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Out of all of Murakami’s short stories, this one is my favourite. (Out of his novels, my favourite is Kafka on the Shore.) It’s been years since I’ve read it, and there’s many parts that I’ve forgotten, but its residue is there. It was one of those stories that perfectly captured a mood I wasn’t even aware I was searching for yet. I didn’t understand it fully at the time, and I found it hard to describe, but a new obsession had been  awakened in me. After reading this story (and others like it) I wanted more of its aesthetic. I guess it’s the sort of feeling you’d generally associate with Magic Realism. Even though On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning isn’t a Magic Realist story itself, most of Murakami’s stories are, and so it does have the atmosphere of one. In Magic Realism, strange things gently become part of everyday life. This story is about normality, with the suggestion of ambiguity.

One of my favourite things to do is wander around cities and watch people from a distance. There’s something nice about seeing ordinary people doing ordinary things. Unfortunately, I don’t live in a city, so my chances to do this are rare. Recently, though, I got to go to London for a few days, and spent almost the whole time there walking and watching. Sometimes, I was struck by how perfect certain people looked. By that, I don’t mean their appearance was flawless; rather, they just looked like they were perfectly suited to living an ordinary life in the city. They were boring, but not in a negative way. Whenever I see people like that, I wish I could be them, or at least be like them. And this short story reminds me of those people.

Originally posted on Vera Chok:

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Under my skin, in my soul.

More than a few thoughts for Richard Brautigan.

More than a little love for the man who’s made so many things grow inside so many people.

30 years ago, cult Beat and counterculture poet and novelist Richard Brautigan, killed himself. The text of Tonseisha – The Man Who Abandoned the World, written by Erik Patterson, was inspired by his death, and our opera was grown out of Brautigan’s life-giving powers. I have described his affect, time and again, of being generative. His life and work inspires ordinary people all over the world to create extraordinary work, but more importantly, they generate special, specific, currents which jump that elusive space between people, borders, languages, ideas, and cultures.

Tonseisha is a journey along the Tokyo-Montana Express. A dream grounded in the real. In two days, the train will have rushed by. We only play…

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These are all songs about Alice. Or rather, these are all songs that could be about Alice. Whether or not the Alices they refer to are her or others of the same name is sometimes hard to tell.

Nurse with Wound- Prelude to Alice the Goon: Many of Nurse With Wound’s soundscapes come from places that couldn’t possibly exist, or at least shouldn’t. This piece belongs in an industrial Wonderland, similar to the one crafted by Svankmajer.

Moby- Alice: I know next to nothing about Moby, but as far as I know he is not a whale named Richard.

Coil- Red Queen: One of the more effective songs from Musick to Play in the Dark. I love Coil, but sometimes their music is too aware that it’s music, which causes it to lose some of its atmosphere. Red Queen does manage to be chilling, though, despite this self-awareness.

The Tear Garden- Malice Through the Looking Glass: There’s little to say about this song.

Sad Lovers and Giants- Alice (Isn’t Playing): If Alice ever arrives in her garden, she could listen to this, or experience something like it.

The Glove- Looking-Glass Girl: Robert Smith and Steven Severin are both wonderful people with lovely hair.

Camp Z- (Alice) In Trance

Kraftwerk- Hall of Mirrors

Cocteau Twins- Alice: Liz Fraser has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard. It’s so slight and delicate, with nothing ugly or coarse to take away from its subtleties.

Crystal Castles- Alice Practice: A violent, visceral vomit of saccharine noise, like a pop song gone wrong.

Sisters of Mercy- Alice: Alice is older here, but still young. She is newly an adult, with Wonderland still present to her only in bits and pieces, like the tarot cards and her party dress. They’re much less absurd, but still strange, and she is still lost. The atmosphere is icy and dark, with Eldritch’s voice like thick smoke in a cold room.

Tom Waits- Alice: Tom Waits doesn’t seem like the kind of person who’d appreciate Alice, yet his interpretation of her is one of my favourites. It’s a mellow, but weird and dreamy sound, like an Impressionist painting done in soft colours. His Alice is middle-aged, but still a dream-child.

Yuki Kajiura- Bloody Rabbit: A good song to listen to if you ever gain the ability to transform into a giant, axe-wielding, killer rabbit.

Shortcomings is neither fast-nor-slow-moving. Surprisingly for a graphic novel, it moves almost entirely in real time, or at least as close to that as sequential art can manage. It reminds me of those documentary-style comedy shows that seem to be popular right now, except the only genre it really fits into is general slice-of-life. This doesn’t make it in any way boring; part of the fun in reading Shortcomings is seeing how well it imitates everyday life. Even the characters are weirdly close to real life. Their petty sides are never glossed over, especially when it comes to Ben Tanaka, the protagonist. He’s not a completely awful person, but he does have many shortcomings, and he goes back and forth between submitting to them and trying to keep them under control, with little sign of change. He constantly gets into arguments with his girlfriend, and when she moves to New York he ends up acting on his attraction to other women. The other characters at least come across as a little better than him, but then again they aren’t the main focus, and it’s obvious that they have their own flaws, too.

