Friday, September 28, 2007

RSS feeds

In this busy world were people want everything now RSS feeds sound like a godsend, but you would be wrong.
One of the joys of the web is browsing the blogs, and other sites just smelling the roses. I think we should be slowing our experience of the web down, not trying to speed it up in some attempt to see everything as quickly as possible. It's a big world/web out there and we are never going to see all of it, so instead enjoy the bits you can see, and take your time enjoying them.
Lets take the rush out of life, and stop to smell the roses.

Literary Insults

It's no-holds-barred bare knuckle action in the literary world;
  • I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me - Charles Darwin
  • Edgar Allan Poe's prose is unreadable - like Jane Austen's. No, there is a difference. I could read his prose on a salary, but not Jane's - Mark Twain
  • Ulysses is the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples - Virginia Woolf
  • Henry James has a mind so fine that no idea could violate it - T S Elliot
  • Free verse is like free love; it is a contradiction in terms - G K Chesterton
  • It was a bad play saved by a bad performance - George S Kaufman
  • Gertrude Stein was a past master in making nothing happen very slowly - Clifton Fadiman
  • Truman Capote has made lying an art. A minor art - Gore Vidal
  • J D Salinger is the greatest mind ever to stay in prep school - Norman Mailer
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn is a bad novelist and a fool. The combination usually makes for great popularity in the US - Gore Vidal
  • The g is silent - the only thing about her that is - Julia Burchill on Camille Paglia

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Go forth

I've decided to start a new segment where I give you my weekly pick of book, graphic novel and CD.
These are all things I think everyone should have either read or listened to.
Frank Herbert - Dune
Alan Moore - Watchmen
Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall 1971

Monday, September 24, 2007

Books, Books and more Books

Books I have enjoyed recently:

  • Neal Asher - Hilldiggers
  • Mike Davis - Buda's Wagon. A Brief History of the Car Bomb
  • Ian C Esslemont - Night of Knives
  • Christopher Fowler - The Water Room
  • William Langewiesche - The Atomic Bazaar
  • Christopher Moore - The Stupidest Angel
  • Mark Millar - The Ultimates 2. Grand Theft America
  • Charles Stross - The Atrocity Archives

Books I have not enjoyed at all:

  • Mike Carey - Ultimate Fantastic Four vol. 7
  • Mark Edmunson - Why Read?
  • Michael Grose - XYZ. The New Rules of Generational Warfare
  • Myriam Miedzian - Boys Will Be Boys

Any Given Sunday or Saturday or Friday ...

I follow lots of different sports, and at the moment three of my favourite have either begun or are beginning. American Football has begun so I'm following that closely, go the Vikings.
The Ice Hockey season is about to begin so go the Penguins, and the NBA is about to start so go the Suns.

What does this mean for my reading?

Well it means I read a lot of magazines which follow these sports, whether they are reviewing the upcoming season, or following it once it starts.

So lots of stats, player news and rumours of trades.

It makes a pleasant change from my usual reading.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Web 2.0 and Flikr

OK here's my Librarian Trading Card.
As you can see I too know how to have fun with Flikr.
Just make sure you keep quiet when this librarian asks you to.
And apologies before hand to the cleaners, unfortunately Wolverine's solutions are usually of a permanent nature.
Ouch, that hurt...don't point them at me!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Death of the Gods

Ragnarok is a Korean manwha series that has been released by Tokyopop. The English version is adapted rather that translated directly. I'm not sure why this decision was taken, but I would have felt better if there was a direct translation rather than an adaption.
The story deals with Ragnarok, the death of the Norse Gods, and how the Gods try and stop it from happening.

Anyway, I must say I was disappointed with this series. The art work is good, but the manga style does not suit a story about ancient Norse gods. We know how the Vikings looked, and their Gods would have resembled them surely, so the Manga style is jarring, a Norse hero carrying a samurai sword?

Can't say it grabbed me and I love stories about Vikings.

Bringing back the child in me

I found myself flicking through some books that I really enjoyed as a kid, and these were the Fighting Fantasy series of books. I used to own nearly the whole set and then gave them away at some point, but I saw some sitting on the shelf at work and decided to give them another go.
I was impressed by how much fun they still were, plus they brought up fun memories of reading them as a kid.
Now I'm not saying the plots are terribly complex, but the idea that the reader could choose how they wanted to approach the story is an interesting one, and trying to bring that to a solo adventure is also an interesting one.
So I'll continue to relive a part of my childhood and enjoy the other books in the series.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Web Two Point Doh!

