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He came down from Hovis Land

If we are going to go, I wouldn't mind as much if it were heralded by giant Tetris pieces.
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Edgar Wright, Bryan Lee O'Malley's amazing books, Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winsted. And AnnHog dressed up pretty hot!

Naturally, it looks and sounds amazing.
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Despite reading livejournal pretty much every day, I've made a grand total of 17 entries all year (including this one). How rubbish of me. It's been a great year though, and I'm happy that my friends on lj have been a part of it.

Merry festivus, one and all.
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A flickr person has been collecting images from the dust storm currently hanging around Sydney. Some of them are just amazing:

Disappearing bridge or sinister space obelisk?

Link to the whole set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/plasticbag/galleries/72157622310168099/#photo_3945784916
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Oh poor journal, underfed and ignored for so long...

I've had swine flu. It started with a temperature and trembling limbs, and kept those symptoms up through a week of aching joints, exhaustion, headaches, sweating and a very upset stomach. I did not like it (even though the traditional flu, which I had a couple of years ago, was far worse - multiplying all those factors by ten and adding confusion and short-lived depression) and I hope that you do not get it. Unless you have the_heiress looking after you, despite barely shaking it off herself, in which case it's nearly worth it. I'm back at work now after a week off, mostly recovered but still totally knackered. I hope I didn't give it to anyone last weekend. It spoilt my plans (I missed martylog's double orchestra Luminaire show on Saturday that I had bought tickets for) and for this alone I shall never forgive the virus concerned.

One byproduct of the fever was a series of very vivid and memorable dreams and the most recent of these was both mundane and hilarious: I dreamed I was watching Mark Radcliffe interview UK donk merchants Blackout Crew. I know nothing about Blackout Crew beyond their silly and entertaining videos, and that they are a bit of a motley crew in the looks department. Actually, I'll go one step further - they are rat faced trolley attendants to a man. They showed a video that one of the "crew" had made pre-Blackout, which was a super-earnest Christmas time tribute to his grandma that provoked much mirth amongst the dream studio audience. "Hey, I really meant that when I made it!" protested the Blackout Crew member responsible. "I could tell by the serious look on your face," replied Radcliffe. I woke myself up laughing.

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I heard this morning of the death of JG Ballard - one of my absolute favourite writers. From those slightly pulpy but always fiercely thought out early novels (The Wind From Nowhere and The Drought are my favourites), the phenomenal bank of short stories (Memories of the Space Age, describing a long abandoned Cape Kennedy is haunting and staggeringly vivid), the truly transgressive psycho-geography of the late sixties and early seventies (Crash is great, but everyone should have their minds bent by The Atrocity Exhibition) to the noirish satires of the last decade or so, he was restlessly bold and always engaging. Even the very coldest surgical edge of his writing - and he could be very cold - still seems to come from a wistful and human place.

I think a lot of people tend to value prophecy in science fiction, but Ballard did something else - he used an incredible imagination to expose the fabric of the mind, the cold blood of western society, and the factories and wastelands - real and metaphorical - that helped create our modern world.
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Things that have made me happy this week: 1) New Keep Left signs.

EDIT: Argh, LJ ate my list of things! New Keep Left signs will have to suffice. They are good.
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There's a barrage of cliche and received wisdom that is obligatory for anyone wishing to discuss Zach Snyder's movie adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen to wade through: it's unfilmable; truncating it is akin to sterilizing it; heresy has been committed by changing it; Moore won't watch it so you shouldn't either; it should have been a miniseries; the director was a bad choice... Ultimately, they're all bunkum. I've loved the book for fifteen years, each page and panel is imprinted perfectly on the layers of my brain. I think it's a masterpiece of storytelling and one of the true peaks of the form, and the film is everything I could possibly have wished it to be.

As a story Watchmen is excellent, and the story and spirit survives utterly intact on the big screen. It's a whodunnit set in a world of masked vigilantes and a solitary superbeing, framed against the extreme cold war paranoia of an alternate reality 1980s that works as a philosophical and psychological analysis of the superhero genre and a debunking of some of the tropes. On screen it works wonderfully. Snyder has taken real care to reproduce the world that Moore and Gibbons created: where Spider-Man 2 (and no other comic adaptation I can recall) dallied with recreating famous frames and scenes from comic history, Watchmen goes for broke - whole swathes of dialogue and image from the book are recreated with faith and love. One of the finest sequences in the film - the origin of Dr Manhattan - takes the escalating emotion of the same scene from in book and relays it without alteration or embellishment to a Philip Glass soundtrack. It is remarkable and supremely moving and, crucially, it is cinematic.

