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M. Duncan "duncanmatty" (UK)

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The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics
The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics
by Klaus Janson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.54

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor guide, 1 Sept. 2011
Whilst I wouldn't go as far as the other reviewer here who has given this book 1 star, I would say that I am disappointed in Klaus Janson's guide to comic book inking. For a start, although Mr Janson is an accomplished inker, his style is now somewhat old fashioned, and even for his time, he was somewhat unorthodox. This means that he doesn't have the house style of a Buscema or Neal Adams that would provide the best model for a beginner (I'm also amazed that DC have chosen him for their pencilling guide as well. Janson has virtually no reputation as a penciller). Also, this isn't a very good instruction book. It gives advice on the tips of the trade, and some of the `don'ts' to avoid when inking a page. But it doesn't give very detailed advice on feathering techniques or working out shadow or actually thinking about how to ink a page. What would have been really useful would be exercises in how to do inking, but this book does not have any.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2016 8:32 PM GMT

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield
Edition: Paperback

120 of 131 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Resistance is Futile, 7 Aug. 2011
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The War of Art (nice title) is based on the premise that there is something called `resistance', which prevents artists or anyone doing anything to better themselves from getting on with the task. Resistance manifests itself in lots of different ways, but ultimately in work not getting done. Split into three parts, each comprised of several pages which are often nothing more than a pithy paragraph, The War of Art isn't heavy reading. The first part of the book identifies the problem; the second part of the book identifies the qualities of the professional who does not succumb to the problem. These parts are witty, concise, and quite inspirational. In common with some other reviewers here, I was expecting far more practical advice about how to overcome `resistance'. What War of Art effectively boils down to is an impassioned call to arms from a hotheaded military leader against a ruthless and bloodthirsty enemy. That's well and good, "but what about the tactics?" says the poor grunt about to charge the enemy guns. "Well, there aren't any. Good luck, give `em hell..."

If parts one and two are good as far as they go, the third part of the book jumps off a very high pier. It's largely concerned with the author's loopy religious and philosophical ideas, which, if you didn't know better, would place him somewhere around the early 20th Century, before Freud's ideas found common currency, before World War I made people rethink the idea of progress. Back then, the best explanation for irrational drives in our lives was probably something like bad demons and good angels, which is what the author of The War of Art has settled on as the most likely explanation. To be fair to Pressfield, he does say you can call it what you like; I called it `wishful thinking'. Of course the author is entitled to his beliefs, but since the book begins with a no-nonsense call to arms against irrational beliefs about the artist, you might, like me, look back from page 166 and find yourself a long way from home.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2016 12:16 PM BST

The Ginger Man
The Ginger Man
by J. P. Donleavy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hardly a masterpiece, 10 May 2011
This review is from: The Ginger Man (Paperback)
The protagonist in The Ginger Man is Sebastian Dangerfield, an American law student living in Dublin with his wife and young child. I say student, but Sebastian doesn't do any studying, as he prefers to drink all the time and seduce girls (whilst leaving his wife to look after the baby). In order to finance his drinking habit, he pawns anything he can get his hands on, whether it belongs to him or not. When his wife complains, he beats her or storms out of the house to go to the pub.

One gets the feeling that the hero is supposed to come off as a kind of lovable rogue, a hedonistic poet and rebel who refuses to submit to societal conventions. One can see why Dangerfield has been embraced by the beat generation and the likes of Hunter S Thompson. But wife-beating and alcoholism aren't as funny these days as they used to be. What might have appeared daring and free-spirited in the 1950s seems drearily commonplace now and it doesn't take long for the reader to find Sebastian's antics as tedious as his wife and his landlord understandably do. Overall, in fact, Dangerfield comes across as rather self-pitying and smug, especially when it emerges that he's banking on an inheritance from his rich dad to get him out of penury.

The reason why all this matters is because The Ginger Man relies almost solely on Dangerfield's hilarious charm to seduce the reader. You'll probably either go mad for this book, or dislike it a lot, depending on what you think of the main character. I'm in the latter camp. I found it an easy enough read, but apart from hating the protagonist, I didn't find any of the comic set pieces that funny and found the writing sub-Joycean at best (the novel is full of references to Joyce, and Ulysses, if you're a literary train-spotter). Every character but Sebastian is very lightly sketched in, and women get short shrift.