Welcome to this post about Web 2.0. Regular readers of this blog will just have to bear with me and all will be made clear. (I hope)
As the library undertakes a self-learning course designed to teach librarians about the wonders of the Web, and its amazing ability to engage I will be called upon to comment on my blog about my experiences. So ...
OK we're only up to week three but I'm sure something will come to me. Maybe if I sit and stare at the computer I'll be inspired. This is starting to feel like an episode of Californication without the sex, smoking, and bestselling author bit. But the writer's block I can relate to.
Hmmmmmm. Stay tuned and I'll think of something...I promise...really I will...don't go it'll get better...come back!
Hello....Hello, anyone there.
Damn it is this thing on?...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Which Book am I?

You're Prufrock and Other Observations!

by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic
and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying
to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really
heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Pirates of the Caribbean

1715 - 1725 was the period that pirates in the Caribbean had their greatest success. A number of pirate captains including Blackbeard, Black Sam Bellamy and Charles Vane joined forces to raid shipping on the high seas.
The republic they started was an amazing beast where there were no servants, everyone was equal no matter what their skin colour and leaders were chosen by a vote. Compared to the societies these pirates had escaped from this must have seemed like paradise.

Colin Woodard has written an interesting and informative account of this period called The Republic of Pirates. Woodard has done a fantastic amount of research and it shows in the authority he brings to his subject.

Anyone interested in pirates or this period of history will enjoy this book.

We come from the land of the ice and snow...

From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow.
The hammer of the gods
Will drive our ships to new lands,
To fight the horde, singing and crying:
Valhalla, I am coming!

OK enough Led Zeppelin. What I really wanted to talk about was the return of Thor to the Marvel Universe. One of my favourite characters is back, after a false appearance in the Civil War saga. Thor is also gunning for Iron Man and Mr Fantastic (like the Hulk), for cloning him without his knowledge. The clone was ripped apart by a distraught Hercules, and put into hiding by Mr Fantastic.

Thor's return though heralds more than a can of whoop-ass for Iron Man, it brings back the mythical element that was missing after the destruction of Asgard in the Marvel universe. And the fan boy in my rejoices that a favourite is back. so look to the skies as the god of thunder makes his presence felt in more ways than one.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense is a series of graphic novels by Mike Mignola that have spun off from Hellboy. The BPRD is where Hellboy works and this new series highlights the work of Hellboys colleagues. As I said in my post about Hellboy, Mignola is an inventive writer and this is shown to great effect in this series.
If your looking for something that draws on mythology, horror stories and things that go bump in the night then this is something you should look out for.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Watch more TV, play more computer games

Steven Johnson is a passionate defender of pop culture and his book Everything Bad is Good for You shows this. In this interesting volume Johnson shows how computer games and drama on television help people to build skills necessary for living in the world.
Problem solving, completing set tasks, following complex story lines are skills that can be learnt from pop culture. Johnson argues that popular culture has, on average, grown more complex and intellectually challenging over the past thirty years and this has led to smarter individuals. At no point does Johnson claim that pop culture is better than traditional culture, just that pop culture should not be viewed as rubbish.

This book is very readable and I must say I enjoy the examples Johnson uses to illustrate his points. Well worth reading.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Dragons and their care

I always wanted to own my own dragon and now I've found the book that can help me achieve this aim. How to Raise and Keep a Dragon by Joseph Nigg tells you everything you ever needed to know about this pastime, from feeding, upkeep, housing to grooming and showing your new pet. The book is full of information about different types of Dragon breeds and contains lots of beautiful colour illustrations.
Grab a copy and get involved in this exciting hobby and you to can own your own dragon.


Batman: Hush saw two giants of the comic industry coming together to create a truely memorable Batman story. Writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee have created a masterpiece that was released in 2003 and went for twelve issues.
Batman finds himself being targeted by an unknown foe who has studied his movements and tactics and is using this knowledge to foil him. Not only that but other adversaries of Batman are being given this knowledge and are attacking Batman. Bats is also distracted by the fact that he and Catwomen have begun a relationship. Soon Batman realises that he is being set up but he doesn't know by who, and this leads to a violent showdown that leaves Batman searching for answers. To say more would be to give the game away.

