Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Mister Foote's Other Leg.

                                                               (From my Sketch book.)

Elder God in The Waterworks.

                                                            (From my Sketchbook.)

War Master; Anti-Genesis.

Off all the incarnations of The Master this itteration is the one most likely to take that step, to do something even The Daleks in all their marinated malice shied back from doing.And there are things too terrible even for them...Which is where this story just begins. It was off course The Time Lords who fired the first shot in what was to become known as The Time War. Sending The Doctor back in time , snatching him, Harry and sarah Jane mid trans mat between Nerva Beacon and the future Earth, to deposit them on the edge of a minefield on war ravaged Skaro.  in doing so they probably made the Daleks even more demented in their hatred for all things other than Dalek. Because of this misguided attempt to make the universe a safer place they set in motion events which would shake the very firmament.
              The best laid plans of mice, men and Timelords Gang aft agley, as they say.
              This is a bold story decision by Big Finish. Not just to revisit a classic story , which for many was the very high point of the original series. only The Master would take things this far. Not just to affect the genetic evolution of The Daleks but to steer them in a particular way, to tame the beast and direct it. And while at first things do indeed appear to be going the way he desired things do indeed go pretty disastrously awry. The hubris on display is satanic.
               Pluck at the threads of any vast tapestry and no matter how intrically woven it might appear it will begin to unravel. Derek Jacobi's interpretation is so arch, so spot on in Machivellian terms that he often dominates any scene he is in to the point where his is the only voice in the room, quite magnificent actually. A true fallen angel with all the terrifying connotations that implies. Narvin has also become one of the very best supporting characters, easily holding his own.
               There has been a long standing tradition in the canon of Doctor Who when a incarnation of The Doctor turns up he can expect a helping hand. When it happens to The Master, when two of his own incarnations find themselves in the same room, he better watch his back.
               Both of them.

Strange Angel; The Otherworldly Life Of Rocket Scientist John Whiteside Parsons.

Talk about starting off with a bang. "ROCKET SCIENTIST KILLED IN EXPLOSION." ran the leader headline on the cover of The Los Angeles Times for june 18th 1952. Reporting that American rocket engineer Jack Parsons had died after the explosion at his home that was most likely an accident at his home laboratory.he was only 37 years old...
             "Jack" Parsons was a born Rocket Boy. A pioneer in his field, inspired by the Science Fiction writers of his youth, he would grow to adulthood an inveterate exploder; constantly combining the most combustible of chemicals and ingredients, never always safe to be around but always interesting. He applied this doctrine to his personal life as much as his working and scientific one. As a young rebellious man he dabbled in Marxism and the shadow of this period was to be thrown over his search for work in the Mc Carthy Witch Hunt era. Yet it was his political leanings which were to lead him to a period of estrangement from The Powers That Be. Odd, considering how he was drawn to occultism and strange faiths. Even converting to Thelema, a new religous movement created by Aleister Crowley himself.the Big Bad; The wickedest Man In The World, ahem. Jack Parsons prospered in this new faith as he moved to live in their temple /lodge to assume leadership of its californian branch. There were even those who suggested something of a conspiracy theory linking his death to his Black magic exploits. Ah well, how could such a life be led without the odd, er,odd rumour.
              That period of american history is a particularly interesting one, swept along with an ever expanding wave of optimism. It was a great opening up period, with many maverick scientists, pioneering engineers and writers broadening genres across the board. Jack Parsons got to meet, mix and work with many luminous minds of the location and era; Le Sprague deCamp, Robert Heinlein, L Ron Hubbard and Forest J Ackerman. Doc Savage and his chums spring to mind. . If you, as a reader, are interested in Outre Americanna or are perhaps lured into picking this book up thanks to an eye catching Howard Stark like scientist on the cover, then you will most likely enjoy this book. If you long for the days with "proper" scientists wearing bow ties and starched white lab coats who smoked pipes, then this is also for yourself.
              Jack Parsons, the Strange Angel, fell brutally to earth in the end, but for a while he flew..
              If only in short rocket propelled bursts.

The Brothel In Rosenstrasse; an Extravagant Tale.

