Saturday, July 29, 2006

Title: Work In Progress
Author: William Gibson

For those perhaps interested, but unaware, William Gibson has been working on a new novel, which he describes as moving in to it's home stretch. Over the last few months he has been posting extracts of a work in progress, presumably the new novel, on his blog. In an anticipation of the next novel, the publisher/board rep has created a new sub forum for the Future, I guess now is as good a time as any to list the extracts so far:

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

Title: The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
Cast: Amira Casar, Gottfried John, Assumpta Serna, César Saracho
Director: Stephen Quay, Timothy Quay

The acclaimed opera singer Malvina van Stille is stealing a moment with her husband to be when flowers arrive once again from a persistent and unwanted admirer. Later in a pre-wedding performance for her friends Malvina collapses and is declared dead by Dr. Droz, one of the guests. But Droz is the unwanted admirer and he steals Malvina’s body away to his remote island retreat where he brings her back to life, of sorts.

Don Felisberto Fernandez is a piano tuner of unusual ability. Skills that have been passed down through generations of piano tuners. He has been summoned by a Dr. Droz, but is bemused to arrive on an island asylum – where “gardeners” or “patients” run around behaving oddly – to find that Droz has no piano. Instead he has a series of automatons. Mechanical contraptions that combine ambulatory figurines and intricate instruments, that Droz is determined only a tuner of Fernandez’s ability will be able to restore. Timing is crucial, Droz plans to restage events that were key in the silent Malvina’s trauma, helping her recover. But it is clear that there is more to Droz and his island than he lets on, with Droz’s housekeeper Assumpta manipulating and attempting to seduce Fernandez, and with his nights haunted by weird and vivid dreams.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes is a hallucinatory piece, combining live action and animation through a series of surreal set pieces. We follow in Fernandez’s footsteps, baffled and confused – what is real and what is dream? Seduced by the alluring beauty of Assumpta and Malvina by turns, while wary of the distinctly sinister Dr. Droz, concerned that his plans will tear everything apart.

Show Me

Title: Show Me
Cast: Katharine Isabelle, Michelle Nolden, Kett Turton
Director: Cassandra Nicolaou

Sarah is preparing for a big weekend, the 10th anniversary with her partner Sam, and their first in the beautiful and remote cabin that Sarah has bought. However things quickly start going wrong – Sarah gets bogged down in traffic and when she phones Sam’s office she finds out that there is a hostile take over in progress and their romantic weekend away has just been put on the back burner. Furious Sarah lashes out at a couple of teenagers who try and squeegee her freshly washed car at traffic lights. Realising that it isn’t their fault Sarah tries to apologise and give them some money – but before she knows it she has the young couple, Jenna and Jackson, in her car and threatening her.

When their initial plan hits a snag, the couple panic, and snatching Sarah’s map to the remote cottage, they force her to drive them there. So Sarah finds herself tied to a chair in her new cabin with the potentially unbalanced pair. Jenna and Jackson are clearly troubled, there are hints of an incident where someone got hurt, that the pair are keen to get away from. But there is also obviously a past that deeply traumatised the pair. Will they kill Sarah, will they be content to take her money, valuables and car, or will Sam actually show up to rescue her?

Show Me reminds of a couple of other films, most significantly the Argentine film Suddenly and the German film The Edukators. In Suddenly two punk young lesbians “abduct” a young shop girl and force her on a road trip. While in The Edukators a group of political activists end up in a remote cabin in the woods with a rich man that they have abducted. Show Me was shown as part of a brief Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, which is part of where the comparison to Suddenly comes in. Though Suddenly has a degree more charm and character than the Canadian Show Me, and The Edukators is considerably more clever.

One of Show Me’s big problems is that there are three “big” scenes/ideas in the film, and I could pretty much see them coming a mile off. In particular since the film is included in a Lesbian and Gay season, we know that there must be some relevance no matter how tenuous – so when the relevant scene comes up, instead of being surprising it was pretty obvious.

Curiously the cinema and festival brochure only mention that the film features Michelle Nolden, who plays Sarah, and whom I’ve never heard of. On the other hand the photo in the brochure clearly showed Katharine Isabelle, of Ginger Snaps fame, who was also in the remake of Insomnia. Isabelle as Jenna plays a particularly troubled teen, with an attitude not dissimilar to that of Ginger.

On the whole Show Me isn’t really a bad film, its just not particularly brilliant or memorable.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Title: Dumplings [Gaau ji]
Cast: Ling Bai, Miriam Yeung Chin Wah, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Pauline Lau, Meme Tian, Miki Yeung
Director: Fruit Chan

Mrs Li is an aging actress. She used to be on a popular show and got married to the sponsor. But that’s the past, and her husband’s eye has gone a wandering. So when she hears about special dumplings that can restore her youth she must have them regardless of the cost. But it is clear from the start that the dumplings have a secret ingredient, and one that is particularly unpleasant. Aunt Mei assures her that the secret ingredient is key, but with the results not coming quickly enough Mrs Li demands that Mei gets more powerful materials. Leading to some dubious behaviour.

Dumplings was originally a short film, part of three films released under the international title Three Extremes. Three films directed by established Asian directors - Takashi Miike (Japan), Chan-wook Park (Korea) and Fruit Chan (China). Ironically Fruit Chan is probably the least known of the three directors, though this film Dumplings is the feature length version of his short. Not having seen the collection, I can’t comment on how Dumplings compares to the others. But given the “extremes” of Asian cinema and the other work by the other directors, Chan’s contribution is tame. Its more psychological and subtle than one might expect from a horror film. The themes are clearly about aging, with a dash of life and death (the classics) thrown in there for good measure. There are a couple of particularly unpleasant scenes, especially related to the secret ingredients as vivid components are chopped into bits for the cooking process. Its not high suspense, the secret ingredients are fairly obvious from the start, but it’s the whole feel of the film that is interesting.

Dumplings is a curious film. Apparently Fruit Chan has done a couple of films that verge on being horror, if aren’t horror. But certainly the two films that I have seen by Chan were quite removed from Dumplings. Not least because it has the sought after Christopher Doyle as cinematographer. The first film I saw by Chan was a film called Made In Hong Kong, which was a lot more DIY – Chan scavenging for film stock while working as assistant on other films, giving the completed film a particularly raw feel. That and the later film Durian Durian were about triads, the poor in sprawling tower blocks and immigrants – the violence and beauty of life in Hong Kong. So a film as professionally made and with affluent characters is something different. On the other hand, the flats where Aunt Mei lives are just as sprawling and monolithic as those in Made In Hong Kong, and of course Doyle is a master of his art and brings scenes like that to striking life.

Of course it’s frustrating that Chan’s films are pretty much impossible to find with English subtitles. So one has to keep an eye out for the occasional cinema release on the art house circuit. Ironically because this is an “extreme” film it was distributed by Tartan, who pick up all the “Asia Extreme” films for the UK, Dumplings will likely be available on DVD before the end of the year. While the rest of his more interesting work remains elusive.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Title:Tony Takitani
Cast:Issei Ogata, Rie Miyazawa, Shinohara Takahumi, Hidetoshi Nishijima
Director: Jun Ichikawa

Tony Takitani is a short story by Japanese author Haruki Murakami that has been made into a film. Murakami has a reputation for doing some quirky/weird kind of stuff, but he also writes about relationships and particularly loneliness and love missed. Takitani is not one of his weird stories, it is instead very much about loneliness and is a very melancholy piece.

