Monday, 31 August 2009

DVD fun fun: When the Wind Blows (Dir. Jimmy T. Murakami, 1986)

When The Wind Blows has a special place in my heart, along with the majority of Raymond Briggs' comic book work (The Snowman, Father Christmas, The Bear, The Man, Fungus the Bogeyman and especially Ethel and Ernest). However, this film's very existence proved to be quite a shock to me as I didn't even know of its existence until it popped up on my recommended list a few weeks ago.

I was given the book at the age of six by my dad, and, even at that age, I understood just how dark and heartbreaking the book was (and no doubt scarred my mind with dreams of nuclear apocalypse for several months, thanks dad!)

For those not in the know the book shows an aged British couple as they follow 1980s governmental guidelines about what to do in the event of a nuclear strike and then, after just such a nuclear bomb hits, watches them succumb to radiation poisoning.

Cheery stuff you no doubt gather.

Above is an extract from the book, and, as you can see from the film still below, the film follows the original source material's aesthetic considerations slavishly . This reverence is indeed a sign of the film's quality and commitment to Briggs' original message - indeed the film even lists Briggs as its scripter.

As you can see from these images one liberty the film makes is in the backgrounds; they are instead molded from what seems to be clay or plasticine. At first I wasn't sure what I thought of such a bold technique, but after seeing the film I can honestly say that it grants the filmmakers many opportunities which would otherwise be unfeasible for a British animated feature.

Most strikingly the film's camera frequently tracks and pans around the house's enclosed spaces, really reinforcing the spatial logistics of the house; something the film arguably does better than its sequential counterpart. This is a very effecting aspect of the film as an audience feels trapped inside the house too - when Jim Bloggs paints out the windows with white paint the claustrophobia is palpable.

Adding to this is the film's second major deviation from the source material, namely using bright, saturated colours instead of the novel's pastel tones. Again, I believe this to be an inspired choice, showing evidence that the filmmakers really understood the differences between graphic literature and film.

As the above image shows the presence of colour is almost stifling (and hence aiding the feelings of confinement within the house, mentioned above), but it also serves to make the pre and post bomb sections of the film feel even more separate.

In the film the post bomb sections seem have a thick layer of gray washed over the frames, so much so that the environments almost approach monochromatic tones at times. In the rare occasions that the first section's saturated colours do burst though we feel the loss the characters continuously attempt to ignore - even if a teapot is still bright it no longer belongs in this world of permanently gray skies and scorched earth; indeed, surely it too will become dark and grim.

However, do not let the fact the film is about the nuclear collapse of society think the film is endlessly grim and gritty. In truth the film is still charming and darkly humorous, with the film's two characters sharing so many warm moments of domesticity that their love for each other feels beautifully understated (and it should - upon the publication of his parents' illustrated biography in 1998, Ethel and Ernest, it became clear that Mr and Mrs Bloggs are in fact Mr. and Mrs. Briggs.)

Being a product of 80s Cold War paranoia the soundtrack to the film, in my opinion (if not my housemates!), perfectly fits the film and gives it a definite timestamp. David Bowie provides the title track, with numerous other 80s luminaries (Genesis, et al) providing the rest; when viewed as a transmission from the 80s I found the score to be strangely affecting, especially in the nostalgic "imagined" sections (I purposely haven't said much about these sequences as they were
one of my favorite parts of the whole film, and I think that to describe them would be to destroy their whimsical nature).

In closing I was surprised not just with the existence of this film version of When the Wind Blows, but I was also blown away (ho ho ho!) by its production values and overall quality (although I haven't touched on it the voice acting was fantastic). I think it stands as a fantastic companion to Briggs' original, and deserves much more recognition, particularly as people continually decry the virtues of British cinema.

Plus you can get it for under a fiver on Amazon. Go on...

sam sam

Saturday, 29 August 2009

dog show hello - quick note about rss feeds

Apologies in advance for the boring technical nature of this post, but here's just a quick note on how you can stay up to date with my blog (and hence make me a smiling man!) without any real effort.

For tech nerds: RSS feeds. I have them, please use them!

For normal people: I'm sure a lot of you know RSS feeds are GREAT! They allow you to see updates from a site without actually going to it; in my Firefox browser (they work in all though!) all I do is click on the dog show hello bookmark in my bookmark tool bar and it shows me the headlines of all the posts in the past few days.

Why is this GREAT you ask? Why, because it means you can easily see all the new articles on a site and pick the ones you want to read without trawling through loads of trash you don't want to see.

To add this blog to your browser could not be easier: just follow the simple steps below:

  1. Click on the 'Subscribe' drop down box and click 'atom' (it's just the feed format, trust me, all will be well!)
  2. Next click on the 'Subscribe' button at the top of the new page.
  3. A box will pop up asking you were you want to bookmark the feed; if you can save it in a toolbar GREAT, if not just save it in the old fashioned dropdown menu.
DONE! Now all you need to do to read articles is click on the bookmark (wherever you saved it) and choose the ones which interest you!