The aristocatic Von Bek looks back on his hedonistic days living in a brothel during the siege of the city of Mirenberg, a beautiful fairy tale city that only ever existed in the mind of Michael Moorcock.(Surely an alternative reality if ever there was one.) The Count and his fellow travelers find a temporary refuge there as the siege canons pound the city to dust and rubble. It becomes a microcosm of the later conflicts to come as hedonism and self reverence prove no armour to fascistic designs. While not quite the hedonistic hell of Salo, 120 Days Of Sodom, it does feel like a passport stamp along the way. It is not for the faint hearted or the easily offended but then what would such a person be doing in a brothel.
             I understand that the character of The Count Von Bek is a recurring character but not having read any other books with him in it, this is the only one by which I may judge him. He does not emerge as an entirely likeable man but he does come out feeling like a real one. He certainly is driven by the contrariness of masculine identity. and fueled by the lies we tell ourselves. The self reverence that masquerades as "virtue" when they are just excuses for wanting our own way, and our compulsions for getting it. Stew that in a heady cauldron of eighteenth century class politics and the Green Card of wealth and you end up with a lusty man boy used to getting his own way. This is a full on erotic memoir, very "A Remembrance Of Things Shagged." as the aged and most likely dying Count looks back on this period of his life. Spending his days and nights reveling, and to a degree unraveling, in the lost splendor of a pulverised fantasy city that is all Renaissance art, architecture, statues and fountains, like a European city sleeping restlessly and dreaming of its youth. Before it got stamped on by the boot of the bully boys.
            Within the walls of the brothel there are many walking wounded and innocence is a commodity, to be  bargained and priced, bought and paid for. There are some very complex relationships at play within the pages of the book, with history and hindsight as seen through the prism of what the Count wanted and what and who The Count got. lovers betray lovers, it is a cruel game. And yet one of the most lingering impressions is that of the notion of forgiveness being possible as one of the characters is let down, almost abandoned, yet still finds the capacity, the grace to forgive. Not that it is even called that, nor sadly even accepted, the very concept being so extraordinary, and in this case, socially extravagant.
            I was reminded

The Ballad Of Halo Jones.

I could not resist these three volumes of The Ballad Of Halo Jones despite still having the three large format Titan Editions (Still sitting next to a couple of Titan's Charley's War. They look fantastic in stark black and white in that format even after all these years.) These new editions are so tastefully reproduced and the smell is of newness while the stories within remain timeless.
             Halo's stories are so engaging  and the world of 50th century Earth is so convincingly realised by its creative team, from the way people talk, to the clothing, architecture and vechile design, it feels as close to a magic spell bringing a new world to life as you can get with pen, ink and paper. Alan moores writing needs no introduction but the sublime Ian Gibson warrents one. His vision of the future, from the squalor of The Hoop to the startling alien quality of the planet Moab, we go on a journey across Gibson's reality, full on proper universe building. The combination of tight script and awesome visuals weaves a spell over the reader that will go some way to confirming the existance and power of Mages. speaking of "weaving", i still get shudders when I think of the heavily webbed cover of 2000AD prog#466, with Halo and her dead friends struggling in a nightmare web with a terrifying Tarantula creeping towards them. The stuff of nightmares, arachnophobic or otherwise.
            You know, generally when I read someone waxing nostagically about a comic strip they have read and remember fondly, it usually comes with the memory of staying with a beloved grand parent, or perhaps enjoyed at a holiday home where they felt safe. its all fish fingers, beans and The Generation Game, you follow me? And I mean that kindly, memory palaces should be good places to visit.  When I read the run of 2000ADs where Halo enlisted, fighting gravity as much as Tarantulan sympathisers, alongside Life Sentence and poor doomed Toy, it was a late weekday night, there were riots in the streets outside my house. I could hear the roar of mobs, rioters who were throwing petrol bombs and rocks and any kind of bottle that might break, all proceeded by the unforgettable sound of bin-lids being bashed against pavements (the real reason plastic wheelie bins were invented!) which were a street warning of army raids and a call to the barricades. A horrible sound like the end of the world. Maybe that is why the covers featuring Halo are so memorable to me. Maybe not, they would in any case remain memorable as they said so much and were so craftily rendered, witty, dark and poignant.
            The Halo Jones saga was never completed. Of the proposed nine volumes only three were finished, some creative ownership differences I have heard. Knowing the integrity of the creative team I am sure they had their reasons. At the end of volume three Halo sailed out into the great unknown in a stolen starship, out there into the vastness of unspoken imagination.
             Those stories will never be told, but the ones we know will last forever.

