East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Palace intrigue and zombies

I am not particularly fond of the zombie craze of these last few years. I watched the classics, I do enjoy the occasional recent movie, I even wrote a story set in a post-apocalyptic sorta-zombie story, a long time ago, as part of a shared universe a friend created, but I find it damn hard to do something new and cool and meaningful with zombies.
On the other hand, when I find someone that’s actually able to do something new and cool and meaningful, I like it a lot.

Case in point: Kingdom, a South Korean TV/Netflix TV series that pits its main characters against a horde of zombies in 15th century Korea.
And weirdly enough, it’s based on a true story.

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Turntable: Across America by Train

I sometimes mention music on this blog, but I never thought of doing a proper series of posts about music that somehow intersects my interests and the themes of this blog: travel and exploration, the Orient and the old pulps, fiction and writing.
Who knows, maybe someone would be interested…

It would be sort of an extension of my Radio Karavansara tag. I’d cover jazz and soundtracks, ethnic music from the Silk Road, and the occasional storyteller-turned-singer (or viceversa). I could call it Turntable, and the typical post in such a series would probably look like this…

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Kim Newman on Drachenfels

Curiously enough in the last two nights I suffered from a ferocious attack of insomnia, and so I grabbed the first book on my bedside table and started reading. The book is The Vampire Genevieve omnibus, by Kim Newman writing as Jack Yeovil, to me still the best RPG tie-in book aver, and a great example of horror/sword & sorcery crossover.
The first novel in the omnibus is, of course, Drachenfels.

And here is a lengthy interview with Kim Newman about the novel, and what he was intending to do when he wrote it – the influences, the twists and everything else.
Quite interesting.

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To me, Toshiro Mifune will always be half of the cast of John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific – the first film I ever saw featuring the Japanese actor. Later came Rashomon, Yojimbo and Seven Samurai, the latter long after Magnificent Seven had become one of my favorite westerns.

Toshiro Mifune’s power as an actor was perfectly showcased in Hell in the Pacific, a movie in which he had very little dialog, but projected such overwhelming physicality that words were unnecessary.

And so I went and watched Mifune, the Last Samurai, a few nights back.

The bad thing about Steven Okazaki’s Mifune is, it is too short.
The documentary covers the birth of the chanbara – with a great selection of silent movie excerpts – and then charts Toshiro Mifune’s rise as the quintessential samurai actor through his early years and his collaboration with Akira Kurosawa. And then stops.
And leaves us wanting more.

But apart from that, there’s a lot of good in the documentary – the already mentioned relics from the silent era, the interviews with actors and technicians that worked with Mifune and Kurosawa, Shiro Mifune’s (Toshiro’s son) recollections. Lots of photos, lots of movie clips.
It’s a small tribute to a man that was larger than life, and that cannot fit the frame of a simple documentary.
But a great show, and well worth watching.



yesterday I pitched a story featuring a sort of revived (yet again) and slightly improved Valerie Trelawney – and should the pitch bounce back, I might try and write something anyway, because going back to my old character has been like meeting an old friend.
Or an old girlfriend.
Who knows what will come out of all this?

Myself, on Karavansara, February the 8th, 2019

Well, the pitch did not bounce back, and it was indeed accepted.
Hooray! So now I’ll have to re-acquaintance myself with Valerie, and then write the story.
And it’s going to be fun.
Just like meeting an old girlfriend.
I will tell you more in detail.
For the moment, here’s a good song…