar. It's about a break-up and features the lyric "I'm going to tell you half the story so you'll come back".

(5) Jealous of the Moon by Nickel Creek
Nickel Creek at their most Crowded House-esque. I can think of no higher praise.

(6) Just One Smile by Gene Pitney
A real hairbrush-in-front-of-the-mirror song from the 1960s. One of Randy Newman's early efforts, made more famous by Dusty Springfield. I like this version better. It reminds me of my mum, who used to do the ironing while singing at the top of her voice to Gene Pitney records.

(7) Jimmy Mo Mhile Stor by The Chieftains and The Rankins
I don't what to say about this. I love it. I once played it about 17 times in a row. It's a bit candy-floss sweet. It's a traditional song. I dunno.

(7) I thought I'd post some tracks from Thea Gilmore's new album to whet the appetite of anyone who likes her music. The album is Harpo's Ghost, it came out this week and it's available here if you're in the UK, but only on import in the US so far, it would appear.

Cheap Tricks
The single and a kind of prototypical fast stomp, but good nonetheless

The List
Kathryn Williams is on backing vocals. It reminds me somewhat of Holding Your Hand

This reminded me of Kirsty MacColl, the chorus has some lovely harmonies, again with Kathryn Williams.

I'd planned to load up the track co-written with Mike Scott of the Waterboys but I like this one better
Call Me Your Darling
This starts with a roll of Dylanesque Sixties organ and then moves to handclappy, singalong goodness, an explosion of guitars and a harmonica solo. It sounds like someone had been listening to Highway 61 Revisited era Dylan and tried to capture everything that was good about it.

(8) And finally, just so I don't disturb the balance of the universe by ending on an odd number, some adverts which cheer me up
(a) Ewan MacGregor as a tomato and Dame Judi Dench as a lobster. In Trafalgar Square
(b) The frankly magnificent Channel 4 swearing advert from last year. Not *remotely* worksafe ::hearts Marianne Jean-Baptiste::

If you don't like that one, there are others from the series on the YouTube search page.


( 41 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 22nd, 2006 02:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, you're alive, how marvelous. And now I have to run off, but I have been missing you. Save some chocolate for me, 'kay?
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:13 am (UTC)
I shall save the chocolate. When do we get to hear about your trip?
(no subject) - cofax7 - Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:15 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 22nd, 2006 02:48 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I am bookmarking this so I can dl the new Thea Gilmore when I get home tonight. I am irritated it's not coming out here right now.

Thank you!
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:13 am (UTC)
It does seem odd that it's not. I had the impression that Avalanche did reasonably well and intelligent singer-songwriter girls were hot now
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:11 pm (UTC)
You live! I too loved Judi Dench in the lobster costume but was underwhelmed by The People's Act of Love. The twists didn't grab me and the whole thing left me cold somehow. But then what do I know - I'm going to Tiger Tiger of my own free will this weekend, which surely disqualifies me to commentate on anything literary or cultural for the rest of time.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:16 am (UTC)
It took a while for it to catch with me, but I was gripped by the end of Anna Patrovna's story. It gets a little hysterical at the end but I didn't care by then.

I went to a party at Tiger Tiger maybe two years ago on a Saturday night. I didn't hate it, but it was sharking central.
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:17 pm (UTC)
My favourite was watching someone who I had previously regarded as sane go totally fruitloop and start calling people fascists and imbeciles. I mean, even if people are stupid or insulting (and in this case they were neither) did anyone in the world *ever* look good going off on one like that?

Yeah, that was really something, wasn't it? Amusing in a kind of freaked-out way, but I was fool enough to stay for round two of the show, as well.
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:20 pm (UTC)
I did not comment, but please know that I was admiring your level-headedness from a distance!
(no subject) - infinitemonkeys - Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:18 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:24 pm (UTC)
Hihihi welcome back!
Yay, Lucinda Williams and Thea Gilmore!

My favourite was watching someone who I had previously regarded as sane go totally fruitloop and start calling people fascists and imbeciles.

It's mean of me, yes, but watching someone reveal themselves as totally batshit and so far beyond any point of perspective that perspective is sending them notes saying, "Hey, I miss you. Come back soon!" is quite amusing.

I totally loved the the defense of plagiarists by equating it with bestiality. That was AWESOME.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:18 am (UTC)
Re: Hihihi welcome back!
I totally loved the the defense of plagiarists by equating it with bestiality. That was AWESOME.

Well, if you're going over the top, why not aim for Mars?
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:38 pm (UTC)
"Am I a fruit? Am I a vegetable? I don't know who I am!"
"But that's the mystery of you!" *lifts pincers*

Don't mind me if I cuddle Mr MacGregor. I just got back from cuddling Mr S.L. Jackson. It's a motherfucking Jedi reunion.

