Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Goodbye And Farewell: Dan Hicks 1941-1016

Another of my musical heroes has packed his guitar and left the stage.

I have listened to the one and only West Coast man Dan Hicks for some decades... my first purchase being a cassette of his 1972 album "Striking It Rich". Like many others I listened to the track "I scare myself" until my head whirled. I don't know about you but I frequently did scare myself also. The Old Man became a convert and, cos that's what he does, he set about buying up all the Dan Hicks vinyl he could find. And when Hicks started recording again as Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, signing with Surfdog Records and releasing "Beatin' the Heat" in 1998... The Old man scooped up a couple of CDs also.

Actually... The Old Man's habit of buying up everything he can find of a favourite (a man's thing perhaps) has in the past annoyed me to the point of putting me off my own faves cos he do play everything day and night until I do scream and leave the room. Is he obsessive? Well, the thought do never cross my mind, officer. But the splendid consequence, this time, is that we have quite a few recordings of the man himself - Dan Hicks and his scat-singing, swing-playing, off-the-wall Hot Licking ensemble.

I'm embedding this YouTube video ... which was a trailer for Dan Hicks' 2009 album "Tangled Tales" .. cos to me it serves as a good tribute to the man and his music as well.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Criminal Travels: Poland - Miloszewski & "A Grain Of Truth"

I am just back from immersing myself in the late arrival of spring to the picturesque town of Sandomierz, Poland - which I visited courtesy of "A Grain Of Truth" by Zygmunt Miloszewski, his second crime fiction novel featuring State Prosecutor Teodor Szacki. [Bitter Lemon Press, 2012.]
I read the first "Szacki" book - "Entanglement"- late last year and posted my thoughts on that one here. I certainly enjoyed it enough to want to read this second installment and I am glad I did....

"Like a china doll floating in the mist, thought Myszynski as he gazed at the dead body lying below the synagogue. It was unnaturally, unsettlingly white, shining with lack of colour."

April 2009: Nighttime, and from a high window in the Sandomierz State Archives, housed in a converted synagogue, a soon-to-be traumatised genealogist spots the pale, naked corpse of a woman lying below. The death summons Sandomierz's new State Prosecutor, Teodor Szacki, to the scene. But what is Warsaw-man Szacki doing here, living and working in provincial Sandomierz? Answer: mid-life crisis.
Visiting the area during an investigation of the murder of a prostitute in a Warsaw brothel, Szacki's solving of the case brought him fame in Sandomierz. The weather and surrounding countryside is beautiful. He thinks, why not start a new life here? Had they a post vacant? Well, in fact, yes. And so Teodor leaves his stranded marriage, his wife and child, his big-city ennui, for a fresh start and a new life in the bosom of a beautiful, historic town.
Except it hasn't turned out that way. Teodor finds himself to be, not the big, prosecutorial fish from Warsaw, central to the town and his own life, but an outsider in a provincial city, mistrusted, isolated and lonely. He misses night-life, good wine and the bouts of bracing sparring with his old police partner Oleg Kuzniecow.

The death of the woman in Sandomierz suggests ritual slaughter. Szacki soon suspects her husband, a respected Councillor, until he himself is found dead in an even more gruesome and bizarre ritualistic setting. Does the town harbour a serial killer whose pattern of murder has its roots in the town's difficult anti-Semitic past and myths? Jewish revenge or the misleading twists of an anti-Semitic nationalist? In order to find the killer before they kill again, Szacki must investigate both the past and the present of his country and community - a community whose inhabitants know their combined history like the backs of their hands.

Beautifully translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, "A Grain Of Truth" is a meticulously considered and well written book that builds a convincing portrait of Teodor Szacki. It also examines Polish history and Jewish relations from all angles whilst still managing to remain a gripping crime story which had me reading into the small hours, hanging onto its pages with clenched hands, despite my internal reader struggling with an imagined pronunciation of all those Polish names; that's a nothing... a small problem compared to the crime story told. I do hope there will be a third Teodor Szacki ... or rather a third Teodor Szacki translated into English. Miloszewski has a permanent place on my bookshelf.

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Last Night I Dream ...

... that I live in a caravan in the woods. A huge old caravan...enormous inside... but rickety and lined with white material. Is it me or someone else who lives here? Not sure now. With her children perhaps? How will they keep warm? Whatever next? I don't know. But I woke up feeling more cheerful. 
Mmmmn... Warning: Woo-woo Alert:
I like Kneehigh Theatre and this morning I picked up a web link from them to Good Chance Calais, a theatre/community centre project in "The Jungle" camp at Calais, which two Kneehigh company members visited recently hoping to help out with the theatre work with Cameron's notorious "bunch of migrants" .... but ending up giving more practical help.