As a short its short enough that its difficult to sum up without telling you everything. Basically Tony's story starts with his father, a Jazz musician during World War 2. Having just about survived the war Tony's father continues to play Jazz and befriends the Americans. When Tony's mother dies in childbirth, his father is distraught, drinking with his American friends one of them suggests that he should name the baby after him - Tony. Thinking how American influence is going to grow in Japan and that Tony is going to be a good name the baby becomes Tony Takitani. Unfortunately this marks Tony out, with his mother dead, his father always off playing the clubs and with an American name, Tony has a lonely life. But as he grows he becomes obsessed with art. He grows up during the sixties, ignoring the student turmoil around him, mocked by his tutors for having to clean a style he ironically goes on to be a perfect technical artist, in huge demand from many magazines for his ability. Yet Tony is still alone.

Enter Konuma Eiko. Eiko is a younger woman. An assistant for one of the magazines that arrives to collect work from Tony. He can't help admire his fashionable perfection. So after a couple of times Tony asks Eiko out to lunch, and things move from there. Eventually he asks her to marry him, but she already has a boyfriend. After reflection though she decides that she will marry Tony after all. Every time they meet Eiko is dressed in something different, so he isn't surprised when she buys lots of designer clothes when they honeymoon in Europe. But by the time they have converted the spare room into a walk in wardrobe, Tony starts to think they might have a problem. Bringing it up with Eiko though is another turning point, and one which leaves Tony worse off than ever before.

The way the film stays as closely to the story is as impressive as it is unusual, though certainly given that it is mostly narrated contributes to how that was achieved. One scene though that really stood out as being a divergence from the original, and I'm not really sure why it was done or what the intention behind it was. Another which has more potential is an attempt to make more of the Hisako character, a young woman that Tony briefly attempts to replace Eiko with. It feels like more could have been done with this character, though it never is in either the story or the film, though for the film to have gone too far would have been to change the mood of the piece.

The parts of Tony Takitani and his father Schozaburo Takitani are both played by the actor Issei Ogata, which mostly works. The only point where it doesn't is where he have the full adult Ogata playing the part of the student Tony when he is clearly too old, which feels just a little odd. Rie Miyazawa similarly plays the part of Eiko and Hisako, which is interesting given the different approach to life the two characters have.

Despite the fact that the audience laughed once or twice, particularly in the scenes where we saw just how over the top Eiko's wardrobe was, Tony Takitani is a quietly devastating film. Full of a slow motion melancholy that leaves you a little stilled after viewing.

Title: Building Skyscrapers
Theatre Company: Highway Diner
Venue: The Arches

Building Skyscrapers is described as a work in progress, as a combination of Ballardian paranoia and cyberpunk dystopia, about commercialism and propaganda. All that caught my attention, made me curious. The play was put on in the back room of The Arches in Glasgow, a little theatre space within a tunnel system beneath Glasgow's central station - other spaces here being used for clubs and gigs, though its been a good while since I saw anything like theatre here. Building Skyscrapers is performed by only 4 people, who flit from part to part as needed, but at the core there are 4 characters - a young couple, a news reporter and the Prime Minister.

The girl goes out to work every day, trying to make ends meet. When she gets home from work she has to do everything round the house as well. Her boyfriend sits in bed with his laptop - working on his album. Tensions naturally abound. Their life has a backdrop of car commercials, car crashes, and the war against terror. The boyfriend is still a student idealist at heart, combating the system by shouting at the television. While the girlfriend fights for life by trying to ensure she knows where the next penny is coming from.

The reporter delivers the latest bad news. Chaos. Death. Explosions. Tries to persuade a secret source to blow the whistle, assures him he will be safe only when everyone knows what he knows. She attends a press conference given by the Prime Minister - a cheap children's party magician who treats the journalists like children, and they sit there with party hats and party blowers, and wave their hands, eager for attention.

Initially I am non-plussed by the piece. Not entirely sure what is going on, or what the piece is about. Members of the audience laugh for no reason I can fathom, I laugh for reasons apparently no one else can fathom. But as the play goes on, some of the performances/scenes emerge, they work. Parts of it are annoying, the whole doesn't seem to make any real sense, the play doesn't have as much impact or coherence as it should do. And yet...

There is something. Something in the real conclusion, as opposed to the epilogue, has a definite power. The stage has a brick building at the back, with a low roof that the actors can access - from here one person starts throwing clothes, paper aeroplanes, the room fills with smoke, a woman comes on screaming and wailing cradling empty clothes like a corpse, people run with panic. As the scene progresses there is so much smoke the smoke alarm is set off, the couple layout the clothes and we see that each form a set, lined up they are the bodies of the dead. The wailing mother switches back to her role as newscaster, loops through chaos, plane crashes, bombs, dropping words, skipping like a traumatised and broken record. The Prime Minister emerges from the smoke, he wraps his hands around the newsreader's neck and throttles her, strangles her to death. She slumps to the ground, death of the media, as the Prime Minister turns to the audience and lets loose torrents of double speak, propaganda and denial.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Title: Black Swan Green
Author: David Mitchell
Publisher: Sceptre

Black Swan Green is a small village in Worcestershire England. The village where Jason Taylor lives – a schoolboy, who turns 13 in January 1982. The novel Black Swan Green is about Jason Taylor and his life in this village, ranging from January 1982 to January 1983, progressing a chapter-month at a time.

Jason lives with his mum, his dad and his 18-year-old sister. Jason isn’t one of the cool kids at school. School is very hierarchical, he would like to move up the ranks, become one of the cool kids. So he is always keeping an eye on what is going, trying to win points and to not put his foot in it so that he becomes regarded as a loser. It isn’t easy, Jason is a stutterer, and he writes poetry – which is published regularly in the parish magazine, under and assumed name of course – being the only way he can really get his words out.

Over the course of a year many things happen, especially at that age. Jason sees his speech therapist, he starts to notice girls, he starts to notice his parents are arguing a lot, war breaks out in the Falklands, he goes to the annual fair, the school disco. Along the way he is given a few opportunities to really change his life – to get in with the cool kids, to receive feedback on his poetry and most importantly get a better understanding of life and how that doesn’t necessarily mean caring what other people think.

Initially I don’t like Jason. His incessant attempts to get in with the cool kids are sickening. Especially as even at that age I could have told you that those supposed cool kids are clearly bullies and idiots. Eventually though even Jason starts to get an idea of how people really work, even if does come about the hard way. His family all grate, but part of this is the undercurrents of tension, which like Jason’s view point of the world change as the novel progresses so that we get a better idea of why certain things happen.

Since the novel is set in 1982 it has a very retro feel. Lots of references to Thatcher and the mood of the nation of the time. Of course having been sufficiently younger than the character and being part of a different nation my thoughts on the period are somewhat different. Though again its funny how events within the family change Jason’s outlook on the times.

Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s fourth book. Note the use of the word book, it could easily be suggested that this is his first novel, at a push his second. His debut, Ghostwritten, was a series of stories, each with connections to those before and after. That was followed by Number9Dream, which is allegedly a novel in that each chapter has part of the “overall” story, though like Ghostwritten each piece has an individual gimmick at work. Of course it was Cloud Atlas that really made Mitchell’s name, a highly acclaimed work – which was essentially six interleaved novellas, taking the idea of Ghostwritten to a new level.

So with that, Black Swan Green is Mitchell’s first novel. The first novel that works as a real novel, and is entirely gimmick free (well, more or less). Though there was a point where I read the description of this book and thought he was going to pull another Number9Dream. Of course, it is then ironic, that his most coherent and solid work is also his least coherent and weakest work. Each chapter is a month, and each month Mitchell focuses on one event/aspect of Taylor’s life – to a degree fulfilling the short story expectation. But because this is novel and not a collection of shorts, however interleaved, each chapter ends up feeling too fragmentary – as though we really aren’t getting as much of the picture as we should do. As the novel progresses themes and fragments are picked up, and if you wanted you could probably connect each chapter to the one before and the one after in a typically Mitchell fashion.

Through his previous works Mitchell has had various elements of the fantastic, little glints of wonder that have made his books a kind of magic realism, slipstream, whatever. Black Swan Green strips all that away, presenting one of the most mundane novels I have read in a while. Even in literary terms another retro novel about a kid in the 80 coming to terms is not what you call startlingly original. Along with my initial negative reactions to the characters, I just didn’t really feel encouraged that this was going to really live up to Mitchell’s past work. And it never really does - while it does pick up, while it does get more interesting, while I start to like the character more – this is Mitchell’s least interesting book to date. With that, it is perhaps sad that the bits I enjoyed most were the inevitable connections to his other novels – in the same way that Cloud Atlas has a character from Ghostwritten, Black Swan Green has a character from Cloud Atlas, and then even has Taylor listening to John Lennon’s Number9Dream.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Author: Samuel R Delany

Bellona. One of America's bigger cities. Some undetermined time in the 1970s. Catastrophe has struck, the city torn apart, and evacuated. At the time it was major news. In the way of these things the city lies abandoned and forgotten. The black and poor were left behind to suffer, and they get by best they can among the burning buildings and looting from shops. There are others, those that were too afraid to leave during the riots, those curious enough and wild enough to see what comes next. The latter being the model for those that arrive in the city post-disaster - deserters from the army, gang kids, hippies and wanderers.

Dhalgren is about one wanderer in particular. Part Indian, part white, with a youthful face and ancient hands. Fleeing from something he lost one shoe, and even when he gets a chance to have a new shoe he only replaces the one. Somewhere along the line he has lost some memories - he has travelled the world, he has just come from Mexico, these things he remember - but his name, his name is beyond him. On entering the city he is met by Tak Loufer, a man who likes to think of himself as an iron wolf, who seduces those he can while they are still fresh and gives them the tour of the city. Finding a man without a name Tak daubs him The Kid because of his youthful looks, despite the fact that he isn't that young and he isn't too happy about the name. Regardless it isn't too long before that is the name everyone calls him.

The Kid finds a city outside time. Electricity is sporadic. Clocks are broken. The hands on the church tower clock were torn off during the riots. There is a daily newspaper, but the day, month and year are determined at random by Calkins who publishes the paper and regards himself as the city's governor. The Kid admits he has had mental problems in the past, spent sometime in a hospital even. So against this background he starts to feel like he might be going crazy again - people he talked with that morning tell him that night that they haven't seen him in days, suggesting he is having blackouts.

On the other hand, as he suggests at one point, perhaps this city is different to all people. Various people he meets saying how they will clear out the shelves of a shop, and then come back to the same shop as far as they can tell and find the same shelves full again. Or how one building can be burnt out one day, and untouched the next. But then at least once he catches people changing the street names about. How could anyone remain sane in this environment?

In terms of local celebrity there are two extremes - Calkins and his parties, and at the other end George Harrison. During the riots poor, black George raped middle class, white teenage June. Someone took a photo while it happened, it was in the paper, and George is now notorious. There are posters of George everywhere, a local hero for some inexplicable hero, with his victim June fascinated by him and determined to meet him again some day.

Two of The Kid's earliest encounters shape his stay in the city. Tak introduces him to the commune in the park. There he meets Lanya, a woman he quickly forms a heady and powerful relationship with. The other is with the local gang - The Scorpions. Gang kids running riot, who beat him upon first meeting. Strange kids with strange devices - hologram projectors that cloud them in light, giving them the aspects of strange beasts. Initially the holograms were all of giant scorpions, hence the gang name, though now the devices project dragons, beetles, gryphons and all sorts of other beasts. Through the book The Kid is seduced by the gang life rather than the park life of the commune. Strangely, easily he finds himself leading the gang. Strangely and easily he gains his own reputation, quickly becoming a celebrity to rival either Calkins or Harrison. Not least because he takes a second lover from the ranks of The Scorpions, Denny, a 15-year-old boy - who becomes part of a surprisingly healthy and stable love-triangle.

Dhalgren is a monster of a book. Nearly 900 pages long and mostly plotless, The Kid ambling from one incident to the next. Like Babel-17, which was the first novel by Delany that I read, the main character is a poet rather than some obvious hero. To emphasize and exacerbate the confusion one can sometimes feel reading Dhalgren, the seventh section is a reproduction of The Kid's notebook. Where he has been running out of space to write, and filling the gaps, pages coming in columns, stray paragraphs and patchy events. All of which makes the reader fear for the end. How can Delany finish this? How can he bring it to any kind of conclusion? In that dizzying last section you are thrown back and forth, spun around, and before you know it the end is upon you. And the end, the end comes with a certain perfection, unexpected but just right.

Dhalgren was written in the early 1970's and feels like it. With Delany a black, gay science fiction writer Dhalgren is filled with an explicit and challenging approach to both race and sex. It feels like a psychedelic epic, something along the lines of Moorcock's Chaos novels or Farren's DNA Cowboys. There are parallels to novels like Murakami's Hardboiled Wonderland And The End Of The World or perhaps more closely Alasdair Grey’s Lanark - stranger, strange land, and a series of near incomprehensible events. At times it is heavy going, there is just so much of it, but at others Dhalgren is just so weird, so wonderful - events are intoxicating, the emotional intereactions between characters so striking - that it starts to overwhelm and consume the reader.

Dhalgren appears to be part of the Science Fiction masterworks in the UK. Though as far as I can see it is currently out of print, with a new version due. I ended up buying it second hand, an edition from 1979 that originally cost £1.25 and I ironically paid £1.50 for.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Title: Remote
Author: Seimaru Amagi
Artist: Tetsuya Koshiba
Publisher: Tokyo Pop

Remote is one of the few manga I read regularly, what with there being so much of it and it being so hard to pick titles that look good and read good and are interesting. Remote probably initially caught my eye because of the name, since its part of the email/website I've been using for 10 years now. I wrote about it back when I had read the first few books, Remote is now up to volume 9 and remains worth reading.

