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... ohhh pleasedontsuck pleasedontsuck....

From this morning's CBC:

Filmmaker Ben Wheatley is 'a cup of tea away from anarchy'
British director's new film, High-Rise, explores the intersection of condo life and class warfare
By Matt Meuse, CBC News Posted: Apr 16, 2016 8:00 AM PT Last Updated: Apr 16, 2016 8:00 AM PT

"They say you're only two meals away from anarchy," British director Ben Wheatley tells On the Coast host Gloria Mackarenko.

"You know, I like to eat. I'm probably about a cup of tea away from anarchy, usually."

Wheatley's new film, High-Rise, tells the twisted story of a utopian condo complex on the outskirts of a gentrifying city, and its rapid descent into chaos.

The transformation takes three months in the film. But in real life, Wheatley reckons it would be much quicker. In the aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis, he realized he only had a day's worth of food in his house, and no real cash or valuables.

"I started looking around at the people in the street going, oh, I'd have to fight them, wouldn't I, for food," he said, laughing. "It would collapse really fast."

The film is based on a novel written by English author J. G. Ballard in the 1970s. Tom Hiddleston stars as Dr. Robert Laing, a resident of the titular High-Rise.

The book was speculative fiction at the time, but Wheatley finds it to be remarkably prescient.

"When I reread the book in my mid-40s, I realized that it wasn't predictive science fiction anymore, it was much more like I was reading pages out of a newspaper," he said. "It was a bit depressing."

To capture the feel of the novel, the film is set in a sort of alternate-history "super 70s," as Wheatley describes it — an ambiguous, highly-stylized representation of the era.

As if to highlight this, the film ends with an archival monologue from former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, whose right-wing economic policies dominated British politics in the 80s.

"Hearing Thatcher in the air [at the end of the film] is like the ending of John Carpenter's The Thing," he said, referencing a classic 80s horror film with a similarly bleak ending. "When I hear that voice, I get a slight twinge of fear. I find her disconcerting and terrifying."

"It's saying that the whole thing is cyclical and it will start again. And we have the hindsight of knowing what's going to happen next."

Parallels with modern Vancouver

The city in the film is implied as London, which is currently facing housing affordability problems not unlike Vancouver's. Prices are surging in both cities, and many blame investors who use real estate as a way of making and storing money.

Wheatley said the practice of treating real estate primarily as an investment has a devastating impact on cities.

"I always think of it as a bit like when these investors buy Van Goghs and stick them in a vault somewhere," he said. "The art gets turned into money, becomes abstracted and then put away, and it no longer serves the point it had in the first place. So, you know, if you do that to a city, you basically kill it."

"And what happens when no one can afford to live in the city? Do we all have to live on the outskirts and just look to it like Oz or something in the distance? I don't know, it's terrifying."

High-Rise was screened Friday night as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival, with a wider Canadian release on May 20. He'll be giving a master class as part of the festival Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Vancity Theatre.
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Simon Reynolds wrote Rip It Up And Start Again, the best book I've ever read on my favourite period of pop music: the post-punk era, 1978-84. I've been meaning to post something about the book but haven't gotten around to re-reading it, which I would like to do.

Meanwhile, here is an interview with the author, on the connection with one of my favourite writers:

Simon Reynolds on the Ballard Connection

Interview by Simon Sellars for the website Ballardian.

Simon Reynolds is one of the most recognisable music critics around — or at least his style is, not least for its willingness to tackle pop music as an art form worthy of sustained intellectual discourse rather than as a fleeting moment of adolescent flash. Reynolds breaks new ground, melding unbridled enthusiasm with a robust theoretical framework in a body of work that is thrilling for its eclecticism alone: he’s never less than compelling writing about hip hop, Britney or rave, as he is about grunge, prog or grime.

Reynolds reached a peak of sorts with the publication of Rip It Up and Start Again, a deliriously good excavation of the postpunk era, the generation of musicians that broke immediately after punk: Cabaret Voltaire, PiL, Magazine and so on. What’s more, J.G. Ballard was a thread throughout the book, as Reynolds charted the influence of JGB — and The Atrocity Exhibition, especially — on this particular era.

Read more... )
Original site with pictures:
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Well, the end of the week and time for some undeserved vitriol, but I've been meaning to do this for some time and have eaten enough aniseed balls to get in the mood for it.

A few weeks ago I found a copy of an older science fiction book called Japan Sinks, written 1964-73 and published in the latter year by Sakyo Komatsu, an author who is apparently still one of Japan's leading sf writers.

The story is fairly simple: it is discovered that the tectonic plates are shifting in such a way that the Japanese archipelago will, in a matter of a couple of years, vanish beneath the waves. Much exposition on geophysics, scenes of destruction via earthquakes and volcanic eruptions abound, there is no magic bullet or happy ending, and in the end Japan does sink.

