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This and that

I had never thought I would be so enchanted by someone mutilating books. ( link via Eddie Campbell)

Had the most awesome experience last night when I saw, for the first time, a 20-minute video of Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts performing along with singer Mai Yamane live in Tokyo. Must have been the best audiovisual experience for me since Bjork: Live at Royal Opera House. There are videos of the Seatbelts floating around on youtube, but I had resisted watching them, bad audio-visual quality being part of the reason. Yamane, by the way, is the singer most associated with Ms Kanno’s compositions, her distinctive voice the hallmark of tracks like ‘The Real Folk Blues’ ( WHAT? You haven’t heard it? Go check out my mixtape already. Track 13, to be precise), ‘See You Space Cowboy’ and my personal favourite, ‘Rain’.

SQUEE moment 1: Yoko Kanno, dressed in a red trenchcoat and black top and shorts starts dancing to ‘Tank!’, the Cowboy Bebop theme, as the saxophone soloist goes wild.

SQUEE moment 2: Mai Yamane and Yoko Kanno start doing a bizarre robotic dance during ‘Want It All Back’, coordinating each other’s movements and adding to the fun of the song.

SQUEE moment(s) 3: Ms Kanno plays a plethora of Cowboy Bebop tunes on the piano, each tune effortlessly flowing into the other.

All in all, an amazing video. You can download it from most bit-torrent sites around, if you are interested.

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Which reminds me, demonoid.com has been down for more than 48 hours now. Even Wired.com takes notice and talks about possible litigation by CRAI ( the Canadian version of the RIAA ), so fingers crossed.

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Reading Barry Lyga’s Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl, something that I had been on the look out for since I read the preview chapter. ( Hmm, I wonder how I got to the site in the first place…Neil Gaiman linked to it? Possibly. ) Lyga wrote some bad comics – a couple of Warrior Nun Areala in the dark-and-speculatory nineties, and this is his first novel. Falls squarely into the YA category, and managed to get my complete attention by mentioning the words “Giant Size X-Men #1 in mint condition” in the second paragraph. As it turns out, the Fan Boy in the book is the narrator and the book namedrops Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea and Swamp Thing. Seems there’s also a guest appearance by Brian Michael Bendis, heh. And oh, I am “reading” the audiobook, because the actual thing isn’t really available in India.

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How to write a history of Bollywood

Buy copies of all the biographies, autobiographies and resources on Indian cinema available in the market. ( Sample: Kishore Valicha’s Kishore Kumar, Raju Bharatan’s Lata Mangeshkar ). Read and take copious notes of the interesting bits.

Read and memorise all the anecdotes in So Many Cinemas by BD Garga.

Ask Shyam Benegal to write short paragraphs on topics like Amitabh Bachhan, Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt.

Optional: Hire a proofwriter who knows about the placement of commas in your sentences.

Optional: Get some knowledge of what it is you are writing about. Have editors who know the facts you are talking about and have basic knowledge of Hindi.

Optional: Don’t contradict yourself on two consecutive pages. ( Page 250: “He had set up Navketan and asked Guru Dutt to direct Navketan’s second production Baazi. The success of the film established Guru Dutt as a director.” Page 251: “In his early years, Dutt made crime thrillers but, after the failure of Baazi, a costume drama set on the high seas, which was panned by the critics and hated by the masses, he decided to make different kinds of movies.” )

If you are a Bengali writer writing aforementioned History, feel free to go on a trip down memory lane whenever Bengali actors, directors or composers are mentioned. Objectivity shmobjectivity.

Make sure you write a long introduction about some random adventure while writing your book which has no bearing on your book whatsoever other than driving home the fact that Indians are prudish about sex and yet like their fallen women. Make sure your account Bordes everyone to tears.

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Among the things I’ve been doing recently

– Watched the complete Firefly, followed it up with Serenity, the comic book and followed that up with Serenity, the movie.

-All of that instilled in a newfound zeal for watching TV series, so I watched half of Berserk and two seasons of Spaced. Started watching The Adventures of Brisco County Jr now.

– Five copies of this are available at MR Book stall, right opposite my office, at 250 Rs each. I have no idea how and why the book is there in the first place. Filed under “Rude-shock-of-the-month”. ( Rude because I have no money to spend. )

– I did have Walden gift coupons to spend though, thanks to a Special Hard-working Person who agreed to let me use 1000 Rs worth. I bought Ramesh Menon’s Devi Bhagavatam ( swear the guy’s writing Indin mythology books faster than I am reading them ) ( and good ones at that ) and Mihir Bose’s History of Bollywood. Reading the latter right now, periodically wincing at the lack of editorial supervision that pervades the writing. Subhash Ghia? Anupam Kher was an up-and-coming star of the nineties? Sheesh. At least the facts seem to be in order so far.

– More lustworthy releases include the two disc edition of 300. 699 Rs and way beyond my budget at the moment.

– Also drooled a bit over the new Koji Suzuki collection that seems to be available at Walden. I already have, and have read Ring, Spiral and Dark Water. Loop was there, too, but I’m holding out for the hardcover, so didn’t buy it.

