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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New edition of The Flood now available in the UK

Hey, all you UK folks, and people who prefer to shop at Amazon UK because, I don't know, it's cooler than the US one or something... The new "cash in on the Noah movie" reissue of The Flood is out now, and it looks pretty great I must say (I'm eagerly awaiting the copies Canongate has sent me). You can click here to get all the pertinent info from AmazonUK itself.


Oh, and happy tax day for you America-dwellers. Sort of. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Zakir Hussain in Boston at Symphony Hall!

Saw him there last night... heckuva show.


Here's a clip that's not from last night's performance, but is similar. There's a vocalist for about the first two minutes or so, and then Zakir lets it rip.


If you ever get the chance to see him -- go.






Monday, March 31, 2014

Uzma's radio interview!

The lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan recently gave an nearly-hour-long interview on Karachi radio station City FM89, which is now available to hear on the internet. It jumps around a bit due to the songs being excised (many of which Uzee chose) so it can sound slightly choppy... It's fun though, as she chats about doing promo work in Pakistan, about her musical tastes and about other stuff. And of course her books, especially the award-winning Thinner Than Skin
















It's all good fun, so lend an ear...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"A large part of writing fiction is waiting for accidents to happen."

Here's a fine interview with Uzma from the Herald magazine, a newsmonthly in Pakistan that also covers culture and the arts. As ever, she speaks eloquently and well about the writing process, what feeds her, and events of the day. All that, plus a lovely picture! what more could you want?


And if you've noticed I've been posting a lot about Uzee lately and not so much about myself, well... yeah. I'm fine on the health front--fully recuperated!--but the career has been in low gear lately. It's conceivable that that might change over the next few months, though, so stay tuned.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Uzee talks at IBA in Karachi




















Here's a link to an article about Uzee's recent talk at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. The pictures from their Facebook page are also fun, and show Uzee's propensity to talk with her hands.











































Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hey, I can post photos again... for now...

Here are some shots of the lovely and talented Uzma Aslam Khan receiving her award at the Karachi Literary Festival last month. The French embassy awarded her a prize, decided upon by a panel of Pakistani judges (yeah, I don't really get it either) for her very awesome book Thinner Than Skin.


Not sure what she's saying here, but she's certainly making an important point...


And here she is at the moment of receiving the award. Nice shoes, Uzee! The old guys sitting in their easy chairs in the background seem mighty pleased with themselves too.


Another "action shot." Love the huge screens in the background with the faces looming down...


And finally, Uzma gets her own looming face in the background (partially obscured, alas) as she makes a few closing remarks. Wish I could have been there, but alas, I was recuperating on the couch and watching the snow pile up outside the window. Happily, these pictures make me feel (almost) like I was (almost) there. Many thanks to Bina Shah, who took the last 3 and shared them with us, and also to Jamal Ashiqain, who took the snazzy black and white one for the Dawn newspaper.

And if I haven't made it clear already, Thinner Than Skin is a mighty fine book and well worth checking out.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hey, it's your new favorite band

Oh wait, I mean my new favorite band...


Thursday, February 20, 2014

What's the deal with the photos, people?

For reasons that I don't understand, I am unable to upload photos on Blogger these days. This has been going on for weeks, with the exception of the one day when I managed to post that new cover of The Flood (below). It's tough to get too excited about posts that consist of nothing more than texts but... bear with me. Maybe it will correct itself somehow.


Meanwhile, Uzma's last book Thinner Than Skin has managed to pick up an award at the Karachi Book Festival, given by the French Embassy. To which I say: right on! It's a great book -- I may have mentioned this elsewhere on this blog -- and if you haven't checked it out yet, well, you really should.


As for myself, my recuperation is pretty much complete, and this unfortunately means there will not be a huge number of additional Recuperation Reviews forthcoming. I have been watching plenty of movies and TV shows, though, and will perhaps be discussing some of them in the not-too-distant future...


