Books: Late last June, I published the fourth of my books of repackaged old tut from the website, Spank's LFF Diaries Volume Two: 2000-2004. The good people at lulu.com have informed me that there was a problem initially with putting the book on their index. It's fixed now, but they felt they had to offer me some sort of compensation for the potential loss of - ha! - sales. So thanks to them, I now have a special offer for you: until August 15th 2010, you can buy Spank's LFF Diaries Volume Two at a 15% discount on the usual price of £11.49. Click here to buy it direct, or visit my bookstore to see what else is on offer: in both cases, you'll need to enter the coupon code BEACHREAD305 at checkout time to get the discount. Terms and conditions apply. Later this month, expect the next book in the series, a collection of my Edinburgh Festival diaries from the past decade...
Edinburgh: ...because, of course, it's that time of year again. The Pals and I are in the final stages of gearing up for our insert-Latin-term-for-two-years-out-of-every-three-nial visit to Auld Reekie, poring over the sites for the International Festival, the Fringe and the Book Festival to see what's on offer. Expect a week's worth of daily reports to follow later this month. While you're waiting for that, have a read at this Stewart Lee rant about the controversial Fosters Comedy God poll that's currently taking place online, and then click here to vote for Frank Chickens as a way to stick it to The Man. (If you're unfamiliar with the work of Frank Chickens, these may help.)
Movies: People seem to be unsure how to classify Inception, but it seems pretty straightforward to me. It's full of characters whose primary function is to verbalise the director's ideas: acting like actual characters is a long way down their agenda. It has sequences featuring visual flourishes that you could just look at on a loop all day. And it can't quite work out how to make the philosophical and the visual components fit together into a seamless whole. In short, it's the most expensive Peter Greenaway movie ever made. (Its final shot even duplicates one of Greenaway's, though I won't tell you which one.) I happen to like Peter Greenaway's cerebral approach, so combining that with the gloriously structured pileup of action that makes up Inception's final act works just fine for me. If you're still confused about how it all fits together, this spoiler-filled infographic may help. Or not.
Music: You may have noticed that things have been rather quiet round here over the past month. Pressure of work, I'm afraid. I spent two weeks in July on business in the Middle East, following in the footsteps of the characters from this summer's blockbuster movie Sex And The City 2: The Fuckening. I brought back a couple of souvenirs for The Belated Birthday Girl: some dates from Abu Dhabi, and a CD of local music from Doha. Well, almost local. Now That's What I Call Arabia 12 is EMI's Middle Eastern variant on the popular compilation series. On a first listen, it's pleasant enough, but not outstanding. There seems to be quite an overlap between Arabic pop and the sorts of tunes you hear on Bollywood soundtracks, whether they're uptempo dancefloor fillers or more traditional ballads. The frequent appearance of Latin motifs - including a full-on collaboration with an actual Gypsy King - is interesting, though.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for August 2010 is Gympanzee. If you forced me to choose which of my two Middle Eastern destinations I enjoyed the most, I'd have to plump for Abu Dhabi over Doha, almost entirely because of the transport. Abu Dhabi has a splendid taxi system, with hundreds of cabs swarming the streets waiting to take you anywhere: and they cost next to nothing because of, well, that whole oil thing they've got going on over there. Doha's cab service, on the other hand, is notoriously bad. Your chances of flagging one down on the street are pretty much zero, and any attempt to book one over the phone needs to be done several hours in advance.
As a result, I didn't get to see anything of Doha outside of my hotel and my work location. Which is a shame, because there are some interesting sights to be seen: and as is frequently the case in this region, some of those sights are shopping malls. The Villagio Mall is a suitably over-the-top example of the Doha shopping experience, most notable for the full-size fake Venetian canal that runs through it. Anyway, while I was reading Time Out Doha to find out what I was missing, I found out that the Villagio has an onsite child care centre called Gympanzee, so at least I managed to get a Simian Substitute Site out of the experience.