Friday, September 30, 2005

I'm not that kind of blogger...

...y'know the one, the guy who links to a news story and then comments on it. Nope, other guys, more dedicated guys, like this guy and that guy already do that, and do it better than I could ever be bothered to.

But if I was that guy, I'd direct your attention to this sort of thing, and make a comment along the lines of "Holy shit! Look at these preview pages of the Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely ALL STAR SUPERMAN #1! It makes me so happy I could giggle like a little girl being tickled! It's an instant fucking classic!"

But I'm not, so I won't.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

STAR WARS versus QUEEN ELIZABETH I

Just saw Emperor Palpatine facing off against Helen Mirren's Good Queen Bess over on Channel 4. Smite her, my lord! Smite her good!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Didn't want to say anything, while it was all being sorted out, but...

...my iPod Nano self-destructed on Sunday! They say pride comes before a fall, and as I was pulling it out of my pocket to show my old mate (and loyal reader!) Stevie, there was a jaw-dropping moment when I realised there was a big fuck-off crack running down the LCD causing the screen to be about three quarters obscured.

Bugger!
That night, I checked various Apple and iPod forums and discovered other people making the same complaint, with some stating they were getting short shrift from after sales care, that their complaints were being met by hostility by staff. One delightful trend was that the people highlighting their complaint were being rounded upon and pilloried by Apple loyalists on the forums. Brand loyalty is one thing, blind devotion is quite scary. Mob rule is never pretty, but these guys were ready to go to war for the honour of a corporation's good name. Freakjobs. After years of being an Apple nut ridiculed by my PC lovin' comrades, I had a scary night of looking beyond the curtain. It was like LOGAN'S RUN, dudes! My little stone had turned red and suddenly it was my turn to hide.

Fortunately, I only got through to lovely, helpful people at Apple who quickly arranged for a replacement to be sent out, and the damaged one collected. This morning
the news broke big, and I no longer had to worry about strangers stoning me in the street because I had pointed out that my piece of Apple gear had self-destructed in my pocket.

So basically, I had an iPod Nano for six days, and thoroughly loved it, and hope my new one lasts a helluva lot longer.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Oh dear, oh dear

Some things in rock journalism are inevitable. Every time David Bowie or Prince release a new album, it will be reviewed by a past disciple who will announce it as a return to form. A few weeks or months shall pass, and it will be revised downwards by popular consensus as "just another underwhelming new David Bowie/Prince album".

The last issue of UNCUT similarly built up the new Rolling Stones album as something similar, their best since SOME GIRLS was the claim. Finally got round to giving it a spin. I wouldn't argue it has some genuine high water marks, but I wouldn't claim it was better than TATTOO YOU or even STEEL WHEELS. The opening track, Rough Justice has some great Ron Wood guitar work, with a tone straight outta The Faces' playbook, and is matched by some old-school Mick Jagger misogynistic strut. Back Of My Hand honestly wouldn't have been out of place on STICKY FINGERS or EXILE ON MAIN STREET. I mean it man, it's that good. Keith throws in a typically swoonsome ballad (This Place Is Empty) which sounds like Tom Waits impersonating Anthony Newell, while covering Al Green. Only better. Anyway, if you've heard MAIN OFFENDER, or the other Xpensive Winos albums, you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, most the rest of the album (which is definitely too long) is full of rather pedestrian filler, occasionally great opening licks then descend into clunky verses that go nowhere interesting. But then, there's part of me that's amazed that Mick and Keef can actually spend enough time in a room together to come up with an album, let alone one that's pretty darned good in places, if ultimately uneven. Mick is especially entertaining on this record, swearing away like an ambarrassing old uncle at a family wedding. Aw, gawdblessim.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

NO DIRECTION HOME

Thanks to my spy at the BBC for sending me the preview tape of Marty Scorsese's Bob Dylan docko. The word is: it's bloody good. Nice little companion piece to Chronicles Vol. 1. It's amazing how young the guy looks. You look at him now, craggy, like Mount Rushmore or somethin', you can't believe the guy was ever just a kid. To be so young and at the centre of such a whirlwind, so much expectation heaped upon you by both your audience and your peers (who really should know better) - no wonder the guy cracked up.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Prairie Wind: not crap, thank God

