- Last week was a relatively quiet week. Mainly because everything is happening this week.
- Today I became an uncle! My brother and his wife are now parents to a baby girl, as of about two hours ago. It's very exciting. And I'm allowed to go and see them as well. Very happy about all of this.
- On Friday we're going for a meal in the West End and then staying overnight in a hotel. It's a delayed birthday treat for Nina. It's going to feel very weird, and I'm a little nervous about it, but more excited than anything.
- London in Bits is going well. The word is slowly getting out there, almost by its own momentum, which is the way I like it. But I will start pushing it a bit harder over the next few weeks. Getting it done three times a week is tough, especially as it's hard to write too much ahead of time (stupid 'news'!), but I'm just about managing it so far. And I do kind of love a deadline.
- The 1972 British horror, Death Line was on Talking Pictures TV this week. I'd never seen it before and it is extraordinary. I wasn't expecting it to be quite so nuanced and as atmospheric as it was. Not your typical cult horror by a long chalk. Little White Lies has target="blank">a good article about how the film is "essential viewing in the wake of the recent Grenfell tragedy" and there's a good podcast from Robin Ince's An Uncanny Hour about it, but you have to be a Patreon supporter to listen to it.
- I managed to get through a few of my bookmarked articles this week. I finally read the NY Times interview with Seth Rogen and it's as funny and as interesting as everyone said it was. He just seems like a very decent bloke.
- The New Yorker has a really good article about... vibes and TikTok. No, really. It's good. Honest!
- Cory Doctorow wrote a long piece about twenty years of blogging and outsourcing your brain to the public datatbase that is the internet.
- Music this week is something moody and over six minutes:
- I had a week off work last week. I still had to write a couple of issues of LiB (especially with the elections happening), but other than that we were free to go to the pub, meet friends for lunch, treat the dog to some extra long walks, and even venture into... CENTRAL LONDON!
- I also spent a lot of time reading. I finished The Philosopher's Stone, and then absolutely ripped through The Magician and the Cardsharp: The Search for America's Greatest Sleight-of-Hand Artist, which had been sat on my bookshelf for year and I'd just never got round to. Loved it. Here's a video that should give you a good idea of what it's about.
- And of course, we took the opportunity to get through some films that had been on our 'to watch' list.
- Netflix's new sci-fi flick Stowaway was just okay. Despite the great cast, the pacing and tone never quite find their feet.
- News of the World was much better. I read the book a few months ago and Nina just read it too, so that meant we were both 'allowed' to sit down and watch Paul Greengrass's adaptation. There's a lot of changes to the book and it's not perfect, but Greengrass and Hanks are so good at what they do, it makes for a very good 'Sunday afternoon on the sofa' type film.
- British film Rocks is just beautiful. Absolutely mesmerising from start to finish. The cast is amazing, they shoot London in such an incredible way... Just go and watch it if you haven't already.
- Another Round won best international film at The Oscars, but I was bit cautious about seeing it, just because of the subject matter (four blokes getting drunk a lot). But this is not The Hangover. I read something somewhere about how it was about men and the idea of giving up control, and that was enough for me to press play as soon as I could. I'm glad I did, because I loved it. I can see why people might not enjoy it, but for me it touched on so many subjects and ideas that I think about a lot, and it did it in such a non-ponderous, non-pretentious and positive way, I definitely thought it deserved that Oscar.
- One of my favourite things we watched over the past week though was a forty minute Netflix documentary about speed Rubix Cube solvers. I am a little late to Speedcubers actually. I saw a few people raving about it earlier in the year and then totally forgot about it. But then Netflix's algorithm did its job and wwe watche dit over dinner one night and both loved it. If you don't shed a tear at this then we can't be friends :)
- Elsewhere, I have been enjoying Van (brother of Casey) Neistat's YouTube channel. Start with this one and see what you think.
- And I made Kenji's 'low knead' bread and was very happy with my first attempt. Bread is healthy if you make it yourself, right?
- I did get off my arse and stop eating long enough to run a 10k in Crystal Palace Park this past weekend. An actual organised event with other people. What a time to be alive!