Yeah.. I know it's easy for me to write woolly, liberal stuff but I'm a woolly, liberal kind of old girl. Just you see how many sweaters I can wear at once.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Graphic Passions: "Everything Is Teeth"

And what has been my own choice of graphic novel reading recently?

"Everything Is Teeth" - written by Anglo Australian writer Evie Wyld, with art work by illustrator/model-maker Joseph Sumner.

Part memoir, the story features child Evie, partially brought up on her grandparents's sugar cane farm in Australia, and Evie's obsession with sharks.

Now, I understand the obsession factor with things that penetrate our nightmares. I'm not too good on spiders (so I don't think I fancy Australia much where there are quite a lot of spiders and they really can kill you... Bbrrr!) Come to think of it, I'm not too good with sharks either, enough for any fear I might have had of going to sea to be more about the things in the deep that might eat me... than of drowning in the watery stuff. And in particular ... those sharks... those teeth.

Joe Sumner's art work for "Everything Is Teeth" is predominantly black, white and line, except for the sharks which are rendered in naturalistic tones ... and there's the odd splash of red in the gruesome bits. The result is superficially simple and it is very easy to devour the book (shark-like) in one big gulp. But  there is a rhythm in the layout ... (I think)... where quiet double-page spreads are interspersed with comic-strip narrative, all of which result in a careful re-telling of a childhood, a family, and a phobic obsession, a world in which facts are gathered and images haunt. But the haunting image is also the fate of the shark.

You can read an "Independent" interview with the author here.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Graphic Passions: Self Made Hero Catalogue 2016

Another independent UK graphic novel publisher is Self Made Hero.
They launched in 2007 and specialise in graphic novels in translation amongst other things. I've bought a couple of their graphic novels in the past: "Robot"  - inspired by two short stories by Stanislaw Lem and "The Incal" by Jodorowsky and Moebius ... (The wonderful Moebius).

Once again I'll have a go at embedding their latest catalogue for you to browse...

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Graphic Passions: Nobrow Catalogue

So both of us have pawed our way through Issues 1 & 2 of "Red Thorn" (as explained in the previous post) and The Old Man has two more to come before he makes his mind up whether to subscribe or not.
Me? Well Issue One was good... as it should be... but Two seems much lighter in content. We have beards, sex and monsters... but I think I like my monsters a little more ... eerie.
Also I am a graphic novel girl. I admit it. I like a book-length thing with no full page adverts what confuse a girl like I into thinking they are a continuation of the story what I have in my hand and not blurb for another title. And I really can't get into this pristine handling and storage thing what do go with flimsy little comic issues. This seems to be a bloke thing.

So ... I quite often like a small(ish) press outfit and buy my reading from a bookshop usually. For that reason I am happy to get notice of the 2016 Nobrow catalogue. Nobrow publish illustrated books, including children's books, as well as comics... and stationery and so on ... and concentrate on the work of new artists.
So here goes at sharing the catalogue....

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Graphic Passions: Getting Hold Of "Red Thorn"

Just before Christmas The Old Man read in his daily paper about a new, Vertigo/DC, Glasgow-set comic "Red Thorn" - created by Scot David Baillie who has written for 2000 AD and Judge Dredd.

And he do become obsessed with getting his hands on an issue. But from where? There are not many comic shops in this far-westerly outpost and so, on his next visit to Truro, The Old Man enters the one and only comic shop (it shall remain nameless as far as I be concerned). He asks after the new comic, although all he can remember is "Red something..." by way of a title. The young comic geek assistant (cough-cough) looks at him.
"Never heard of it," he do say... and turns his back to continue his enthralling shelving of superhero comics.

Crushed and crestfallen, The Old Man do return home, comic-less and feeling ... discarded. In vain he next enquires in local book shops and newsagents but with no luck... no-one is able to order single issues of comics for him. He do weep and bemoan our out-of-the-way residence, longing for his London days of browsing the shelves of such shops as Gosh!

And so it falls to me to take to the internet and find him a kind store that will send him a copy. Which I do. And he do duly get a couple of neat packages courtesy of Forbidden Planet via the Royal Mail and do sit down to read, content at last.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The New Man

I cannot believe it.
All that excitement, the waiting, the anticipation ... And what does Mrs D give me? Another Old Man.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Making Of A New Man For 2016

I am so excited.
Mrs D is making me a new man. Well.... The Old Man have got in a terrible state ... arms hanging off ... legs dangling.
So ... Allez-Oop. She do start twisting wire and melting plastic as soon as the festivities and indigestion did die down. I cannot wait... what will he be like? Young, vigorous, handsome, exciting.... all that a Doll needs?

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

New Year's Greetings

I do hope that your Santa have not too practical a turn of mind in her gifts. I believe there is always room for frivolity in this life, of course I do. We do wish you good strength and fortune for 2016.