Portrait mode on my new iPhone can be quite hit or miss. Even the hits look funny if you spend too long looking at them, or when you look at them side by side with the original. But so long as you don’t blow them up to full size on a big screen, the effect can be really nice.
Mixed media, Sunday 26 November 2017
- Horns: Fiona really likes this film, and encouraged me to watch it. It’s a bit heavy-handed in places, but I quite enjoyed it. Other than his minor part in Now You See Me 2, this is the first time I’ve seen Daniel Radcliffe in a non-Potter role, and he was fine.
- Wind River: Slow, moving, bleak, grief-bitten, hard to watch in places, but a very powerful and beautiful film. This is what a Western looks like in 2017.
- Fantastic Four (2015): This film effectively simulates the feeling of falling asleep part-way through a film, then waking up and not understanding what is going on because you missed a crucial scene that explained why the characters are reacting to each other that way. Over and over again. It just made no sense.
- The Way Way Back: Sweet coming-of-age comedy with some effective grown-up relation stuff thrown in. Sam Rockwell’s emotionally stunted character neatly avoided coming across as creepy; Steve Carell plays against type as an emotionally abusive almost-stepfather. The film walks a lot of lines very successfully.
- The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young: Amazing documentary about a ridiculously tough multi-day ultramarathon race through the Tennessee mountains. But it’s not a rah-rah cheerleading story about athletes overcoming all odds. It’s very introverted, focusing on the quiet personal journeys that the runners make. Quirky and inspiring.
- The Art of Organized Noize: Good documentary about the people behind the rise of Atlanta hip-hop in the 90s. Lots of great background and stories that reinforce a lot of the stereotypes of how ruthlessly exploitative the music business can be.
- Thor: Ragnarok: Brilliant. More open and honest about being a genuine comedy than Guardians of the Galaxy was.
- Justice League: It has some good bits. It has some bad bits. (In the climactic battle, the villain actually says, “No! This cannot be!”) When the team is together, they don’t have the same on-screen chemistry as the Avengers. It’s okay, but it doesn’t sizzle.
- The Expanse season 2: Season one was good, season two is great. Loved this.
- Mindhunter: Loved this, too. I used to enjoy Criminal Minds, and Mindhunter is like the prequel.
- Rick and Morty season 3: Excellent
- The Sinner: Interesting premise — we know exactly who committed the crime, but the story revolves all around the why, which is hidden even from the killer herself until the end. Unfortunately it’s also a very slow show, and it would have been much more effective at half its length. Maybe even cut down to a feature film.
- The Good Place (seasons 1 & 2 up to mid-season break): Snappy and fun comedy about moral philosophy in the afterlife.
- House of Cards season 5: Abi and I had watched seasons 1-4 together end enjoyed them. We started season 5, but couldn’t finish it. This was long before the Kevin Spacey allegations broke. With Trump in the White House, the political shenanigans the fictional president was getting up to in the show were no longer entertaining. I can’t see us going back to it.
- Star Trek: Discovery (season 1 up to mid-season break): I thought the two-episode pilot was awful, but it has got better since then. Still not fantastic, but I’m willing to give it more rope. (Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd is inspired, though.)
- Parks and Recreation: I’m almost through season 6 now. Still enjoying it.
- Universal Paperclips is a clicker game based on the idea of an AI whose mission is to make paperclips as efficiently in as great a volume as possible. Should be familiar if you are familiar with Nick Bostrom’s work, e.g. Superintelligence. I lost a couple of days to this.
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Hard to say anything about this that others haven’t already said before me. It’s an amazing game, whose impact on the open-world sandbox genre will be felt for years to come.
Music: Wolf Alice (new album Visions of a Life), Linkin Park (back catalogue), The Ting Tings (back catalogue), The Cool Quest (new single “Running” + back catalogue)
The Average White Band with Hue and Cry at Glasgow Concert Hall, Thursday 23 November 2017
It’s five years ago since I saw Hue and Cry at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, and that was with my parents, too! I’m on their mailing list, and when they were doing album announcements earlier this year they said they would be playing a special gig with the Average White Band in Glasgow. That sounded amazing, so I made sure to arrange my travel to include a trip to Glasgow last Thursday. I met up with Mum & Dad for dinner at Di Maggios after work, and then we walked up to the Concert Hall.
Hue and Cry had their full band with them, and looked thrilled to be there. They played a 45-minute opening set including “My Salt Heart”, “Looking for Linda”, “Labour of Love”, “Violently”, “Little Man”, and a couple of tracks from their new album, “The Way She Flies” and title track “Pocketful of Stones”. The Average White Band came on around 9 and played for an hour (including “Atlantic Avenue”, “Walk on By”, “Work to Do”, “A Love of Your Own”) then brought Pat and Greg and their saxophone and trumpet player back on stage for three songs (“Heading for a Fall” was one of them; I don’t remember the other two), before rounding off the night with — what else — “Pick up the Pieces” and “Let’s Go Round Again”. All the hits. The venue was seated, but they had everyone up and dancing in the aisles before it was over.
We had seats right at the end of one row, and very close to one the doors to the auditorium. We had a lot of standing up to do while other people in the row were taking their seats, but it also mean I was able to make a sharp exit before the final applause had died down and make a beeline for the cloakroom. I passed the merch stand on the way. The attendants were telling everyone that the band were going to be signing CDs shortly. Because I was quick off the mark there was no queue for the cloakroom, and I was able to make it back to the merch stand, buy a CD and a poster, and zip to the signing line at the far end of the Concert Hall café before there was much of a line. By the time I had gathered my autographs from the band, there must have been 200 people behind me. Good timing!
Mum and Dad drove me back to Edinburgh afterwards, which was a kindness! They were staying in Edinburgh overnight because of an early morning appointment the next day, which was a useful coincidence. I don’t mind taking the late train back from Glasgow, but it’s nicer to travel with family.
Thundercat at O2 ABC Glasgow, Tuesday 14 November 2017
Amazing musicianship. I have never seen anyone play a bass like that. His fingers fly over the strings faster than I could follow. And his drummer, Justin Brown, was just as wild. This was fantastic to watch and listen to, but there were points in some of the pieces (hard to call them songs) where my brain just couldn’t keep up it. The melody dissolved into lengthy chaotic excursions that were too fast for me to deal with. It was like they suddenly started speaking a different language, which is probably not too far from the truth: they switched from the familiar melodic funk of his recordings to free jazz and back again throughout the gig. I had a great time, but I didn’t understand it all!
Support was from Dorian Concept, whose unassuming stage presence belied a terrific electronic funk sound. Well worth listening to more of!
I’d been looking forward to this gig for many months. I had introduced my colleague Stu to Thundercat earlier this year, and we both went over to Glasgow for the gig in the day. Nice dinner at the Raven after work, and we caught the last train back to Edinburgh afterwards talking about Marvel TV shows and podcasts. Great evening.
Wolf Alice at Melkweg, Friday 3 November 2017
Didn’t enjoy this as much as I had hoped to. I had forgotten how hard they rock, and that there was going to be moshing. I had positioned myself too close to the front and centre of the crowd, and I was at the edge of the mosh zone. I got shoved and pushed a lot, got beer poured over me, and at one point this giant of a Dutch guy leaned down and shouted something aggressive and incomprehensible right in my face. I didn’t feel safe, and I moved to the edge of the floor, where everything was still cramped and sticky and I had a shitty view.
The band were good, but the experience was worse than last year.