- This Ted Lasso essay should be required reading for anyone who hasn't watched Ted Lasso yet (and everyone who has).
- Music this week is a hour-long set by the Flying Mojito Brothers:
- I try and post every week here, but things have slipped the past few weeks, just because I've been so busy with London in Bits.
- I made the decision to publish three times a week: Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Of course, that means that I have to finish off the Saturday edition on Friday and then start straight into the Monday edition to get it done and scheduled by Sunday evenng (without impacting my weekend too much).
- I'm enjoying it though. The mental muscle I'm using to get this done is slowly recovering the memory of how to do it, and that feels good. And I'm remembering why I used to enjoy doing this: the opportunity to bring people together around a shared thing, the chance to get to know some new, interesting people, and also to create a 'voice' for something; to slowly define the personality of this thing that's evolving. That's always interesting to watch happen.
- Enough about that. What else have I done?
- I started reading Colin Wilson's The Philosopher's Stone. It's one of Wilson's novels (as opposed to his huge nonfiction output) and I picked it up after I saw Will Wiles recommend it (and it's awesome cover illustration) on Twitter. Really enjoying it so far, even though it's more of a philosophical essay that a plot-driven novel (so far).
- What It Was Like to Work at The Paris Review in the 1980s is a great essay if you like a bit of literary magazine nostalgia (which I do).
- The Hardest Ending I Ever Wrote, As Told by Six Screenwriters includes Darius Marder talking about Sound of Metal (which should have won all the Oscars, I am still annoyed about that).
- Films watched in the past few weeks: a Talking Pictures TV special: The Night My Number Came Up from 1955 with a young Denholm Elliot. Lovely stuff. Low budget sci-fi from a few years ago: Coherence, reminded me of Primer but more middle class, a fun twisty watch though. Netflix's latest sci-fi offering, Stowaway was a little less enjoyable, although it has a good premise and great cast the story doesn't really deliver like it needs to.
- Best thing I watched recently though was California Split, another George Segal film, this time directed by Robert Altman and co-starring Elliott Gould. I loved this. There's something about my personality that connects much more to Altman's style than, say, what Elaine May does with Cassavetes in Mikey and Nickey (which I talked about the other week).
- David Hockney's Digital Sunrise is a beautiful idea and execution. That man can do no wrong.
- Ben Thompson wrote about Taylor Swift, Spotify, Substack and NFTs in this article, which really encapsulated a lot of things for me, including:
- Music this week is something suitably daft for a bank holiday weekend:
while we used to pay for plastic discs and thought we were paying for songs (or newspapers/writing or cable/TV stars), empowering distribution over creators, today we pay with both money and attention according to the direction of creators, giving them power over everyone. If the creator decides that their NFTs are important, they will have value; if they decide their show is worthless, it will not.
- Slightly different, truncated Week Notes this week, because I guess I 'launched' something yesterday.
- I mean, I've been making this thing for a few weeks now, it's just that yesterday I decided to to tell people who I don't personally know. I guess that's the definition of 'launching' something?
- So here's me telling people, and here's the thing itself.
- If you take a look and want to ask me about it or give feedback you know where I am :)
- Other than that this week has only really been about watching the Masters on TV, watching baseball on TV, and watching the Grand National on TV (and losing money on it).
- Today I went outside and planted some tomatoes in the back garden. So I have moved, promise.
- Tomorrow afternoon I'm going to sit in a beer garden and have lunch with some friends to celebrate a birthday. Can you imagine?!
- Above, the latest episode of what has become my new favourite podcast to listen to while running. Spoken Words with Electronics is "an audio series delivering to you a two side recording of unusual stories paired with vintage modular electronic sounds."
- What I love about it is presenter Ethan Persoff's stream of consciousness style. The way he takes tiny, almost inconsequential moments and spins them out into something much bigger while retaining that element of surrealism and silliness is just great.
- I think it appeals to me right now because I'm working less 'nine-to-five' hours and not having to deliver to as many imposed deadlines; and I can almost feel my brain changing shape as I do more work which is less structured and I have to think in less prescriptive ways.
