"I accidentally grew a beard"

First, an explanation, because I’ve mentioned what I was doing tonight to a few people over the weekend, and their response was: “who’s Neil Gaiman?” If you’re thinking the same thing, then have a look at his website. In short, he’s a writer, most famous for The Sandman comic and the novel ‘Good Omens’, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett.

He's also rather funny in person. Always a plus. He's on a book tour promoting two new children's books, a picture book, 'The Wolves In The Walls', and a book aimed at a slightly older audience, 'Coraline'. There weren't too many children present tonight (although enough for Neil to be embarrassed when he started swearing during the Q&A session); instead it was mostly teenagers and people in their twenties (like myself and Richard).

Neil read The Wolves In The Walls to us (it's a fun children's book with helpful instructions on how to deal with wolves, silly parents who don't understand the abilities of puppets, and the magical properties of McDonald's apple pies), and then opened the floor to questions. A little boy got the first question in:

"Where do you get your ideas?"

Serious credit to Gaiman here; He told the boy why some of the audience had laughed at the question, that authors always get asked that, but he was going to answer it for him, talking about weird combinations of ideas and ending up creating a story idea for the Evil Were-Chairs that Time Forgot. He then went on to say that he stole the idea for Wolves from his four-year-old daughter, which got a big laugh.

He talked for about half-an-hour, on subjects as diverse as his Babylon 5 episode, the dream he had the night before where he ran around a cartoon world disguised as a dinosaur biting the heads off dinosaurs disguised as humans, sharing a hotel with Terry Pratchett, and meeting Rip Torn in Wilmington, NC ("BEASTMASTER!"). He was as informative and witty as you could have hoped for, plus we got to see the limited-edition beard (he promises it'll be gone by Friday).

We didn't hang around for the signing, mainly because I didn't bring any of my books with me (I wasn't sure whether Borders would allow it - turns out that they would have), and the shop helpfully took all the Neil Gaiman books off the shelves and stuck them on the table where he was signing. Which, of course, had a huge group of people clamouring around it, all trying to get Neil's signature. Sigh. Nonetheless, it was a fun night, and thanks must go out to Richard for coming along (and providing the lift to Oxford and back)…

currently playing: Sister Hazel — All For You

What could possibly go wrong?

Seeing Neil Gaiman tomorrow! Woo!

currently playing: Madness — Our House

Music Day


Suede split up yesterday, so here's the first single of theirs that I bought, all the way back in 1996.

Cat PowerWonderwall

From a John Peel session from a few years back. It's like her version of "Satisfaction" on The Covers Record; stripped down to the bare essentials, beautiful and naked. Plus! Also features the dulcet tones of John Peel at the beginning and the end (i.e. I couldn't be bothered to edit the MP3 down).

Camera ObscuraKnee Deep At The NPL (National Pop League)

From their new album, Underacheivers Please Try Harder. They're a Scottish band with some connection to Belle & Sebastian (not quite sure what that is though), and they sound quite similar, so consider that a warning if you think B&S are twee indie-popsters to be avoided. (If so, be ashamed of yourself!) I seem to have really got into this little alleyway of indie this past year; my favourite album so far is Saturday Looks Good To Me's All Your Summer Songs, which filters the C86 sound through Detroit to lovely effect. This is quite nice as well. Give it a try!

currently playing: New Order — Temptation

Those Damned Liberal Hollywood Types!

It’s a TV movie, so it’s probably awful, but it’s worrying that CBS caved so fast over The Reagans. Given the nervousness of American networks (read the history of The Insider for a fun exploration of that), I’m sure the script had to pass a legal test before any film was shot.

Excuse me, Wayne Coyne is bouncing like a monkey. Back in a moment.

Okay, bouncing over. Back to CBS. Is the right-wing power bloc that powerful now? That they can get a show cancelled in a week if they disagree with some of its content? That no-one is allowed to speak ill of Reagan's presidency? I can't imagine they'd make the same fuss if it was a "warts'n'all" TV movie about Bill and Hillary Clinton. Oh, it's going to be a fun election next year.

Talking of Bill, here's an interview where he outlines how he feels the Democrats should approach next November.

But, let's end on a more happy note. Saudi Arabia is going to crack down on people stealing sand. Yes, that's right. Saudi Arabia is afraid of running out of sand. The world is a strange place…

currently playing: Neko Case — Pretty Girls

The End Is The Beginning Is The End

As most of you are probably aware, I’m not the biggest fan of The Matrix series. I came out of the cinema four years ago, thinking that I had seen an above-average action movie with a few ground-breaking effects and a reasonable plot, although it did think that it was far more clever than it was in places. So I was a little surprised when people began discussing it as if it one of the greatest films of all time, with people praising it for its originality and inventive story. At long last, I finally understood what it felt like to be Richard, one of my friends at university, who loathed the Star Wars series with fiery passion, and would often forcefully argue the point (I still have a discussion to have with him that it was The Godfather that caused the downfall of American cinema rather than George Lucas, but we’ll save that for another time). I didn’t hate The Matrix, but I couldn’t see why everybody else seemed to fall over to praise it.