IN the words of Arnie; (please!) "DO IT NOW!"

sam sam

DVD fun fun: Exterminating Angel (Dir. Luis Bunuel, 1962)

In this unimaginative column I'm hoping to catch my thoughts on noteworthy DVDs I watch, and the first dog show hello DVD fun fun column is about...

Exterminating Angel (Dir. Luis Bunuel, 1962)

“People always want an explanation of everything. It is the consequence of centuries of bourgeois education. And for everything for which they cannot find an explanation, they resort in the last instance to God. But what is the use of that? Eventually they have to explain God!” - Luis Bunuel.

For those not in the know Exterminating Angel concerns a dinner party where, for no apparent reason, guests are unable to leave. Even though they frequently complain about the fact they can't leave, attempts to exit are always countered; people might make ridiculous excuses why they stay, or sometimes just collapse at the room's open doors. With the film's central conceit in place the audience is treated to the inevitable collapse of societies "best".

Whilst this simple explanation might make the film seem quite thin the opposite is in fact true. Bunuel's dinner party stays true to its own twisted internal logic throughout the film, and its limits are constantly pushed and tested. Frequently this leads to absurd situations, and conversations, which are simultaneously comedic and haunting.

Like the trapped diners the film's audience is trapped in the same infernal game of attempting to define and reason with the events before them; what exactly are the 'rules' of the dining room? If animals can enter is it something to do with the conscious mind? How can electricity enter if the room is hermetically sealed?

Embarrassed, I hang my head and admit that I frequently found myself asking these very questions, and airing my views on the room's logic to my friends. Without spoiling anything, I realized near the film's end that this stern mindset really wasn't called for, and instead should have reveled in the situation's surealist absurdity.

Focusing purely on the film's content though seems like a disservice, as its formal construction works hand in hand with the film's themes. Upon first seeing the dinner party's preperation by dozens of servants we are treated to some very theatrical staging of cast and camera; cameras pan and follow more than they track, but when they do they often maintain the shot's starting directionality and focus.

Some may put this down to budget constraints and dismiss it, but I think it to be an integral part of Bunuel's vision; after all the film echos the dinner party itself, with the bourgeois' cruel theatricality sent back on them tenfold. The lack of dynamic lighting, confined space and uncertainty of time all seem tailor made for theater, to the extent that the film often feels as if it is making a point about the way lives can be trapped in unexplainable patterns of drama and theatricality.

All in all I loved the film, and it has certainly inspired me to get more acquainted with Bunuel's sizable body of work. I don't think the film was a hard watch, and our viewing audience was certainly invested in the film. As such I think the easily graspable nature of the film, its humour, and the obvious points it raises, make it a very accessible film I would recommend to anyone.

(and that is the closest you will ever get to a review on dog show hello - in fact I probably won't ever go this far again! apologies for this time!)

sam sam

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Videogame EXPLOSION!!! Prince of Persia (Xbox360, Ubisoft Monteal, 2008)

Hello dog show hello readers! This segment, Videogame EXPLOSION!!! will focus on games I have recent played, that I think I have something worthwhile to say about. As always I encourage you to comment in the threads below;

dog show hello Videogame EXPLOSION!!! - Prince of Persia (2008, Xbox 360)

Having played all the PoP games (as we will forever affectionately refer to them) since the Ubisoft reboot Sands of Time last console generation I was drawn to, yet still slightly confused by, the need for yet ANOTHER reboot so soon.

Having played the game though I think the change is justified, as instead of aping the Arabian swashbuckling of Sinbad the game now evokes Studio Ghibli's output, and Miyazaki's work in particular.

In case you were wondering I most certainly see this as A Good Thing; PoP echoes Princess Mononoke most frequently, and since the game's thematics sync up neatly with this film I think it is an inspired move. The concepts of dark, wriggling, worm like physical corruption and rejuvenating land seem to have been lifted wholesale from Princess Mononoke, but the similarities do not stop there.

Aesthetically the two share a multitude of similarities (as the above image purports), with even the game's triumphant musical flourishes effectively re-imagining Mononoke's score through Eastern musical scales (sometimes...the game was created for Western palates after all).

Architecture in the Alchemist area of the game also recalls another Miyazaki masterpiece; namely Castle in The Sky. The pastel colored hot-air balloon devices and blue skies all recall the Sky Pirates natural habitat, and the game's protagonist (Flash fact - he's never overtly referred to as a price!) exudes the sardonic charm of the more roguish pirates.

Aside from the riffs on Ghibli the game has one other aesthetic and thematic touchstone; that of Team Ico's Ico and Shadow of the colossus. In addition to the fact that the pairing of the Prince and Elika reflects a slightly more sexed up (and less player-reliant) version of Ico and Yorda (or indeed Ashitaka and San from Mononoke), the game reflects the exploratory and combat light game mechanics of the Eastern game.

I bring these things to your attention not to label PoP as derivative, I instead do it to explain why the game's overall feel appealed to me - because, alas, there were certainly times when the game itself felt more like a chore than fun.

