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msknight

Michelle's corner

Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)

SPOILER ALERT!

Review - The Ghost In The Shell

 

OK, so where do I start with this. Perhaps Masamune's most well known and influential work, translated into English and published from left to right this time.

 

Well, it took a bit of getting used to, for slightly different reasons this time.

 

Early on in the book came this stunner...

 

Seriously... I didn't know that cyborgs had periods. Those that choose, in the future, to abandon their physical body and hope to leave all its quirks behind, will be very upset to learn this.

 

A few other attitudes also didn't help...

As it happened, the body that Major Kusanagi chose was a standard model that was augmented, rather than being a completely custom cyborg... but this still rankles.

 

And when in the heck did a cyborg get drunk?

 

Masamune has a strong sense of humour, however...

...which is mixed in with a very strong sense of society, ethics and where we are going... potentially globally... and he's not scared to challenge these things...

The drawing of the characters, particularly Kusanagi, change quite considerably depending on the situation. The western style would, I strongly expect, to keep the same identifying characteristics and rely very much on the expression of the faithfully drawn character, to convey emotion. With Masamune's work, he changes the drawn appearance of the character considerably, according to the situation and the emotion...

I mean, would you even guess that this is supposed to be Togusa in hospital?!?!

 

Conclusion - This is a reverenced work, and in many aspects, rightfully so. It has managed to bring forward a credible vision of the cyberised human brain and the various ethical considerations therein; namely things like cyborg bodies needing maintenance, lacking the abilities of taste, touch, etc. and the potential problems of obsolete hardware meaning death through the inability to obtain parts... also through poverty and being unable to afford spares.

 

The artwork style and some of the comments do feel out of touch with a world which is progressing beyond sexist attitudes quite quickly... and it feels at odds that so much power and progress is given to a female lead character, while in other places she is referenced as, "government property." Which, actually, is part of the problem that all of the cyber operatives of Section 9 are facing... their service for the price of their spare parts. Although it does seem that service in Section 9 leads to a vastly increased requirement for spares and tuning... but that's another argument.

 

The anime does a far better job, in my personal opinion, than the manga here. There is one case where the manga does score, and that is where the anime ends up going into a monologue to bridge some of the ethical gaps; while the manga has the ability to stretch such discussions across panels.

 

I'm happy that I have this in my collection, but if you want to engage with the world of Ghost In The Shell, then tracking down the Blu-Rays now, would be the better option, in my personal opinion... they've shaved off many of the manga's rougher edges.

The latest delivery...

So, more Page45 comic books arrive. We have the latest comic in the second Firefly series (I haven't read any of them yet) and another Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex book.... I know, I said I wasn't going to buy any more of these, but I forgot that I pre-ordered this already. Finally, "The Lady Doctor," is comic book of the month at Page45. Don't worry, I am currently working my way through last months book of the month, after realising last month, that not only had I not read the book of the month for the month previous to that, but there was a book of the month for the month prior to the month that I had forgotten about... so that was a lot of months to catch up on... which I then proceeded to do, in one month-ish. There is the second book in the legacy Firefly series which is released this week, and will arrive next month. Arrgghhh... this is getting confusing.

 

The Book I'm Not Going To Read

We British are a curious bunch. We have comedies recorded in our recent history which will never be re-broadcast because our society has changed so much that it is now ashamed of what was impressive and lauded talent of the time.

 

One of those comedies is, "It Ain't Half Hot Mum." It came to the fore in my memory because one of its stars, Windsor Davies, recently passed away. He made a recording with his long time comedy partner Don Estelle, who had died more than a decade earlier. I happened to be searching for Bernard Cribbins on Discogs and ended up searching for anything that the duo had recorded. (I sometimes get side tracked in odd and unexpected ways.) I knew they had a hit with, "Whispering Grass," but I turned up only the one album which had never been released on CD... and somehow I ended up hunting down Estelle's autobiography... which is difficult to find.

 

I finally tracked a copy, but one of the reviewers wrote thus...

Estelle died in 2003, having fallen off the British public's radar to such an extent that he was singing and flogging records in shopping centres. It was in his final years that he put the finishing touches to his autobiography: Sing Lofty - Thoughts of a Gemini, widely regarded as the worst (and rarest) of the genre. Encouraged by TV, radio and all-the-excellent-things-in-life's Danny Baker to climb over the dead bodies of your nearest and dearest to get hold of a copy of this bitter literary marvel, I coughed up a 50p reservation fee to have it fished out of Hampshire County Libraries storage facility, and I was not disappointed. It is - to use the language of the professional book reviewer - shit.