Kurumi Ayaki was a traffic warden in book one, who quit her job to marry a car salesman that she gave a parking ticket. But with the recession his job suddenly looked unstable and Ayaki was forced to go back and ask for her job. Too late, her job had been filled, but there was a position with Unsolved Crimes Division's Special Unit A - assistant to Inspector Himuro, the brilliant young detective who chews assistants up and spits them out. Something happened in the past, so that Himuro is an emotionless genius who will not leave the shelter of his house's basement. So he needs assistants like Ayaki to go to crime scenes, to provide all the information they can, so that he can solve the crime. So Ayaki became the latest of Himuro's remotes.

There are two minor problems with Remote. The first is that clearly the material has been serialised somewhere previously, so you get that recap every 10 pages or so, which can be off putting. Then there is the fact that few of the stories are self-contained, inevitably the books are printed in such a way that a new story starts in each book, so that you have to buy the next to find out what happens. Which I would guess puts as many folk off reading any more as it does ensure that folk come back for more. Though the way the book develops should be enough to keep those who are interested coming back regardless.

One of the more unusual things about Remote though is its pacing, while each story is not a self-contained volume, it could be. While most manga can take 20 books at 200 pages each to cover one story, each story in Remote is about 200 pages. This means Remote reads differently from most other manga, and perversely is probably actually one of the reasons why I enjoy it as much.

Remote has become part crime drama, part romantic comedy as it progresses. Ayaki's fiancé is determined to have sex with her, though she remains oblivious to his raging desires and attempts to get her into bed. Especially since too often each hotel room booked, each weekend away ends with a murder that Ayaki has to get involved in solving with Himuro's guidance. That aspect is contrasted by Himuro's Sherlock Holmes act, compiling every piece of data that Ayaki passes to him to unfailingly work out who the killer is. And as it progresses Ayaki starts to transform, changing from the giggly traffic warden to a detective spotting key clues to pass on herself.

Through murderous clowns, attempted school bombing, crack shot assassins, a murdered author, and a killer in a forest cabin we reach book 9. Book 9 starts with the conclusion of book 8's new story - the police have received a garbled phone message at midnight on the 10th of November someone will die in the ghost building. Ayaki has arrived shortly before midnight to find a group of people there, each having received instructions from an anonymous source. Sure enough midnight comes and someone is murdered - every one of these people is a suspect, but they were with a police officer at the time of the murder. So they all have a motive and an alibi - or do they?

Over the course of the last few books Ayaki's career as a car salesman has fallen by the way side and he has decided to become a journalist. So when he isn't trying to get Ayaki away, he is tagging along in case he can get a good story he can sell. So all through the ghost building incident he was appalled to see how confident Ayaki is becoming, how much praise she heaps upon Himuro. So in the second story in book 9, the rarity of a self-contained story, Ayaki's fiancé schemes to move their wedding along and suggests that they go flat hunting. Of course when they do, they stumble on a bunch of gold diggers keen to gain their gran's money and stop her renting out her house, which quickly leads to murder.

Remote book 9 ends with perhaps the biggest cliff-hanger of the series to date. A brief epilogue that sets the next book - Ayaki's fiancé has managed to get a short notice wedding date and insists that she quit her job once they are married, while at the same time Himuro has found out that the "snail" is back, the villain responsible for the fact that he no longer leaves the house. Good stuff.

District 13

Title: District 13
Cast: Cyril Raffaelli, David Belle, Tony D'Amario, Bibi Naceri, Dany Verissimo
Director: Pierre Morel

District 13 is like The Transporter or Taxi in that Luc Besson is tenuously linked in the creative process somewhere. Modern day Paris - race riots and suburban slums - extrapolated to 2010. The ghettos have been walled in. The worst kind of people separated from the taxpayers. Sorted.

Unless of course you happen to live in an area like District 13 where the heavily armed drug dealers are now in charge. Leïto is trying to fight back stealing drugs from the top guy Taha, and destroying them. Unfortunately Taha's response is to abduct Leïto's sister Lola, which he anticipates and reacts to. But he has no support not even from the last police station who are in the process of with drawing from District 13. The result is Leïto is in prison and Taha has Lola to do anything he wants.

Six months later. Damien is an unvoncentional cop. Hard and violent, but he gets results. District 13 just got a nuclear weapon, a weapon with a 24 hour timer, that they've managed to set off. Damien is the obvious choice to get in there and stop Taha from holding Paris to ransom. Leïto is the obvious choice of a local guide, but why would he want to help those who betrayed him and left his neighbourhood to die? Regardless Leïto and Damien are dropped in District 13 and the clock is ticking.

District 13 is a short film. About 80 minutes long. It spends the first part of the film with two set pieces, setting up Leïto and Damien, then spends the second half letting the characters hit the ground running. Pun intended, District 13 is billed as the free running film. As a film its like reading a whole load of Warren Ellis's Global Frequency back to back - nuclear weapon, tense countdown, with only an inner city free runner to save the day. Action wise it feels a lot like Ong Bak transported to Paris (which is ironic given Ong Bak's on screen message for Luc Besson), free running and kick boxing, non-stop hyper active action.

District 13 is short, sharp, raw, and a whole lot of fun. Easily the best French action film since Brotherhood of the Wolves!


Title: Ultraviolet
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund
Director: Kurt Wimmer

Ultraviolet is bubble gum, pop cinema, hyper violent and comic book inspired, from the cover montage opening sequence to the brightly coloured sets and costuming. Director Kurt Wimmer learns from the mistakes of his previous film Equilibrium, by shedding any semblance of plot. Which actually isn't quite true, there are a couple of points of embarrassing characterization and attempts at emotional resonance - but if you close your eyes you should find Ultraviolet to be a wonderfully soulless action flick, which is great if you like that kind of thing. And i admit, I am occasionally partial to that, so that as a result I enjoyed Ultraviolet more than Equilibrium.

The character provides an initial voice over, setting up everything you need to know if the first couple of minutes. Its the future. Bioengineering has identified a certain tendency towards vampirism. Which has been engineered and exacerbated. Super fast, super-blah, blah, this engineered race are at war with humanity. Blah, blah, super-serum, last stand, blah. Lots of bright lights, blah, blah technology - oh look anti-grav motorbikes, oh look underdimensional links that allow swords and guns to appear from nowhere, wave a magic wand so that you don't have to think about it too much. Blah, blah, brilliant. Mila Fifth Element Resident Evil does what she does best as long as no one expects her to act. Saturday night, midnight showing, just the job.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Title: Fifty Degrees Below
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
Publisher: Harper Collins

Fifty Degrees Below starts where Kim Stanley Robinson’s previous novel, Forty Signs of Rain, left off, the two fundamentally one novel split in half. This made Forty Signs of Rain feel very much like an unfinished work, and in turn Fifty Degrees Below takes a little time to click into place – waiting for the characters and events to make sense again.

Having resisted acknowledging the dangers of climate change Washington DC has found itself getting first hand experience at the end of Forty Signs of Rain. We start with the after math, train lines still out of action, the high water marks still showing on the front of buildings, the animals from the zoo the survived living wild in the city’s parks. But in Fifty Degrees Below things can only get worse with winter approaching.