The game is effectively neutered by two elements; its desire to be open to player choices, and its misguided attempts at being successful. To explain the former gripe the game's overall structure must first be explained, so please allow me a second or two to explain .

Effectively the game is a collection of levels which can be tackled in any order, providing that you have the correct powerups unlocked (more on this later). When you arrive at an area the world is dark and covered in 'corruption'. After getting to level's 'fertile ground' via a linear platform series you fight one of four 'boss' characters; after their defeat the earth is healed, allowing you to backtrack and collect 'light seeds', some of which are off the linear path. These 'light seeds' unlock new powerups, which unlock new levels, which let's you collect more light seeds, which lets you....(repeat ad infinitum)

Hopefully this convoluted explanation communicates that after the first few levels the game feels more like a process, rather than a fun game. The problem is exasabated by the fact you can takle the levels in any order; because of this fact there is no building on learned skills, as the game cannot assume you have any previous knowledge on entering an area. As such the game does not have a difficulty curve, instead it has a flat horizontal bar of challenge - if you can do one area you can do them all.

This factors into my latter gripe with the game, namely its desire to be accessible. However, I do not see the game's much criticized lack of character death as any problem (if the Prince ever falls off a ledge, or in combat, his partner, Elika, grabs him and instantly transports him to safety), in fact I think it reduces pointless tedium and frustration, and should be present in many more games of this type.

Instead the Prince's problems come more from his super easy controls and heavy helping of computer assisted jumps and grabs. Unlike the previous reboot platform routs are highly scripted, leading to the game feeling more like an extended quicktime event at times; press B when you see a metal ring, Y when you see a magic plate or the screen boarder goes white, and A whenever you're going to fall off a wall.

Follow those instructions and the game is pretty much done.

As you can see the game has numerous mechanical problems, but I still would not hesitate recommending it to just about anyone as, see this article's start, PoP has moments of outstanding beauty and ingenuity that transcend its problems as a videogame. Instead the game acts as a successful experience, something I now find myself wanting more from a game than polished mechanics or technical prowess.

I cared for the Prince, I cared for Elika and I loved the section after the first set of ending credits (no spoilers here! see youtube if you want!), and thought it was a touching and ballsy move for a mainstream game; in short I really liked this latest reboot of the PoP franchise.

In what I am sure will become an frequent distinction on dog show hello a game can still be a great experience in spite of its flaws; rather than taking an immature viewpoint and judging purely on technical capability I want to look at videogames as a burgeoning art form, and instead look at the way games make us think or feel - in this sense PoP was the perfect choice for the inaugural Videogame EXPOLSION!!! as it outlines this viewpoint perfectly; and hopefully one you echo :-D

until next time!

sam sam

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Wednesday Compilation - 26th August 2009

Hopefully you all know the drill from last Wednesday - basically I post and create a compilation of stuff I've been listening to each week, and you get to listen :-D comments would be appreciated!

Download link will follow at the bottom of the post.

Track 01 - Heartbeats by The Knife (from Deep Cuts)

I don't really know why, but this song makes me smile every time I hear it (even as I writing this I'm listening and smiling, its certainly an involuntary response at this stage!) The song's simple synths and basic vocal patterns present, to me, an air of innocence and fun, thinking only about today and not tomorrow - in short I think of it as a party song :-D

The Knife are a band I really like, but there's something about this song that makes me like it loads more than anything else they've done; for whatever reason the "we were in lo--------ve!" line always makes me have shivers run up and down my spine.

Aside from anything else it makes me think of this new year's eve, which is most definitely a good thing (and one night when I certainly didn't think about how I would feel tomorrow!) THEREFORE The Knife = 100% yes mate.

Track 02 - Haircut Tacos by Pre (from Hope Freaks)

This is the first thing I ever heard by Pre, and I think it's great. Fun, chaotic and full of energy I think Pre would be great live, and I think it's a great shame they didn't play at this year's Supersonic festival (they were on the line-up, but not at the festival). I think this album was produced by Steve Albini, and it shows. The crisp, yet natural, production really benefits the band's sound, and the whole album has the same air of LET'S GO about it.

I think they're from London, so hopefully I'll see it won't take too much effort to see them; I think they would be loads of fun live, and the videos online I've seen defiantly support this. If anyone has seen 'em I'd like to know how it was!

Track 03 - Wings From Spine by Khanate (from When Clean Hands Go Foul)

Changing tack just a little bit here is Khanate. Ever since I first heard them, just before Things Viral came out, I knew Khanate were something special, and not just one of many "doom" bands (even more so than Sunn 0))) and the sixty thousand other O'Malley/ Anderson projects). Every release has offered us something new, and with this final posthumous release I think that Khanate have most certainly delivered something monumental.

Wings From Spine sees all four members all using their instruments to fully immerse the listener in an atmosphere of broken dreams, melancholy and despair; so far so Khanate. The guitar and drums are what makes this song a step above the rest of their catalogue, the guitar is more tuneful and affecting, whilst the drums almost jazz-like outbursts keep listens on their toes. This progressive drumming (particularly the use of the high hat) makes the piece feel as if it was once a normal song, but has been "broken" and Wings On Spine is the sound of its collapse.

"I broke one...because I could." Oh my, Mr Dubin. As always the vocals are primal rage and the lyrics are dark.


Track 04 - Origin by Mount Eerie (from White Stag)

Following on from Khanate I think this Mount Eerie recording certainly holds its own. Described by the artist as a "sloppy 4 track recording" Origin communicates the same feelings of emptiness and despair as the previous track, but in a much more subdued manner.

I think the sound quality certainly fits the recording, and, in my opinion, gives us one of the best Mount Eerie recordings. From the first line of this song I can't help but feel a bit down, and if you have it up LOUD the bass frequencies absolutely make you FEEL the song.

Track 05 - Time: The Donut of the Heart by J Dilla (from Donuts)

Pumping things up a notch is J Dilla, with one of the best cuts from his epic final album Donuts. For obvious reasons (see here for a full explanation) the entire album does have an air of sadness surrounding it, but this song in particular feels more a celebration of life, than upset over leaving it.

Aside from just being a great song the section where the beat slows to a crawl (and is accompanied by several *ahem* satisfied ladies), just before speeding back up to its usual pace, seems very poignant to me and seems to speak volumes about the way we experience time in our own lives.

Even if you don't agree on that mumbo-jumbo you should at least agree that this song wins :-D

Track 06 - Illegal Dustbin by Squarepusher (from Numbers Lucent)

Coming to us as the 90s rave induced child of the previous band orientated Just a Souvenir the Numbers Lucent EP was a hard release for some to swallow, neither embracing the full band feeling of
Souvenir or the electronic elements it purports to draw from.

Despite this I LOVE it, and embrace every one of its camp infused six tracks, with the final one, Illegal Dustbin, as a standout. In particular I love the way that it goes mental about 58 seconds in and just Squarepushers out :-D Even with the more hard edge though it still has a real disco vibe to it and makes me want to d-a-n-c-e!

Aside from anything else we have to agree that the cover art is FUCKING STUNNING!


Track 07 - The Wolves (Act I and II) by Bon Iver (from For Emma, Forever Ago)

Ahhhhhhh, Bon Iver. Despite being a mainstream super darling Bon Iver is bloody great, and dosen't deserve to be written off without a thought. This song in particular illustrates why he does so much more than acoustic singer songwriter stuff; the song has beautiful flourishes of electronics, drums, train samples, massive harmonies and reversed symbol samples.

Beautiful music that seems frail and soulful is something we don't normally see in the mainstream's eye, so the fact Bon Iver has found huge success should be celebrated, and not treated with suspicion (as I know some people do! I know who you are!)

Track 08 - Horizontal Hold by This Heat (from Made Available)

Yes, the cover to this collection of Peel sessions was homaged by Shellac with 1000 Hurts; there is a reason for that. These recordings were made after the band formed in 1975 - I'll say that again - 1975 - and still seem futuristic today.

I was introduced to this band by one of my housemates (through this song!), and I thought he was joking when he said that this wasn't a new band. One of the most influential bands ever in my opinion, just listen and drop your jaw.

Track 09 - The Point of it All by Fennesz (from Venice)

Fennesz is one of my favorite artists, and I chose this song to feature in this compilation because it gives a doorway into the way he creates his work; you can hear guitars become more ethereal before returning to clarity, in a repeating cycle.

Venice is a great album; every song is music to collapse and relax to, but still maintains a recognizable presence, unlike too much ambient music. This week I heard the Fennesz and Sparklehorse In The Fishtank collaboration, and I must say that blew me away too - I can't believe that I'm going to see him play in a church next month! YES!!!

Track 10 - Asylum (Permenant Underclass) by Dalek (from Absence)

Having never been a massive hip-hop fan I still find Dalek a very rewarding listen, with their noisy beats and overt aggression tickling my excitement nodules into a frenzy. I love the fact that they are actually rapping about something that interests me, and not respect, lifestyle or status of many more sensationalist hip-hop acts.

The first thing that drew me to Dalek was the fact they were on Ipecac, but after listening to their work (and seeing them live - brutal) I'm much more inclined to check out more hip-hop stuff, if anyone has any good recommendations in either this or an Anticon style please don't hesitate to let me know!

Love the last lyric too and totally agree with the sentiment.

Track 11 - Crimewave by Crystal Castles (from Crystal Castles)

Fuck the fact that they are ridiculously beautiful and hip; I can't lie I love Crystal Castles. There I said it. Despite the controversy surrounding their alleged stealing of samples from "genuine" 8-bit artists I can't deny that I think their songs are much more than the sum of their parts.

This song is one of their less noisier ones, which is normally a bad thing, but I really find this song catchy, and the vocal effects might seem a bit cheesy, but I can't help loving them.

All in all a pretty simple song, but for those of you wondering the only lyrics to the song are:

Eyes lit,
I want short breaths,
I found dark eye lids,
Nice breasts,
Like the summer into rough hands.

Yep, I have no idea either (although I'm thinking it might have something to do with a stupidly pretty and probably underage girl being "talent spotted" by a dirty looking hip man in his late twenties. Yep, that might be it y'know!)

Track 12 - Daily Routine by Animal Collective (from Merriweather Post Pavilion)

Animal Collective are one of my favorite bands ever, and with this latest album as their peppiest yet I fully expect them to be a lot of other people's favorite band in a few years time.

This song in particular exemplifies why this album is so good; it has some very spaced-out pop melodies and ties them up with some downright mental electronics :-D I also love the attitude Animal Collective promote - from this albums My Girls to this song (Daily Routine) we can see the way they just want a comfortable life for them and their loved ones, and the chance to break out the repetitive rhythms of daily life.

*cough* at least that's what I read into it.

Also the optical illusion cover art is ace!

Track 13 - A Warm Room by Envy (from Insomniac Doze)

Envy are another band I have a strong affinity for, and, even though their sound has changed drastically over the years, you can always tell instantly their style. Starting out as an epic screamo band and then weaving post rock into the mix one can see the natural train of thought which led them to Insomiac Doze.

However, I believe that this album actually falls flat much of the time, with this final song being the only one which really pulls the post rock/screamo combination off...

...but what a song.

Every time I hear this song I feel shivers go around my entire body, and I can't help smiling.

My oh my, what a strange coincidence to end with the same feeling this compilation started with, it almost seems planned ;-p

and that ends the second dog show hello compilation!!!!

you can download it HERE

Peace out and speak soon!

Sam Sam

Monday, 24 August 2009

Cinema Trip: Inglourious Basterds (Dir. Quentin Tarantinio, 2009)

Hello all, sorry about the lack of posts over the weekend; it was packed with dog action, breaking cars and social interaction to such a degree that I didn't have time to write about Tarantino's latest cinematic offering.

However, I think that a weekend's worth of hindsight is advantageous to the discussion of Inglourious Basterds (yes, it really is spelled like that!), so without further ado lets get our warpaint on!

As you no doubt know Inglourious Basterds has been an on/off project for Tarantino since the release of his 1997 release, Jackie Brown. I think its long term on/ off status definitely shows when viewing Inglourious Basterds; however, I mean that not as a complaint, but instead as a compliment.

The film's chapter based structure almost seems as if the film's disparate segments could have been written and conceived entirely separately, with only the ending really introducing the characters' storylines to each other. If this sounds familiar to the way Pulp Fiction was birthed (three separate projects merging to become something much wider and exciting) then I think that you will not be surprised to learn that is, in this bearded blogging man's opinion, the film in Tarantino's body of work Inglourious Basterds most resembles.

Although not my favourite Tarantino film, before the release of Inglourious Basterds, (Jackie Brown holds that honour) I think we can all agree that this is A Very Good Thing.

Inglourious Basterds surprised me immensely, as I was hugely mislead by the TV spots to think it would instead be a revenge exploitation flick in the vein of Kill Bill. However, I should have trusted my cynicism gland's reactionary response to the below TV spot as, to my understandable surprise, the film spent its almost all of its entire opening chapter in a one room house whilst two characters (a French farmer and the Nazi "Jew Hunter) discuss (no, that's not a euphemism) three families of missing Jews.

See what I mean? (Incidentally Brad Pitt's character never meets Hitler either, damn tricksy marketing departments!) As much as I liked Kill Bill's gluttony and excess it was very nice to see Tarantino moving a bit slower again, to the extent that one of my less forgiving housemates exclaimed "he's gone and made a proper film again".

Without giving any plot points away the film actually revolves around the premier of (in actuality the Eli Roth directed) a Nazi propaganda film Nation's Pride, which is going to take place in occupied France. In typical Tarantino fashion though, this is only where the film ends; the first half of the film is introducing us to the film's reality, and the characters which inhabit it - it is in these sections the film is really allowed to breathe, and to great success.

In addition to the film within a film Inglourious Basterds has, what seems like, several million nods and winks to cinema. Such corkers include moments such as:
  • A cinema owner spitting "In France we respect directors" at a Nazi.
  • A character asking "Since I am in your house I think it polite to ask, but can we switch to English? My French is not as good."[paraphrased] before the characters adopt very convincing English accents.
  • Use of Ennio Morricone music; Tarantino once described the film as his "spaghetti western, but with World War II iconography".
  • An archive film explaining the dangers of getting on buses with film prints ("Hop off son!" made us all laugh embarrassingly loud in our cinema seats!)
  • A British soldier who just so happens to be the author of two film essay books, and an expert on German expressionist cinema.
Although I have detailed a few of these instances I don't feel their revelation as detrimental to the film as, contrary to some critics assertions, I believe the film's cinematic touchstones to be there for a reason; and with the passing of Inglourios Basterds' conclusion we are left with very little questions about what this point is.