I should point out that Estelle comes across as a decent chap who loved making music, enjoyed the friendship of people, and lived to work. This review is not meant to be an attack on the man himself, it's just that his book is - by some distance - the worst I have ever read. And that includes the Dan Brown paperback I once threw out of a train window. So bad, that I took seven pages of notes, and I NEVER research or take notes for any of the crap I write.

Faced with a price of fifteen of our currently-not-so-great British spondulicks to get hold of a hard copy, I read through the review and decided to let the man rest.

 

Instead, I settled back to watch the first episode of, "It Ain't Half Hot Mum," which I have on DVD, as the whole production was made available by the BBC some years ago. However, due to the stereotypical depictions of Indians and Michael Bates blacking up, they won't re-broadcast. From a logical perspective, it's a bit bonkers really, as Bates was the only actually "genuine" Indian in the entire cast, having been born in Jhansi and later commissioned in the Indian Army; serving in the Burma Campaign with the Brigade of Gurkhas. His knowledge of the people enabled him to put in a performance that various Indian people were reported as loving the show. But that's how screwed up we are in this country; killing things because of the perceived offence of other people, rather than any actual offence. But that's another story.

 

No... I'll leave Estelle's autobiography to rest in peace, and settle back to enjoy some of his best ever performances, along with the rest of the cast in, "It Ain't Half Hot Mum."

SPOILER ALERT!

Review - Kingdom -Jon McNaught

I could award this book more stars, or I could award it less. It totally depends on where I come from in looking at this book.

 

McNaught has used a particularly plain art style and limited colour pallet, but very cleverly and effectively in order to tell his story. The larger book size enables him to carry smaller panels which alter the perception of time and slow down the reader, whilst also panning the scene as a lens might, and offering a changing dimension to the action which I don't see often. At least, that's how I perceived it.

His story is of a single parent and her two children, going to somewhere that she loved as a child. However, modern times are very different and what children love now, is different to a few decades ago.

 

He has used speech bubbles as carriers of sound, which gave me trouble in, "Testation," that I read last. At least in this book, the sounds do resonate with my memory, and encourage me to linger on each panel, envisaging the sounds as well as processing the art.

The car journey itself takes a bit of a strain on the relationship of those involved, and the weather isn't all that great. McNaught doesn't pull any punches on his view of present day society and the modern child's experiences, wants and needs after not that many years of change in society.

 

He lets the reader glimpse some of the things which could make life just a little bit better; things like socialising against being on your own playing computer games.

 

The thing which let the book down for me, was that there wasn't really an overarching journey of change. No one came out a changed person, but rather I was left looking at the poor state of humanity and our modern society.

 

It's almost as if McNaught was holding up a mirror to me and saying, "This is your life. Are you going to do anything about it?" but I took that as a bit of an insult. I already know what life is like, and there are limited things within my power to do... and I'm already doing them. And nothing much is changing.

 

So, the artist is skilled, sure. But the take-away from this story isn't one which empowers. It doesn't engage. It sort of flat-lines in telling things how they are.

Review - Ghost In The Shell - Stand Alone Complex 002 - Testation

Yes, I know, it's a mouth full. Testation is episode 2 in the, "Stand Alone Complex," series of the Ghost In The Shell franchise/stories/series/whatever.

 

 

The book itself is in English, but it is still laid out in Japanese style, which means almost completely back to front, except it does read from top to bottom. Why it was done this way, I haven't got a clue. It took quite a few pages to get used to it, but fortunately I already knew the story as I have all the animé on Blu-Ray. The question was, how different would it be in book form?

 

The Japanese presentation is different to how I read Western artwork. A lot of action is actually written, instead of using much in the way of motion lines. I expect motion and dialogue to be separate, expect for some sound effects, but this was new to me. There were some panels with a few of these in the one and I had to sort of pick it apart.

 

The action, and some of the action wording, didn't sit right. I also couldn't envisage the actual happenings, if you know what I mean. In this section, one Tachicoma is supposed to be hurrying around from the rear of the tank it's following, to the front, in order to attack it. I had problems with translating the wording, "pop," into anything, although, "Ratatatatatat," and," Skree," did work... but there were worse sections than this.

 

The artist does manage to convey emotion well, like this scene when a village is evacuated. I connected with the close up of the child among the adults legs, and the stream of people unhappy, but compliant, about having to evacuate.

 

For this kind of story and action, the animé definitely wins out over the manga. It's a good story, well presented, drawn well and a few twists and turns along the way. Its presentation of action scenes, however, which are a good chunk of this book, didn't communicate themselves to me very easily.

