Thursday, 11 February 2010

Everything Picture - Round Up #1

...or the stuff I've read but want to keep what I say about the, short and sweet.

First up, Jo Durden-Smith's The Essence of Buddhism. It's a basic guide to Buddhism, essentially more of the history of the religion (and therefore a bit of a slog occasionally) and the various factions, with fairly shallow of dips into the philosophy underpinning the religion. Interesting, but only a starting point if you want to know more.

Colin Wilson's biography of Alister Crowley, The Nature of the Beast is fairly remarkable in that it's one of the most credulous books I've ever read. It doesn't shy away from Crowley's manifold flaws, but when it comes to Crowley's more mysticism he's got a disturbing tendency to take him literally at his word. It's an interesting position to try to hold, balancing scepticism with credibility, and I'm not entirely sure Wilson pulls it off. But it's interesting to get a fuller picture of one of the original tabloid daemons, and no man who pissed the Daily Mail off so much can be all bad, even if he did descend to eating shit.

And finally the band biography of one of my favourite bands, The Flaming Lips. There's nothing essentially remarkable about their story, bar their persistence, but when a remarkable character like Wayne Coyne's at the heart of the tale, it can't help but be interesting. Like the Lips music it feels like a mix of wide eyed cosmic optimism of with garage and punk, it's like tracking someone with a great deal of enthusiasm and determination trying to build a spaceship from the principle of trial and error. It's often close to crashing and burning in flames, but as much by luck as judgement, they eventually manage to successfully shoot for the stars. Author Jim DeRogitas often makes a classic rock critic mistake of telling you exactly what's good, and oh look, it's received orthodoxy. Trying to build a consensus, which seems extraordinarily appropriate for a band like the Lips. Although he's right when he says that the magnificent atheistic hymn 'Do You Realize??' should have been one of the biggest hits of all time. It's a reminder of how, in a ruthless bastard of an industry, there's still room for a bunch of hardworking nutters to make it on their own terms. The world would be a shittier place indeed without the cheeringly indomitable presence of the Lips, the purveyors of the finest, most joyous and inclusive rock 'n' roll show I've ever seen.

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