So for about five minutes there, it seemed David Bowie was going to be playing New Zealand and Australia's Big Day Out festival next year, and all was good in the world. I knew it was a fact because the Internet told me so. Why, Stuff said he was "expected to be announced" as the headliner for the music festival. Of course, it was bollocks -- no Bowie in the final Big Day Out lineup, sigh. I'm actually a bit relieved as while I did have a fantastic time in 2008 and in 2009 at the Big Day Out, I wasn't really planning on going a third year in a row unless the lineup dazzled my innards. This year's crew -- Muse, Lily Allen, Kasabian, Mars Volta, Dizzee Rascal -- well, it just makes me actually feel my age a bit as the only one I'm even slightly familiar with is Lily Allen. Anyway, that's about $300 we can save for more grown-up pursuits. Like seeing The Pixies when they come here in March! But y'know, it was amazing to see how quickly this Bowie rumour became fact on the Internets as so many others do these days. Even though Bowie hasn't gone on tour or released an album in nearly 6 years, apparently it was a given that he was going to be making his big comeback at age 62 in New Zealand. The meme even actually overtook the actual lineup as the festival organiser had to make a statement about the non-appearance of Bowie.
* Had to steal the art above from here. Which is a real website.
• I heartily recommend Nick Hornby's latest novel "Juliet, Naked," which is a nice return to his "High Fidelity/About A Boy" form after a few lesser books. "Juliet, Naked" is almost "High Fidelity 2" in how it digs into that strange world of music obsessives (um, not that I know anything about that), spinning a tale of fixated fans, reclusive musicians and lovelorn museum curators that's a real brisk, good-hearted and enjoyable read. I like how Hornby integrates online fan communities and even Wikipedia into his story without it seeming like a pandering attempt to be "hip," and his portrayal of has-been '80s musican Tucker Crowe is one of his strongest characters to date. If you haven't checked out Hornby's books in a while, this is one to go to.
• Also a fine if incredibly trippy read is "Batman: The Black Casebook," a way-out collection of utterly bizarre 1950s Batman stories reprinted to tie in with writer Grant Morrison's recent "Batman R.I.P." storyline, which was heavily inspired by this. I know everyone's into Batman the Dark Knight who stalks Gotham City and never smiles, and I like that guy too, but I have to admit I really have a soft spot for the incredibly strange Batman stories of the 1950s, when Bats would be as likely to be fighting aliens, go back in time or hire a dog to be his crimefighting companion. This "Black Casebook" is a very affordable survey of the era, which hasn't really been explored in reprints as much as it should be – apparently it reminds too many of the time when Batman was, well, a bit goofy. But Grant Morrison in his excellent introduction looks at these stories with an eye for just how odd and unsettling they are – such as when Batman stumbles into the parallel dimension of Zur-En-Arrh and meets an alternate, bizarrely coloured Batman, and the story has the passionate madness of a fever dream. There's also the introduction of magical elf Bat-Mite (who rapidly became annoying, but was indeed a funny little fellow in his first appearance), the "Batmen of All Nations" (meet the Italian Batman, the Legionary!), and much more. What I think I love the most about this era of comics is that anything could happen without the menace of "continuity" without pandering to a small and demanding fan community. Whatever worked -- if it meant turning Batman and Robin into leaves or zebras. The surreal appeal of these stories is like a Salvador Dalí painting. "The Black Casebook" is terrific nostalgic fun and a nice tonic for endless "gritty" stories featuring the Joker slaughtering people. Bring on "Black Casebook II" and reprint more of these lost gems.