March 26, 2005

Fiddling About

I've just finished - I think - fiddling with the CSS code for this blog. There was something strange happening with the way the columns lined up, and some paragraph indenting was bugging me. I surfed bravely away from my normal comfort sites of W3schools and glish's CSS templates. I'd love to play with the CSS Zen garden but I do have other things to do, so I ended up at Floatutorial. I still had to fiddle to get the blogger content to sit in the right place, but at last this blog no longer looks half-cocked. At least in Firefox.

I've also changed the further readings links to a feed. Sara at storytelling is looking for links to authors who blog, so I'm going to get around to putting more into the further reading list. Suggestions always welcome.

Finally, the atom feed is running.

I don't think it has been syndicated to LJ yet, but if someone does that, could they let me know the syn URL? Ta.
The LJ syn is up (thanks, Trina!).

Updated to add:
Thanks to a smart person at the CSS forum, the thing is now behaving under the most common browsers and OSs. The one failing one is if you have a screen resolution of 800 x 600 and are running IE6 on a Windows OS. I'll try to fix it, but in the meantime, if you are being caught by that, may I suggest the joys of Firefox?
Get Firefox!

March 25, 2005

Murder in Baker Street

Murder in Baker Street
edited by Greenberg, Lellenberg & Stashower

I've been having a bit of a Sherlockian craze over the last few months and, having reread the Canon, I've moved onto the non-Canon. (Some of this I can blame of Kelly Hale, whose non-Canon Holmes novel I read a couple of years ago and which is finally getting published.)

This is a collection of short stories featuring Holmes and Watson by modern crime writers. There's nothing very wrong, just the occassional jarring Americanism or a not-quite-right Watson voice, but they do seem to lack a certain something. It's not that I am wedded to the Canon - I thoroughly enjoyed the recent Rupert Everett non-Canon adventure on the BBC - but the devilish detail doesn't work in most of these. Some suffered from what we in the Doctor Who trade would call the HGWells effect: let's get our famous fictional character to meet a famous author/person of the time and the historical one will be inspired by him! Thus Holmes is brought into a case, involving mysterious marks on someone's neck and Mittel European servants getting all superstitious, by one Abraham Stoker.

The best was, I thought, A Hansom for Holmes which put aside Watson as a narrator in favour of a cabman who gets entangled in a case. This had the lively narration you want from Holmes, without trying to mimic ACD's style.

Ah well, it passed the time until the New Annotated... arrived.

March 07, 2005

Whatja readin' for?

Love All the People: Letters, Lyrics, Routines
Bill Hicks

I went to a Waffle House. I'm not proud of it, I was hungry. And I'm alone, I'm eating and I'm reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me: "Hey, whatja readin' for?"

Isn't that the weirdest fucking question you've ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading for? Well, godammit, ya stumped me! Why do I read? Well... hmmm... I dunno... I guess I read for a lot of reasons, and one of the main ones is so I don't end up being a fucking waffle waitress like you.

I know Bill Hicks's Dangerous and Relentless albums well. Really well. I can recite The Gulf War Distraction ("it's so pretty and it takes our minds offa domestic issues") more easily than a Monty Python sketch. It was the early 90s: Cobain had been blasting through our eardrums with his particular brand of nilhisism, Hicks and Leary were on constant play because all the British comedians had run out of anger after yet another Conservative election victory[*], and I was in tattoo parlours. That I know Hicks' material well cannot be a shock. I'm not really sure what I wanted from this book. New insight into someone whose career is one of the seminal influences on modern standup? Perhaps. To revel in his style? I can do that by putting the albums on.

This transcribes many of the recordings of material. After the fourth time you've read that Hicks, like UFOs, is appearing in small rural communities all over America I realised what this primarily does is a forensic autopsy of his comedy. You can see the slight changes he makes, the comments to hecklers, and the way, like all pro comedians, he hauls himself back onto his script and keeps on going. This is the body of his work lain out on a slab to be dissected.

It may be of interest to aspiring comedians, and it did still provoke the odd smirk from me, but it is step one on the road of deification. Cobain's diaries, every element of his life, is churned out for obsessive consumption by the eager fans. We've been saved from seeing either he or Hicks degenerate or sell out to the Man by their early deaths (one from suicide, the other from pancreatic cancer). So now their legacy is being packaged up and sold to us, their images becoming safe, unchanging icons. Just as I'd rather stick some Nirvana on the mp3player than read Cobain's diaries, I'd rather whack the Hicks tapes back into the machine and play them at 10 than read this book.

[*] this, I feel, is one reason for the return of British surrealism (Izzard, Hill etc) and music hall slapstick (Reeves & Mortimore). A decade of angry young comics hadn't changed a damn thing and we wanted something new.