Back in the hey day of the esteemed WORD, when it was a Magazine, A Podcast and a way of life, there was a weekly round-robin that was fired out by e-mail every Friday titled “Something for the weekend …”. I loved it. This was in the naughties when it was still possible to be awestruck by tiny corners of the internet, such as Casey Neistat’s brilliant examination of the phenomena of chatroulette or birds with arms.
Nothing is that tiny any more.
Now, there’s a sense that everything is being pushed at us all of the time. I feel so inert in the face of all the stuff I’m supposed to read, that I end up reading nothing at all, apart from the endless diply rabbit holes of pictures of celebrities looking a bit older than I remember them.
I set a Patreon goal of doing a weekly newsletter with my recommendations of ‘consumed media’ in the spirit of Ken and Robin Talk Quickly About Stuff. They provide a weekly digest of the stuff they’ve been watching for their Patreons. For our homage/rip-off of the idea, I set an impossible target that was reached very quickly thanks to the generosity of our listeners.
Do you really need someone else pushing stuff under your nose to consume, when you barely have time to speak to your family? Do you want another anxiety inducing missive that merely confirms that everyone else seems to be having a much better time then yourself? Really?
OK. If you insist. Rather than presenting this as fortnightly, unmediated collection of capsule reviews, I will be approaching this as a sort of ‘mix tape’ that I’ll compile of stuff that has caught my eye and I think is interesting, or at least, worthy of a pithy comment. This first one is available on the blog, future editions will be for Patreons only.
THE ARMCHAIR MIX
I, GEMINI (Let’s Eat Grandma, Transgressive Records, 2016)
There’s something simultaneously beguiling and terrifying about the sound of Let’s Eat Grandma. The precauciousness of the performers are taunting yet charming. The album is a collection of folk infused, complicated, music-box melodies, best exemplified by the signature track EAT SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS. There’s the echo of a repertoire of female voices from past popular music: Kate Bush, Bjork and even Martin Harnet era Clare Grogan, but it’s the experimental music that stands out. Recommended.
COLD FEET (Mike Bullen, etal,ITV)
During a recent discussion on The Gamerstable podcast, the hosts were complaining that a revival of the nineties is now overdue. Over here in the UK, the revival has been spear-headed by a reissue of the appalling Oasis album BE HEAR NOW and trendy ‘dramady’ COLD FEET; exemplars of modern Manchester feeling a bit too pleased with itself. When it comes to pre-millenial angst of Generation X, THIS LIFE was better, but with COLD FEET the characters were … well … nicer. This new series catches up on the old gang of friends while they are deep into middle age with all the complicated baggage that it brings. John Tompson plays put-upon Pete who is wrestling with depression while tackling euthanasia of one of his care ‘clients’. Karen is a sexually charged power-dresser having affairs and taking control of her own destiny. Jenny is the matriarchal comedy figure thanks to Fay Ripply’s stupid attempt at a Manc accent. David is undone by the most interesting plot line about old fashioned business morality clashing with modern corporate responsibility. Adam … Adam is still the sanctimonious kidult with a face you’d never tire of punching.
I include it here as I thought it might be interesting in game terms to bring back old characters to ask the question where are they now? What about those flakey souls who came through Masks of Nyarlathotep? 20 years later, there’s another eclipse and the cults are reforming, picking up the conspiracy … the PCs have to come out of retirement to prevent it happening all over again. Or, in Glorantha, Duke Raus of Rone contacts the mercenaries years later as there are new residents in Five Eyes Temple ….
I wonder if Art Malik will be available as an NPC? He was wasted in COLD FEET. Meh.
Revisionist History (Malcolm Gladwell, Panoply, 2016)
Fuzzy-peg essayist brings his cogent analysis to audio with a theme of giving the past ‘a second chance’. In essence, Gladwell’s schtick is to challenge the conventional assumptions about a series of themes, from basketball technique to satire. He uses his familiar device of looking at the specific, making a general argument then returning to the specific again. The strongest episodes from this first series are the ones where he polemically challenges state-sponsored subsidy of the Ivy League Universities and the pernicious effect it has on the equity of the entire economic system of the US; he does this by examining the canteens in different educational establishments. They are thought-provoking conversation starters packed with little sparks of anecdotal wisdom that you’ll want to drop into your chats in the pub. Highly recommended.
JOBS (Boyle, US, 2015)
Silicon-valley hippy power-bot, Steve Jobs bio-pic. Artfully focusing on three periods of his life, the launch of three key products that came to define his personality in the world of consumer electronics: the Macintosh, NeXT and iMac. The use of the three act structure with its replicated encounters with family, friends and members of staff is a conceit that is very clever and allows the drama to focus on the focus of the protagonist. Fassbender is striking as the cool operator who rattles through his Sorkin tongue-twisting monologues with aplomb. Winslet plays his long-suffering personal assistant Joanna Hoffman who provides a half-way house of humanity to mediate her boss’ irritable and irritating behaviours. Jeff Daniels is the paternal John Sculley who was brought into Apple by Jobs to “change the world” only to end up sacking Jobs due to his single-mindedness in the pursuit of Macintosh success. Steve Woz relentless pursuit of recognition for the Apple II developers is a counterpoint to the main dramatic trust of the movie, which is his relationship with Lisa, his daughter who Jobs denied for years until reconciling with her later in life.
There’s much fun to be had playing spot the Job’s aphorism during the movie as Sorkin’s screenplay is littered with them. Boyle makes as much as he can with the confines of the set, deploying his tool-kit of Brechian vvvssss techniques, such as projecting the launch of Sputnik on a hallway as Jobs waxes on about his vision for the world. All in all, it’s a film that easier to admire than like and if you want the real story of Jobs then I recommend the source of the story, Walter Issarcson’s doorstopper biography, which is wonderfully candid and written with great vigour. Better still, download the audio-book read by Dylan Baker as it is much more dramatically convincing than this film.
Disturbing the Peace (Richard Yates, 1975)
“I’m feeling down, put-upon, purposeless, middle-aged and impotent in the face of the world. A bit of Richard Yates will perk me up.” I tweeted the other day while on the way to work. Throughout the day I was offered words of support from concerned followers, “chin up” etc. I should have known better. I was making a comment about Yates, who is the laureate of suburban discontent and the crisis of masculinity in the late 20th century. This is not one of his best novels (it takes a bit of an effort to get through to be honest), but I do like Yates’ skill at creating desperate characters coping with the angst of modernity. John Wilder is a successful salesman who ‘has it all’ but he is no longer interested in family life, he has a chain of infidelities and he drinks too much. He decides one day that he’s not going home … Yates’ skill is the things that are left unsaid, the implied contextual circumstances, the sub-text behind the passive aggressive interactions between the characters. Anything by Yates is recommended, (he’s best known for Revolutionary Road(1961) but is his collected short stories are my favourite.
So, that’s the first collection, let me know what you think … too much … too little … I’d be interested in your views.