Saturday, February 20, 2010

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

May I open by saying:
THE NIGHTMARE IS OVER!! the real work begins.

Now, all that aside.

Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is a masterpiece of a first novel. I can hardly even describe it. I do believe that it fits the category of postmodern quite well (see the following for what I think is accurate...), but it goes far beyond that somehow.

This is not a book for the fainthearted. The book itself knows this:

"Take a look for yourself," he said, handing me a big brick of tattered paper. "But be careful," he added in a conspiratorial whisper. "It'll change your life."
Danielewski 513

House of Leaves certainly changed my life - at the very least it's going to change how I look at books and what I believe they are capable of. This one was capable of things not only within its own bounds, within the pages, the appendices, the footnotes (oh, the footnotes!), but also outside of those pages, that binding: I called it a nightmare above for a good reason.

I don't mean any of this to discourage any potential reader - in fact I want this to encourage readers - but I will be honest. I didn't want to walk to the bathroom by myself. I had to sleep with a nightlight, something I haven't needed for years. While I didn't get any actual nightmares, the resulting fragments of paranoia were enough for me.

And this is why all this digression should be encouraging: I have never read a book that presented me with so many questions, so many puzzles, and I have certainly never before read a book that haunted me. But don't fear it. Seek it out. Seek it out the way an adrenaline junkie seeks out new thrills. It's so fabulous.

Sadly this piece seems to have gone over some reviewer's heads, and I am certain that there are those who would or do hate this book. I think this is part of the pall of laziness plaguing humanity: House of Leaves forces you to think. Hard. Even harder if you seek to glean any kind of personal meaning from it. That difficulty, in my opinion, is what makes it so very glorious.

Good luck my friends.
Don't get lost lest the Minotaur should come for you.

Backlog: Sherlock Holmes

After I saw Sherlock Holmes in theatres I was rendered completely speechless. I have an affinity and deep love for the English language, especially in regards to its earlier, more elegant forms, and this film took away my ability to form complete sentences. As a friend of mine told me laughingly: "It stole it all from you!"

You can probably guess where this review is going.

I loved it. I can't wait to see it again. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law made the best leading men I've seen in a long time, and both of them gave wonderful performances. However, the crowning jewel of the film was most certainly its wit. The writing was worshipful (if I didn't make that abundantly clear already). I think my favorite line currently is and will probably remain: "Holmes, you do realize what you've been drinking is intended for eye surgery." That, and of course "Capacity to spit on back of head: neutralized."

Now, I have a confession to make. Of all the Holmes adventures, I have only ever read The Hound of the Baskervilles.
You may now throw rotten vegetables at me.

Now that's over with and I am thoroughly coated in tomato, which I heartily deserve, may I go on to say that because of this shameful fact I can't really judge how much the film changes Watson and Holmes as far as their character dynamic goes. However, the (potentially) amped-up action as well as Holmes' wild eccentricity were entertaining. The former was impressive, the latter endearing.

It was visually stunning, as well, occasionally recalling true historical work and occasionally turning towards something fictionalized (cough, Steampunk, cough). Either way, it was quite the jolly good romp, and left blatantly open for a sequel, as well! I await it with baited breath.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Clockwork Cabaret!

With the Darling Davenport Sisters!

The more I listen to this delightful podcast, the more I like it. A wonderous romp in the land of steampunk, these sisters take over their airwaves and oh to do they defend it with pride, infestation of koalas and all. But this is no ordinary podcast, oh no. It provides listeners with music, yes, but it also provides everything from poetry readings to book reviews. And best of all, listeners get a glimpse of life on the Calpurnia, the airship the Davenports use to sail the high skies searching for adventure (boldly going where no man has gone before!) and, of course, attempting to outrun their terrifying pursuers, the CLANNG.

So if you have any inclination toward the quirky, eccentric, the creative, the neo-Victorian and the steam-powered, this is the show for you. Episode 108 en counting.
Thank you so much, Davenports!

Pay them a visit here:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dr. Horrible - Now in Fabulous Full Color Comic-Book Format!!

Dr. Horrible in yet another evolution - a comic book, courtesy of Zack Whedon, Joelle Jones, and Dark Horse Comics (not to be confused with Bad Horse).

For all you Whedon fans out there, if you haven't visited Dr. Horrible yet, do so as soon as possible. It can be downloaded off of iTunes (I think) and for those of us who can't afford and or have a vendetta with the accursed program, they can be found courtesy of the YouTubes (Dr. Horrible's sing along blog episode 1 part 1, episode 1 part 2, episode 2 part 1, etc. Click here for the beginning of the legacy).
You can also visit for more horrible fun and merch.

The comic book is a wonderful ditty of a prequel to the sing along blog, chock full of glimpses of Billy's backstory and the legendary moment wherein he met his nemesis, the notorious Captain Hammer.

Best of all, it has an issue number, which implies that there will be more......
Let us hope, we disciples of Joss. Let us hope.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Quick Update and a Teaser

So it looks like, once again, I have bitten off more than I can chew.

I'm so sorry, blog watchers! School decided (as it usually does) to eat my life almost in its entirety, and therefore my entries suffer.

