Thursday, February 16, 2006

Audio: Live in Scotland this month.

Time for more audio pieces. Again for a limited time, these pieces replace last weeks pieces.
First we have the 7Things Launch Event:

Date: 28th Feb Time: 7PM Space: CCA: 5 Cost: £10 / 8 concession
Koji Asano (Japan), Zoe Irvine (Scotland), and Yannis Kyriakides with Andy Moor (Holland) perform at the 7hings Launch Event: Live Studio One.

To this end, I offer:
1. Koji Asano - an extract from the recent release Rabbit Room Reservation Center, just one of about 40 albums the Japanese composer has released - ranging from experimental music to modern classical. See his website for free weekly downloads.
2. Yannis Kyriakides - a conSPIracy cantata - described in the sleeve notes as:-
"SPI is an electronic cantata which juxtaposes two forms of cryptic message communication: the clandestine world of spy number transmissions on the shortwave radio, and the enigmatic uttering of the ancient oracle of Delphi."
3. Andy Moor/Kaffe Matthews - Locks - a piece from the collaboration between the guitarist Andy Moor, who I saw as a member of the Dogfaced Hermans, but is better known as a member of the band The Ex and the experimental Kaffe Matthews who specializes in live processing, and I previously saw combining violin and laptop in the CCA.

Then, as mentioned last week, we have Kill Your Timid Notion - 17-18-19 February 2006 in Dundee . So I offer another track -
4. Daniel Menche - Screaming Caress - more textured noise scapes.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Title: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance
Cast: Yeong-ae Lee, Min-sik Choi
Director: Chan-wook Park

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance starts with a church band, all dressed as Santa Claus, waiting for Geum-ja Lee. Lee is just out of prison after a 13 year sentence, while in there she was a saint, a friend to everyone. Yet she also had the nickname "The Witch" and was in prison for abducting and murdering a six-year-old boy. One thing quickly becomes clear though, now that Lee is out of prison she has changed, from the fragile innocent she has become cold and hard. For 13 years she has been planning revenge, determined to have her vengeance on the man that put her away.

Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is an initially episodic film, piecing together events through little vignettes. Upon her release from prison Lee visits each of the girls that she shared a cell with, each visit providing another view of Lee, another part of her history, another fragment of her plan. With this Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is different from its predecessors, taking a more sedate approach, allowing more time for the thing to come together. Even so, Lady Vengeance is undoubtedly part of Chan-wook Park's revenge trilogy. The parallels are clear, Lee has been in prison for a child kidnapping just like Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, there is even one scene where Lee echoes dialogue from that first film. Then there is Old Boy, a man detained for 15 years in a cell for his perceived crimes, compared to a woman detained for 13 years for hers. Additional nods to Park's previous films are made in the casting Yeong-ae Lee was in the earlier film Joint Security Area, while Min-sik Choi is particularly recognisable from Old Boy, Kang-ho Song also appears, familiar from both Joint Security Area and Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance.

Reportedly Park was exhausted from the violence of his previous two revenge films. So with Lady Vengeance he wanted to explore the topic from a different view, which is part of why his lead is a woman in this film. There are no gang fights here, rather there are dream sequences and a different kind of violence. With Lady Vengeance there is some ambiguity about the violence, about the sense of justice, mixed in with our celebration of violence, the celebrity that comes with that - but there is no ambiguity about the evil, here Park gives us his most despicable character to date. A wolf in sheep's clothing as the dream would have it.

While I could well be the only person that sees it, I felt a slight influence from Jean-Pierre Jeunet on Old Boy. Something about the tone of the film, the direction, a certain playfulness for all the dark. Sympathy For Lady Vengeance takes that further, there is an undercurrent of magic realism, of a different way of looking at things. Certainly the detour to Australia contributes to that, bursting the bubble of this being just a Korean film, taking it on to a greater stage. But then that is not really surprising, Park has gained a reputation over the last few years, particularly with the success of Old Boy. For me Park is undoubtedly the most striking director to have come out of this current crop of Korean film makers, and while Sympathy For Lady Vengeance is certainly less accessible or violent than Old Boy it could well be his masterpiece.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