 

I won't be getting any more books like these, but I have others of the Ghost In The Shell series which are left to right, so maybe the action scenes will be tuned to my expectations... perhaps. It's worth giving one of these a try.

Not much done

I know, I know. I should have posted more, but life has been tiring. I've picked up an infection from somewhere. It didn't hit me like an oncoming train, like many of them do, but I've been drained and, "bone tired," if you know what I mean.

 

I have made progress, however. I'm nearly finished with one of the Ghost In The Shell, "Stand Alone Complex," books. I don't think I'll be getting any more, but the reasons why will come out when I've finished it.

 

The follower cull took a while, but it appears that I'm settled down at 160. There have been some accounts with nothing on them at all, but as they havne't posted any spam, I've let them be, as they could be people using them to just keep tabs on people. Anyway, that's my thinking for the moment.

 

So, I'm going to relax and try to unwind again. Hard day at work, need another cuppa, and maybe I'll finish that GITS book tonight.

Forgot about this

I decided to sort out the books I'd read, and then I came across this, which was the Page45 comic book of the month for November 2018. I've had it all this time and haven't even looked at it!

 

So... that's next on the TBR pile.

 

I know... Neal Asher's, "Zero Point," is in my reading list, but I've yet to find the moment to give it a second chance. It was just too busy when I first tried to read it.

 

Let's see how time goes, I guess.

Review - Grafity's Wall - Four stars

 

This was Page 45's comic book of the month for December 2018. About 125 pages. ISBN 978-1-78352-685-7

 

Four young people in Mumbai. They have dreams of art, writing, acting and music.

 

Their dreams are being constantly depressed by their circumstances, family, life, the usual struggles that I think most people will recognise and empathise with, no matter what part of the world they're in.

 

The majority of the book defines each of the four, their passions, their personalities and the weight on their shoulders; together with the ways that they struggle to continue on, chasing their dreams.

 

Finally, something happens which completely changes the game and all bets are off. The record player is kicked and the needle flies straight out of the groove, and things really change during those last few pages. Then the perspective alters and the reader is left knowing that it isn't the end that matters... it's the journey. That then makes it a second read, knowing where the real flavour of the work is.

 

Created through supporters backing it at unbound.com this book was a positive choice by Page45 I feel. Yes, the comic books can be quicker to read and more expensive than text books, but it's a different journey; there's an extra dimension to the characters and events which... for some people, this is a negative as it ties their own imagination down and forces them to the creators vision... but considering the art as art in its own right is an extra dimension to the story itself, and can be enjoyed for in its own right. This is something which I'm slowly starting to appreciate.

 

I'll return to this story and artwork. I enjoyed it.

 

January Comic book Of The Month

So these arrived today...

 

 

The Firefly comic is the next in the current series. The Ghost In The Shell books are because I'm pondering the ethics of the works that Masamune has created. Stand Alone Complex, however, is a bit bonkers; despite being in English, it is still read in Japanese fashion, from back to front. I'd better not try enjoying this with a glass of wine.. it'll do my head in.

 

Comic book of the month, however, is, "Emma G Wildford," by, "Zidrou & Edith". The first three pages are in French, and that's not too much for me to pulse through a translation program to get the gist of what's going on. The description on Page45's review goes like this...

"Journey back in time to the roaring twenties, and across England and Lapland, to experience the charming and thrilling adventure of Emma G. Wildford, a tale that mixes mystery, grand adventure, and love.

It's been fourteen months since Emma G. Wildford's fiancé, Roald Hodges, a member of the National Geographic Society boarded the good ship Kinship and set sail for Norway... and she has had no news of him since. Every day, she questions the other members of the Society about his whereabouts, and his current situation, whether good or ill, but to no avail.

Before he left, Roald gave Emma a mysterious envelope to open, but only in case something happened to him. Rejecting the very thought of Roald's death, Emma decides to leave behind everything - her life, her comfort, her England, to go to Lapland in pursuit.

Along the way, Emma's certainties and beliefs will be challenged in every way, changing this quest for her fiancé into a quest for her true, essential self. Beautifully illustrated and rivetingly written, Emma G. Wildford is a character that will imprint herself on your mind and memory forever!"

Exactly what's going to happen here, I'm not sure. But one thing I do know, is that I've got to finish the comic book of the month last month, before I start on the comic book of the month, this month. However, having come back from a 14 hour shift, and facing another one tomorrow... it won't be this week. Nor this weekend, as... you guessed it... I'm working.

What utter moron....

...thought it was OK to damage a classic book by slamming a sticker on it for a third rate movie? My ghast is well and truly flabbered.

 

250 year old subscription library

This BBC article details an old subscription library in Leeds - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-46522378

Mr Hutton says: "For some people, the library is the thing that gets them up out of bed in the morning.

