Saturday, March 23, 2019

Ranking The Damned albums and side projects


Punk was my first musical love. On childhood car journeys we'd always look forward to Jilted John coming around on our dad's 70s tape, culminating in me and my brother performing a cover version in a Haven Holidays version of The X Factor and scandalising the judges by forgetting to censor some of the rude words. Later came silly 90s punk and horror punk, but the limited horizons of the genre meant it fell by the wayside after a while, especially as I got more into antithetical things like prog.

So I was pretty happy to exhume The Damned a few years back, who at their best combine nostalgic punk fun with the gothic gloom that turned out to be more fitting to my personality all along. Here are my The Top 21 Damned Studio Albums & Etc.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ranking Mr. Bean


I'm not sure when I started unfairly begrudging Mr. Bean his phenomenal success. You'd think I could be content merely declaring that Blackadder was better and enjoy both, especially since clips of Rowan Atkinson's Beanesque stand-up and Not the Nine O'Clock News tomfoolery have been in my YouTube rotation for years.

On the bright side, this childish aversion means I can now enjoy these largely forgotten childish delights as if they were brand new again. Some of them are. Here are my Top 15 Beans ('Best Bits' disqualified for cheating).

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Alrightreads: Black Books

Yes, I shall need to get the black out.


Susan Hill, The Woman in Black

1983 / Audiobook / 192 pages / UK

*****

Such a perfect pastiche of the best Gothic novels that it comes out definitive, without the serialised padding that puts me off bothering with most of the authentic classics. If you can't tell your story in under 200 pages, not interested.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

2007 / Audiobook / 400 pages / Lebanon

**

A thought-provoking essay padded out to book proportions because that sells better, the takeaways are to expect the unexpected and not trust experts. Apart from this expert who can't get over how maverick he's being.


Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

2007 / Ebook / 208 pages / UK

****

I'm not sure why I skipped over this integral installment in the League timeline before. Maybe I took a peek and was intimidated. Taking its cues from vintage annuals, this patchwork of comic, prose, play and metatextual miscellany is overwhelming dense even by Alan Moore standards, catching up on half a century's worth of literary and pop culture references and cameos and reverentially adopting styles from Shakespeare to Wodehouse to porn with much more attention to detail than was strictly necessary. It's extremely heavy-going, but you're allowed to skip bits.


Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom

2016 / Audiobook / 149 pages / USA

***

Salvaging one of Lovecraft's most infamous stories to make the daft racist spin in his grave is all in good fun, but while this ends up being a decently horrific tale in the Clive Barker mould, it doesn't touch Providence.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The more things change


I was hoping all those geographically isolated phases of life and international adjustments since becoming an adult would break this rickety system and make me impossible to pigeonhole (I don't call dinner 'tea' any more), but this ended up being alarmingly spot-on regardless. I'm not that stuck in my ways, am I?

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/02/15/upshot/british-irish-dialect-quiz.html

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Alrightreads: Dino Trilogy

Jurassic Park was the first grown-up novel I read (aged nine to ten, twice), and I really enjoyed it. At least, I really enjoyed the bits with dinosaurs in. The rest – presumably the majority of the book with boring humans in it – doesn't even exist in my memory, apart from Ian Malcolm's perplexing chaos theory diagrams.

Watching the film again as an adult, scenes that were very familiar from childhood viewings yet somehow devoid of meaning at the same time suddenly cohered into new layers of story that I either didn't grasp or just wasn't interested in back then. I wonder what forgotten surprises the novel has in store. He wrote some others too.


Michael Crichton, Dragon Teeth

1974 (pub.2017) / Audiobook / 320 pages / USA

***

"We kept our hands on our pistol butts."

Dug up after the author's own extinction, there's no science fiction in this historical Bildungsroman, but its escalating action still has an eye to Hollywood. By going back to the dawn of paleontology, it works as a nice if strangely delayed prelude to his more famous dino books. Though I am slightly sceptical that they happened to chance upon a complete unpublished work on the author's most lucrative subject...


Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park

1990 / Audiobook / 400 pages / USA

****

I rarely read hard sci-fi books, so didn't mind that the interesting digressions on then-cutting-edge concepts in genetics, maths and computing came at a cost of the characters being stock templates. It doesn't capture the awe of the film, but it's a worthwhile supplement to fill in the background details more than may have strictly been necessary. I remember when Tim exclaiming "holy shit" was by far the naughtiest thing I'd ever read.


Michael Crichton, The Lost World

1995 / Audiobook / 430 pages / USA

**

I was never sure if the inevitably lacklustre film sequel had actually been based on an inevitably lacklustre novel sequel, and apparently it only partly was. It's been a long time since I saw it, but I don't remember the plucky child adventurers making an appearance, and Hollywood decided to race-swap Sarah Harding in their wisdom because a diverse cast would have stretched credibility in an action film about dinosaurs in 1997.


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Ranking the Vangelis albums


Back when my angry teenage taste didn't offer much in the way of mood music, Vangelis' Blade Runner score was a euphoric revelation. Opening the gates to more prog rock and classical discoveries, I was always excited to add a new Vangelis album to my collection, which would instantly conjure vivid vistas in my imagination even when it was just a Greek messing around on a Moog.

I don't really know what a Moog is. Here are a non-musician's thoughts on The Top 46 Vangelis Albums and Notable Collaborations (no bootlegs, singles or compilations). Based on feelings 'n' shit.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Ranking the F. W. Murnau films


I'm not a big horror fan, but I am a bit of a goth. Watching Nosferatu as a teenager was mesmerising.

The uncanny jittering and flickering of hand-cranked silent film; the Knightmare-Eyeshield establishing shots; the knowledge that everyone I was looking at was definitely dead while the already-decrepit castle probably still looked exactly the same. The magic wore off a little when I saw more silent films, but there's still something otherworldly about that one.

How about his others? Here are my The Top 12 Murnau Movies That Still Exist.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Ranking Star Trek: The Next Generation season three


I'm often tempted to rewatch TNG, especially since the HD remaster came out, but slogging through 178 episodes of extremely variable quality with some truly interminable stretches feels like an inexcusable waste of time even by my standards. I'll never get around to the important things in life at that rate, like watching Blake's 7.

So I allowed myself a year. Season three isn't just the year TNG got good, it's also one of the finest collections of episodes in the franchise, hammering out the flaws of the early years while still feeling fresh and setting the standard for 90s sci-fi TV. At least, that's what rosy nostalgia and received opinion tell me, I haven't watched most of these since the 90s.

Let's see what's out there...

Monday, January 21, 2019

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Ranking the George Pal films


Because I can't just nostalgically rewatch a couple of fondly remembered films from childhood without getting self-harmingly OCD about it, here are The Top 14 George Pal Films, most of which are really other people's films.