Wednesday, 29 February 2012

#30 Fugitives and Refugees

My first Chuck Palahniuk book, and it is about his town of Portland Oregon.  It is more of a travelogue for the slightly demented and bizarre.  Because nowhere does he describe the main sites like Powell's Books, Nike Town, Portlandia, or the touristy parts of downtown.  This is a book about Portland from someone who lives in Portland and tells you about the places that he likes to go.  And between each chapter there is a short story from his life in Portland, which I guess is autobiographical.

I will be in Portland next week, hopefully I can try and hit one of the places he talks about.  I haven't been to OMSI in a while...

(This is not my Palahniuk book for book club, I will be reading Pygmy.)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Tom Strong and his adventures in bad physics

I have been reading this Alan Moore comic series for the last month now (36 issues) and have read about Tom Strong, genius, travel between dimensions, time, and reality.  All of his adventures defy physics in some way or another, but still enjoyable reads.  I don't think the 'science' was meant to be taken seriously, but with such amazing theories out there like superstring theory, it could easily have been amazing and within the realm of possibility.  maybe I am missing the point.

I was hoping that Alan Moore would have written all of the issues, but about halfway through he stopped and various other writers picked up, though he did finish off the series by writing the last issues.  Which in a way tackles the scientific inaccuracies by ending the world and exposing Tom to reality.  I was kind of clever.  Next up is Gaimen's Sandman.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

#28 The Filth

I have been waiting several days now to post this latest entry in "Weird books i have read", and frankly I am without understanding of Grant Morrison's post-modern graphic novel entitled: The Filth.  It is really hard to make sense of something that is mutli-dimensional and by dimension I mean it travels freely between the 'real world' and scripted comic book pages.  The main character is confused the whole book, as well is the reader, which I guess Morrison intended.

Strange things in the book I cannot make sense of:
-A talking communist chimpanzee that is an assassin.  I appended a picture of this primate so I wouldn't be disbelieved.
-A superhero ripped from the pages of a comic called Super Original that is now real and wants to destroy this real world for taking him from his comic pages.
-Mutant sperm that is enlarged and kills all the women in Los Angeles by violently flying through their wombs.
-A dimension that is organic and living everywhere, and feels like something ripped from a Cronenberg movie, or from Lynch.
-A pleasure cruiser that is its own country and goes around destroying everything it comes near.
-Small beings that live in your body and destroy cancer and other ailments, but they use photosynthesis to live, so if the body is deprived from sunlight, these beings eat the body.

I think I can keep going on for a while.  I cannot connect these strange symbols together to make any sense of the graphic novel, which was a fairly long read.  I guess I will have to reread The Filth to make better sense of it.  It was well written, and the drawings wee very dense and required one to look carefully at every frame to "understand" what was going on.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


At the beginning of the year I told myself I wouldn't read more than 7 science fiction books.  I am ready right now to say that limit was too low.  I think this is already number 4 or 5.  Also, I read this one probably 6 years ago and could not for the life of me remember what it was about, just vague impressions, but nothing substantial.

Glad I reread this little gem of a book.  I quite enjoyed that the book took place in half-life, or from cryogenically frozen minds.  It also had some good tension and horror as the characters were mysteriously dying throughout the book.  This is the closest PKD has come to horror.

There is something nice about completely forgetting a book and then getting to enjoy as though it was completely new the second time you read it.

One a side note.  Only two more weeks at Yellowstone, so I need to get as much reading done now as I know I will not get any done when in Korea.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Naked lady covered in blood is my new title for...

I read this mainly because somewhere I heard that Kill Bill was partially based off of this, and also that Kazuo Koike is supposed to be the manga god in Japan.  Yes, there are a lot of similarities between this and Kill Bill, but some stuff I wasn't expecting.  For example: Many of the episodes in the four volumes of this 800+ page manga end with the heroine naked and covered in blood.  Actually many of the episodes eventually result in the heroine naked at some point.  I can't forget lesbian sex either.  This was all really surprising from a graphic novel made in 1973-74.  But then I did a little research, meaning I went to WIKI, and read that this was published in the Japanese Playboy, so go figure.