- Someone else who fits into this bracket of creativity I can't quite define right now is the musician Jeffrey Silverstein. His last album You Become the Mountain was one of the albums that helped me get through 2020 and his new one, Torii Gates, looks like it's going to be equally great.
- Over on the Ideaspace newsletter, Yancey Strickler expands on his idea of the 'Dark Forests' of the Web:
These tools of coordination and cooperation make today’s Dark Forests far more than digital versions of the 1970s commune. They’re new experiments in decision-making, movement-building, and collective action. The continued evolution and growth of web-based, informal groups will impact not just the lives of their members, but society at large. As we saw with Gamergate, these are spaces where harassment campaigns will be planned and lies will be planted. But these are also spaces where people will cooperate and learn like never before. What the corporation was to the 20th century, the Dark Forest could be to the 21st: the organizational form through which much of culture is influenced, for good and bad.
- Or, if that's maybe a bit heavy for a bank holiday, how about a very well thought out and convincing argument for Why Press Gang was the best children’s series ever made.
- Watched two very different films this week. Friday night we just wanted to watch something mindless and entertaining, so Netflix's Chris Hemsworth vehicle and comic adaptation, Extraction it was. What can I say? It was definitely more mindless than it was entertaining, but it did the job.
- Far more entertaining was The Hot Rock, the 1972 Peter Yates caper film (see also his The Friends of Eddie Coyle which I watched last year and loved) that stars the recently deceased George Segal alongside Robert Redford. I watched this after a recommendation from my old friend Mike Sizemore in his Midnight Quatermass newsletter to which you should subscribe right now.
- Music this week has to be the newly-released Jika Jika by The Boogie Man:
- I finished Stephen's King latest, Later, earlier this week. Now that's a confusing sentence. It's not his best that's for sure. He seems to be falling back on easy tropes more often than he has before, or at least those tropes have become more obvious. But even off-the-boil King is good King, and it was a pleasure to lose myself in it.
- After I finished Later I absolutely devoured Hari Kunzru's new one, Red Pill. This one blew me away. Just loved it.
- Two films this week. The first was Elaine May's 1976 cult, ganster(ish) film Mikey and Nicky, which I watched on the Criterion channel. I can see why people love this film, and I can watch Peter Falk do just about anything, but John Cassavetes triggers a whole load of anxieties in me, and not in a good way (see Uncut Gems for a great example of that - the Safdie brthers are big fans of Mikey and Nicky btw). People talk about 'loving' Cassavetes' character despite his (many) flaws. I just wanted him to calm down most of the time.
- The second film was Nomadland, which is as good as everyone says it is. Frances McDormand's face is utterly captivating. It does make you very sad for what's happening in those lost American towns though.
- Larry McMurtry died this week. He was (among a lot of other things) the author of the Lonesome deries of books, which I just discovered (and fell in love with) at the end of last year. What an amazing talent.
- David Hockney has a new book coming out callesd Spring Cannot Be Cancelled in which he talks about "the importance of our reconnection with nature." Going straight to the top of my 'must read' list.
- Oh dear Medium. What is it with American media companies and unionisation?
- Phil Gyford has reached 50 and has a few things he's learned that he'd like to share. This quote from douglas Coupland really hit home with me:
There used to be occasions in my twenties and probably into my thirties, maybe two or three times a year, when I’d look at what I was doing, where I was, who I was with, and think, “This is it, everything is just right, this is one of those moments.” It was an intense feeling that, right then and there, everything was perfect. Gradually those moments became rarer. I can’t remember if I experienced any of those exact moments in my forties at all. Which isn’t to say I’ve been unhappy. It’s just that perhaps the emotional experience of events, even minor ones, lost intensity as I got older.
- Music this week has to be the new Floating Points and Pharaoh Sanders album. Whew.
- This week was all about my wife's birthday, so not been a lot of time for much else, other than trying to get the garden ready for spring time.
- A lockdown birthday does mean some time on the sofa enjoying some films though. Which means we packed in the new Netflix documentary Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell, which was a bit of a disappointment. Somehow they managed to make an iconic, fascinating character a bit dull.
