I'm down to my last two copies, in-house, of Summerworld. When these are out there will be a delay of at least a couple of weeks while I order more.
One thing I learned: selling the books directly barely puts any money back into my pocket. I can cover my cost of manufacturing, but the hit of sales tax, shipping and a bunch of other things brings it down to barely a dollar a book. I may have to wind up selling the signed copies at a premium (I hate to do it, but I don't have much choice) from the website, and at the regular face price when I'm out-and-about. For now, buying directly off Lulu puts the most money back in my pocket with the least hassle.
Then again, for the time being, this is really not about trying to turn a profit. I'm just learning the ropes of how this works, and I'm already keeping my day job (that's absolutely not changing any time soon). But as I mentioned earlier, if I attracted a decent following and they bought at least one book from me a year, it would cover my expenses for the books and add a little extra on top. You could do lots worse.
Finally, a live-action fantasy from Japan that doesn’t look better on the back of the DVD box than it does on the screen! That was the problem with Shinobi and Azumi, which looked great in theory but were terribly leaden in practice. Now comes Ashura, which sounds like it ought to have been even worse than both of them, but it has something neither of those movies had: a sense of humor, directed mostly at itself. Ashura knows it’s absurd in the extreme and everyone on screen looks like they know it, too. It’s a romp and a half, and it doesn’t wear out its welcome too soon.
The movie’s a period setpiece in Japan’s Edo (the old-school version of Tokyo), which as of late is suffering from a rather nasty incursion of demons. Izumo (Somegoro Ichikawa, also of the hilarious Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald), one of the duly-appointed Demon Slayers, tears into his work with gusto, and enjoys the company of his equally bloodthirsty comrades; they’re like a cross between a supernatural police force and a murderous dance troupe. Then Izumo is tricked into killing a little girl, takes off his black Demon Slayer armor, and puts on the more garish colors of an actor and dissolute playboy. He’s able to fill packed houses with cheering fans when he performs the roles written for him by his playwright boss Nanboku, but he’s still inwardly despondent even if he hides it behind a mask of rakish indifference. Read more
The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On belongs in the same category as movies like Gates of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line — a true story that is so staggering in its details that you would never be believed if you had presented it as fiction. Its subject is a mild-mannered looking Japanese fellow in his fifties named Kenzo Okuzaki. He doesn’t look like the kind of man who would have spent ten years in prison for murder and two more years for acts of civil disobedience against the Emperor. He has good reasons for all of those things, though, which he is happy to explain to you in the form of a massive sign erected on his shop front and on angry placards mounted on top of his car. Face-to-face, he’s polite, almost self-effacing, but then he switches on his bullhorn microphone and rails against the injustices his own country has doled out to him, and everyone within earshot ducks.
Okuzaki probably does have good reason to be angry. He was a member of the 36th Regiment in New Guinea in WWII, and after what he endured for the sake of the Emperor and his own country (in that order, some would argue), he’s not afraid of a little jail time for his trouble-making. His crusade in life is to draw attention to what happened to him and his starving comrades at the time — sufferings that he is convinced were neither necessary nor noble. The only of his comrades that got a proper burial did so at the hands of his fellow soldiers. In the scene where Okuzaki explains this to the man’s mother he pours the whole story out in a single breath and then simply collapses in grief. “He died, and he was the luckiest one.” Read more
“My son Campbell would love that T-shirt,” says the Ugandan military dictator to the Scottish doctor. So begins as unlikely relationship as any that could be dreamed up between Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a young and whey-faced fellow who came to Africa to “make a difference”, and none other than Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker). It’s told with the brightly-lit, full-frontal gusto of an A-list Hollywood production, but it’s got the wit and insight of a smaller, nominally more character-driven film. That’s as it should be, because a story like this is best told as something taking place between people and not an epic of armies colliding.
