Friday, April 29, 2005

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - movie

Yessss...I saw it last night, and I'm still undecided about it.

I think the majority of my conflict boils down to the fact that I am somewhat of a purist. The original radio play I have almost memorized (it's been a long while since last hearing it, due to the tapes wearing through), the books I've read many times, and I own the TV series.

Perhaps if there hadn't been a TV series that stayed loyal to the dated british feel of the radio play, that hadn't provided me with all my visual images already, the movie would have faired better.

I already knew I had image conflict from the trailer. The man cast as Arthur Dent looked exactly like Ford Prefect to me, Marvin looked like he was designed by Sony, so did the Heart of Gold for that matter, a Zaphod barely had his extra head and arm feature. But these were fairly easy to shrug off.

For me, the movie swung between clinging slavishly to the original, and diving off in a totally different direction, two polar opposites that kept jerking me around for the duration of the movie. Again, this is probably the purist in me speaking. Having the play memorized means I expect the lines delivered in a certain way from a certain voice.

I did appreciate some of the changes to the story they made. Giving Arthur Dent character developement, and an arc of his own, tied the movie up quite nicely. I was worried about how they were going to do that, seeing as radio plays operate on not having any sort of tie up at all. (SPOILER: and the fangirl in my cheered when he and Trillian had a smooch.)

That said, the rest of the story wobbled and teetered around all over the place. The randomly introduced villian, Humma Kavula, appeared, made threats and bargins and...was never spoken of again. Never saw him again. Not entirely sure what the point was with that one (SPOILER: other than the removal of Zaphod's second head, which I think the script writers thought was too much hassle). The Vogons made much better antagonists, although their bureaucracy swayed between insanely slow and insanely fast. I didn't grasp Zaphod's motivation to get to Magrathea, or why any of the others went along, or exactly why the Magratheans were going ahead with Earth Mark II, given the mice weren't interested in it.

That said, the movie did look good. Jim Henson's studio did a wonderful job on the Vogons, and although they don't look anything like I imagine them, and are ridiculous more than terrifying, they're brilliant. The mass chanting of 'resistance is useless!' made me all sorts of happy. Their ships (whilst not being yellow) were lovely ugly clunky things, and featured the jewel-encrusted crabs and dewy-eyed gazelle-like creatures of their home world. Dead and crushed. I'm not sure that waving a towel at them will have as much effect as it did, but it was amusing to watch.

The factory floor of Magrathea took my breath away. Just gorgeous.

I'm not sure that the most popular selling book in the galaxy would function soley on flash animation. I'm fairly certain they could afford something better.

Fan girl moments included that first twang from the banjo, the whale (Bill Bailey!), and a cameo from the original Marvin the Paranoid Android.

I the end...and I dread to say this, as it is more condeming than saying the film was bad...I think...for me...the film was forgettable. It had its moments, but overall I neither loved it nor hated it, either of which would have left a deeper impression. That won't stop me acquiring the DVD, or seeing the sequel (as if there isn't going to be a sequel) when it comes out, but I think I'll stick to the radio play for now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Sleeping Beauty Novels - Anne Rice

(I know, lots of overly long posts today. This is the last, promise.)

I would just like to state, for the record, so everyone knows, I did not buy these books. I did not request these books either. If memory serves, they were offloaded onto Mabs and I by his friend, who was to embarrassed to own them after reading them. I'm inclined to follow suit.

The trilogy follows the path of Sleeping Beauty, who is woken not just with a kiss, but with a kiss that came midfuck. That raised all sorts of "that's just wrong" flags, and those flags never went away, but for other reasons. The Prince claims her as his own personal love slave, and takes her back to his mother's queendom, where the training of pleasure slaves is pretty much all they do.

It is branded as erotica.

It isn't.

I learned an awful lot about how to write erotica from reading these books. To begin with, if something is there all the time, all the freakin' time, it fails to be noteworthy, and becomes very mundane. For instance, if the main character of the story is naked for the entire story, I kid you not, and if all the other multitude of slaves around her are also naked, then nakedness means very little. They're not going to be ashamed of their nakedness for particularly long, because they'll get used to it. They, and their masters, are not going to get turned on by nakedness, because they'll get used to it. And what's more, if you have female slaves running vigorously every morning, naked, then their breasts sure as hell aren't going to stay 'high and pert'.

Every problem in the story stems from this one thing; it never stops. The nakedness never goes away, so never becomes special. The spanking (bloody hell) never goes away, so fails to inspire any sort of fear or horniness. Eat breakfast, have a spank, whoopdidoo.

