Tuesday, April 27, 2004


friday 30th april

9pm mute:
wire. liars. pan sonic. modey lemon. kaito. djxdj.. tim wright. carter tutti. irmin schmidt & kumo play can. komputer. pink grease. john peel
tramway £16.50

wednesday 28th april

9pm mute:
wire. liars. pan sonic. modey lemon. kaito. djxdj. tim wright.
carter tutti. irmin schmidt & kumo play can. komputer.
pink grease. t raumschmiere
the venue £15.50

Monday, April 26, 2004

Title: Market Forces
Author: Richard Morgan

Market Forces is the third novel, in what seems as many years, by Richard Morgan, an English writer who is currently living in Glasgow – having been a lecturer at Strathclyde University, presumably until he got a load of money from the film rights to Altered Carbon, his first novel. While his first two novels, Altered Carbon and Broken Angel, were linked in that they featured the same lead character and were set in the far future, Market Forces introduces a new lead, and brings us closer to home. But even with that, Morgan manages to include a couple of references to his other work – the idea that Mars is so boring it has become a popular quote from a TV show, and at one point when the lead is detained and is handed a book to read, which is clearly Altered Carbon. Thematically Market Forces is consistent with the previous two novels, as the sheer level of violence he employs in his writing.

Market Forces is set in London, 30 years from now, where competition has increased to a whole new level. The result was varied – on the one hand the Domino Recession created new levels of poverty, which resulted in the cordoned zones, new age ghettoes, where the poor are detained in steadily decaying housing estates – on the other hand, executives continue to become rich, but to maintain their position they have to fight, road rage leading to duels that are now the only way to attain promotion, or to secure a tender. Against this we have Chris Faulkner, a man who is fought tooth and nail, escaped the Zones to reach corporate heights. Market Forces starts with him on the first day of a new job with the notorious Shorn Associates, a new job in the field of Conflict Investment. Where corporations monitor small wars, revolutions and the like, and invest, providing weapons, tech and data in return for a cut of the profits – pretty much giving them the power over emerging governments and dictatorships, so that they can maximise profits on industry in those countries.

As the story unfolds we get a feel for Faulkner and how he finds himself in an increasingly violent environment. Executives from Shorn are expected to carry hand guns, and are expected to use them. From the start it is clear that certain partners in the firm don’t like Faulkner, and there is a conspiracy against him. This keeps him on his toes, makes his friends think he is paranoid, and increasingly prone to lashing out. Along the way the relationship with his wife is deteriorating, and it looks like Faulkner might really want to find a way out of his situation, preferably without finding his way back to the zones in the process.

The themes of wealth and the corporate hunger for that, and how that is starting to gather an increasing power that at times seems to bypass governments are ones that are present to some degree in all Morgan’s books. There is a certain amount of reference to the UN and its struggle against this kind of trend which was really introduced with Broken Angel, where the lead character found himself in the role of Peace Keeper. In Market Forces the UN and its agents are mocked as ineffective, though there is the idea that Faulkner might find that the UN could offer him an out from the corporate structure.

While the violence in his first two novels at times comes across as excessive there is a certain distance attained, the technology which is central to the name Altered Carbon, being one which kind of bypasses death and makes the violence almost acceptable. However Market Forces is closer to home, closer to now, which gives things a different feeling. Personally I have a curious relationship with violence and its depiction in media, one where I find that it doesn’t always sit comfortably, despite the fact that I am often harder to shock than most people. With Market Forces I am left with even more mixed feelings on the violence than I was in his previous books.

Coupled with the change of pace Morgan has presented with Market Forces having established one vision with his previous two novels, makes this, at least initially, a little harder to get into. In the end though Market Forces is readable and continues to have relevant ideas at the core – especially when one pays attention to employment and housing trends within the UK, and the growth of corporate greed around the world, all things which are central to the ideas of Market Forces.

Title: Returner
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Anne Suzuki, Kirin Kiki, Goro Kishitani, Yukiko Okamoto, Mitsuru Murata
Director: Takashi Yamazaki

Returner is a contemporary Japanese answer to the Terminator series, an idea which is ironically backed up by the inclusion of a trailer for the third Terminator film on the DVD. Of course it isn’t exactly the Terminator, rather than the idea of machines turning on their creators, the plot centres on an alien invasion. Aliens have attacked and are devastating the Earth with their more advanced technology, desperate survivors have gathered in the mountains of Tibet, where they hope that they’ll be able to win the war before it happened by sending an agent back in time.

A teenage girl is the agent who comes back to a Japan of the present, the location of the first alien incursion. If she can kill the first alien before it sends out the signal to the mother ship then she can avert catastrophe. The girl arrives in the middle of a hit, a young Japanese man taking revenge on Yakuza child smugglers. He is an accomplished gun fighter and martial artist – a perfect accomplice for saving the world – of course he doesn’t believe her when she explains why she is here. However with a combination of trickery and the fact that the Yakuza seize the alien mean that the man agrees to help the Returner.

Like the Terminator films the action flicks back and forth between the present and the future. The future filled with effects, the alien battle scenes, devastating blasts and technology in the form of shape shifting battle suits (something classically and inspired Japanese). While the present allows a greater contrast between the initial alien contacts, and the little toys that the Returner has brought back in time with her – playing off against the more traditional scenes of yakuza and revenge scenarios.

The Returner looks good and is fun, building a suitable amount tension with the idea that perhaps there is no way to avert the alien war after all.

Title: 21 Grams
Cast: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Clea DuVall
Director:Alejandro González Iñárritu

In the last couple of years South American films have made something of a break through, a handful gaining world distribution and boosting the careers of those involved. Examples include Y Tu Mama Tambien, the director of which having moved on to the third Harry Potter film, due out this year. The Devil’s Backbone, the director of which having done films like Blade II and Hell Boy. Or Nine Queens which is being remade for the American market, with one of the roles taken by one of the young actors who was in Y Tu Mama Tambien, can be seen in the new Pedro Almodovar film Bad Education and was one of the leads in Amores Peros.