"We have writers who come here to enjoy the ambience and find it's an industrious place to work, we have some people who just love reading books and a younger element who like that we're diversifying into events."

To celebrate its milestone, the library has hosted about 200 events including film screenings, poetry nights, author talks and theatre performances, working with 32 different organisations in the process.

Would I join a subscription library? Probably not. That this one is still going, and in Leeds (large city in North England) shows that for some people, this method of doing things still works and that not everyone has gone the way of the modern age. After all, the rest of society has only recently moved to subscription services for music and films; not being that fussed about actually owning the article itself. That books were there way before them, isn't that much of a surprise.

 

I have to admit that I do go through my book collection every year or two, and only keep the books that I want. If book prices rise higher then I'll be even more careful over what I buy. My mother, on the other hand, uses the public library which, funnily enough, is next door to where I work!

 

I couldn't really answer why it is that I don't use the library more. I think it's a mixture of things; one of them being the lack of quality reading time, so reading a book properly can take me outside the usual lending period. That's something that I hope to have more of next year. Linked to this is that the popular books have queues, so if I haven't finished it in time then it still has to go back regardless.

 

Other than that, many of the books that I have read lately, have not been from the mainstream even despite being new books; and some of the subject matter has been decidedly awkward. "The history and arts of the Dominatrix," was one of the new ones. One of the more difficult ones to find was, "The Girdle of Chastity," where the author went into a deep dive of the actual history of the chastity belt. So, you see, walking into the local library and asking for these sorts of books... and in a building next door to where I work, even... isn't perhaps the wisest of moves.

 

It was an interesting article, however, to read about that library, how it functions and there are some interesting anecdotes in there as well. And if book prices start rising then I suspect it will continue for another quarter century. Long may it survive the passage of time.

Review - Firefly Legacy Edition Book 1

Firefly - Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Chris Samnee, Will Conrad, Patton Oswalt, Zack Whedon

It's a good book, as a collection of the comics; and I'm looking forward to book 2. But it wasn't sparkling.

 

The art itself is good quality, and the humour was typical Firefly Serenity as I remember the TV shows. However, I found the pacing to be off and I failed to connect in places; the flow wasn't there and I ended up looking at a panel and wondering what the connection to the previous panel was, and why was I now reading something which seemed totally disjointed.

 

There were some good parts in it, and the plot is what I'd expect. They never do get to keep the gold, despite all the trouble they go to.

 

It did go in to Shepherd Book's history; in an interesting reverse fashion, showing key snippets of his life and the decisions he made.. but in reverse. In each section, he was younger than in the previous. It was a very engaging part of the book.

 

Although I'm not like a cat on a hot tin roof waiting for book 2, I am looking forward to its eventual arrival in February.

Sub 300 followers

...and falling.

 

Let's face it. You can't have an ego, and be as bad an author as I am. The result would be an utter tragedy.

 

I've actually banned accounts which have most likely been genuine people, but have had very little to say and haven't been seen this side of the moon landing.

 

Strangely, I found a few accounts of people that I enjoyed conversations with, but haven't been on the platform for a while. I did feel a tug at the old heart strings when their avatars scrolled onto the screen.

 

Still about 170-ish accounts to go through, and now I'm starting to go back in time to the people I started conversing with when I first joined BL... and there are fewer and fewer spam account showing up now. I'm noticing a few people who I really should drop a PM to... but it's one of those things that, when a conversation has reached a natural end... it is right to nudge someone, even though it's just to say, "Hey! I still remember you and really enjoyed our conversations." ... that's one I'm going to have to think about.

 

Not tonight, however. I've put down the ban hammer for the evening and I'm about to hunt a cup of tea. It was an early start this morning, and it's going to be another early start tomorrow morning. No rest for the wicked... and I'm downright evil :-)

 

So the copy of Firefly is still resting on the floor in the bedroom, with a book mark poking its head out of the pages, and my reading glasses resting there; awaiting my attention. Crikey, by the time I get around to finishing it, part 2 will be with me. I mean... where did the holiday go? I was sure that I thought there'd be plenty of time to catch up with some reading.

 

Apparently, not.

Thinning the herd

Spam followers never really occurred to me, regarding this platform. I mean, why do it? How many people are really going to read a spam profile?

 

Personally, my time means that I can't investigate all the profiles. Plus, I only started paying extra special attention when the follower count was slowly working its way towards 1,000. I thought, "I'm going to have to do something special to celebrate." ... and something did hatch and I am working on it.

