We have a weekly collaborative Spotify playlist at work. In the olden days, we’d contribute to it during the week, and then set it running on the sound system in the kitchen on Friday. There’s a different theme each week, and this week the setters have outdone themselves. The theme is “Q and A”: add pairs of songs, where the first one is a question, and the second one is an answer.
I haven’t quite figured out how to make a European Flag tattoo design that works for me yet.
El Camino (Breaking Bad movie) A good chaser after having finished watching all of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
⭐️ Knives Out I’m a fan of Rian Johnson’s, and I’d been looking forward to this for ages. Watched it at the cinema with Abi and Fiona on my birthday, after rushing down a pineapple and jalopeño pizza (yes) at the Domino’s around the corner to catch the movie start time. Excellent film, absolutely loved it.
The Irishman Boring. The facial digital de-aging was good, possibly the best we’ve seen to date, but they forgot to de-age the actors’ gaits. In scenes where he’s supposed to be playing a man in his 40s, De Niro still walks and moves like a man in his 70s. Also, did I mention the film’s boring? Because it’s boring.
Rise of Skywalker Yes, it’s stupid and full of plot holes, but I liked it. Kinda glad that the cycle is done now, though.
⭐️ Warcraft You know what? Not at all bad. It’s not Moon or Source Code, but it’s not a turkey. It’s not subtle, it’s not groundbreaking, but it’s sincere in putting on an entertaining and exciting big-budget fantasy spectacle that isn’t set in Middle Earth. I enjoyed it.
Roman J Israel Esq Knowing nothing about this film other than having watched the trailer clip showing a single scene of dialogue between Denzel Washington and Colin Farrell, this went in a completely different direction than I’d expected. Thoughtful, uncomfortable, pretty good.
💩💩 6 Underground I tried watching this, but I couldn’t. A billionaire faking his own death so he can mete out vigilante justice with no regard for collateral damage is…troublesome at best, the I found the opening car chase scene so abhorrent that I deleted the download from my phone so that I wouldn’t be tempted to try returning to it. (Yes, Bruce Wayne/Batman, yes, Tony Stark/Iron Man. I know.)
⭐️ Frozen 2 Good. Kristoff’s “Lost in the woods” eighties music video parody is hilarious.
⭐️ My name is DolemiteExcellent. Funny and moving story of a comedian trying to make it big, and do it his way.
⭐️ Song of the Sea Beautiful film, gorgeous animation.
⭐️ Jojo Rabbit Brilliant. I found the start uncomfortable, with how much it leaned in to painting the nazis in a normal and humorous light, but it turned into something altogether sharper, more subtle, and more emotional.
⭐️ Rick and Mortyseason 4 (or at least the first half of it) – still funny.
⭐️ Watchmen Excellent, intense, twisty & turny, although the use of kinetic weapons in the final episode felt inconsistent in its execution.
⭐️ The Good Place season 4 Wow. Hard to keep up the level of comedy and still bring that to a satisfying ending, but they really did it.
⭐️ October Factionseason 1 I won’t be surprised if Netflix doesn’t renew this for a second season, and I won’t be super disappointed, either, because they brought this first story arc to a pretty solid conclusion. It’s relatively low budget, relatively low key and downbeat, definitely not the flashiest or best piece of TV out there. But what can I say? I enjoyed the family story, and felt a strong connection with the two parents, struggling to deal with two teens who themselves are trying to figure out their own identity in a new and difficult situation.
⭐️ The first 5 books of the Jackson Lamb series by Mick Herron: Slow Horses, Dead Lions, Real Tigers, Spook Street, and London Rules. Loved these. I came across them via Warren Ellis. Serious spy stories, with elements of Archer-like inappropriate humour that creep in around the edges. Looking forward to the next one.
🤔 Measure What Matters by John Doerr. He never comes out and explicitly says there is a causal link between the use of OKRs and corporate success (maybe his editor balked), but he sure as heck implies it at every opportunity. Now, I like OKRs, but I also like supporting evidence. This book is a selection of the most successful case studies from his personal acquaintance. Pretty! But completely lacking in balance, or in guidance for anything but the happiest of paths.
Manic by Halsey is amazing. Varied and richly textured. And I can actuall play the bass part for “Finally // beautiful stranger” because it’s super easy (E-D-C-A) and at a tempo I can still handle. ❤️
The track “Alanis’ Interlude” on Manic features…Alanis Morissette, who I haven’t listened to for ages. As in, I hadn’t heard Flavors of Entanglement from 2008 or havoc and bright lights from 2012 at all. But now I have! I prefer the latter.
Update: I’d forgotten that in the time period for this mixed mediastravaganza I also had a subscription to Amazon Prime. This was accidental. I generally avoid Amazon (I disapprove strongly of their labour practices), but when I do use them, I always avoid signing up for their offers of Amazon Prime. But this time they caught me with one of their dark patterns. Something like a “no, I don’t want to not take advantage of opting out of this free offer” checkbox that I misinterpreted.
