Tag Archives: Books

It Was Full Of Comics And Toys

Comic Con - Thursday evening Now that I seem to live in San Diego (don’t quite know what happened there) it only seemed fair to go to the famous Comic Con at San Diego Convention Centre. Brian’s friend got us free weekend passes, which was very kind, and he is staying in my guest room for the weekend. Sadly I had to work yesterday, but I scurried down the road (the Con is about 6 blocks away) after work, and met him after his full day of seeing the sights.

The place looked just as crazy as the news reports show, with swarms of people laden down with poster tubes, bags, badges and all the paraphenalia you would expect. By the time I arrived, it was winding down for the day, but there were still many people dressed up to the nines in appropriate (and some inappropriate) costumes.

We had a quick look round, and I took some photos of a couple of things that caught my eye. B knows so much more about this stuff than I do, so I’m happy to let him guide me around. I was taken with the film props for sale at $20,000 and up. Yes please!

Food was required at this point, so after braving the swarms from the Con overwhelming the Gaslamp Quarter, we drive up to Lefty’s Chicago Pizza in North Park, which is so word-of-mouth it doesn’t even appear in my Garmin! We enjoyed a couple of slices of delicious sloppy cheezy goodness, with fresh tomatoes and basil, then swung by one of B’s old haunts, the Zombie Lounge, which he was sad to see had been changed into The Radio Room by new owners. The old electric sign remains though, as does his old friend who is a barmaid, so if she’s there next time I go, it may be worth dropping a name.

Later in the evening, we got the call to drive out to Winston’s over in Ocean Beach, where klown-fi micro-circus crazy band Gooferman were playing, supported by Dr Madd Vibe, AKA Angelo Moore from Fishbone. The Doctor was playing when we got there around 12am, and he has an amazing voice, some keen moves, all over a laptop playing grooves and chunky instrumental backing. Then the klowns stepped up and did more of the laptop rock thing, with added guitar and deep bass, and a melody line played on a rubber chicken. All this with whiteface and leaping about.

Then home with the seabreeze blowing in the Volvo, and a possum crossed the road. B says they’re vicious.

D’ye Ken John Plunk In His Plunk So Gay?

Many years ago, I inherited a few books from my brother. They were Spike Milligan’s war diaries (which included, within the first ten pages, my first sight of the ‘C’ word) and a couple of the Molesworth books by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle. I was hooked instantly, despite not really understanding the setting, a public (i.e. fee-paying and therefore effectively private) and pretty grotty boarding school. I come from an area of the UK, and from a generation, that don’t remember grammar schools or comprehensives, and private boarding schools were financially, academically, and (I can now claim) politically out of my reach.

Despite this, I immediately fell for the mispellings, bizarre imaginative inventions, dark humour, and descriptions of Nigel Molesworth’s fellow schoolboys (Peason, Fotherington-Thomas, and who could forget Grabber, the “head of the skool, captane of everything and winner of the mrs joyful prize for raffia work”) and the masters. Geoffrey Willans’ hilarious and subtle writing (in the first person from the perspective of our hero Nigel) coupled with Ronald Searle’s scratchily detailed drawings of sullen boys, crows, the school dog and the assemblage of crooks and thugs that run the school, made sure I tracked down the books I didn’t have.

The books (now available in a single volume) are understandably popular with many BBC, government and literary types, and they may be accused of being over-praised in some quarters. Thomas Jones in the London Review Of Books thinks so – but that is more a criticism of the foreword writers than the books themselves.

The BBC connection goes deeper. Radio 4 did a dramatisation, or some kind of radio adapation, of the books a few years ago, and I can’t really remember much about it, apart fom the fact they got the voice of Nigel Molesworth completely wrong. They gave him a breathlessly naïve voice, while everyone knows he would have had a wry cynical tone. I’m surprised they didn’t get Geoffrey McGivern to play him with a lisp.

There is another famous fictional boarding school with bizarre goings on, described in a series of popular books. It was only a matter of time before somebody wrote some Harry Potter/Nigel Moleworth Fan Fiction.

RSA Zittrain Photos And Video

Photos from the evening are here, and a webcast of the lecture/book launch is available to view here. A nice shot of my back in one photo.

