Friday, 29 August 2014

Books: Inferno

Now, I don't normally write about books but I felt like making an exception for Dan Brown's Inferno. He's been one of my favourite authors ever since reading The Da Vinci Code over the course of a family holiday, much to the annoyance of my parents at the time. Often touted as one of the biggest selling authors of all time, Inferno is the third installment of the Robert Langdon series.


The book starts in media res - thanks Los Campesinos! - with Langdon waking up in a hospital bed with a bullet wound, and from there he has to fight to piece together the last two days of his life, which are a total blank - although he does realise he's awoken in Florence. Pretty quickly he begins to trust one of the doctors treating him, Sienna Brooks, and the two set out on an adventure to recover the lost remnants of the Professor's mind. It's all based around Dante's masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, and all the associated works of art that were spawned from it.

Obviously everything is incredibly well researched, as is typical of Dan Brown. Everything fits together perfectly, and the level of detail is amazing. I genuinely don't know how he's able to create such an intricate mystery with all the knowledge that's required.

However the storyline doesn't seem to flow as easily with previous novels, and it definitely requires the suspension of disbelief. Everything Langdon knows he seems to have learnt from a private tour - which is probably completely accurate for a man of his stature, but it seems repetitive and dull. Plus his accomplice, Brooks, is meant to have an IQ of 208 but often has to play dumb in order for Langdon to explain, or be the one to figure out the mystery. It's almost comedic when he keeps repeating, 'Finally, something Sienna doesn't know'.

The little techniques he uses to lead the readers toward (and also away) from the big reveals are really interesting to see. Here his repetition aids the reader, keeping fresh certain scenes, while confusing things with misleading thoughts from each character - the book's written from about half a dozen people's . Half the notes I made while reading the book became irrelevant as everything unfolded, and that's one of the beauties of it. There's so many twists and turns, some of them obvious but a lot of them less so.

Really, it's just made me want to visit Istanbul and Florence (again). The cities are as much a character as anybody else. Time to wait for the movie, so I can be disappointed all over again.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

LIVE: Childish Gambino [2]

So obviously my Childish Gambino hype toward the start of the year was pretty high, but it's (slowly) died off as we've got further into 2014. That said, with his date at Brixton Academy on the agenda that did pick up a little. Somewhat unfortunately Lauren, my partner for the night's entertainment, had to pull out, which left me waiting in a Starbucks for an Irish fella off twitter until ten minutes before Bino was on - Although thankfully it meant I made back my £20, only quadruple what the touts were offering for my spare.

Inside the place was packed. Not surprising as the 5,000 capacity Academy was completely sold out. The normal between band entertainment was enhanced with the addition of a projector screen showing a special 'Deep Web' backdrop. This backdrop was effectively controlled by the crowd, one part essentially a white board that could be drew upon, and the other a stream of messages - both controlled from within the Deep Web App. This lead to some interesting things upon Brixton's back wall.

The lights go down, and the backdrop changes, evolving until eventually a room is pictured. Then the room erupts as Gambino strolls out to his piano on the middle of the stage. As he starts playing, he announces that this is the last Deep Web Show, and he wants to do something a bit special. The show that follows is so immersive that you almost completely forget your surroundings. Of course the focus is Gambino's concept album - Because the Internet - played in its entirety from start to finish, but the backdrop plays a key part also. It gives context to the songs in front of it, from shootings to sex.

When the band behind Childish suffer from a technical hitch the rapper's freestyle comes to the fore. As Don't Flop can attest to, being able to think on your feet is a wholly different skill to penning a bar. That said, Childish's other personality is an award winning writer so maybe it's not too surprising.

If the Deep Web section of the show is immersive, and interesting then the older tracks are just downright fun. Heartbeat, Firefly, and Freaks and Geeks are all met by euphoria. Not being a regular at hip hop gigs I can easily tell you that it's unlike anything I've experienced before; you just don't get it when watching Frightened Rabbit, or Biffy.

I'm hoping that next time Donald Glover appears on our shores it's for more than a single show, because if the golden rule of showbusiness is 'always leave them wanting more', then he's doing it perfectly.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

Recently I watched Man of the Year. It wasn't a great film, but the standout performer was Robin Williams and he seems to be the standout in the vast majority of his films. Be it the comedies where he thrived, or his critically acclaimed dramatic roles. I've seen people say he was taken for granted, and another that said he seems invincible. That sums it up for me. I'm not going to  artificially inject him into situations he was never a part of, but he was a staple of my childhood however you look at it. Flubber, Mrs Doubtfire, Jumanji, Aladdin. Hook. It's strange, because despite all of those he'll probably be best remembered to me as Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum, one of my favourite films while growing up - even if I hate to admit it.