The director of Amores Peros went on to his first Hollywood film, 21 Grams which stars Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Torres and Sean Penn, a film which won Oscars and got some serious promotion. However ultimately 21 Grams is actually quite disappointing, and at times downright annoying. Despite the acclaim that came with Amores Peros, it was actually a flawed work – a series of three stories, all connecting to one event and to some degree touching as they unfold separately. However the middle story lost the momentum of the other two, and something didn’t entirely sit right. With 21 Grams director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu takes a similar kind of approach, three story lines affected by one event, and again it is traffic accident. However with 21 Grams he binds the story together tighter, so that the events of the three stories are directly affected by each other, bringing them closer and closer together. Instead of giving them the separation of three stories which play out as three short films with overlap, he cuts them all up into little snippets.

Perhaps knowing less about the film going in the technique may have created a different atmosphere, one might instead have been kept guessing, might have felt a certain sense of tension. Even knowing what has happened and how that plays out, one hopes that the events are cut with a deliberate manner, hoping that they will create a certain narrative gravity, where events spiral into an inevitability. Instead the cutting is quickly irritating, and throughout one is left with a sense of the arbitrary. There are some strikingly composed scenes, which provide a heavy imagery, working with the heavy performances – but these gain a certain over wrought quality, which attains a status of melodrama rather than striking ability.

The basic plot surrounds Benicio Del Torres, an ex-con who has found god, but accidentally kills a man and his two daughters while driving home, Naomi Watts is a recovering alcoholic, and the wife to the dead man, mother to the dead girls, while Sean Penn is a university lecturer who is dying from heart failure, though given an opportunity when he is selected to receive the dead man’s heart. Hence these lives are tied together. One thing that is surprising, especially given the way the film appears to be building, is that the event which triggers the link is never actually shown – which is a very stark contrast to Amores Peros, where the similar scenes are some of the most striking and memorable of that film.

I wanted to like 21 Grams, and I have little doubt that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has an ability with composition and mood. But quickly 21 Grams became annoying, self-involved and gimmicky, the techniques over compensating.

Amores Peros - trying to check the director’s name for 21 Grams I’ve just dug out the DVD of Amores Peros (which resulted in one of those frustrating sessions where its right in front of your face, but you keep missing it, till you are emptying shelves convinced it is there somewhere!). I noticed that the DVD had some extras – a couple of pop videos, music from the film, directed by AGI. There are also a number of deleted scenes, watching them now its curious to see how narratives evolve. How certain scenes might have explained certain things, but were decided to be too long or surplus. Leaving one with speculation of how things could have been done differently, and whether those might have been better? Also of note, is the repeated reference to Guillermo Del Toro, previously mentioned above as the director of The Devil’s Backbone, Blade II and Hellboy.

Title: The Butterfly Effect
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Melora Walters, Amy Smart, Elden Henson, William Lee Scott, Eric Stoltz
Director: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber

Even from the trailers one would get the impression that The Butterfly Effect is coming off the success of Donnie Darko – though some will probably find that they enjoy this film more, as in the end it has less ambiguity and a clearer resolution than Darko did.

Like Darko, The Butterfly Effect deals with a certain level of abstract thought, and to a degree a similarity in a kind of time travel/changing events manner. Evan as a child had a number of blackouts, during which bad things seem to have happened, which he has managed to forget altogether. We follow his growth as a 7 year old, 13 year old, and then as a 20 year old student, seeing the events, to some degree, which he is failing to recall. Hitting 20 he has successfully gone 7 years without a blackout, but in the process of celebrating this he suddenly gets a view into one of those blackouts, and what they were hiding.

This sets Evan on the path to trying to understand what really happened back then, and how this ties in with the reasons why his father was institutionalised. Unfortunately in the process he has opened some old wounds, and his childhood girlfriend ends up killing herself. Something about the way he has looked into the blackout however makes Evan realise that somehow he can actually go back to those events, and if he can do that maybe he can make thinks right? Which is what he sets out to do, unfortunately every step seems to make things worse, mirroring the idea of the title, and the quote at the start of the film – the idea that a small action can have a big effect, following the principles of chaos theory and that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can cause a tornado in an other.

Ashton Kutcher surprises to some degree as the grown up role of Evan, coming across reasonably well as the central character. Though the strength of The Butterfly Effect really comes from the supporting cast, as the character of Evan is essentially a constant, regardless of the changes in the environment around him. Throughout the film there are three other important characters – Kaylee, Tommy and Lenny. In the original set of events, Kaylee and Evan are abused by Kaylee’s father, and come to be close as a result, while Kaylee’s brother is increasingly violent and resentful of Evan’s attention towards his sister, leaving Lenny as witness to the more horrific events that surround the group. Through the film we see the real shifts in each of these characters – Kaylee is a clumsy waitress, a sorority girl, a crack whore… Tommy is a mechanic, a violent psychotic, a born again Christian… Lenny is a recluse, a catatonic mental patient, a normal student…

Through out the film there are some nice touches in terms of plot and character development that keep the film going. There are times the dialogue is perhaps a little suspect, especially when the 20 year old Evan has gone back to being a 7 year old and is speaking through his mouth. Plot wise it is reasonably tight, especially for a Hollywood film, though like any of these kind of things there is a definite scope for arguing plot holes and the in and out of the idea. Still, a decent film, and a nice dose of weird potential.

Title: Dawn Of The Dead
Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell
Director: Zack Snyder

Title: Shaun of the Dead
Cast: Simon Pegg, Kate Ashfield, Nick Frost, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran
Director: Edgar Wright

In the last month two zombie films have hit the big screen in the UK, both based on George A. Romero’s seventies classic Dawn Of The Dead. The American one is pretty much a remake of the original, updating it to a more contemporary standard in terms of look and feel and in terms of cinematic production. The British one is a little more tongue in cheek, not quite a spoof, perhaps having more respect for the material than that, but certainly described as a rom com zom (a romantic comedy with zombies).

