Sunday, 21 November 2010

Couple o' shows...

First from last Monday eve at The Star in Guildford.

Apparently the place has recently been refurbished but having never been there to the back room beforehand I couldn't tell you what they've done except a second fire exit for health and safety reasons. Whatever they did it's a pretty sizable place now which makes me wonder why the GYC ever gets used. First band on were called Drones whom I actually quite liked, the singer/guitarist had quite a lot of energy and there were a couple of catchy songs in there. To be honest I filmed the wrong one, if I remember rightly the song after this was bloody good.

Next up were Flippant Malarkism from Bournemouth, video is on the ol' youtube channel. There was a time when I'd probably have been right into this but sadly no longer. That said, their blend of punk with a dash of ska is most definitely dance-able which is what I always thought was important when it came these bands.

Bastad! Rats! are just a bit shit so I'd advise against watching this. The sound wasn't brilliant for them, could hardly here Tank's vocals and when you take away half the oi's and woah's you're in trouble. There were a couple of other bands on after but I had to take off so let's just assume they were really, really good.

Post-Fest Blues Fest Day 1

As well as being an evening for those of us (reasonably) fresh back from Gainesville to mope around it was also Break The Habit's last show in Kingston (their final show ever being this coming Saturday.) On account of work and trains I didn't get there in time to see Fun Alf play everyone a few tunes and only got there half way through El Morgan's set in time to film her last song. Next on were WeGrowBeards complete with new bassist Chil. Unfortunately on account of him being 7ft tall and me standing at the front I couldn't film anything without cutting his head and shoulders off.

And so to BTH. During the song prior to this some guy gets on stage and hugs both guitarists to cries of "What the fuck are you doing here?!" Turns out this is Ed, who is from Pennsylvania and has turned up out of the blue to surprise them for their farewell shows and then takes over bass duties for this song. That's dedication folks.

Last on is Ok Pilot, Fest veterans extraordinaire, whom Lucas, the Austrian I met on the plane from Atlanta to Gainesville, was disappointed by their absence this year. This song is called Black Eyes, it's pretty awesome yes.

Also The Ashes start this coming week. Hello to late nights and tired mornings. And on that note I have now uploaded 111 videos to my channel, 20 points if you know why these 2 things are relevant to each other.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Oh Shadow of the Wind how you have tortured me so...

This book has probably taken me longer to read than any other. I can't actually remember when I started reading it but it was some time in months ago and I finished it a couple of weeks ago. I have no idea why but every time I picked it up I'd read a page or two and just not want to carry on. Sometimes I can take a while to get into books but that doesn't really slow my reading pace down so I've no idea what happened here. Eventually I did get into it and then finished off most of the book in a couple of weeks. Would probably have been less than that had I not been in Florida for a week. Anyway, I finished it so now some thoughts:

The story is set in 20th century Spain where the civil war is still relatively fresh in the minds of many of the residents of Barcelona. There's a certain air of people recovering from that and getting used to life after the war. The Shadow of the Wind is a book...yes we're within the story now, it's a book about a book. It's a book found by young Daniel Sempere when his father takes him to the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' so that he can choose one book to take care of. He finds Shadow of the Wind, doesn't like the look of it and picks 'New Moon' instead. The rest of the book is about how the author of Shadow of the Wind finds this out and hunts Sempere down and kills him for being such a smacktard.'s not, I made that up.

Well, just after the finding of the book. He doesn't choose some teenage girl's inter-species breeding extravaganza, he sticks with Julian Carax.

Naturally he rather enjoys the book and wants to find out more about Senor Carax but nobody seems to know much about him. The story from here is about Daniel's investigations into Julian Carax. This seems rather mundane for a book of 500 pages but I assure you it isn't. Daniel's investigations lead him to meeting various different people whom shape his life in various ways so really the story is as much about his life during the time of his investigations as the investigations themselves. Obviously I don't want to give things away but there's a much more sinister plot going on than first seems as a couple of undesirable figures come up along the way and the story becomes much more than just a case of "literary curiosity".