So, if anybody has any ideas why photos are failing to upload, give me a shout. Thanks!



Monday, February 3, 2014

Recuperation Review: Daimajin (1966)

Well, that was a lame ass Super Bowl, wasn't it? The only silver lining is that the 35-point margin of victory for the Seahawks eclipses the 34-point margin when the Pats lost to the Bears 44-10 in 1986. So there's that.


Happily, I have an endless supply of mediocre-to-awesome movies to keep me diverted as I continue to recover from my early-2014 bout with near-mortality. (Nah, just kidding. Sort of.) This time around it's...


NEXT UP: Daimajin (1966)


Directed by: Kimiyoshi Yasuda


OVERVIEW: Okay this is kind of a weird one, but it's great. Set some time back in feudal (or medieval? Or is that the same thing?) Japan, it tells the story of a giant 40-foot-tall statue of a local mountain god who comes to life and wreak vengeance whenever the powers-that-be get too greedy and exploit the peasants too much. Thing is, once the statue comes to life, it's not too discriminating as to who deserves punishment and who's just getting in the way...


WHAT HAPPENS: There's a coup, and the local, benevolent overlord gets replaced by a really nasty one. The royal kids escape, grow up in the mountains, try to avenge their dad, fail, and get stomped on a bit. This rouses the abovementioned god-statue, who then proceeds to stomp on things with his stony feet. And hands.


THAT SOUNDS COOL, DAVE. HOW ARE THE SPECIAL EFFECTS? Very impressive, as is the cinematography in general.


WTF MOMENT: Not really a "wtf" moment, but the moment when the status comes to life is pretty darn effective and creepy, even though you've been waiting for it for the better part of an hour.


HOW YOU KNOW THIS IS THE FUTURE: It's not! And we know that because people are walking around wearing kimonos and samurai swords and those weird hairstyles where it's shaved bald on top but then with ponytails in back. Also there aren't, like, Toyotas or anything. Some of the bad guys do tote around muskets though, which is slightly jarring. (Not that they do much damage against the god-statue's stony-faced badassery.) I guess this isn't medieval times after all.


DO WE GET A STONY-FISTED HAPPY ENDING? [Spoilers!] Hell yeah.


GRADE: B+

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Recuperation Review: Equilibrium (2002)

Lots of napping these days! In between, I'm catching up with some health-inducing bits of Hollywood wizardry...


NEXT UP: Equilibrium (2002)


Directed by Kurt Wimmer


OVERVIEW: Christian Bale (yes really!) plays a policeman-of-the-future who begins to have doubts about the totalitarian regime he is supporting when he forgets to take his mood-stabilizing drugs. His doubts are thrown into extreme focus when he is forced to neutralize his partner-turned-bad, Ned Stark (yes really!)


WHAT HAPPENS: So, Christian Bale begins to wonder whether it's okay to feel things after all. because, y'know, the government has outlawed it.


WTF MOMENT: You just read the bit about the government outlawing feelings, right? There you go.


WHO EVER KNEW NED STARK WAS SUCH A SUCKER FOR POETRY: Yes, Sean Bean is in this as the cop-gone-south. He's done in by a book of Yeats. Who knew? Poor guy never catches a break.


HOW YOU KNOW THIS IS THE FUTURE: Well, we're told as much right off the bat. Also, World War III has come and gone, so that's a tipoff. The way to avoid WW IV, apparently, is to avoid feeling things, since feelings lead to war. Or something. So there you go: everybody takes drugs, and everyone who doesn't gets re-educated, and all the things that cause feelings, like artwork and pets, gets the torch. Hilarity ensues.


GOSH, DAVE, THIS SOUNDS LIKE A HALF-BAKED MISHMASH OF FAHRENHEIT 451 AND 1984, AMONG OTHER THINGS. Well, yes. But visually it's quite stylish, and the cast are committed to the silliness, which helps. Plus there's this sort of cool "gun fu" which makes the fight scenes entertaining, and best of all, the fight scenes don't go on forever, as with (for example) Michael Bay movies. So there's plenty of good stuff here, if you can get over the inherent absurdity of the premise.