As soon as I can, I will be offering up a garden of red delights for you all, including:

The Senate: Live in Bellingham!
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Daneilewski

So stay tuned, folks, and I hope that you all had a wonderful Valentine's (or Single's Awareness) Day.


I am not going to lie. This was the most entertaining movie I have seen in a LONG while.
I am also not going to lie when I say that this movie is in the same vein as Constantine.
And that I freaking LOVE Constantine.

Yes I am sure the comic books are better in Constantine's case.
Yes I am sure that there are a lot of people out there who will despise Legion.
But hey. Why not? It is Paul Bettany, after all.

On that note, I thought Mr. Bettany's performance was wonderful. He had such moments of tenderness. Also extreme moments of badassery. It was fabulous. The gasoline trick (which is in the trailer: this is a spoiler free zone, or I'll try to keep it that way) was one of my absolute favorites.
Also, archangel Gabriel. OH MY LORD. Not nearly as pretty as angel-fied Mr. Bettany, but he had some pretty awesome moves.
So my basic conclusion is: if you have any affinity for the supernatural movies that end up on the bad to the nearly bad side of the scale - and by that I mean excellent - drop everything. See this movie. Especially if it's in a cinetopia.

Incidentally, there is a movie that has been out for several years which looks like an almost perfect cross of Constantine and Legion, at least visual-wise. It's called Gabriel. Apparently it came out a few years ago, made in Australia. I can't wait to get my mitts on a widescreen edition of it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Senate

Live and in concert in Bellingham, Washington!

The Senate was beyond fantastic. My only regret with the experience was to learn that The Senate has actually already disbanded: apparently this was a reunion tour. One of the things that impressed me so much about them was that there was no drummer. A member of the trio beatboxed for a few of the songs - that was awesome - but their lack of a beat except provided by their own impressive sense of steady rhythm was humbling. They also used a doublebass, which I very much enjoyed. Yet better still was their use of a cappella three part harmony. It was somehow unexpected, and even more wonderful for the fact that it was so.

They were accompanied by two excellent opening bands: The Spencer Goll Band and Austin Jenckes. The Spencer Goll Band's sound is on the quieter side, as was The Senate's, while Mr. Jenckes kicked it up a notch or two.

It was also very cool because the bands stuck around afterwards: I got several signed pieces of merch thanks to that, for which I am exceedingly grateful.

Overall, it was the best night I'd had in weeks.

Check out the music!


Backlog: Fruit Bats and Sonny and the Sunsets

Live and in concert in Bellingham, Washington!

So this has now become designated as a backlog due to the fact that homework has eaten my life.

The Fruit Bats were, to say the least, excellent. Freshly back in the states from a successful Europe tour (if I am not very much mistaken), they hit campus on January 21st, 2010 and proceeded to rock the house in a kindof folk-rock way. It was very enjoyable, and a wonderful stress reliever for a Thursday night. For those of you who are well acquainted with me, you will already be perfectly aware that I have a certain compulsion to quest for new music: in this case I feel that my quest was very successful. Both The Fruit Bats and their opening band, Sonny and the Sunsets, are worthy of attention and I can't wait to get to know their music better.

If you're curious, pay them a visit!


Backlog: The Children of Men, by PD James

This was the first book we read for my ENG 202 class this quarter.

It's almost difficult to look back on it now, it feels like so long ago even though it's only been four weeks? five weeks? (It is currently February 20, even if this entry is dated way back when.) Wow, if my memory is already slipping for The Children of Men I am going to have a hard time backlogging all my books from LAST quarter. Oh well. It'll be fun.
(Last quarter was a literature-based baptism by fire, by the way. This quarter is the same, but for analytic writing.)

PD James' The Children of Men, in my mind, runs to much the same tune as Cormac McCarthy's The Road (which, incidentally, is amazing and is yet another one of those books I believe that everyone should read at some point in their lives). It has that bleakness to it, but with a very different quality. What I think was the most impressive aspect of The Children of Men was the very raw emotional aspect. Even though it was set in a world that, like the scientific romances, is already dated and disproved, the emotional transformations and investments these characters are involved in make the world as PD James has imagined it so very tangible. As a reader I found myself relating, especially to the people I should not have been relating to, and it was glorious.

The Painted Faces were a great example of this. Due to spoilers I will try not to say anything that's too telling, but they were wonderfully complex. Not only did they strike me as a visual feast, the whole idea of them, the tribal setup, the blatant, violent rage, somehow was incredibly relevant. They had the kind of anger that has become madness that can no longer be truly expressed in this world, or at least not without some kind of jailtime involved.

Musings aside, this is an excellent read. I would read it again.

On a side note the movie is also fabulous. It's fabulous for very different reasons, but it's a beautifully made film. The uncut shots - I think the longest sequence is a full fifteen minutes - are absolutely stunning.
Readers be warned: detach yourself from the book before seeing the film. You will have a much more wholesome and much less I-want-to-throw-the-remote-at-the-screen time with this film if you judge them as two entirely separate entities. Difficult to do, I know it well, but in the end I find it's better.