Like Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below features periodic cameos by Phil Chase and Wade Newton, linking these two novel back to Robinson’s earlier Antarctica. But again the novel alternates primarily between Frank Vanderwaal and the Quibler family. Charlie Quibler a stay at home father and advisor on environmental matters to presidential candidate Chase, while his wife Anna works for the National Science Foundation.

The way the novel balances out though, this is really Frank’s story – at the end of his year with the NSF he is left frustrated by bureaucracy and inaction. Having said some thing he shouldn’t have, Frank is surprised to be offered a second year, and not only that but offered a chance to put his money where his mouth is. Even if no one else has recognised the immanence of catastrophe, those in charge of the NSF have, and are prepared to try and understand and act. So Frank accepts, but the person he leased his flat from is back in town, and with the recent flooding property is a premium.

This fact and Frank’s increasing discomfort with a modern lifestyle lead him to live rough. Frank dumps his car and gets a van he can sleep in, then sets up a tree house in the ravaged park land, right in amongst the homeless and the zoo’s stray animals. This sets up the novel’s contrast. Much of Fifty Degrees Below is spent on plans to save the world, Robinson launching into his dense environmental writing. But those sections with Frank living wild, meeting the people, really experiencing a raw frontline serve to give a sense of adventure, grit and depth to the dryer material.

Fifty Degrees Below is contradictory, a little strange and ragged. The ending is much more satisfying than that of Forty Signs of Rain, and leaves the reader with a greater sense of conclusion. Though there are still enough elements left unresolved that one does wonder, to some degree, whether there is more to come – there could easily be more with Frank and his mystery woman, his ex-girlfriend, and lets face it the world still needs saving.


Title: Cars
Cast: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry The Cable Guy, Cheech Marin, Tony Shalhoub
Director: John Lasseter/Joe Ranft

So, Michael J Fox plays a rookie plastic surgeon who has to get across country for a lucrative deal. But along the way he has an accident, causing property damage to a small town. The town needs a doctor, so they punish him for causing the accident by making him hang around. Gradually though he learns that he wasn't a good person, and that thanks to these good people he could become a good person.

Hmm. No, wait. That isn't the plot to Cars. That’s Doc Hollywood. Silly me.

So, Owen Wilson plays a rookie race car who has to get across country for a lucrative deal. But along the way he has an accident, causing property damage to a small town. The town needs a new road thanks to Wilson's reckless driving, so they punish him by making him fix the road. Gradually though he learns that he wasn't a good car, and that thanks to these good cars he could become a good car.

Cars is the latest film from Pixar Studios, which opens in the UK cinemas at the end of July (I caught it while in Paris last month). It would probably be fair to suggest that it is in fact the least interesting production from the studio that has to date brought us films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc and The Incredibles. But its equally fair to say that in a market suddenly thick with conveyer belt animated features, anything that Pixar do is still better than what the bulk of the competition have to offer.

So Cars is clever, well animated, and has plenty of attention to detail. Another animation worth seeing.


Title: Secuestro Express
Cast: Mía Maestro, Rubén Blades, Carlos Julio Molina, Pedro Perez, Carlos Madera, Jean Paul Leroux
Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz

An affluent couple are on their way home. They stop to pick something up from a shop. She is concerned that its a bad neighbourhood. He is reckless, still high from the coke he has been snorting all night. The next thing they know they have guns in their face and they have been abducted. Families are phoned - you have two hours to get money, drop it and we'll return your loved ones. The couple are the latest victims of express kidnapping - none of this waiting around for people to collect millions for unrealistic demands - take them, get as much cash as you can get quick smart, and dump them before it gets complicated.

Of course that’s the theory. But as we all know from watching Mr/Lady Vengeance - there are good kidnappings and there are bad kidnappings. And lets face it, most films are going to follow a bad kidnapping. The kidnappers are amateurs, in that they are chancers, playing everything as it happens, quite partial to a bit of rape and murder when it comes down to it.

Secuestro Express translates as Kidnap Express, a Venezuelan film set in the capital city of Caracas. To a degree the set up and some of the stylistic elements suggest parallels to Man On Fire - a hollywood film following a kidnapping in Mexico City. The film talks about the number of people kidnapped a year, mixed with commentary captions, and jump shot/split screen shots. As the film goes on it calms down a little, and takes on a more run of the mill style. The film works at suggesting a nastiness, being loud and in your face, always edging towards real violence. Though given the inference that it is working on, Secuestro Express is actually less violent than one might expect.

On the whole the film makes an effort to be stylish and memorable, though it is really anything we haven't seen before. However it does create a certain tension, and manages to create a definite snapshot in time, where everything that happens does so in the express manner of the title.


Title: Election [Hak se wui]
Cast: Simon Yam, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Louis Koo, Nick Cheung, Siu-Fai Cheung, Suet Lam, Ka Tung Lam, Tian-lin Wang, Maggie Siu
Director: Johnny To

The Triad are a secret order, descended from monks, who went underground after persecution, in a way similar to the Knights Templar. Though over the last century the Triads have flourished - in one area of Hong Kong alone there are 22 separate chapters. One of which retains the tradition of having seven brothers, who elect a leader from among their number.

Two brothers are running for election this year, though one of them is being more aggressive than the other - bribery and threats should ensure his victory. However the oldest of the brother, a previous leader, still has a particularly strong influence and his vote is for the other guy.

That swings things. The quiet business like man is elected instead of the violent and flamboyant brother. Fine. Except that the flamboyant brother has invested a lot of money in this election and isn't going to give up that easily - so he exerts his strength, and the dragon staff of office goes missing. A race is on, a leader will not be recognised till he has that staff, and whoever gets it first will change things around.

Election is another in a long line of Hong Kong films about Triad gangsters. Though the references to the origins of the Triads, and the rituals involved was something I hadn't particularly seen before. Of course the police get involved, concerned about Triads getting out of hand. And there is also the familiar threat of a Triad war, though in this case it is a civil one. There is a certain contemporary feel to the film, the recognition of changing with the times, and that perhaps a good businessman is a better option than a cold killer.

friday 23rd june.

fridays i stop at 1pm. this week had been a bit difficult. most of the folk i work closely with were already off on holiday. so i was fielding calls and taking more responsibility than usual. and of course in the way of things, just as i thought i was going to make it to friday and have a quiet day, the tables turned again and i had a price that had to be out before i left.

it went out 12.58. and i went out at 1.00. straight down to the train station. got there for 1.20, train about 20 minutes later, airport for 2.15. checked in and ready, very ready to go. prestwick is one of those ryan air specials, its out of the way and with limited facilities, though certainly i've seen worse. so it was a case of grabbing a bite to eat and then settling down to read samuel r delany's dhalgren, my holiday read for the trip.

took off about 4pm, got into paris beauvais the back of 6. had to get a bus from there to paris itself. i had thought this would take about an hour or so. but it seemed to take a lot longer. we were hitting pretty bad traffic. not sure whether that was football related (france were playing togo in the world cup that night) or friday night related. it was after 8, heading towards 9 when we arrived in paris itself. dropped off at port maillot, which is a bit out the way, but being ryan air is of course near an irish pub - the james joyce in this case.

everyone else who had been on the bus seemed strangely content to be directed to the nearest taxi rank. for me arriving in a city with a metro system like paris that didn't make a lot of sense. so i was quite happy to just jump a train to get to my hotel. which of course, is easier said than done, since it took me a little bit of time to actually get my bearings and track down where the nearest metro was.