DO WE GET A HAPPY ENDING? [Spoilers!] Depends how much you like 'splosions.


GRADE: B



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Recuperation Review: The Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

So, my recuperation continues apace, aided and abetted by numerous film "classics."


Next up: Curse of the Werewolf (1961)


Directed by Terence Fisher, responsible for numerous other Hammer Films greats, including Horror of Dracula (1958), Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Mummy (1959), etc.


Biggest drawback: Peter Cushing, my favorite actor of all time, is not in this one.


Almost made up for by: the presence of the lovely and bodacious Yvonne Romain. Va-va-voom.


OVERVIEW: This one starts slowly but is kind of creepily engaging in a can't-take-my-eyes-off-it kind of way. There's a lot of background as to where the werewolf comes from, and it's interesting that it's nothing supernatural or occult... Though it is quite nasty and mean.


WHAT HAPPENS: Basically, this guy turns into a werewolf. He doesn't really get going till the second half, but once he does, look out. The body count is pretty significant. Then he gets chased by a mob with torches, and he takes to the rooftops, and everything goes to hell.


WHAT'S AMAZING IS: I sort of dozed off during this one too. But I woke up for the riveting climactic scenes of mayhem. And what the hell, I'm still recuperating.


WTF MOMENT: There actually weren't too many once the werewolf showed up. Early on though, when the nasty Marquis is making the poor beggar dude dance for his table scraps? Yeah, things were pretty weird for a while there...


HOW WE KNOW WE'RE IN SPAIN: Well, the big caption that says "SPAIN at the start of the movie was a tipoff. Also, everybody is Don this and Marquessa that. And I guess the big churches with the tile roofs fit. Apart from that, though, most everybody sounds pretty Brit--especially your colorful working-class types--so it can get a little disorienting.


WEIRDEST SYNCHORONICITY WITH THE PREVIOUS RECUPERATION REVIEW: Spanish (sort of) hottie Yvonne Romain can't talk in this movie, just like Awesome Future Girl Hottie couldn't talk in the last movie. Okay this is weird, and it's not like I'm trying to only watch movies where the women can't say anything. it just sort of worked out that way. I'm sort of dreading what will happen in the next Recuperation Review, which stars Christian Bale and Sean Bean. Will there be a deaf-mute hottie from the dystopian future? Stay tuned.


DOES OUR HERO ESCAPE THE HELLISH CANINE DAMNATION TO WHICH HE HAS BEEN ACCURSED? [Spoilers!] Nope.


Cue Music. Roll credits.


GRADE: B

Friday, January 24, 2014

Recuperation Review: Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)

So, the reason I haven't been doing much on this blog lately is that I’ve had some medical troubles, which are happily all resolved now. (Shhhh! Don’t tell my mom.) But, even as I’m on the road to recovery, I still find myself flat on my back much of the time, which raises the question of how to entertain myself.


The answer, of course, is through a series of cheesy horror and sci-fi movies from the ’50s, ’60s and ’90s.


First up: Beyond the Time Barrier (1960)


Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, who also made The Black Cat (which some people quite like) and The Amazing Transparent Man (which I quite like), among other things.


OVERVIEW: Okay, this was sort of dull. How dull? Well, I fell asleep watching it the first time through. However, that was probably due to my mysterious “condition” (see above) as much as anything else. (Shhhh! Don’t tell my mom.)  The second time through, I stayed awake right until the end, so how bad could it be?


WHAT HAPPENS: An air Force test pilot (played by Robert Clarke, who also starred in The Hideous Sun Demon and The Man From Planet X) flies his jet plane really really fast, really really high up in the atmosphere. As a result, he gets projected 64 years into the future.


WTF MOMENT: See “What Happens,” above.


