Friday, April 30, 2010

Concert Etiquette

Last night I went to see Temper Trap in concert.
I'm not really here to review the gig, but I'll share a few brief words. It was really cool, but since they only have about 12 songs, it was quite short - and they didn't really deviate from the original songs much - I mean, my Tori would have improv'd etc and made them longer and done jams and stuff.

No, my review is of the audience.
What the...!
All night, there was a pub chatter noise. Does no one pay attention any more? You pay 40 quid and don't pay attention to what you've paid good money to go to?
Worst of all... We were sitting right at the back of the Gods... And there were a couple of Australian girls standing behind us, above us. One of them had the loudest foghorn voice and she talked and talked and talked - all about utter crap. It was as if she was in a coffee shop. Each to their own, but the problem was, I couldn't actually hear the singer! Even when the concert got really loud, she drowned them out.
I felt myself getting angrier and angrier.
I finally 'snapped' when the TTs played their best song, Sweet Disposition, and the endless monotone foghorn drone continued. And when a concert is loud, it's hard to get a complex sentence out like 'Sorry guys, would you mind keeping the noise down, I can't hear the music' - so I just turned round and said 'Guys...' and did a 'shush' gesture with my finger/mouth.
Well it seemed to work... for 5 minutes... And then she carried on. And then when I said something random to my concert buddy, the annoying Twat said 'er excyooz may (australian) sssh' at me.' What a c*nt.
It's quite weird having to confront someone. You kind of feel 'in fear', and I wondered if she'd just pour her drink over my head or something (in which case I'd probably have leapt over my chair and punched her in her gobby mouth).
I was chatting to my other chum about this, and he was saying that it's maybe the 'me generation' - the whole world revolves around them. Maybe it is.

It's just sad that people lack awareness of their surroundings and other people - like the people who have mobile conversations in the cinema or the guy who rustled his bag for 2 hours during Clash of the Titans. Cinemas should be plastered with signs like 'no mobiles!" 'shut the fuck up!'
Sigh. Are we getting to a point where maybe cinema staff should step in?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Comic Questionnaire!!

I nicked this off Rol!

1. Did you read comics as a kid?
Yes, started on ‘funny’ comics like the Beano and Nutty and ‘graduated’ to super-hero comics when I was a little older.

2. Who bought you your first comic?
I’m pretty sure my Aunty Doreen bought me my first funny comic – Nutty, I think it was. I loved it. It was a true slippery slope for me.
After that, I can’t remember who bought my first US comics. It might have been just me, although I’m sure my lovely Nanny Beatty was involved somewhere along the line.
Oh I'll tell you something vaguely amusing. My mom and dad have always been a bit bemused by my comic-buying, but my dad, bless him, used to get me 2000AD every week, aw! But when the comic got more and more racy - giant naked Slaine monster (with willy shadow) on the cover - my dad reeeeally started to get bemused!

3. Did you take any time away from comics? Why?
Not really. The US comics didn’t grab me at first, so I didn’t get right into it. With me, it takes a while for things to absorb. I bought Tori Amos’ new album and gave it a couple of listens, then put it to one side. And now look at me lol. Something just makes me go back to certain things – TV shows, books, etc - and it was like that with comics.
Comics have always been in my life. I think if you get bored of one kind of comic (like the X-Men), you just move on to other areas (indie).

4. What brought you back into comics?
Well in that early stage, I’d bought a Spectacular Spider-Man comic (issue 77), enjoyed it, and then not really thought much about it and put it to one side. Something made me want to buy more a few months later, so I got some John Byrne Fantastic Fours, and then I just started to slowly discover the Marvel Universe. It’s weird, because I didn’t actually understand that Fantastic Four issue – and I never have done – so I really don’t know what made me persevere.

