Sunday, 16 December 2012

Books/Films in November

Yeah, yeah I haven't blogged in a while, but normal service will now resume (disclaimer: It probably won't). Anyway, stuff and stuff.

Books:

The Epic of Gilgamesh by Errrr... Anonymous? 
 This is the most ancient book I've ever read. It was originally written on stone tablets (so retro, right?) in some Indus river civilisation. I first heard about it on a youtube channel called crashcourse, which did a series on world history (go check it out). As a book, it's alright, there's a story, there's some homoerotic undertones, y'know, the usual. I wouldn't really recommend it unless you're really into ancient stuff.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
I read this because my mates insisted the main character was me. I'm not offended by that, this guy does remind me of me. A music obsessive who spends too much time thinking about the past. The book is well written, funny, and most importantly, the characters have really good music taste. So yeah, read it to get inside my sad little head.

The Aeneid by Virgil
I read this for school, so maybe I'm overanalysing here, but this is kinda crap. The only characters I'm remotely interested in die, meanwhile Mr. Boring (Aeneas) wins at life. We read the Odyssey last year, and this made me miss Odysseus, who shagged everything and then cried about it. So, y'know what, READ THE ODYSSEY. The first half of this is just a second rate Odyssey anyways. But you should read book four of this, it's pretty good- and if you do read all of the Aeneid, you'll be able to pick up more cultural references.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
First of all, lets get it straight: I LOVE ERNEST HEMINGWAY. The Old Man and the Sea is my favourite book. Secondly, this book is emotional and stoic and sickening, but not as good as the old man. However, I prefer the characters here, their strengths, their stories, their humanity. Spain is beautifully described, as is the love between Maria and Robert(o). Read this if you want to be emotionally destroyed by some words on some paper- and you get to learn about the Spanish civil war. Yay!

The Ice Harvest by Scott Phillips
Way less highbrow than the last two. And not as good. When I started reading I knew I was going to have to finish it- it's compulsive. The ending was pretty unsatisfying, and I don't like books that just set themselves up for sequels- that's rude. It was fun I guess, but not amazing or important in any way. It's really well plotted, and I'm not surprised it was turned into a terrible looking movie.

Films:

Shadow Dancer
This film isn't as good as I wanted it to be, but I'm glad it was made (and it's still pretty goddamn decent). Andrea Riseborough is brilliant as Collette McVeigh, a mother turned MI5 informer to protect her son. A serious unnerving thing (for me) was that all of the Irish characters had the same names as my family members (Collette, Gerry, Connor, Sean) that was too accurate. 

Dark Shadows
Was crap. It just wasn't funny- watch the trailer, all the good jokes are in that. Apart from the whole McDondald's Mephisto mix up- but we all confuse demons with the golden arches, right? Chloe Moretz is pretty good in it, as is Eva Green, but it's not worth it bro. Average at best. 

Ted
Was also not very good. The bits with Norah Jones and the whole flash Gordon things were awesome, but the rest was just meh. I don't think the family guy parts worked at all- the teddy bear vs Marky Mark was ridiculous. I also liked the bit where the hooker took a shit (probably the only time I will ever get to write that sentence, unfortunately). Again, all the best bits were in the trailer.   

A Prophet
This film is amazing and you should see it ASAP. It's long but engrossing, brilliantly acted, directed, and written. Watch it. Now. 

Lost in Translation
Such a good film. Brilliant cast (basically only Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray, but c'mon). So funny and so sad and so well written you believe the characters are real. "I want you to lip my tights"

The Woman in Black
Was SO BAD. I can only put the praise it got down to Harry-Potter-mania. It wasn't scary, or particularly atmospheric, which was where the book had its strength. Apparently they're making the woman in black 2 right now. Please no. 

The Godfather
Obviously pretty flawless. The set pieces (horse head in the bed etc.) are even better than I expected. Scilly is beautiful. This film is also really really long, but stick with it. I kinda feel that there's nothing that could really be cut, so just relax and enjoy the movie. Oh, and did I mention Marlon Brando? Marlon Brando. 