- Then we moved on to Sound of Metal with Riz Ahmed, which was utterly mesmerising and has stayed with me since the closing credits. This films needs to win all the Oscars.
- Lastly we watched A Promising Young Woman. I haven't quite made my mind up about this one yet. Obviously Carey Mulligan is incredible, but there are elements of the plot which feel like missteps. Definitely worth a watch though.
- In between all the films I picked up the new Stephen King 'crime' book, Later. Will report back once it's done (probably by end of today).
- A dose of nostalgia for this week's music. 1997 in three and a half minutes, as told by the amazing The Hood Internet:
- For no reason other than I suspect, like me, you might be despairing at the state of the workd; here is a picture of David Byrne looking very cool to cheer us up.
- Not a lot going on this week, but I have redesigned this site. You are probably reading this via RSS feed (in which case, that worked, hurray!) so won't even notice, but I wanted to see if I could extricate myself from the complexity and weight of Wordpress. There will be hitches and glitches, but so far I'm happy.
- HBO Max have created a bunch of 'modern trailers' from some classic films including Gremlins, Alien, Westworld and The Exorcist. Very well done, but surely you wouldn't put the chestbuster scene in the trailer... Would you?!
- Create a typeface.... with your face. It's a pun, and it's fun!
- Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ as an Official Lego kit? Take my money (and more power to crowdsourcing new products).
- HBO are killing it with their documentaries right now and it looks like this Tina Turner doc isn't going to break that streak.
- A nice little Boz Scaggs rework from Bandcamp to end the week:
Above, one of my favourite music videos of 2021, so far. Good track too. Can’t beat Stones Throw. The New York Times asks Is This the End of French Intellectual Life?. And that’s not just another lament for the loss of French ‘left bank’ culture, it’s a really interesting look at what ‘the left’ means […]
Above, Stanley Tucci travels around Italy, eating great food, drinking lovely things, and generally looking cool; while also seeming a thoroughly nice bloke. We watched the first episode of this this week, and now I want to be Stanley Tucci when I grow up. Drive & Listen has been a great mood-saver this week. I […]
Next week I’ll do a full week for the agency I work at (I’ve actually got a big pitch on the Friday). After that, I’m still working there, but I’m reducing my hours right down and spending the majority of my time getting some other projects off the ground. I won’t go into loads of […]
Above, the trailer for the new Adam Curtis series. I know, Curtis can sometimes be criticised for being more style than substance; but damn it if I don’t love that style. It’s just nice to lose yourself in that heady mix for an hour or so. Even if afterwards you’re not quite sure what you’ve […]
Above, Werner Herzog watches skateboarding videos. I missed last week’s Week Notes because we’ve had some family things going on (made worse with the Covid restrictions, obviously). As a result I’ve not done a lot of laughing recently, but this video brought a big genuine smile to my face. Thanks Werner, I can always count […]
Above: Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian’s film reviewer) reviews Netflix’s Pretend It’s A City. Somehow this series completely passed me by until a few friends recommended it to me which doesn’t say a lot for Netflix’s algorithm. I love Fran Lebowitz, documentaries, New York and Martin Scorsese. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s a great […]
My reading continues apace. This week I finished The Streets of Laredo and now I’m well into Duncan The Wonder Dog, a doorstep of a graphic novel that my brother bought me for Christmas. It’s not nearly as lighthearted as the title might have you believe. Here’s the blurb: “What if animals could talk? Would […]
There hasn’t been much time for doing much other than work this past week. I have managed to keep my reading rate up. Did I mention I’m trying to read around a book a week this year? Last year I struggled to read much at all, and I know I feel better when I read […]
Above: The Gift of Room Tone by Criterion. I love it when companies take ‘throwaway’ material like this and turn it onto something genuinely sweet and watchable. I spent New Year’s Day finishing How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee. A rather beautiful and sad way to end 2020/see in 2021. Now […]
Above: Ed Wood meets Orson Welles. I looked this up this week because it got a mention on the Mark Kermode film podcast (the Citizen Kane episode, obviously). I love the film Ed Wood, even the Johnny Depp of 2020 cannot ruin this film for me. Also, that last line is really what I needed […]