Monthly Archives: March 2014

Bi-Monthly

17

So I’m going to try and update this more often, if nothing else I’m sure it will provide good evidence of my content writing ability. Anyway…

CREATIVITY AND THE SEARCH FOR MONEY FOR DOING IT

I sometimes feel some degrees will only prepare you for the very specific job of teaching said degree to the next lot. Creating a sort of Machiavellian level of plotting and backstabbing amidst the students to see who will become the Lecturer once the current one gets enough traction on their Comment is Free articles to pursue a real career in journalism. I imagine the end of term resembles the final scene in Harold Pinter’s “The Homecoming”, with the most manipulative alumni perched atop the throne.

Anyway, I am no longer “unemployed”, I am a “qualified hobbyist”. Which means I sit in my room doing creative stuff in between bouts of frantic application sending and states of heavy existential crisis. I think it sounds good and the lovely people I met at a recent creative gathering agreed. Though most of them had jobs so I think there was an air of humour in their agreement.

But, the comic is nearly done! A mere three pages and I’ll have finally completed my first issue. I don’t know why it’s taken so long but I’m excited to get it out there into the world. I think it’s going to be a strong indicator of my desire to be a creative sort that I can show to potential employers at Wetherspoons.

See, what that was was a bit of comedic satire mixed in with some truth. I don’t believe any degree is inherently worthless since the discipline learned through the pursuit of knowledge moulds people into something interesting. Too many people these days don’t care for learning what is important and we’re swamped by an inordinate amount of noise and junk information it’s hard to tell what is worth archiving in our tiny minds and what is worth putting in the “stuff to forget should I need space for skydiving instructions” drawer.

So… with that in mind. Here’s…

MORE MEDIA I HAVE CONSUMED

I’ve been doing more and more of the consumption that drives our lives, though I have not yet managed to see a West End show. The jury is still out on whether this is a good or a bad thing. Here’s some of the things I’ve been into lately and what I think:

TOP 10

In an effort to enjoy more of Alan Moore’s lesser known work, largely done with Avatar and ABC (America’s Best Comics). I’ve been tracking down trade paperbacks of some of the more obscure (though still fairly known among comic fans) titles. Tom Strong Book 2 eludes me, but I saw Top 10 Volume 1 for £6 at the London Super Comic Con (thanks Orbital Comics!), so I had to get it.

The premise is a seemingly obvious one and I’m shocked that it’s a concept that hasn’t been explored before: Neopolis is a city where everyone has super powers. From the office worker to the sex worker, everyone has a unique and distinctive power. It’s largely played for laughs but there’s a pretty fun and interesting set of stories to be found here about the cases of the Neopolis police. It has the clever layouts and believable characters people have come to expect from Moore, though people looking for a deeply affecting and philosophical tale might want to look elsewhere. Alan Moore has made no secret of his disdain for the juvenile super hero character, so it’s interesting that in Top 10 (as well as Tom Strong) he creates a series of characters that almost seem to be re-constructive of the more light hearted and campy super hero fare, yet injected with a certain self awareness and cleverness largely absent from the funny books of yore (and even today). Still, regardless of the more simple stories and tongue in cheek attitude, Moore is a damn good writer and it’s this that shines through in pretty much everything he’s written. I’ll be picking up more of these titles as and when I can. I always recommend Promethea to those looking for a Moore series that carries as bit more weight and explores some extremely surreal and metaphysical ideas. Except no-one ever asks me for comic recommendations because they know I’ll usually just give them a reading list consisting of 80% Vertigo titles from the 90’s.

FARSCAPE

I don’t know if I’d have watched this show had it not cropped up on Netflix and curiosity had gotten the better of me. I don’t sit very comfortably with science fiction shows involving rubbery aliens and slapstick comedy, which Farscape has in abundance; however thanks in part to the work of the Jim Henson company and the Australian humour (which grows on you) I’ve been enjoying Farscape a lot. Wisely, it opts to go for a more mystical and strange version of the universe as opposed to hard science fiction; to such a degree that it’s certainly more space fantasy than science fiction. The story is fairly simple, John Crichton is a US astronaut who, on a test flight, is sucked into a wormhole and taken to a distant part of the universe. There he becomes involved in a prison ship (which is alive), the prisoners who’ve overtaken it, and their escape from a despotic military commander into the uncharted regions of space.

It took a while for me to get into the groove of the show, having previously experienced both more hard science fiction (Stargate Universe) and more comforting fare (Firefly) but rarely something that sits in between the two. Tonally the show explodes with a sort of creative glee and despite how great this sounds it can be slightly tiring trying to keep up with all the madness the show throws at you. However around the start point of Season 2, something clicked in the show for me; largely thanks to the addition of Scorpius as a major antagonist.

It’s common knowledge that every great adventure story needs a great villain, and Scorpius fits that bill completely. Taking over “being-a-dick” duties from the major antagonist of season one, Commander Crais, Scorpius is immediately a cruel, formidable and yet strangely compelling and charismatic villain. Talking in a eloquent and reasonable manner, he is the perfect counter to Crichton (who by the middle of the second series has pretty much gone a bit loopy) and the almost cartoonish game of cat and mouse they play makes the show instantly compelling. There’s a whole range of reasons to like Farscape, from it’s diverse characters, imaginative creature and set design, and quirky humour; to it’s deftly handled moments of emotion and suspense.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

I went to see this around two weeks ago and it was a sheer delight from start to finish. I’ll probably need to watch it again before I can fully write up what I thought about it but rest assured it would be nothing but praise. I don’t have the film or critical chops to tackle a film as lovingly crafted and effortlessly paced as The Grand Budapest Hotel but I can honestly say it’s been a while since I left a film feeling so refreshed and happy.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE

I really enjoyed the book, short as it was. Neil Gaiman has a habit of using similar elements across his fiction, almost to a point where one could argue they’re all set in the same fictional world (as he hinted in American Gods at least). The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no exception to this. However the book is approached from a more child like and innocent angle than the knowing cynicism of American Gods or the rompy irreverence of Stardust or Anansi Boys. As such it manages to play very successfully on the childlike sense of wonder, fear, and injustice. The triumverate of magical ladies makes an appearance as they have done in almost everything of Gaiman’s I’ve read. In this aspect they are three gentle and kind women living on a farm and guarding the world against things from beyond using lovely knitting techniques and asking nicely for the universe to do as they say. The whimsy of Gaiman’s stories is often used to create a brilliant contrast when things get dark and scary and it’s this fairytale aspect that is a core reason I keep coming back to him. The book is great, and it reminded me of what it was like to be a kid and filled with imagination.