In the last couple of days I've watched The Dead Poets Society, and re-watched his Oscar Winning performance in Good Will Hunting. Despite only being a supporting part his role seems so vital, he brings life to characters that could so easily be flat and unsubstantiated. I hope that good can come out of this; that it gives a chance to lift the taboo on mental health issues but I somehow doubt it. The headlines splashed across front pages make it clear, this was a man driven to this because of money issues. That may have played a factor, but it doesn't tell the story. Equally, the need by [tabloid] newspapers to splash the gruesome, unnecessary circumstances that surrounded his passing really upset me. I'm not even going to mention the twitter comments.

Rest easy O Captain, My Captain.

I'm not sure if it's just his death, or a few other factors but I've been pretty down the last couple of days. Partly, I think it's partly down to the fact that I thought by twenty I'd be a little more organised. I'd be in a band, or I'd be doing photography for at least some kind of pay. On Sunday I went to a wrestling show, and told someone that it'd be really cool to be able to wrestle. They just asked me, "Why don't you learn?". It really is that simple, and I had absolutely no answer to them. Just like last week when a friend asked why I wasn't in a band if I wanted to be. No response. The main reason with that is that I hate everything I write. The lyrics are average to poor, and the melodies are clich├ęd. 

At least I've managed to get to a pretty good university, but I don't feel like I fit in as well as I'd like. Despite appearing slightly tech-y I know next to nothing about recent technology, and my grasp of programming outside Java is fairly basic. I'm not very good at video games, unless you count FIFA which I'm fairly good with, and I get bored with single player games far too quickly. But equally I'm not a sports guy either - as much as maybe I would like to be.

All of this can be solved with just one thing, hard work. So, I need to draw up a plan. Which I guess looks something like:
  • Invest in [cheap] studio lighting, now I've actually got money.
  • Get some press passes sorted!
  • Find some models for photography, and start snappin'.
  • Just keep writing lyrics - one day I'll be able to take the best lines from each individual song and actually manage to make a decent song.
  • Practice C++ [Fairly crucial]
  • Just try to keep up-to-date with tech things
  • Travel, Travel, Travel, Travel, Travel, [Photos], Travel
  • Get in touch with people who actually do any of these things and figure out the next steps from here
  • Actually interact with other humans
How hard can it be?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Life: Twin Atlantic Have Been In My Head All Day And They're Awful [Sort of]

I think two weeks is the longest time between posts since I started this blog properly, and that's mainly because I haven't really done anything - partly due to spending a few days at home when my family were down in Devon which is fairly soul destroying. What I have done has been relegated to my other blogs - Reading/Wrestling - so that it doesn't get quite so cluttered over here.

Finally though, something to do! Reading and Leeds announced a free Twin Atlantic/PABH warm-up show in Manchester, which you had to 'win' tickets for. Effectively that meant entering, and eventually being given more than you asked for - apparently down to most people who entered not having an adult to go with. Anyway, the gig itself was pretty good - I had one of those groggy headaches which did lessen the enjoyment factor somewhat; but I haven't seen Twin since (I think) Reading Festival 2011, and haven't seen them headline in over three years either. It's pretty rare nowadays for them to be playing somewhere with capacity in the triple digits, check their tour later in the year if you wanna know how big they are now (Spoiler: Pretty big).

The big news of the day - from my point of view - was the coach journey! Now, if you know me you'll probably know that I've had a rather troublesome time in certain situations. All arising from a rather stressful period in 2012, the first week of Uni. First I felt rather dehydrated in a lecture - the first lecture - and had to go out, but only after drawing a great deal of attention to myself via asking whether I could leave. "This is embarrassing" was somewhat of an understatement. Then there was a Megabus but a couple of days later, I was meant to be going to The Garage in Highbury for La Dispute, but unfortunately I never made it. Rather foolishly I wasn't fully prepared, and lacked any water thus becoming (again) dehydrated. I got off at Birmingham Airport, and went back home rather disappointed.

Both those events triggered panic attacks, and a rather more general anxiety which is brilliant. Since then coaches have been rather unpleasant, so being able to travel on them relatively panic free was actually a fantastic experience. I've been to 'see' someone about it and turns out that it was rather helpful. That along with a healthy dose of Propranolol worked wonders. Now just to see how an open day goes tomorrow, and I may be able to consider myself cured. (ish) 

Away from depressing overreactions to everyday situations there's the brand new Solemn Sun playing in London tomorrow. Finally a reason to go to the Old Blue Last. Gonna feel all hipster in Shoreditch. Plus there's a fair bit of wrestling on this weekend. Fight Club: PRO, Southside, and PWK.

It's gonna be a hoot.