I talked about Reloaded a few months ago, and today I went to see the final film in the series, The Matrix: Revolutions. I still can't see it. On the plus side, there's fewer over-convoluted, slightly-dodgy philosophical conversations this time around, plus you finally get to see those hulking robot suits in action. The attack on Zion is easily the highlight of the film; excellent CGI sentinels swirling and swarming around the city, killing everything in their path, while the human defenders act out all the great war film clichés. It's a great hour.


I don't know, it just doesn't seem to hang together all that well. Loathe as I am to turn to the Star Wars films as an example of how to wrap up a trilogy, Return of The Jedi is actually pretty good in that respect. Revolutions isn't. The first twenty minutes is "What Happened To Neo, Anyway?", except it decides to redo the lobby scene from the first film and have a stupid, stupid confrontation with the Merovingian (no, really, it makes no sense. Why didn't they just shoot them after they agreed the deal, hmm?), and then gives us some time with the All-New, All-Different Oracle to explain the plot again. Then the film splits into three, just like Jedi; There's what's going on in the Matrix, the attack on Zion, and Neo's mission to save humanity. Fair enough. But the film, understandably, wants to concentrate on the Zion attack, so Neo disappears from the film for about half an hour. And we're not allowed to see what's happening inside the Matrix until the very end. It's weird, because you'd normally expect these stories to be edited together, and watching them one after another is a bit anticlimactic, especially after the spectacular Zion scenes. The finale isn't that bad, as it at least attempts to move away slightly from the standard fight setup (I won't spoil it, but I will say it's not something that a long-time comic reader will be surprised at, but it's better than nothing).

Also, the acting is a bit weird. Lawrence Fishburne has very little to do after the initial rescue, Keanu looks bewildered most of the time, and Carrie-Anne Moss turns in her best Skeletor impression (honestly, have a chip!). The best performances come from Jada Pinkett-Smith, who seems to channel Harrison Ford during the chase scenes, and the commander of the APU forces; sadly I'm not able to track his name down on the imdb, but he's playing one of those gruff and insane captains that you find in war films. IN A BIG MECH BATTLESUIT, WITH GUNS. Everybody else is adequate enough, but, as you might imagine, this isn't a showcase for acting talent.

So, should you go and see it? Well, it's always nice to see how things end. And I know that I have a tendency to look harshly on the series as a reaction to how popular it is (sorry), so you might not have the same problems that I did, or they might not matter to you quite so much. If nothing else, there's a cool middle section with hulking robot battlesuits shooting robots! They're always good for a day out at the cinema…

currently playing: Ultrasound — Floodlit World

Where Were You?

On the day the single died?

currently playing: Altered Images — Forgotten

Thoughts From A Dry Season

Not much to talk about at the moment; the Conservative Party have decided not to hold an entertaining, back-stabbing, vitriolic leadership contest. Realising the mess they got into last time when they made the mistake of letting the Party membership decide their leader, this time they’re going for the Soviet idea of promoting one candidate for the masses to endorse. That their idea of a leader that can win the next General Election is Michael Howard must give the Liberal Democrats a warm snuggly feeling at night.

Then there's the situation in Iraq, but I get depressed just thinking about that these days. Current feelings: Look, I don't want the US to pull out, because the country would descend into chaos relatively quickly, but would it be so hard for them to swallow their pride, and allow the UN to have overall control of the area? I mean, they could hardly do worse at the moment, could they? And don't get me started about the whole stupid "oh, that sign? Not ours, guv? Well, okay, it was ours, but they didn't have to put it up, did they?" business.

I would link to pictures to Chapel Hill's Halloween (look - no '‘' 8-)) party on Friday, but it seems that the Daily Tar Heel didn't take many pictures (hopefully, they were all out having a good time instead). So I won't. From what I hear, it's going to be a long night in the dth office, as they have to cover the local elections, so good luck to everybody involved…

Um, the new Camera Obscura album is quite wonderful, in a wistful, lovelorn-type way.

currently playing: Camera Obscura — Keep It Clean

9 Discs? Is That All?

Possibly includes a portion of the souls of Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher, and Jean Pierre Jeunet. If not, well it has everything else…

currently playing: A Camp - I can buy you

Link Me At The End of The Day

A few links to end the week.

The scary thing was that it didn't seem too implausible that they'd do such a thing…

Japan goes all New Romantic.

Norton Internet Security 2004 blocks NRA sites (possibly by default, the NRA's notice is a little unclear about that).

Too much information...

A picture demonstrating why Nokia's N-Gage is going to be a miserable flop.

The Top 50 Most Common Used CDs in America. I own six!

Finally, something I've been meaning to mention for the last two weeks, but kept forgetting: The HMV site is now usable! They've got rid of all the horrible JavaScript links, replacing them with splendid normal tags. Navigating through their huge sale lists is now much easier. I'll let you know whether this is a good or a bad thing when I get my bank statement next month…

currently playing: Beth Orton — Anywhere

Save Me For Later

And we’re back. Panther looking good so far. Here’s an obligatory Exposé screenshot:

currently playing: Billy Bragg - It Says Here