Monday, December 31, 2007

Captain Syncope

Unlike Nick Fury here

(found in the Jack Kirby Museum) I guess I am the faintin' type, having experienced syncope a couple of times. Once I blacked out while having blood taken, which was odd as I've seen blood a few times and not been bothered - I think it was the idea of it being sucked out of me (ventricles collapsing inwards like a leaky football) that got me.

The latest attempt was more alarming, at the end of an excellent Christmas meal. Propped up in a chair I was unable to faint properly, and (I'm told) went the colour of putty, moaned and twitched. Rather than wait for some Christmas prophecy to emerge, my companions called paramedics, so I got my NHS money's worth with a nice ambulance ride, restorative oxygen, and electrodes clipped all over me.

Will spend next Christmas with my head between my knees, suckng liquidised sprout juice through a straw.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Still / Can't meditate

‘Be still’ is the frequent


‘still’ as in:

coming to rest,

ceasing from


stumbling like a drunk


no listed actions, no escape route, no outwitting, no remembering?

‘Still’ as in:


ceasing from


crying at some current show?

Hard to be still or even slow

while living as a droplet

in a skewed torrent,

in adverse weather conditions;

hard to centre down in

the source and

the storm and

the unseen sea.

[Work in progress. An earlier version was written in iChurch, as part of a project where members did 'something creative' on the theme of 'Be still'. Mainly my piece is being out of frustration that meditation (and other contemplative forms) seem to be frequently offered as the gold standard of spiritual practice. It's become a non-negotiable orthdoxy and is offered as the ultimate way, whatever the starting point. For instance, even a book titled 'Fuck It - the ultimate spiriual way' has as its punchline... meditation!

All of this is fine, and I suppose every era will have some kind of hegemonic, cock-of-the-walk of spirituality...but as I can't meditate, this makes me feel like a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest...

Health warning: meditation is actually great and I'm just some random git ranting away in my non-meditative state.

But don't get me started about the Enneagram...]

Saturday, December 22, 2007

SuperChristmas through the round window

I love this picture, which I came across via the redoubtable Dial B for Blog. The great Alex Ross painting shows the Silver Age JLA having a Christmas party.

There's Wonder 'Donna Reed' Woman, decorating the tree using her 'decorate with eyes shut' power;

J'onn J'onzz and Red Tornado toasting with whatever beverage a Martian and an android would choose;

Black Canary looking hot (or 'demented' according to Jennie);

Plastic Man up to some mischief which requires him to brace himself on Green Lantern's shoulders...

But wait, what's that shadow at the window? It's Batman, 'like some jungle animal drawn to the light and looking in'.

Superman has spotted him and... gives him the finger?!

Perhaps saying 'Get away you moody caped bastard'... No, on closer look he's gesturing for him to come in.

This makes this an interesting piece of art. Most Yuletide imagery is about bringing the light in to counter the darkness, but in this picture it's the dark being invited in to join the light and love... The super-pantheistic-panentheism of DC mythology is interesting like this - as well as opposites, the avatars of dark and light can also be allies and friends, redeeming each other...

Of course, Batman wasn't always so sinister. Time was, it was hard to stop him donning a Santa beard and handing out presents

along with the rest of the Trinity

One time, he even sang carols all night with the boys of the GCPD Choir.

Crime was suppressed that night, not because Batman is such a badass that he can defeat superstitious, cowardly criminals by singing carols at them, but through the operation of the 'spirit of Christmas'.

Here's praying something like this happens this season. God bless us one and all, superchums...

NB: Most images come from the aforementioned Dial B for Blog where the iridescent depths of comicdom are plumbed in fine style; I'm a Ray Palmer on their giant shoulders. Copyright belongs to the originators, natch. Religious ideas, thought forms, archetypes etc copyright the theologoumenon from which all reality flows, authors and readers included.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over

According to it is not, in fact, Christmas. Nevertheless festive things are happening. We've stocked up with food and drink as if preparing for a restaging of 120 Days of Sodom as an M&S advert, rather than a 12-day festival, for 11 of which the shops will be open. (And we're only at home for some of it.)

I'm a sucker for the Christmas version of anything - I'd probably buy a new Calor Gas fire if it was called a Christmas Calor Gas fire and smelled vaguely of cinnamon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

kiss kiss : recorded Angel : die, Baldur, die!

Assessing every roadside
in the land, in this current year,
we know: there is less cassette
tape tangled in hedgerows
than at any time
since tape Recorded History began.

A substantive Driver recalls:
"Long unspooled tangles once
festooned many branches, many twigs;
now fallen, it has mulched, diminished, become hidden;"
and speculates
"theoretically, multitudes
of Analysts could recover
much of the twentieth century's speech
and song from magnetised
molecules now nestled in soil
beneath layers of leaves, fungi,
the indifferent tread of vixens
following hedgerow conduits;"
and qualifies
"however, much of the sound
quality would be
compromised, compared
with the original original."