  
    



Monday, 19 November 2012

Books/Films in October

Books

Their Eyes Were Watching God- Zora Neale Hurston

Yeah, so this is a really good book- I picked it out because of the title, but it wasn't what I thought it was (something Armageddon related right?) it's a story of an African-American woman finding herself outside the roles set out for her in society- by white people, by men, by her own family. Things don't exactly end well for Janie, but she's one of the most inspiring and interesting protagonists I've read for a while.

The Communist Manifesto- Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

I'm not actually a communist or anything, but you should seriously read this before you go attacking/celebrating communist ideas, it's nice to know what you're talking about, really. That being said, it kinda didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, but it was still interesting. And easy to read. 

Chamber Music- James Joyce

This is Joyce's main collection of poetry (?), and he was mainly known as poet up until the publication of Ulysses, so it's pretty good. I have no idea how to review poetry- some poems I really liked, others I didn't. Argh halp. Peoms hard 2 reveiw.

The Snow Geese- William Fiennes 

Would it annoy you if I told you this guy once said he liked my writing? Well tough, it's true. He's, like, related to voldemort and everything! This is the story of how, recovering from a long illness, he decided to go on a madcap journey from Texas to the Arctic, following the migration route of the snow geese. This isn't really about geese, and Fiennes doesn't seem to find out anything new about himself- which is probably how it actually happened, but still, we want epiphanies, man! He does meet some really interesting characters on the way, like a Texan building a house in front of a pylon because it's cheaper, and an Albertan hobo (an actual train-hopping hobo, I'm not being rude).

Zoology- Ben Dolnick

Don't get me wrong, it was fun to read, and there are good characters in there, but this entire book is just first world problems. "I love her. She's taken. I will go and cry to my goat! My Dad's ill. I will go and cry to my goat!"Seriously, Newman (the goat) is my favourite character by the end of it.

Bonjour Tristesse- Franciose Sagan

You know how it is, you don't get into uni, so you write a million-copy bestseller instead. Ok then, Sagan. Aside from the fact I'm crazy-jealous Sagan actually pulled that off, this is a seriously good book. Like a French Great Gatsby, where you don't hate all the characters. And there are some awesome lines in there; like get-the-highlighter-out-that's-good kinda lines. 

Films

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I really, really liked this movie. I can't tell if it was the Sonic Youth in the soundtrack, or the fact Erza "corrupter of Souls" Miller was the one playing it that I liked most... But yeah, this is great, and it does the book justice. One thing, it's the kind of film that you'll probably only like if you're a teenager now, or if you were a teenager in the late 80's- early 90's (when the film is set)- it's one of those. Also Emma Watson can't act, but we knew that.

Full Metal Jacket

Brilliant. I had a half hour argument about whether or not it's better than Platoon (hint: it is). The film is spilt into two parts: Training to die and actually dying. I love that spilt. And sure, Matthew Modine was in the worst film of all time or something, but he can actually act. Honest. 

The Graduate

The first 45 minutes are hilarious. Actually hilarious. But then it kind of just decays into too much of Dustin Hoffman being a dick, and not enough of Mrs Robinson being a boss. Also the end is pretty iconic- you should watch that bit, just miss out the bit in the middle. The only other thing that really annoyed me is the casting- Hoffman was 30 playing a 21 year old (altought I can't actually picture anyone else doing the role justice) and Mrs Robinson is actually only 5 years older than him. That's just rude. 

Sleepy Hollow

Watch it for the lols. And for the fact that Christina Ricci looks reaaaaally freaky here. Even more than in the addams family. No joke. It's Tim Burton man, you know what you're gonna get...

Broken Embraces

Aka the one where Penelope Cruz is hot and makes gazpatcho. It's really good, a noir film done with typical Almodovar colour and colourful characters. And it opens with a sex scene (por supuesto). Watch it. Except watch All About my Mother first, m'kay?