In both cases we follow the lead characters as they go about their business, the signs of the growing disaster being woven through the background, but at such a level neither are entirely aware of what is happening. In Dawn Of The Dead, Ana (Sarah Polley) is a nurse, with the first sign of victims appearing at the hospital, initial news reports ignored on the radio on the way home. Meanwhile Shaun (Simon Pegg) has made a mess of things with his girlfriend, and as a result been dumped, leading to a serious drinking session at the pub. The morning after sees all hell breaking loose on the housing estates of America, leading Polley, and a couple of others to shelter in the local mall. While a hung over Shaun nips to the shops, blissfully ignorant of bodies in gardens, bloody hand prints smeared here and there. In fact that woman in the back garden is really bloody drunk, what a shocking state to get into. However it soon becomes clear to Shaun and his mate that the zombies are coming and they have to find somewhere safe, retrieving Shaun’s girlfriend in the process. Of course the Americans barricade themselves in the mall, while conditions outside get worse and worse, while the Brits are more traditionally British, the decide the best place to be in the event of a zombie holocaust is the local pub.

The thing with zombie holocausts is of course their very inevitability, zombies being nothing if not frustratingly relentless in the pursuit of brains and carnage. Between the two Dawn has an 18 certificate, while Shaun has a 15 – which makes it a little ironic that between the two the most gore filled scene that comes to mind was actually in Shaun Of The Dead. Both films offer a high quality zombie assault, though for the most part Shaun is playing with the humour, contrasting the regular stupors of daily life with the living dead, while Dawn has a definite edge of sheer brutality. There is something particularly nasty about the zombies in Dawn, the hissing, screeching sounds they make is quite unpleasant, and the way they come running making these sounds is particularly atmospheric and unsettling.

Both films are good in their own ways, and catching a double bill if possible is particularly recommended, especially as this underscores the similarities in concept and the differences in execution.

Title: Ginger And Cinammon [Dillo Con Parole Mie]
Cast: Stefania Montorsi, Giampaolo Morelli, Martina Merlino, Alberto Cucca, Marco Piras
Director: Daniele Luchetti

Ginger And Cinnamon is a comedy showing as part of this years Italian film festival. The first five minutes or so of the film introduce us to Stefi and Andrea, a 30-year-old couple who have just broken up, we follow each of them as they explain in detail to their friends why things happened the way they did. With this Stefi is a little down, and not really prepared for the arrival of her niece. Meggy is a 14 year old, who should have been going away with the girl scouts for the summer, but she is a liar and a schemer, and turns up at her aunt’s house having “missed” the train.

This is the set up for manipulation, Meggy convinces Stefi to take her to join the rest of the girl scouts. But they are half way to the Greek island of Los when Meggy reveals that she actually didn’t miss the train at all, and in actual fact the rest of the girls have gone to Spain, and she has tricked her aunt to take her to Los so that she can lose her virginity. From there we have the contrasts between the two characters – the stick thin aunt, who thinks she is fat, is strikingly anal, and no doubt a little neurotic, versus the hyper-precocious kid, who is older than her years and convinced she is like way clued up dude.

Despite all the contrasts, and the initial bickering, the two become close, and it is pretty clear that they both have something in common – they are both a little out of their depths on the island of love, surrounded by partying crowds. The film is moved along with the introduction of a couple of guys, Meggy falls for a guy who is the same age as Stefi, and is determined he is the one she will lose her virginity to, while a guy the age of Meggy falls for Stefi, determined that she is the one who will seem him get somewhere. With the film setting a slow burning ironic fuse, that eventually blows with amusing results.

Title: Twilight Samurai [Tasogare Seibei]
Cast: Hiroyuki Sanada, Rie Miyazawa, Nenji Kobayashi, Ren Osugi, Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Director: Yoji Yamada

The Twilight Samurai is set in a turbulent period of Japanese history, the days of the samurai are numbered, though the may not have quite acknowledged this to be the case quite yet. Though the Meiji reform, which saw the unification of Japan under a new emperor, who fought a civil war against defiant shogun, is only a few years away from the films core, and is referred to at the end.

The film is narrated by Ito, who was five at the time her mother died, though is clearly from her voice now older as she reflects on those times. Her father was a samurai, a kind of elite class, who work for the local lords shoguns, and are served by the local peasants. However samurai were not necessarily violent warriors as they are often depicted, rather in the context of this film, they are kind of civil servants, who may also be soldiers. For the most part the samurai we see here work in the castles’ stores, maintaining food stocks in case of siege, and keeping the books up to date. Ito’s father Iguchi is one of these men, and as the film unfolds it becomes clear that there is a real hierarchy amongst the samurai – a respected gent could earn as much as 1200 koku a month, while Iguchi earns a mere 50. With a wife who had been sick for years before her death, a senile mother, and two daughters Iguchi struggles to survive. And it is from this he has earned the nickname twilight amongst his peers. Each night the head of the department stops work with the onset of twilight, as he cannot read when the light reaches that stage. The rest of the samurai then take the opportunity to head down the pub and hang out with bar girls, but each night at twilight Iguchi bows out and heads home.