i found the station, worked out my route, sat down on the platform and took this picture, the streaks across the image is the arrival of the train going in the other direction.

port maillot on line 1, train to chaldes de gaule, switch to line 6 and down to pasteur - the station nearest where i was staying. coming out on boulevard dre pasteur was easy, finding my bearings from there so i knew which direction rue falguire was again was tricky. but with a little help i found it, walking past loads of folk spilling out on to the street outside cafe/bars, places erupting in my wake as france scored against togo.

arriving at the hotel atlantique, the night desk bloke was loathe to be drawn away from the football, and i almost had a sense that he just handed me the first key that came to hand! as i headed up to my room, i wondered what i had got myself into.


the corridor running along outside my room had had the carpet ripped up, leaving this plastic sheeting. which i just had to photograph - bleak hotel!

once inside the room, i found that i had been given a double room with shower instead of the single without shower that i had booked. given the heat i was quite glad to have the shower there instead of having to go down the corridor. with meetings planned for the next day i thought i better recharge my phone, and having listened to my mini disc all day i thought i better recharge it as well. however of the 3 power points, only one worked and another was hanging out the wall, cables and all. the air conditioning didn't work, and only two of the 3 lights would go on. there was also this:


sticking out above the door. god knows what it was, all duct tape and cables, the stumpy ghost of something or other past.

by this time it was after 10, so i just went for a pizza in the place right next to the hotel. a nice calzone pizza and a glass of lemonade. all the rest of the customers were women, i would have said they were avoiding the football - but one was wearing a football whistle round her neck, and there seemed to be regular text messages coming in to keep them up to date. after dinner, i went back to the hotel, read a little, and tried to get a good night's sleep. but between the heat and the sound of the traffic post football, i didn't particularly sleep well.

saturday 24th june

tried to lie in as late as possible, knowing that i would probably need to be rested for the weekend ahead. finally got up and out about 10. took a wander up the road, away from where i had got in the night before. found the postal museum round the corner, made a mental note in case i ran out of things to do. then wandered along to the montparnasse tower:


which was about 5 minutes from where i was staying. it was quite a big tower really.


to the right of this picture you can see the base of this tower, to the left the galleries lafayette, and in the middle girl with bright red hair!

from there i wandered back down to pasteur station where i had got in the night before:

my plan for the day was to head to the most obvious point - the eiffel tower - and have a wander round before meeting misty in the afternoon. so i got the metro from pasteur down to bir-hakeim. when you come out the station there is a steady stream of tourists, all heading along to the tower. there are also a group of cafes right on that corner, catching folk as they come out of the station - i was amused to over hear a group of half-a-dozen english girls trying to decide which one to go into.


instead of heading straight to the tower i took a wander along the road bir-hakeim is in. found this football park, full of guys having a kick about, chunky blocks of flats behind them, then of course the tower. at the end of football park, there was graphitti up the side of the buildings:


walked a little further along that street, came across a supermarket, decided to go in and buy some stuff for brunch, figured i could eat it sitting somewhere around the tower. heading back to the tower, there is a pretty decent sized park all round the area - pathways, benches, even a duck pond with ducks and large catfish. i sat on a bench had brunch, soaked up the atmosphere. felt spits of rain and feared the possibility of a downpour, i had left my jacket in the hotel, the heat was sufficient to make me think i wouldn't need it.

the rain never came to anything. so i wandered to the tower proper. the place was absolutely heaving with tourists, from all over, babble of voices, people standing in line to get up the tower, people eating ice-cream, little bosnian girls looking to present their sob stories to anyone who would stop and read their pre-prepared cards.


looking back uptowards the montparnasse tower from the eiffel tower. i sat in the park on this side of the tower for a bit, people watching and having the remains of my brunch. i took a moment to flick through the little pocket map/guide i bought in the airport, and realised that there was more to see on the other side of the tower.


looking in the other direction, across the seine and toward the musee de l'armee.


so i crossed the seine and headed up to see the various museums, statues and stuff on this side. coming across the river i saw this merry-go-round, which reminded me of the one in amelie, though i saw that one later. in the foreground you can see a couple with their suitcases, i can only assume they had checked out their hotel, and were killing time before their flight - they trailed through the whole area dragging those cases behind them. on the left of the merry-go-round you can see two teenage girls, they were passing a camera back and forth as they were going round, taking turns taking pictures of each other, giggling the whole time.

from the merry go round up there was a series of stepped water works, fountains, and statues.



from the first stage upwards, layered cannon, the water works, eiffel tower, and behind that the montparnasse tower. an alternate view - a little bit of vandalism, a girl in an orange t-shirt, and those two towers:


between the stages of this side of the seine, i spotted the reflection of the tower, and thought i could take a picture of me reflected with the tower. but i don't think you can really see me very well. but hey. its a bit bleak.


up at the top level there are a couple of museums, loads of tourists, skate kids and gold statues. with this picture i was trying to get a contrast between the woman in the gold and the statues, but she was moving too fast. so i've got skater checks i-pod instead.


where you can see the back end of a bus in that picture there was a stall sending stuff to tourists. as i approached there was an outburt of applause, a shaven headed japanese man trying on a red beret to the delight of the rest of the group. there were quite a few japanese tourists, from the t-shirt and shorts type, to the suits with translator/guide types.

by this time it was about 2pm. i was meeting misty at 3pm. across from the square with the statues was the trocadero metro station. so i figured i would just head out to anvers to meet misty, make sure i wasn't late. on the way to the platform i spotted this poster:


which i don't think the arkans had spotted till we were out on the sunday. on the platform itself, this girl appeared, houndstooth skirt, brown blouse, her i-pod clenched in one hand, those white headphones up to her ear. she was grinning. and dancing. and doing little spinning turns. don't know what she was listening to, but she was enjoying it a lot!

of course i got to anvers sooner than i needed to. but better safe than sorry. so took this picture of this crumbling building across from the station:


could have done with more of the figure and less of the blue covering, but hey. then i took this picture:

the view from the main road beside anvers station up towards the sacre couer area. then i found somewhere to sit with my book and wait for misty. luckily she was early as well, so i didn't have long to wait before i spotted her striding along towards the station. we headed up the road in that picture and found a bench and sat on that, and just talked for ages. then we started to feel like we were getting burnt by the sun, so we moved on the grass and the shade and talked for another age, till the sun started to creep up on us once more. so we decided to go in search of a cafe, heading down the back steps we passed a bride and groom getting their pictures taken:


the bride's dress was gorgeous, of course the fact that it was orange helps as well. taking that picture i turned round and spotted this place, again great colours, so had to take a picture:


this is where we ended up going for caffiene. misty had a coffee and apple tart, while i had earl grey tea with a lemon tart on plum base. yum. they had this weird statue hanging from their doorway - i liked it:


and here of course is our dear misty in a traditional WGB shooting each other shot:


after having a second cuppa in the cafe, we wandered back down to the main road, and headed along to the supermarket across from misty's apartment. picked up some bits and bobs, before heading over to the apartment. there i met misty's partner and daughter for the first time, we drank coffee, posted on the board, and then headed out for dinner. misty's daughter is particularly partial to spaghetti bolognese, so we went to a little italian place we had scouted out beside the cafe we had been at earlier. we got there heading towards 8pm, with arrangements to meet the arkans at gare du nord about 9pm.