Looper

This was pretty good, although maybe not worth the immense effort I put in to go and see it. Two things: Plotholes and the fact I find Emily Blunt really annoying. That's what let it down- but it's a good idea and well acted. Also freaky small children are best- they acknowledge that everyone secretly hates small children and I shouldn't be shot down everytime and say I don't like them. 

Warrior 

This is a kinda typical underdog boxing story that would not have been saved from cliche if it wasn't for great performances from Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. It's decent, and it's got a song by the National on it's soundtrack (plus points for you!) but it's nothing game changing to be honest.

Taken 2

Watched a bootleg copy of this on a Chinese coach, and the mangled english subtitles were the best thing about it. JIIIIIIIIIIMMY!

The Last Emperor

I thought this was very interesting, although the ending was a bit of a cop-out "I-have-no-idea-how-to-end-this-its-already-three-hours-long-help-me". It was informative, but the only really entertaining parts involve Peter O'Toole's aristocratic tutor.


So concludes the epic what I read and watched this month thing. Review. Whatever.  

 


   
 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Making a Family out of Strangers

So I went to a concert yesterday. Twin Atlantic, who were a lot better than I thought they'd be, even if I had to stand through Charlie Simpson (that bloke from McFly. Or Busted. It was a joke last night but now I actually can't remember which one he's from). These aren't just thoughts on this gig, but every gig I've ever been to.

I passed a church saying "Jesus makes a family out of strangers". I don't believe that: Jesus is not a shared experience.

The bass in your ribcage, the numbness in your ears. The random jokes, conversations, embraces, with people you will never see again. The euphoria, the arm waving, everyone in sync. The expanding circle of the pit, the almost sickening jump into it, with elbows out.

That is a shared experience. That is a family out of strangers.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Thoughts on China (only the first day...)

So, I was in China for nine days, Beijing and Shanghai, essentially the two capitals of China (Beijing officially, while Shanghai is the capital of China's economy and culture), with my college. The fact it was with my college is extremely important, as it made the whole thing a hell of a lot more touristy than I would have liked. I only actually wrote anything down for the first day, I was too busy the rest of the time. I don't regret not writing- not yet, anyway, maybe when I'm older and this doesn't feel fresh in my mind, I'll regret not having a record, but until then, it's all good.

On the plane: (please note it was my first long haul flight and I wrote this after about 24 hours of not sleeping)
 I'm on a plane, a metal bird going at 900 mph, making a journey that would have lasted years into less than half a day, and I'm expected to sleep while the enormity of people's lives carries on below us.

Arriving:
The smog is ridiculous, the airport is huge and empty, everyone's speaking too loud, and the tour guide won't stop smiling and talking. It's amazing.

The Temple of Heaven:  
All the old people at the outside gym are hilarious. They also remind me that China will get old before it gets rich, and how Chinese culture admires the elderly, whereas here, they're seen and not heard, and appearing old something to be cheated for as long as possible. The temple itself makes me feel how religious buildings always make me feel: Like a trespasser. I'm not religious, and I can't bring myself to be religious, I feel a bit like I'm destroying a place's sacredness just by being there. That being said, this is the most impressive religious place I've ever been- everything here just seems to be on a bigger scale.

Exploring Beijing:
Everybody apart my little group of mates just seems to have stayed in the hotel- I just don't get why. The power was out on the main road we walked down- a guy waved us into is restaurant in spite of the lack of power. After a weird (butter covered fruit?) meal, we went up onto a footbridge over the main road. It hit me then, that we were somewhere completely different from anywhere else we (or at least I'd) ever been. And I couldn't stop grinning about it. Or maybe it was jetlag.     

   

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Fading

I Don't Know What this is. It was in my Notebook. Don't Judge. 

 I feel like I'm fading away and no-one is noticing because they're just fading away too, only at different angles so in certain light we all look alive.  

