Just finished reading @ machine HQ…
In the beginning: Hero
The first 15 sections – or the first chapter, titled Private Mandella – of this gritty SF classic can be found circulating under the guise of a longish short story – the correct literary term, arg/machine believes, is “novella” – tucked away inside many science fiction anthologies. In such surroundings, it goes under the title Hero.
It is this novella that arg/machine had read as an undergrad. Needless to say, he was enthralled by the hi-tech war machines, the convincing training sequences and, of course, the first ever human attack on an alien outpost – all of which author Joe Haldeman describes with grim realism. And so at that time, Hero was another exciting piece of SF literture to arg/machine.
Cool? Or clueless?
For a couple of years now, arg/machine has seen the stylized face of “Che” Guevara looking out from a variety of local merchandise ranging from tee shirts to shopping bags and backpacks. Nearly all of this merchandise is sported by young folks – from local teens striving to be hip, to actors in local films, commercials, soap operas and music videos – most of whom seem ignorant as to what Che represented.
Always keen to reach out to the masses and instill in them ideas of fiery revolutions, Che would have undoubtedly been pleased to find himself turned into a youth icon. But how would he react on realizing that this rampant inclusion of his likeness on consumer goods is fuelled by reasons that are – so far from being revolutionary – purely cosmetic, and is driven by motives that are… [shudder] wholly Capitalistic?
It’s a comrade’s worst nightmare, no doubt!
In his last post, arg/machine had rambled on and on about the appeal and romance of emptiness, motivated – as he was – by a short memoir by Jonathan Safran Foer from The New Bedside Playboy, an impressive collection of fiction, essays, humour and memoirs culled from over 50 years of that magazine’s publishing history.
Well, between that post and this one, arg/machine managed to explore that volume further and, while browsing through the said omnibus, came across a… well, “funky” feature, which cleverly combines typography with humour.
The romance of blank pages…
arg/machine recently had the opportunity of acquiring a commemorative volume of an internationally-known periodical. Between its two covers, this substantial omnibus collects fiction, commentary, humour and memoirs selected from over half-a-century of the publication’s existence.
So far, arg/machine has traversed the first twenty pages or so, already encountering such stalwarts as Jorge Luis Borgess, P.G. Wodehouse and Guy de Maupassant. Immediately ahead are Norman Mailer, J.G. Ballard, John Updike, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Saul Bellow, Woody Allen and several other literary luminaries. Including Herodotus.
Note: Today is one of those days when arg/machine blogs about a favourite author. And this time, good reader, he has decided to blog about M.R. James, an author whose works he greatly enjoys.
Bucolic and serene pastoral landscapes, scholarly protagonists pursuing archaeological diversions at their leisure and simple rural folks going about their businesses…
So what’s wrong with this picture?
Well, before long, this cheerful rustic tranquillity will proceed – stealthily but inexorably – towards a climactic moment of supreme horror when the learned protagonist comes face-to-face with a gruesome phantasm straight out of his worst nightmares. And occasionally, he may evensurvive the confrontation…
Now playing @ machine HQ…
Back when he was in high school, one of arg/machine’s favourite albums used to be The Blues Brothers soundtrack
. And one of his favourite tracks off that album was – and still is – Gimme Some lovin’
, primarily because of its groovy rhythm and funky backing brass section.
Like any disciplined follower of music, arg/machine, too, carefully squinted at the song credits – this was when albums were put out on cassettes/tapes, and squinting was the only
way to read those microscopic words printed below the song titles on the album’s small inlay card – and noted that the song was written by one Mr. Steve Winwood
. To arg/machine, that name – back then – was synonymous with the nifty 1986 hit Higher Love
, which he dug – and still digs.
Rereading: The Disaster Area…
To arg/machine, as to any reader of refined science-fiction and/or fantasy, author J.G. Ballard
is synonymous with a sense of time that is fluctuating, broken and nonlinear. Indeed, this theme of fractured temporal progression [and, in some of his stories, even regression] is the leitmotif
connecting many of Mr. Ballard’s works.
Add to that the peculiar [and often tragic] consequences of the alienation born out of our modern, technologically-progressive urban societies and you have an idea of the psychologically intense JGB universe.
007 Killers: the Bond playlist
James Bond movies
What is it that separates a Bond movie from other popular high-octane action films? After all, there have been plenty of good action heroes in celluloid history – starting with the swashbuckling matinee idols of the silent era to the present-day hardcore, muscle-bound, gun-toting, gut-busting martial art maestros…
No, it’s probably the stylish combination of girls, guns and gadgets that has made Bond movies popular. And different. And of late, these films have portrayed women not merely as damsels in distress, but as damsels who – should the need arise – can cause some serious distress themselves. In fact, a lot of times, they are the girls with the guns or the gadgets. Or both. And this, arg/machine assumes, has made the feminists happy.
Now playing @ machine HQ…
Released in 1986, Paul Simon’s Graceland
– a Grammy-winning classic – can be credited as being one of the first albums to introduce the concept of World Music to the masses. Of course, jazz musicians – and jazz-rock bands like Santana – had been incorporating musical nuances from Latin America and Africa for many years, and Passion
, Peter Gabriel’s superb multi-cultural soundtrack to Martin Scorcese’s 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ
did feature diverse musical traditions from across the globe.
These, however, were niche genres/releases and didn’t have songs that talked about a trip to Elvis’ Graceland estate as a modern American pilgrimage scored to funky foot-tapping Mbaqanga
, or South African popular music.