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Friday, May 9, 2008

David Bowie's Space Oddity

David Bowie is most often remembered for this song. There are plenty of other songs he's done that are better in my opinion, but Space Oddity is his most famous and popular track for many.

David Bowie is sometimes called "the chameleon of rock" because of his ability to predict and set trends in popular music, adjusting himself accordingly.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Shook the Hand of Gaiman as he Smiled

So I went to the Neil Gaiman book talk and signing. I think he liked me not just because he saw my Good Omens copy already signed by Terry Pratchett, ready for him to make his mark, but because I treated him as a man, not a god.

He's really not a god, contrary to what you'd believe from what he writes. He's just a bloke doing his job, which he loves doing. And he likes it when he encounters people who remind him of this fact. I talked to him a little, joking about why he couldn't make the Sandman cure my insomnia. He smiled, and said "Ah, you know. Us Authors aren't obligated to do anything. It's what you do with your time awake that matters"

I told him "I write books in the night, when I wake up there's whole chapters written". He looked at me, gentle and understanding. Perhaps he saw a little bit of himself in me. Not the talent part, the staying up late writing part. I'd never be as pretentious to say he saw his talent in me, even if he did, that would be a private trust between makers of worlds. I cannot say that he was blown away by me. But he at least regarded me as a fellow craftsman. That I know to be true. It was the tone in his voice, the weariness. I knew he had lived longer than I had, he was more experienced.

Gaiman is not a mythical bard, or a tale spinning imp. He is a man. And he never denies this. Even when people suggest he is a god, he laughs it off. There are few men who deny their divinity, embracing humble humanity. It isn’t just the way he writes that makes people love the man. It’s how he treats his fellow man that really counts, in the end. You can write like Shakespeare and yet be despised, if you are a hateful wretch who is drunk on fame.

I shook his hand, tonight, as I write this I am home at my keyboard. It is like many nights I have typed through. But I did not leave that bookshop unchanged. I imagine he probably wasn’t changed, but he liked my teacher Ms. Pryor’s sympathies and my own sympathies with him, as he self-depreciatingly bemoaned: “There’s so many people here tonight. I’m going to be so tired…”. If he changed at all, he may have found more of his humanity. No matter how many books on Heaven and Hell he writes, he’ll never be an Angel or a Demon. He’s just another sinner like the rest of us.

* * * * *

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I beat my first Video Game ever (and other updates)

For those of you still reading this:

I beat Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney this past week. It is the first video game I have ever finished entirely, including bonus missions. It's rather amusing to think I actually pulled it off.

In other news:

1) I'll be going to see Neil Gaiman at Books Kinokuniya on Tuesday. Hopefully I can get my copy of Good Omens that was signed by Terry Pratchett signed by him as well, making it twice as valuable.

2) I finally "get" Michael Ondaatje's work. This will help me in no end in the upcoming "seminar" task for school.

3) If you were expecting some insightful essays in the last weeks, you'll have to wait for those. For now I'm going to focus on delivering updates on my life.

4) Speaking of Neil Gaiman, he added me on, turns out he likes Leonard Cohen and The Clash too.

5) My friend's film, "Brain-freeze" is 98% certain to be made. Good for him!

6) I discovered Judas Priest, now one of my favorite metal bands.

7) Review of Peter Carey's Wrong About Japan coming soon.

8) I got Nintendo Wi-Fi to work on my DS Lite. I have now out-teched my friend's tech savvy mother who previously schooled me at Final Fantasy III character levels.

9) I will be posting more often here if I can, since the pressure of school is easing a little.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Lulu signed with Amazon (and other matters about my views)

So this means I can't even boycott This is interesting.

The only information I have on this is through the forums, so here's the URL:

Allow me to announce why I boycott things, and what conditions have to be met when I consider lifting them.

I am an angry young man, at heart, produced by a generation raised on videogames that for the first time allowed a man to shoot another man in the head without harming them in real life. But most of all, I suffer from an anxiety disorder. Put that into perspective, and you understand why it's easy to overreact when there are big corporations possibly looming at me.

I boycott things often, but I give them a chance to redeem themselves. Like Angus & Robinson when they started charging publishers for shelf space, but then apologised. The Bible tells us to love our enemies, even the "holy book" I get my religious inspiration from, William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, gives a message of universal love and forgiveness. That's all very well to say, but I've only known one person ever who can regularly put love and forgiveness into practice, and her rays of sunshine put us all to shame. I speak of course of a Christian girl who is the real thing, and I wish her well in her life.

Even when Germaine Greer called me a "conscientious eccentric", I may have misinterpreted her words as scorn because she usually associates eccentrics with Cambridge dons who wouldn't teach women back in the 1960s. So Germaine, I must forgive you also, because I owe God a few favours for ones he's given me (not just salvation, but a variety of minor miracles such as me not missing public transport, rain delay so I don't get wet before I get home, as well as the simple joys of a party well organised).

Now what happens when corporations irritate me? I boycott them until I get a conformation that they're less evil having heard the voice of the people.

The hardest thing an intellectual man can do is admit that he is wrong about something. I might not agree with everybody, but the silly grudge of my copy of Stephen King's On Writing arriving several months late from is nothing to base a revolution on. And I admit that when I posted my previous blog entry, I did not have all the facts. Nobody in the early days of a blogger frenzy does.

But I stick by one of my old philosophies, which I recall writing down as a boy about to become a man. "If someone can help you become who you want to be, make an agreement with them, though they look villainous, that's what they said about Japanese people, and look how far they've come in the world, they gave us Astro Boy and Iron Chef! When you are small, a big fish may just as quickly befriend you as eat you".