Hanging tape is now
a smaller fraction of the total
mass of the countryside
than mistletoe -
statistically, therefore,
more uncanny, less homely
than mistletoe - perhaps therefore
a new mistletoe:
quantified as the stranger
of the dangling things we pass.

A Practical note on such hanging tape as you may encounter:

You can kiss beneath it
but it is not proven to kill the gods.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Portslade Massif

Portslade Massif
Originally uploaded by Matt Adams

Bugger - missed it. An exhibition by James Cauty with the excellent title 'the Rize and Fall of the Portslade Massif'. The show was actually in poncy Brighton (the photo being the gallery exterior; the slogan was helpfully cleaned off by the council) but maybe that's a good thing - 'Portslade' romping into the territory of its more acceptable neighbour.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Things to look forward to

Advent being a season of expectation, hauling in green sprigs and lighting flames in the darkest heart of the year, sketching out the idea that light will return, here are some things I'm looking forward to next year...

1. Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie
In his book Clubland Heroes, Richard Usborne described a delightful quandary: given (I think) a Richard Hannay adventure by John Buchan, one of Dornford Yates' Berry and Co stories, and the latest Bulldog Drummond (in a cheerful yellow Gollancz wrapper)... which to read first? In the end it has to be the Drummond. For some reason, contemplating the conclusion to Joe Abercrombie's First Law series reminds me of Usborne's anecdote. Not that the series concerns a beer-drinking, cheerfully ugly gentleman adventurer (as such) - just that my enthusiasm for these books would put them top of my reading list, even if greater literary merit could be proven for the alternatives. My fondness for these novels matches that of Usborne for Sapper's creation. I won't attempt a review - there are some good ones at Strange Horizons ("Fans of character-driven epics who are willing to take their heroes with a grain of moral ambiguity should add this novel to their "must read" list"), SF Site ("In addition to excellent characterizations and fascinating world-building, Abercrombie also writes the best fight scenes I have read in ages") and BBT ("Do want an author who tweaks the nipples of the oh-so-revered Fantasy Formula?" - there's only one answer to that.)
Not attempting a review but... personally I wouldn't use words like cynical or postmodern, and perhaps not noir. I would say it's as bracing as a friendly headbutt, that the characters and plot threads are incredibly compelling (leaving one plotline to join another one in a subsequent chapter is a wrench) and that the humour is actually funny.

2. A new Gillian Welch album
Billboard were reporting a follow up to 2003's excellent Soul Journey back in 2006 - surely she'll commit something to 'vinyl' next year? Failing that, I'm tempted by her painting:

3. Final Crisis

Periodically, the unwieldy DC Universe (the fictional nexus of all the characters, plotlines and milieu in stories published by DC) gets a makeover, in the form of a vast 'crisis', involving all of the characters and their worlds/universes in a collective story that carries out a lot of housekeeping. For instance, 1985's 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' got rid of lots of characters, plotlines, tropes and history that either didn't make sense, or didn't chime with current fashion. Contradiction, silliness and outdated concepts were elided (literally, in a surging wave of antimatter represented by the white paper of the unprinted page.) A fresh new world with relaunched characters also 'explains' why, in a story that started in 1938, the cast doesn't comprise aged pensioners. Now you don't get this sort of thing
- in real life, otherwise I'd reinvent about half of my life (the rubbish half)
- in most other forms of literature - for instance, Tolkien doesn't relaunch a new version of LOTR with more more women, no Tom Bombadil, and a language that cannot create poetry (sadly).
But in DC the crisis story has become a regular fixture, so much so that persistent crises themselves have become a piece of slightly creaky daftness on a par with Bat-Mite and Wonder Woman being secretary to the Justice Society. Perhaps this is why the next one is called Final Crisis. I have high hopes for this, mainly as it's written by Grant Morrison, a writer of some genius who I believe has the chops to re-engineer the symbolic architecture of a fictional world that is an important part of the troposphere of the real universe, with some poetry, energy and surprise.
And he'd better deliver. In the runup to Final Crisis, all kinds of crass hatchet-work is apparently happening - for instance, Big Barda gets casually killed on the floor of her kitchen... a pathetic way for one of the noblest, kick-assest female characters to go. Hopefully this kind of stuff is some kind of prelude to a rebirth that will both preserve and renew the mythical lifeblood of these tales - otherwise it will be a fecking crisis...

Anyone else looking forward to stuff next year?

Monday, December 10, 2007

treasures of darkness

Obedient sparks and solid oil spawn
multitudes of miracles, yes,
but some taste bad, like this
1.8m/6ft Norwegian Spruce Pre Lit Tree.