A big shout out to my secret spy at Reprise Records who got me a pre-release copy of the new Neil Young LP. As someone who regards himself as both a big fan and a harsh critic of Young's output, I can say whole-heartedly that this is easily his most satisfying release since either HARVEST MOON or SLEEPS WITH ANGELS, depending on whether you believe (like some) that SLEEPS was his last great work, or (like me) you believe it to be the start of a long decline that reached its nadir with the abysmal ARE YOU PASSIONATE?. This album is being dubbed "part three of the HARVEST trilogy", but bears little similarity to either of its supposed predecessors. One tune obviously echoes the riff of HARVEST MOON for effect, but other than that, there is little to embody the notion of the three albums sharing a concept. Instead, it often sounds to my ears like it has more in common with AFTER THE GOLD RUSH or even ON THE BEACH.


One thing it does share with its supposed stablemates is some gorgeous work from the current line-up of the Stray Gators, specifically the sinuous lap steel work of Ben Keith, and the meliflous bedding of keyboards Spooner Oldham lays down, holding everything together almost invisibly. In fact, it's in many ways Keith's album, a reminder that the man could be arguably the key collaborator of Young's career (there's a pub debate I'll doubtless have with Jeff Smith at some point: David Briggs, Stephen Stills, Jack Nietzsche, Danny Whitten, Poncho Sampedro... Who exactly did get the best out of Neil Young?).

Friday, September 23, 2005

Following his bliss

Just noticed this: one of my favourite internet comics journos, Alan David Doane of Comicbook Galaxy has gave up his blog there to concentrate on a blog devoted entirely to the work of one artist, James Kochalka. Curious move, but whatever makes you happy I suppose. The moral of this story is gosh, is it so long since I checked in on Doane's blog that he's had time to give up on it and start another? I'm really not spending enough time on the web, am I? One more time, for auld lang syne: DAMN YOU MURDOCH, AND YOUR INFERNAL SKY+ BOX!!


Anyway, I like crisps. I could start a crisps blog tomorrow. It'd be great. There's always new crisps on the market. Always an old favourite to revisit. But then to give up that crisps blog to start a blog purely about the delights of the greatest crisps in the world, Tayto Cheese and Onion? Great as they are, I really don't know if they could withstand that kind of scrutiny.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Another milestone

Apparently, I just passed the "200 posts" mark, without noticing, or making a big whoop about it. So, I've been doing this for just over a year, and made just over 200 posts: I'm hardly the most conscientious blogger on the planet, but I'm far from being the laziest. Could do better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

iPod gloating

Aaah, my lovely iPod. Sometimes, I have customers coming in with the tell-tale white earbuds. I always ask them what they're listening to, and I always gloat because my taste is better than theirs.
Friggin' Queen, I asks ya.

But now, I gloat because my iPod makes yours look like an unwieldy house brick! Mwahhahahahahahaha!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Yo, Happy Birthday, sis

Happy birthday, Lesley. You weren't really born in a zoo. With the monkeys, and the donkeys, and the big kangaroos.

Monday, September 19, 2005

my lovely iPod

My Nano arrived this morning while I was having a shit. Yeah, yeah, yeah, too much information. So anyway, I was finishing up when I heard a knock on the door at ten past eight. Quickly went to the bedroom window. Delivery guy says "package from Apple Computers - d'you want me to throw it up to you?". Funny guy.

Now comes the big challenge. Can I wear it on the bus into work tomorrow morning without breaking into song? Hell, I'm "lovably eccentric" enough without being the guy who sings to himself on public transport too.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I ♥ Keith Giffen

This is going to be impressionistic, 'cus my memory is shot to hell. The timeline may be a bit off.

My admiration for the American comic book writer/artist Keith Giffen goes right back to when I was a kid lying on my neighbour's floor reading reprints of THE DEFENDERS in Marvel UK's influential HULK WEEKLY (it was basically Dez Skinn's prototype for his later magazine WARRIOR, which launched Alan Moore to greatness). Later on, I'll seriously fall in love with his work on the DOCTOR FATE reprints I buy from my cousin, and the tale-end of his first run as artist and co-plotter on LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. During the heady days of the mid-to-late eighties at Dick Giordano's DC Comics, Giffen is the go-to guy for re-thinks, re-jigs, and re-boots. At one point, he's got his finger in every pie, co-writing the Justice League, L.E.G.I.O.N, and the Legion Of Superheroes. Which meant he was pretty much in charge of the present and future of the DC universe on a planetary and cosmic scale at the time. Plus, he's also DC's official satirist, with his series AMBUSH BUG. No wonder there'd be such a backlash against the guy later. It's a great time for DC. After Alan Moore and Frank Miller's recent work, there's an excitement about. John Byrne's doing SUPERMAN. George Perez's WONDER WOMAN. Mike Grell is on GREEN ARROW. Howard Chaykin and then Bill Sienkiewicz drawing THE SHADOW. DC are reaping the benefits of the indie boom of the last few years. Creators and editors from Warrior, Eclipse, First Comics and others are returning to the mainstream, and the cream are working for Giordano. The medium has become cool, legit, overground. MAUS wins a Pullitzer. Comics are growing up, and so am I.

