Superficially, If Then, English author Matthew De Abaitua’s 2nd novel, appears to be about the singularity. In scifi lore, that subject revolves around the hypothetical future creation of superintelligent machines. Examples of which have been found in stories like Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream and movies like Terminator and Matrix.
Published in 2011, Ernest Cline’s story about a teen’s quest to win the ultimate prize in a virtual reality universe has caught the imagination of geeks worldwide, winning an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association division of the American Library Association and the 2012 Prometheus Award.
2015 is the 50th anniversary of many critical events – as we are often reminded. However, as a fan of mind-bending science fiction, I would also like to point out that 1965 was the year Philip K Dick’s novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch was published. Along with other Dick classics like Ubik & Time Out of Joint, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch questions the very nature of reality itself with the story revolving around the use & experience of simulated reality by its key characters.
I must confess that the only prose I read nowadays are rock bios. Even back when I did read fiction, it was science-fiction that I preferred (and still do). What to do? I am a serial escapist after all (as this webzine aptly proves).
Of late, I have been lecturing on the Art of Story – breaking down the elements of story-telling to 17 and 18 year olds who mostly do not read books, and whose main exposure to stories is via computer games, film/TV and even comic books.
Well, in the course of this module, I’ve had had to read short stories by several Singaporean writers (like Alfian Sa’at and Daren Shiau) and whilst the writing is good, I found sometimes the focus and range to be too narrow (although that is probably the intent) and the emphasis on nostalgia at times claustrophobic.
Writer Ken Sharp’s new book Play On!: Power Pop Heroes Volume One is available for pre-orders for 1 month with a cut off sale date of October 28th.
In the first installment of a three-volume series, Ken Sharp honors the musical innovators who built the genre’s foundation. Featuring a foreword by Eric Carmen of Raspberries, the 480-page book culls exclusive extended interviews with 20 artists that defined the genre, including members of the Beatles, the Who, the Kinks, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, the Hollies, the Dave Clark Five, the Zombies, Bee Gees, the Turtles, the Left Banke, Small Faces, the Move, Jeff Lynne and others. Also covered in this volume are representatives of the first generation of dedicated acolytes who followed the progenitors’ trail: Badfinger, Raspberries, Big Star and Emitt Rhodes.
Available exclusively from http://www.ken-sharp.com/power_pop/index.html
Writer Mike Baron makes an interesting point about how marginalized the Jazz Rock ‘genre’ has become since its heyday in the 70s in his introduction to this book.
“The number of classic bands who have inspired youngsters continues to grow. Beatles imitators are legion. The Beach Boys have a growing and powerful following spearheaded by Explorers Club. Grateful Dead jam-type bands cover the hills. The Quarter After worship the Byrds. But one group is conspicuously missing. Where are the new jazz rock bands?”
Baron doesn’t really answer this pertinent question so much as to suggest that perhaps Jazz Rock as a ‘genre’ lost ground once the post-punk / new wave of the 80s arrived to drive many of these original Jazz Rockers to seek greater commercial attention by moving their music to the Middle of the Road (like Chicago).
Violinist Eileen Chai recently launched her book Teach A Life For Life and we caught up with her to find out a little bit more about the words and the music.
Why did you decide to write a book?
Teach a Life, for Life contains life lessons learnt in my journey through sports and music. It was written because I wanted to tell my story so that people could reflect on my life lessons learnt, which might help people self-explore, discover and find their own paths, and learn from their past to make good for the present and future.
Secondly, I wanted to share with people, family and friends who have helped me in my life journey through sports and music. In a way, to give thanks to my family, teachers, coaches and friends.
Those of you who follow Power of Pop will know the name Eileen Chai as belonging to the violinist of my backing band, The Groovy People. But there’s definitely more to Eileen than that! Not only is she an accomplished musician in her own right but she was an athlete that represented Singapore in three different sports viz gymnastics, diving and track & field! Now add author to her list of gifts! Eileen has penned a book chronicling her life journey in sports and music, called “Teach A Life, For Life” which represents her personal philosophy in life. Concurrently, Eileen will be releasing her three-track EP, Spread Your Wings, which includes a track co-written with yours truly (the title track).
Eileen will launch her book this Saturday (14th June) from 6pm – 8pm at Balaclava @ ION where she will perform the three songs from her EP as well as autograph her new book for you. If you haven’t got a copy yet, you can do so at http://www.eileenchai.com/buy-the-book.html.
