Wednesday, 22 April 2015

April Update; Books, Plans & Reggae

And there's really nothing better 

Than when an idea comes together 

For the sake of saving the sanity of the band

I haven't written on this blog for some time and a lot has gone in since the last entry. So here's a little update of what's been happening:

Travelling: Ben and I have finally put in our applications for working-holiday visas in Japan! It was a pretty intimidating process and fingers-crossed we have all the paperwork they need. The visa allows us 6 months in the country, with the ability to apply for another 6 months once we're there. I am beyond excited about going to Japan for that length of time and it's been hard to wait around, meandering through normal life while up ahead there's a great adventure. The picture above is from our last trip in November 2013 (the last time I was overseas… way too long since I've had a change of scenery!) when we were wandering the beautiful streets (most likely lost). I've had a few more pictures developed from that trip so might do a post one day to show off some more.

Reading: I've been jumping between books lately. Since devoting so much time to Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth (life-changing - blog to come!) I haven't really been sure what I've wanted to read. I started the Sci-fi collection because short story collections are my answer to indecision. I've only read about half the stories; once I read the excerpt of the first part of Asimov's huge Foundations series I only wanted to read that insanely intelligent story. But finding a full copy of the series is so difficult it will just have to wait til another day. Then I started Junky, which is really interesting and my main boo(k). I bought the "The TIME 100" edition of TIME Magazine as an ode to the age I'm living in. It's an interesting read but I'm even more interested in keeping it for 20 years and going through the stories, people, culture, technologies, disasters ect. for a glimpse into the year that was 2015. I would love to meet someone with a collection of these TIME 100 lists from the past and learn what was deemed important in that year.

Listening: Reggae is my weakness. I wish I could listen to it almost all the time. I'm obsessed with the relaxed beat, high spirit and soothing melodies. It helps me to slow down and relax before work or while reading or really anytime. Bob Marley has become one of my favourite shower singing choices (I'm building up for Japanese karaoke sessions). I'm also hanging out for new albums from Brand New, Modest Mouse, Death Cab for Cutie (already out?), Rihanna and Kanye West.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Holiday Reading Part 2: The Last Thirteen Series (Books 13-10) by James Phelan

This is really the first time I've picked up a YA novel since being of the YA age and it was awesome! (Kinda because the font is so big and I feel boss being able to finish at whole book in 2 days.)

The Last Thirteen isn't super new in it's concept - a kid gets picked up, finds out he is the key to an ancient mystery, has to find other 13 kids, save the world. What I particularly love is it's grounding in the real world. I saw the author James Phelan speak at a writers festival and he was totally devoted to using real world elements in his stories. His background is in Thriller writing and man, can you tell. The first book ends on the most intense cliffhanger that you just HAVE to jump straight into the next book. (I talked to some writerly friends about this and they thought it was cheating and books need to tied up and whole entities - I was like, yeah I get that and maybe one day he will publish the whole thing as an anthology and that will be true, but really I don't mind giving this Aussie writer my money.)

The books vehicle is the dream world. There are two competing organisations that look after the "Dreamers" and that leads to some very interesting relationships. I really like that "the goodies" and "the baddies" are very fluid and you keep questioning whether the protagonist should trust them (yes, I did yell at my book at some parts like, "Noo Sam don't go with him, he's so dodgy, watch out!").

Anyway, "Dreamers" are able to predict the future in their dreams but it doesn't always happen the way it's supposed to. This works really well because the author builds the suspense at the beginning by revealing the dream, then the rest of the book is kinda finding out if it comes true or how events lead up to it. Da Vinci plays a huge role in this but you'll have to read it to find out why.

I'm now up to book 9 and waay ahead of my little brothers. I'm making them catch up before I get to the end. Will he save the world?!?!?!?!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Holiday Reading Part 1: The Beats: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar and Ed Piskor

The Beats: A Graphic History is a graphic novel that chronicles the life of the three main players of the Beat Generation (Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg) as well as other lesser-known players. It's drawn in the style of American Splendour graphic novels and is cool in the same way. I always enjoy reading novels and it's especially effective with the beats in capturing their wayward style and jazzy conventions. 

The main three dudes lives are teased out, starting with a details of Jack as a kid til death, then Allen from Howl through his activism to death, and William's life kinda jumping all over the place (it skips all his former years and details of his junky-ism which I guess you can read in Junky anyway...). It's obvious the authors favour Jack and his life style and it makes sense because he was the most quintessentially beat - he travelled often, bummed out at his mothers often, drank often and eventually became a bit of a dickhead - but hey, that's Jack for ya.