These words may sound silly, but I was a silly young man back then with silly ideals. But the way I look at things changes, ever so slightly, over the years. I am not an Elf, no matter how many Fantasy books I read, I can never be one. Eternal Youth is not what is written in wrinkles on your face, but your actions and glee.

I just hope I don't get in a panic again for quite some time.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake Of All Trades

Sunday, April 6, 2008 have gone mad

The hyperlink is not working here. I will have to use a manual URL:

This will not stand.

As a POD (print on demand) author myself, this is trouble. What annoys me most of all is that I once considered it possible that I might sell my books on, but now I don't think that's going to happen.

I'm going to boycott them. The only way you can stop a beast like this is to stop feeding it. I will take my business elsewhere, simple as that. I'm sure Gleebooks in Glebe and Kinokuniya in the Sydney CBD deserve my support more than ever.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake Of All Trades

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Faster than a Speeding Bullet Reviews: Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a decent movie. Some reviewers compare the film to a good dish, but since I know nothing about food, I just eat it to live, it is fortunate that this film is accessible to those unfamiliar with the culinary lingo. Since this is a film made by Disney/Pixar, it's not surprising why this is. Though what is surprising is the sophistication of the film, adults will probably enjoy it on a much more developed level than kids will.

It's not sickeningly cute either. Some elements of the film are very dark, darker than most Pixar films: the link between Humans and rat traps/poison represented would be a bit of a shock to kids expecting the whole film to be a simple talking cute animal flick. Yes, the film is about a talking rat, but there are some very real dangers and hazards presented by Remy's quest to transcend his position as a rat in order to cook.

The ending isn't too sappy either. You think they're going to get away with locking the ex-chef and health inspector in the larder, but hey, everything works out, even though the result of rats in the kitchen is clearly represented as a downer for reputation once brought to the open. The love story is far less sappy and more believable than most Disney film romance subplots are too, the female cook love interest is no doormat, if she's unhappy, she will let the main man know it. Score one for realistic relationships, no wilting here, just a sweetness that isn't too sugary.

You don't have to be a connoisseur of fine food to enjoy this film, but after seeing this you may well want to become one. I give it Five Stars out of Five.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Handheld Games I Loved and Cherished

I like handheld games a lot better than TV plug in console ones because of the way I can not only cart them around with me, but they're also easier to use for my motor skills challenged hands. For years, I struggled with playing video games, until I discovered a little game for the Game Boy called Pokemon Red and Blue. Then my brother got a Game Boy Colour, and from there I loved handhelds.

Not just Game Boy handheld games either. Never forget that my youth in the 1990s heralded many handheld innovations. Like the Tamagotchi. (Or however you spell it).

Tamagotchis as well as the highly popular Digimon, as I remember it, were a highly enjoyable subgenre of handheld game called the "Virtual Pet" craze. Let me put this into context. Many kids I knew when I was in primary school were not allowed to have pets in their house, so they turned to virtual alternatives to prove they could at least keep something alive for more than a week. Parents missed the point of these things, and thus disregarded their offspring's attempts at responsible pet ownership through a video game, when they were denied a pet of their own in real life.

Also available was the Pocket Pikachu, which could interact with your Game Boy Pokemon games in some way I can't remember. Digimon virtual pets could battle each other, and successive versions of the Digimon were more powerful than the ones that came before it, so, a generation began to consume electronics like no other generation before.

But back to the Game Boy. When I was a kid these things were status symbols, and those who did not have one looked on as the lucky bastard who had enough money to own both versions of the original Pokemon played on a small screen. Not that we got teased if we didn't have one of course. Smarter, and more compassionate kids, realised that if he was going to trade Pokemon he would need more friends who had Game Boys to trade and battle with. So by letting other children watch him play the game, a chap could influence his friends to get one for their birthday or Christmas.

I didn't actually own a Pokemon game until Pokemon Crystal came out, because my parents didn't spoil me and my brother very much. This meant we appreciated our electronics more. Pokemon waned in popularity as kids like us grew older, turning to other non-computer game entertainments such as DragonBall Z for our morning cartoons. But that didn't mean handhelds went away with it. And those who have been following gaming will know that Pokemon is making a comeback (God forbid).

But what came next? What would fill the void of handheld gaming after the Game Boy Colour? In a gaming magazine one day I discovered it: The Game Boy Advanced. Now this was particularly interesting. The screen was bigger, and it had L and R buttons on it for some reason. It also had quite a few games which appealed to older gamers who had long since given up "catching them all" with Pokemon games. Stuff like Advance Wars, and Fire Emblem. The occasional RPG was made for it. Golden Sun remains one of my favorite RPGs, though I never finished it, I'm sad to say. And just before you thought you'd never see another Pokemon game again, they made more Pokemon games for the GBA, with more features than before. Really it was getting silly. But for some reason, even young men in their middle teens still played these new Pokemon offerings. They played those while I was busy farming on Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town.

And it got even more ridiculous. The Game Boy Advanced SP came out with a backlit screen, because people complained that the original Game Boy Advanced had a screen that was too dark, and you had to buy a light accessory to see the damned game you were playing. I never owned a SP for good reason. I liked the design of the original GBA and I wasn't going to shell out 200 bucks for a new system when I could easily buy more games for that much money.