One of the great things about the Watchmen comic is that is about the form as much as the story - panels are reproduced, reflected and referenced throughout, there is an intercut comic-within-a-comic that lays down another layer of cultural signifiers and psychological insight, between chapters there are excerpts of books and news articles from this imaginary world. Dr Manhattan, a superhuman made of energy, experiences time very differently from the rest of us: where we see a narrative, an unstoppable flow (like the viewer of a film in a cinema) he sees his past and future simultaneously in a big picture (like the reader of a comic book is encouraged to do). So parts of the overall Watchmen conceit are closely tied to the form and defy conversion from the page - but I would argue that such things shouldn't prevent attempts to adapt and/or reinterpret a story. Most great books work in exactly the same way, and for the gits chorus of comic book fans complaining about Snyder's film to suggest that Moore's writing is some untouchable holy grail, well, try going to library.

Any fans of the book should not fear, and see what a remarkable job they've done in translating it. Anyone who doesn't know anything about the book should go and see an immaculate story extremely well told. And people with sense will treasure and admire the achievements of both page and screen tellings.


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Are peoples going to Ward and White's Karaoke Circus tonight? I booked a couple of places a couple of weeks ago, but the_heiress has late meetings and won't make it to London in time. Must I sit alone? Does anyone want my spare ticket?


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I was tagged to do this by ultraruby, and I'm feeling nostalgic. In the chronological order I heard them:

1) Cat Stevens - Teaser and the Firecat

Because Dylan is too dense for little kids. My dad used to play this album (and Tea for the Tillerman and Catch Bull at Four, but this was my favourite) a lot when I was small. It's a gentle, folky, sad and romantic record, and Cat sounds wistful and exotic. It gets a bit hippyish at the of the album, but it gets poppier at the same time so it balances out - I still utterly adore it. It also has a version of Morning Has Broken on it, and we used to have to sing that at school. Note to Coldplay: do a version of The Ink is Black, The Page is White and you might win some Brits.

2) Queen - Sheer Heart Attack

The other end of my dad's record collection had this: heavy, fast, massive solos, pretension and theatrics. Sheer Heart Attack is by no means a great album, but it's a lot of fun when you're eight years old. We had Queen's Greatest Hits album too, and I loved that, but there was a fascination with the way things on here strayed away from the rest of the pop music I heard.

3) David Bowie - Fame and Fashion

Because I liked Queen, and I liked Under Pressure, the first album I ever bought for myself was this Bowie compilation. I was 10, and I quickly became obsessed. That throbbing, female synth sound during the middle-eight of Young Americans, what the hell is that? We would listen to it in the car when my dad took us swimming, and I would beg him to turn it up louder. Ironically, when I was little I thought the worst songs on this cassette were Fame and Fashion.

4) New Order - Substance

Three years later and I was in my teens. I had terrible protracted insomnia, and I found solace in listening to Radio 1 on my clock radio all night. I heard True Faith (I think on Nicky Campbell's show) and I'm pretty sure I lay there crying. I bought the double cassette of Substance the next day - a whopping £12.99 from HMV - and found myself fascinated by the density of the music, by the depth of the sound. So I looked to nearby Manchester for hope through my teenage years. I bet you can guess where this is going...

5) Morrissey - Bona Drag

The Smiths were over by the time I really became aware of them (I was 12 in 1987), but Morrissey wasn't. I loved them afterwards certainly, but I started with this - yet another compilation. Suedehead and Everyday Is Like Sunday were in the charts, on the radio, were simultaneously funny and slightly sad, and this odd, literate, different man said, well, something to me about my life. We'd be on and off for years, me and Mozzer.

6) Sugar - Copper Blue

The rumbling, grinding bassline that starts The Act We Act was THE MOST FVCKING AMAZING THING I HAD EVER HEARD when I was 16. Bob Mould quickly became a hero and I went for the whole of the Husker Du back catalogue with vigour. It led me to The Pixies and other 4AD bands, to grunge, to bands like Pavement, but mostly it just rocked me when I most needed to rock.

7) REM - Reckoning

Even though I really liked Out of Time and Green, Reckoning was the REM record that got under my skin. The creepy southern-gothic vibe, the country tinge, the jangle, the mumbling! REM became megastars as I was falling in love with songs that were a decade old. Typical.

8) The Divine Comedy - Promenade

Bought entirely on the strength of a review, Promenade is the album that most changed me. More even than The Smiths, Neil Hannon seemed to know me because he loved what I loved: whimsy, French cinema, books, girls. I think this is the single greatest record ever made, but it still led me to something better...