Usually, you need to have at least one sympathetic character for a story to be readable, but the characters here were so realistic that it didn’t matter so much. (The short length also helped with this.) They’re not the most engaging characters in the world, but they’re still worth reading about. Unfortunately, a few of them were way too trendy for my taste. I’m not a fan of trendiness, because it takes beauty and turns it into something shallow. Stuff like the rebellious artist girl and the coffee shop scenes came across as a deliberate attempt to make the comic seem cool. This is a shame since, if you ignore the hollow, trendy moments, Shortcomings is genuinely pretty to look at. Adrian Tomine’s drawing style is clean and simple, with plenty of clear lines and white space. I love how there are no blurry shadows in Shortcomings; instead, they’re all made either with hatching or solid blocks of darkness. A world where everything is slim, elegant and simple appeals so much to my sense of aesthetics, to the point where I sometimes want to step into it for a little while. Tomine’s art is also effective from a storytelling point of view. The first page actually shows scenes from a (rather trite) film Ben is watching, which you don’t realise until the “camera” (or in other words, the panels) pan out to reveal this. It’s a clever trick, and shows what you can do with the medium, even in one that sticks as closely to the established comic strip format as this one. I also like how there aren’t any page breaks between scenes- it adds to the real time feel. 4/5.

 

Since short stories are generally rather short (because they are stories), it’s hard to write about them without acknowledging the ending. (Unless they don’t really have one.) So this post will contain spoilers.

After listening to the apocalypse-themed fifth episode of Adam Whybray’s radio show, I started thinking about the end of the world. It reminded me of a story I had to read for my Creative Writing course- The Nine Billion Names of God, by Arthur C. Clarke. Every week, our lecturer would give us one or two stories to read. This one was among my favourites, though I’m not sure if everybody else in the class liked it so much. Like with some of Philip K. Dick’s stories, it was mostly concerned with ideas, leaving its other aspects slightly neglected. The idea itself was brilliant, but there wasn’t much atmosphere to back that up, and it wasn’t that emotionally engaging. And yet, I did get a feeling of weariness from it. Both of the scientists wanted it all to be over, and it seems like their wish was granted, in the most literal of ways. Maybe it wasn’t just their job they were tired with, but everything.

The end of this story changes everything with one poignant, ambiguous image. Despite (or more likely, because of) the implied apocalypse, I found it rather comforting. All of the stars in the sky go out. It’s a pretty quiet way for the end of the world to begin. Our lecturer described it as kind of like somebody turning out all the lights. There’s something secure about that. It’s  similar to the sense of inexplicable cosiness you get from Eraserhead or Simon Hanselmann’s comics. If anything, you should be feeling discomfort, but you can’t help but want to live inside of that small universe. The Nine Billion Names of God isn’t as soothing as ray Bradbury’s wonderful The Last Night of the World, but it comes close. It’s a story that has mixed emotions to it, and relies on more than just an idea.

KatieJane Garside is the sort of person who often gets idealised. Like many other wonderful artists, her work is so beautiful that it can be painful to picture her as just another human. She’s never hidden her vulnerability, but the way she presents it is so inhuman. Her disheveled appearance combined with erratic behaviour that veers from chaotic to subdued is something that a lot of her fans can probably relate to. We can see a more romanticised version of ourselves in her, and so we don’t like to think of her possessing the same smaller, negative traits that most of us have. (I feel the same way about Richard Brautigan.) While it’s nice that she has so many devoted (and well-deserved) fans, idealising her like this is still unfair. Acknowledging that she probably has the same everyday failings as the rest of us doesn’t tarnish the beauty of her songs. It’s still possible for them to be as otherworldly as ever.

Today was KatieJane Garside’s birthday, and I would like to celebrate her as a human being who is capable of creating things that are strange and delicate, just like herself. In the past, she’s been a member of both the brilliantly-named Daisy Chainsaw and QueenAdreena, and currently makes up one half of the folk noir band Ruby Throat. She’s been compared to such wonderful people as Kate Bush, PJ Harvey and Lydia Lunch, but I think she manages to surpass them all. (Which is no mean feat.) Currently, she is sailing around in some nonspecific location on a boat with her husband, which my mother thinks is very romantic.

Originally posted on Papier Haché:

Being transgender, is, in pretty basic terms, a never-ending quest to assert and affirm the right to define oneself on one’s own terms in a world very intent on preventing one from doing so.  It’s an emphatic denial of the identities thrust upon us by a society that defines us by our adherence to socially prescribed norms.  For people who dare to defy these norms and refuse to be defined by an oppressive society, the punishment is , in turn, that same society attempting to define you by your deviance.  As you can imagine, this is both exhausting and dehumanizing, and our society doesn’t take very kindly to defiance.

Last night I was thinking about some of these things after a search of the word “transgender” on twitter.  I made note of the fact that the word transgender is used as a noun with a depressingly high rate of frequency…

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