Nicholas ended up in Uganda more or less at random, to get out from under the thumb of his father. Before bumping into Amin, he was sweating it out at a village clinic shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow physician Sarah Merrit (Gillian Anderson) , who has few of Nicholas’s idealistic delusions. She’s singularly unimpressed when Amin comes to town to stump for the success of his coup; she’s seen dictators come and go. Nicholas has not, and that at least partly explains his attraction to the man. There is also the suggestion that Nicholas is all too willing to embrace the kind of justifications that Amin uses in his line of work — as when he takes Amin’s pistol and shoots a dying cow in the head. Read more
Here is another of Japan’s loveliest and most sorrowful of films, restored to life and freed from the patina of decades of damage that hid its beauty. Sansho the Bailiff was one of the first Japanese movies I rented as part of my cinematic education about Japan, a process which started with a theatrical screening of Kurosawa’s Ran back in 1985 and has persisted to this day. Like director Kenji Mizoguchi’s equally-saddening Ugetsu (another movie I saw at the same time, possibly back-to-back with it), the only copies available were VHS transfers; I was unlucky enough to rent a copy of Sansho that sported nasty creases in the tape for the first five minutes. The luminous beauty of the movie still showed through despite all that, and I longed for a day when I could see it again without multiple generations of print damage and analog tape artifacts obscuring it. Here we are at last. Read more
Volume 3 of Berserk is the end of the beginning of Kenta Miura’s self-professed life’s work — the final installment in our introduction to Guts, the first true delineation of the universe he inhabits, and the first chapter of the next part of his violent odyssey.
The second book ended with Guts clashing with the vile Count, a man who used the mysterious Behelit to broker a deal with the demons from the world beyond to give him incredible power on earth. (I mentioned Hellraiser as a good point of reference, and the more I read of Berserk the more valid it all seems as homage.) Guts delivers as much of a hammering as he gets, not just to dole out sadism, but to prove a point: I may be “only” flesh and blood, but even flesh and blood can be far stronger than you imagine. In his dying moments, both the Count’s cry of despair and the blood showering from what’s left of his body fuse with the Behelit … and, as Guts mentioned in the previous volumes, that proves to be the key to unlocking the demonic dimension beyond.Read more
I’ve long felt that the big difference between Merzbow and almost every other “noise artist”, whether from Japan or anywhere else, was that Merzbow was at least as interested in the art as he was the noise. Sure, you can point to a good many of his records and say they’re the most earsplitting thing since the last time a squadron of jet planes strafed an aluminum factory, but he hasn’t limited himself to being about mere volume or overkill. With each of his recent releases he’s found another incremental refinement, another element to add, another way to tackle and transform the raw material he uses.
The approach has remained pretty consistent, though. Merzbow layers loops of sound and whorls of piercing noise on top of each other to create sonic states of mind — sometimes abrasive, sometimes placid, sometimes ominous. Sometimes he goes for sheer sonic overload without much in the way of composition or construction (Venereology); sometimes he drops back and creates something so placid and inwardly quiet you’d think it was from a totally different artist (Music for Bondage Performance). With an album title like Merzbuddha and tracks named “Mantra 1” through “Mantra 3” I expected something more like the latter, but this disc is actually closer in spirit to the more recent Yoshinotsune and Amlux, and has the same disciplined audacity of both of those records. Read more
A-KON was a blast! The release party for Summerworld ended up being very small — I only sold a few copies — but the "ashcan" version (the four-chapter sampler) blew off the shelf, and this also means I now have that many more copies in-house for people to get signed!
So, if you want to buy copies directly from me, the easiest way to do that is PayPal:
The total cost is $11.99 + $3 S&H for the continental U.S. Other regions may be higher; contact me for details.
Oh, and the POD People blog is in the process of reviewing Summerworld. They looked at my earlier book Another Worldly Device a while back and really liked it, so I hope they like this one as well. (And even if they don't, I'm happy it's just done the way I wanted it to be done.)
But I got a complete left-field surprise from them: they cited the cover art as a positive example of how to do this sort of thing right in the self-published world. THAT knocked me right over.