One review of the film (which can be read here) states that "th[e] amalgamation of the languages of Jean-Luc Godard and Robert Aldrich provides Tarantino with a pidgin dialect that serves the twisty, self-conscious action very nicely", and this is a point a don't believe I could have put any more concisely. As with all of Tarantino's films Inglourious Basterds is a film about the nature of cinema first, and its subject matter second, and, in my opinion (and I make this distinction, because I fully understand if this is not yours), Inglourious Basterds succeeds as Tarantino's best work primarily because it makes this point in such an unabashed, clear and joyous fashion.

Tarantio effectively screams in this film that cinema is important and special; whilst I already agreed with this sentiment I didn't expect that its revelation would have my housemates and I laughing manically and feeling giddy with excitement, even after we left the cinema.

In short, go see it!

Sam Sam

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Comic of the Week: Asterious Polyp (David Mazzucchelli) (week starting Monday, 17th August 2009)

Dog show hello greets you yet again with another segment I want to make a weekly segment, namely Comic of the Week! DA-DAH!

In this section I won't be looking at recently released single issues since this sort of content is already present on lots of much more established websites. Instead I will be looking at a combination of original graphic novels and trade paperbacks; eventually I intend to have a searchable archive of thoughts on these collected books.

The books I'm choosing will not be from any specific time period or publisher - I read a wide range of content, and I think that a balanced diet really does lead to a healthy life (tell that to my expanding waistline!ha!) As such I won't be surprised if some posts are much more popular than others, but please do consider reading something from outside your comfort zone!

Comments and discussion in the below comments would be greatly appreciated, if you don't agree with me don't hesitate to let me know why!

Without further messing around here is dog show hello's first Comic of the Week!

Comic of the week for 20th August 2009, Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli (Pantheon Books, New York)

This was probably a bad book to choose for dog show hello's first book of the week, because without any direct comparisons it will be hard to convince you that Asterios Polyp is one of the greatest pieces of art the medium has ever birthed.

For those who haven't heard of the book a little background is in order. David Mazzucchelli is a renowned comic book artist, probably most famous for his iconic work on Frank Miller's Batman: Year One in the late 1980s. Asterios Polyp marks his first book he has both written and illustrated, after a noted absence from the mainstream world of superheros.

The book has received much praise, with most taking it as written that it will clean up at next year's Eisner awards (think the Oscars, but for comics); at present it seems to be doing very well sales wise, and has all the hallmarks of becoming a future classic. As such it is THE hot book in art circles at the moment.

Without saying too much the book starts with the single Asterios alone in his house on the night of his fiftieth birthday, when, after a freak bolt of lightning hits, his house burns down. Without thinking he puts his shoes on, and grabs only three possessions; a lighter, a swiss army knife and an old watch. He then gets a train and bus to a seemingly random small town where he goes into a garage and asks for a job and board. Oh, and the book is narrated by Asterios's stillborn twin Ignazio. Trust me, it makes perfect sense when you read it!

I read the book for the first time in one sitting, at the book's end I actually shed a few tears. I know that some (my housemates in particular!) may find such writing hyperbolic and borderline ridiculous, but I see no reason to shy away from the fact that the book had enormous emotional impact on myself.

And this is something I really didn't expect, given that everything I had heard about the book focused on its more formal aspects; the use of colour, panel layout, drawing style and Mazzucchelli's mastery of graphic storytelling.

Asterios Polyp seems to have a bizarre effect on some writers who have the misguided tendency to do their best to flex their analytical muscles, and spend several thousand words explaining the significance of a certain formal aspect. I believe this" decoding" of Mazzucchelli's work to be a fallacy; in reality the majority of these insights are made by the book's narrator and characters. As such there is little code to acually interpret, instead the majority of these reviews devolve to merely listing and filing examples of these techniques.

The book has, I believe, been designed to be efficient at communicating its meaning; the reader's hand is held throughout the entire book, and, like Asterios' cleanly outlined body, it's stroytelling is efficient and concise. Far from chastising these aforementioned critics for not grasping The Book of The Moment's (and make no mistake, Asterios Polyp is certainly that) subtle inflections I instead applaud Mazzucchelli for creating a book so controlled in its execution.

It is a testament to Mazzucchelli's work that almost everyone I know (and almost all critics) who has read Asterios Polyp has been pushed to make the same intellectual leaps - leaving everyone with not only the same revelations, but with the sense that they got there themselves; of course, in actuality, Mazzucchelli has been subtly guiding the entire experience from within the book's pages.

As an example here is one panel from the book, featuring Asterios and his wife, Hana.

As you can see the book is not exactly subtle, instead it displays its meaning an elegantly streamlined way, as only sequential art can. I will leave the interlectualization of these methods to those much more qualified (for example Scott McCloud's trio of Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics and Making Comics almost read as linear notes for Asterious Polyp, and I highly recommend all three and McCloud's own analysis of the book), and instead focus now on what I think much of the writing on Asterious Polyp has overlooked - the emotional content of the book.

For me, and no doubt for the titular Asterios, at the heart of the book is the relationship he has with Hana. From the masterful seven page sequence in which Asterios removes a cotton bud from Hana's ear we see small cuts from around their relationship, to much the same effect as the famous sex/getting dressed sequence from Roeg's 1973 masterpiece Don't Look Now. (As a side note the above image is one small part of this montage.)