This was long before DS Lites and PlayStation Portables and what have you. So back then, 2D graphics on a handheld was impressive. But my generation should always remember we came from the dark ages (in some cases literally, like the GBA Screen) of consumer electronics to see the innovations of the future. Kurt Cobain never saw a PSP, Alec Guinness never played a DS Lite. If you live longer than both these people and yet still see the wonders of technology advancing, you should be even more grateful for that.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Matters Concerning my Encounter with Germaine Greer

Oh man. I've posted controversial blog entries before, but nothing I have previously posted can compare to the sheer provocativeness you are about to read...

This, is Germaine Greer:


And I went to the NSW Teacher's Conference Center book talk (organised by Gleebooks) to see what she had to say.

Her lecture was good. She had some original concepts to grapple with, her new book Shakespeare's Wife sounds interesting, and her side topics she talked about were as relevant as ever.

But quite a few things angered me somewhat about Greer when I stepped up to ask a question at Q & A, she said that "I will only let a woman ask the first question, not a man" (there was one man in front of me at the time), before remarking "And certainly not a BOY!".

I was the only young man my age there. Because I was a young man she referred to me as a "BOY!", which is rather insulting in itself, but more so was her remark that "You look like you're up to mischief" when I attempted to ask the question "What would you say to a young man who wants to repair the sad and sorry state of his gender, when all we have to look to for inspiration is Fight Club?"

She then said "You look to me like you are a conscientious eccentric", and "Do you really only have Fight Club to look to for inspiration?" as she raised her eyebrow. Because I was too intimidated to answer, she claimed "You seem to also want to take up as much time as possible, next question", before even answering my question properly.

She just didn't take me seriously. Not only because of my gender, but because of my age. Greer refers to Cambridge Dons who won't agree with women's intellectual life as "schoolboys". This is particularly telling, since it appears she thinks schoolboys lack the ability to do more than cause trouble at intellectual events, and the ability to have a rich intellectual life at all.

I was singled out for being a young man, because I was the only young man my age there. If I was older I might have been taken seriously, but I doubt it.

Makes you wonder whether this women's liberation supporter believes men deserve equality as well, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Bone to Pick with "Breakfast at Tiffany's"


Audrey Hepburn may be remembered as the classiest women of all time, but that aside, as far as I remember, she plays a pretty annoying character in Breakfast At Tiffany's.

And don't say I hate romantic movies because I'm a man. That's just stereotyping. The reason why I didn't like Breakfast at Tiffany's was because having seen Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady previously, I expected far less gold-digging behaviour on Audrey's part in a movie with her in it.

Make no mistake, she acts well and is pretty, and talented too, but to me the fault may not be with Hepburn but with the role she plays.

It's a very hard to understand movie for a young man. I could barely figure out what was going on most of the time, apart from the Cat and the stereotypical angry Japanese dude played by Mickey Rooney. Audrey Hepburn may have been made famous by this movie, but for some reason I didn't like it. There's probably a lot of undertones my innocent mind of 18 years raised as a gentleman missed, but that's not the only thing I found annoying. The writer dude who courts Holly (Hepburn's character) assumes that he "owns" Holly because he loves her. This smacks of patriarchal ideology to me. I expected Hepburn to be a stronger female lead in this movie than what actually occurs in the film. And the whole glamour thing is alien to me. Considering I barely spend much money on clothes it's easy to see why this might be the case with my interpretation of the film.

I've probably missed the point of the movie completely, but I expected the story to be clearer and more comprehensible than what I got when I came to see this movie at FilmBuffery Club in school.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Two Short Book Reviews: 11th March 2008

I've found some particularly good books to review, and here they are:


Odd and the Frost Giants is the best Neil Gaiman book I've read in years. His children's fiction ranks very highly alongside J.K. Rowling's in quality, yet he has a very different style, using Norse mythology to weave together a heartwarming tale of a crippled boy who sets out on an adventure to Asgard, but not without help. Gaiman makes the historical harshness of Viking lore appropriate for children, not by censoring himself or talking down to his readers, but simply by pointing out just how silly some elements of Norse life were. A good read for little warriors of all ages.


The Stolen Child is a book I mentioned on my Ten Obscure Books You'll Love list that I posted on this blog earlier on, but the book is so good I'll give it another treatment. Two boys, one Changeling who becomes a Human, and one Human who becomes a Changeling, both lead very different lives after they are switched, and nostalgia for the lives they once had is contrasted with the realities of growing up in the real world. Faeries and their place in the real world is threatened by a loss of the old ways, as childhood comes to an end. Hardly a major analysis of a very deep and philosophical Fantasy novel which probably deserves to have more detail examined, but it now sits among my favorite books on my shelf, forever to be cherished as a classic in my eyes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Something is rotten in Denmark

This is terrible. Reading Fight Club makes you guilty enough about resorting to buy IKEA furniture because you can't afford the fancy stuff.

But this is in a league of its own in cultural insensitivity. I just assembled a big fat BILLY bookshelf from IKEA the very day I read this in the paper. Yet every minute I was in the shop, the specter of the news item was troubling me.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake of All Trades

Friday, March 7, 2008

Two wrong numbers make a right

I got a new mobile phone. This can only mean one thing: Recycled phone numbers.

Basically, I found out firsthand how wrong a wrong number can get, to have it resolved by a second wrong number call.

The first was an SMS written by a woman who had been dumped by her boyfriend via SMS. When the phone suddenly rang, playing the new Master of Puppets ringtone I had put on it via USB, little did I know that the shock of what I was about to encounter was far greater than the shock of Metallica suddenly blasting from one's pocket at full volume.