5. Do you prefer getting comics monthly or in trades?
I’ve just decided to move to trades because they are cheaper and because I can’t be bothered going to the comic shop every week! There feels a bit of a ‘pressure’ to go each week now, in case things sell out, so I can’t be arsed any more.
I’m also rapidly running out of room in my flat, so I just don’t want to get more comics. It’s a real shame as I will really, really miss the ‘thrill’ of just splurging money on comics, but I think I just end up buying stuff I don’t want, when I go regularly.
The only floppies I will miss are Powers and Walking Dead, Powers for the letters page (even Bendis’ ‘No Life’ section is something I look forward to) and Walking Dead for the gorgeous colour covers, which you don’t get in the trades.
And it’ll be hard to resist the new Zatanna series when it comes out…

6. Do you know the name of your Local Comic Shop (LCS)?
Well… The nearest one is in Clapham Junction, Avalon Comics, but it’s up a hill and I don’t get any discounts so I don’t go there lol. There’s a Forbidden Planet in Croydon, but I tend not to go there, because they don’t always have everything. My favourite comic shop is Gosh and Orbital is great too, but I shop in Forbidden Planet as I get a 30% discount there. If I didn’t get a discount, I doubt I’d buy anywhere near as many comics.

7. Does your LCS know your name?
Not really. I chat to the FP staff cos I have to give them my discount number, and they’re usually friendly and ask me where I work. In Gosh, some of the people knew my name, because I used to sell O Men through them, but I think the main people have left now.

8. Do you own any old number 1 comics (must date before 1980)?
Well, nothing before the 80s... I only started when I was 11 or so. A lot of my comics are at my parents’ house in Birmingham! I have a ‘special drawer’ for the cooler comics that might be worth something.

9. Do you own any original comic art?
No, just sketches from pro and indie artists from cons.

10. Do you bag and board your comics?
I do bag some comics – in batches of 4 or 5. I have a damp problem in my flat, so I need to bag them! I don’t board them, it’s too clunky.

11. Where do you store your comics?
I have thousands of comics still at my parents’ house. I think they want me to get rid of them lol! Everything I’ve bought in the past 15 years is down in London in my flat. A lot… They’re all hidden away at the back of my DVD shelves, while more current comics are in my bedside drawers.

12. How many comics do you read right now, in either floppy or trade format?
I read Powers, Walking Dead… I dip in and out of the X-titles… I read most of the Avengers titles, but I think I’ll switch to trades on them – or just read them from ‘downstairs’ (Titan Books get most of the week’s comics in, and you can read them for free).
I read some indies, like Love and Rockets and Optic Nerve, but they don’t come out very often.

13. What would be your number one, all-time desert island, favourite comic series?
The Invisibles.

14. Do you follow comic creators on Twitter?
Nah, I can’t stand Twitter, I think it is a waste of time. Some people just seem to descend into ego-mania on there and think they are mini-celebrities. Why would I care what someone had for breakfast, or why should I listen to someone whinge all the time?
I like Facebook and I’m friends with a few artists on there. It’s interesting to hear what some artists get up to – Francis Manpaul is fun to read about. I like hearing what Andie Tong is doing – he’s in a very unique position as one of the UK’s only current Marvel artists.
I get fed up of artists who moan though. “Ooooh woe is me, I’ve got to draw this today…” er hello, I’d love to do what you do.

15. Do you have a favourite comic creator?
Maybe Grant Morrison, but not so much now.

16. Do you harbour any aspirations to create your own comics?

17. Do you access comic news online, if so where?
I check out Newsarama and when I remember to. I’m not a huge internet person, to be honest – I don’t have the patience.

Time to pick sides:

Marvel or DC?
Marvel, all the way! I’ve always been a Marvel Zombie. The characters are more relateable. I just didn’t ‘get’ DC when I was a kid – why’ve they got such boring, stupid names – Elongated Man??
Yeah I’ve read some great DC and Vertigo comics, but my loyalty is always with Marvel. I actually don’t even understand some of the DC history. I really don’t know (or care) what the JSA is all about, for example.

Superman or Batman?
I think Batman. I never really understood Superman, although I did go through a phase where I understood his charm. ‘Ah, he’s invulnerable, so the trick is to see what really lies beneath and how he can be beaten’.

Spider-Man or Wolverine?
I guess, Spidey, although I think I’ve outgrown him a bit? And I don’t think the Mary Jane thing can ever work. Wolvy’s okay, but waaay over-exposed. And I really hate having Spidey and Wolvy on the Avengers. Nooo! Avengers should be for ‘Avengers’! Characters who are good, but not quite good enough for their own book!
I think it’s insulting really to have Wolverine on every team possible. How can he do it? How does he have time?