What if?: Sympathy for Lady Vendetta

In the last week I have read Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V For Vendetta, soon to be released as a film by The Wachowski Brothers, and watching Park Chan-wook's Vengeance trilogy - Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy and culminating with the release of Sympathy For Lady Vengeance released yesterday. Which leads to this little bit of wishful thinking - how different would V For Vendetta be as a film if it were directed by Park Chan-wook instead of the Wachowski Brothers?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Audio: Here we go, another experiment in sound. I set a MySpace music account up a while ago. Been meaning to use it ever since. So, further to a conversation from this afternoon, I have uploaded 4 tracks from the minimalist/experimental label Trente Oiseaux for a limited period. This is sound art, artists playing with silence, texture and the like.
Francisco Lopez - Warsawa Restaurant - an example of the minimalist composers entirely minimal work, personally I find this quite incredibly disturbing.
Reynols - Blank Tapes - The Argentinian band's notorious album featuring 6 tracks of the sound recorded from blank tapes.
Bernhard Gunter - Brown, Blue, Brown on Blue (For Mark Rothko) - An extract from Gunter's 38 minute tribute to Mark Rothko; Gunter being responsible for the Trente Oiseaux record label that released these four CDs.
Daniel Menche - Legions In The Wall (Ultra Pysical Performance 94-95) - Of these piece Menche is my favourite artist, though he is certainly the most noise orientated/audible. Frustratingly Menche is doing a rare UK performance in Dundee on the 18th of February as part of the Kill Your Timid Notion festival - which is the same night as Glasgow's FrightNight event.
WARNING: - due to the extremes of some of this material I would recommend that you watch your volume levels.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Everything was going round and round with the ground sometimes tilting up and sometimes down while out of the corner of my eye I saw some great big hopping thing coming after me. I sprinted down Cecil Court, dodged through the traffic in St. Martin's Lane with the thing close behind, made a sharp right towards the Coliseum, then left and left again and so on trying to lose it but when I reached the lab it was still hot on my heels. Once I got inside I phoned the police while the hopping thing did its best to come through the wall. Scared? I didn't know whether to shit or go blind so I just closed one eye and farted and hoped for better times. It took about an hour and a whole lot of black coffee before the thing left off thumping and squelching and went back to wherever it lives.

Linger Awhile
Russell Hoban
Happy 81st Birthday!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

seth fisherseth fisher

Artist: Seth Fisher

I am sad to say that, according to several sources, the artist Seth Fisher has died. Seth lived in Japan for a number of years, which clearly influenced his work - the image on the right being from the Vertigo-Pop series Tokyo that was published a few years ago, his most recent work includes the series "Fantastic Four & Iron Man: Big In Japan", a 4 part series pitting the heroes against a stream of Japanese monsters. Seth had a very unique style, which always caught the eye.

The Child Garden - Ryman

Title: The Child Garden
Author: Geoff Ryman

Milena Shibush isn't like the other residents of London. For a starter she is immune to the viruses which are used as a tool to shape people, to educate people, meaning that she has to do everything the hard way, and that people often think she is dumb. Because of her immunity/reaction to the viruses she hasn't been read by the Consensus like everyone else, so she isn't part of the group mind that runs the country, not has she been "cured" of her lesbian tendencies. To mark herself out even more, she has fought to be an actress - in a world where people have been genetically engineered so that they can photosynthesize like plants, actors need to eat as normal maintain the white complexion that actors in the old plays would have had.

The Child Garden is full of big ideas and how big ideas can often have big consequences. We find the cure for cancer, but it turns out cancer relates to longevity, and now people die at 35 and war breaks out. We find the perfect educational system with viruses, and the viruses mutate, and by their nature the mutations spread. We find the perfect government in Consensus, but in doing so we seem to lose all creativity. The last being what the Child Garden is about, isolated little Milena meets Rolfa, a polar bear. Polar bear being the nick name for a genetically engineered person, who has been transformed to be able to live in the Antarctic. As a bear, Rolfa isn't taken seriously - partly because she is different, partly because that means she is not part of Consensus - despite which Rolfa is a brilliant composer. Bringing Rolfa's music to life becomes Milena's goal.