– There was also the Mammoth Book of War Comics, which had, among other things, two stories by Darko Macan and Edwin Biukovic, Will Eisner’s Last Day in Vietnam, a Commando issuem, an early version of Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen and some Sam Glanzman Blazing Combat stories. 704 Rs, pass.

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Ah-some sah-s.

Comics artists interpreting literary figures and characters.

via Chris Weston’s blog. Weston has drawn the latest contribution to the site, Winston Smith and Big Brother from Orwell’s 1984, and Weston has this to say about his work –

“I ‘m particularily pleased with my depiction of Big Brother, which is a rare case of something turning out exactly as I saw it in my head. He’sa mash-up of propaganda images of Hitler, Stalin and Lord Kitchener.”

Personal favourites:

Eduardo Risso’s Sandokan.

David Mack’s Miyamoto Musashi.

Mike Mignola’s Jacob Marley.

Ben Templesmith’s Hunter S Thompson.

Bruce Timm’s HP Lovecraft

Dave McKean’s Salman Rushdie.

Tony DeZuniga’s Sherlock Holmes.

Jock’s Carlos Castaneda.

What a great idea for commissions!

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July Reads

Read List:

Pankaj Mishra – Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan, Tibet, and Beyond Slightly misleading title, but interesting read nonetheless. I knew of Pankaj Mishra as a travel writer, and I had assumed that the book would be about stuff like mall culture and consumerism, but this dealt more with the ramifications of Western culture. Yes, this is a travel book, and the articles are interspersed with blogish anecdotes and observations. But that in no way subtracts from it the sheer persuasiveness with which Mishra etches the impact the West has had on people in Kashmir, Mumbai, Kabul, Nepal and Allahabad, just to cite a few examples. Pretty revelatory at times, the chapters on Kashmir made me feel ill – small wonder that when the articles were printed in a journal in the USA, Mishra’s family was paid a friendly visit by agents of RAW ( Research and Analysis Wing, India’s intelligence agency) for his “anti-Indian” ideas. Brrr.

Ramesh Menon – The Ramayana What can I say? The guy totally rocks. He makes Ravana a virile Love-god, the kind of person who “took virgins to bed and then a week later, when he was done with them, they would exit from his inner chambers looking ten years older.” ( I am paraphrasing from memory here, so bear with me ) Menon isn’t the top of his form here, but his version of the Ramayana is completely meaty, without deviating into creepy Ashok K Wanker “The-One-Against-Dark-Lord”-territory. He includes the Uttar Ramayana as well, and the main story of the exile is followed by a section on the other characters of the epic. Now I only have Krishna: The Dark Blue God to pick up, and I am done with all of Ramesh Menon’s works.

Harry Potter: Books 5,6 and 7: Read the three of them on three consecutive days, with the last the day it was released. Totally loved the series.

Cerebus Vol 2: High Society: I had bought Cerebus vol 1, 3 and 4 before on eBay.( At a quite decent price too, as far as signed editions go. ) But because Volume 2 was missing, and because I hated to read it on scans, I finished book 1 and hung around looking for a good deal. Which I managed to get, from my Brady Deal, and carted all the remaining volumes back t India from my US trip. High Society is the transition book, that took Cerebus from being a Conan-The-Barbarian parody to a Serious Work Of Socio-Political Relevance, which reached its creative peak with volumes 3 and 4. In High Society, Cerebus The Aardvark leaves his uncouth barbarian life and checks himself into a hotel in the city-kingdom of Iest. The book progresses from Cerebus’s shady dealings in order to get himself wealthy to, eventually, running for the post of Prime Minister of Iest. The book has everything going for it and does not disappoint. At all. Though I have a mild headache from trying to wrap my head around the heavier themes in it. Onto the two volumes of Church and State, the next two Cerebus books, where the aardvark runs for Popehood.

Neal Stephenson – Zodiac Sangamon Taylor, the protagonist of Zodiacis to ecology what Spider Jerusalem is to journalism. Irreverent, unscrupulous and completely jacked-in to his profession of choice, Sangamon is happiest when he’s pissing off CEOs and PR managers of Big Corporations that spew industrial waste into the swamps and the rivers of the US of A. It took me quite sometime to get into the book ( which is why I had stopped in the middle of it the last time I started reading it, sometime in 2004) because the actual story does not begin until about the middle of the book. But Stephenson lays his subplots and his characters wisely, and the book chugs merrily along, culminating in a major feel good ending.

Robert Rodi – What They Did To Princess Paragon Interesting premise, slightly flawed execution. ‘Princess Paragon’ is one of the three flagship characters of Bang Comics, all three of whom are in the process of being revamped by the company for the nineties. Nigel Cardew, a British writer has already reworked Moonman as a brutal murderer and another writer/artist is taking over Acme Man. This leaves Brian Parrish, who’s getting the short shrift at Electric Comics, Bang’s rival, to come and lay the groundwork for the Greatest Reboot Ever – he makes Princess Paragon a lesbian. Needless to say, it infuriates fans. A lot. Jerome T Kernacker, who has memorised all 149 issues of Princess Paragon takes it on himself to avenge his heroine’s honour. How he does that, and what becomes of Brian Parrish is something that Robert Rodi writes well, but does not really manage to carry off towards the end.

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