As with this sequence we not only see the way the two love and complement each other, but also we see the Hana through Asterios' eyes; her imperfections are, not only accepted, but cherished and accepted as part of the tapestry of domestic life.

This intense acceptance and closeness speaks to all of us in a language we cannot help but translate into our own domestic situations; when I first reached the book's conclusion I had invested so much of my own life relationships in Hana and Asterios' relationship that when I felt those familiar cathartic tears well up behind my eyes it felt right. I wasn't just crying for Hana and Asterios, I was crying for all of the people I've ever been close to.

That is why this deserves to be Mazzucchelli's first original graphic novel of many - he managed to make me reconsider and look at my own relationships with people throughout my life. I walked out of that coffee shop thinking "Yeah, I suppose I can be quite a prick sometimes, but I suppose its okay because everyone is sometimes. And I guess if things don't come together it isn't the end of the world because I'm still alive."

Seriously give this book a whirl, it's a beautiful package and less than twelve pounds on amazon at the moment, I'll be very surprised if you don't feel inspired to try and make more people read it :-D

Sam Sam

N.B. The update will happen sometime throughout the week as, unlike the dog show hello Compilation of the Week, there will not be a download link to accompany the post, and I figured people wouldn't be so flustered if they aren't getting something for nothing :-p

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Wednesday Compilation - 19th August 2009

Wednesday Compilation is a feature I want to try and put up every week, unsurprisingly, on Wednesdays. Hi-oh-silver, the shock, the horror.

I thought that posting the equivalent of a mixtape online every week would be a really concise and cogent (see, university wasn't all for nothing!) way to post about what I've been listening to throughout the week.

Secondly I think that the proliferation of rapidshare links and iTunes downloads has lead to the mixtape as becoming slightly marginalized; after all why just get one song, when you can get the whole album just as easily?

I fully understand that artists create albums as a whole listening experience, but I also feel that a mixtape can be a really personal way for the audience to reformat and comment on music; choosing a certain song speaks not just of the artist's music, but of the kid at home's musical bents and proclivities.

Forget anything else, but where else could you expect to have a Burzum song followed by The Beatles?

High thinking aside if you download the compilation each week you might (hopefully will!) find some music that you know mixed in with stuff you don't; sure you might not like it all, but even if you become aware of just one new band a week I can't see it as a bad thing :-D

Anyway let's DO THIS THING!!!!

...ahem. Anyway, I don't apologize for the eclectic nature of these "virtual tapes", that is most defiantly the point :-D oh oh oh and if you like something please don't forget to comment below about the bands, albums and all that shite ;-p

Download link will follow at the bottom of the post.

dog show hello Wednesday compilation one - 19th august 2009

Track 01 - We Are Louder by Panthers (from Things Are Strange)

Panthers are a band I have quite a strange history with,mainly due to the fact that they rose from the corpse of screamo pioneers Orchid. On my first exposure to Panthers I had an incredibly childlike snap response to them; if it wasn't FAST and it wasn't BRUTAL and EPIC like Orchid it just had to be them giving up and growing up.

Of course, having *ahem* grown up a little myself I can now really see what Panthers set out to do, and it is called ROCK. This song is quite different for them, in that it is almost all one build up, but I do think that it exemplifies why they are so good - it is emotional, engaging and, contrary to my younger selves's assertion, epic as fuck.

Oh, that and the fact that it rocks like a bastard.

Track 02 - Dollhouse-Core by Fighter X (from Fighter X)

For a start, yes, i know this picture is of the newest ep, but i couldn't find one online of the first album. Fighter X is an artist I don't really know that much about, other than that he has his releases available for free download on his website and he is very, very good. This song, dollhouse-core, is (I think!) the first song from his first album, and I LOVE it! I find myself listening to this album more than his other releases, because, good as they are, they just don't have the chaotic feeling this song has.

Turn on. Turn Up. Dance like a Loon

Track 03 - 7 Souls by Ponytail (from Ice Cream Spiritual)

This song, and by extension almost everything Ponytail do, make me SMILE. Ponytail is energetic, fun and sexy, and 7 Soul's exemplifies all of these traits.
From the song's start the intensity gradually ramps up, until at the minute mark things go OFF in the best way possible. No idea what the hell the singer is shouting about, but whatever it is I can see that it is something worth shouting about :-D

On a side note I think they're from Baltimore, and hence clash massively with any perceptions The Wire put in my mind about the place. Its all in the game.

Track 04 - Africa just wants to have some fun by Volcano (from the album Paperwork)

My housemates seem to all have a leaning towards Beautiful Seizure by Volcano, but I just can't help falling for the poppy styling of Paperwork. Regardless we all agree that this song is utterly flamboyant and fantastic; the proof being that whenever it comes on we all can't help singing along to the guitar's "DAH-DA-DA-DA-DA-DAH!" bits.

If this is Africa wanting t0 have fun I want to move out there asap.

Track 05 - Mya Rave v2 by Boxcutter (from the album Arecibo Message)

I've always seen Boxcutter as the more jazzy and airy end of dubstep, with the last two albums really cementing that view. This new album however is something different - I would call it a BANGER.