I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, what with stuff, and the fact that when I do manage to open my current Murakami, I read a couple of pages, then fall asleep. Not because the book is boring (it’s great) but because of the stuff mentioned above. But I will get to the JZ book. I’ve leafed through it, and several anecdotes have leapt out at me. I will give it the time it deserves when I get to it.

Minutes of meeting, Saturday 1 March 2008

I met James for a pint or x a few Saturdays ago, and we had the usual rambling, digressing, tangent-going-off-on, and thoroughly enjoyable and edifying discussion. Here are a few of the topics covered, in no order, but you may be able to see where threads link up.

  • Noise Music
  • Teleportation – Physical transferral or descriptive data transmission, in which case what do you do with the copy left behind? Socio-political impacts thereof.
  • Post-scarcity as described by Banks in his Culture novels, and Gene Roddenberry (or whoever) in Star Trek.
  • RepRap – an effort to build an open source 3D fabber.
  • ‘Jaunters’ as described in Bester’s The Stars My Destination (by the way, the unflattering mention of my namesake here is not me. I would have been trying to climb through the screen)
  • Jumper – a movie about teleportation.
  • Godwin’s Law – which says that as soon as you call the person you are arguing with
  • Cover versions
  • Faking It – a great book given to me for Christmas by Robin. It’s a series of essays about the myth of authenticity in music, something which I have always had problems with. It starts with Nirvana Unplugged, and goes on to talk about Elvis Presley (who wasn’t seen as “authentic” and loved it), punk, singer-songwriters, Billy Joel, Neil Young, Alan Lomax and his search for the “real” sound of the noble savage, Ry Cooder and the Buena Vista Social Club, World Music and much more. Refreshing and challenging.
  • Hawkwind
  • Live music
  • Effect of limited instrumentation on cover versions (and not just YouTube acoustic guitarists – “here’s my cover of blah blah” oh shut up)
  • Suicide – the fantastic band, with their sparse keyboard and drum machine sound.
  • Theatricality over talent, as demonsrated by KISS in this clip of God Of Thunder.
  • The ZX80 home computer.
  • The ZX81 home computer (my first computer). I got mine to make sound by changing the way it interfered with the TV. Related to noise music, above?
  • The Commodore VIC-20 (my second computer)
  • The Retro Computing Fair I attended in 2004.
  • ZX Spectrum (couldn’t find a link about this little-known early computer) .
  • The Early Matrix as seen by Lileks.
  • Halo – the computer game, with it’s great (if cliched) story concerning ancient megastructures in space built by an earlier race called The Forerunners.
  • Portal – another computer game with a wicked sense of humour.
  • Nexuiz – the computer game currently taking up my time. It’s a 3D deathmatch-style FPS, and it’s available for Linux.
  • Do Not Want – the web meme
  • The origin of the Do Not Want web meme.

As you can see, the discussion degenerated at this point, and last orders were called. Any other business? Only chips.

I Am Apparently William Gibson

In lieu of a proper post, I present the result of a short test.

I am:

William Gibson

The chief instigator of the “cyberpunk” wave of the 1980s, his razzle-dazzle futuristic intrigues were, for a while, the most imitated work in science fiction.

Which science fiction writer are you?The only problem with this is that I AM NOT WILLIAM GIBSON. I AM MATTHEW PETTY.

Pink and Blasphemous

I’ve made a terrifying discovery. Leafing through the 2007 UK IKEA catalogue or ‘Necronomicon’ as it shall henceforth be known, I found proof that Cthulhu no longer waits dreaming, but has arisen.

As you know, the blasphemous incantation or ritual chanted by noisome cults in the lesser-known parts of the world is, “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn“. But using the latest in linguistic technology, I believe I have translated this language into something if not entirely pronounceable by the human throat, at least closer to this dimension. I should assure you that I worked on one syllable at a time, with several days feverish rest between each one, so as not to be driven mad by the awesome truth I was unfolding.

Here in it’s loathsome entirety is the full incantation. I know I should not write this, but I feel compelled, as if shapeless forces unseen but faintly felt, are driving me toward the precipice of human experience I know it will reveal.

Original: Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

Translation: Poäng malmnätt Cthulhu Rulla galejnandor fartyg.