so after we had some pasta, misty and i left her partner and daughter - demands for ice cream lingering in our ears as we wandered steadily in the direction of gare du nord. turning a corner approaching the station we stumbled on this optical illusion, pretty much brough us to a stand still, it was well impressively done:


as we walked along the street, you could pick out the parts that had been coloured red, with what looked to be vinyl tape, breaking up the illusion into components:


once into the station, misty and i waited at the end of platform for the euro star. the arkans spotted us first, and confirmed our identity with the old ring the mobile phone and see if they answer gambit. from there we headed out to the arkan's flat, where they dropped off their stuff, before heading out for more food. it was on that walk we spotted the bleak toilet, and i went above and beyond the call of WGB duty by posing! having already had some pasta, i opted for salad this time - a rather refreshing italian salad - melon, watermelon, ham, and all. after eating and chatting and hanging we called it a night and all headed "home" for the evening.

it was probably heading towards 1am by the time i got back and was ready for bed. again it was hot and difficult to sleep. having dozed off their was an enormous bang. a long, rumbling, sustained blast that woke me up. i looked out the window but couldn't see anything. waited for sirens or something, sure that it had been some kind of explosion. it started to rain. it must have been one single blast of thunder. that cooled that atmosphere, and sleeping was easier after that.

sunday 25th june

sunday i got up. got ready, texted the arkans, and made arrangements to meet them at denfert rochereau at 11. i got there early. cause thats how it goes when your in a city you don't know - either pretty early or pretty late. as i arrived though i got a text to say that they were going to be late. so i figured i would go for a wander - find a supermarket for a bottle of water if nothing else.


from that thunder the night before it had been raining non-stop, and pretty much did so all day. it felt like being in scotland. so it didn't entirely stop me. i had spotted two girls running across the road in those plastic sheet types things that tourists carry about - one was bright pink, the other bright yellow - unfortunately in that picture you can only see the yellow.


as you come up the stairs to the road this large lion statue is in the middle of the junction.


behind the station entrance there was this little park, benches scattered round the sides, and this statue.


didn't this happen in a simpson's episode? the cow was on the roof of a butcher shop. the street was pretty bustling. spaced along this pedestrian section were flower girls, miserable in the rain as they tried to sell bunches to passers by.

between the rain and the fact i was still waiting for the arkans, i headed back to the station, stood undercover and got back to reading dhalgren. while i waited various characters went passed - groups of tourists; a guy on crutches who went through the ashtrays for fag ends, strangely followed by another guy on crutches who didn't. an old guy came up to me, carrying two pretty hefty looking bags and he started talking to me in french. i pointed out that i couldn't speak french. he looked sad, and kind of shrugged, said malade, at which point i got that he was ill and was looking for a hand with his bags up the steps. so i went, ah, and bent to pick up his bags, but not before he said operation, and gestured at his genitals. um. yeah. so i got his bags to the top of stairs.


about 10 years ago i saw this guided tour of the catacombs of paris. ever since i'd been kind of interested in seeing them. so when the arkans asked me what i wanted to see in paris i of course said the catacombs! when we met it turned out they were right across the road from the station. at the entrance they had the above notice - so its suggested that you don't try and take bones with you. eric, i was wrong, you need more of a cardboard box than an envelope - please watch your post box for a package, but i'll deny all knowledge.


so you pay your money, and you go down the stairs, 130 down according to the sign. then you are underground, and you have long tunnels to wander through, barely lit, and occasionally dripping. after a bit, you get to some stairs up, you follow them.


occasional hints of other tunnels off the path that is open to the public, only a tiny, tidy section of what is down here is available to visitors.


then you enter a tunnel and there they are. bones. stacked. bone upon bone. interspersed and punctuated with skulls.


there are something like 1.7km of corridor. weaving. on both sides you are just walled in by the dead. its a little overwhelming. a little hard to take in. i wasn't really sure what to make of the whole thing. though it is definitely relentless.


at various points along the way you would come across plaques, quotes, notices of memorial, or crosses.


eventually we emerge at the other end. and i have to admit, i was a little surprised that you just arrive in the street. its pretty non-commercial, though you do pay to get in. the only souvenier type thing is a skull design euro/medallion that comes out of a machine as you go in.


after all that walking and all those bones the arkans suggested lunch. so we went to this canadian place, specifically so that i could try poutain, which of course i've read about here, but never had before.


it was quite a cool place. the waitress was amusingly loud, you could hear her shouting and swearing at the other end of the place. when we went in we were pretty much the only folk there, though before we left there were another couple of groups arrived. while the arkans had had a big breakfast, i had pretty much only had a couple of apples, so they went for something smaller, while i had a heaped bowl of quebecois poutain - fries, cheese, peppers, onion, bacon and bolognese sauce. damn that was hearty!

after lunch we discussed what we were going to do next and decided on the pompidou, paris' modern art museum. we got there and found there was an animation series on, and we had pretty much arrived just in time for a film starting. after enquiries we were assured it was in english, so i would have no problems. however once we got into the showing of renaisance, it was quickly clear that it was entirely in french. they did ask if i wanted to stay or go, i was happy to stay - the animation is pretty cool, and i could follow most of what was going on.

the previous night arkan had suggested going to see pixar's cars, which had opened in paris, but opens in the UK in a couple weeks time. we had run the idea past misty, figuring that her daughter might enjoy it. so we were meeting misty and family at the cinema about 5 for cars, which pretty much meant a dash from the pompidou to the UGC. it was pretty mad, it was a special cinema day, so the place was heaving, people everywhere. but we got sorted, misty's daughter getting french pop corn and everything and settled down for the film. by strange coincidence, arkan's sister turned up for the same showing - how mad is that?

after the film, we went for dinner, the area round the cinema was filled with little restaurants and bars. since we had misty's daughter with us, we had to find somewhere that did spaghetti bolognese. which we found, and i had a bolognese pizza that was quite nice.

again we left misty's daughter eating ice cream, while the arkans, misty and i went to kong for really expensive cocktails. i had a mixed fruit juice called "tango",


mr.arkan had a long island tea,


and misty had sex on the beach, inspired by mrs.arkan's suggestion. after that it was getting pretty late again, so we all made our way home for the night.

monday 26th june.


