The end?

I think I may as well wrap things up here. Seems like I’ve come to the end of the line and don’t have too much more to say about books and music and stuff. It’s been a good run and it’s been great fun. The best thing was feeling that I’d gained an audience (however selective) and the interaction that goes with that. Thanks especially to Paul (Froog), and King Tubby, and Darren, clear winners in the replies stakes. Any good blog should be a dialogue and you guys had a lot of opinions and conjectures that were fun to read.

The main snag preventing me writing more seems to be the increasing narrowness of my focus. The stuff I love, I devour. I could happily listen to the Beatles, watch Star Wars (the original trilogy, obviously) and read Philip Larkin for evermore. But as I grow older, the stuff that I once thought was worth at least trying palls so badly. This isn’t just the inevitable sifting of time, as you figure out that Pulp, and DH Lawrence, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, and later Baudrillard, and Oliver Stone, just aren’t really much good. I mean the emotional range of my cultural appetites has shrunk markedly. I went off metal in the mid-90s, but more recently I just can’t be bothered with new films or new books or new music. I just don’t have the intellectual energy. And something gets my back up about bands of young men with beards, or films with no ability to create atmosphere or narrative flow (why have they been lost?!?), or books with their oh-so-black-humour-negative-take on the modern existential dilemma of man. It’s all hipster pish. (Ironically, my favourite bands from the 90s and 00s, Belle and Sebastian and Animal Collective, are both achingly hipsterish bands. But there you go: don’t expect a logical argument here, boyo). Frankly, I’d much rather be watching Singin’ In The Rain or Seven Brides For Seven Brothers these days, or listening to some Dixieland jazz. But who cares about the atrophying cultural tastes of a white suburban dad? (Not that anyone cared previously, but you see my point).

In point of fact, I seem to have become a staid, middle-class and near-middle age git. This isn’t so bad: I always kind of felt middle-aged anyway. I’ve listened to Radio 4 since I was 14, and read most of the great authors at a young age. But my drives have changed from cultural endeavours to something more political. This is where I see myself heading. I don’t know what that means in terms of blogging. I’ve previously tried political blogging but found I wasn’t creating anything of value: I was just taking whatever news story of the day then waffling about it. But there has to be some fresh perspective, an angle. One of the things I find most annoying about political discourse in the UK is how bad it is – how it’s led by opinion and pontification rather than analysis and data, how it so consistently fails to give anything like a rounded context to any area of discussion, how it so instantly falls to a repeated sequence of shouted debating points. We need something more, something better. This is what I’m going to try to puzzle out in the near future.

Thanks for reading, one and all. You’ve made it all worthwhile.

2nd Birthday

WordPress have just informed me (via a funky little trophy icon) that this blog is now two years old. My thanks to everyone for stopping by, particularly the subscribers and commenters. You make this what it is.

Moving On…

No time to post of late. Am currently in process of leaving Beijing and moving back to Scotland, so there’s a lot of stuff to sort out. I get back to Blighty on June 3rd, after which I have MANY POSTS to complete. Meanwhile, if you’ve any suggestions for a topic, let me know.

Best Of, 2012


This blog has been running about 18 months now, and I’ve managed to keep going at about a post a week. Hopefully you can see that the posts I write are mostly quite lengthy (about 1000 words) and so do take time. I haven’t really gone out of my way to publicise it – I don’t even tweet or Facebook most posts, so the audience (you lovely people) has grown slowly, steadily and organically. Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and especially to those who have commented. It really does spur you to keep on writing when you feel there’s an audience there.

To round off 2012, I thought I would simply take a leaf out of Froog’s book and recap on what I feel were the most interesting posts. Here’s six of the best from me to you (again). The order is simply chronological.

1. “Biographies”

Bit of a monster post, going over ten of my favorite biographies (by which I also include memoirs, letters and diaries). Being a lapsed intensive diarist and journal-keeper myself, I find these kind of books fascinating and just devour them. From William Burroughs to Oscar Wilde to Alistair Campbell to Philip Larkin, here are some of my most recurrent interests/obsession.

2. Punk-Rock-O-Rama

Twenty great videos from twenty different punk (in the broadest sense) bands, from X-Ray Spex to The Exploited to 999 to Stiff Little Fingers. Yup! 😀


I like this post for the opening sentence:

I may have given the impression in the blog that I take music waaaay too seriously, that I sit and pore over every last bar and nuance like a lepidopterist gingerly analysing the skeletal remains of a rare and exotic butterfly.

Also a nice and perhaps slightly off-the-beaten-track selection, for me at least. I mean, no Beatles??

4. Favourite Bands Through Time

Interesting to look back in time and see the bands and artists who entranced you. Fortunately, nothing too embarrassing there! My journey through music, from Queen to Tricky to Miles Davis, has been enormously entertaining and endlessly interesting.

5. Three Top British Films

Bit of a monster post here, too, culled from three individual posts from my old blog. Obviously I’m more of a cultist when it comes to films; I just get so utterly bored by films which lack imagination or creativity (hello 2012!). Maybe I should do a Three Top American Films in counterpoint?

6. An Introduction to John Lennon

This is by far the most viewed single post in the blog, though not the most commented (that’s the “I Hate Peter Jackson’s “Lord Of The Rings” post, now at 22 comments and counting – they’re still coming in!). It’s the introduction to the putative biography of Lennon during his Beatle years which I have been yearning to write. I think this is probably the best writing I’ve posted.

How about you, dear reader? Were there any posts you liked more than this selection?