When does nature become unnatural? That is the question posed by author Jeff Vandermeer in Annihilation, the first installment of a proposed trilogy (entitled Southern Reach), all three parts to be published in 2014. In brief, the story involves a team of four (a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor) who set out into an area known as Area X. The area is abandoned and cut off from the rest of civilization. They are the 12th expedition. The other expeditions have been fraught with disappearances, suicides, aggressive cancers, and mental trauma.
A book about superheroes from one of the most iconoclastic of comic book writers, Grant Morrison. To sum it up, Morrison provides an analysis of over 70 years of the superhero mythos whilst at the same time dovetailing the subject matter into some kind of meta-autobiography.
MAGIC WORDS: THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF ALAN MOORE (by Lance Parkin)
It’s difficult for me to be objective about the writer Alan Moore. After all, the man had been responsible for many of my favourite all-time comic book stories viz. Watchmen, From Hell, Marvelman/Miracleman, V for Vendetta, Top Ten, Saga of the Swamp Thing and so on. Apart from Philip K Dick, Alan Moore is my favourite writer. Period.
Point of order. Despite the title above, this is not a year-end ‘best-of’ review of 2012. Why? It’s simply too much effort and after years and years of putting these features together, it all becomes pretty tedious and pointless. Fast. As you can guess from the featured photo above, pop culture is getting increasingly ridiculous with each passing year, so here’s my attention deficient summary of the year that we say farewell to in a matter of days…
Lunarin – The Midas Session, Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, Laneway Festival (Laura Marling, Feist and Girls), Jeff Litman – Outside, Cheating Sons – Time Trails (Live at Esplanade Recital Studio), Lambchop – Mr M, Sweet Diss and the Comebacks – Emerald City Love Song, Brad Brooks – Harmony of Passing Light, Friendly Fires (live at Avalon), The Observatory – Catacombs, Shelves – s/t, OMD (Live at Esplanade Theatre), Orbital – Wonky, James Morrison (interview), Bitch Magnet reissues, Music Matters, ShiGGa Shay – They Call Me ShiGGa, Rick Murname – Wednesday Child, Pugwash – The Olympus Sound, Keane – Strangeland, Marvel’s The Avengers, Fringe Seasons 4 & 5, Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here (DVD), The Newsroom Season 1, Hot Chip (live at Avalon), Empra – s/t, Amazing Spider-Man, SING A NEW SONG, Prometheus, Breaking Bad Season 5 (Part I), Indus Gendi – I’ll Be Good If You Say Yes EP, Stone Roses (Live at Indoor Stadium), The Dark Knight Rises, Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game, Peter Lacey – Worlds End Amateur Melodramatic Society Ball, Metric – Synthetica, Baybeats Festival, The Beach Boys (live at Indoor Stadium), Cosmo Jarvis – Think Bigger, Peter Doggett – The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s, Metric (Live at the Esplanade Concert Hall), The Pretenders (Live at F1), Joe Bonamassa (Live at Esplanade Concert Hall), alt-J (∆) – An Awesome Wave, Regina Spektor – What We Saw From the Cheap Seats!, The Whigs – Enjoy the Company, Nelson Bragg – We Get What We Want, Ingrid Michaelson (Live at the Esplanade Concert Hall), Alan Moore/Kevin O’Neill – League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009, The Sam Willows – s/t EP, Kate Miller-Heidke – Nightflight, Looper, Mumford & Sons – Babel, Simon Townshend – Looking Out, Looking In, Chromatics – Kill For Love, Thunder Band Slam, The Bootleg Beatles (Live at Marina Bay Sands), Jersey Boys Musical, Christmas in Singapore, Fred Perry 60th Anniversary Party, Classic Albums: Peter Gabriel – So (DVD), Sarah Cheng De-Winne – Brand New, Troy Chin’s Bricks in the Wall, Tay Kexin – Get Set Go EP, Uncanny Avengers, Regina Spektor (Live at Esplanade Theatre), Another Sunday Afternoon – The Bookmark, The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness reissue.
…still there’s more…
Strictly speaking, this is not a review of Sonny Liew‘s Malinky Robot: Collected Stories & Other Bits, which I already assessed here. This time around, I am sharing with you the newly minted Limited Edition Box Set which includes the book as well as a variety of goodies.
There have been numerous biographies of David Bowie, but never before a book that explains how he emerged as the most vital and influential pop artist of the 1970s, or identifies the full depth ad implications of his achievements.
This is the opening sentence to the preface of Peter Doggett’s magnificent new book about David Bowie and it encapsulates what Doggett set out to do and ultimately what he achieved with this remarkable tome. In this respect, Doggett was guided (and he acknowledges this fact as well) by the late rock journalist Ian MacDonald’s legendary Beatles book – Revolution in the Head – and postulates that even as the music of the Beatles shaped the sixties, the musical output of Bowie impacted the seventies in much the same way.