One thing that I was concerned about is that this book is a translation; it was originally written in Spanish so despite the fact I'm sure every care was taken to make sure it still flowed and came across as it was intended I was still wary of how it might be. I'd probably need to read the Spanish version to really know if it does but my Spanish isn't so hot nowadays. Even if it doesn't I wasn't reading things thinking they sounded wrong or hadn't been phrased properly so err...good job Lucia Graves! (the translator)

I think something I always look for in a story and what often gets me hooked on it is well written characters whom you can sympathise with or thoroughly dislike if appropriate and Shadow of the Wind has them in abundance. When I did, eventually, get into the book I really wanted everything to end well for Daniel and I wanted Fumero to die in a horrific manner. When hearing Julian Carax's back story I really hoped that things had turned out alright for him. Something I find when I'm watching or reading something I have done before is that when things are about to go wrong I always hope that it'll be different despite knowing it won't be and I think this shows that you're invested in the characters and their fortunes and it's something I found happening with Carax's story; you kind of know to an extent how it ends but can't help wishing it would go differently and this or that wouldn't happen the way it did etc. I think I'm rambling somewhat but my point is that the characters are really well written and it makes you really eager to find out what happens to them next.

As I said previously the story itself doesn't sound like the most action-packed roller coaster ride and I suppose it isn't but what it is, is clever with lots of little twists and turns and different threads tying together so there's a lot of times I found myself hurriedly reading through a chapter or two to get to some revelation I felt was imminent which, despite the fact I then have a slight tendency to not properly read descriptive passages in an effort to find out what's going on, I think is a positive.

Let's have a go at quantitatively scoring this then...

The Characters

I think is the strongest aspect of the book and it was through my attachment to them mainly that I, eventually, got really into reading the story. I wouldn't mind reading another story about a couple of them as they made for very interesting characters and so for this, it receives 8/10.

The Story

I kind of went over this already but yeah, once it gets going it's very intriguing and I found myself desperately wanting to find out 'what it all meant'. I think this was more down to the cleverness of the plot then the actual story itself, I think I was still wondering just what the main story was going to be when I realised that this was it but all the same the little twists and turns do make for interesting reading and so it shall have 5/10.
I feel like I might be being a little harsh on that mind.

Other Stuff

I can't think of anything else specific to focus on so just some other things. I really liked the idea of the 'Cemetery of Forgotten Books' and it'd be really cool to be able to visit such a place and find a book that effectively, doesn't exist anymore. I didn't really touch on this before which I know is terrible writing on my part but there's a fair dash of romance thrown in although it's far from being fairytale stuff and even that has its own element of intrigue to it. Here, have 7/10 for things I can't classify.

I have a ridiculous scoring system, don't ask me how I got to this but Shadow of the Wind ends with a grand total of 7.1/10. It's well worth a read, take no notice of my taking forever to get into it I'm sure that's just me being me.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Legalize Denner!

The Name Of The Wind - Patrick Rothfuss

So this is pretty much my favourite book ever, I was made aware of it by my friend Mell's review of it, you should read it because it's no doubt more amusing than anything I'll write.

The blurb doesn't give a whole lot away but in my mind would make the perfect narrative for a film trailer: "I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.

Sounds like a raging egomaniac no? I don't think he's actually as bad as he comes across there but he certainly does have self-belief.

So what's it actually about? Well Kvothe, basically. But for the occasional interlude snapping us back to the present day the book is Kvothe recounting the story of his life or part of it at least, this is the Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One so this is just a beginning, a long one at that coming in at 650 pages.

There's a danger now I'll spend a long time drooling over this book so if you don't want to read that I'll give you the short version; this is a fantastic book, buy it and love it.

I've warned you so don't blame me if you read on and then sit there thinking "Jeez why doesn't he just go marry Pat Rothfuss and have his babies, that'd be less of a show of love than this."

I'll throw you a curveball now and actually go through what I didn't like first. I'm struggling and nit-picking and this is something Mell's review picked up on and that's Kvothe's ridiculous explanations of being underground and being poor; he makes the irritating habit of starting sentences with "If you haven't been xxx I don't expect you to understand..." It's like, okay maybe I haven't been destitute, maybe I haven't been 50 feet underground but I'm pretty sure if you describe it to me I can manage some basic grasp of what it's like, not being a complete idiot.
I don't know if Mr Rothfuss consciously decided to make Kvothe so condescending but it rankles somewhat with me.