Sunshine Award

I was recently nominated for “The Sunshine Award” by fellow blogger Christopher Ribeiro, whose Wish You Were Here blog is a terrific mix of East Asian photography and fixed gear biking. So to continue the great “circle jerk”, and to make up for the lack of a blog roll, I’d like to nominate my own favourite bloggers. Working in media as I do, it’s part of my job to keep up with what’s happening in China, and with the media here so neutered much of the best writing is done online – but my interests are broader than that.

The rules pertaining to the award are:

  1. Accept the award.
  2. Post the award on your blog together with the name / link to blog of the person who granted the award.
  3. Answer the questions below.
  4. Pass the award to 10 other blogs providing links to their blogs.
  5. Contact your 10 bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

So, without further ado (because too much ado would be just wrong, don’tcha know)…

  1. Favorite color? – deep red
  2. Favorite animal? – cats, golden eagles
  3. Favorite number? – 7
  4. Favorite food? – tough one!  Fresh bread, good cheese, many Italian dishes, fois gras, Twiglets…
  5. Favorite drink? – red wine
  6. Facebook or Twitter? – hard to separate, as they serve different functions: Twitter for news and information, Facebook for friends and family.
  7. What is your passion? – reading
  8. Giving or getting presents? – giving.
  9. Favorite day of the week? – it’s not the day, it’s what you do with it.
  10. Favorite flower? – snowdrops

And now the ten blogs which I like to read. This will include pro journos and amateurs doing it for shits and giggles.

1. China Hearsay

Stan Abrams’ combination of law/finance/IP/business subject matter and snarky sarcasm makes for great reading. Nerdy but fun.

2. Michael Tomasky

Formerly the US politics blogger on the Guardian, Tomasky now writes for Newsweek and the Daily Beast. A proud pinko liberal, he effortlessly demolishes Republican/rightwing/Teaparty arguments and presents well reasoned debating points. His pop culture references are pretty fun, too. He’s like your ideal American dad.

3. Sinocism

Bill Bishop is the news aggregator for China, performing an indispensable service for the news-hungry English-reading population. I interviewed him for Agenda on his use of social media – it would have been better to have been more in depth and broader in scope, of course, but there’s the limits of what we can do.

4. China Accounting Blog

I have a bit of a fascination with the “Big 4” – KPMG, Ernst & Young, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and PwC. Maybe it’s because they all rejected me when I graduated (don’t blame them – I would never have fit in). Here’s the best place to learn what they’re up to in China and how the government is trying to control them, amongst other beancounter topics.

5. Michael White

The Guardian is the only progressive broadsheet newspaper in the UK, if you don’t count the Independent (which I don’t – too wishy-washy), which is a bit ridiculous. Their website, fortunately, is fantastic, updated at lightning speed and with oodles of quality content above and beyond the newspaper itself. Their politics blogger (and assistant editor) has been around the block several times (former Washington correspondent, no less!) and writes hard-bitten, wry, insightful stuff.

6. Round The World Barstool Blues

While the better known Beijing Boyce writes more about the promotions, openings and events in Beijing nightlife, Froog gives a more personal, drinker’s perspective of Beijing’s many hostelries. He is also a devoted music fanatic; his commentary on my own posts is always great value, even if he does think “Black Star” is a good song.

7. China Media Blog

Brilliant dissection and analysis of China’s media, innit. Unsurprisingly based in Hong Kong.


The personal, anecdotal China blog seems to have fallen out of favour – maybe most people are consuming content via Twitter or Google Reader rather than going to websites direct and feeling part of a community. This blog is a commune of writers who are all knowledgeable about China and have fun with writing about it. (Seems to have fallen into abeyance somewhat over the summer, though).

9. Patrick Chovanec

Another Agenda interviewee (it’s great to interview people whose work you admire), this blog focuses on China’s macro economy and is despite that a relatively easy (for a zero-financial training clod like myself) and insightful read.

10. China Daily Show

Sometimes the absurdity of China defies parody or satire, but these guys do a pretty damn good job of it.

So, my book…

The observant amongst you (or those who go to the website rather than reading the posts on email) may have seen that I have a book downloadable for the Kindle. With the scintillating title of ZOMBIE LESBIAN FLESH EATERS, it’s been doing a surprisingly decent trade. (Good job I have a big family, huh?) It’s had two reviews on Amazon (neither of which were done by me) which really tickle me. Here they are.

5.0 out of 5 stars Tongue set firmly in cheek… then ripped out of your mouth and eaten in front of you., 16 Aug 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase (What is this?)
This review is from: Zombie Lesbian Flesh Eaters (Kindle Edition)

The title alone made this worth a look, and I’m delighted to say that this first novel doesn’t disappoint.Mike Cormack has written a wonderfully over-the-top homage to some of the more outrageous and graphic work by the likes of Shaun Hutson, James Herbert in print and Peter Jackson on film (The Rats, Slugs and Braindead spring to mind), allowing his twisted imagination to run gleeful riot through the seedy streets of Aberdeen. It’s almost unbelievably gruesome, but shot through with some wonderfully black humour and more than knowing nod to Bava & Argento’s classic 80s horror, Demons.For this former local, Cormack’s vivid evocation of the strip clubs, kebab shops and dark eerie back streets is uncanny and his larger-than-life characters, in particular the over-the-top military unit straight out of every 80s action movie you ever saw on VHS are as entertaining as they are intentionally ridiculous.The very definition of a guilty pleasure – my only minor moan is that it should have been longer!


5.0 out of 5 stars A Cracking First Novel, 1 July 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase (What is this?)
This review is from: Zombie Lesbian Flesh Eaters (Kindle Edition)

From the dark and steamy jungles of Africa to the granite city of Aberdeen, this book is excess to say the least. If you are frightened of the dentist then beware of the extremely graphic descriptions in chapter seven, this scene makes the dentist scene in The Marathon Man look like the teddy bears picnic. A cracking first novel .