The film shows that Iguchi is an anomaly amongst the samurai, possessed of little ambition, he is content to work hard to survive, and delighted to watch his beautiful daughters grow. There is a certain turning point with the return of Tomoe, a child hood friend, she had been married off to 1200koku gent, but it turned out he was a drunk, and was prone to beating her. So with a divorce she is returned to her family home, and starts hanging around Iguchi’s house, helping with the chores, and looking after his daughters. Along the way the 1200 koku samurai is less than pleased about the divorce, and turns up to harass Tomoe. This leads to one of the few scenes of violence in the film, Iguchi stepping in to defend Tomoe’s honour has to fight – however duelling is banned, and if he were to actually kill this senior samurai he would be in real trouble. This leads to one of the most memorable scenes in the film – Iguchi fighting the other samurai to a stand still with a wooden sword. From this it becomes clear that many of the samurai might swan around with their swords, maintaining that they are something special, they aren’t all actually fighters – while Iguchi is in fact trained, and particularly good, despite his lowly level. Some amusement comes from the spreading rumours of his prowess, particularly amongst those who think that perhaps they shouldn’t be calling him names behind his back after all.

The Twilight Samurai is a quiet film, which had only two real fights in it, which punctuate and define events, concentrating instead on the philosophical stance and poetic outlook of the main character. A man who feels he would be content to surrender his samurai status when the time came and live out the rest of his life as a farmer. The fact that his poverty is made clear throughout is also important, an illustration that the samurai were not all the same – not all lords. However this, coupled with the idea of the twilight samurai, describes a bigger picture, one with historical and cultural ramifications – these were the twilight years of the samurai, consumption was killing families across Japan, upheaval and the strict systems were leading to the increasing number of ronin (samurai without masters) in the streets of cities like Kyoto.

Title: Now Or Never[Ora O Mai Più ]
Cast: Jacopo Bonvicini, Violante Placido, Edoardo Gabbriellini, Elio Germano, Camilla Filippi, Riccardo Scamarcio, Francesco Mandelli
Director: Lucio Pellegrini

Now Or Never is the first film in this years Italian film festival that I have caught, an annual event which normally has a couple of decent films that are well worth catching. Over the years I’ve caught a number of films in these festivals, many of which have had political undertones, covering the kinds of struggles with fascism and protest that have come up in the Italian political history, though none more so than this one.

David is in the final year of his four-year course; one exam to go and he is finished. Having spent the last four years with his head down he is pretty much unaware of anything other than his physics degree from the prestigious university in Pisa. However on the day of that last exam a pretty girl hands him a flyer for a protest group. And so events turn him around, following that girl to a meeting he finds himself embraced/embracing the politics of dissent - a group building towards the protests against globalisation at Genoa. Along the way we have a love story of some kind, where there is the will he won't he with Viola, balanced off by the growing friendship with her boyfriend Luca. So that when she throws herself at him at one point he really doesn't know how to respond.

Throughout the back and forth of the relationship aspects of the narrative David is becoming increasingly involved in the politics of his new friends. Helping them out with speeches, press releases and the like. There is an increasingly jubilant and enthusiastic atmosphere amongst the group, but there is also a mirrored hostility from the authorities. All of this builds to the events at Genoa, where protesters were attacked by the police, resulting in the death of Carlo Giuliani. Within the context of the film the protests and resulting riots are not shown. Instead we get a more abstract view of the protest, one which shows how trains and buses have been cancelled, where the police are stopping and detaining people who are on the way to the city. Instead of riots we have the confusion of detention centres, which became known as death camps. Here the film is particularly brutal, lengthy scenes of police torturing protestors, techniques mirroring documentaries about methods used against the SAS to see if they are tough enough. From the mental torture of forcing people to stand in certain positions for lengths of time, to the actual beating of those who have been detained – police lined on either side of narrow corridors thrashing people with sticks. Unsurprisingly this is quite brutal material, and quickly changes the feel of the film, these scenes are stark, disturbing and memorable.

One of the interesting things about Now Or Never being part of the film festival is that one of the screenwriters was present to take part in a discussion after the film. Having been involved in the protest movement and having been at Genoa himself, he originally wrote the screenplay based on his experiences to some degree. As the process of making a film is followed through the writing is worked on by the director and another screenwriter. This led to some disagreements through the process, for instance the inclusion of the leaning tower of Pisa, the original writer being from Pisa really didn’t want the tower to be included at all, while the studio did – of course the fact that they then had to pay to use the tower in the film didn’t help matters either. Another point of disagreement was the ending, which after the strength of the detention camps comes as a sort of meandering and ambiguous conclusion. One which the screenwriter wasn’t happy with, feeling that he had been over ruled for what was allegedly a “happy ending”, though it came across as weak and inappropriate. The discussion ends with the screenwriter’s idea that they have an “obligation to be optimistic”.

RE:TG Postponed

26th April 2004

on behalf of Throbbing Gristle are very sorry to have to announce that it will NOT be possible to present the RE~TG event as planned on May 14th-16th 2004.

Despite good sales for the event (in excess of 1600 tickets), unexpected cost rises and scheduling complications would have required the festival virtually to sell out before enough funds were generated to stage the RE~TG festival in the manner orginally intended by T.G, Paul Smith and Foundation .

All ticket holders will be offered a FULL refund from point of purchase OR alternatively you can transfer your tickets to the TG-curated ATP weekend event at theÊ same venue which is confirmed for April 15 - 17th 2005, at which TG have agreed to give their last ever concert performance.

All the other artists on the current RETG bill have been invited to playÊ and in addition we anticipate the participation of a number of yet-to-be-confirmedÊ 'high-profile' special guests whose previous schedules did not allow them to take part in this year's festival.

TG have asked me to pass on their personal apologies to everyone for the obvious inconvenience these rearrangements will cause and to stress that this situation was NOT the band's doing.

Mindful that many people will have already booked travel to the UK fromÊ afar, TG have decided to invite all CURRENT ticket holders to a PRIVATE RECORDING SESSION at a secret location in central London on the AFTERNOON of Sunday May 16th ( the same day they would have played at RE~TG ).

This invitation is FREE & ONLY available to current ticket holders and is offered regardless of whether you alsoÊ select a full refund of your ticket money or you choose to transfer your ticket to ATP 2005.

RE~TG ticket holders will be notified directly and the details listed on the ATP and TG website in the next few days.

This recording session event will not be open to the general public.

The result of the recording will be a totally new TG work - & released as a TG DVD later in the year

Exclusive TG relatedÊartifacts, some which were intended for sale @ RE~TG will be available exclusively for sale at the recording session.

All those concerned in the realisation of RE~TG are very sorry to disappoint all those who were looking forward to RE~TG event, and are working hard to make up, in whatever practical way we can, to overcome this otherwise insurmountable problem.

RE~TG has constantly suffered from scurrilous rumours of Throbbing Gristle playing at other events in various parts of the world.

Please be aware that TG will not be playing at ANY other events whatsoever & ATP @ Camber Sands on 15-17 April 2005 is TG's only & final public performance

Barry Hogan
Foundation /ATP &
Paul Smith
RE~TG Manager
Monday 26th April
Back to news

Saturday, April 24, 2004

tom vater - i've mentioned tom vater, he is a german bloke, involved in all sorts of media, apparently based between london and bangkok. as a result he has written a number of articles about life in bangkok, and the surrounding countries. this link provides a couple of articles, including one from only a few months ago, which is what i was after just now, since its been a wee while since i've seen anything from him.

there's a hundred fancy uniforms with people stuck inside them. and either they're extra ordinarily stupid, or those uniforms want me to see them watching the house.
-sister alice - robert reed.

"you'll forget it when you're dead and so will i. when i'm dead, i'm going to forget everything - and i adivse you to do the same"
-cat's cradle - kurt vonnegut

kwan would jabber away in chinese. she kept on talking while i pretended to be asleep. she'd still be yakking when i woke up. that's how i became the only one in our family who learned chinese. kwan infected me with it. i absorbed her language through my pores while i was sleeping. she pushed her chinese secrets into my brain and changed how i thought about the world. soon i was even having nightmares in chinese.
-the hundred secret senses - amy tan

globalisation was defined as a mass transfer of wealth and knowledge from public to private.
-fences and windows - naomi klein

Chungking Express - i think it is probably safe to say that chungking express is my favourite wong kar-wai. i've seen it a couple of times in the cinema, one of those being as a double bill with fallen angels, and i've seen it on TV. but i've had the urge to see it a few times recently, but any time i check it just isn't readily available in the UK on DVD. but i just checked there just now, on the off chance, and the good news is that chungking express will finally be released on DVD in the UK next month!

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Title: The Embalmer [L’Imbalsamatore]
Cast: Ernesto Mahieux, Valerio Foglia Manzillo, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Lina Bernardi
Director: Matteo Garrone

I’m just back from seeing my second film in the Italian film festival, the first was Now Or Never, a review of which is half written. I had hopes for The Embalmer, or perhaps more appropriately, and as the subtitles suggested The Taxidermist. Unsurprisingly the main character is a taxidermist, a creepy dwarf guy, who as rumours suggest has mafia connections.

Peppino the taxidermist is at the zoo when he spots a young man. Talking to the man he decides that he is worth pursuing, so manages to persuade him to come and work for him. From there Peppino puts Valerio in increasingly awkward situations, forming a slow seduction, without making it evident that is what his plan is. However Peppino is upset when Valerio meets Deborah, and the two of them seem to be forming a pretty serious relationship. At first he holds off, hoping it is a passing thing, but increasingly he is menacing.

This has a curious result and one which could have worked to have been quite disturbing if played properly. However it kind of falls flat, so that the inevitable confrontation that comes at the end of the film doesn’t have the menace it could have. But then perhaps the film is actually trying to create a degree of sympathy for Peppino? A man who thinks he may have found something special with Valerio, to the point where we witness his tears when it looks like things are coming apart. That would certainly contrast the number of times that Valerio is told that Peppino is evil. In the end I’m not entirely sure what to make of The Taxidermist, certainly while watching it I could feel myself growing increasingly restless, and as it finished my strongest feeling was of dissatisfaction.

Title: The Station Agent
Cast: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, Michelle Williams
Director: Thomas McCarthy

Finn is a serious man, who seems to live for his hobby, an interest in trains. At work he constructs models for an enthusiasts shop, working in the back to fulfil customer orders. For fun he hangs out with other enthusiasts, where the watch footage of train’s taken by train chasers. However with the death of his boss Finn finds that he has been left a station house on the outskirts of New York state. He heads out there, looking to make a new home for himself, but it is perhaps not surprising that the thing that has drawn attention to him his whole life continues to attract attention out here. Finn is a midget, in the city and out here, this leads to jokes at his expense, people stopping to take his picture, school kids asking him what year he is in. But Finn is also a pretty solid individual, for the most part he shrugs it off, keeps himself to himself – he is getting by.

With which he makes some new friends, and the reality of the situation is for all that they attract less attention, they are actually more out there than he is. There is a guy with a fast food stand set up outside the station house, a compulsive talker, who stayed in the same kind of area of New York as Finn did, but is back in small town because of a sick father. Then there is the woman artist who is running away from a life somewhere else, and almost manages to knock Finn over on his first day there, twice. The three form a kind of group of friends, with the young, attractive librarian and timid school kid hanging around the peripherals. However the strains of live cause complications and it looks like things might just fall apart.

The strength of The Station Agent and why it has gained a certain reputation, including nominations for awards like the BAFTAs, is the strength of the characters and the way they interact. As a film it is not an outright comedy, but there is a sense of humour that comes from events and the quirks of the characters involved.

Title: Cat's Cradle
Author: Kurt Vonnegut

This is the second book I have read by Kurt Vonnegut, finally getting round to filling the gap he represents in my reading. Like Slaughterhouse 5 before the brief description of what the book is about doesn’t really capture the idea of what it is about.

On the surface Cat’s Cradle is about a man who is writing a book about the day the world ended, which is as far as he is concerned the day the nuclear bomb was dropped on Japan. With this he is exploring the life of one of the bomb’s creators. In the process this leads him to the discovery that before he died the scientist created a new substance, one which could threaten to destroy the whole world.

However it quickly becomes apparent that Cat’s Cradle is also about an island and the religion that has developed there. A religion which is based on the things which link people in to unique groups. The main characters, the narrator, and the family of creator of the new substance, all forming one of these groups, which is inevitably attracted to this island and understanding of their connections.

It is more on this level that Vonnegut’s ideas fascinate, and yet frustratingly it feels like he could have filled a couple of extra hundred pages touching on these concepts. It is also through these ideas and the way that people interact through these ideas that we get an impression of a wit and humour at work, even if the results might be heading towards a catastrophic conclusion.

At less than 200 pages Cat’s Cradle is a short read, and one that I highly expect I’ll be reading again in the near future to provide a greater appreciation of just what he has done here.

Title: Sister Alice
Author: Robert Reed

Technically this novel by science fiction writer Robert Reed is a collection of short stories which have been published over a period of something like ten years. However this handful of stories link together to form a big picture following the same characters and scenario, with a little re-writing of the originals to make it fit together.

The book starts with the title part Sister Alice, parts of which are familiar, making me reasonably certain that of the selection of Reed’s work I have read before that this was one of them. The stories are set way in the future, where the human race has changed immensely and reality flows on more cosmic scales. Brought to the brink of cataclysm by endless wars and plagues, the governments have gotten together and decided that something must be done if the race is to survive. As a result one thousand people have been selected to form the families, the families to be imbued with all the power that technology can given them, and see them bring about a peace and prosperity. That was ten million years ago, the families have attained god like status, and peace has held.

That is until the return to Earth of Sister Alice, one of the Chamberlain family’s oldest sisters – each member has a numbered rank back to the first, the one – on that scale Alice is the twelve, and legendary. With her return to Earth she creates a stir, it is very rare for one so old to come home, and when she refuses to speak to any of the other family members except for the baby – Ord, only a mere few centuries old – the family starts to panic. The Chamberlains are terraformers, universe shapers, and it isn’t long before it becomes clear that Alice has been involved in a new project which has gone horribly wrong. One which will kill millions and destroy worlds.

This is the set up for the stories that follow, the demise of the peace and families involved in these events. Through which Ord journeys, having inherited Alice’s power he is a god child – desperate to make amends, or to at least understand Alice’s intentions, while at the same time he has become the most feared and hunted Chamberlain. Through the books the stories of the families and the jiggery pokery which got them their position in the first place become clear, the squabbles and old wounds. With that providing some understanding as to how events have gone the way they have.

Sister Alice sees Robert Reed in that truly cosmic branch of science fiction, where the human race has become so alien to what we are now, where they have evolved to the point where everything seems possible and humans now seem like gods. With that the book is scattered with science fiction theories and jargon, but compared to the likes of Iain M. Banks, who also could be said to work in the same kind of territory to some degrees, this remains a considerably more readable and enjoyable piece.

Title: Jade Lady Burning
Author: Martin Limon
Publisher:Serpent's Tail

Jade Lady Burning is the first novel by Martin Limon, an American who served in Korea while he was in the army. This is reflected by this novel, which was written in 1992, with the main characters being two GI’s serving in Korea. In particular the characters are part of the criminal investigation division, which works with the local police, especially where Americans are involved.

Part of the reason why I picked up Jade Lady Burning was that it reminded me a little of John Burdett’s Bangkok 8, which I read last year. Rather than Bangkok, this is set in Seoul, though both feature the red light districts of each city, and the involvement of the American army. As I started reading I started to actually fear that the plot similarities might turn out to be too close, fortunately this turns out not to be the case, which would have been more unfortunate for Bangkok 8 which was written a lot more recently. Though between the two I have to say I have a preference for Burdett’s book, his writing works better – his characters and the city they are in come to life more. Perhaps this is because Burdett’s main character was a Thai police officer in his own environment, dealing with Americans, rather than an American in another environment dealing with other Americans and Koreans? Jade Lady Burning is published as part of a noir print, which might also be part of the problem with the characters, there seems to be too much time spent sitting around sitting around saying nothing while they get drunk. The uncommunicative mood may adhere to noir policies, but fails to bring these characters to life or to really give an impression of the city or country, which is around them.

Plot wise Jade Lady Burning starts with the murder of a young bar girl, who forms relationships with GI’s to make a little money. The murder has been particularly brutal and with the American connection the locals are causing a stir. So the criminal investigation department has to get involved, partly to show face, but also to put someone in the firing line of responsibility as quickly as possible. However, with a young soldier put in place as the main suspect, the investigators aren’t entirely satisfied. The pieces don’t fit together that easily, and of course it isn’t long before they realise that there is a considerably bigger picture and from the amount of warning signs that start to crop up, they could well be out of their depth.

Title: Fear X
Cast: John Turturro, Deborah Kara Unger, Stephen McIntyre, William Allen Young, Jacqueline Ramel, James Remar
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Two people have been killed in a shooting. One of them is a local woman, the wife of one of the security guards of the mall where the shooting has happened. The man however was a stranger, and no one quite knows who he was. The woman’s husband has become obsessed, each day he stalks the mall look for the face of a killer, each night he scours endless security videos, desperate for a clue. Desperate to understand how his wife was killed, why she was killed. In the mean time speculation is rife as to the identity of the mystery man, the latest theory being that he was a drug enforcement agent. In the mean time the police are speculating as to the past of the woman, what has she done that might have made her the target?

Fear X is the first American film by the Danish director responsible for Bleeder and Pusher, two related and reasonably successful Danish thrillers. The film is adapted from a short story by Hubert Selby Jr, the writer who was responsible for the books Last Exit To Brooklyn and Requiem For A Dream, both of which have been turned into films in the past. Also of note is that one of the people behind the composition of the sound track is Brian Eno, a sound track which is particularly atmospheric and moody, contributing well to the overall feel of the film.

