Mixed Media, Sunday 24 March 2019

Films:

Dawn Wall movie poster
  • ⭐ Dawn Wall: gripping documentary (no pun intended) about Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen’s 2015 ascent of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan in Yosemite.
  • Captain Marvel: there was no chance I wasn’t going to love this. I’m a big fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s reinvention of Captain Marvel in the early 2010s.
  • Velvet Buzzsaw: a darkly stylish satire of snobbery and pretentiousness in the Los Angeles art world, grafted onto a weak but nasty supernatural revenge story. Amusingly flamboyant performances from a host of big names don’t save it.
  • 💩 The Predator: this is a very bad film. Toothless dialogue, poorly choreographed action, daft plot, zero suspense.
  • Hotel Artemis: the trailer made it look more fun. Flat characters, very little interesting funny or snappy dialog, and the near future setting was entirely pointless. An hour and fifteen minutes of setup for a couple of mediocre action fight scenes. Even if there had been a decent payoff, there’s not enough here that would have made me care about it.

TV:

  • ⭐⭐ Sharp Objects: I watched all eight episodes of this on Saturday while I was under the weather with a cold. I only paused for getting food for myself and others. This was amazingly tense and subtle. Apart from the abrupt flashback cut-aways, the background is full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpses of protagonist Camille Preaker’s subconscious leaking into the the world. It’s not actually a ghost story, but it’s almost presented as one.
  • Love, Death, and Robots: Netflix’s “adult” anthology series of short animated films is an impressive collection, but it is very…male. Out of eighteen episodes, only two are based on stories by women, which is not how the fantasy/horror/SF genres skew these days. Of the episodes where women take a leading role, most are still rooted in violence and gore. Helping Hand is a welcome exception, and I’m not just saying that because a friend of mine worked on it 🙂
  • The Escape Artist: tense legal thriller with David Tennant.
  • Broadchurch seasons 2 & 3: I wasn’t sure where the creators would go with this after season 1 wrapped up. Once I was well into season 2 it felt like a vital and necessary follow-up. Season 3 almost felt tacked-on: same characters, new crime! But they weave in the aftermath of the first two seasons as the B-story, and allow the familiar characters to find whatever measure of peace they’re going to get.
  • The Umbrella Academy: These character archetypes have all been done better elsewhere.
  • Secret City season 2: Not as a good as season 1, but still a high-quality political investigative thriller.

Books

  • Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal et al.: I ran a book club at work to read through this and discuss it over the course of a month and a half. It touches on the same themes of complexity in modern organizations that Atul Gawande talks about in The Checklist Manifesto. Very interesting.
  • The Wild Storm vol 3, by Warren Ellis and John Davis-Hunt: Hmmmm…I’d been enjoying how Ellis was evolving the conflict between the characters in the first two volumes, but in this volume he seems to take a pause from the story arc to introduce a bunch of new characters and then…kill them all? Or at least most of them. It didn’t feel as vital as the first two books.
  • Nova by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection vol 1: Lovely art, but the storylines were getting a bit repetitive by the end of the book.

Kimbra at Paradiso Noord, Thursday 21 March 2019

This was part of Kimbra’s “Reimagined” tour, where she is performing a bunch of her songs in a smoky jazz bar style, backed by just a piano and a double bass. This is a great combination. Some of her recorded songs have this kind of feel to them already (“Hi Def Distance Romance”, “Waltz Me To The Grave”), and some absolutely shine with the new treatment (“The Magic Hour”, “Old Flame”). Others were less successful. “Lightyears” from her album Primal Heart is a beat-heavy club song, and its lyrics don’t have the gravitas to stand up to being slowed down. “Version Of Me” is slow, quiet and haunting already, and I’m not sure if it benefits from the vocal welly she puts into it in this arrangement. The overall atmosphere in the small Paradiso Noord venue was magical, though, with a warm crowd that rewarded Kimbra with tons of applause whenever she would end a song with a “dankjewel” and a smile.