Prior to reading The Child Garden my only knowledge of Geoff Ryman was from reading a handful of short stories and the reputation he created for himself after the promotion of the sub-genre of Mundane Science fiction. The Child Garden is one of the most recent edition to the SF Masterworks series. As a novel it is overflowing with ideas, dense with brilliant little nuggets. On the other hand it is slow, non-linear and frustrating, taking me longer to read than anything I have read in a good while. Ryman starts off The Child Garden well, introducing us to the characters and building up momentum. Then he gets to the end of part one, and changes the rules, establishing that everything that went before was in fact a flashback, apparently giving license to wander back and forward through Milena's entire life in turgid and random detail. In the end The Child Garden is transformed from being a nice little story to being an epic, and its taken there kicking and screaming. There are chunks of The Child Garden that I thoroughly enjoyed, just as there were chunks where I couldn't have cared less.

The Forever War - Haldeman

Title: The Forever War
Author: Joe Haldeman

William Mandella has been drafted. If he makes it through the rigorous training then he'll be shipped out to face the enemy in ground fighting. After training he is shipped out to an alien planet, to fight an alien race. They started it, destroyed one of our ships. This is the start of The Forever War. A conflict between two races fought across space and time. Stargates make near instantaneous jumps across vast distances, but to get to the gates, to manoeuvre through space takes time, and with relativity's effect 100s of years pass between each battle, between each journey back home.

Joe Haldeman's novel Forever War was published in 1974, and was influenced by his experiences in Vietnam. From which part of this novel is obviously about being drafted, about how people get dragged into a conflict and how they feel in response to that. How a conflict can drag on, and upon returning home how things can have changed. The political atmosphere before and during conflict can shift, customs can shift, language can shift. By making this a science fiction novel Haldeman does two things, he provides a certain separation from the actual events influencing the writing, while also allowing himself the scope to take things to a greater extreme. How do you solve a population explosion? You encourage homosexuality. How do you solve economic problems and food shortages? Shift to a calory based culture, where people work for food, all the whole encouraging self sufficiency. Just a couple of aspects of societal change that crop up in the centuries of The Forever War.

Of course, one of the most ironic things about this novel is that for all its future speculation, it is the nature of contemporary war that has changed. Reading The Forever War against a background of Iraq, of the film Jarhead being in the cinema, then we see a war that isn't as reliant on ground troops as Haldeman's war. Of course the shape of contemporary warfare like Iraq isn't necessarily representative of the war - a super power invading your average country with the latest technology is not the same as two equally matched/expanding forces like those in this novel.

The Earth based parts of the story are perhaps where The Forever War feels the most dated. Though even there Haldeman still covers territory that remains relevant today. The questions of population, food, and economy, as well as those questions raised by conflict are ones that are still with us 22 years after The Forever War was written.

The Forever War is book one in Gollancz series of SF Masterworks, a series of novels judged to be classics and gathered with the intention of keeping them in print.

Babel-17 Delany

Title: Babel-17
Author: Samuel R. Delany

We are at war. Us against them. The Alliance against the Invaders. A series of sabotage events have taken place against key Alliance locations. Each time there has been a burst of conversation. A dialogue that seems to be encrypted. The authorities have named this new system Babel-17. But their best people have been unable to make any progress.

Rydra Wong is this generation's voice, a poet, equally loved by Alliance and Invaders. But Wong is even more special than that. Before she was a poet she became a Captain, she was an expert cryptologist, she is so good at reading people that it would seem she was practically telepathic.

So it would seem that the authorities only hope of making any progress on Babel-17 is to ask for Rydra's help. Rydra is extremely unconventional though. While she does indeed make more progress than the professionals, instead of handing the results over, she puts together a crew of her own and takes off for the location of where she expects the next attack to take place. Can she make a difference, someone thinks so, since a couple of attempts are made on her life.

Babel-17 was originally published in 1966 and was the first of a series of novels that went on to win author Samuel R. Delany a number of awards. Other than a short story, this was the first material by Delany that I had read, another entry in the SF Masterworks series which I have been randomly working my way through. Delany's prose flows well, and his discussion of language brings his writing to life as much as the colourful cast of characters he puts together here. For a novel that is 40 years old this was a fun and energetic read, even if it times it does feel a little odd and psychedelic by today's standards.

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