In some ways Fear X is quite successful in creating a mood, but as it goes on it starts to lose its way a little. John Turtorro stars as the security guard, haunted by daily visions of his wife. Increasingly tense, so that he receiving warnings at work. Obsessed, we watch the display on his wall build, photographs and notes, images captured with a digital camera from the endless stream of security footage, and printed out for his wall, for his pocket. During this section we see him stalking the mall watching every face, sat at night the screen is taken over by the fast forward stream of blurry black and white film. Some how he starts to get a couple of clues, which lead the film into a tangent, into the mind of the killer and how he is reacting to events. Especially when a stranger turns up in his town asking questions.

There are hallucinated moments, the tension and panic of Turtoro’s character as he gets further out there. These lend a certain claustrophobic effect, but as the film reaches its conclusion it also starts to feel like the film has flipped out there. This has led to comparisons to the work of David Lynch, and a similar kind of ambiguity to the films conclusion comes with that. Which personally gives me a degree of dissatisfaction. The build of the film held promise, but it too quickly feels like its losing direction, and more questions are being put up than are necessarily being answered with events.

Title: Too Beautiful for You
Author: Rod Liddle

This is a collection of short stories by the writer Ron Liddle, who seems to have had various roles within the media before the publication of this volume. The stories have a particularly London-centric view, which is at times off-putting, especially with the gimmick of referring to locations by their post codes as though it is meaningful (which no doubt given the population of London to the rest of the country it may well be, but for the likes of myself it is nothing).

There is something about Too Beautiful For You, which reminds of Jeremy Sheldon’s Comfort Zone, perhaps both come from a certain generation of English writers, capturing a certain voice, a certain general environmental scene? Regardless of the two, I found that Sheldon’s Comfort Zone was the more accomplished, rounded and enjoyable of the two. From which, I would say that there is something lacking with Liddle’s work. There are spatterings of ideas which could be interesting, quirks to characters that are just pasted in enough to suggest something, without actually particularly coming to anything. There are points where he tries to include something weird, something out there, but those kind of fall flat, again giving the impression of being secondary.

Most of the stories rotate around couples, relationships, with a group of friends starting to emerge as the collection goes on. So that primary characters recur in secondary roles at various points, which is something that can work out. In one story a young student is desperately in love with a girl, but she has gone wild, drugs and parties and random sex. The two of them have a thing together, where she insists by not having sex with him she shows how much she really loves him. She recurs later, on the arm of some bloke she is sleeping with, in a story where the main character has ended up having a relationship with an illegal alien, who was a tramp when they first met. In the background of which a woman who appeared as the mistress of a man elsewhere is turning into an insect. There are times where Liddle succeeds, where he manages to get his story together, and bring with it a certain humour, in particular the one with the man who is involved in a train crash. Unfortunately he has told his wife he was going to a convention, so why he was on a train on the other side of the city altogether will look suspicious. So he damn well better come up with a good excuse for how he lost that arm.

Title: Chasing the Dime
Author: Michael Connelly

Chasing The Dime is one of the most recent thrillers by writer Michael Connelly, and the first I’ve read by him. The main character Henry Pierce is a scientist, working in the highly competitive and specialist area of nano-technology. As his company comes closer and closer to a big break through he has become more obsessed with his work. Unfortunately this has driven a wedge between him and girlfriend, so that he is forced to move out just as the project is about to break, and just as they are about to try and secure some seriously big time funding. But things start to go askew when he moves into his new place, and finds that his new number used to belong to a girl called Lilly. A girl who is receiving a lot of calls from strange men trying to make arrangements to be in hotel rooms. Curious Pierce starts to look into why Lilly has given up her old number, and seemingly disappeared. Before he knows what is happening though he is being beaten up by “digital pimps” and staked out by the police who think that he has killed the girl.

This sets up a thriller with a large dose of tech undertones. At various time throughout the book there are discussion on nano-tech, discussing the ideas behind it, and how competitive the field is, with the hopes of where it could end up going. Which is contrast by a different kind of tech, that of the internet, how a girl has a website, which is just part of a sex empire, with cell phones being used to arrange meetings, and how all of this together is a huge industry. As a character Pierce may be incredibly smart on a work level, but when it comes to life outside the office, it has to be said he is something of a fuck-up. To be fair, he may not have anticipated how deeply he was going to get sucked in, but at each step he makes so many obvious mistakes that it isn’t real a surprise when he attracts too much attention. From accessing porn sites in his office, to going in to a house because he finds the door is open. With each step Pierce seems to make things worse for himself, and to be honest that becomes part of the appeal of continuing to read, I couldn’t believe how much of a mess he was making of things, and really just had to see how bad it would get. A couple of times he shows flashes of intelligence, intuitive jumps, and only those occasions serve to keep him stumbling along at all.

As a genre the crime/thriller is one that I still only dabble in a little, normally if some aspect of the concept attracts my attention. In this case it was the mixtures of technology and someone getting into a field alien to them, and over their head. Like many of the thrillers I have read, this one left me with mixed feelings, there are bits where I just struggle to believe that some people would behave that way, and others where there is a certain amusement/fascination of constructed car crash scenarios.

Monday, April 19, 2004

RE:TG - less than a month to this event, tickets are being sent out next week according to the site, and i'm starting to get into the thrill of the imminence.