Overbright, glowering,
a beaming invader
smelling of hot tinsel -
we returned it, not to China but to
Customer Services
where it was marked

Now we have
Real Christmas Tree - Living Norway Spruce - 1m 10cm
waiting somewhere between green life
and a thought of green life;
enlivening an idea of hearth -
anticipating its own 'Destroy', waste that
weights a simultaneous
equation of waste and desire -

can say just for now
there's some homely lights.

(Work in progress. Tree fates and luminescent atrefacts as described. There's also a small potted one outside.)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The moment I lost my marketing virginity...

...was, I suppose, during the evening I pasted this together some time in 1985. The text was done on a ZX Spectrum. Cult illustrator Caspar Williams did the drawings, including the image of me with which I saw fit to dominate the cover (not a strategy we'll be adopting for our next prospectus.)

Prior to the pictured item, the Zap Club flyers had featured only the names of the acts, so adding descriptions was a worthwhile development. That was my one good marketing idea - I have had several since then, but never had to follow through by typing the results on a rubber keyboard.

It's odd to see it surface on the web over 20 years later. It's nice to share the cover with the artiste Phranc, whose work I loved then and still do. Her rider included some absurdly innocent but specific items (something along the lines of 23 fig rolls and some pink Smarties), obviously not meant to be taken seriously. I took pride in painstakingly assembling the items in the dressing room, which got mentioned when I was introduced to her in a tongue-tied moment of mutual embarrassment. She showed no reaction - true stardom at work!

Friday, December 7, 2007

'I'm gonna go get the papers. Get the papers.'

I seem to be mutating into a Guardian reader. My earliest newspaper habit was the Times - basically I had the inbuilt knowledge that it was the top paper, sort of the Platonic ideal of a newspaper. But Murdoch put paid to that. Subsequently, the Telegraph has for years provided me with a doable crossword and largely enjoyable read.

Although not an explicitly political person, I would have preferred to read something a bit more left/liberal, but at the time (80s/90s)the quality of writing seemed to me to be superior towards the right (New Statesman: like chewing soap bubbles; Spectator: a banquet served after a weekend shooting party; some strange offal in there but largely more enjoyable.)

Recently I've started hiking a mile in the dark to a Post Office most mornings as a gut-diminishing exercise process. Buying a paper gives me a goal and something to read when I get back. I've found myself buying the Guardian, partly because it fits into my pocket (therefore not impairing my manly stride.) And the paper is good. Seems that lefties can write now, perhaps through some process of natural selection (eg the right-wing writers have died of gout.)

So it's away with my tweed suit and monocle, hello socks and sandals...

Fe Person

I find this trailer intriguing (so job done, trailermakers) and unsettling. Will the movie be an interesting take on warlike hardware, or some ghastly triumphalist tosh?

The beginning looks like a better remake of Lord of War. But the hostage-escape thing is such blatant wish fulfilment and perhaps not in the best of taste. Then what's going to happen? In the shorter trailer he talks of 'protecting the people he has put in harm's way', a kind of ironclad action-packed repentance for his arms trade career I suppose. I'll be interested to see who gets counted as the people needing protection...

I've never been a big Iron Man fan, but I did follow an alcoholism plotline in the 80s, which I expect will be touched on in the film. The comic version has billionaire inventor Tony Stark becoming an alcoholic vagrant - the phrase 'I'll take his $50 and use it to forget his ugly words' (spoken as he bums some drink money from a former employee) has, unaccountably, become a staple part of our family vocabulary.

Monday, December 3, 2007

'Gathering' gloom

It seemed like a good idea at the time - "LEGENDS OF FOLK ROCK - THE GATHERING...'Gathered' from – LINDISFARNE, FAIRPORT CONVENTION, STEELEYE SPAN, MAGNA CARTA & JETHRO TULL...Never before has such a line up drawn from the genres’ most influential bands come together on stage to celebrate their shared heritage of songs and performances." (Punctuation theirs - send chastisemen to the tour promoters.) We caught this show at Southport last Saturday, and (being kind) let's say it didn't work for us. The clownish, mugging side Lindisfarne dominated proceedings, and the "veritable Who’s Who of key musicians" were at best lacklustre at worst annoying. There seemed to be a good English blues band in there somewhere, but there was always some element not working. Jerry Donahue, Mike Piggott, Rick Kemp, Clive Bunker, Ray Jackson, Doug Morter and Kristina Donahue may well be "the brightest and finest musicians from the best folk-rock bands of the past 30 years" though a true supergroup from this genre could arguably have some other faces, a bit more light and shade, a bit more folk...

We darted out before the encore, ran to the car where I scrabbled through the layers of detritus in search of other music - found an unmarked compilation I'd made - screamed along cathartically to the New York Dolls (few of whom have lived to make jokes about their bus passes), tunnelled into the dark and rainy night...

Pie, the support band, were excellent though.