Perhaps I was reading it wrong. Perhaps I wasn't supposed to read it as a story, but read one chapter at a time, as turnedonedness was required. Bullshit.

I've come to the conclusion that the most important thing you have to do in erotica is take a break. Write the biggest, most mindblowing fuck scene in all the universe, but for fuck's sake go write about something else afterwards. Erotic tension is not about throwing boobies in the reader's face, page after page, chapter after chapter. It is about taking it all away, and letting it build up again, from scratch. Having it always there makes it pretty damn boring, and sadly I'm not exaggerating when I say it really was there page after page.

The reader should also care about the characters that're getting booty time. It's very hard to get interested in fooling around if the character's doing the fooling are wet hens. It makes a nice change from the spanking (bloody hell) but I still didn't actually care. Give them some redeeming feature, please. Or better yet, make them interesting.

There are, possibly, three chapters in the entire three books in which I was interested. These chapters didn't involve spanking (bloody hell) or booty time, but character developement. A pity there weren't more.

Lastly, and most importantly...learn to write consistantly. Pick a tense and stick to it. Stop starting every third sentence with 'and'. I know these books were originally slated as first person from the number of 'I' instead of 'she' typos made.

Verdict: read these books if you are a writer feeling down about yourself, because they will make you feel better. I feel great. (Having finally finished the damn books might have something to do with that.)
Otherwise, seriously, there's better erotica out there on the internet. For free.
Asterix Conquers America

"Ah yes, I remember. The cure for amnesia is 30 pounds of pork taken orally."

There isn't any nice way to say it: this move sucks balls. Not in a good way.

It is very loosely based off Asterix and the Great Crossing, which in itself is not one of the better comics, if only because of the total lack of any conflict. Asterix and Obelix go fishing, a storm washes them up on the shores of the North American continent, they make friends with the natives, go home, the end.

The movie spruces it up a little bit, by having them chasing after a roman ship that has kidnapped their druid Getafix, with the intention of catapaulting him off the edge of the world. Good thing the world is round.

This was just embarrassing to watch.

It began as soon as the voices kicked in. The gauls, despite living in France, had pommy cockney accents, and while I don't mind the romans being ridiculously over the top italian, it was a bit painful to watch. Obelix did not sound like a big man - it goes on, and on.

They run into trouble with the natives when they inadvertently piss off the tribe's Medicine Man. He has his revenge by offering them the peace pipe. The dangerous music SWELLS most THREATENINGLY as they're chuffing away, and I don't think I've been preached at so badly in a long time.

And then, my god, the songs. Yes, there was singing, preaching singing about oooooooooohwaaaaaaoooh, we are one people, and we like you, we are one tribe. I shit you not. Both Hamish and I hid our faces with this number came up.

This isn't to say the film doesn't have its moments, but they are such brief moments, flashes which are quickly forgotten in whatever embarassing thing happens next.

Gaul: Halt! Who goes there?
Julius Caesar: A barrel, you fool!

I'll keep it, and I daresay, when I have another Asterix binge, I'll watch it again, but ugh. Stick to the other movies. Please.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


I heard the fucking thing, and it did sound like a monster. Sounded like something was trying (unsuccessfully) to crunch bones. The sound had size behind it. (My rational half is sure it's just a possum or cat, but can't figure out what the sound actually was.)

It's unfortunate that I only ever hear these night noises whilst on the potty. Small enclosed space and all. Freak out. I'll investigate the backyard tomorrow morning, specifically seeking traces of corrosive slime and whatnot.


The last half hour I've sat and stared at the wall. Had the overwhelming urge to...something. That's exactly it. 'something'. No idea what. Just a very strong urge to do it.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm in the right place, if somehow, in the course of my life, I've gone shooting off in the wrong direction and am miles away from where I'm supposed to be. Just floundering around.

Monsters Redux

Just jumped Hamish on his journey out of the potty. He heard nothing.

The dogs believe me, at least.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Last night, I got stuck in Istanbul. I had to go fetch someone, to do something about China, and then next I knew, there wasn't a flight to Sydney for another day.

I spent my dream wandering around an airport, bored.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Foursight - Peter Crowther (ed)

Novellas are funny things, rare to come across, hard to find a home for. A pity. Once, I thought short stories were just that; stories that were short. But there are some brilliant short story writers out there who show that the medium is so much more than that; a short story is a lot more than a word count.

I thought novellas were everything that didn't fit in either the short story or novel catagory, and once again, I've realised they're a lot more than that. They give rise to a type of story that the others couldn't begin to hold.

Crowther recognises this, and has given these four novellas a home, and I thank him, and hope it continues to launch these projects.