Despite writing to his audience there is much in the way of story that I enjoyed, such as the revenge aspect, and that this was a historical piece taking place in the late 1800s Japan.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

#25 Tis Pity She's a Whore

With a title like Tis Pity She's a Whore who wouldn't read this play by John Ford?  As with many Jacobean plays I find it difficult to tell if it is a tragedy or a comedy in the first act.  It starts with a brother confessing to a friar his more than filial love to for his sister, and then arguing with that friar.  Kind of comedic, I thought?  I was looking forward to a light hearted romp about incest, because anything seems possible for the Jacobeans.  So this brother tells his sister about his burning passion and she says, "ME TOO!"  Well, moving to the next act she gets pregnant and people start to die.  So much for the light hearted romp.  Then the sister marries someone else and the brother gets jealous and kills her.  So like any sane person he advertises his crime by walking around with her heart on the end of his sword telling all of his crimes of incest and murder.  He then kills her husband and tries to have a go at anyone else at the party (Her wedding ceremony).

There are some side stories as well, one concerning a character of such dimwitedness that he was pure comedy.  He would always go on about a horse with two heads for show in the circus, quite funny...but he was accidentally killed in a terrible assassination plot.  But the best line came from him describing his mortal wound,

"I am sure I cannot piss forward and backward, and yet I am wet before and behind."

By that point I knew it was definitely a tragedy.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Edward II

This is the third Marlowe play I have read this winter, and he has distracted me from Middleton now for about 3 weeks.  I will be back in the thick of Middleton next week, but for now I have Marlowe.

Edward II is a new play to me, and I realized my only exposure to this obscure king is from Braveheart.  In the movie he was Edward Longshanks queer son.  Remember the scene when Longshanks tosses the princes lover out the window?  That Prince!

This play focuses a lot on Edward and his "lover" Gaveston.  The whole first part of the play is how Edward loves Gaveston and everyone else in the kingdom hates Gaveston.  It is kind of comical how the king is constantly doting on his lover, even as his nobles are raising arms against him.  No matter the situation the king asks about his Gaveston.

Eventually the king is defeated and taken to some dungeon where he is tortured with rotten food, drainage water, and foul smells.  The way the characters described it I couldn't help but laugh, especially as Edward was a very proud person.  I think Marlowe has a dark sense of humor, that if playedd right on stage could cause the audience to laugh at a monarch humiliated.

#22 Defending literature

Here's the title of this New Historicist review of Renaissance Literature:

Defending Literature in Early Modern England: Renaissance Literary Theory in Social Context

Doesn't that sound like a must read?  You have a real winning title there Robert Matz.

This academic book came from my collection of Cambridge books.  The author at times was far wordier and confusing than necessary.  It required my undivided attention when reading it, and his points were at time very illuminating, as new historicists tend to be.  But at other times, which I can't be bothered to recall at this moment, when Matz stretched a passage to mean something that seemed less than convincing.  I basically read this book because a chapter was dedicated to The Fairie Queene, which was not my favorite, the one on Sydney was the best.

The main thesis of this work was how the emerging poet was using literature a means to create profit and pleasure for the reader and to help define what a humanist noble should be .

#21 The league of awesome characters

This is like my 5th graphic novel this year, which I will soundly blame on the iPad for making it so convenient to read them at work.

Let me just say this first: Much better than that terrible movie.

This is about five famous characters from Victorian literature that are recruited and set about to save London.  It sounds cheesy, but to read these well developed characters talk and react in some situations is something worth seeing.  I praise this work (Volume 1) not because it is Allan Moore and I should praise everything he does, but because it is well conceived and drawn.  Each section on the volume includes several pages of mock advertisements from the time (1898) as well as a very long Lovecraftian style story concerning Alan Quartermain, John Carter, Randolph Carter, and the Time Traveller.

As for the graphic novel aspect, the characters are Captain Nemo and the Nautalus, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. hyde (I count this as one), The Invisible Man, Wilhelmina Murray, and Alan Quartermain.  And their villain is a Mr. M (I won't say more).

There is a Volume 2, which I will get around to reading sometime this year, maybe next week.