For something similar but much better, in my opinion, I'd recommend The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary, which is a minor masterpiece.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2013 9:51 AM BST

A Quiet Life
A Quiet Life
by Beryl Bainbridge
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well written and bleak, 30 Aug. 2010
This review is from: A Quiet Life (Paperback)
This is the first Beryl Bainbridge novel I have read. It was only because she recently died that I thought I would give it a go. The story is about a dysfunctional lower middle class family in the 1950s, told from the point of view of one of the children, who is caused to recollect his childhood by meeting his sister some years later. The prose is very spare, yet poetic and full of telling details. The book is short, at only 150-odd pages, but you don't get the feeling that it needed to be any longer, and it's the author's ability to compress emotions and let a few words paint a detailed picture that achieve this. The characters are all highly believable, from the manic, desperate father, to the depressed, desperate mother, but it is the two children that are most skilfully depicted. The narrative really focusses on the pain of living with unhappy parents, and the different strategies that the siblings have resorted to to try to survive. Molly, the independent-minded, yet troubled girl, is absent all the time. She can't stand to be around her parents, and you can't really blame her. To her mother, who plainly sees her as her younger self, she can do no wrong. For the repressed, anxious boy, who I think is called Richard (I forget), Molly is unforgivably absent, and her attempts to assert her individuality only add fuel to the fire of his parents' madness. It's a poignant question for children: to be or not to be. Is it better to try to play along with impossible, demanding parents, or do you have a duty to act as an individual? The two siblings play out these strategies, but the reader is left to form his own conclusion, which might be that it isn't really fair to force children to make these choices at all. In any case, I will be seeking out more work by this talented and perceptive author, and I recommend that other readers give it a try.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2011 6:47 PM BST

The Armando Iannucci Shows [DVD]
The Armando Iannucci Shows [DVD]
Dvd ~ Armando Iannucci
Price: £7.91

4.0 out of 5 stars Really good show, 11 Aug. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A friend recommended this to me, as I had never heard of it. Apparently it was broadcast first in a graveyard slot amidst the 9-11 coverage, and so, appropriately, got buried. That's a shame, because this series is really good. It's mainly a series of thoughtful sketches about modern life and society. It reminded me a bit of Roy Andersson movies like Songs from The Seventh Floor in their surrealistic and cynical take on life. Don't expect to laugh out loud that much, but do expect to enjoy the thought provoking sketches and the clever ideas that are thrown up one after another.

In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists
In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists
by M. Todd Hignite
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars really interesting, 11 Aug. 2010
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This book is really good if you can get your hands on it. It's basically a series of interviews with contemporary cartoonists packed with pictures of their work, and also, more interestingly, their influences - the comics and illustrators they valued before they became famous. The only downside to this book, and it's a common failing with modern cartooning books, is the accompanying text by the author. It's pretentious, larded with unnecessary technical jargon about juxtaposing postmodernistic tropes and exploring syntactic relationships between form and... well, I'm sure you get the idea. It's revealing,actually, when you compare that stuff with the interviews with, say, Robert Crumb, who is able to talk about his work and the work of those he loves in an intelligent and approachable way.

Backgammon set 00467
Backgammon set 00467
Offered by Witzigs Ltd.
Price: £19.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for the price, 21 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Backgammon set 00467 (Toy)
I was pleased with this board:

The counters are nice and heavy
There are two sets of dice and shakers
The size is perfect for a non travel set that you can store away
It's cheap

the colours of the counters and dice (brown) are pretty horrible
and I don't like the fabric which makes up the playing surface. It's just a bit cheap, a kind of stretchy material and I would have preferred felt.
The modelling of the board itself feels cheap under the fabric: I suspect cardboard or cheap plastic.

Conclusion: If this is your only set, you might want to go to a specialist shop and choose a set that you really like, spending a bit more money. If you just want a cheap set for the home or office (like me) then this is fine.

The Looking Glass War
The Looking Glass War
by John Le Carré
Edition: Paperback

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting cold war relic, 11 Mar. 2010
This review is from: The Looking Glass War (Paperback)
There's a good deal written these days about how Le Carre isn't as good as he used to be, and this is usually put down to the fact that the cold war is over, so he hasn't anything to write about anymore. I partly agree with this opinion, since I think that the late cold war thrillers featuring Smiley as the protagonist are the best things he has done. However, revisiting Looking Glass War is a bit disillusioning for the Le Carre fan, as it doesn't stand up quite as well. There are good things about it. The analysis of the class system dominating the UK at that time makes you realise what a different place England was less than fifty years ago. Characters are usually extremely well drawn, and Le Carre builds up mood effectively, creating a tragic atmosphere of inevitability. Also, more than any other writer, Le Carre makes you realise what a shabby (to use a dated word) business spying really is. Overall, however, Looking Glass War falls short of being satisfying. For a start, and like the superior Spy Who Came in From the Cold, it is a very slight read. 90 per cent of it is build-up to a predictable and largely unsatisfying climax. The characters are nicely sketched, but the author can't settle on one protagonist, which, in a book this short, is fatal. First of all, it's Avery, the idealistic young newcomer in the spy department, who we are supposed to sympathise with, but he's so spineless and bland, that he's difficult to root for. He has a wife whom he ignores, but then the author does too, so we don't care much for her either. He has some sort of thing going with a secretary in the office, but we can't work out what exactly, because it's kept very tasteful and enigmatic. In the last third of the book, Le Carre, like the reader, gets bored with Avery and it's Leiser, the spy they've been training, who rightfully gets the centre stage. Up until then, everyone else has looked down on Leiser, because he is foreign, and not a gentleman, and we never know what he is thinking. Suddenly we are thrust into the cockpit of his mind and expected to sympathise with him. It's a lot to ask in the last two chapters. Basic book mechanics aside, the writing is generally pretty good, but at this stage in his career, Le Carre was obviously angling to be the next Graham Greene. The worst manifestations of this ambition come when hardened spying professionals start sounding like Auden poems in the middle of office meetings, talking about `love' and so forth: embarrassing to read, really. All that said, George Smiley is still Le Carre's most reliable party turn. Every time he walks into a scene, the book gets really interesting. Sadly, all told, there are only about five pages of Smiley in the whole of this novel, which isn't really enough to save it.