It's a year or two later. For a while, I pretty much quit buying American comics. In the UK, there's 2000AD, CRISIS, ESCAPE, REVOLVER and DEADLINE going on. There's a feeling in the air that superhero comics are dead. Killed by the fact that THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and WATCHMEN were just so damned definitive. The only American comics I look out for are invariably created by Brits (SWAMP THING, BLACK ORCHID, HELLBLAZER, MARSHAL LAW, SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, THE INVISIBLES etc). I'm seventeen, eighteen. Drinking booze and chasing chicks starts to take precedence. I get out of the habit of hanging around Dark Horizons and The Talisman with my cousin Bellboy. Instead I'm hanging around the Northland Arms with Jeff, Mogie, and Glenn.

I go to university. Apparently, superhero comics didn't die. They boom. Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane and a few others parlay their success on various Marvel work-for-hire standards into vast riches forming Image Comics. I'm totally oblivious. I'm reading the canon of modern literature and drinking like a young F Scott Fitzgerald. This boom is supported by speculators drawn to comics by reports of quick profit on the collector's market. Back issue prices are soaring, driven by multiple covers, foil enhancements, gimmicks, assorted technological leaps and bounds. However, someone realizes these comics are pretty much all unreadable shit. The bottom falls out of the boom. The speculators get out quick. Boom inevitably becomes bust. Crash goes the comic market. I don't hear the noise from the Student Union bar.

Then one day I'm in Belfast sheltering from the rain in Dillon's bookstore. Oh look, they sell comics here now (that'll be a short lived thing, that'll soon disappear with the crash). Oooh, there's some Legion Of Superheroes by Keith Giffen and some other dudes. I used to love that when I was younger. I really liked that guy. Says it's a sequel to that whole Darkseid thing that used to run through the book back when him and Paul Levitz did it. I buy it, get it home to the squalid shithole I'm living in, read it, and can't understand it. This Legion is nothing like the one I remember. It used to be easy to understand 'cus they all wore costumes and had codenames which described what they could do. Now they refer to each other by their first names and all wear the same jacket. But something in the density of the storytelling, in the weight and thickness of the backstory, in its tapestry, in its self-referencing mythology, made me want to go back and investigate. To immerse myself in the detail. Here was an ongoing American mainstream comic that hadn't ran away from the challenge of WATCHMEN, but had met it head on. It was serious, political, adult, it was THE BIG CHILL of comics. It was a superhero comic about growing up, about losing yourself in order to find yourself. Reading it resonated totally with me at the time: I was living away from home for the first time, losing my youthful idealism, finding my feet as as an adult.

However, unknown to me at the time, there had been an obvious reaction in the market against the complicated storytelling of a few years previously. Comics had regressed to pin-up splash pages, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. Giffen's later-day Legion was an anomaly, seemingly despised in the marketplace. But it had done its work. I was reading comics again. In the immortal words of Michael Corleone, "Everytime I think I'm out, they pull me back in". I end up hunting down about two years of back issues. Giffen leaves the book a year later. It goes down the crapper without him. Turns out his collaborators were well intentioned, but not natural storytellers. But those three years were sheer comic book gold, simply the most under-rated achievement in modern American superhero comics. Plus in his last issue (#38), Giffen blew up the Earth. How's that for the most spectacular example of throwing the dummy out of the pram the industry may have ever seen.


(Fifth in an irregularly occuring series, after I ♥ Jack Kirby, I ♥ Steve Ditko, I ♥ Kev Walker and I ♥ Frank Thorne)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I predict a riot... probably in east Belfast

And now...
videos from our first birthday party! First, a very drunk me demonstrates his amazing mime skills! And then, the world's worst Van Halen tribute band take to the stage! Do the old right button click, "save target as" jazz for full pissed up idiocy.