Iron Fist or Luke Cage?
They’re both so cool. Well, they were…
Iron Fist, I think. I don’t like the way Luke Cage has strayed too far from his yellow shirt and tiara! How is he recognisable now?

Nick Fury normal or Nick Fury Sam Jackson?
I don’t like how they change things too much in comics, so original for me – but he’s not really a favourite of mine either way. I’m surprised there isn’t a SHIELD series in the vein of The Wire or The Shield or something. I know there’s a SHIELD series now, but it’s not the same.

Spandex or real life stories?
A mixture? I like superheroes when they are done properly, and when there’s a bit of thought behind it. I don’t like real-life stories when it gets embarrassingly personal.

Golden Age or Silver Age or Modern Age?
The 80s was my Golden Age. Comics of the Modern Age seem to be trying to commit suicide.

Digital or paper?
Paper. Digital just isn’t the same.

Gotham or New York?
Gotham is scary fun… New York is big and fun. I’d say Gotham.

Hero or villain?
Villains can be cool.

Cape or no cape?
No cape.

Cowl or domino mask?
Domino mask…

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I am back! From my adventure in Japan!
Yes, an ambition fulfilled – learning Japanese for over a year so I could ‘survive’ there (not that you need to learn the language to survive lol, but at least you don’t feel too out of your depth). Did learning the lingo help? Well, not really. Most people speak English there, my Japanese conversations were quite basic (because if you don’t know a key word for your sentence, you’re stuffed), whenever I tried speaking Japanese, the person would be too startled to understand me or they’d not understand my accent – and finally, I only knew about 20 Kanji, and since Kanji is everywhere and there are thousands of them, that wasn’t so good!
The holiday was great! A bit stressful at first, as the Post Office lost the currency I ordered, so I had to sort that out while I needed to pack. The flight was long and tedious (how anyone can watch the flight map for 12 hours is beyond me – like watching paint dry), and then when I got to Osaka I had to wait another couple of hours for my connecting flight to Tokyo (where I was the only white person on the flight).
Finally got to Tokyo and everyone was so helpful. A guard tried to help me get my Pasmo card (like an Oyster card) but I got flustered and my brain crashed and I couldn’t cope with the exchange rate details and figure out how much I needed.
Then straight to the subway where I made my own queue – didn’t realize you have to queue on the marked lines! My map didn’t cover the suburbian rail stops so I pestered a ‘salaryman’ for about 12 stops… “is this Shinagawa?” … “Is this Shinagawa?” etc…
Tokyo was incredible – just so lively and exciting. I loved Shinjuku and Shibuya (the crossing). The Ryokan we stayed in was cute – and our first introduction to sleeping on futons and taking shoes off, plus the Japanese bathing experience (shower and clean before getting into the bath, water stays in bath all day, bath is just for relaxation).
Next we were off to Hiroshima – we took the bullet train, even though I didn’t realize we were on one – I didn’t think it was part of our rail ticket. Got there late afternoon, just enough time to head to the peace park and museum which were all amazing and shocking. Next day off to nearby island of Miyajima, with a mountain climb, wild deer and beautiful temples.
Then off to Koyosan, where we stayed in a temple with monks – amazing. Had to meditate with them in the evening and get up at 6am for chanting. After dinner, a lovely 90 year old lady – the widow of the former head monk – gave us a speech all about the history of the area. It snowed in Koyosan – it was so atmospheric – and amazing experience.
Then traveled to Kyoto, where I lost my travel buddy at the station oops, but found him later. Explored Kyoto the next day – we got a bit temple-d out. Was a bit disappointed by Kyoto – which is weird since it’s supposed to be the number one place in Japan – maybe I was just not in the right frame of mind for it. Next day, off to Nara which I loved – amazing sights and temples. It was also my birthday and I decided to have my birthday meal at McDonalds, as I was getting so bored of rice and watery food and generally not knowing what I was eating or how to eat it.
Caught the manga museum in Kyoto which was fun, loads of people hanging around just reading.
Then back to Tokyo – staying at a capsule hotel, which was hooorrrrible. Really seedy area (although still had a good time, drinking beer), and just so many regulations in the place. Got kicked out at 10am so we explored the fish market, the parks and generally were homeless for the day lol. Then down to our penultimate Ryokan in south Tokyo, very quiet/dead suburbs. Next day a day trip to Fuji which was fab, mainly because of the excellent company on the coach. Then to the Ghibli Museum which was fun and imaginative and it was great to see the kids enjoying themselves, plus we saw a great exclusive mini movie. Nice surprise was exploring the neighbouring parks – gorgeous. Then off back to my favourite areas, Shinjuku and Shibuya – love them.
Final day was spent with two of my travel buddy’s friends, and they took us to a less touristy part of Tokyo, Nippori. In fact, two Japanese girls asked to have their photo taken with the two white men in the station! Had a nice day and it was nice to see all the cherry blossom and the families picnicking and enjoying themselves.
Then off to our final night ‘posh hotel’, the Park Hotel Tokyo. It was gorgeous… Amazing views of the city… I couldn’t drag myself away from them to go to bed. Felt a bit weird about staying there though… Felt that people who only stay are missing out a bit. Part of it is trying to muddle your way through different adventures and communication challenges. Final memories are of the Park Hotel staff bowing to our coach as we headed to the airport - aw.

