Sunday, 11 November 2018

London Booty

I'm back!

For the first time in my life I have jet lag. I can't blame the climate, as I had the same problem flying over as I did flying home. I have no idea how this happened. I've always been lag-free. I suppose this is one of those things that goes wrong with age, he says clutching a shawl around his shoulders and sipping tepid tea for fear of excess excitement.

This time out I thought I'd talk about the haul of books and DVDs brought home from faraway places. For those of you wondering what peculiar artifact this Digital Video Disc might be, it's a cinema format I find very useful, for two reasons. First, it's still the most reliable way to find odd, old, and cult cinema, and there are some temples where they might be found. Like Fopp in London within striking distance of the Orc's Nest, Music & Goods Exchange in Greenwich, and Timeslip on Trafalgar Road in Brighton. Second, it avoids the Foreigner Problem.

For those of you who don't have to put up with the Foreigner Problem, allow me to elucidate.

If you happen to live in a place like Bermuda, overseas vendors don't know what to do with you, but as you're a Foreigner they treat you like a peculiar, simple-headed soul. Someone who doesn't appreciate the good stuff. Someone whose first language probably isn't English. Someone you can overcharge for postage.

So if you're, say, an American service provider offering online movies, you certainly don't offer the full rate of programs to Foreigners. You short the bill, and if the series happens to be, say, Japanese anime, you offer subtitles in Spanish. Only Spanish. Because Spanish is what they speak in Foreign Parts. Portuguese would be better, but quel dommage! It's improved over the years, but this is what put me off online services for a very long time, and even now I'm dubious about a so-called service that can be withdrawn at the vendor's discretion. If I buy a movie, it's mine. It's not some peculiar form of rental.

So despite the climate being ruinous to discs, I still purchase DVDs. How ruinous, you ask? Our humid salt-laden air often kills DVDs within months. The outer skin of the disc separates ever so slightly, leaving the smallest of cavities, something you can't see with the naked eye. Then condensation builds up, the tiniest beads of water. Mold loves water. All it wants is water and darkness, and there's not much light inside a DVD case. When it's not mold, it's rust. I remember tape decks being much the same - you could see the rot spread, little greyish fingers of death. I've seen DVDs practically transparent, patched like a pinto pony. The lifespan of a disc depends on its quality. Your average HBO box set, manufactured by the lowest bidder, might die within a few months, maybe a year. A BFI high quality issue might last decades.

There are ways of solving the problem but I shan't go into them here. This isn't Technology Corner.

The list of books is short, but that only means I'm not including books bought as Christmas presents for other people. I'm not some animal.

London Cameos by A.H. Blake, Herbert Jenkins publisher, 1930. Purchased at Greenwich market.

Markets are very hit and miss. You can find treasures; more often you find junk. It's like prospecting for gold, with about the same success rate. "Surely there is no city in Europe that is as rapidly obliterating all the footsteps of the past as London," writes Blake. Just a moment there, Blake, old son, there's a Herman Goering on the line for you. Blake's done a brilliant job of collecting what amounts to a ton of scenario hooks - A Picturesque Inn, The Bell of Doom, to name but two of several score. I look forward to devouring them at my leisure.

Victorian and Edwardian Prisons by Trevor May, Shire Library, 2006. Purchased at the Museum of London Docklands.

I'm not going to spend much time describing this one. You can work it out from the title. However if you ever want source material for a UK game I highly recommend anything Shire publishes. It's always informative, packed with useful detail and evocative illustrations. Writers take note.

Folklore of Guernsey by Marie De Garis, originally published 1975, reprinted 2014 by La Societe Guernsesiaise. Bought in Guernsey.

You'd be forgiven for thinking, as you peruse the bookshelves, that nothing much happened in Guernsey until Hitler invaded. There's a few tomes on fishing and forts, then Whallop! Germany calling, and suddenly there's books by the dozen. Guernsey was the only part of Britain ever to be captured by the Nazis, and they left behind some calling cards, the odd gun emplacement, a well-stocked Occupation Museum. However I was surprised not to see more books about this dolmen-haunted island's history and folklore. The island's seen human habitation since before the birth of Christ and its archaeology is fascinating - yet so much of it has been dug up, used for building material or just thrown away to clear a farmer's field. I love books like this Folklore, and ate it up while waiting for Aurigny to wind up the rubber bands that power its aircraft's engines. I shall have to do something with this material.

Guernsey as it used to be, a tour of the town in Victorian times by George Hugo, originally published 1933, reprint 2017 Blue Ormer.

Yes, I shall definitely have to do something with this material.

Vampire the Masquerade by Ken Hite and others, World of Darkness. Bought at Orc's Nest, London.

I went over with one eye on this and another on The Fall of Delta Green, which no doubt made for a peculiar facial expression on my part, but thankfully I didn't have to see it myself. There was no way I was buying both. Leaving aside the cost - this one item makes up about a fifth of my book budget - there was no way both would fit in the suitcase, not with everything else that had to go in. Read it on the plane, need to read it again. Mechanically it's not a million miles away from the version I played at Uni, but there are significant differences. Culturally it's a whole other universe away. This is Vampire for the 21st Century, and it looks hellishly entertaining.

The Vampire, by Nick Groom, Yale Uni Press 2018.

Yes, it's a new history of your friend and mine. Yes, it's very, very good. Highly recommended. Am still reading. Go away. Shoo! Still reading … Depending on my Shoggee I might have to get someone this for Christmas.

Dogs of War, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, first published 2017, this edition 2018 Head of Zeus.

Adrian's been a mate since university, and he kindly gave me this. It's a near future dystopian sci-fi in which bioform weapons are used in place of robots, because the robots can't be trusted. Rex is a Good Dog, leader of his squad, but he's beginning to wonder whether he's really such a Good Dog after all, and if he's not, what to do about it. What fascinates me is that it's as much about international, human rights and war crimes law as it is Big Guns Go Bang; it takes a lawyer's mind to pull that one off.

The DVD list includes:

Lucky Luke 2009, French. I loved this Western gunslinger comedy comic when I was young. Can't wait to see the big screen adaptation.

A Private Function 1984, a British comedy of manners about a roast pig dinner gone awry.
Thief 1981, in which expert bandit James Caan wants to settle down, but the mob prefer him out on the streets working for them.

Arsenic and Old Lace 1944, and if you don't know what this is you should be ashamed of yourself. Fun fact - this is based on a 1941 stage play in which Boris Karloff played the monstrous Brewster played in the film by Roger Massey. The film was being shot at the same time Karloff thrilled audiences on Broadway.

Watership Down 1978, animated. I remember watching this when I was a kid. I have young nieces. I see no reason why their childhood shouldn't be blighted too. ;)

Big Trouble in Little China 1986, and how could any sane soul resist this film? I won't ask if you know it - but when was the last time you saw it?

The Monster Club 1981, a horror triple bill with Vincent Price, Donald Pleasance and John Carradine.

Ray Harryhausen, the Special Effects Titan 2011, documentary about the man who made stop motion movie magic possible, from Jason and his Argonauts to tentacled horrors tearing apart the Golden Gate bridge.

That's it for this week. Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I try to watch Big Trouble in Little China at least once a year. Great little film.