Cthulhu no longer fhtagn!

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu Ikea wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Alternative Bookcovers

I’m all confused about where these have been posted, so here they all are from Flickr.

What happens when a book cover design doesn’t match the style of the contents? This does.

Mein Girly Kampf Mein Kampf in Chicklit style
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Thriller Kids book in Thriller style
Mixed-up bookcovers Necronomicon in Dictionary style
Mixed-up bookcovers American Psycho in Teen Romance Style

UPDATE: Boing Boing posted this link to a gallery of alternative book covers.

UPDATE 2: February 2009 – There are several galleries of films and videogames, designed as if they were books in a cool retro style.

Moleskine / Notebook Elastic Hackery

As well as my PDA, I keep a notebook as well, so I can quickly scribble stuff down, draw little diagrams, reminders, anything. It’s quicker than the PDA, and can support more subtly shaded drawings (though I’m no artist). My girlfriend thinks this is all very pretentious, and so it is. But sod it eh?

At work, I keep an A4 daybook, with numbered (by me) pages, and drawn-in margins. These are provided by work. At home, I’m still forging my way through the selection of Moleskine notebooks I got for my birthday last year, and one of the features I like most is the elastic that keeps them closed. The work books don’t have this, so decided to add it.

Hardback notebook elastic hack

  1. Take a leather/paper punch. It has to be able to punch a clean hole in the hard cover of the book. I used a pliers-type leather punch, available from craft shops – I had one anyway, for some reason.
  2. Open the book at the back page.
  3. Punch a hole in the top right corner of the hard cover – about an inch from the top and an inch from the side.
  4. Punch another hole in the bottom right corner of the hard cover – about an inch from the bottom and an inch from the side.
  5. Take some cloth elastic – available from most craft shops, Woolworths, sewing shops, you know. Usually available in black and white. Take your pick.
  6. Thread the elastic out through the top right hole in the hard cover.
  7. Pull it over the top of the cover.
  8. Pull it down under the bottom of the cover.
  9. Pull it in through in through the bottom hole in the hard cover.
  10. Tie the two ends of elastic, so that the resulting loop will stretch over the closed notebook and hold it firmly shut.
  11. Trim excess elastic, and you’re done!

And when you’re finshed with that book, remove the elastic and reuse it. Or don’t.

Amaztype – Typographic Book Search

This is way cool. Head on over here, select your locale (.co.uk for me), select your media type (I’ve been doing music), enter some search terms, select author/artist or title, and off you go.

What happens then is that this nifty little page goes off to the Amazon database, grabs all the images that match your search terms, for example all of The Frogs’ CD covers, and writes the name in a collage of those images. It works equally well with music as with books, or even videos.

Now, all I need to do is create something, and I’ll see my name in images

Hunter S Thompson 1937 – 2005, And Barbecues

Well waddya know. He went and shot himself.

It made it into the Today program on Radio 4 in a minor way (“writer dies”), but the reaction on the net has been immense. Take Metafilter, for example. 240+ comments!

It’s weird. I was at a barbecue on Saturday where the birthday boy (hope you had a good one, Aubs) was telling us about his trip to Las Vegas last weekend as a member of the James’ stag party. All the trimmings, by the sound of it – (fake) Hummer rides, firing guns at innocent sandbags, gambling, sex with prostitutes in knocking shops and of course, extreme intoxication. I asked whether he’d seen any lizards. And everyone knew what I meant.

A barbecue in London in February, I know, it was freezing, it just made hanging around the grill all the more legitimate. Macho!

A nifty party, all told. Excellent barbie grub, served up by the Antipodean host, so I guess he’s had practice. Those of us who reached puberty without seeing the sun at all are rather lacking in the whole field of ‘cooking outdoors’. Although I have to say that what little experience I’ve had of barbecuing in the US, which is not much, has told me they’re not so hot either. Either you soak your meat in the entire contents of the spice rack, or you have a piece of beef so chemically altered it recommends a salad dressing for you. (See The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe). Aha! Generalisations! Gotta love ’em.

They know how to do it proper in Germany. No bread, just an entire pig on a spit, a 6-litre flagon of beer, consisting of 80% froth, and 10 Kleine Jaegermeister playing in the background. ( Translation here)