The most interesting part is all the other players they give detail to. Some only get four pages while others are illustrated and written by guests. Players include Kenneth Roxroth, Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, Gary Snyder, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, LeRoi Jones/Amiri Bakara, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, City Lights Books, Kenneth Patchen, Philip Lamantia, Diane di Prima, "Beatnik Chicks" (Hettie Jones, Joan Kerouac, Joyce Johnson and Carolyn Cassady), Jay Defoe, d. a. levy, and Tuli Kupferberg. (Sorry for the extensive list, it's more for my sake than anyone elses, if you're interested in the subject I'm sure googling any of these people would come up with interesting results).

As you might have been able to tell by scanning that list, there are very few women. Thank god for the chapter of "Beatnik Chicks" or I would have probably hated this book. The chapter talks about the misogyny of the era and with the men even though it was, in parts, during the Hippie movement. It a little bit freaks me out that "free love" was such a huge thing when it's clear women weren't being respected like they should but, whatever, moving on...

This is a super great book for anyone interested in the beat movement as a whole. There's so much information available and it's great that Harvey and Ed have highlighted people who might not otherwise get much exposure in the mainstream. This book made me realise that poetry (most of the beats were "poets") can really be anything and I'm keen to check out some of the poets interested in nature like Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Robinson Jefferson and Diane di Prima.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Book Review: Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad

One of the most uncompromising adult science-fiction novels ever written. Its a new kind of SF novel. Vivid suspenseful, brutal and erotic, it has been condemned as 'depraved' and hailed as a masterpiece. The reader must make up his own mind...
Bug Jack Barron is a political sci-fi novel written in the style of beat poetry. Politics and death are main themes of the book but because of it's political tone it's able to touch on issues like race, poverty, murder, scientific experimentation and greed.

My first impression of the book (which I've talked about in a previous blog) was how strange the language was. It was written in 1969 and you can tell - it keeps with all of the tropes of the 60s - marijuana, acid, Tim Leary and the beat language all resonate throughout the book as well as heaps of references to presidents and race discrimination.

The main character and our hero, the forever suave and smart Jack Barron hosts the most popular TV show (Wednesday nights 8.00EST) called Bug Jack Barron. His hundred million viewers can call up and talk about what's bugging them and good ol' Jack will help them out by getting the big guns on the air live. What's super awesome though is the way the author feeds us straight into Jacks head. He does the same with the girl of the book Sara. You can totally tell that this guy has tripped acid (or could be tripping while literally writing the book) because of the way he lets sentences flow but also by the way he is able to show us the true intentions of the characters without it feeling contrived.

I'm not sure anyone who hasn't read any Jack Kerouac would like this book. The writing at times is like poetry and you have to follow the flow and rhythm to decipher exactly what he means. This sucked me in at the beginning because it was so interesting but by the end it was totally normal and added to the story (although I did start skimming some paragraphs that were labouring the point).

The main deal of the book revolves around a Freezer Foundation that, for $50,000, will freeze you when you time and unfreeze you when the scientists have worked out a way to cure you. Benedict Howards is the head of the Foundation and he is a total slime-ball power-hungry creep. He tries to recruit Jack and their little battle of the mega-power-minds is the cause of the entire book so I won't spoil it. Another reason why this book keeps so close to the tropes of the 60s - everyone is afraid of death and wants to keep living - a total acid-buddhist concept from the times.

The book was good fun to read but I think the author thinks he's smarter than he is. As soon as characters or plot lines were introduced I could tell exactly what was going to happen and I only kept reading to see how our hero Jack dealt with it. There are some cool scifi ideas in it (Jack has this crazy cool pad with kinesthope patterns (that mess with your brain/perception) and cool little gadgets) but it's nothing radical and a whole lot less than anything you'd find in any Isaax Asimov novel.

To be honest though I picked this up at a Lifeline Book Fair simply because of it's cover so I'm not sure how readily available it is in book stores or online. It was a fun experiment in picking up a random book and giving it a go and getting to the end. I've never really read a book that I didn't like, because, like, who the fuck has that time, but I think I will in the future because picking apart a book or author or voice you think is bad or boring or weird is pretty fun...