At 1 minute 25 seconds the bass kicks into this song and it effortlessly merges cheesy 90's trance keyboard loops with late 00's heavy bass. It make me shake my considerably booty on a semi-frequent basis, hopefully you will be dancing around your bedroom tonight too.

Track 06 - Unpaint my Skin by Ghost Monkey (from the ZenBound ost)

Again, I can't find the album art online, so here is a piece of concept art from the project. For those of you not in the know ZenBound is an amazing iPhone game in which you wrap wooden animals in string. Yes, I know it sounds odd, but trust me. Aside from its beautiful art direction it also features a beautiful soundtrack from Ghostmonkey, which you can download for free after you purchase the game.
The music itself is hollow and fully of bassy string twangs, it seems to be using some really hollow sounds, and reverb, to awesome effect. This is the first Ghostmonkey stuff I've heard, but it certainly won't be the last.

Track 07 - Drumized by dj Scotch Egg (from Drumized)

For me this release is where we see dj Scotch Egg expanded his horizons and really experiment, to dazzling effect. When my friends and I saw Drumize perform live at supersonic, a couple of years ago, we really didn't know what to expect; after all it was Scotch Egg with the drummers from Trencher and Boredoms, we guessed it would be intense, but beyond that it was a bit of a mystery.
This song is a pretty accurate refection of how euphoric and awesome they were, having seen them again at this year's Supersonic I can't wait to hear new recordings by them.
On a side note this is the song that annoys my dad the most when I play it loud in his car.

Track 08
- Refusal Fossil by Ruins (from the album Refusal Fossil)

I first became aware of ruins when I went to FuryFest in France years ago (whilst I was still at school I think!) being a big High on Fire fan I picked up their limited edition split with an unknown (to me) Japanese band called Ruins. It speaks to the quality of the Ruins side, and how shocked I was at the stylistic disparity between the two bands, that I hardly ever listen to the High on Fire side, instead always favoring the Ruins side.
After some quick detective work I discovered that Ruins were in fact pretty damn legendary, and after working my way through the majority of their back catalog, I am inclined to agree. This song, whilst not their most challenging, is most certainly abso-fuckin'-loutly mental. It sounds a little bit like some Fantomas stuff in places, but aside from that they pretty much do things I haven't heard anywhere else.

Ruins are good.

Track 09 - Young Adult Friction by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (from their self titled album)

This band owes a lot of debts to luminaries such as My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & The Mary Chain, but when I listen to it I just don't care. Poppier than the aforementioned duo TPOBPAH (as they will never be known) make beautiful sunny tunes, and feel incredibly youthfull whilst doing so. The title of this song just makes me think of teenagers cheekily rubbing up against each other at a crowded party, where every girl seems like the end of the world, and the simple catchy melodies of the piece cement that vision in my mind.

Almost a guilty pleasure, as my logical brain is screaming JUST LISTEN TO MY BLOODY VALENTINE, as soon as i press play I just don't care.

Track 10 - Faces on Fire by Times New Viking (from their album Rip it Off)

I know what you're thinking. Yes, the song really does start that abruptly, and yes, that really is the production they were going for. To me this album feels so punk, not dogmatically in terms of musical construction, but more in attitude. Times New Viking just piss punk smelling acid over everything they touch, be it their haphazard (but no doubt beautiful) artwork, their raw and scrappy production, or their trebley guitar tones.

In short they are here to have fun and riff - if you don't want to, you better leave.

Vice-esque superlatives besides I think that Times New Viking have some great hummable songs, and this is one of them.

Track 11 - Bruise by The Octopus Project (from One Ten Hundred Thousand Million)

Having never heard from The Octopus project before I was pleasantly surprised when I happened to see them play at an ATP a few years ago, so much so that I investigated them further after getting home. (I admit, however, that the fact one of my friends insisted on sitting next to them at a table and thumping the female member's arm of the band to get her attention definitely made me more interested.)
In short, I'm glad I did. This album features loads of tunes to stick on when you want to relax on your own or with friends, it's lively enough to be engaging, and calm enough to make you spasm like a billy. Bruise is probably my favorite off the album, simply because it's the one I find myself humming the most - I apologize in advance if you end up with it merry-go-ing around your head too!

Track 12 - Glossolalia by Vic Chesnutt (from North Star Deserter)

From what I understand Vic Chesnutt is a Constellation Records super group of some form, and, unlike some "super groups" you hear, they certainly do not disappoint. This album covers quite a wide range of music, but this track really hints at almost Solver Mt. Zion like epic folk, and, as such, is pretty damn good. When the strings come in I just feel my spine shiver (in the best way possible). Powerful and gentle I can't wait to hear more Vic Chesnutt.

Track 13 - Heretics from Magrudergrind (from self titled)

New album. Massive FUCK YOU. Awesome samples. Brutal. Fast.


and that ends the first dog show hello compilation!!!!

you can download it HERE

Peace out and speak soon!

Sam Sam