Anyway, I made a list of my top 10 lasting impressions of Japan…
1. Face masks
Creepy! Even on the plane to Japan, the Japanese people were wearing them. It wouldn’t be so bad, but the people wearing them looked really weird! Like something from J-horror movies. It was so odd to see people wearing them. It really put you on your guard – are they ill? What if I get ill – should I wear one? You enter a subway all happy, and then you see facemasks on people and think ‘omg have they got the plague…?’ And yet, I found out that apparently people wear them to protect themselves from hay fever.
2. Heated toilet seats!
An amazing invention, especially when you’re staying in a freezing cold temple in the mountains…!
3. Bowing
I loved bowing and nodding to random people I met in the street. It's a very mature, respectful society.
4. Respect
What I love about Japanese people is the respect they give out and the self-respect they have for themselves. Even at the Hiroshima museum, I was so touched that these people were forced to surrender and I feel they have an incredible dignity.
I also loved the attitude to work - people seemed to care for you as a customer and to be as helpful as possible. In the UK, we tend to get a bit surly, and I think it's made me look at the way I work, personally.
5. Getting out of train stations
Getting out of train stations in Japan is impossible. Completely impossible. It is so confusing… I lost my mate in one once… And another time, we took the wrong exit and it took us 20 minutes to walk to where we needed to be – all the way around the building.
6. The trains
The trains were great. The Shinkansen was so comfy. The subway was clean and lovely and had plenty of helpful messages. I love how you have to form lines to get on the subway (I didn’t realize this at first and formed my own line oops). I love the size of the carriages and the peacefulness – okay, maybe not at rush hour, when it is CRAZY.
Also I love the practical side of the overground trains. How you can swivel or push the seats to face the other way. And the heated seats! UK trains can learn a lot!!
7. The people
I loved the people. They’re not as shy as you’d think. Sometimes we’d be standing for 2 minutes a little confused about where to go, but someone would just come straight up to us and offer to not just help, but take us right to where we needed to be.
The kids are adorable too – I laughed so much at the Ghibli museum. It’s so nice to see them before, I guess, stricter discipline comes into their lives and they lose their cheeky edge. In a weird way, I think I have the same sense of humour as Japanese kids lol.
8. TV
The TV was a bit silly, but there were some amazing programmes scattered around. I love how anime is shown at random times and I really got into the baseball. My fave though was one of those ‘Takashi’s Castle’ types of programmes. It starts off as a bit of a joke, but soon in the later stages, the contestants really have to be athletic. And the show was on pretty much all evening! So absorbing.
9. Shopping
Shopping is great in Japan – I loved Tower Records and HMV where it’s actually an experience – you get to immerse yourselves in full promotional sections for bands and really try them out. Makes me miss record shops in England.
10. Irreshaimase
I love it when you enter a restaurant or shop and they shout out Irreshaimase – ‘welcome’. My favourite was an Italian restaurant where all the chefs ALL shouted it out when someone entered and then waved goodbye when we left. Some cynical guy said it was just a marketing gimmick and maybe it is, but I loved it all the same. It can’t all have been fake!!