(this is the game shop just across from pasteur, where i was staying, that i mentioned to arkan - they had loads of lord of the rings/star wars figures)

arkan took the day off work so that we could hang out - go round comic shops and the like. first stop was a european comic shop - stacked full of cool stuff, mostly stuff that doesn't get translated into english, so i only get to see at all when i go on holiday. they had loads of stuff - comics, postcards, mounted bilal prints. i could have spent loads. foolishly. but i stuck with the new bilal book, the third part of the dormant beast series.

then we went to an american comic shop. mostly imports, and i guess translated american stuff. pretty much the kind of stuff i could get in glasgow. heavily marvel/dc orientated. arkan got the latest fables book, and then we left. went on to a place that specialised in japanese stuff. again they had some pretty cool stuff - manga, prints, art books. again i could have spent a load of cash. but didn't. we then went in search of the missing comic shop, but it was still lost. so we didn't find it.

i've only had sushi twice in my life. the first was in london with sentinel and mirrorgirl. the second with arkan in paris. we started with miso soup, and a vinegary cabage salad thing. then mixed sushi platter, which was pretty cool. followed by skewered meat selection. i haven't a lot of practice with chop sticks, so to make me feel better arkan managed to send one of his skewers flying - what a man!



after sushi, we went for ice cream. from the first picture i had the green tea with jasmine, from the second i had mango and cherry flavours. this was the best ice cream place in paris according to arkan. they scultped the ice cream into a kind of rose shape at the top of a cone - the cherry in the centre, ringed by the green tea, and then the mango. the green tea and mango together was really nice tasting. the cherry looked really good, but i found it a bit tasteless, on the other hand by the time i worked my way to the cherry i was losing feeling in my tongue, so that might explain it!


after ice cream we decided to head back to the pompidou. having been in to see a film we really hadn't seen any of the actual art the day before. while we drank tea in a starbuks round the corner, we got a call from mrs.arkan, who was sneaking out of work early. so we killed some time watching this group of mongolian musicians outside the pompodou. the sign selling CDs said mongolian chanting - but they were making this absolutely incredible droning sound with their throats, harmonising and layering between the bunch of them, mixed with the strings they were playing. they were pretty cool. though they had managed to grab the only bit of shade around.

once mrs.arkan arrived we went into the museum and had a good wander round. there was quite a lot of cool stuff:










then we went for tea in the bar at the top of the pompidou, which is designed by the same guy that did kong:


which had some pretty good views of paris:


from there we went for dinner, a japanese place. where i had beef gyudon? bowl of rice and beef with a fried egg on top. then back to the arkan's to play soul caliber III, which mr.arkan bought while we were on our shopping trip. before heading out for the fabled pub quiz!




this is arkan's camera taking a group picture of the 4 of us:


quick picture of misty as we were both waiting for our trains


tuesday 27th june.

tuesday was my last day in paris. it was also misty's. she had suggested giving her a phone and seeing what she was up to, maybe catch up one last time before we headed home. before i had left work on friday i did a quick search of things to do while in paris, i came across a list of non-obvious things to do. the most obvious of which was the passe-muraille, a statue of marcel ayme based on his character "passer through walls". it was in the same area as misty, so i figured i would head to anvers, give misty a phone, make arrangements, find the statue then meet her.

i had brunch sitting by abbesses station, which i misread as abbsess station for some reason, then i spoke to misty and arranged to meet at 12.45. giving me about a half hour to find the passer. beside the station there was a park, with this mural:


above that there was this contrasting figure (translation?)


i wondered in the general direction i though i had to go, but was struggling, the map i had didn't show the streets i was looking for. i saw a sign for some kind of animation centre, so i looked for that, i couldn't find it, but spotted this instead:


eventually i had to ask directions, which got me a little nearer. i was about to give up, looking at a bus stop map for clues. cursing i turned round and spotted the sign, i had found place marcel-ayme, even though i couldn't see either allee des brouillards or rue norvins that i had been looking for. it was quite a non-descript square, and i guess most folk would miss it:


but the statue of a man walking through the wall is pretty effective and cool:



content at having succeeded in my quest to find this random statue, i started to wander back towards sacre coeur, heading to the cafe that misty and i had had tea and cake in on saturday. all along the road there was a stencilled slogan at intervals:


saw a few of these kind of things during my visit, the other one i can remember clearly was "black mamba" with a snake curling round the letters. continuing on my way i came level with the lift which ran up the side of the hill to the sacre coeur:


having taken that picture, i turned round and took this one:


so i had the choice of having to go up or down to get round. i went up, which was further than i'd gone the other day. coming up to the sacre coeur itself, where there were of course loads of tourists about:


looking down the way, to where misty and i had sat on the grass on saturday afternoon:


tried to work my way down to the cafe to meet misty. managed to get down too far and had to work my way back up again. got to the cafe five minutes late, but was still first to arrive. sat down, ordered tea, eavesdropped poorly on a couple of giggling american girls. tried to phone misty, to find she had left the phone in apartment. she ended up having gone too far, buying souveniers, and arriving 20 minutes later. her partner and daughter arrived about 2 minutes after that. they all had drinks and i had more tea. despite being warned to watch her chocolate milk shake, misty jr managed to splash her euro disney t-shirt - but insisted that those chocolate marks would represent another memory of paris - kids ;)

after tea, we headed out to madeliene station, via this bleak:


the church outside madeliene station:


from the front of the church, looking down rue royale:


heading towards the champs elysees, the grande palais:


we stopped in the park here and had toasted paninnis for lunch, while misty jr fed bits of hers to the birds - which were too small to show up on film! incredible!

wandering along the champs elysees we finally reached the arc de triomphe:


-misty takes a picture of her partner and daughter in front of the arc.


- you know, i just love how cheerful the guy in the suit looks, damn thats a smile!



- i was taking this one to show how you could see the eiffel tower from here, but managed to get misty jr as well, she had a habit of doing that.

after the arc, we went to the tech street that arkan recommended so that misty could get misty jr a webcam, this building was across the street:


while i waited for them to buy the webcam i stood in the street, watching pallet loads of gear being rolled up, a fast talking chinese girl with red streaks through her razor cut her babbling on her mobile phone, boxes stamped along the side - made in china. hard core cyber punk, paris style!


after cars misty had explained how her daughter was always finding stuff, walking about during the afternoon misty jr found a pair of sunglasses. for some reason on the way back to misty's apartment she felt the need to do this. no, i can't explain it either.


having worked out that abcess station was close to misty's apartment and on the line we were on, we went there. but it was a bit bleak, they were obviously refurbishing the place, the ceiling and walls were all raw. misty jr tried to jump into my picture, misty tried to stop her.


from the platform up to ground level there was a mural right up the walls, though it had been vandalised. don't know how folk normally get out of this station - probably escalators - but with the refurbishment it was down to the steps. there were a lot of them. back at misty's apartment we had coffee, chocolate and posted on the board. arkan had finished work back of 4, but then had his appraisal. after that he called me at misty's and i left misty for the last time - her partner planning dinner for their last night in paris.


from misty's i headed down to anvers station - the train pulled in filled with brazilian fans, their game having just won in victory and they were making a lot of noise about it. fighting my way through that i made it through and i met arkan and we went for couscous. his appraisal went well. i was on holiday. we both went the whole hog and had the couscous royale, which was pretty hard core, and cooked to perfection. while we ate the spain vs france game was on the tv. everytime the french scored the place erupted - the young guy running around with an air horn, the french flag round his shoulders, then the english. mrs.arkan joined us, she had dessert while we sat bloated from dinner, then the three of us sat and drank excellent peppermint tea till the game was finished and it was time to head home. standing on the platform, waiting for the train, i took one last picture of my visit to paris:


thanks to mr and mrs arkan who were great, and took a lot of time to make us feel welcome. it was great to meet misty in edinburgh, it was brilliant to catch up with her again in paris where we could explore and natter for hours. i had a great time.

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