HOW WE KNOW WE’RE IN THE FUTURE: People live underground mostly. There are two classes of people: the normal-looking ones who take our hero captive – until he makes friends with Awesome Future Girl Hottie – and the evil subterranean mutants who live, well, subterraneanly. Also, the dominant architectural feature is the triangle. Which is sort of cool actually. Triangular doors, windows, columns. Even the clothes are kind of triangle-influenced.


YES, BUT ARE THERE MONSTERS? Sort of. Those subterranean “mutants” are essentially normal-looking people with skinhead wigs and crummy attitudes. They’re the victims of the plague that hit the earth in the distant future of 1970. Everybody has it, by the way – the mutants just have it worse than everyone else.


DOES THE AWESOME FUTURE GIRL HOTTIE TALK? No.


WAIT, REALLY? Really. Our Air Force buddy makes friends with the one still-fertile fox in the future – she’s telepathic so can read his mind and knows what he wants, but can’t talk about it. She’s the greatest gal ever! I’ll leave all you feminist-theory PhD students to write up your dissertations.


DOES OUR HERO ESCAPE THIS HELLISH FUTURE THAT HE NEVER MADE? Well, yes and no. [Spoilers!] He gets to his plane but pretty much everybody dies helping him do it, including Silent Sally, which is too bad. Then he flies back at the same super-speed and winds up back in 1960, charged with changing mankind’s reckless behavior (you know, the ones that brought on the cosmic plague in the first place). He might not get much of an audience, but then again he might… especially since he aged 64 years during his return trip!!!


Don’t think about it too much, it makes no sense whatever.


Cue music. Roll credits.



GRADE: C

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Best of 2013

Here's my not-very-scientific acknowledgment of some stuff I enjoyed a lot (or didn't) in 2013. Definitive? Hell no.

Best book I read this year (fiction): Probably was Susan Steinberg's Spectacle, an odd assortment of short stories that are quite unconventional, in a good way (I think). I reviewed it for PopMatters so here you go. Sometimes I think the stories are mighty thin, sometimes I think they're brilliant. Probably a bit of both.

Most thought-provoking foreign films on DVD: It's a tie this year, with Germany's neo-Nazi drama Combat Girls going neck-and-neck with the film adaptation of Yasmina Khadra's terrific novel The Attack. There were some pretty major changes made to that book in its translation to film, but it's still a fairly riveting experience to watch. Meanwhile, Combat Girls is a very tough, very powerful movie that deserves a large audience IMO.



Album most likely to rekindle your faith in human nature: Brushy One-String's Destiny is filled with powerful performances from this husky-voiced Jamaican singer. Sure, his guitar's only got one string, but this ain't no gimmick. Brushy's the real deal, kids.



Most effective Afro-Western collaboration: Last year we had The Toure-Raichel Collective's Tel Aviv Sessions; this year we have the JuJu album In Trance. Smoking-hot guitar work plays off of tradition djembe (African violin) with a rock-solid percussion section keeping everything lively. If this doesn't make you jump up and down, there's not much I can do for you.



Best film documentary: I have to go with 20 Feet From Stardom, the movie about backup singers (mostly black women) who make the music superstars they work for (mostly white men) sound so much better. With performances by Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Judith Hill and Tata Vega, among others, there's just too much awesomeness, not to mention joy, to resist here. BUT, a big shout-out also goes to the scathing documentary Blackfish, which pretty much blows the lid off of Sea World's systemic exploitation and abuse of not only orcas but also the human trainers who work with them. Both these movies are well worth catching on DVD if you haven't seen them already.

Guiltiest pleasure, DVD division: DaVinci's Demons, a Starz TV show that just takes the loony and runs with it. Leonardo as a sort of Renaissance-Man secret agent fighting against the Pope and vampires? Sure, why not? Runner-up: Spartacus: War of the Damned.



Most effective use of guitar distortion: Bardo Pond's Peace on Venus is pretty much what I want my imaginary band, The Non-Dairy Creamers, to sound like. Imagine Crazy Horse after a couple bottles of cough syrup.