Anyway, so there I was with an Amazon Prime subscription, and Season 4 of ⭐ The Expanse just having been released as an Amazon exclusive, so I stuck around for that. And season 1 of ⭐ Fleabag. But not season 2, because despite season 2 being “Available on Amazon Prime Video” this apparently doesn’t mean it’s, you know, available on Amazon Prime Video in the way media are available on other video subscription services. Of course not, what was I thinking.
So anyway, that subscription is gone now.
And then there’s Disney+, on which we’ve watched season 1 of The Mandalorian. Mixed opinion. On the one hand Baby Yoda, on the other hand droid slavery and mass murder. So.
And as I was looking back over this media collection, I thought it was looking a bit light for a three month gap since the previous one…and then I remembered that ⭐ Spider-Man on PS4 kinda took over my life for while there. Time well spent.
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.
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.
Cassandra part 1
Cassandra part 2
In The Blind
Everybody Gets A Piece
All Your Friends
Panacea and the Prelogue
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.
5 September 2018: Garbage and Honeyblood at Barrowlands, Glasgow I had been looking forward to this, mostly to see Honeyblood rather than Garbage, but the concert fell in the middle of my mental health leave, and I couldn’t deal with the travel
25 September 2018: Halsey at AFAS Live, Amsterdam Missed this because I was over with Mum & Dad while Dad had his knee operation.
26 September 2018: Passenger at AFAS Live, Amsterdam See above. Fiona and Abi had a good time at both, though.
I finished watching season 1 of Jessica Jones on Netflix this week. I thought Daredevil was pretty dark and gritty, but Jessica Jones tops it handily. It takes as its core theme the question of how people live with themselves after bad things have happened to them, and after they themselves have done bad things. It mines classic noir tropes with an occasional twist of humour, but it’s rarely more than a wry smile. I was impressed by how un-stereotypically the character arcs of some of the supporting cast played out. Kilgrave is a sociopathic mind-controller, and the series never lets you forget the trail of devastation a villian like that will leave in his wake.
I loved it as a show in its own right, and I loved the tight integration with other characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We live in a world of media franchises and crossovers. This week’s episode of the Imaginary Worlds podcast is about the Tommy Westphall universe spawned by the 1980s TV show St. Elsewhere. In the very last episode of St. Elsewhere it was revealed that the whole show had actually taken place in Tommy’s imagination. But because the show had been linked to many other shows through crossover appearances, does that imply that those other shows also took place in Tommy’s head?
It struck me as interesting how the Marvel Cinematic Universe makes use of real places like New York, and so can easily place shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones in a very realistic contemporary setting, whereas DC’s properties take place in fictional places like Metropolis, Gotham, and Star(ling) City. I wonder how this influences the writers and producers? I can see how audiences could make a stronger emotional connection with places they know, while writers and producers can take more liberties with imaginary cities.
Most of all, watching Jessica Jones made me want more shows like that. Specifically, I think it would be a perfect fit for Matt Fraction and David Aja’s down-to-earth interpretation of Hawkeye. Except…in Avengers: Age of Ultron Marvel decided to give Clint Barton a white-bread family out in the country. It would be hard now to place him in a run-down apartment in New York with a string of ex-wives to his name. Pity.
Last weekend I finally made time to listen to the Hamilton cast album. It’s excellent. Not something I’d listen to all day on repeat, but I’d definitely go and see the show, if tickets could be had for less than the price of a modest used car.
Something I could (and will) listen to all day is Bleached. They’re playing Bitterzoet in May, and it looks like my Indiestadpas should get me to see them for free, if I can figure out how to get on the guest list without signing up for Facebook.
I don’t remember how I came across it, but Spartan looked like something for me: Val Kilmer (whom I’ve always enjoyed watching since Thunderheart) and a shades-of-grey covert agent plot that doesn’t rely on stunts and explosions. It’s a very satisfying thriller, and I liked it a lot.
I missed Sicario in the cinema last year (most of my cinema time in 2015 was with Fiona), and I was looking forward to catching up with it. It’s far more than a conventional law-enforcement against drug dealers thriller. The world of borderless action against criminals who show themselves as capable of boundless ambition and cruelty is…disturbing. This is exactly what FBI agent Kate Macy (played by Emily Blunt) has to come to terms with. She has her eyes opened to a new world. Part of her is attracted to the idea of making a difference, and part of her is repulsed by the ease with which the supposed good guys can abandon the rule of law. She can’t unsee any of it, and she can’t unexperience the horrors to which she is exposed. Will it corrupt her, or will she stick to her principles? What is she willing to stand up for, and what is she willing to let slide? It’s an ambiguous, thoughtful, and powerful film.