Yeah that's it. If I do anything better I'll put it up. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Books read and films watched in September

So, I stared doing this idea/format in my vlogs (youtube.com/user/megakaren0 if you're interested). But then it became clear that people didn't really care, so I decided I'd write down my reviews here.

Books:

The Bloody Camber- Angela Carter 

This is a collection of sort stories, re-tellings of familiar fairy tales for the most part (although, as far as I'm aware, the title story is completely original) and the key difference is the way they are presented. There is a change in tone, these once innocent stories now have sexual overtones. The other key difference is the women; they can fend for themselves. Mothers, Grandmothers, Daughters, they all have their moments, and, indeed, it's the men who are now victims and powerless pawns. However, if I've made this seem like an overtly man-hating book, it's not- I didn't realise that Carter's point of view was a feminist one until long after I'd finished reading- maybe this shows how time has passed, and Carter is no longer radical, or maybe it just shows how the feminist ideas don't dominate the plot- the stories are gripping and vivid (even when one of them is just a page long).

Neuromancer- William Gibson

The sci-fi book that predicted the internet, long before it happened, and coined words like "cyberspace". If you want to know what The Matrix would be if it was a novel- look no further. Seriously gripping, fast-paced, and with actual characters you care about (even the computer systems have personality), this is a great book. Or maybe I'm just saying that because Gibson is Canadian...

The Black Dahlia- James Ellroy

Skip the first 50-100 pages (which are solely about boxing), and you have a gripping story. A fictionalised account of a real, horrific, murder, this isn't a happy book. It does have a vivid cast of characters, a twisting plot, and something like a love hexagon with a dead girl in the middle. Yeah, weird.

Films:

The Villiage

Ok, really? My friend lent me this in effort to make me dislike Sigourney Weaver. It didn't work, but the film is crap. The twist is so utterly ridiculous, and the story follows so many conventions, I don't even wanna talk about it. Except i just did.

Psycho

Yeah, it's kinda embarrassing (for me, anyway) that I'd never seen this before, since I'm a big Hitchcock fan; Rear Window, North by Northwest, and Vertigo are some of my favourite films. And Psycho is up there too, it's just that it never felt original to me. Which is stupid, because it is the Original attractive-girl-in-peril-from-serial-killer movie, and it's done very well. Perkins is great as Norman Bates (hey, it rhymes!). I feel like I should have watched it earlier.

The Sting

I should have liked this more than I did. Don't get me wrong, it's a good movie, just too slow paced for me. And I was promised more Paul Newman than there was. But it's well acted, well plotted, and just not for me.


Dirty Harry

This film got in trouble for being "fascist"when it first came out, which is pretty funny, since there are waaaaay more right wing than it (ahem, Taken: KILL ALL THE IMMIGRANTS). It's just a bit of laugh, really, a very violent laugh. And "did I shoot five or six" is a great line. If you're planning a movie night, this would be a good film.


Apocalypse Now

Again, there is no good reason for me not having seen this sooner (maybe it's because my Dad always wanted me to watch war films when I was a kid). This is great, and there are so many iconic moments it's hard to choose a best moment. Scary, funny, and tragic at the time. Also, extra points for the Harrison Ford cameo. However, if you've never seen it before, make sure you the normal version, and not the "Redux" one. Seriously, don't do it, unless you're really, really, interested in French rubber plantations.


So concludes the films and books from september. (that's kind of a lie actually, I also read China Inc. but didn't want to review it in much detail, since it's now so dated as a non-fiction book, and I watched The Girl who Played with Fire, but just watch the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo first, alright? 

    

                

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

26 song lyrics

I keep a diary, and every week I write down a lyric from a song that has been on repeat during that time. So, I'd thought I could share the first 26 from 2012. Enjoy!

