Friday, February 24, 2006

A Dozen Red Danishes

Next time I order a Danish, I'm not going to order a Danish—not, that is, if I'm in Iran. Which reminds me, isn't a Danish a strange thing to have in a not-very-cold country like Iran? Heavy pastries, hot climate, yes! The Arabs may defeat our ideology, culture, technology, even, but as long as they insist on devouring fat-saturated sweetmeats with icing and jelly filling, listen, we've got them lock, stock and barrel of oil. No wonder Tim Horton's is now majority-owned by American money. Les Yanks have obviously discovered the real and ultimate weapon to be not WMDs or fear itself, but pastries. Godsake, I'm more off-track than a burnt-out stereo, let's see—Danishes! Because the Muslims are now aping the Americans, and instead of calling the newly-offensively named Danishes "Danishes", they're calling them "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad". Well, inshallah, of course, but that's a bigger mouthful than most pastry will give you, I think. Anyway, I'm loving it. Kudoes all round! Non-violence! Democracy! Pastries! And to celebrate, I think I shall get my gf a dozen roses in the very near future.

Books and music in this space over the week-end, check back if you want to see—you know the drill.

The Mysterious Mr Quin + Agatha Christie I read this book about once a year as if it was my duty to do so when, actually, it's not. I just enjoy the book. This is the kind of book that should be turned into a graphic novel. As a collection of short stories, it reads like something from the English outskirts of an Edwardian Gotham, which, if you know me, is exactly the kind of shallow eye-catching silverware I like to slip up my sleeve and walk out of the store with. And you should, too. Not walk out of a store with silverware, that is, unless you happen to be under eighteen and attractive enough that the security guard will let you go after five minutes in the safe room. But you should read this book. Why? Because it's the kind of thing Neil Gaiman has been trying to do in novels, unsuccessfully, since day one, is why. Because it's the kind of thing Alan Moore would do in a heartbeat (after giving the mysterious Harley Quin a suitable torturous background, of course). And speaking of Alan Moore, this collection of short stories really reminds me of V For Vendetta: the main character, always surrounded by mayhem or murder, redistributes responsiblity by apparently bringing a form of chaos wherever he appears. Which is a lot more difficult than it sounds, not at all, for instance, like bringing a cat with you, or a model airplane or an indie rapper. Chaos is very much harder to cart around than those things, which is probably why Christie never bothers explaining exactly how Quin manages to be omnipotent. And not the good kind of omnipotent, either, like Santa Claus or the North Wind, but omnipotent like Mephistopheles or the average household cat, very sinister omnipotence indeed. Harley Quin appears out of nowwhere on a snowy New Year's Eve and saves the Portal's marriage by solving a ten-year old murder hanging over the house. He is Vengeance, he is Nemesis, he is Love. Batman has nothing on this character, he is more like the Shadow than anyone else out there. He is present in twelve stories, no less, and, I believe, no more. Christie's writing style is a superb fit for these stories, a light skimming touch deepening quickly into fierce stage-drama. Deep characters, awful motives, would ruin these vignettes. Better the technicolour English hall, sunlight through stained glass, strange shadows in the cypress trees, than any poorly-ascribed fount of human hearts and ageless wisdom. These are stories, after, all, not Russian heartburners. Agatha Christie is a wonderful storyteller, I wish she had written another twelvemonths supply of this character.

"Pirates" + Spitfires & Mayflowers Pirates are going to be big again, now that it looks like the Black Pearl will be sailing this summer. Say hello to another Halloween papered with eye-patches and misused handkerchiefs. But crass populism will never drag down a song like this one. This song is the kind of thing that would be good to hear at almsot any hour of the day, but let me outline what makes it so good. One: hi-hat. Because, like handclaps, there is never enough hi-hat in the world. Two: the drumming that fires up around 3:02 is a good thick wonder, especially when it reinvents itself around 3:31 over the lead-singer's introductions. Three: that nano-second of time after the band asks, "Where did you go?" and the beer freezes in the glasses, that girl's mouth stays half-open, the four drunk guys forcing themselves up the room are turned into statues, that half a nano-second of "What next?"—THAT is what makes this little indie-party song more than just the sum of its parts. Because its parts, while perhaps a little awkwardly put together, are determined to work together.

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