"Leningrad Nights" by Graham Joyce sees us within that great city, in winter. The Nazis lay siege to it, shelling regularly, then randomly, a sort of psychological warfare to keep the city's citizens forever on their toes. There's no food, little warmth to be had, and if death isn't delivered by 'the blind justice of the Whistling Shell', then freezing or starvation are just waiting.
Leo has something of an epiphany (in the form of some opiate laced tea) and roams about the city helping those than he can. Food is in such great shortage, and he provides. They hail him a saint, whilst the other him returns to his frozen uncle to hack off another limb. It's a choice between survival and morality.
I'm never entirely sure whether or not the city is full of doppleganger Leo's, or if it is his method of dealing with the atrocities he commits for the sake of others. Is it the tea?
Beautifully written and an amazing show starter.

"How the Other Half Lives" by James Lovegrove leaps of in a totally different direction (which is a welcome change, as much as Leningrad was enchanting, it was also unremittingly bleak), following a week in the life of William Ian North, a ridiculously rich man who appears to own stocks in the entire world, and his money talks.
He made a deal, 'arrangments', to ensure his success, so naturally he is more than a little upset when things start to go wrong. He isn't supposed to get stuck in traffic, after all, he's William Ian North.
For his happiness, someone else must be utterly miserable. But nature finds a way.
Wonderfully absurd whilst being shockingly grounded. Good stuff.

"Andy Warhol's Dracula" by Kim Newman tells the story of the Father's (Big D) disciple making himself known in the New Country. New York, in this case.
I can't claim to have any sort of knowledge about Warhol, but before reading this I had heard the theory that he was a vampire. Or at least, really, really, really, really wanted to be one. The essay threaded throughout the piece certainly lends credence to the idea. It's interesting to see the intergration of Johnny Pop into the New York scene, and how quickly Warhol latches on to him, being from the old country, having had contact with the Father himself.
And who knew that vampires were drug dealers too?
I can't remember another vampire story in which I wasn't aware that I was reading a vampire story. It lacks the cliches that normally follow vampires around. Terribly amusing.

"The Vaccinator" by Michael Marshall Smith was the weakest of the four, which is a pity because it is the final note in the book. I don't think it was badly written, but in comparison to its company, it doesn't shine as bright. I'm not quite as interested in the Florida Keys as with Leningrad, I prefer vampires to aliens (even if they are booze-guzzling chain-smoking dodgy-arse aliens), and I prefer Andy Warhol to a thug. I think, for me, this story didn't do anything new. Not to mention the heroes failed to save the day. Deus ex machina and all the rest.

I'm glad I have another of Crowther's novella collections waiting for me. Something to look forward to.

Verdict: worth it, so worth it. Novellas are getting to be an acquired taste.

Monday, April 04, 2005

And now for something completely different...

(Because I know listening to someone do nothing but whinge is nothing if not annoying) here is a little snippet I came across whilst reading a book on Jack the Ripper;

"...the job done by these women was dangerous because Byrant and May [a match making company] used white/yellow phosphorus, which was banned in other countries because it led to a form of bone cancer nicknamed phossy jaw, which could case the jawbones to rot and glow greenish-white in the dark. Phossy jaw was sometimes immediately fatal, but could be resolved by the agonising and disfiguring surgical removal of the jawbone. (Page 17, Jack the Ripper: The Facts, Begg, P. Robson Books, 2004)

The emphasis is mine. I can't figure out how the jawbone glows, given there's all this flesh in the way. Does it glow through the meat? Wikipedia is not forthcoming, and all other entries on the internet seem to be lifted from that.

...well. I said 'different', I didn't say it wouldn't be morbid.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

what they don't tell you

they don't tell you that when you're unemployed, unwillingly unemployed, you will never have a day off. it isn't one big holiday, as it must seem to those who have jobs. there is never a day in which you are not unemployed. there is never a time, a moment, even in your sleep, when you are not aware of the painful fact that you are a useless waste of air.

they don't tell you how it chaffs and burns and stings your pride to rely on others.

they do tell you it won't be easy, but it will happen, and to just keep your head up. they don't tell you how to go about keeping your head up when you've tried and failed, over and over, a hundred times, for a year.

i'm okay.

i'm tired of trying, and i'm tired of failing, and i am hideously aware of everything that i don't have and all the places i'm not going. i haven't given up. there's no point in giving up.

but i don't have to wear a cheerful face. i choke on the mere idea of pretending to be all happy and hopeful. sure. it'll happen. one day. but it hasn't happened yet.

don't worry about me. this is just how i am, how i've always been.