And now, as Eddie Izzard would attribute to the Italians:
Ciao! *speeds away on moped*

Modern Candor, by Lenae Day

My next ENG 202 adventure is the creation of Lenae Day, graduate of Western Washington University and rogue photographer. (Alright, the rogue part may be a slight exaggeration.) Her piece's full title is Modern Candor: The Magazine Women Believe In. In format it's a magazine complete with recreations of early 1960s ads picturing multiple incarnations of the artist herself. The ads are accompanied not by articles, but by autobiographical anecdotes. If I am not very much mistaken, this piece was made to accompany a gallery show she put on of her work.

The visuals in the magazine are stunning - I am very excited to have her come to class tomorrow. Hopefully she will be willing to discuss her process in more detail.

It's also a very intriguing piece content-wise. I think it has a lot to say about the practice of creating oneself through one's appearance, and also creating the people and world around oneself through appearance and stereotyping. This especially intrigued me. Her writing is thoughtful and has a certain power in its honesty, which is quite the juxtaposition with the ads in retrospect. By the very nature of advertisements, there's a kind of manufactured feel, a certain quality that lends itself to an un-reality, and yet her writing asserts 'look again: this is real.'

An impressive piece. Keep your eyes open: I think Ms. Day will go far.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Backlog: Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein continues to a good read. I wouldn't say it's one of my favorite books, but it's very, very good.

In retrospect I think it was better the second time around.

What with all the mauling pop culture has done to dearest Victor Frankenstein and his Daemon, I find myself shocked to remember just how sophisticated the novel is. Then again, pop culture treatments of classics are usually not very good. (Except maybe some of the treatments of Jane Austin. But take Dracula, for example. Dracula becomes the wolfman and there's a sex scene...on the ceiling? In fact, I don't even know if that's the same treatment. That was one of the very few movies I have been completely unable to make myself watch all the way through. With the obsession I have with vampires and Dracula, this is most CERTAINLY an insult.)
My favorite aspect of the book is the Daemon himself, especially since he is one of the elements of the book which brings up the most questions, at least in my mind: questions about the definition of humanity, cruelty, the nature of revenge, and the nature of guilt.

I think I also liked Frankenstein because my interpretations and opinions on the characters completely evolved. They didn't change entirely, but they did indeed change. Maybe that's why the classics are called the classics after all: not because they are from another time, but because they change with the individual reader.

All abstractions aside, pick up Frankenstein.
And have your dictionary on hand.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller

So I read this masterpiece for English 202 (Writing about literature). I am admittedly not very familiar with the Batman mythos, but Frank Miller's Batman packs some seriously dark punch. This work actually has a lot to say about the human condition as Batman/Bruce Wayne battles old age and hopes for a glorious, memorable death as much as he battles crime.

Also it spawned lots and lots of hilarious jokes, especially pertaining to this panel (from a different comic): [link]


Yeah. Way too amusing.

I could go on in this or any other vein, but at this point I am exhausted. Sorry this review/rant is VERY short, I will put more meat into this later, but I have to be awake again in six and a half hours.
Goodnight, Gotham.


I promised I'd be back and back I am.

ENG 202 spent a lot of time discussing what the superhero trope was and is (and despite this fact I still have a lot of trouble describing it), but I can't help but notice that Batman, in this depiction, is really more of an anti-hero than a hero. It was only reinforced by the dark material the book dealt with as well as the inherent cynicism throughout.

There was something that struck me during discussion: there's a certain emphasis throughout this comic that anyone who attempts to create an image for themselves which is outside of the norm is automatically evil. For sake of example, there are characters who are portrayed as having undergone extensive body mods (spikes protruding from bald scalps, wrists or waists, as well as the act of filing one's teeth down to sharp points), and who are they? the first gang Batman trashes. Also the only character who is portrayed as transgender is a neo-nazi. It's an interesting cultural statement, and an unsettling one. I think it speaks a lot to the fact that there is an accepted dichotomy ingrained in our minds of good and evil, irrespective of any intellectual grey area. That it's accepted is a sad truth, but it seems to be a truth nonetheless.

On a completely different note, one of the things I liked the most about this comic was the presence of - gasp! - strong women! Of course, they ultimately are quite masculine in appearance and that is a little disappointing, but we still have strong female characters acting independently and not taking no for an answer. Robin via Carrie Kelly - so I suppose for this case Robin is the Girl Wonder - is the best and most prominent example. For all of you who are manga readers, be warned: it's a tad bit backwards for us. The (best of the) women look like men.

Not that I'm complaining about it, of course: thank goodness for women in comics who can act independently. Not to mention Robin is just amazing. c:

So for all you comics enthusiasts, get your mitts on one of these. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, February 1, 2010

And thus it begins.

Hello friends and enemies too!
Have I got a show, a show for you --

okay, so the rhyming is a NO GO. Seriously.
I'm here to blog about the things I read, watch, listen to, and witness in general.
I'll be trying to catch up on the "backlog" - all the things I've already read this quarter as well as the things I read last quarter - but for now it's gung ho full speed ahead.

Also, if there is something that you would like me to review, let me know. I'd be happy to do some intellectual spelunking. :D