9) The Magnetic Fields - Get Lost

...This. When I finally got to see The Divine Comedy play live, they were supported by The Magnetic Fields. I walked out of Water Rats (for it was there) that night a zealot, amazed by Hannon's amazing band and great new record but lusting after this new pretender - even more arch, even more sophisticated, even cleverer, even more romantic. Get Lost was their new record at the time, and it's not their best, but it was beautiful to me. It came with a bonus disc with one song from each of the previous Magnetic Fields albums, unavailable in the UK then and nearly impossible to get in pre-internet times. I spent months tracking them down. It was worth it.

10) The Go-Betweens - Tallulah

We were chucking out old cassettes from the record shop I worked in when I found this - the box had been nicked by some unscrupulous indie fan, but I had heard of the band and wanted to give it a shot. I put it on. It was instantly love. Two singers alternating songs, each of them fierce and gentle by turns, poetic, romantic. It was swathed in cello and violin. It aimed so very high and it was utterly unafraid to fail... Not their finest hour, but it remains pretty wonderful.
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I'm aware that my journal is becoming a succession of youtube links, but I really have to post this - a lovely song from the latest episode of Flight of the Conchords. Jemaine sings about all the girls that left him, how they left him, and the girls start answering back with why they left him. It starts off all Ray Davies-y, can't get away without referencing Paul Simon's Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover and is carried off with a gentle wit rather than total silliness or concentrated spoof. The whole episode which this is from (and which the video in no way spoils, if you're waiting to watch the show) was directed by Michel Gondry, and this video was probably the reason why they got him. It's like Be Kind Rewind and Eternal Sunshine compressed down into three minutes.

It also reminds me of this gem - another call and response song between heartbroken guys and the girls who have slipped through their fingers. One of the Tindersticks poppier songs, it's also one of my favourites. Sublime.

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After a weekend of not doing very much at all (bar a viewing of Woody Allen's rather good Vicky Christina Barcelona and a lot of downloaded television), I got to experience one of the rarest joys - dreaming something funny enough to firstly break the logic of the dream, and secondly to wake myself up because of laughing at said funny dream.

The extraneous details are unimportant, but in the dream I found myself looking in the Radio Times for something to watch in an afternoon. Channel 4 were showing a film called The Risible Ghost (which I should tell you is not real), which caught my dream-self's attention. But immediately my real mind (or perhaps some sort of dream super-ego, or perhaps the part of my brain which is the audience of the dream) started chiming in, demanding more details on this film which clearly does not exist. What kind of film would have a 'risible' ghost in it on purpose? What would a ghost have to do to be considered risible? Why had my mind set upon the word 'risible' - an adjective I don't think I have ever actually used in my life and is hardly in daily parlance anyway?

In my dream I decided the film was a 1940s British comedy starring Peter Ustinov, which was about Ustinov employing someone to frighten predatory buyers away from his ancestral home, not knowing there was a real mischievious ghost in the house all along. Having settled upon these details, it became so funny to me that the film didn't exist that I woke myself up laughing. Even now, thinking of the antics within The Risible Ghost - or perhaps the fact that I am still thinking about dreaming about an internal discussion about a film that doesn't even exist - is making me laugh a great deal.

It's quite possible that I've gone mental.
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I had an attack of the giggles last night and ended up watching this - taken from Failblog - about ten times.

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I seem to have developed an escalating crush on Kristen Schaal from Flight of the Conchords. It's been there all along, but it was fuelled by her appearance at the 100 Club with martylog last month and pushed over the edge by this week's episode of FotC - she sings a song and variously berates and praises the boys for their behaviour in her dreams, at one point demanding an apology from Bret for something that Jermaine describes as "horrible".

I went to bed shortly after and had an agreeably mucky dream about being locked in a hotel room with her. Hoorah for brains!

This second series, with the exception of an only quite good first episode, has been absolutely amazing so far.

Amazing website found via Graham Linehan: The "blog" of "unnecessary" quotation marks - basically lots of photos of signs with quotation marks in unnecessary places.

I like this one because I'm trying to figure out what it's for: What, even after he regenerates?


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I went to see Anvil: The Story of Anvil last night, a lovely documentary about Anvil - a forgotten Canadian metal band who had a brief moment in the sun in the early eighties, but have carried on regardless of age and general public disinterest ever since. The founders of the band - excitable singer/guitarist Lips and laid-back drummer Robb Reiner - have been best friends since they were 14 and are somehow still totally enthused, totally committed, and totally in love with what they are doing. The film follows the band at home in Toronto, on tour in Europe, and as they record a new album with veteran metal producer Chris Tsangarides in Devon.

