Sunday, August 28, 2011

Buzzing And Flickering In The Rain...

No cliche says hardboiled like a neon sign flickering in the rain. It became popular (in America) just in time for Film Noir to use it as short hand for 'sleazy'. And no self-respecting Private Dick takes an office without a buzzing neon sign out the window advertising liquor, girls, or a combination of the two. Well, neon is 100 years old.

Neon signs may have been a French invention, but America took them to its capitalist heart. Nothing says Americana like a glowing beer sign. Nothing says Vegas like a flashing pelican. New Orleans just wouldn't look right without its army of luminescent crustaceans. Times Square doesn't have a lot of neon left. It doesn't have that much fun left in it, either. Coincidence?

For more on the history, in film and other visual arts, follow the glowing red arrow.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Man of His Time...

So a little while ago SO and myself were drinking early evening White Russians on bar stools and the barman, a funny Korean guy who spoke almost no English, is joking around and trying to chat to us. After we ordered our third round he starts talking to the bargirl, then comes up and announces: they agree, I look just like the guy in Transformers.

Now, a few people around Asia have told me I look like any number of celebrities. Basically, any famous white guy with a shaved head. All the way back to Keanu Reeves in Speed, Brad Pitt (I wish, and so does SO), David Beckham, and even Bruce Willis (!?). But Shia Le Bouf? Me? Well, the photo is on the right, judge for yourself.

After five minutes fiddling on the computer that doubled as a jukebox, they spin the screen to show me the movie poster off the internet. Turns out he was trying to say The Transporter. Okay, Jason Statham. That makes more sense. Just a little, but I really, really don't think I look a whole heap like Shia Le Bouf.

I thought of this other day because I've seen a bunch of Statham movies recently. While he's quite happy to do crap for the money, he's also turned out some good stuff: Blitz is a decent, miserable little London thriller based on the Ken Bruen novel (which I haven't read yet, so no, I've no idea how they ruin it); The Bank Job is an excellent little heist movie set in 70s London; and The Mechanic is- well, you've seen The Transporter? And Transporter 2 and all those other movies where Jason beats the crap out of a bunch of unambiguously bad guys? Yeah, it's pretty much like that, with a smidgen more plot and a couple of twists.

I didn't know before but it's actually a remake of an old Bronson movie. By the time I came of cinematic age in my teens, Charles Bronson was cliched 70s crap. We had our own action movies: 48 Hours, Die Hard, Another 48 Hours, Die Harder, plus all that Arnie and Sly stuff. We hearked back to Alien and Aliens and Terminator, and the Vietnam movies: Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now. As far we were concerned, any American movie made in the 70s that wasn't set in space or Vietnam, that didn't feature Dirty Harry or Al Pacino, Satan or Shaft, that wasn't sexploitation, blaxploitation or SOME kind of -ploitation goddamnit, simply wasn't worth watching. Bronson was a joke.

Well, hell! I've watched my first beginning to end Bronson movie. Of course, I've seen a million little bits. But I watched the original Mechanic from begining to end. And you know what? Yes, it is better than the remake. Sure, plenty of scenes (and haircuts, and moustaches) have aged badly. But it's slower, more thoughtful, smarter, and more interesting.

And you know what else? I'm gonna watch Death Wish now. I really am. Don't try and stop me, I'm serious. I might even follow it up with Death Wish 2. My 1992 self is cringing, but my 2011 self is tired of Hollywood presuming I'm thick as two short ones. I'm gonna watch some dumb thrillers from the good old days, where they only presumed you were thick as ONE short one. With guns and stuff!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Bastard Is Back...Pt2

I'm not the only bastard back in town.

The rainy season officially ended a few weeks ago, but so far nobody told the weathermen. Fortunately I know which way the wind blows, because it's picking up great chunks of the South China Sea and depositing them unceremoniously on my little Seoul suburb. In between rainstorms the sun shows its head for a day at a time to frazzle anything left outside and set cicadas to maximum screaming volume.

Between weather that doesn't encourage stepping outdoors and the need to fill my non-writing time with something other than head-addling drunkenness (and work), I need some good reading material, so I was mightily pleased when The Bastard Hand author Heath Lowrance announced a collection of short stories to be e-published. The day has arrived, and Dig Ten Graves is available now*.

If you're not already spending your hard-earned at the Kindle store I might mention that it's at the low, low price of 86p at the British site, or 2 American dollars and 99 American cents on the other side of the digital pond. I'm sure the maths doesn't quite add up there, but if it is a mistake then I'm afraid I've already diddled Mr Lowrance out of a few coins.

If you think digital self-publishing is only for those who wish to avoid fixing typos, proper editing, decent criticism or any revision at all, then you may find a friend at this link here. Some fair points, but I think there's also a nascent system of trusted reviewers to sort the wheat from the proverbial. For myself, I'm looking forward to more of Heath's own (highly-acclaimed by people who know what they're talking about, and me) brand of psycho-noir. If you're still not convinced, there's a sample from his first book (properly published by proper small publishers New Pulp Press) at the bottom of the page in my Quote Of The Moment, and all typos are mine.

*I don't actually mean to suggest that Mr Lowrance is a bastard, either literally or pejoratively.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Bastard Is Back...Pt1

If I told you Japan is weird, you wouldn't believe me, would you.

Okay, maybe you would. I recently had to spend a few days getting blasted by the sun in Fukuoka. If there's a black centre to the universe, Fukuoka is the city it's furthest from - I mean, seriously, it's so nice and clean and neat and pleasant. Still, having been there a few times I felt no need to further sample its delights and passed a fair amount of time in my hotel room with a laptop and a bottle of scotch. If Mohammed must go to the mountain, then he can damn well drink and write while he's there.

Throw in a 3 day trip down south for a family affair and I haven't been home much. But now I'm back with my duty free in one hand (I honestly didn't realise the bourbon was overproof. You see it was hot and I had sunstroke and the beer wasn't helping, well, it was, but not in that way, and all the discombobulations added up and) and finally all the writing that was going on and on but getting nowhere might just be heading somewhere, and Lord knows it's just in time, what with two more tests against India and the international rugby season just starting up and tomorrow I'm back in the day job, so, to sum up, phew.