-i don't recall einheit being on the list before, so that could be an interesting addition.
-shame that some of the mego people are playing as part of the tag team, with the likes of COH and Noriko Tujiko i've not seen them before, while i have seen pita, haswell, and pure in the past.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Spam Poetry

wolves schematic schoolboy czechoslovakia...
catherine compile chivalry purposeful six...
toxicology mazda pancake fundraise abdome...
dove abelian maitre apron forsythe indisc...
mathewson curlicue bracken bream dorothea...
teratogenic rotary birgit situ naivete de...
mutate somebody'll scabbard similitude ge...
fledge schooner catsup annex incommunicab...
hardy bryozoa colloidal newborn shuffle w...
elves eleventh lob senile abusable dicken...
boreas doorkeep alcestis bill devote ento...
bungalow commandeer tactile president slo...
decline combination boil adieu infelicity...
leaky girls girls taking a leak!

-this is what my junk mail folder is looking
like these days. anyone else got some
interesting ones?

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The following piece didn't entirely go to plan, it was started a week ago, about the time I lost my internet connection due to a dead phone line - which rather took the momentum out of things. still it might be worth posting?

I ended up going to see Fear X last week. Probably partly influenced by the fact that it was co-written/adapted from a story by Hubert Selby Jr. I also came across comparisons that ranged from David Lynch to The Ring/Dark Water. So I guess those made me curious. And funnily my reaction is that it was a curious film. John Turtoro trying to find out how/why his wife was murdered, via obsessive study of CCTV footage. The end result was probably hit and miss, though the sound track which was co-written by Brian Eno is worth commenting on.

One wonders what is going on with Halle Berry these days? The shockingly titled Gothika opened in the UK the last week or so. The trailers make it look like it might be watchable, though part of the appeal is more likely to be Penelope Cruz than Berry. Though the trailer shows the horrifically clichéd line of "are you scared?" "no" "you should be!" - for which the cliché cops should have been sent right in, mind on reflection I think every single line I can remember from the trailer reeks of cliché. Meanwhile with Berry, the pictures of her in the costume for her part as the role of Catwoman are doing the round. And they are generally being met with ridicule it seems, which is hardly surprising - it does look shocking!

On the subject of "superhero" films, I saw the Hellboy trailer in the cinema for the first time (having caught a glimpse of it in a late night entertainment show previously). I have to say it looks really good, it even looks like it might instil some of the personality into the characters that I always felt was lacking. Mike Mignola is of course a great artist, with a particularly strong style, which is often poorly imitated. On the other hand, Mignola is not a great writer, his Hellboy stories having always felt a little lacking for my taste. But yeah, this film looks like it is one to look forward to indeed!

I'm also looking forward to The Other Side Of The Bed, a new Spanish film to open later this month. The posters in the cinema are comparing it to Y Tu Mama Tambien, though I suspect that's as tenuous a comparison as Sex, Lies And Videotape and This Year's Love as listed in this month's UGC magazine. However the comparison, based on the description of the film, to Francois Ozon's 8 Women sounds like it might have some basis in reality. The comparison to Y Tu Mama Tambien is particularly amusing, given that one of the stars is Paz Vega, who was in the title role of Julio Medem's Sex And Lucia, which was out about the same time as the afore mentioned film. Also worth noting in terms of casting is Natalie Verbeke, who played the Hispanic girl in the comedy Jump Tomorrow.

On the weird front this month is looking to have a couple of interesting releases. As much as I couldn't really care about Ashton Kutcher, his new film The Butterfly Effect looks promising - time travel and paradox ahoy! Meanwhile Charlie Kaufman is back with his latest, following on from the success of films like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation. and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, all of which he wrote/adapted for cinema. Now we have Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, which looks to share themes with films like Paycheck and Cypher, in that this is prime Philip K. Dick territory - memory and its erasure. Jim Carey stars, and with the evidence of The Truman Show, he has shown himself capable at this kind of role.

I continue to feed my compulsion for books, despite my best efforts to calm down and try and catch up with the backlog, or even trying to divert spending money by going to the library. With which I just picked up the second volume of Neal Stephenson's Baroque trilogy, The Confusion. Another huge slab of a hard back, which is being sold with a couple of quid off if you look about, which will no doubt take me ages to read, just as Quicksilver did.

Having recently finished Bulgakov's The Master And Margarita, it is perhaps a little ironic that of the books I got from the library the one that is currently grabbing my attention is Michael Moorcock's Von Bek. One of the gaps in my reading history of Moorcock's work, and perhaps the most based in our reality, set in the turmoil of the middle ages and constant wars across Europe. Where upon the Captain Von Bek is approached by Lucifer. Just finished reading the first book of the collected three, there is that thematic continuation of the devil being a character, and the interpretation of him. Of course this first book being set in that time period in Europe also fits in with Stephenson's Quicksilver/Confusion.

I've also been catching up on some of my backlog of Science-Fiction short stories. Every year, for something like the last 6 years, I've bought the annual Mammoth Collection of The Year's Best SF Short Stories. Which are huge slabs of collections. The last one I had been reading, I had nearly completed, but ended up putting aside, too much hassle at the time to carry about. So that's put me behind on those! So to that end I just read Something About Benny, The Human Front, A Writer's Life and Tendeleo's Story.

Seeing a trailer for Troy, is it just me or has Brad Pitt been watching the Gladiator too much? Adopting as he seems to have, the voice of Russell Crow, that irritating deliberation of pitch that is a poor substitute for acting? And am I the only one bemused by the fact that the most obvious character from the story of troy is Helen, and yet there isn't a single woman credited in the trailer that makes a big deal of Pitt, Bloom, and Bana.

By contrast the most striking image for me from trailers of the new King Arthur film is that of Gueniviere as played by Kiera Knightly. All these men in armour poncing about like a spin off from Lord Of The Rings, and there is this willowy woman daubed in woad, feral and fierce. How odd.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

immortel - i've just found about this new french film, it is directed by enki bilal. bilal has done some really cool graphic novel/illustration work, and this film looks to be based on some of his classic material. i've just watched the trailer, and it might not tell you much, but DAMN, it looks good. there are a number of trailer options on this page, which may be of more use than the official site, which is in french and heavily flash.

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