Friday, August 31, 2007

Clan Loyalties

Here is a look at which Legend of the Five Rings clan I belong to.

What Clan are you?

Book Lists

Here are some books I've enjoyed recently and some I didn't.
  • Chester Brown - Louis Riel
  • Andrew Cockburn - Rumsfeld. An American Disaster
  • Robert A Doughty - Pyrrhic Victory. French Strategy and Operations in the Great War
  • Warren Ellis - Desolation Jones: Made in England
  • Stan Lee - The Essential Captain America vol. 2
  • Tim Moore - Nul Points
  • Greg Pak - Hulk: Planet Hulk


  • Mario Acevedo - X-Rated Blood Suckers
  • Mark Edundson - Why Read?
  • Sam Harris - The End of Faith
  • Russell Kirkpatrick - Across the Face of the World
  • Ron Suskind - The One Percent Doctrine

The Other Side

Civil War: Iron Man is an attempt to show this conflict in the Marvel Universe from the less popular side. Many readers would have found themselves agreeing with Captain America as he argued for individual freedom. But Iron Man was just as passionate in his belief that super powered beings registered with the government and trained properly would benefit everyone.
The first part of this graphic novel has a debate between Captain America and Iron Man and is probably the best discussion of both sides of this argument, you can feel the passion both sides are dealing with.

Unfortunately the rest of the stories don't hold up to this high standard with not much actually happening apart from lots of talking, a complaint of the Civil War series as a whole.

If you are interested in this 'event' then keep an eye out for it but it's not really worth owning.


Adrian Goldsworthy's biography of Caesar called Caesar. Life of a Colossus is a wonderful read. Yes it is long but Caesar had such a full life that it needs a big book to cover it all. What makes this one so good is that it is a very easy read, this does not mean it isn't scholarly, it just means that Goldsworthy has a very readable writing style.
This biography is detailed and isn't afraid to enter into scholarly debates about aspects of Caesar's life that aren't clear. An enjoyable read that is well worth giving a go.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Interactive Storytelling

I am currently enjoying a wonderful storytelling experience that is a great example of how current-generation computer and console games are stretching themselves.
Programmers are using the technology available to them to stretch the limits and involve the player in new and more wonderful adventures.

The game I am currently playing is Bioshock and it is a revolution in involving the player in a story they have control over. The game is set in 1960 and the plane you were traveling in has crashed somewhere in the Atlantic ocean. You escape the wreckage and enter the underwater city of Rapture.

Rapture was built in 1946 by industrialist Andrew Ryan who wanted artists and scientists to live in a city without government controls, were they would be free to create bigger and better things. But when the player arrives it is clear that something has gone drastically wrong and society in Rapture has collapsed on New Years Eve 1959.

The game is atmospheric with the city of Rapture created in a wonderful Art Deco style and the steady collapse of its society shown in the way the city is starting to crumble and fall into disrepair.

I have not finished the game yet but look forward to many hours of enjoyment in this wonderfully created world.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Book to Avoid

James Phelan's latest thriller Patriot Act is bad. The writing is cliched and the dialogue is wooden. There is not much to recommend it at all. According to reviews I have read it is better than his first book Fox Hunt, which must be really terrible.
Phelan is studying for a Master's in writing at Monash and is a very bad advertisement for this course. Authors will argue that you cannot teach writing but this is an argument for another day.

Anyway avoid this book, and his next one which is coming out next year. You would be better off reading a Matthew Reilly book, they are just as mindless but Reilly can write.

Hulk Smash!

The Hulk is back and he wants answers.

A group of powerful heroes (the Illuminati) decided that for the good of Earth the Hulk should be sent to a far away planet were he would be unable to hurt people. Unfortunately the ship travels through a wormhole and the Hulk finds himself on Sakaar. Here the Hulk is venerable to weapons and is made a slave, and then a gladiator. He eventually leads a revolution and is made Emperor of Sakaar, marries and is the happiest he has ever been.

Of course this cannot last as the ship he travelled in was designed to explode so the Hulk could not get back to earth. The wormhole damaged this bomb and the shuttle now explodes killing the Hulk's wife and his unborn child and millions of his followers. The Hulk now wants revenge.

