Laura Waddell [LW]: This article is a couple of years old but has been doing the rounds again. Dave Holmes writing in Esquire posits there’s a lost era of music, roughly from 2003 to 2012, where we no longer access the mediums we listened to music through (think dead iPods, lost mp3 files) and without that continuity, there are lots of bands that didn’t stick in our collective memory. Looking at the examples he gives, it kind of checks out. It’s not as simple as digital versus physical, more about the pitfalls of digital obsolescence and cultural black holes. It’s still a great argument for print books if ever I saw one.
Lisa Coen [LC]: Kelsey McKinney in The New York Times has validated my love of gossip and I’m thrilled.
Film & TV
Sarah Davis-Goff [SDG]: A little Marvel catch-up!
Black Widow – I enjoyed this action movie! Good humour, pacy, fun performances. I don’t think anyone needs to feel sorry for ScarJo but it must be really tough to have been limited to being the sexy barren one, good for calming down men when they were hulking out – and then have to essentially give over the role to someone the franchise is going to treat better (and let’s face it maybe someone who’ll find it easier to bring more to a character.)
It’s not that I was ever a huge Black Widow fan per se but that character would have to do so much work as basically the only woman and none of it was done. Anyway it makes me curious to find other movies by that director because this movie was really fun.
Loki – I really didn’t love this, I thought the dialogue was really stilted, lots of the general interaction was oddly wooden, and the last episode was boring. BUT the first few episodes in a sort of a brutalist red tape factory were fun, and Owen Wilson stole the show.
LW: Glasgow Film Theatre recently had a Wong Kar Wai season and I tagged along with friends who had tickets for Days of Being Wild. It was my first time back in the building since the before times. I sank into my seat, cradled a gin rickey, and watched all the beautiful scenes of 80s Hong Kong unfold. Bliss.
Searching for visual anaesthesia, I stumbled upon Cooking with Paris on Netflix, and it was a massive nostalgia trip back to the Simple Life years, the wildest era of celebrity reality tv. Essentially Paris Hilton plays the character of Paris Hilton, cooking meals in a crystal-covered kitchen (even the spatulas are bedazzled; a gem is lost during the stirring of a sauce), while teacup chihuahuas potter about, celebrity guests (sorry – sous chefs) look on bemused and Paris delivers one-liners in her detached, deadpan voice. I read a couple of reviews that really struggled to pin the show down. What is this? they all seem to ask. I don’t know either, but what intrigues me most about it is how it plays a game with authenticity.
During her recent resurgence in relevancy, as well as documenting her abuse Paris has been open about her real voice, playing a character, and playing with the press. I don’t believe she wears feathers and fingerless gloves in her real kitchen; the show gives a big nudge, nudge, wink, wink that the over the top camp glamour is a big dressing up game in the same wheelhouse as burlesque or drag. But when Paris disaffectedly says she found the recipes online and just wrote them down (in a rainbow felt-tipped, sticker-covered notebook), even though she’s playing up to the character of rich, bored heiress, there’s something more truthful in that one statement than the output of thousands of lifestyle influencers who obscure the artifice in what they do and affect an aspirational form of relatability. I find that balance really intriguing.
LC: I miss TV. My toddler won’t go to sleep until really late and then there’s no time to watch anything. Do you know what I never want to watch again? Blippi.
LC: I’m reading Finding Freedom in the Lost Kitchen by Erin French, but I’m only a couple of chapters in. So far the food writing is beautiful and the voice clear and assured. Unfortunately I have had to fling it to one side because the new Stephen King has just landed! I’m avoiding reviews until after I’ve read it (as always, not because I’m afraid of spoilers, but because I will read the book with an eye on disagreeing with the critic and then not enjoy it on its own terms. I will not be discussing with a therapist at this time.)
It’s called Billy Summers and it’s a crime novel. Here’s how the NYT describes it: ‘a hired killer and aspiring writer is lured from the brink of retirement with a lucrative assignment’. I understand it involves a scene with a character in a cabin trying to write. I love this for me. I think King is terrific at creating a lot of drama and high stakes with only one character in a remote, isolated place (Gerald’s Game, The Shining, Misery, Rat, Bag of Bones, Dolores Claiborne, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). I really love getting to hang out in someone’s mind, especially as they struggle to stay in control. On reflection, this is probably why I love monologue plays.