What infuriated me on reading it was something that had angered me before on reading the works of Japanese authors: the notion of "wareware Nihonjin", which shades off into Nihonjinron - namely, the pseudoscience of "we Japanese are different, unique on the planet." (

A few examples:

More than halfway through the book, the character of an unnamed but apparently extremely rich and influential old man emerges. A scene at his country home, where they discuss whether the population of Japan should emigrate to other countries, become naturalized, or stay where they are and die, is illuminating:

"...In effect it proposes that the best thing to do would be nothing whatsoever. The best thing would be not to lift a finger."
"So that opinion has come forth, has it?"
"That it should has its source, perhaps in the Japanese people's differing decisively from other peoples."
"Even if our race lives on, then, our descendants, it seems will have bitter times ahead of them. From now on whether it's a matter of going on being Japanese or ceasing to be Japanese, whatever the case, - we have to leave Japan out of our consideration. The problems to come will be those dictated by outside elements. Once this Japan of ours is gone forever, once it is taken from the Japanese, then our identity is simply that of human beings, it would seem, but in truth the problem cannot be reduced to terms so simple. For we have our karma - in our culture, our language, our history. And that karma will be resolved when this nation called Japan and its culture and its history - when all alike are swept away with the land itself. But the people of Japan will still be a young people, a people uniquely gifted...."

Later on the Japanese people are finally told what's going on:

They still had faith in Japan, however, still had faith in their government. Moreover, they made every effort to strengthen this faith. The government would do something. The government would not abandon them. For politicians and officials were, after all, Japanese just like themselves - a historically rooted sense of identity that everyone shared. In the present crisis the nation was waiting in submission for whatever the government had to say, givieing it due benefit of every doubt. This was the fundamental spirit of the Japanese, however critical, enraged or vituperative th4ey xcould be toward their nation on occasion."

By the end of the book, all but about 20 million of the (then) 110 milion Japanese are evacuated to countries all over the world, but the influential Rich Old Man stays put, as does his childlike maidservant Hanae:

The girl raised her tearful face.
"Would you let me see...?"
She drew in her breath with a quick movement of her white throat. Then the girl stood up and loosened her obi. There was a faint rustle of fabric as the kimono slipped from her shoulders. With this single graceful gesture, her naked body stood revealed in the desolate room. Its firm and rounded flesh shone in the gloom like a secret cache of snow. The old man looked at her but for a moment before closing his eyes.
"A daughter of Japan," he whispered to himself.
"Hanae...have children..."
"What, sir?"
"You must have children. You could have good, strong babies. Find a good man... he doesn't have to be Japanese. Have many children."

After this injunction, she leaves, he dies, Japan finally sinks.

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that a critic attacking a book that angered him was like someone donning full armour in order to exact revenge on a hot fudge sundae. Well, maybe so, but this book was an expression of this strange smugness mixed up with humility confounded with blandly benign racism - something that, since I'm so inarticulate at explaining it, really has to be witnessed.

Have a good long weekend!
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Yoinked from [ profile] jeffreyab.

This is a list of the 50 most significant science fiction/fantasy novels, 1953-2002, according to the Science Fiction Book Club. Bold the ones you've read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished, and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien*
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson*
7. Childhood's End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K Dick

9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison*

19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman*
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
27. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson

29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick*
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon*
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven

40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut*
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson*
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein*

47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer
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Sitting here eating my sandwich early and I want to tell you what I did before I came here to sit and eat my sandwich.
Read more... )

Three Dates

Jul. 7th, 2003 11:08 am
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My various calendars tell me that the moon is in its first quarter. Ho hum. But it's also the time of the Tanabata festival in Japan. The Japan Atlas says: "The festival traces its origins to a legend that the Cowherd Star (Altair) and Weaver Star (Vega), lovers separated by the Milky Way, are allowed to meet just once a year--on the seventh day of the seventh month." Other sources extend the legend to two ordinary people, a weaver and a cowherd, who fell in love and neglected their work. The gods got angry over this and condemned them to life on opposite sides of a river. I like the latter, it seems a more Japanese story in that it's romantic but contains a serious punishment element for dereliction of duty towards some source of abstract, unknowable Authority. I remember telling this story to Doom Cookie when we went out on that day and she seemed to understand.

It's also the 66th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, when the Japanese finally gave up the pretence and invaded China properly. It's a pity that this part of World War Two is not better known. I mean, it got the proper propaganda treatment during the war because of the Luce press empire but first after the defeat of the Japanese in 1945 and even more so after the Communist victory in 1949, China dropped off the American radar screen except as this monolithic threat. Still being treated that way.

It's also Robert Heinlein's birthday! Rah rah for RAH, at least up until the point he published I Will Fear no Evil in 1970. (Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) wasn't very good either, but I treat it as a blip since he never wrote anything else like it.) A search for Robert Heinlein on Google comes up with 89,000 hits. Michael Moorcock a shade over 29,000; J.G. Ballard about 26,000; Joanna Russ 5,700; Frederick Pohl 3,000. However, William Gibson nets 127,000, so that must make him Alpha Prime Literary SF-Weenie of the Net.


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