Catch-up

My sister was supposed to be visiting this weekend but Ticketline managed to take the money for the rail tickets from her account and fail to actually deliver the tickets, or have any record of her order. This wasn’t helped by the fact that they ask you not to ring them unless your tickets still haven’t turned up the day before you travel, leaving no time to resolve the problem. So now my sister is visiting in a few weeks time instead! This may be for the best as a nice relaxing weekend seems like a good plan after a fairly stressful week at work, and it’ll give us the opportunity to see V for Vendetta into the bargain.

It also gives me the chance to mention the many things I’ve heard, read and seen over the last few months without bothering to write about them.

Book-wise I’m dramatically failing to read any fiction at all. I have a stack of things I’d like to read, including River of Gods and the new Barbara Hambly, together without about six comics collections, but instead I’m happily absorbed in a series of non-fiction books about language. The latest is The Power of Babel, which presents a dazzling overview of the world’s languages and dialects – a popular science book on linguistics, essentially, with all of the accessibility and challenging ideas that implies. Its main point is nearly the antithesis of Eats, Shoots and Leaves (a book I mostly enjoyed), which is that language is in a constant and profound state of flux and that every language that has ever existed is merely a loose conglomeration of variant dialects in a perpetual state of transformation into something else. It’s this vertiginous process which transformed Latin into French, Spanish and Italian, and which means that the language we now speak didn’t exist 1000 years ago, and won’t exist 1000 years hence. It’s an idea which is obvious, yet impossible to properly grasp. Fascinating stuff.

Current listening includes large quantities of Grant-Lee Phillips in the car, and Josh Rouse’s poppy but sharp Nashville at home (many thanks to immortalradical and Coalescent for the recommendation) plus the new Gemma Hayes album which I bought this week. All these artists are utterly unlike one another, but great in their respective areas of expertise. In related news, last week my brother-in-law somewhat jammily managed to wander past a venue in Newcastle, realise that Gemma Hayes was playing a live gig, and go to see the gig the same evening. He really enjoyed it. The git.

I’ve been accumulating DVDs at a rate of knots, and for the first time I’ve started buying well-reviewed films which I haven’t actually seen. Recent acquisitions include Lost in Translation, which is a film that really should be listed in the OED under the entry “Sublime”. It’s a low-key film full of ennui and yet paradoxically easy to wallow in. (My brain has also cross-connected it with William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition for reasons that are both obvious and illogical.) It reawakened my appreciation for Bill Murray, who also features in one of my brother’s favourite films The Royal Tenenbaums. Again I bought this on spec, and it turns out to be a film so self-consciously stylised it makes Amelie look naturalistic. Nonetheless it’s a witty tale of a dysfunctional family and it grew on me as it went along; not perfect, but enjoyable. Lastly Sideways, a tale of mid-life crisis and wine appreciation, is enjoyable without causing me to enthuse in large quantitites. There are moments, like Virginia Madsen’s famous speech about wine, which are powerful and resonant, but the rest of the film is merely amiable: never hilarious, occasionally crass, and overall not quite as bitter-sweet as it likes to think.

In more mainstream mode I got the Director’s Cut of the much-maligned Daredevil. On second viewing the film’s flaws are more obvious, especially the one called Farrell, first name Colin. His hammy performance does the film no favours, and neither does the use of patchy CGI doubles or the cluttered plot. Nevertheless I’m a sucker for Daredevil which is why I liked the film in the first place, and the film is startlingly faithful to the comics, placing 80% Frank Miller and 20% Brian Michael Bendis into a blender. The Director’s Cut adds a new sub-plot featuring an investigation and trial which add a great deal to the characters, but very little to the story.

I think that’s about it. Which is to say there are loads of other things I could talk about, but it’s late and I’m full of Guinness, so I think I’ll call it a night…

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