Lamest post-apocalyptic movie of the summer: After Earth. I had high hopes going into this one, but it was just... lame. I don't mean to pick on Will Smith's kid, who starred in it, but he is a sorta charisma vacuum. Also, the monsters sucked.

Best TV show: Game of Thrones, OF COURSE.

(WARNING: Season 3 spoilers below, sort of)

Friday, December 13, 2013

No, I haven't been abducted by aliens.

I've been absent from this blog for something like a month and a half, due to a perfect storm of external circumstances, including hectic-ness at work, the teaching semester coming to a close, the holidays, my forty-tenth birthday (gulp), and various other factors too mundane to mention here. Happily, much of the craziness is now in my rearview mirror, meaning that I will perhaps have a bit more time to tend to this rather desolate-of-late blog address.

On the upside, here's a bit of vacuous-but-fun tuneage to take your mind off the wintry snowscape outside your window:


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thinner Than Skin nominated for DSC Prize

Hey, this is a fairly huge deal.

The lovely an talented Uzma Aslam Khan has had her latest novel, Thinner Than Skin, nominated for the India-based DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The Prize is affiliated in some way with Germany's Geothe-Institut (I'm not sure exactly how) and it awards a hefty sum to the winner. Just as importantly, though, it's nice to see Uzee's fine fine book getting more of the attention it deserves.


It's also nice to see it up there with books by big shots like Nilinjana Roy, Nadeem Aslam and Mohsin Hamid. It's a great book. I recommend it.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I know it's a cliche

...but what the hell, it's a true cliché. To wit: fall sure is beautiful in New England. I took these pictures while walking a few days ago.




I'm glad I'm from here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Clearly this was rigged

So, a few days ago I went to the Greenfield Blues and BBQ Festival, an annual event up in Greenfield, Mass that hosts numerous good bands, plenty of tasty food (or so I suppose, being a non-meat-eater and therefore sort of out of it when it comes to BBQ) and--who knew?--a mustache contest. That's right, a mustache contest. I had no idea, but when they made the announcement, I felt the need to step up. Many are called, but few are et cetera. So I made my way to the clearing in front of the stage and there I met me competition. To wit:


So, I figured I had a shot. There were three categories: Best In Show, Best Curl and Most Disturbing. I figured the guy holding the puppy would get Best In Show, and so he did. Seriously, a puppy? Why not just hold up a big sign that says "I'm a starving orphan with no legs, please be nice to me"? But a puppy is what he had, and he won, so there's nothing more to be said.


The guy in the blue shirt to my right (your left) won for Best Curl, and that was fine, as my mustache doesn't Curl so much as Droop. But I definitely thought I was in with a sniff as far as most Disturbing went, so imagine my bitterness when that prize went to the twerp two guys to my right (your left) in the blue T-shirt and goatee. Despite the fact that the rules clearly state "no beards" (yes, there were rules, and yes, they said this), this guy shows up with a beard-mustache combo which is hardly disturbing at all and walks away with the rather snazzy gift package. Which included: a T-shirt, pint glass, hat and metal bucket (not sure what the bucket is for, but whatever). So you can understand why I'm bitter.

Fortunately, this mustache of mine isn't going anywhere. And there's always next year.

Friday, September 27, 2013

My "Would You Rather" interview over at TNBBC

The ever-lively Lori over at The Next Best Book Club blog has been running a series of author interviews called "Would You Rather," which feature questions like:  "Would you rather write an entire book with your feet or with your tongue?" and "Would you rather be forced to listen to Ayn Rand bloviate for an hour or be hit on by an angry Dylan Thomas?"

As you can see, Lori isn't interested in asking the same old questions, which is all good. I did my best to answer them honestly but entertainingly, which wasn't always easy.

Next up: Lori asks us writers to donate a recipe for the coming fall/winter. I ought to be able to come up with something... stay tuned.