Didya see this one?

Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
I hadn't seen the Ewan ad, thank you.

Does this mean you have seen the near-legendary Snakes on a Plane?
(no subject) - samdonne - Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:54 pm (UTC)
Can you hear yet?

I hope you're feeling better.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:21 am (UTC)
Only on one side. The nurse won't see me until next Tuesday, so we are in sucking it up and taking the painkillers territory. Also saying "WHAT?" really loud because I am forgetting my manners
(no subject) - se_parsons - Aug. 23rd, 2006 05:50 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 22nd, 2006 03:58 pm (UTC)
Hello! I hope that your ears are doing better now. (I SAID...)

Also, hugs, just because.

>Is it just me or did fandom go completely insane this summer? <

Yes. I mean, it always does, but somehow I still get surprised by some of the vituperativeness.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:22 am (UTC)
Hello there. I thought it was unusually bitter this summer.
Aug. 22nd, 2006 04:31 pm (UTC)
New Thea Gilmore! I would love seeing you without new music, but with it's even better!

And I think I never remembered to thank you for the batch of music you sent me a while back. Thank you! I loved it, especially the KT Turnstall.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:22 am (UTC)
No worries. Glad you liked.
Aug. 22nd, 2006 05:49 pm (UTC)
I am deeply jealous of the Channel 4 ad. That is awesome. I would say "dammit, we don't get any that cool" but then, I have no idea what commercials are on lately because I haven't seen any since April. God bless the internet.

I am putting The People's Act Of Love on my to-read-ASAP list. Sounds like it's right up my evil alley.

Is it just me or did fandom go completely insane this summer? More than usual, I mean.

In a word: yes. You'd think that in an age where we have DVD sets and downloads available, the summer wouldn't still be a time when there would be so little new stuff to consume that people would go crackers, but apparently it's just that way. Is summer insanity-time for all fandoms worldwide, or just the ones in the U.S.? Is it the heat, the humidity, the boredom, or the allergens? Does northern hemisphere vs. southern make a difference? I'm baffled.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:25 am (UTC)
The swearing ad might just live on the internet or maybe on Film Four. I didn't see it on broadcast TV myself.

I think it's the summer break and the heat, which must mean that the Australians go fruitloop around December but I've not seen any of them do that.

I think you might like The People's Act of Love but you have to give it 70 pages to get into it. As you'll see above, it never really sparked with Caz but I read the last hundred pages in one sitting because I couldn't put it down after the last twist.

P.S. Icon love!
Aug. 22nd, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)
Oooh, looking forward to the Thea and Gene, cheers. It's not that long ago I got into him. I know what you mean about summer fandom fever, which is why I tune out. I'm not without sympathy for the crazy people you mention though. I think charitably it's fair to assume that fandom wankers are unhappy people because if they were more sorted they might not bother wading into little fannish playwars, so baiting them or pointing and laughing can be a guilty pleasure. I like the sound of People's Act of Love, first I've heard of it.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
Losing any sliver of respect...
You like Gene Pitney? Excellent. I love that dramatic 60s full-orchestra balladry. I even have The Best of Cilla Black on CD, which is full of the world's most pathetic "You don't love me and I want to die" songs. I love it.

Oh. That was just too much information, wasn't it.

Re: Losing a lorra lorra respect... - thehornedgod - Aug. 23rd, 2006 06:53 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 22nd, 2006 07:05 pm (UTC)
Rofl @ advert. How did I somehow never see that? Because you know, I think I'd probably have remembered.

Anyway, nice to see you back! And here's an iconic giggle, which kind of goes with the advert, dunnit?
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)
I'm not sure that advert lived anywhere but the Channel 4 website and maybe Film Four when it was still subscription-only.

As for your icon -- my god, that thing is scary
Aug. 22nd, 2006 07:45 pm (UTC)
The Judi Dench and Ewan McGregor one is down.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:34 am (UTC)
Well, damn. You can find it on YouTube if you stick in the search term "Film Four" or MacGregor. There seemed to be more than a couple versions of it, so with a spot of luck one should work for you.

Though the swearing ad is more fun, much as I love watching Lucy Liu call Ray Winstone a muppet
(no subject) - pandoras_closet - Aug. 25th, 2006 10:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:38 am (UTC)
Hello. I did love Life On Mars, even though I wanted it to end after one series (what a *fool*!)

One of the reasons I loved it was the record shop and another was that I lived in and around the city where they filmed it for six years and I keep trying to work out what they're trying not to show with the weird camera angle.

Thanks for the tip about the vid, I will seek it out
Aug. 22nd, 2006 11:53 pm (UTC)
It's good to see you. I miss you when you're not around.
Aug. 23rd, 2006 01:39 am (UTC)
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