Bluejays and cardinals all come out to play,
Daisies on the hillside like cancer on the skin,
I sit transfixed by a hole in your t-shirt,
I come from Chino, so all your threats are empty,
I'm leaving cos you don't feel what you're dreaming of,
Oh, look about, all the stars are coming out,
Thank God for small favours in high doses,
With a name by which I'd never call you,
Am I a man, or am I a Muppet?
Your skin's so fair, it's not fair,
Don't tell me your name, if you don't want it sung,
B-I-L-L-I-E-H-O-L-I-D-A-Y
Fuck it, where's my shit? Oh my God, I'm mad at it,
Summer is ready, when you are,
A tiger's never gonna change it's stripes, I guess,
I am from Salinas, where the women go forever,
Power doesn't care what you need, as long as you're on your knees,
My feelings never change a bit, I always feel like shit,
Sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is,
Fuck your Mitsubishi, I've a horse outside,
Rosenrot oh rosenrot,
You can get it if you really want, but you must try and try, try and try,
A cracked smile and a silent shout,
We grew up at midnight,
Who is an honest man?
A seven nation army couldn't hold me back,
NO. SLEEP. TILL BROOKLYN.

 It's quite weird, because they all remind exactly of what was going on at that time. Also, there are actually 27, because the 1st of January was a Sunday. Finally, LOOK AT THE GODDAMN RANGE. From Swedish dance, to children's film soundtracks, to German industrial metal, to an Irish comedy song. 
Brilliant.

    

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Transcendental Youth: the Mountain Goats

I've succumbed to my friends' pressure, and decided to blog mainly about music. And what better way to start then by reviewing the new Mountain Goats album? They're totally not my favourite band or anything...

So, the album starts with Amy aka Spent Gladiator and the line "Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive", and I had to suppress a cheer. That, my friends, is how you start an album. The song itself is what you could call typical of the new non-boombox tMG, Darnielle's voice is as distinctive as ever ("just stay aaaaaaaLIIIIIIIIIIIIVE"- no joke, this is what happens). And, like all the great Mountain Goats songs, it has lines that sound absolutely ridiculous taken out of context: "I hide down in my corner, because I like my corner". Track two, Lakeside View Apartments suite is driven by a simple piano structure, and it's not often you'd talk about a drop in a Goats song, but what happens at 1:04 seconds in comes pretty close. The song also contains my favourite line on the album; "John, John, still playing postman after all these years", which just pleases me so much- the idea of John (the often sole member and song-writer of the band) carrying letters and messages from his characters and turning them into songs is just plain AWESOME. One criticism, "lakeside view for my whole crew" seems a bit cringey- does anyone actually say crew?

Cry For Judas, the lead single. What can I say? Dat bass. Dem horns. Ok, I'm done. Another self-destructive-but-life-affirming song, but it's a good one. And the lyric about "broken machines" will forever remind me of the "twin high-matience machines" from Next Year and given my love for The Sunset Tree, there was no way I could dislike this song. It's a difficult act to follow, and I don't think  Harlem Roulette quite manages it- although it is an effing brilliant title, and I like that jittery country-esque guitar. A lot. I think that I can't get into it because of its overt Americanism- "even awful dreams are good dreams, if you're doing it right"- really?

White Cedar is the next song, and really not my favourite- a slow paced piano song, which just aren't my thing- and religious references in the song aren't my favourite either ("you can't tell me what my spirit tells me isn't true- can you?"- No, I can't, but I can tell you that you don't have a sprit. Sorry, atheist fo' lyf).  Moving onto Until I am Whole, and again, I don't like it- another slow, piano driven song. If I didn't love tMG so much, I'd be tempted to skip it- All that being said, I saw John in concert with anonymous 4 (a female vocal quartet), and they fleshed out this song beautifully- so it's not all bad, and I really don't want to dislike it, okay?

Everything is redeemed as soon as the buzz of Night Light kicks in. "I am a mandolin" is a genius metaphor for stress, and the fact that "Jenny" makes an appearance makes the album for me (try and tell me it's not the same person who showed up on a yellow and black Kawasaki on All Hail West Texas and I will come for you). And the sense of unease created is real, and scary. "Plug a night light in, because the small dark corners have got designs on me".