The Simulacra

I normally enjoy the twists and postmodern surprises in PKD, but this latest foray into his material left me wanting more.  The side plots seemed irrelevant, and the ending was too conventional compared to his other work.  It has its moments.  But when I think of some of the characters like Ian Duncan, his purpose did not drive the plot, but added dimension to the world, which wasn't really needed.  For a book just above 200 pages one would expect less sideplots and less characters than PKD managed to cram into his story.

Though I will say I enjoyed Richard Kongrosian who imagined he had lethal body odor and was contagious.  At another point he thought he was invisible and was amazed when people saw him.  And near the end his body started turning inside out and absorbing random objects.  He lungs replaced a gun in someone's hands, which that person dropped causing Kongrosian to complain that dropping his lung was unkind.  So the staple diet of bizarre is still here.  I will admit that I enjoyed it, though it seemed the plot was not as tight as other PKD novels.

Monday, 6 February 2012

#19 WE3

This was a recommendation of Alex B. and I finally got around to reading as the first comic I have read on my iPad.  This is a graphic novel that tells the story of three pets fused with killing machines that escape from the laboratory.  They can speak, and they have emotions.

This is a great addition to the comic world by one of the great writers, Grant Morrison.  My major complaint is that it wasn't long enough.

I must also say the art was beautiful.

Unconquered Tamburlaine

I finished part II of Tamburlaine by Marlowe.  I read these plays in my undergraduate days and must say I do not even remember them.  It might be that the action of the play was usually halted with long speeches, especially by the titular character.  This play was similar to part I, in that Tamburlaine is continuing to grow his empire through conquest, except now he is losing people around him.  Hs wife Zenocrate dies, he kills his effiminate son, and then he succumbs to some sickness.  In the plays "cruel Tamburlaine" is never defeated, but dies of a bodily sickness.  I guess in the end he wasn't greater than Jove, and was mortal.

As far as main characters there is nothing likeable about Tamburlaine.  In Part I his mockery of his victims was amusing, but by Part II he is beyond cruel, and a scourge of mankind.  He is a disgusting character that torments and kills everything in his way.  Por ejemplo, his wife Zenocrate dies of sickness in a town, so he burns the town so it is also wearing mourning colors.  And of course everyone in the town is killed by drowning.  Oh Renaissance drama, you really know how to make a guy feel good!  I plan on starting Edward II this week, maybe I will hold off on that plan.

Friday, 3 February 2012

#17 The Dark Knight Returns

Having read Batman: Year One I wanted to read more of Miller so I finally got around to getting a graphic novel that I had been meaning to read for several years now.  And when I got it I told myself to savor it and spread it over a week at least, I did not.  I opened the Amazon box and read it for the better part of a day, went to work, slept, then woke up early and finished it --so much for savor.

Normally I like a comic with a high amount of pictures and not as much words, which is a reason I am usually deterred from the Golden Age of comics --lots of writing.  This book too was full of writing, but the difference is that it was Miller's writing.  His great prowess of the literary genre of graphic novels is on full display.  He understands the relationship between word and picture.  He marries the two in a cohesive whole.  His words and Lynn Varley's line drawings are a perfect match.

I loved the words, now the story was--and I don't use this word often--amazing.  Miller captures the psyche of Bruce Wayne/Batman and then uses Superman as a foil, not to mention Commissioner Jim Gordon as another foil.  The plot is dense and  complicated so I won't bother with summary.  Just have to say as far as great graphic novels go, this one easily jumps to my personal top 5.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


So its been about a decade since I read Christopher Marlowe, and somewhere in there he somehow is not as amazing as I remember when I first read him.  Maybe I didn't have much to compare him with other than Shakespeare, and they are pretty even when it comes to writing.  But now, he just seems wordy.  His characters speechify all the time compared to the more flowing and excited Middleton.

Having said that, Tamburlaine Part I was still good.  A lot of the speeches I enjoyed even though they went on a little longer than reality.  I couldn't help but wonder how the play would have looked in the hands of a Webster or Middleton, probably a little sicker and twisted.  The scenes with the former Persian King being placed in a cage and eating table scraps were quite amusing until he "brains himself on the cage bars".

I will start Part II tonight.