A Boy in Tintin’s World

When I was 12 years old, I was a big reader. My Mum, a librarian, would bring home piles of books from the school she worked at:

“Try these. Let me know what you think.”

I’d like to say that some of these novels have stuck in my head. But the stories melted away into that maelstrom of forgotten tales we all have. At this young age a Tintin adventure book slid into my small hands.

These books I did not forget. Because I’m talking about the 1960’s, Tintin books were being republished in hardback (and possibly being colourised), and in big format English editions in the late ‘50’s.

The first Tintin adventure I read was Desination Moon. The book was so striking in its detail, so incredibly funny; with Prof Calculus, Captain Haddock, and the useless Thompson twins, plus Tintin himself, trying to get a huge red and white rocketship built that would inevitably take them all the way to the moon. Because of the time and living at the bottom of Australia, I had to wait an ETERNITY to receive, by mail, the second book – Explorers on the Moon. That was a very exciting day – I can almost see and feel the slim package being handed to me.

Over the years since I have read and reread those volumes on innumerable occasions. As a teen, if I didn’t have a book to hand that grabbed me, I could always fall back on Tintin, invariably finding new things with each reread, in the beautiful coloured line drawings. I didn’t think too much about Hergé’s abilities to tell his stories with pictures. Only later did I look at how he represented people, their actions, and the landscapes they inhabited within each story.

In my teens I probably acquired almost a full set of Tintin books. These were stories set in the most exotic locations – Prisoners of the Sun; or unforgiving climes – Tintin in Tibet; on a treasure hunt – The Secret of the Unicorn; and fighting pirates and diving under the sea – Red Rackhams’s Treasure. The plethora of storylines and characters across the length and breadth of the collection was a boy’s ideal of fun reading. Calculus, with his deafness, Haddock his buffoonery, the Twins – always off the scent, Marlinspike Hall – the scene of many slapstick moments on its polished marble floors and oversized chandeliers. And the oddball individuals that drifted in and out of the stories (never forget Nestor, the butler). Tintin the boy reporter, and his smart dog Snowy, are left to pick up the pieces, follow the trail, wrest Haddock back onto the wagon, rescue Calculus from kidnapping (twice), and solve the unsolvable puzzles.

I think I could write a thesis on Destination Moon alone. I know Hergé was meticulous in his recreations of all manner of machines: cargo ships, cars, planes, and in this case a rocket. As rockets go, this was a particularly handsome version. The struggle as the bad guys try to take over control of the rocket technology was reminiscent of the Cold War. But most of the book’s action takes place in the secretive rocket facility where the bungling Haddock goes toe to toe with the extremely stressed out Calculus. Full of action and humour, I’m glad this is the story I read first. That is not to say that the other adventures are not as good. I’ll probably go on for life, occasionally plucking out a Tintin book (sadly reduced to paperback), an island of zaniness and beauty in our instant info world.

I Started with the Stones & Ended on Death Metal

This metal album, released this year, by the Finnish melodic death metal band, I have been listening to for the last few weeks.

I was struck by the musical space and atmospheric instrumental treatments. I felt as though it started and finished in a similar place. The first track, which is an intro, The Burning, and the last, Cold, could have been cut from the same piece of musical cloth.

The 11 tracks are all relatively urgent, as metal tends to be, but there’s a certain undefinable beauty about the album. The main vocals, Jukka Pelkonen, is a classic death metal growl – quite pure, mixed with clean vocals. The vocals, guitars, synth and drums mix together in heavy slabs of sound. The album is even wistful at times (wistful, not so much of).

I’ve been listening to rock music since the late 60’s. I stayed the straight and narrow until the late 70’s, then jumped aboard punk. When Nirvana debuted with Bleach then Nevermind, I thought all my Christmases had come at once. That only lasted so long. Then a Twitter friend shoved me onto Devin Townsend – a Canadian genius guitarist with a metal bent but now off surveying other Projects.

I’m not really a person that rests on their back catalogue: I would rarely, if ever, go back and listen to Pink Floyd, Stones (Beatles are an exception), Springsteen, Led Zep, or any of the those big artists, or even the smaller bands and artists I filled my life with for decades.

Half way through last year I decided to look/listen to metal as an extension of rock. I started with Megadeth, then Metallica, and listened to as much as I could. Megadeth I liked for their irreverence and superlative song writing – Dave Mustaine, a funny, political animal. I much prefer his music over Metallica.

Early this year I fell into a Danish metal band, Raunchy – terrible name, very good band. Then I sailed off into metaland. As perhaps many metal fans find, I ended up in Scandinavia. With an Apple sub, I can explore, explore. My twitter friends send me tips that are always good, outstanding even.

I can’t go back to rock ‘n’ roll. Bands like this one, Dark Tranquility, Amon Amarth, Ghost Brigade, Enslaved, Insomnium, Skeletonwitch (US), etc. It’s an ever moving feast, and that’s what I think music appreciation should be.

I had to break down my music sensibilities to appreciate the Pistols, and I’ve done that, too for metal (It was nowhere near as hard as the Pistols).

If I had to recommend two bands: Dark Tranquility and Omnium Gatherum.