Set list:

  1. The Magic Hour
  2. Plain Gold Ring
  3. The Good War
  4. Everybody Knows
  5. Withdraw
  6. Waltz Me To The Grave
  7. Old Flame
  8. Rescue Hum
  9. Black Sky
  10. Hi Def Distance Romance
  11. Lightyears
  12. Past Love
  13. Version of Me

Encore:

  1. My Way
  2. Cameo Lover

Manchester to Edinburgh

Last week was a bit odd. I was scheduled to fly to Edinburgh on Tuesday evening. The flight was delayed because of the windy weather, but it got really rough on approach for our landing. I heard a cockpit alarm go off just before we touched down. The engines burst back into life, and we streaked back up into the sky. The pilot apologized, did a loop over the Forth, and tried to land again. With the same result. We wouldn’t get a third meaningful vote attempt. The pilot said that he’d been flying in to Edinburgh for many years, but he’d never seen it that bad. We’d be diverting to Manchester, which had an open slot for us (Glasgow and Newcastle were full) and good enough weather to land.

It was midnight when we taxied into our stance at Manchester. It took another twenty minutes for a shuttle to take us to the terminal. (As an unexpected arrival, we were last in the queue.) Although we’d been told that ground staff would be available to meet us with further instructions at arrivals, there was no-one at first. Eventually a lone rep came and told us that there would be no coach to drive us the rest of the way to Edinburgh. It was late, the weather was foul, and no coach company would commit to putting a driver out in those conditions. There were no staff to help us make other arrangements either: we were asked to make our own arrangements, and easyJet would reimburse us.

Fair enough. When I’m travelling solo, I try not to let these things bother me. It’s an adventure! I walked from the terminal to the nearby airport hotels. The Hilton was full, but I got a room at the Crowne Plaza. In the morning I got up and took a relaxing train journey up north through the Lake District to Edinburgh, finally arriving at the office a little short of 15:00. My colleagues kept expecting me to be stressed or upset about it, but I was like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Another travel story.

(Also, privilege. This would have been a disaster for many people. )

That wasn’t the only oddity of the week. Although on Tuesday I definitely went through my pre-travel checklist, I still managed to forget to put my paroxetine tablets in their usual spot in my wallet. I discovered this as Abi was driving me to the airport, but it was too late to turn around for them. “It’ll be fine,” I figured.

Well, not quite. I’ve gone without my tablets for a day or so before, but I start to get funny head symptoms. My head feels mildly clamped, like I’m wearing a hat, except I’m not. Then there’s a funny jolting sensation that follows when I move my eyes or change focus.

Abi sent me a strip of tablets by overnight post, but despite showing as “delivered” on PostNL’s tracking site, they never showed up. I had taken my last tablet on Tuesday, and I was fine all through Wednesday. The head symptoms were quite noticeable towards Thursday evening, and by Friday morning I was feeling rough. My tongue felt thick, and I was tripping over my words. My peripheral vision was jumpy. I was also thirsty all the time.

Fortunately our wonderful office manager Sarah-Jane pointed out that NHS pharmacies can fill emergency prescriptions for travelers. At lunchtime I popped round to the pharmacy round the corner, spoke to a very kind and understanding pharmacist, who took my details and dispensed me a week of tablets. I took one as soon as I got back to the office.

By Friday evening the head sensations had faded, and when I woke up on Saturday morning I felt normal again. Which is just as well, because Alex and I were driving down to Venlo for the Fontys University open day.

Venlo seems nice. It always feels comfortable to hear Limburgs accents all around again. Also lots of German. I feel like I should spend some time brushing up on my German again.

Area 11 at G2 Glasgow, Saturday 16 February 2019

Alex, Fiona, and I saw Area 11 in Edinburgh a few years ago. Alex travelled to see them on his own last summer. And last weekend the four of us all took a trip to Glasgow to see them at the G2 on their “Everybody Gets A Piece” tour. It was fun!

We flew from Amsterdam to Edinburgh on the Saturday morning, and picked up a rental car. It was too early to check in to our hotel, so we drove in to Glasgow and did some lunching (fish and chips for Alex, haggis for Fiona) and shopping. By mid-afternoon we were all tired, so we headed for the hotel, had a bit of a rest, and then came back in to town for the gig. Fiona decided she was too tired, though, and stayed in her room.