Gathering together his closet companions and getting a ship they travel back to earth.

The angrier the Hulk gets the stronger he gets and he has never been this angry before.

The Hulk is after everyone who decided he should be sent of the planet and starts with Black Bolt who is quickly defeated, and the Hulk moves on to Manhattan demanding that Iron Man meet him. Iron Man is also defeated as is the Fantastic Four and various X-teams. The Hulk is unstoppable and it looks like the last hope of ending his rampage is Dr Strange.

The story is currently being played out in various Marvel comics, and I must say I'm loving it. I am an old fan of the Hulk and am enjoying this return to form for a character who has had lots of ups and downs in his life.

The Hulk is out for revenge and nothing is standing in his way.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dylan Quotations

In honour of Dylan's current Australian tour I'll share some wisdom from the legend himself.

  • I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I'll die like a poet.

  • Woody [Guthrie] is the greatest holiest godliest one in the world.

  • I don't care what people expect of me. Doesn't concern me. I'm doing God's work. That's all I know.

  • Everything is changed now from before.

  • How many singers feel the same way 10 years later? A lot of my songs don't work now.

  • Jesus put his hand on me. It was a physical thing. I felt my whole body tremble.

Love, life and the world

I have been rereading a great series called Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore and enjoying this engrossing story all over again. Beautiful black and white artwork combined with a compelling and funny script let the reader see into the lives of the main characters.
Strangers in Paradise is the story of best friends Francine and Katchoo. Francine is the shy, kind hearted one, while Katchoo was always the wild girl at school who got into trouble but didn't care. (In the picture Francine has dark hair, Katchoo is the blonde.)

Now Francine and Katchoo are sharing a house and we start the story with Francine in love with a guy who treats her like rubbish. Katchoo is in love with Francine and has been since high school, and while Katchoo is at the gallery she meets David who falls in love with her.

The story sounds like an average romantic comedy, but Moore develops it into a moving look at life and love, and this being a comic there is room for adventure and suspense. Especially when Katchoo's shady and violent past starts to catch up with her. This series won many awards and praise but I'll let comic legend Neil Gaiman have the final word, "what most people don't know about love, sex, and relations with other human beings would fill a book. Strangers in Paradise is that book." Couldn't have put it better myself.

Friday, August 17, 2007

52 BC

Having just finished watching the first season of Rome I feel like I have spent time on the streets of this historical city. HBO and the BBC spent $100 million on this series and it shows. Costumes, sets and an outstanding script and acting all come together to show what life was like in the Roman republic.
The first season deals with Caesar and his overthrow of the republic. The show opens with Caesar nearing the end of his Consulship in Gaul while Pompey is having trouble with the Senate and begins to turn on his co-Consul spurred on by Cato. There is lots going on in this series and politics plays a big part in what happens, but the action is humanised by two characters who find themselves at the centre of events. These are Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo both soldiers in Caesar's army.

This show is not for the faint hearted it is rated R and contains lots of swearing, nudity, and violence but it does make you feel you are in Rome. There are lots of little touches that help to make the show believable, for example background actors working at various tasks are actually tradespeople. If there is a butcher in the scene then the person playing them is really a butcher. Little things but they help to make you believe that the characters know what they are doing.

I would suggest that people who have enjoyed other HBO dramas, like The Sopranos or Deadwood will enjoy this, also people who are interested in this period of history will enjoy it, just be aware they do take liberties with historical events to fit the narrative.

Literary Quotations

  • Never open your book with weather - Elmore Leonard
  • Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke - F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Those who write clearly have readers, those who write obscurely have commentators - Albert Camus
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out - George Orwell (who really could have cut two words out of this statement.)
  • If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don't listen to writers talk about writing or themselves - Lillian Hellman
  • This is just the book to give your sister if she's a loud, dirty, boozy girl - Dylan Thomas on At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien
  • Proust changed my life with books one, two and three. I'll read more of Moby Dick, but three Proust books may have to suffice - Jonathan Franzen
  • I don't fire up the prose, I just tell it straight and don't fool around with it - Raymond Carver
  • Just remember how many writers down the ages have written to entertain, and who remembers them now? - Miguel Angel Asturias
  • You have the idea and you put down what you want to say. Then get somebody to add commas, maybe fix the spelling. They have people who do that - Elmore Leonard

Thursday, August 16, 2007

We shall fight in the shade.

