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Reading List update.

10) The Audacity of Hype by Armando Iannucci.

A collection of short columns from 2009 from this reality TV hating satirist. Best read in short bursts. For someone who dislikes soundbites, he is good at them (see the title of the book).

11) The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

Recommended to me by C, who is a fan. Part spy thriller, part regency romance, part civil service bureaucracy, part time travel paradox. Really fun book.

12) The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (Volume 1) written by Neil Gaiman, Artists: Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III.

Been meaning to read this for years, but decided I couldn't afford the complete run at once, and suspected I was always going to get hooked.

Loved it. An excellent use of the 20 to 30 page monthly form. Starting with a delicious tale of horror, and moving onto a quest for the King of Dreams to regain his power, pausing only for a 24 hour descent into madness with some hostages held by a very strange captor. Finishing up with a strangely charming introduction to Death. I can see why she became a fan favourite. Cameos from several DC characters tie it into their Universe, but this is not a superhero book.

13) The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross.

I realised when reading the latest short in The Laundry series, that I wasn't sure I remember what happened in The Jennifer Morgue. I very pleased to realise that that was because I hadn't got around to getting a copy yet. Lapped it up. A bit more spy thriller, and a bit less bureacracy and maths, but just as geeky, ireverant, and compeling as The Atrocity Archives.

14) The Doll's House written by Neil Gaiman, Artists: Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Steve Parkhouse.

This book starts with a myth told by a tribal people introducing us to more of Dream's character. It then steps into the main arc of this book involving the a young girl whose fate is tied deeply to the dreaming realm, and Dream's attempts to round up some of the Dreams that have escaped his realm. A disturbing familiar Cereal Convention turns out to be very odd. Again, it contains a single issue that almost steps aside from the main flow in the middle. A wonderful character piece about a man who has been made immortal almost on a whim.
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Asking for trouble

I managed to score some tickets to a recording of "Comedy Store" at "The Comedy Store" for "Comedy Central". The site proclaims:
On its grimy stage some of the greatest acts in the business have perfected their act
Which clearly isn't true. They was a two man team with a mist-er and a stiff broom giving it quick scrub when we arrived. Owing to my leaving the office later than intended, we were one of the last groups let in. We wound up with a choice between left wing front row, left wing a few rows back, or right at the back.

We decided to sit at the front. I thought that this meant there was a good chance I'd get picked on. As I mentioned I'd come straight from the office, and was in a suit. I've been at the comedy store before where the stand ups picked on the suits.

As this was a TV recording though, and they generally wanted to try and keep to a tight set, Collapse )
XD, Comics

Geek knitting ideas.

1) Emission Spectra Scarves. Or Absorption spectra ones if you're after something more colourful. via @davedevereux.

2) 3 colour Brunnian link (not a knot) neck warmers / bracelets. Wikipedia link via makyo.

3) A double walled tubular scarf with two side scrolling levels on it that actually scrolls.
Look it works in my head, okay.
Knit a few loooong rows of brown. One or two of green. Quite a few blue. Then a few brown.
Fold in half width ways, and stitch together, such that the join helps stop the tube rotating.
Sew on a load of felt bits representing objects from Sonic on the green stripe edge, and Mario on the other.
Pull one end through the middle, and seamlessly stitch to the other.
XD, Comics

Reading list: Library special edition.

And both [Ultimates comics] are incredibly quick reads. Okay, perhaps that’s what I should have expected, but these comics are $4 / £3 each. And that works out to about £1 a minute or £60 an hour. When the comics are costing about the same as my plumber there’s something horribly wrong. - Richard Bruton

Even jamesb has been talked a little about the cost of comics recently.

I finally remembered to head down to my local library to raid their comic shelves. Seems they don't have any Sandman (although I can order it from other local libraries), but I did pick up:

7) Bleach by Tite Kubo Volume's 1 & 2 (Manga)

This is very popular Anime series at the moment, and I've only seen one episode, so when I saw it on the shelves I snapped it up.

It's about a high school student, who can see ghosts, and accidentally gets recruited to be a sort of combination monster hunter / grim reaper. And frankly he's kind of pissed off with the whole situation.

The first volume is essentially an origin story, giving us a lose background into this world, and a few short battles. The second volume introduces a few more characters (I get the impression no-one in this place is going to be left without some mystical power for long), and a bit more about the way this afterlife thing works.

I can see why it's popular. The battles are fun and all, but there's a wonderful sense of humour throughout.

Guess what's happening in this thumbnail? With all it's dramtic shadowing, and extreme close ups.
Bleach page

He's Collapse ) Bizarre.

8) Flight Explorer Volume 1 anthology editor Kazu Kibuishi (Graphic Novel)

I'm not going to pretend to know a lot about the Flight anthologies. They've been produced as something quite different for a few years now and are coming to an end soon. Full colour, and luscious art, they are often ... quieter tales than your typical super hero comic.

They're produced "via the internet" in some sense. At least most of the contributes are geographically spread, and are often bloggers.

Flight Explorer is the first (but hopefully not last) in a line pitched at the same market as the DFC, the 8 to teen market that seems to be so neglected in comics today.

The art is cartoony but brilliant for it, and the stories from a moment in the life a little girl and her monster friend's first experience of snow, to an action packed tale of a space mouse crashing beside a tribe who are under threat.

9) Watching the Watchmen by Dave Gibbons

Seeing the thumnails and early sketches for the iconic Watchmen moments is pretty neat, but Dave's tale of how it was produced is what really made this for me. And hats off to him for refusing to get drawn into the drama of what happened next. It's a story that needs hearing, but this celebration of the art of the Watchmen was not it.

