Reading January 2014

A slow start to the year…

Falling Man – Don DeLillo

Nah.

I have had a mixed run with DeLillo. Underworld seemed brilliant to me. Years later I got half way White Noise then gave up on it until someone told me they thought Don DeLillo was really funny, which confused me, so I picked it up again and saw that it was meant to be funny, though I didn’t think it was funny, and finished it.

Falling Man attempts to grapple with the fallout from 9/11 on the American psyche. Which is admittedly a huge endeavour. But mostly it devolves into DeLillo’s empty characters having empty dialogue and empty interactions which leave all sorts of room for implication but ultimately doesn’t satisfy.

I suspect this will be the last DeLillo I read. (Though Cronenberg’s film of Cosmopolis was interesting.)

The Unfoldment – Neil Kramer

Autodidact spiritualist gives his take on what is happening. Interesting in that it grapples with the modern world as a whole – politics, economics, conspiracy, spiritual malaise – and the forces that keep us down, locked into a false model of reality, as well as providing a relatively functional take on personal spiritual development. Interesting, would probably speak to a younger generation raised on internet research and weird documentaries (and how freaky is it to say that!) Bought it on the strength of this fantastic interview he did on Occult of Personality, which from my perspective remains much meatier and more interesting than the book.

The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles

Wow. Paul Bowles is an amazingly talented writer. His grasp of the nuance of human interaction is startlingly precise. Here again, Morocco looms – almost the major character – as an intoxicating and alien otherworld, one which has shaped and inspired so many writers (Gysin, Burroughs, Shah.) Sort of an existential horror novel, the bleakness and meaningless and loneliness of existence writ large; when love is all that holds us together, what happens when that love frays? Who are we? What are we? An extraordinary, beautiful and disquieting book.

The Sheltering Sky is probably better than his later novel Let It Come Down. And I wrote a song about Let It Come Down. Both, along with his short story A Distant Episode, have the same arc; entering into an alien landscape and utterly losing oneself with nightmarish consequences.

The Fool: The Jersey Devil – Andrew Mayer

Novella in beta, so probably shouldn’t comment on it, just logging for my own records.

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Have also been reading a bunch of short stories from various collections.

Review: American Hustle

OK, so I saw this based on seeing the posters before going away to the burn, and on some idiosyncratic vibing decided it was what I should see on returning. I went in knowing nothing but say three images and the name, and then the projectionist telling us right before screening that it was up for like 10 Oscars, to which I was like huh.

Here goes.

What a waste of talent. There are some pretty good actors doing pretty good work in the service of a story which does not need telling and has no content worth imparting. It creates emotion in the viewer and does nothing with it. All this film has to tell us is that people are scum who look out for themselves, and occasionally their friends and loved ones. It is long, feels longer than it is, and then stops abruptly. Walking away, it just seemed to have no point. An empty and confusing experience of cultural production. Distraction and glitz. Will doubtless win big at the Oscars.

 

Disconnect – block tracking scripts

 

This tool is pretty neat – Disconnect – basically it blocks invisible tracking scripts and advertising scripts and other junk. Combined with adblocker, it makes for a smoother internet. You can also use it to search on Google without them tracking your searches. (It was created by an ex-Google employee.) It is a wee bit fascinating watching which sites track you the most, too, as it tells you the number of scripts etc it is blocking, and often where they come from.

A simple way to fight back a little in the online privacy wars.

Within Temptation – Elements

 

(Maybe I will blog more this year?)

So this is random. Within Temptation are a band I am very fond of the past couple of years. They announced a big ass fancy 15th anniversary show with a choir and orchestra and additional theatrical performers etc which they were going to film for a DVD. Then afterwards apparently they decided to not release it as a DVD.

So their fans have combined footage from people who were at the concerts and edited it together into a full length (two hour) concert video.

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The video is a pretty good effort. I can see why the band didn’t want to release it, but honestly I think that is 80% due to a weird song selection that inexplicably does not showcase the band at its best. (Though part of what is awesome about them is that they just do stuff that seems like a good idea to them and even when it is daft it is sort of charming. Like release a concept album with a comic book. Great songs. Daft idea.)

Anyway, I am just struck by the surreality of this happening, and being able to watch it on the other side of the world, free. These are the new days. People have more power. What will we do with it?