I watched 300 last night and must say I was impressed. It is a brilliant adaption of the graphic novel and uses frames from the original to inform its story. It's bloody and violent and very very stylized as we see 300 Spartans take on the might of Persia.
I was interested by the furor surrounding this film as critics talked of how it was not historically accurate. But at no point does Frank Miller who wrote and drew the graphic novel, and the director state that it was accurate. It is a dramatisation, why must it be accurate? Since when did the film have to be historically accurate? It's a great story, well told, that's all.

Enjoy the spectacle, and the choreography of the fight scenes, but don't hold up some historical accuracy mirror, because many films would fail the test. (Some all time classics to.)

Enjoy 300 as a techincle marvel with its various digital effects but don't expect historical accuracy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Left-Wing Politics

I have just finished What's left? : how Liberals lost their way by Nick Cohen and found it an interesting read. Cohen looks at the state of Left Wing politics around the issue of war in Iraq, especially in the UK. Cohen is a signatory of the Euston Manifesto, a document created last year by those on the Left disillusioned by its drift to support the far Right. It set out the principles which the Left should stand for - democracy, freedom, equality and internationalism, and those which it should condemn - tyranny, terrorism, anti-Americanism, racism, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
Without going into too much detail Cohen's main point is that liberals and people on the left wing in general found themselves willing to support the continued rule of a fascist tyrant (Hussein) rather than his victims. The peace movement became a US hating movement and a propaganda tool for Saddam.

This is not to say that the book is without fault, Cohan turns a blind eye to the quagmire that Iraq has become and fails to see the need for criticism of the current events in Iraq.

But I do applaud the fact that he is willing to nail his colours to the mast. Yes, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was a good thing, and lets face it, it was never going to happen any other way. It is a sad day when the left wing would rather support a tyrant rather than freeing the oppressed.

I have simplified the arguments of this book but I urge people to read it and think about where they stand in the political spectrum.

Return of the 90s hero

When I read comics in the 1990s one of my favourite characters was called Cable. A mutant who returned from the future he had untapped mental powers and loved running around carrying big guns, and his mission was to save the earth from his past, or its future. Well after floating around the Marvel Universe for awhile he has been re imagined in a new and improved way.
Cable has increased his power and is now actively changing the world, in fact he is being treated by some humans as the saviour of mankind. His increased powers are frightening, he is in mental contact with every person on the planet through his telepathy and his telekinesis enables him to build a massive floating island and keep it suspended in space. Followers of Cable have flocked to his floating island and he is being seen as a threat by various world governments, especially when he begins sorting out conflicts like Palestine and Chechnya buy removing the weapons of both sides in massive displays of his power. This all feeds into Cable's larger plan which is to unite humanity, even if it unites against him.

All this leads to the point of this post which is to say that I read Cable & Deadpool: Burnt Offerings by Fabian Nicieza and really enjoyed myself. Cable is now an interesting character who has moved from being one dimensional to being a real threat on a global scale. One for the fans.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


Just a quick post about a great new science fiction magazine I have just come across. It is only up to its second issue in Australia but it deals with movies, books, comics, games, tv, and heaps more.

Called DeathRay it is published in the UK and is a must have for science fiction fans.

Get your copy now!!

Young Vanities

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People is a funny and sarcastic look inside the world of magazine publishing in the USA. The author Toby Young finds himself offered a trial with Vanity Fair and this book chronicles his moves down the pecking order and out of work.
Young has a sarcastic pen and is not afraid to use it, but the book is helped by his sense of humour as he talks about the excesses of the lifestyle people on the magazine lived.
Well worth a read I found myself laughing out loud in places and found myself having fun even though the gossipy nature of the book and its subject would not normally interest me.

Well worth checking out.

Shiver me timbers!