 

The situation was compounded by the fact that I run blocking systems to stay safe. U-Block Origin, No-Script and Privacy Badger. They do a lot of good work protecting me from malicious scripts, although configuring them and staying on top of things takes a bit of patience and work.

 

Those blocking systems was preventing me from even knowing that there was a ban option on the followers.

 

Tonight, I fired up a different browser without the protections, and started to go slowly through the followers, loading them one by one, to check that they aren't solid profiles, before banning them.

 

I'm now down to below 700 followers, and that's going to get a lot lower as I continue.

 

The 1,000 celebration? Well, that's not going to stop me. I'm still working on finding an artist... and then I'll have something to show you. But it's going to take months. Well, it's not as if I'm going to reach 1,000 any time soon ;-)

When crowd funding goes wrong

I might have mentioned that I backed, "Lonester: Heart Of The Hero," on Indiegogo. This method of funding our future reading is seen by many, (me included) as a way of breaking the morass that commercial publishing has become.

 

Firstly, I'd like to put all the controversy to one side. Mike's behaviour concerning his religious beliefs got him blacklisted (hence his handle) from the comic industry, when he attributed a religion to a character at a public event. He's been a target for de-platforming at various comic venues because of various things he's said and then there's the whole #comicsgate thing. Yes, there's a chunk of stuff following this guy, but all that goes to one side.

 

So... Mike goes live with this campaign and I sign up for a basic perk. (August) Later, I sign up for a higher tier (September) ... but I don't appear to have been refunded the lower tier.

 

Then, delays happen. This isn't surprising and can be expected. Creators, often work alone, or with the support of fans who are often at a distance and can not do much to help practically (due to location, etc.) so there's a lot on their shoulders and stuff can happen unexpectedly. So the original publish target of September, shifted to December for reasons totally expected.

 

Now, however, we have this...

"Hey Lonestar Squadron!

I have some A-MAZING news that I can't entirely share with you... but suffice it to say that a MAJOR MEDIA PERSONALITY has agreed to do a REVIEW of LONESTAR on his podcast that could reach hundreds of thousands... maybe MILLIONS of viewers/listeners!  This should happen in January, and because of this opportunity... I have to apologize.
Why? Because I'm putting the printing on hold. You all know, the book is DONE. The files are literally AT the printer. But if even a small percentage... a TINY percentage of the people who see/hear this podcast order LONESTAR, I might have to DOUBLE my print run! So bear with me for just a bit longer, and yes, this may push LONESTAR 2 out a few weeks as well, (I have been diligently working on that issue!) but it will all be for the greater good!

So thank you, I'm sorry, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  2019 is going to be OFF THE HOOK!!!

God bless,

Mike"

So he has unilaterally suspended printing for an unspecified period... not because he can make more sales... that's going to happen anyway... but because it will make his printing cheaper if he does things in one go.

 

There's no right or wrong to this, but it's putting money before his obligations to his backers; and that's going to have an impact on his reputation.

 

And it's not the first time he's taken this approach. He discounted his tiers throughout the process. Roughly 30% on average, to drive sales. That's one in the eye for those who originally backed his tiers at the higher prices.

 

The outstanding question is that, if another of these unmissable opportunities comes his way during the extended period that he's granted himself... will he then delay printing even further?

 

He has offered some extras to those who backed early, and he also offered a christmas card as an extra to all physical purchase backers as well... but obviously, christmas has been and gone, and there is still no sign of a shipping date.

 

The net result of all this, is that this has left a very sour taste in my mouth. I still don't have the refund for the lower tier, and no readjusted shipping date. And more importantly, Mr Miller is notably silent on these issues, in spite of his proclaiming throughout the whole thing, that the customer is the most important part of the whole process.

 

Let's be honest; sometimes creators are great at the creation, but not so hot at the business, customer and paperwork elements; which are critical to any business' survival. However, that's no excuse. Customers and issues have to be dealt with. Ignoring them only leads to hacked off people. The very people that pay the bills.

 

More importantly, I now have no faith in Mike Miller and the process of funding independent creators. I'm now done with this way of doing things.

Boom in second hand books

BBC  Report here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46386557

 

And Patrik Oqvist from World of Books, the UK's largest second-hand book retailer, estimates the market is growing by 8-10% a year.

"There's no stigma to buying second-hand now," says Mr Oqvist. "We take them to the beach and spill coffee on them, but they don't stop working because of that." Then there's the lower price, and the fact that you're recycling.

But there's also the chance of finding something unique. World of Books had a call last year from a grandmother in Australia who had ordered an annual that she remembered owning as a child, full of quizzes, mazes and puzzles. When it arrived, she found it was her own original copy, complete with the inscription from her parents to her.