Fury From The Deep.

Delighted to this image at last. I have been waiting expectantly to see how they were going to package this story. I have been looking forward to it for all kinds of reasons, mostly since it only exists in my head as a mix of the old Target novelization and an audio reading of it by Tom Baker which I own on cassette.(Remember that old format?) As such I have imagined it on a grand scale which is odd for me as I usually try to imagine lost stories with budget restrictions in mind... Even remembering in black and white.
        And was gifted one of these beautiful second Doctor sets, with a ragged doctor and a War Games era Tardis.  The kind of serendipity which constantly surrounds the worlds of Doctor Who.

Making Oscar Wilde.

                      "..Youth, there is nothing like youth. Youth is the lord of life. Youth has a kingdom
                                        waiting for it." Oscar Wilde. A Woman Of No Importance.
Oscar Wilde wrote these words and they were first heard during the performance of his play a Woman Of No Importance. It  might well have served as a rallying cry for the whole aesthetic movement and their obsession with all things beautiful.Certainly it may well have gone some way to inspiring a young a vital Oscar Wilde to take a trip to the Americas in search of a destiny still taking shape in his imagination. Not entirely sure what it was he was seeking, only that it would be beautiful, no matter how transient. Oscar sets off on a journey that spawns continents and in many ways centuries, or at least the period leading up to the end of one century and the beginning of another. The centuries turn, stumbling on calf legs into a new age of wonders, tumbling towards modernity or at least a semblance of such.
              I have read other biographies of Wilde, looking at the course of his life from different perspectives and this one took me down a road I had not known off. Certainly not in this detail, examining in exquisite detail the gestation period in a foreign landscape of the artiste, of the Wildean figure self conjured and ready for the ages. Michelle Mendelsshon has indeed researched this detailed and beautifully crafted biography and in so doing unearths a treasure trove of lost and forgotten and probably deliberately neglected moments in the glittering foundations of his career, bits that twinkle and shine, buried beneath the weight of what was to follow. The Great British empire is beginning to totter while the new , and getting newer all the time, world of America is really coming into its own. The Babel like firmament being laid for a new empire with Oscar looking for a place in the court of the King.
               Paradigms shift and change, Class and colour, old and new, the common and the unique, its a moveable feast on a star spangled table cloth. Wilde sensed it, sensed the potential of this new age and was determined to put a stamp on it. He just had not decided what that stamp would look like. Ever a work in progress, inventing himself as he went along, holding a mirror up to america, but only seeing his own face reflected back at him(Quite his favourite view, truth be told.) Michelle Mendelssohn has found a perspective, a way of looking back that does great honor to its neglected sources. wait til you see some of the truly provocative pieces of art she found, to better convey the complexity, and at times brute ignorance, of the times. They were harsh, judgemental, brutal and unforgiving. Guess the wheel has turned full circle. Its this area where the dream of the aesthetics always falls down for me. A hungry person standing in the gutter staring at the stars still has an empty belly. Every view of the world is vastly improved on a full stomach.
               Some of the illustrations she has unearthed in this biography are truly eye popping, startling to me that I had never seen them before. they make for uncomfortable viewing and as such they should not be forgotten, . Some of the advertising artwork and posters for performances and products convey an unsubtle and unashamed racism and homophobia, quite hideously so. Such were the times. The continent may well have been re-inventing itself but old prejudices die hard and their death throes can last decades. 
               Wilde found a worldly nobility in the ordinary, elevating things to an unreaslistic level. He might well have have been sincere in his aspirations , but what place has sincerity in the hallowed arts of the aesthetes...
                A great book though, travelling along the roads less traveled but in such company...