Because metal is intrinsically silly some of the film is silly, and no response to this film can truly avoid the "real life Spinal Tap" angle - it even has some structural similarities which I'm certain are intentional. The inter-band squabbling, the mistakes on tour, the ridiculous lyrics and the wholesale absence of irony couldn't have been written any funnier than they are. But crucially the film never sneers, instead showing their tenacity and commitment and holding it up as something to cherish. The film's director was a teenage fan of the band who later roadied for them, and he manages to communicate the adolescent heart beating not only inside the genre, but also inside these fifty-something guys. By the end of the film, you really feel as if you have a handle on the mechanic of their friendship and an idea of both the drudgery and the rewards of the life they have chosen.

It's very funny, very sweet and affecting and thoroughly entertaining, and I think it's going to be loved by a lot of people.


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As if I couldn't be any more in lust with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, or any more obsessed with Ramona Flowers, the godlike Edgar Wright has deemed it right to bring the two together in his forthcoming adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim books.

Michael Cera is playing Scott, so it's a twofer!

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Brilliant collection of personal ads from the London Review of Books here.

My favourite is:

God appeared to me in a dream last night and spoke your name in my ear. He gave me the winning lottery numbers, too, though, so you can understand where my priorities lay when I raced to grab a notebook and pen. Man, 37, living on hope and the next seven weeks' bonus balls seeks woman whose first name begins with S, or maybe F, and rhymes with chicken, and has a surname that's either a place in Shropshire or the title of a 1979 Earth, Wind and Fire track. Shicken Boogiewonderland, I know you're reading this. Write now to box no. 5729.
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It's so hard - I did tons of gaming across the 360, the Wii and the DS in 2008 and I had very few duff experiences. 2008 was a bit of classic year, I think.

Cut for nerdinessCollapse )
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A lovely night out in chilly London last night at the second Ward & White's Karaoke Circus, which was totally rammed and brimming with festive spirits. martylog had asked me to defend my victory at the first event by starting the karaoke with Queens of the Stone Age's oompah rock classic No One Knows, which was a lot of fun for me, probably some fun for the band and I suspect no fun at all for the audience. I got a few pats on the back after and a couple of people said "You were really good... last time!" Ho ho ho!

There was no cause for dispiritment as the rest of the night was much, much better. Chaotic at times, rambunctious certainly, but I said it before and this second night proved the same - it felt like a silly, giddy, knockabout sing with a load of friends and I'll be back like a flash. My favourite of the night was catbo, who brought her not inconsiderable operatic skills to the Beastie Boys Sabotage, complete with an ultra-powerful ROCK SCREAM in the middle bit. Well done that lass. Everyone who had sung got back on stage at the end for Do They Know It's Christmas? (the answer to that question, I decided whilst laying awake last night, is that some do know and some don't). Smiles all round, congratulations Mr White and Ms Ward.

We had to rush away quite quickly to catch a train last night, so I didn't get to say a proper goodbye to ruudboy, hoshuteki or to the shortly-to-depart-for-Christmas-hols offensive_mango, a perennial sweetheart. I'm a lucky boy to have nice friends like these.

But I am an unlucky boy behind the wheel. After spending a load of money to get my car back on the road this summer, I have been driving very carefully in an attempt to extend the life of the vehicle. On Tuesday morning however, I was involved in the sh1ttest, least spectacular accident ever in which my car slid on ice at the first corner from my house, and my front passenger wheel smashed into the kerb, caving in the wheel itself. A solitary replacement wheel is not available - they weren't Mazda's factory fitted ones when I bought the car - so I've had to shell out for these bad boys - the least expensive set of wheels Halfords have to offer. Looking through the catalogue of alloy wheels in Halfords was one of the most baffling experiences of my life - thousands of them, all only slightly different from each other but varying in price by hundreds of pounds... I ended up just begging them to show me the cheapest. Thank goodness the only cars I'm interested in modding are in video games, where money is not real and you can crash as much as you like.

Until I get a bit of daylight to fit all four of these new wheels on, I'm burning up the highways of Bedfordshire in the_heiress' Golf whilst she recuperates in bed - the victim of a sore throat, a cold, and a night of sleep disturbed by the honking snores of yours truly. Sorry darling. x
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I quite like The Killers. Their first album was half abysmal, and much too Shed-Seveny to truly love, but yielded a couple of gems. A transformation into Springsteen-lite stadium rock for the second album showed ambition and a grasp of poetry and an innate sadness that did them credit. Now they are back with Human, the lead single for their third album, and it sounds like The Boss collaborated with Duran Duran in their most maudlin hour.

It's jammed into my brain like a rusty nail, partly because of the elegant question at the heart of it's chorus. So help me, please!

Poll #1294552 I must know!

I'm on my knees looking for the answer:

Are we human?
Or are we dancer?
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