The concert was good, varied, and incredibly loud. No, seriously. I like loud concerts, but I’m not sure I would have survived that one if I hadn’t had earplugs with me. The first opening act was local band Dancing With Dakota, who were metal AF. They were also bathed entirely in a blue light so far into the violet my eyes couldn’t focus on them, and I didn’t even notice they had a drummer until I saw the photos afterwards. I thought they’d been playing with a backing track.

By comparison, Misery Kids sounded like a boy band. I absolutely don’t mean that in a bad way! Just that their uptempo melodic sound and catchy choruses were so stunningly different from Dancing With Dakota that you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been teleported to a different venue.

October Drift were yet another change of pace, their style dark and grungy, with a front man unafraid to traverse the side wall of the venue all the way to the merch table. No crowdsurfing, but I’m sure he was tempted.

Now I love discovering new music, but to be honest, by the time Area 11 came on I was feeling a bit tired. It was an early gig – the venue’s doors had opened at 18:00, and there was a 22:00 curfew – but I’m an auld mannie and I need my rest. I thought they were good, and I loved hearing their new songs, but they also seemed like they were holding back and not rocking out quite as much as when we saw them a few years ago. Maybe they were tired and tense, too – it was the first night of the tour.

Set List:

  1. Cassandra part 1
  2. Cassandra part 2
  3. In The Blind
  4. Everybody Gets A Piece
  5. Versus
  6. Red Queen
  7. All Your Friends
  8. New Magiks
  9. Panacea and the Prelogue
  10. Curtain Fall
  11. The Contract
  12. Heaven Piercing Giga Drill

(No encore – they felt they were cutting it close to the curfew already.)

The merch guy recognized me by the end of the evening. Between Dancing With Dakota and Misery Kids, Alex and I had gone to load him up with a tour T-shirt, a Cassandra Rising longsleeve, a beanie hat (+1 for Fiona), and a nifty zip-up hoodie. Between Misery Kids and October Drift Abi got herself a shirt as well, and I decided to give in to temptation and get myself one of the zip-ups too. And then immediately after the gig I had to get Fiona one of the Cassandra Rising shirts as well, because on reflection I realized that it was the one she would have wanted if she’d been there. So: “You again!” Yes. It me.

Alex had another portion of fish and chips on the walk back from the G2 to the Buchanan Galleries car park, and Abi and I shared some falafel from the excellent Falafel To Go hole-in-the-wall (literally) on Hope St.

On Sunday we went in to Edinburgh for a bit of lunching (more fish and chips for Alex, more haggis for Fiona – they have to get their Scottish deep fry when they have the chance) and hanging out. I dropped Abi and Alex at the airport in the later afternoon, before driving up to Mum & Dad and stopping off at the chip shop in Stanley for, yes, some more haggis for Fiona.

On Monday I took Fiona to Fife to stay with her boy C. Seeing as it was close by, I went in to St. Andrews for a bit of a wander. The last time I was in St. Andrews was a few years ago, and it had felt incredibly upscale and upmarket – the lingering royal afterglow of William and Kate. Perhaps it was the cold and grey weather, but this time it felt a bit more casual and studenty. I mean, it’s still St. Andrews, so let’s not get carried away. The bones of the place were showing through more clearly.

On Tuesday, Mum and Dad and I went in to Perth for some lunch and shopping. (I got myself a pair of slippers I intend to leave at the office, because why not be comfortable?) We also paid a visit to the Fergusson Gallery, which was a rare treat. I couldn’t have told you who Fergusson was before I went in, but I certainly recognized a few of his works. It’s a small but lovely gallery. In the evening I picked up Fiona from her overnight stay.

Wednesday we headed back to Edinburgh. Fiona spent the day with C, while I zoomed back up the M9 to return Dad’s reading glasses that he’d left in the car the day before. We flew back home in the evening, exhausted.