After I read this masterpiece of foul-mouthery, this tour de force of threats of bodily harm, I immediately deleted it from my phone. Somehow I regret doing this, but with a curious mother wondering who called me I had to act fast. To put it simply, it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life.

Then today, some chap called me looking for a bloke called "Luke". I asked him if he or somebody he was calling on behalf of was responsible for the colourful and eyebrow raising text message I recieved yesterday, after I heard the screaming obscenities of a woman in the background.

In this man's despair, he bluntly put it: "Oh... SHIT!".

Before he hung up, I heard the woman scream "FUCKING KID!".

I know this, I probably wouldn't have liked the events that would have happened if I pointed out the text message went to an 18 year old schoolboy. Oh well, the Universe sorts things out in ways you can't imagine.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake of All Trades

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ask not for whom the dice roll, they roll for thee

Gary Gygax is dead. Yes, he created Dungeons and Dragons, and yes, I never knew him in person. But I have played 3.5 edition of D&D and I loved it.

Is it possible to mourn a man's death never having known him in person?

For me, this isn't something everybody will mourn about, like what happened to Heath Ledger's death and subsequent media circus. Gygax will probably not get a fancy funeral (but he deserves one) and most people I know don't even know his name or what he did for the Fantasy genre games market.

I did not know him, but I played some version of the game that he gave life to. It's like how you can love an author having never met them in person, but you know them from the books they wrote. 3.5 edition D&D was not made by Gygax, but if it wasn't for him, D&D would not exist.

Unlike Heath Ledger, there are no suspicious circumstances to his death. He will get no media circus picking his bones. And this enables the right people to mourn his passing, not out of socially acceptable pity, but out of genuine emotion.

This man's contribution to Fantasy inspired me to write in the genre, and develop my research further than the Monster Manual to see where the many legendary beasts came from. I came across the game at a time in my life where my imagination was prepared to be sparked by something, something I could interact with, not a videogame, but a game purely powered by the imagination. And I thank you for the new direction you set my life in, Gygax. Without you I'd still be writing copy-cat LOTR dreck that I was working on in Year 8 High School.

I never knew you, Gygax, but I will still mourn your death, that came not at the hands of a Beholder or some monster like that, but a more mundane slaying from a medical condition. Maybe a Level 20 Necromancer cast a spell on you, I wouldn't be at all surprised. But it's odd, when you contemplate how simple and mundane the deaths of Fantasy writers and guardians of imagination are.

Terry Pratchett got Alzheimer's earlier this year. He's not dead yet, and is still useful, but we must remember that no mortal creator will live forever, and they must be cherished while they live. Gygax, you'll be rolling d20s in heaven, I know you're doing it right now, you lovable old geek-king.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake of All Trades

Sunday, March 2, 2008

There once was a man named Professor Wilhelm...

And I helped him set up his blog.

He'll be arguing with me over his blog posts occasionally. Consider him the alternative voice of my head. You can find his blog on the Interesting Links and Blogs toolbar.

That is all for now.

10 Obscure Books I Know You'll Love


Sometimes a book looks at you with big puppy dog eyes like the dog in this picture, because it needs to be loved.

You know what I mean. Those old favorites you rescue from second hand bookshops in bulk so you can lend the extra copies to your friends, that they might love the books you love.

I personally have never done this myself, but desperate times call for desperate measures. So I bring you...

Ten Obscure Books I Know You'll Love

10: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft

Where in Shub-Niggurath's name are the H.P. Lovecraft fans in Australia?

Seriously, there's like, none, where I live. Kinokuniya in the Sydney CBD sells a small collection of Lovecraft paperbacks, yet whenever I see them I know Mr. Lovecraft is weeping in Heaven because Australians don't know who he is, much less read his books. Yes, the racism barrier in some of his stories makes it difficult to enjoy elements of his craft, but we all know the 1920s and 30s were not at all like To Kill A Mockingbird for many Americans. There was the fear of isolation, in a sea of change. The Depression made people unemployed, but also paranoid about anybody foreign who would take a job that was "rightfully theirs". This happened to Lovecraft, and I'm sorry to say the man had flaws. But who doesn't? Even people at my school say pretty racist stuff when nobody is looking. Ian Fleming had his sexism to shame him. Lovecraft's flaw was his now controversial views on the coloured people of the United States, as well as Asians and Native Americans.

This is no excuse for not reading him. He gives you a vision of a world where alien Gods so powerful that they make Humanity look like ants survive in the dark places of the world hidden from modern civilisation. This book I'm mentioning is still in print and reasonably easy to get hold of from or a well stocked bookshop.

9: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick

This book has gorgeous illustrations that pretty much recommends the book by itself, without me having to do much talking. A picture is worth a thousand words, as it were. This book is about an orphaned boy who finds an automaton, and the mystery of this invention is the focus of the book, as well as the strange toymaker and the girl he looks after. Do read it!

8: With The Light: Vol. 1 by Keiko Tobe

This is a Manga about Autism. Usually I don't recommend this much to people I don't know, because doing so implies I have Autism. I have a form of it, Asperger's Syndrome, but I am high-functioning and nothing like the autistic boy in this Manga in many ways, yet reading this was instrumental to my discovery of who I really am and why I think differently to other humans. It's set in Japan (duh, it's a Manga comic) but the themes it deals with are universal to any country's methods of dealing with autistic people. It presents a strong argument for autistics to be integrated into society rather than being shut away from it. Much more helpful in giving a good understanding of the condition than the abominable The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

7: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Not really an obscure book, but I wish more people my age read it so I could discuss it over tea and biscuits. It's one of those "becoming a man" must-read-when-you're-leaving-teenager-hood books. Needless to say it's a classic travelling book about the Real America. America as you see it today, in my mind, is Not Real America, because of what the government has done to ruin it. Still, America as it is now still has its own beauty, yet the spirit of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty roaming the roads like madmen has forever been lost as shopping malls destroy the "Mom and Pop" businesses that remain from a by-gone age. All I can say is: CURSE YOU WAL-MART!

6: The Stolen Child by Keith Donahue

Whoa, I hear you say. A Fantasy book without knights and dragons? This is Urban Fantasy, buckaroo, and it's a dark horse to ride, my Imagination-irritated friends! If you like your Fairies of the Disney variety, read this book. Not because the Faeries of this book will live up to your saccharine poor excuse for Fey Folk memories of Disney pillaging Elfland to feed the entertainment industry, but for a reality check. Most people think that Faeries are twinkly and happy and just for girls who like pretty dresses. Well guess what? Real Faeries are NOT like that. They're so savage and inhuman I'm surprised they don't eat the babies they switch with Changelings. You think a Fantasy book can't teach universal themes? This one will punch you in the face with a story about leaving childhood, which is almost as traumatic and shocking as how leaving childhood really is for anyone. But that doesn't mean this book is a horror to read, it's so readable, it's SCARY!

5: Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore et al

People just don't understand why Heath Ledger's version of The Joker is actually scary compared to the original Batman movie version they remember from their childhood. Alan Moore delivers you a reason why the Joker is absolutely terrifying. His Watchmen is a book I would also recommend, but that's far less obscure than this under-appreciated
classic of Batman lore. This origin story for The Joker has since been written out of continuity by the DC Comics editors, but somehow I think that was a big mistake. I personally liked a more three dimensional Joker who wasn't just an evil clown who laughed at inappropriate times. Sometimes you almost agree with him in this story when he stops and argues about why madness is an acceptable way of dealing with modern life. Almost. And I would have liked a slightly different ending too, yet such is the power of Alan Moore that he makes you understand why he wrote it the way he did. It's just how the characters would really think.

4: Mort by Terry Pratchett

Another Fantasy offering, but this one is also significant for its treatment of one universal theme of Human experience: Death. Terry Pratchett made Death into a person you could love, in a way, for his strange outlook on life. Pratchett's interpretation of Death ranks as one of the most popular characters in the Discworld series of comic Fantasy novels. Why? Because take away the fact he's a skeleton, and you realise he's a man. A strange man indeed, but someone you can have sympathy for in a non-tragic way. You really want to root for Death, because this book proves that Blue Oyster Cult was right, Don't Fear The Reaper.

3: About a Boy by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby in my opinion is one of the only living authors who bother to write popular fiction about men's issues such as responsibility, middle age, and why spending your life being nothing is no life at all. About a Boy, I believe, is Hornby's masterpiece. Not just because I love Nirvana and was interested in the period surrounding his death, but the unbiased way Hornby examines the nature of celebrity deaths, we think we understand celebrities and we feel sad when they die, but how many of us truly know the rich and the famous, really? How does a strange chain of events concerning a boy, his single mother, and an aging hipster come together in a thread of fate that unites people who wouldn't normally talk to each other, come to all tied loose ends when Kurt Cobain kills himself? You'll have to read it to find out. And before you declare me a spoiler monster, I haven't actually spoiled anything about the book at all. Just read it.

2: The Ode Less Traveled by Stephen Fry

Teaching kids about Poetry these days is a nightmare. Getting people interested in writing good Poetry is worse. Luckily, Stephen Fry comes to the rescue in a lovely, entertaining romp through a crash course in meter, spondee, rhyme, alliteration, the lot, and you'll love every minute of both his funny sense of humor and his helpful exercises (Stephen Fry does not tolerate lazy bones poets, do the exercises man!). Highly recommended for anyone interested (or vaguely interested) in an artform that too many people think is a "terrible secret" to practice. Conquer the English Language!

1: Train Man by Hitori Nakano

Lord Almighty, why have the people forsaken this brilliant book that has influenced my life so much it's chronic?

It's obscene that nobody I know has read, or even heard of, this book that has defined geek identity for me so well? This book will give even the most cynical geek and nerd hope that they too can find love in this crazy world, if they just open their eyes and see that somebody outside their room will love them for who they are?

Most people I know automatically discard the idea of reading it because it's about an Anime geek who finds love. Somehow "Anime" and "Geek finds love" translates to "bad book that's boring". I dare you, I really dare you naysayers, to open up your horizons, just like the Train Man in this book, and experience something you're not familiar with. Maybe you know some geek down the road who thinks no girl will ever love him, hence he drowns his sorrows in Sailor Moon cartoons. If you don't ever read this, at least give this book to that one geek who's lost hope in their life of finding a positive, two sided relationship that isn't with a character on a TV screen or a Manga comic. Just... try and bring some joy into their lives, mmkay?

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake of All Trades

Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Posting Diary Entries

You may have noticed the blog posts of late have been actually interesting to read. Or maybe not.

But my life is actually getting interesting. You may have read the last post. You may not have. Aside from women clamouring for my assistance, a lot of other weird stuff has happened too.

First of all, my brother finally admits that he doesn't like the "pub crawlers" as he calls them, trying to drag him off to the pub all the time. This can only mean one thing: he's growing up and realising that campus life gives as little privacy as living at home with me and my parents. He even went so far as saying he might miss me.

My garden is greener than it's ever been from the heavy rain. It actually looks like it's worth visiting and having a pot of tea among the shrubbery for a relax.

My homework is actually starting to sort itself out. Because I'm actually doing it by myself. Who knew? Sometimes the creative art of novel redrafting must take a backseat to study. And I have to say the studying's a lot easier with a soundproofed room in Study Hall where I can have a tutor for study assistance such as note organisation and study structure.

That is all for now.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake of All Trades

I'm just a Gift to the Women of this world...

But not in the same way Lou Reed thinks he is.

Something very odd is happening to me. Women of all ages are happy to listen to my advice, which never used to happen. I feel a disturbance in the natural order, but the best one that's ever happened to me.

These said women aren't necessarily romantically interested in me. But it's not like they're ignoring me either. Suddenly, they think my gift ideas for their musician boyfriends and tips to find the best musical gifts is sound advice, they actually want to talk to me instead of ignore me, and middle aged to elderly women think I'm a charming young man who's more than happy to inform them about which bus to catch in order to get to Ryde Shops.

I think it started when I rebuked a young man who was making sexist remarks to some girls I knew, with the cutting insult "a chauvinist pig like you deserves to be gutted and displayed in a butcher's window". It was quite effective in keeping the chap quiet. And now girls have realised that the reason why I'm not hitting on them is not because I'm shy but because I actually respect them, no matter how blonde their hair is.

It started to really get weird when I was admiring a young Indian/Persian student's fine female form, not ogling, when she didn't slap me for it, but gave me a knowing look of acknowledgment, and smiled gently at me. There was something about her that struck my heart with a flutter. It was her attitude. Without saying a word, she let me know that she was beautiful, was comfortable with her body, and didn't at all mind admiration of it in a civilised manner. Then I realised that what I admired in a woman was not so much a person to comfort me all the time when I'm sad, but to share in the joy of an independent confidence.

This is all very confusing. I go from no female attention to having a horde of them listening to my words of wisdom. We'll have to see if it continues.

- Jacob Martin
AKA Jake of All Trades

Monday, February 25, 2008

Did you miss me?

I'm back, and I know I've been neglecting you loyal readers who have bothered to continue reading this blog.

Allow me to explain why my blog has felt so neglected and forgot: that old chestnut of school study has failed to be cracked as well as I had hoped, though it has been penetrated slightly. Now the chestnut has a hole in it, but not enough to remove the goods inside, unless I crack it more.

My brother has gone to University at Griffith University in Queensland. Allegedly there is a "Toga Party" tomorrow night for the new students: my knowledge of Toga Parties mainly comes from coming of age college comedies puts me in wonder whether I should be delighted or concerned for him.

What I understand a Toga Party is, is a party where young men dress in togas and drink and debauch like the Roman Emperors of old. I think my brother will be encountering a milder version of that, keep in mind the event is endorsed by the facility of the University.

Also, it appears I have finally understood my father after all these years, and he seems to be understanding me. A man who is decidedly patriarchal would not normally allow his son to get tickets to see Germaine Greer speak in a conference. Only a true father would make a sacrifice like that.

I didn't get into ArtExpress 2007 (now showing at the Art Gallery of NSW) with my Visual Arts Body of Work, but it seems that the artworks that did get in aren't half bad. Though the other half is dreadful. Very strong on Video Art this year, but the "HSC Angst Art" category, as always, never fails to disappoint in its delivery of disappointment.

For those who don't know, ArtExpress is an exhibition of student art from the HSC that got into the top band of marks and fit the criteria of the curator's "theme" for that year. This year it appears to be Technology. Go see it while you still can, if you're in Sydney at all this coming month.

Someone on pointed out this fabulous website of old paperback cover art. Here is the link:

This is one of my favorite images from the site:


That's right. Love In Dishevelment, the "Short, Neat Chronicle of an Untidy Romance". Somehow this reminded me of my brother's now empty, messy bedroom, and it made me smile. It's like I'm finding bits of my brother to fill his absence.

- Jacob Martin
AKA "Jake of All Trades"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Movie Review: Dracula (1992)

There are many instances where the book is better than the film. Francis Ford Coppola's take on the classic Vampire novel Dracula is of such abysmal quality that it itself is a monster that needs a stake through the heart and its head cut off.

Tom Waits as Renfield was one of the only good performances in it, as well as occasional moments from Sir Anthony Hopkins (the part after Lucy is staked is hilarious: "Yes, she was in pain, but we put a stake through her heart and cut off her head, and now she is at peace"). But Keanu Reeves's English accent is so bad that he sounds like he did in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, and has ever since played the same role in every movie he gets a job in.

And it's just a tad too smutty and lurid, even though eroticism was present in the original novel, here it is so blatantly sexual that it's a turn-off instead of a turn-on! It's like Basic Instinct meets Anne Rice! The character of Lucy in this film is a complete tart compared to the gentle and courtly Lucy in the novel, there is a scene showing a translation of the Arabian Nights translated by Richard E. Burton... is it the same Richard Burton I think it is??? Because if it is, it's a historical goof!

All in all I give it Two Stakes out of Ten, one for Tom Waits, the other for Anthony Hopkins. A brilliant waste of Hollywood money and your time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger's Dead (I smell a new Bauhaus hit single)

So Heath Ledger's dead.

Sad indeed.

Sad indeed for Australian talent, since Nicole Kidmann hasn't delivered a decent role since... ever. At least we still have Cate Blanchett to be proud of. Ledger was one of Australia's only quality home grown male actors, and he will be difficult to find a substitute for, if at all.

Now I'll be the first to admit that I criticised Heath Ledger's slipping into an Aussie accent in I'm Not There when he says "You can't take me kids!", something that Bob Dylan would never say, or any American with their accent would ever say, in an obviously American movie.

But I can forgive him that, if only he would have avoided his fate we could have seen a string of quality films... people have speculated that his role as The Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight led to his downfall, but I present one piece of evidence that nullifies wild acceptance of this theory as law...


Jack Nicholson played The Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, and he turned out fine. Well, he did play the crazy father in
The Shining
previously, so he had experience in lunacy.

So what gives me the right to speculate about Ledger's death?


We simply don't know enough yet, and I'll be waiting until the official autopsy and burial and 10th Anniversary Memorial Special for me to come up with some decent conspiracy theories. But in the meantime I do enjoy debunking rubbish theories about it.

- Jacob Martin
AKA "Jake of All Trades"

Friday, January 18, 2008

On Optimism

It seems to me that since I adopted Optimism as my outlook on life, replacing the Pessimism that had ill-served me in my teenage years, I have become happier and more accepting of the Human condition, whereas previously I wanted nothing to do with it. This did not occur because I read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, but under very strange circumstances where I became so annoyed with my lot in life (having to stay at school while my friends went to their University placings) that I most likely became fed up with my choice of philosophy.

"Why was I here, if I was doomed to go through another year of school with a bunch of idiots who wouldn't appreciate literature if a radioactive manuscript of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar stabbed them in the back?"

This was the question I asked myself, and I pondered the answer in a conversation on Windows MSN Messenger with a friend (as you may recall, this was how I came across the meaning of what being a man was, in a previous epiphany) but instead of Angus, my other friend Tom was the one who inspired me to go on.

I considered his argument. There were indeed students in the new Year 12 who were not as uncultured as I feared. The trouble was that those students tended to be very busy with their studies, as I should have been too. Then it occurred to me that instead of fearing the mindless curriculum of the courses I had to take, I would see what I could learn from these courses that might be useful to a young Author like myself.

I found a safe haven in Genre Theory. Learning how genre worked was more interesting than it sounded, and as a Fantasy Author, this was crucial information I needed to know. I would have to read as many books in a genre as well as many other genres to remain fresh and in touch with the concerns of modern Humanity... and I was up to the challenge, despite the large pile of books I had to read for my studies. I calculated that the only solution to my problem was to:

a) Read these books instead of gazing upon them and going into a Lovecraftian madness

b) Accept that it is possible for a great work of literature to exist without dragons, Elves, Dwarves, or Faeries explicitly mentioned in the text

c) Know that the more I read, the more I would learn about writing, and the more I would learn about writing, the more I would create quality prose (and pass my exams)

d) Recognise that the Human experience came not from a literal interpretation of the world and the imagination, but the use of imagination to bring excitement into mundane everyday things. Douglas Adams, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, wrote something along the lines of "can't we just enjoy a nice garden without having to believe there are fairies at the bottom of it too?". Taken literally, this is a rejection of imagination and wonder. Taken as the metaphor it is, it is multi-layered. It seems to me that it is a metaphor for how science, in Douglas Adams's point of view, does not destroy the beauty of nature by explaining how it works, but enhances our appreciation and understanding of how complicated the wonders of nature really are, and our enjoyment of a garden will not be taken away by the absence of fairies. I am also aware that Adams was friends with Richard Dawkins, the renowned/reviled atheist superstar scientist, and such a friendship most likely resulted in a shared interest in secular science. In Hitchhiker's, he seems to have created a tale that is both funny, and reflective of his scientific, secular world-view, that also contains a wonderful affirmation of the fact that science is compatible with the imagination, for without it, Humans cannot conceive the many developments in technology we come up with every day. Therefore, the quotation contains so much imaginative and intellectual discussion, in one brief sentence, that to take it as a literal forsaking of the imagination would be an insult to the memory of the late Douglas Adams. So here we learn that science does not necessarily mean the abolition of imagination, though I could point out many cases where scientists reject imagination, Adams is appealing to both a scientific argument and the nature of Human beings to tell stories. I might not agree with Adams's friend Richard Dawkins's arguments against religion, however Adams presents his world view in a much friendlier and less hostile manner. So I give him a pat on the back for presenting a view without preaching (if the Only Convert to Atheism could be described as doing such a thing) to the reader. Or lecturing, to be more respectful to Adams's lack of belief in God. If he was alive I would ask him to give my religious beliefs the same respect, naturally.

* * * * *

After accepting my studies I became happier and more productive. When I was a Pessimist, I was lucky if I typed 1000 words for a story in a week. Since becoming an Optimist, I have continued to produce nearly 2000 words every day for the past four days. If that's not an endorsement you'd believe, I don't know what else I could do to change your mind.

I've been sleeping better, the usual insomnia that plagues my nights seems to be easing. Rather than always not having enough sleep, I always wake up refreshed (I usually have to walk a bit of the sleep off before this kicks in, like anybody does).

I've had more hope for the future. Having a plan and a vision for what I want to do in the future hasn't made me a millionaire yet, but keeping in mind not everybody needs to be a millionaire, just enough to live comfortably and a full life, I have been more content with my circumstances than ever before. My dreams of becoming a full time Author after I leave school seem actually achievable, as I work for my dreams and put them into practice every day. Thus I can taste the reality of a growing and living manuscript instead of a mocking, half finished pipe-dream.

I highly recommend Optimism, it's not a religious cult that will take all your money, nor is it a fad. It's a philosophy that will improve your lifestyle to degrees immeasurable by Pythagoras himself. Do try it.

- Jacob Martin
AKA "Jake of All Trades"

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Formula of Fiction, Video Games, and Life

It's not that difficult to learn how to play when your sibling owns a Wii, however it is possible that, like with most plug in console games that I'm not using a handheld for, Super Mario Galaxy is a challenge for a previously non-gamer myself. The controls are innovative, unlike Wii Sports, you can play it sitting down, but it is definitely easier to twist the Wiimote to the left or right than what you had to do with the Gamecube controller to play Super Mario Sunshine.

What I've noticed is that the formulaic nature of Mario games is their selling point, each new Mario game features a new innovation while using a simple plot to tie the goals of the game together. The basic plot of a Mario game is to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser, a turtle dragon like creature that breathes fire. It seems to have worked well over the years, so I guess Nintendo have no intention of changing this formula, though Phoenix Wright games on the Nintendo DS have appeal for having different villains in every game/mission.

One of the appeals of the James Bond movies is the use of a different villain in most of the films, save Blofeld, who appears more than once in the series of blockbusters. But it seems with some video game franchises, that a use of a different villain in any one game would alienate gamers who have expectations that Bowser will turn up in every Mario game, or for Resident Evil fans, zombies of some description must turn up in such a Resident Evil game, which is part of the survival horror genre that usually entails surviving a number of mental and physical aberrations in order to get out of some haunted mansion/cursed village/Vampire's castle (in the Castlevania franchise).

But formula is not entirely a beast that must be slain, sometimes, like in the Harry Potter series of books, there is a formula that is subverted on many occasions, the last book for instance had little scenes of Hogwarts at all except for the final battle (I will not put spoilers here), and in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore rarely appears in that book, despite his presence in every other previous book being overtly noticeable.

But then again, Life is best when it is not formulaic. This is because we shouldn't expect the formula, a boring daily routine is a formula we all wish to avoid, yet there are innovations in life that are self-initiated by our own choices, life is not like a video game, lose a life and it's Game Over in the real world. Formulas in fiction and videogames however, can be useful in telling us the concerns of our times, and the concerns of previous ones, which we can learn from to better our existence on Earth.

- Jacob Martin
AKA "Jake of All Trades"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I finally got my Nintendo DS Lite (review)

So I got one. It's "Ice Blue", which in various light sources looks light green. I did not expect to get an Ice Blue DS Lite, but then again I didn't expect to find one at all, since many stores have sold out of them. I ordered one from Dick Smith but they seemed to have forgotten about me, so I snatched up the one I have when I could. I also assisted my brother in getting a Nintendo Wii, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

I have played the Game Boy Advance and have owned one for years, the one I have is one of the horizontal models with a wider screen, but poor lighting, so a plug in light was needed. The upside of this system was that it not only played your GBA games but old Game Boy and Game Boy Color (cursed American spelling oppresses Australian technology users everywhere! IT'S "COLOUR" DAMMIT!) games too.

One of the drawcards for me to get a DS Lite was GBA compatibility, however it can't play Mole Mania, a Game Boy game, because it doesn't play those old cartridges. The upside of DS Lite GBA playing is that with some games, if you have a certain GBA game that features connectivity with a DS game, you can get extra stuff for your gaming, but also, both DS Lite screens are properly backlit, ending eyestrain agony that I had with GBA games in the past on my primitive horizontal GBA.

Oh, and it can play DS games. Like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. That's another reason why I got a DS Lite, the games you can play on it. What other console gives you the chance to be a hotshot rookie lawyer with no legal training or degree required for the experience? What other console gives you the chance to be yelled at by a Japanese doctor with glasses as he puts you through Brain Training exercises, who also explains how you can play Sudoku on your DS using THE SAME CARTRIDGE?

But other than those games there's a good selection out there, which I will review later when I have played them enough to make a decent critic of myself.

The speakers on the DS Lite are a lot better than I'm used to with previous Nintendo handhelds, which in the past had tinny annoying soundtracks on their games. DS games actually try to have good music on them, or at least interesting music. In "Animal Crossing: Wild World", you can create the town's theme tune. I was feeling in a sinister mood, so I put in the "Pan's Labyrinth" movie theme as my town's "town tune". The game even plays variations of it on different instruments when you encounter different people in different circumstances. And that is why I don't trust the purple cat character, he makes the tune play even more chillingly than it should when my character dude talks to him...

The DS Lite, by its name, claims to be lighter than the original Nintendo DS, however I have just compared the weights of the GBA and my DS Lite in my hands, and the GBA is much lighter. Understandably, since the DS Lite has a lot to do, including two screens, built in programs (Pictochat) and dual cartridge capabilities. But that doesn't mean it sucks. It's just a lot more in one package.

I give it Four and a Half Stars (minus one for no Game Boy Colour playback).

- Jacob Martin
AKA "Jake of All Trades"

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I'll be 18 years old in 20 minutes.

Whoopee. In 20 minutes I'll be 18 years old.

So far I've planted a few pot plants today, bought drink tubs for my party, and installed Mozilla Firefox which makes the Internet run a lot faster than Internet Explorer. Why did I do this? Because Stephen Fry told me so:

Nuff said.

- Jacob Martin
AKA "Jake of All Trades"