Sweet baby Jesus. Won't somebody think of the children?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Belfast's burning, dumdiddleumdumdum

Is there anything funnier than turning on the news and seeing what used to be my local branch of the Northern Bank burned to the ground? I lived in Cloughfern for two years, and all the landmarks from those two years: the bank, the Chinese chippy, the Xtravision, all torched. Now that truly is pissing on your own chips.

"Will what do yu fancy doin' tinight, Wayne?"
"Will I wus goin' a go to the drink link, git a tenner owt, git a sweet'n'sour an' rent the new Vin Diesel"
"Will ye can't, cus ye bornt thim all out las' night".

Friggin' sammies.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Sold!

So I was kinda thinking about getting an iPod mini, but also kinda hankered after a proper iPod with the colour screen an' all. So when this debuted a few hours ago, I thought I'd treat myself.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Oh my aching head...

I've got a worse hangover today than Sunday, but it's okay. The amazing thing is, we're even too stunned to gloat properly. Fantastic. The best night to be a Northern Ireland supporter since 1982. I just can't stop grinning.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

So what's the greatest accolade...

...this website could receive on its first birthday? How's about Rich Johnston nicking a story we led on Friday?

Monday, September 05, 2005

SKY+ confessions, pt 1

One of the main reasons I bought the SKY+ box (for American readers, our best selling TIVO equivalent), was to record the entire Bruce Timm JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED series. Just watched the last episode of series 3, epilogue, and I dare anyone who grew up loving Batman comic books to see this and not have a lump in your throat.

My second SKY+ confession? I'm typing this in the nude. Okay, that didn't really have anything to do with SKY+, but you're strangely aroused right now, aintcha?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Happy birthday to us

So, it's the first anniversary of this blog on tuesday the sixth. But the birthday party was yesterday. And on saturday, the combined editorial staff (me), readership from far and near (hi Steve, hi Ed) and assorted friends, family and former bandmates spent the day getting hi-lariously pissed in the triple celebration of this, Northern Ireland winning a competitive football match, and to wave farewell to Jeff and Clarice as they head west to the U.S. of A. Pictures to follow. But beware. They may involve mpegs of me playing air guitar.

So anyway - happy birthday to us: looks like the blog has lasted at least seven months longer than I originally predicted!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

And now, Frank Quitely's JUDGE DREDD

THE SUN's mangled Grant Morrison/Frank Quitely story has got me thinking about Vince's work for 2000AD/THE MEGAZINE back in the day. As far as memory serves, he never actually drew a Dredd strip, though he did play in that arena, drawing the tale of a Judge who'd taken the long walk in MISSIONARY MAN, and a Hondo City Judge in SHIMURA. The majority of his work on ol' Stony Face himself was limited to a series of covers for the reprint mag, THE COMPLETE JUDGE DREDD. As the guy always does, the work features a slight redesign of the standard Judge uniform which should be pointed out to anyone developing a new attempt at a Dredd movie: it's eminently practical as well as dramatic. A helmet that looks like it'd be wearable for large stretches, along with solutions for those impractical elbow and knee pads (they're incorporated into extended gloves and boots). So ladies and gentlemen, for your enjoyment: Frank Quitely's Judge Dredd: never to be repeated until he's no longer hot enough to be courted as an exclusive by DC or Marvel!



Now I'm off to the pub to watch N'orn Ir'n thrash Azkaban. And then: parrrr-taaaay!

Friday, September 02, 2005

not often the place to see comic news...



...but today's THE SUN featured news and art fom Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's new project: the cover concept and art for Robbie Williams' new album. Lovely stuff, but no way am I buying it, fer obvious reasons. The piece is as full of half-baked as any mainstream coverage of comics creators: it claims Vince designed Judge Dredd, fer grud's sake. Typically gorgeous Quitely textures, with a smug showbiz twat getting in the road. Sorry about the low-res scans, but they're from really crap newsprint.



UPDATE MONDAY 05 SEPTEMBER 2005
If you're a big Frank Quitely fan in America, looks like you'll have to pick this 'un up on import. One of my favourite bloggers, Simon at No Rock And Roll Fun (the man responsible for me never having to buy any music journalism ever again), reports/gloats about it here.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

finally, a holiday a brother can get behind...

...oh yeah.

*sniff*. Still missin' yeh, big man.