That's all I can think of and that's nothing to do with the book so much as the character and even that's just a couple of lines. Oh I have something! I have this in paperback, the next book, due out in March 2011 (for the moment), I assume will be in hardback. I can't have one book in paperback and one in hardback on my shelf, it will look stupid but do you really think I can
wait for it to be released in paperback? This is my biggest problem in life right now...well okay perhaps but it's going to irritate me come March next year.

Let's move on to more positive things; I love the character building in this, some people think Kvothe a bit of a "titbox" but personally I really like him. I think it's common place in stories to have a 'reluctant' hero, someone who clamours for the quiet life and avoids trouble. Our Kvothe on the other hand turns around and takes it head on. You could say he's reckless and hot-headed which he quite possibly is but I found it both refreshing and enjoyable to have a protagonist who refuses to back down and generally goes around kicking ass. That's not to say he's some Jack Bauer-esque invincible who always comes out on top because he doesn't but how many times did you want Harry Potter to just punch that Malfoy square in the face, we have these rivals and nemeses built up and we dislike them just as much as the characters they bully and cause trouble for but they so often get away with it. I am going to make a strange reference here and compare Kvothe to Ace Rimmer (if you've not seen Red Dwarf he's this James Bond type all action hero...what a guy.) Ace Rimmer is kept back a year at school and it's what makes him knuckle down and fight back (and he's been fighting back ever since!) and Kvothe is similar in that he becomes someone who doesn't take anything lying down.

The story itself is excellent too. You could argue that it's a little generic in what happens to Kvothe in the beginning but even with that there's something a whole lot more, the story of The Chandrian and their origins and motives...I'm trying to avoid giving anything away here...basically even if the general events are standard fantasy stuff there's much more complex things at work.

One thing I'm left wondering having read this is how many books there are going to be. As I said it's Kingkiller Chronicle Day One but there's also a story evolving in the 'present day' outside of Kvothe's tale but it doesn't receive much more than 2 or 3 paragraphs so unless that changes in the following books, which would probably get quite confusing, I think there's too much there that needs to be addressed so I'm hoping that when Kvothe is done resting on his laurels spinning stories for pennies (that thieving bloody Ruh) he'll get up and do something in the real world too. Perhaps I just want more books, which I do but I feel like we only get a tiny piece of the world Rothfuss has created in this book and there's a lot more mileage in it than just Kvothe's story.

The thing that makes me hold this book in such high esteem I think is that when I got towards the end I was in two minds; I was engrossed in the story, immersed in the world and wanted to know what happened next but at the same time I didn't want to carry on reading because I knew I was coming to the end and then it would be over. Obviously if I had the next book it wouldn't have been an issue but I don't think I've ever been that into a book. It's something I really want to be able to do; lose myself in a story, something I think is especially important with a fantasy novel. This book ticks that box without a doubt.

I will give this a quantitative rating once I've worked out how I'm going to do it but until then assume it gets full marks, because it's a pretty safe bet that will do. I recommend this book to as many people as I can and I am doing so to you now.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Fest

Once a year there's a lovely little get together of like-minded individuals in a quiet town in Florida called Gainesville. When we all get there we drink a lot, stay up late, watch awesome bands, party and just generally have a whole bunch of fun in the autumnal sun. Here's some of said awesome bands:

I have to admit that prior to them being announced as one of the headliners I'd not heard of The Suicide Machines. I don't think that's entirely unreasonable as they broke up several years ago before I knew what was good for me music-wise. But I downlaoded (Legally thank you very much) 'A Match And Some Gasoline' and liked what I heard so I went to go see them on the Friday night. Unfortunately, despite all the videos of their set on youtube there are none in which you can see me jumping about in my raving goggles.

Despite Buddy having flown back from being in Japan with LTJ the day before or something and Jake not long out of surgery Coffee Project still managed to put on a show which shows some level of dedication to Fest to which I think every person in the CMC showed their appreciation by singing along to every song. Note I decided to turn down my singing for this song as I know full well I can't sing and didn't want to ruin the video. I kind of wish I'd done the entire set though, it was awesome singalong fun times.

In the blue corner representing Great Britain is The Arteries. Not only did they rock 1982 pretty hard but they, and half the audience, donned Peter Criss style make-up for the set. I admit I was pretty disappointed when they said they were going to do a KISS cover but didn't.

And if you're interested, the rest of the videos I took are here: