Thursday, 30 August 2012

Books: Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

If you’re a fan of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy then it’s a safe bet that you will also love this book.

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency has that unmistakably
unique Douglas Adams sense of brilliant weirdness about it.
Usually when reviewing a book it’s normally quite a simple task to provide a brief one chapter summary at the start of the review to summarise the basic plot of the story, but with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency the brilliantly unique quirkiness of the story make it a somewhat more difficult task to sum it all up in one paragraph.

So instead I’ll quote from Douglas Adams himself when he describes it as, “A thumping good detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic.”  There are so many elements to this book that it’s extremely hard to categorise, but that comment from Douglas Adams sums it up as accurately as it’s possible to do in one sentence.

And although the title might suggest that Dirk Gently is the one man star of the show, in actual fact there are several interesting characters in this book with Dirk himself not actually making a first appearance until a few chapters into the story.  In actual fact Richard MacDuff, a computer programmer who’s creations include software to convert company accounts into music and a 3D computer model to attempt to work out how to remove the sofa stuck halfway up his stairs, is perhaps closer to what you would usually describe as the main character than Dirk.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Graphic Novel: It's A Bird

An original take on the Superman legend.

It's A Bird, from the creative team of
Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen.
My only memory of ever reading a Superman comic was when I was really young.  My recollections are vague, so this account of the comic I read may not be one hundred percent accurate, but from what I remember Superman had to defeat a band of Superboy impostors and he did so not through brute force, but through superior wisdom and devious sneakiness.  The story involved Superman leading the impostors on a journey through the heart of the sun and this appealed to me as I’ve always been a fan of space-born adventures.  The intelligence of the story also appealed to me, but for whatever reason I never took any further interest in Superman ... until now.

It’s Bird by Vertigo Comics is a Superman themed graphic novel with a twist.  Rather than present another regular Superman tale, it instead tells the story of troubled comic book writer Steve who is offered the job as writer on one of the Superman comics produced by DC.  Despite this being arguably the top job in comics, Steve however shows an apparent indifference towards the job and in fact tells his editor he is not interested.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Music: The Big Roar by The Joy Formidable

Keeps getting better and better with every listen.

The Big Roar featuring the passion and energy of a live performance.
From the moment I heard the first chorus of The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie I knew I was going to like this album.  I just never realised quite how much.  Within a few listens it was obvious that this was one of those albums which just gets better and better with every listen.  By approximately the tenth listen I had realised it was going to be one of my favourite albums of the year, and by approximately the twentieth listen I realised it was possibly one of my favourite albums of all time.

Such is the strength of the songs that The Big Roar could easily pass for a collection of singles.  In fact if someone had told me this was a Greatest Hits collection I wouldn’t have doubted them for a second.

Not satisfied with simply creating an album’s worth of excellent tunes, however, The Joy Formidable have really thrown themselves into every song with the result being that many of the songs have the passion and energy of a live performance, whilst maintaining the quality production of a studio recording.  The end result is that you get the best of both worlds and you could say ‘The Big Roar’ sums it up perfectly.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Travel: Bako National Park (Sarawak, Malysian Borneo)

If you're a lover of nature then Borneo's Bako National Park is well worth checking out.

Mangrove swamps at Bako National Park.
Anyone who’s ever been lucky enough to visit Borneo will know that it’s an island filled with many amazing travel destinations and lots of cool things to see and do.  However, one destination which many visitors to Borneo sometimes overlook is the excellent Bako National Park situated on the northern coast of Sarawak only a short journey from Kuching.

The only way into the park, however, is via the official visitor centre entrance situated at Bako village, so after paying the warden for your ticket you then have a further twenty minute speedboat ride before you’re actually at the park proper.  The cost for the journey is per boat, but if you’re travelling on your own you might find, like I did, that you meet other backpackers at the entrance and can split the costs.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Movie: Catfish

Keeps you on your toes as the story unravels.

Catfish, a clever idea and an absorbing story.
Catfish tells the story of photographer Nev Schulman and his relationship with eight year old Abby, a talented artist who sends him paintings of his published photos in the mail.  Things then progress as before long Nev has started up an online relationship with Abby’s attractive older sister, Megan, and the ‘documentary’ then switches its attention to how that develops.

Right from the start Catfish has you asking questions and just as you start to formulate a hypothesis as to how all the pieces and clues fit together, the movie then reveals a new twist which has you changing your theory once again.  It really sucks you in and gets inside your head, and even the day after watching it my thoughts kept returning to this movie.

I won’t go into the plot in any greater depth other than to say Catfish provides a powerful lesson regarding the emotional risks of trusting someone you meet on the internet and especially of forming an ‘electronic’ relationship with them.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


A friendly, helpful and active community of travellers make this a great travel site. is a highly recommended travel website which is equally ideal for a travel beginner planning their first backpacking trip or an experienced traveller.  The website features a number of sections covering almost everything you could want from a travel website including detailed travel guides, travel blogs, a photography section and the section I personally use the most, the forums.

Niagara Falls ... just one of hundreds of travel photos on
the website.
These are organised into three categories (general travel forums, destination forums and community forums) with each category then being split into further sub-forums, so pretty much every subject you could want to discuss is covered.  For example the destination category includes a sub-forum for every continent (except Antarctica!) and the general travel category includes sub-forums for such topics as travel companions and travel photography, so it’s all very easy to navigate.

It’s also a very friendly community and new members are made to feel welcome.  I’ve come across other forums where if you deviate even slightly from some of the draconian forum rules you will instantly be hit with a stream of criticism from high-maintenance forum members informing you that you’ve contravened ‘article 4(ii) sub-section 7(a) of the forum regulations’ or whatever.  However, the travellerspoint community has a friendly welcoming vibe to it, and the more experienced forum members will generally try to answer any questions as helpfully as they can.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Music: Proof Of Youth by The Go! Team

Proof Of Youth: Infectiously groovaphonic!

Proof Of Youth by The Go! Team ... infectiously groovaphonic!
I’m the type of person who usually needs to listen to an album at least five times before I can tell if I’m going to like it or not, so it was quite uncharacteristic when I heard a brief snippet of The Wrath Of Marcie on TV one morning and instantly loved it.  It’s the perfect early morning song to grab you by the scruff of the neck and fill you full of enthusiasm for the day.

The rest of The Go! Team's Proof Of Youth album is similar in style and has an early seventies hippie vibe to it, but repackaged for a modern audience.  I don’t know if the following analogy only rings true in my head, but if you took the music from Sesame Street and crossed it with Fatboy Slim then I imagine that you would end up with an album somewhat like this.  Doing It Right, Fake ID and I Never Needed It So Much Right Now in particular fit this analogy of sounding like they’ve been swiped from Sesame Street and given the Fatboy Slim remix treatment.