Rainwater LP
Rainwater LP
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £10.40

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More of the same (is that a bad thing?), 12 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Rainwater LP (Audio CD)
If you've got the Clarence Greenwood Recordings or Every Waking Moment, then expect very much the same thing here. In fact, Citizen Cope albums are so similar, and so eclectic, that it's almost as if he recorded all his tracks in, say, 2004, and has just released different mix tapes from that source every three or four years. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, Citizen Cope is a massively talented singer songwriter who likes doing things his own way, which is why he isn't more famous. His music is a mixture of accoustic songwriting, hip hop, reggae and all kinds of other influences, with elusive poetic lyrics and strong anti war and political messages. The best tracks to start with are probably 'Sideways' (which appeared on the film Ghost World) and 107 degrees from his last album. If you like those, then you'll probably like his stuff. All the tracks here could easily find their place on the earlier albums: Lifeline has a similar arrangement to Sideways, and Couldn't Explain Why is a bit like Somehow or Awe from Every Waking Moment. There are a couple of surprises too, like the reggae rhythms on Off the Ground, but he did that too on All Dressed Up, also on his last album. The quality of the tracks here is pretty good: probably on average better than the last two albums, but there is nothing that stands out like Sideways, Bullet and a Target from the earlier and 107 degrees or Brother Lee from the later one. Citizen Cope has abandoned big labels so that he can control his output. You have to respect that, but you also have to wonder: could his songwriting benefit from a slightly different producer pushing him in new directions? Could the pressures of hit-creating from a big label help him put together an album that gels more as an album instead of a few standout tracks. Citizen Cope is, for me, one of the best songwriters working today, up there with Rufus Wainwright and David Gray. This album is further evidence of his talent and attitude. I'd just really like him to break out his current trend and do something different.

How to be Free
How to be Free
by Tom Hodgkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

58 of 69 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a waste of money, 12 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: How to be Free (Paperback)
I was recommended this book by some friends, who apparently found it life changing. I was therefore disappointed to find out that it wasn't very good. The premise of the book is that we are all wasting our time by working too much and ignoring the finer things in life. So far so obvious. It falls down on offering anything like a set of plausible solutions to the problem. We are told to play the ukelele - which is fine, but isn't going to improve your life one iota. I know that, because I play the ukelele already. You are told to be like the actor Keith Allen, who does whatever he likes, all the time, and damn the consequences. Hm, I'm not sure that would be a very good idea. I mean, if everyone did it. If everyone was like Keith Allen, you wouldn't have people who weren't like Keith Allen. I think that there is probably a tipping point in societies where the number of Keith Allens running around doing what they please starts to work to the detriment of people's quality of life. Look at Somalia. The author doesn't talk about quotas of Keith Allens in this book, he just thinks everyone should be like Keith Allen. You are also told on no account, ever, to go to the gym. Now, I know that people who avoid exercise think that going to the gym is a narcissistic exercise in trying to change your body to be like that of projected media images, but this point of view is about as sound as saying that reading books is getting 'above yourself'. In other words, it's just not true. What people who hate exercise say about exercise has as much validity as what people who can't read say about books. Lots of people go to the gym because they like keeping fit, and enjoy the way it makes them feel afterwards. It also helps you stay active longer, thus improving quality of life, just what this book is supposed to be about. I bet Keith Allen goes to the gym. All actors do. Other bits of advice from the liberated author include never, ever, riding the tube, and moving out of the city in general. Okay, the tube is pretty horrible. But try catching a bus from the east end to Notting Hill, and you'll quickly understand why the tube was built in the first place: to make life easier for people. Just don't ride it every day. As for the city, the author has moved out of London and rents out a house there, whilst he lives in the home counties, creaming off rent which allows him to live in the style to which he's become accustomed. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, but if you choose to invest your money in property so that you can take advantage of the high rent in London so that you can live comfortably somewhere else, you're cheating a bit. How to be Free...the more you read this book, the faster you go, because you start missing out huge chunks in which the author repeats himself and isn't really saying anything useful. I went through the last 100 pages in 20 minutes, it was like reading the Da Vinci Code again. In summary: the central message of How to be Free is sound, but the ideas are about as half baked as they come. Don't waste your money.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2013 11:28 PM BST

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