And then things really get going on The Diaz Brothers piano-driven, poppy, it's something you couldn't imagine tMG doing five years ago, but that doesn't mean it isn't brilliant. If you were looking for somewhere to start with tMG, you just found it. "MERCY FOR THE DIAZ BROTHERS" is something that will be yelled out at their concerts for a long time to come. After that, Counterfeit Florida Plates was always gonna be a bit of a comedown, a song about mental disintegration and paranoia, but the fact that "look for the cars with the counterfeit Florida plates" works as a hook is a testament to Darnielle's songwriting ability. In Memory of Satan is in a similar vein to Counterfeit, a song about fallen people, whether they be villains or not (this song is seemingly told from Satan's perspective) is unimportant. Spent Gladiator 2 brings us back to Amy's story right at the start of the album, and this acoustic song is unnervingly similar to something off The Coroner's Gambit (in a good way), and the return of "just stay alive" is welcome after the slow, sobering In Memory Of Satan.

And then it ends- the almost jazz of Transcendental Youth sees it out in style, "shroud ourselves in the cosmos, let the music play" is what we are urged to do as we "sing, sing high, as the fire climbs"- and I'm still more than happy to do that. Despite it's faults, I'd say Transcendental Youth is my favourite Mountain Goats record since Heretic Pride (2008). Both Spent Gladiators, Cry for Judas, Night Light, and Transcendental Youth are worth your time, and tMG fans can find something to love on pretty much every song.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

I wrote this at 3am a year ago.

This is my favourite time.
 I can hear rain hitting the street outside.
 I'm tired but not tired.
 I listen to the rain.
 I listen.
 The hum of the fridge.
 My own breathing.
 Comforting mumble of cars passing the windows.
 My watch ticking.
 I can't sleep.
 I might miss something.
 Important.

A motorbike is going past.
 This is a car.
 Gone.
Another.
 Gone.
 Everything is going.

(BTW I totally didn't just hit enter after every line to make it look like I'd written more. Trolol.)  

Monday, 10 September 2012

London: I've got to leave.

Do you ever the feeling you belong? Not just with some people, but with an entire place?

I feel like I belong to London, as much as London belongs to me. But you shouldn't own too much, so I need to leave it. I'll come back some day and reclaim it.

There are more than seven million in my city, and seven billion people on the planet. That's why I need to leave. It's true, there are so many different cultures here, but that's just an introduction, and I want to get to the end.





(yeah I've already failed at the once a week thing. Forgive me? I wrote this thing ages ago. I don't know if it's any good, but I know it's true.)

Sunday, 2 September 2012

"I just don't think I can take that kind of rejection."

So yeah, I started a blog. Because somethings should be longer than 140 characters, and Tumblr is just a place to reblog attractive photos of attractive people. And my youtube channel just isn't the place for this.

Anyway, obscure references galore! Well, not that obscure. "I just don't think I can take that kind of rejection" is from a $100+ million grossing film, and compared to some of the stuff I listen to, Tegan and Sara aren't even niche (Hipstuuuuur). Blog title: T+S, "Mark my words, I'll be something, someday" because I will. Maybe, if I can be bothered. And the Back To The Future quote for this blog post because I've been meaning to share what I write for a while now, because I think people see me as "that funny looking one that does stupid things.", which is true, I am those things (I like being those things, thank you Sir), but not all the time. So. This is serious Eibes.

I'm also doing this because it gives me something to do online, since otherwise I end up on sporcle, showing that I know all the capitals of Europe, or some other piece of useless information. I'm going to update this every week (I make it sound so simple, right?).  Because I have stuff that I've written, and I haven't done anything with it, because if someone didn't like it,  I didn't think I could "take that kind of rejection".

Well, I can.

Also, I'm Eibhlin. I'm from London. I'm seventeen. Enough introductions.