Oh, and the library had a clever promotion on. They offer a cheap DVD rental service (with a lot of art house stuff as well as block busters), and to encourage the DVD crowd to read more they had a box of wrapped up mystery books on the counter you could borrow, and get a free DVD coupon.
XD, Comics

Invite: Purvasive Games?

Anyone fancy joining me at an up-coming sandpit?

The evenings I've been to have consisted of a couple of newly designed games they are trialing (sometimes involving running around outside), and a few perenial favourites like Wearwolf, and Dadist Trivial Pursuit to pass time while waiting for you slot on a big game.

Monday 22 February on the Spirit Level at Royal Festival Hall. All Free! I know a couple of people who are going to this, so anyone else fancy turning up?

Friday 26 March 2010 at the Victoria & Albert Museum for their monthly late-night opening. Almost certainly a free games, bigger ones may have a small charge. Don't know anyone who's turning up yet, but Echo Bazzar (Victoriana text adventure RPG, twitter login) are running something there!
XD, Comics

Currently unfinished posts.

Don't think I'll get around to these, but should really. Plus posting on Friday means no-one will see this anyway.

  • Conrunner
    • Never seen a better populated programme stream :) Lots of notes.

  • Stopping a fight
    • Just a slice of life post describing the 30 minutes or so I spent after I came out of a late night tube into blazing row.

  • SFX weekender
    • +New 2 day convention!
    • - ... on Friday and Saturday, with no Sunday programme.

    • +Shed loads of authors
    • -... on a small stage at the back of a noisy pub, and no clue in programme if it was a reading, interview, talk, Q&A, or Ukulele session.

    • +Hanging with friends
    • -... who I didn't seem to see a lot of on Friday.

    • +Dead cheap as these things go!
    • ... but then the accommodation was mouldy stained and frayed.

    • +Went for a swin in the pool (never managed get round to at a con before)
    • -... at noon, as it wasn't open in the morning.

    • etc. Essentially there were lots of little things wrong, but I think the killer is state of the accommodation. Just see what others have said.

  • Good Customer Service - I always mention the bad stuff, so should do the good too.
    • Echo Bazzar A turn based RPG text adventure (with log in via twitter). I emailed them to claim responsability for a bug fix they rolled out. They said they'd spotted it anyway, but still gave me a bug hunter's prize.

    • I emailed the manufacturers of Killer Bunnies to say that one of my cards was damaged in the packaging, and they sent me a free replacement, and a bonus playable card that they must have given out at a convention or something :)
XD, Comics

Reading list: The spell checker busting edition.

5) Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Like the Handmaid's Tale it's told by alternating chapters on the "present" with flashbacks from the protagonist. In this case the flashbacks seemed less well integrated. They're more linear, and with less obvious triggers for why the protagonist should be recalling that episode.

I actually quite liked the protagonist. He may be a self absorbed w*nker, but he knows he is. And it makes a change to have a protagonist who is below average amongst his peers.

Triggered my bad movie physics *twitch* towards the end. No one thing in particular it's just that a lot of the "science" in it is there as decoration, and doesn't really work if you think about it. Occasionally a bit heavy on the symbolism and the polemic she wants, rather than the story.

For all that, it's an entertaining story. Is it wrong that I want a Buckets o' Nubbins from ChickieNobs now?

6) Persopolis by Marjane Satrapi (graphic novel)

Originally published in French, the English language editions are divided into two "books".

The second book is a fascinating autobiographical tale of the journey to adulthood of the young Marjane. It starts of with her first days sent to live overseas. She went through some severe culture clashes, and isn't afraid to show the readers some of the negative sides of her time. It's a moving story, and I'm glad I read it.

The first book is the reason I'd picked it up though. This is the tale of a child born during the Islamic revolution in Iran, and growing up with relatively liberal parents where the country round them is getting more restrictive (and getting bombed by Iraq).

I don't know nearly as much modern history as I'd like, so recommendations for engaging first person narratives would be welcome.
XD, Comics

Hardback ebooks?

I'm still not reading LJ thoroughly, but I've seen a couple of different takes on the amazon macmillan dust up over ebook pricing last weekend.

I thought I'd describe my current Collapse )
But what does that imply for ebooks?

Looking at it, most of the top end books, I get tend to be partially just because I want them now, but also because I want an author's signature or to add to a collection. So hardback novels are artefacts as much as story devilry vehicles, I'm unlikely to buy an ebook instead.

The middle ground's potentially interesting. I still feel the lack of artefact means I wouldn't want to pay as much for an ebook as a paperback, but I'd probably be willing to replace most of this purchasing habit with ebooks, if I wind up with a decent reader.

Ebooks are unlikely to replace the cheap's section as there's no second hand market for them. And I enjoy interacting with the aforementioned to-be-read piles to select something to read. Anyway, that's hardly the top end of the market they're trying to capture. Although I can imagine there's lots of free content on the net these days. It's how I've first read most of Cory Doctorow's stuff (of which I know own paper editions).

Or something like escape pod. Yeah, I can see how they'd be great for short stories magazines. I know donation driven short story sites exist online, but I'm not too keen on reading them for some reason. Actually, subscribing to something like Interzone or Analog that way would be pretty neat.

[1]As an aside, I've noticed for a while that I've not seen the shutters up at the Finsbury Park Comic shop. I'd assumed that I'd just not been past it before 6.30, when it shuts, but getting a glimpse through the open door last week, it looks like all the shelves have gone. And so has their website. It's a pity.

The owner said the Marvel/DC price hike hit at the same time as the relative devaluation of the pound. Combined with people cutting costs because of the credit crunch, he lost a fair few customers last year. Well, he lost me but that's not why. I stopped going because every single time I went in there, they hadn't put aside all of my standing order, and I had to rummage through their back issues, to see if I recognised one I was missing. They specialised in superhero comics with alternative covers anyway, so it was rare that I'd find a new serial I was interested in anyway.