Friday, 30 January 2015


I remember comic books I read in the 1980s. I remember Beanos and others, a really odd few months of reading GI Joe, and sequential art in the form of Rupert the Bear and other newspaper strips. I vaguely remember reading an odd issue of 2000ad.

I recall with a strong feeling when I started reading comic books properly. I happened upon some Simpsons comics and the rest is history.

Between 1996 and about 2004 I read quite a bit of Simpsons but fell out of love with it. My best ever Simpsons related  experience was reading them in a terrible flatshare in east London with my best friend in 1997 fighting away the feeling that London and university were not for me.

Today I needed to make up a minimum amount to pay by card. There was nothing appealing in the big two, so I feel on a old-friend and purchased Simpsons Comics #216. It's not 1997 good but for once in a few years I did think about reading it again.

Ok Comics, Thornton's Arcade, Leeds

Sunday, 18 January 2015

It is hard to see from the inside

I'm currently reading Richard E Feist's A Darkness at Sethanon. The whole Riftwar trilogy ends with this book, and I've bought all three from secondhand bookshops. About a year ago I set out to read something other than A Dance of Dragons so had a couple of names in mind, Feist, Jordan, Giddings, Hobb, all sourced off the internet with no real indicator of whether I would like them or not. The Magician was the first book I found and read, next up was Jordan and I didn't take to it, so I continued to read through the Riftwar saga.

Sometimes it is difficult finding a particular book in secondhand bookshops. I like reading in order so waiting for The Magician seemed to be a difficult task. When eventually I bought it I immediately started finding copies everywhere, including one to read at the Youth Hostel at Boggle Hole. But then that's part of the joy of discovery, sometimes it's not the thing you are looking for that you will find.

Having said I like reading in sequence I have broken another fantasy series. At the mobile library in Kirkstall I picked up Gotrek & Felix: Road of Skulls. This is book 13 in the Warhammer series, though I am sufficiently confident that it will not deviate too much from the formula that has seen Gotrek seek his doom and Felix chart his saga. The last book I read was book 7.

While we scanned the books at the mobile library we were told that there was some rotation of stock though the non-fiction books we returned would not stay with the library. I guess fiction is only for the outer rim, nearer the galactic centre they can deal with facts. Galaxies are notoriously difficult to see from the inside, whatever shape or form they take is beyond our current capabilities. There are patterns, a doppelganger is never good in fantasy, the quarreling strangers will be lovers at the end of the movie, yet mysteries.

Josh Reynolds, Gotrek & Felix: Road of Skulls
Mobile Library, Kirkstall Morrisons, Leeds

Postscript. Did you know that Leeds Libraries renews library cards every three years?

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Not a new year revolution

It was not a new year resolution. Yes, starting in January 2015 I would go to at least one gig a month, but honestly, I wasn't thinking of that when I bought the ticket.

I was thinking about Bis and Cowtown. I've liked Bis since way back when I bought two Eps (Secret Vampires! and Starbright Boy) and while they were music I cherished I didn't get anymore records. I knew they did things but what they were who knew.

Until Powerpuff Girls, that is.

I have liked Cowtown since seeing them at Indietracks. I've been meaning to see them live since moving to Leeds but every time they were playing I was out of town.

So the opportunity to see both in the Belgrave couldn't be missed. I purchased my ticket in November from Jumbo Records, part of a birthday present to myself, I also got a Doors record and Hookworms. Holding the ticket, looking at Jumbo's big blackboard of gigs, made me think I'd like to see more acts again. When we first moved to Leeds we saw two bands a month, so a plan was hatched, following Bis and Cowtown in January I would go to at least one a month.

February looks good for music, including a band I missed at the Liverpool Psyche Fest, Spectres.

Gig tickets, The Doors, L.A. Woman, Hookworms, The Humm,
Jumbo Records, 5-6 St Johns Centre, Leeds

Thursday, 8 January 2015

A book-themed non-book rant

I am on my third rereading of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, it is a book I enjoy a great deal (I expect that the forthcoming BBC TV programme will be amazing).

When I first read it, and this morning when I sat in my usual coffee house reading it again, I am struck by the possibility that one of the main reasons I like it so is because characters from 'the North' feature strongly and favourably. In fact, one tenant of the book's narration develops because of someone from Newcastle, and the fact that two of the most deceitful characters are 'southerners' just adds to this.

Obviously, this is just one off-shoot of an afterthought while reading the book, but it does chime with something I have been mulling over for a week or two now.

In an unnamed education institution a member of staff expressed the view that 'students came first, teaching staff second and support staff last'. Essentially, students "wants" were the priority, then those of the teaching staff, and it was support staff members' role to deliver these expectations without question. Leaving aside the whole customer service argument between the words "wants" and "needs", this statement has left me a little staggered.

I must add that it was told to me by the person who received this wisdom first hand.

The implied extension of this statement was that the top two thirds could survive and blossom without the bottom third.

I know of far too many individuals in education who think this way. It is damaging to place too much emphasis on the perceived hierarchical nature of education, each of the three elements need the other two to function. Without students no teaching; without teaching staff no assessments; without support staff no marks entered. Like with the Golgafrinchans, forcibly removing a third of your structured workforce will not end well.

[Spoiler Alert - For One Paragraph]

Which brings me back to Jonathan Strange & the secretive Mr Norrell. Childermass is possibly one of my favourite characters. He knows the view his boss has of him and still continues to do what he wants. He knows too that he supports his boss and that this support is not mutual. Childermass is a lot more powerful that those people above him.

[Spoiler Ends]

I don't know when the BBC TV programme will be broadcast, I kind of hedged my bets by reading the book this early in the year. If I were to schedule it myself, probably aim for Spring or Winter - it's not a Christmas book but I think of it as being more about those seasons than Summer or Autumn.