Loeb is a great writer and his version of Batman hits all the right notes, menacing, intelligent, and tormented by inner demons. Lee needs no introduction, one of the greats since he broke onto the scene in the early nineties, anything drawn by this man is going to be good. With Chris Claremont he still holds the record for the best selling comic book of all time X-Men #1 which sold 8 million copies. (Yes I own a copy as well) Lee is famous for not meeting deadlines, his current project with Frank Miller called All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder has had a gap of a year between issues.

Do yourself a favour and get a hold of Batman: Hush and enjoy this well told tale, I know I did.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert is a re-imagining of classic 1960s marvel characters as if they existed in the year 1602. Caught up in the intrigue of the times Gaiman does a good job of placing the characters in context and making them fit.
The story went for eight issues and led to various spin-offs which explored other areas of the world of 1602 that includes Marvel's superheroes.

I don't think this is Gaiman's best work, Sandman will always hold that place for me, but Marvel 1602 is interesting, though a little too talky at times. Gaiman likes long scripts and this is reflected in this piece. Kubert like his brother Adam (and father Joe) is an amazing artist and has been drawing Marvel heroes for a long time so the art work is outstanding. (Both Kubert brothers now work for DC)

A fun read but you need to know the Marvel Universe to get the most out of it.


The bombing campaign the Allies undertook during the Second World War has been coming under scrutiny lately. A recent example of this was Keith Lowe's book Inferno. The Devastation of Hamburg 1943, which tells the tragic story of what happened when this port became a target for American and British bombers.
In the summer of 1943 the allies raided this city for ten days and dropped 9,000 tons of bombs on it, causing fires that burnt for a month and could be seen 200 miles away.

This book is full of first hand accounts from both sides and deals with the tragedy in an even handed way. Lowe is willing to let the facts speak for themselves and they are so bad that they do not need unnecessary commentary.

Read this book and be reminded that the Axis side wasn't the only one to commit atrocities.

Monday, September 3, 2007


World War One has a certain senselessness that World War Two lacks. Defeating Hitler and fascism is noteworthy, but massacres in trenches about not very much are difficult to explain. It would be hard to describe to an alien visitor why it was important to fight in the Great War, but people did and some of the bloodiest battles were fought for the smallest gains.
One such battle was the Battle of the Somme, when the British and French Armies attacked the Germans. The battle opened on the 1st of July 1916 and ended in October of the same year. On the first day 20,000 British soldiers and 60% of the officers that led them were killed with 40,000 injured. It is still the single bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. A statement issued by the British Army at the end of the day stated that "the first day of the offensive is very satisfactory." This battle also saw the first usage of tanks in modern warfare, they didn't really change anything. By the end of the battle the Allies had advanced 12 kilometres at huge cost. There were 420,000 British casualties and 200,000 French. The Germans lost around half a million men, which the allied High Command claimed was the point of the offensive, to destroy German manpower.

I mention this because Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun created one of the greatest series of stories dealing with this period. Called Charley's War the comic strip was published between 1979 and 1985 it dealt with life in the trenches in amazing detail. Mills was also quite clear when writing this series to show his very strong anti-war stance, sure people do heroic things but all the characters are quite ordinary and suffer various problems of their own. Colquhoun was an amazing artist and the black and white art he produced for this strip was simply amazing.

Read this amazing series and discover what life in the trenches meant for millions of soldiers who fought a largely senseless war they thought was going to end all wars. As Wilfred Owen once stated "The old lie: Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori." (It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country.)

Science Fiction Samba

Brasyl by Ian MacDonald lives up to the quote on the front by fellow writer Richard Morgan. Morgan says "F**king brilliant. I'm as jealous as all hell - it's a beauty.' I couldn't agree more. OK I'm not jealous but this book is great.
MacDonald weaves the story around three strands set in 2006, 2032 and 1732 in Brazil, and Brazil is the main character. This tightly plotted story takes the reader on a ride through the backstreets of this magnificent country as we follow the protagonists around. MacDonald has an ear for dialogue which translates well onto the page.

Be warned though there is a lot going on within the pages of this book, but once you start the momentum will speed you along.