Without the NME, I would probably have never become a music journalist. Whether that is a good or bad thing is for you kind reader to determine! Back in the day (the early 80s), there may have been many music magazines and weeklies to fulfill a rabid music fans’ obsession for information – Rolling Stone, Melody Maker, Record Mirror, Sounds and Smash Hits – BUT there is little doubt in my mind that the “world’s most famous music magazine” was the NME.
This book – written by Pat Long who served as former NME assistant editor/journalist at the mag in the Noughties – chronicles the eventful history of the NME from its introduction as the Accordion Times in 1935 before morphing into Musical Express in 1946 and finally the New Musical Express in 1952.The book ends in 2002, just about the time Long came on board at the magazine. However, the ‘golden age’ of the NME arguably was during the 70s and 80s when NME would become the standard bearer for the new music in whatever form it came in.
NME also established many writers who would achieve ‘celebrity’ status inter alia Nick Kent, Charles Shaar Murray, Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons, Paul Morley, Danny Baker, Stuart Maconie, Barney Hoskyns and Steve Lamacq. The stories behind these ‘celebrity’ writers often became as intriguing as the rock stars they were writing about and that was the key. The writers themselves not just wrote about rock n’ roll but they wrote in a rock n’ roll style! They were never detached observers but on many occasions were in the thick of things – even to the extent of living the rock n’ roll lifestyle.
These accounts are vividly portrayed by Long, placing many of the writers and their works in the context of the socio-political climate of the UK at the relevant time. The measure of NME‘s stature lies in the very fact that this book has been published and validated by being able to hold a reader’s attention for the duration of the ride. It’s easy to see that the history of the NME very much mirrors the rise and fall (and the rise again) of various rock n’ roll ‘genres’ over the last sixty years. In the final analysis, even as NME was inspired by the exciting new music that was happening all around, the NME was also instrumental in exposing the new music to hundreds of thousands of readers, thereby developing entire music scenes from its uncompromising coverage.
Of particular interest were stories relating to punk, The Jam, Acid House, Madchester and Morrissey. Within the NME, there was an attitude, passion and perspective relating to music that went beyond mere entertainment and took music seriously which has left lasting impressions on many of its readers, including yours truly. To an extent, it’s a sad story as the NME (like many of its contemporaries) struggle to make a significant difference in the modern internet culture and certainly its best days are long gone. However, with The History of the NME, it is now possible to revisit this special time in rock music history of which the NME has definitely played a vital role.
Was an interesting evening at the Singapore Writers Festival launch held on the SMU grounds. The event kicked off with a preview of art installations viz Witness by Donna Ong and Underwriter’s Table by Vertical Submarine. The former’s concept relates to the human response to natural disasters (with special emphasis on the recent Japanese tsunami tragedy) and truly engages the viewer’s senses in a powerful manner. The latter was lighter in tone, being a large than life cartoony replica of a table, with a blank cheque (but no pen!).
The launch itself was nothing remarkable, it must be said, the usual formalities, speeches and a intriguing poem by Dr Lee Tzu Pheng but that was expected. This was followed by dinner and a rendition of a collaboration between poetry and music by Mang, a modern R&B/Hip hop take in fact. Slight but enjoyable.
I will be covering a couple of SWF sessions that relate to my pet pop culture topics viz comic books and scifi. In this respect, I recommend the following: –
MEET THE AUTHOR: Sonny Liew | Sat 22 Oct (today!) 11.30am to 12.30pm | Seminar Room 2-3, School of Information Systems (SMU)
PANEL: Loti Gone Case in Wonderland featuring: Troy Chin, Sonny Liew, Dave Chua | Wed 26 Oct 3.30pm – 4.30pm Transaction Pavilion, Campus Green (SMU)
MEET THE AUTHOR: Joe Haldeman | Sat 29 Oct 11.30am – 12.30pm | Learning Gallery, Singapore Art Museum @ 8Q
BRAND NEW BOOkS: Loti Volume 3 | Sun 30 Oct 11.30am – 12.30pm | Festival Pavilion, Campus Green (SMU)
More information at the Official Website.
The Floundering Time by Katy Weselcouch (SLG Publishing)
Getting your first graphic novel published is a pretty cool achievement.
Having said that, I read The Floundering Times with an open mind, trying to ignore the fact that the subject matter doesn’t interest me at all.
THE VESHA VALENTINE STORY By Des Taylor (Slave Labor Graphics)
“This started off as an artbook.”