As a boy pirates always captured my imagination. They were colourful, violent, bad and cool in so many ways. Having just read Peter Earle's The Pirate Wars I realise they were cooler and badder than I could have imagined.
Pirates had an interesting history and mythology and it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between them, but Earle does an admirable (wink, wink) job all the same. Pirates were the scourge of the sea and lived very violent lives, either being chased or hired by various governments in Europe. Yet they were also one of the most democratic institutions on the planet, every one on the ship got to vote on who was to be captain, this included women if they were part of the crew, and there are examples of female pirates.

So find a copy of this look at the golden years of pirating and enjoy a slice of the nasty side of history.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


I like reading collections of essays from time to time. Like short stories they are a particular art form that goes through peaks and troughs. Recently I just finished reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace. Some people might know him as the author of Infinite Jest amongst other works.
Wallace tackles a wide range of subjects which include junior tennis, television and fiction, literary criticism and going on a cruise through the Caribbean (this is where the title comes from). Wallace approaches each subject with his trademark wit, but as the essay on literary criticism shows there is a fierce intellect behind it.

A good read which made me laugh, and a book you can dip into slowly and take your time with.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Franchise writing

When a popular author dies it is always interesting to see what will happen to his characters. For example Robert Ludlum's creation Jason Bourne has been given new life in a series of books by Eric Van Lustbader a successful thriller writer in his own right. The latest one in the series The Bourne Betrayal, has just been released.
Other writers have received similar treatment, for example Issac Asimov's Foundation series, Frank Herbert's Dune books and others.

This type of franchise writing reflects the current Hollywood trend of making sequels, and remaking old films rather than thinking up new concepts.

Sure it is good to see much loved characters getting a new life, but a part of me would like them to stay with the people who invented them. Oh well, I'll just have to read the latest Bourne novel and keep my mouth shut.


Frank Rich columnist for the New York Times has written an amazing book about the current Bush government called The Greatest Story Ever Sold. The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina. Rich's excellent book looks at the spin used by the Bush government during this period and comes to some interesting conclusions.
Rich has a great writing style that uses sharp wit to make his points, but even more important he never feels the need to degenerate into personal insults. At no point does he feel the need to label Bush as an idiot or stupid, instead he looks at other factors in trying to explain what happened. Personally I've never thought Bush was stupid, his campaigns and public image actually needs some brains to maintain. And as Rich points out Bush got the same marks in college that Gore did.

As an insight into spin doctors and political control this book is a great read, and witty to boot.


As a fan of comics it is good to see the big two Marvel and DC publishing collected volumes of back issues. Yes I admit they are only available in black and white, but when you're getting over 500 pages in one volume it's hard to argue with the value. Also some of the artwork looks amazing in black and white anyway!

These collected volumes are a great way of catching up on the backstory of your favourite characters, or discovering some new ones. Keep an eye out and see what you can find.

Friday, August 3, 2007


I've been looking at a book called Fiasco. A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops by James Parrish and enjoying it immensely. The book looks at the history of Hollywood and highlights some movies that never came close to recouping what was spent making them.
The book looks at a number of movies which includes; Cleopatra, Paint Your Wagon, Popeye, Last Action Hero, Showgirls, Waterworld and Battlefield Earth.

Each movie gets a chapter which details some of the reasons why that particular movie's costs spiralled out of control. Actor's egos, producer follies, expensive locations, labour disputes, weather, lack of a shotable script and many more all played a part in ratcheting the cost skywards.

Hollywood has been responsible for a large number of great films, but it is fun to also look at some of the failures as well. When Hollywood is on its game it can be good, but when its very, very bad it can be great. There are genuine head shaking moments as you realise that yes people can be that stupid, and egotistical. So all in all a good book that you can dive into and read a few chapters and then come back to later and read a few more.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

DMZ: Body of a Journalist

I have just finished reading the second volume of the brilliant DMZ and all I can say is wow! Anyone interested in graphic novels and comics should be reading this. No excuses!
The second volume continues to follow Matty as he finds his way around the DMZ.

Critics have been raving about this work, for example:

Warren Ellis called it "possibly the most groundbreaking work of 2006."

San Francisco Chronicle called it "equal parts compelling drama and cautionary tale ... inspired."

So do yourself a favour and get a copy and start reading it. What are you waiting for? And please keep your press pass with you at all times, it will save your life.