Sunday, January 13, 2008

January, part one

This is the week the TV viewing starts up again - new Torchwood on Wednesday, and tonight, Dancing on Ice. That new title sequence is too much, and the opening piece... has no one on the production team seen This Is Spinal Tap? Some might have doubted it was possible for this show to get any camper, but they've pulled out all the stops and made it happen. But anyway, more ice dancing fun ahoy over the next couple of months, and this time I actually recognise more than three of the non-pro participants (nearly half of them, in fact!).

Books read so far this month:
Babylon, Viktor Pelevin.
An advertising executive takes a variety of drugs and experiences a number of contradictory revelations about the nature of reality/commerce/television. More mind-expanding than anything its hero swallows. You have to get about seven chapters in before it really grabs you, but then the big ideas start landing. That's around the point when Che Guevara dictates a lecture on advertising and metaphysics through the hero's ouija printer. It might be worth mentioning at this point that the author is a Buddhist (Zen, presumably). Probably my first choice of belief system if I ever lapse out of atheism.
Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges.
Seminal mind-bending short stories. Still reading through this - to be honest, I'm just marking time until the next Who reference book arrives. Borges is, like Pelevin, good for a big idea, although in some cases pop culture has caught up with him to unfortunate effect. For instance, it's hard to read "The Garden of Forking Paths" without being reminded of Choose Your Own Adventure books - yes, pre-1960 the idea of a novel that presented all the outcomes of the protagonist's choices simultaneously was fantastic, but by the mid-1980s the shops were stuffed full of 'em. Still, where pulp leads, mainstream culture will eventually "innovate", and in the mainstream this sort of thing is still considered edgy and experimental. Just consider the film Sliding Doors, and it wasn't so long ago that someone - was it Kim Newman? - wrote a novel in which you made the hero's decisions for him and followed the consequence in numbered paragraphs elsewhere in the book. How they all gasped. But I digress - nice to be reminded that Borges started it all.
Meanwhile there are Christmas books waiting in the wings, probably to come after that Who reference book. Can't get enough of 'em.

On the stereo: They Might Be Giants' first two albums. Rediscovering songs I'd heard on other people's tapes, and discovering new favourites. Their accordion licks inspire me to practise on the melodica. The rest of this year may see me exploring TMBG's more recent output.

DVDs: Currently renting Gangsters, a 1970s BBC series starring Ahmed Khalil (he gets top billing on the screen, oh yes he does) and Maurice Colbourne, written by Philip Martin. So far I've seen the pilot and first two episodes. Reason for renting: the repeated mentions in About Time, vol 6, off the back of the writer's two Doctor Who stories. Apparently this gritty urban drama of crime and race relations becomes increasingly self-aware until you get the writer appearing as himself on-screen and the characters leaving the set at the end. I'll have me some of that, I thought to myself. So far it's relatively straight-up, although the cliffhanger format shows early signs of cheekiness.

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