Speaking of theatre, I’m working on something about legendary playwright John B Keane, and I’m delighted to return to his work. The 1965 play The Field was based on a true story of a murder in Kerry. It’s an excellent play about obsession, fear, and how the trauma of terrible loss can warp people’s sense of right and wrong. The film adaptation from 1990 starring Richard Harris is terrific in its own right (although there are some important changes to the story that I didn’t love). Apparently Keane found it a gruelling project to write, as he was so close to where the original murder had taken place. It’s a strange legacy that when stories of murder in rural Ireland connected to land or inheritance are reported on, people almost always invoke The Field. Irish playwrights like Keane and JM Synge based so much of their work off stories of murders and other crimes they were told about. It’s important to have a piece of art of some kind of social expression that is complex and doesn’t glorify murder, that helps us exorcise our feelings around the event, (and I know it’s hardly new for theatre to do this), but I suppose I wonder if it were nowadays, what kind of true crime podcast JM and JB would host. The Patreon would be hopping.
I recently read Landslide by Michael Wolff. This is Wolff’s third book in as many years about the Trump presidency, and this one documents the final days. I feel like this is one of the great works of comedy non-fiction, and I enjoyed every tacky moment of it – the chapter about Giuliani’s leaky-hair-dye press conference is a hoot.
It’s a lot of fun to read about that now that the sense of stress and danger has somewhat abated and time has been moving along. I think of that Brian Friel line about memory being ‘distilled of all its coarseness’ when I see Republicans now try to retcon the attack on the Capitol as just some over-enthusiastic tourists going a bit wild.
I mean there’s distillation, and then there’s industrial-grade bleaching, right? I enjoyed the fact that so many people filmed and live-streamed the attack so it’s just that bit harder to rewrite history.
SDG: This poem by Nick Laird about his father’s death, which made me cry. It made me think again of Ian Samson’s diary essays, where he speaks about his ageing parents. I love them so much.
LW: I’m currently reading Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by language scholar Amanda Montell. It’s a fairly breezy but interesting look at how cults and other cultural, commercial entities (multi-level marketing, manipulative influencers, political movements and hyped-up fitness clubs) use language to make susceptible people feel like insiders and develop an ‘us versus the world’ mentality. An example of this is jargon. To simplify the argument the book makes, when jargon words are specific and used to enhance clarity in communication, such as shorthand for complicated phenomenon (like medical terms), they’re generally a force for good; when jargon is vaguely defined, exclusive, and used primarily as a way to identify insiders (and put pressure on new recruits to get with the programme), it’s generally a bad sign. It’s easy to think of cult followers as lacking in logic, and there are many contributing factors, but Montell makes the point that sometimes a person’s positive qualities, such as aspiration, optimism and hope, are what makes them open to the hard sell on too-good-to-be-true alternative lifestyles.
SDG: I highly doubt this is interesting to anybody but: my husband and I mostly eat vegan, and I’ve been a stricter or less strict vegan of some sort for a long time. But we’re weaning Sammy (9 months tomorrow!) and I would absolutely not have the confidence to wean purely to vegan food while being sure he was getting all the nutrition he needs (though I’ve no doubt it’s possible and commendable.) Anyway we’re cooking meat, fish, and eggs again, and we’ve whole milk and cheese in the fridge. It’s really odd. I could just make these things for him of course but I don’t.
The best thing about this is that I get to make my favourite lunch again. I fry up cherry tomatoes, add two eggs and put on some bread to toast. I butter and put marmite on it, then goes the layer of fried tomatoes, then the eggs on top. It’s so good you guys. It’s so good.
LW: As I type this, I’ve just entered the ‘no food for 24 hours’ zone before a routine medical procedure, so naturally I’m thinking about all the things I cannot eat and hyperventilating a little bit. Rachel Roddy‘s new book An A-Z of Pasta will be waiting for me on the other side. Spaghetti! Rigatoni! Orecchiette!
LC: Obsessed with Rōze Traore and his fresh pasta over on IG, like this short rib pappardelle. And look at this: roast mushrooms, pancetta and sage sitting in a brown butter herb sauce, served with gnocchi. I want to cry.
Did everyone get a good look at Tom Daley knitting at the Olympics? He has a dedicated IG account for his fibre crafts.
I’m in the middle of knitting a retro v-neck slipover that will either look very cool or irretrievably naff, and when I finish, I think I’ll have a go at making one of those dog sweaters Daley’s been making. I will wrap it up, and gift it to the family dog, and she will snub me.
Evelynn Escobar-Thomas runs an account called Hike Clerb. Her goal is to equip BIPoC womxn with the tools, resources, and experiences to collectively heal in nature. I love to see outdoorsy people on Instagram, especially if they don’t look like tall sinewy white guys. I think sometimes that hiking is an elite sport and I don’t qualify, but then my sister goes and climbs Croagh Patrick with her children (8 and 11) and no special equipment, and I remember it isn’t that big of a deal, especially if you take sensible precautions, and I’m a cis-het white woman! We’re plenty represented in outdoorsy wellness stuff (as long as we agree that we should be thin.) I like posts like this that tell you to hydrate and bring snacks, rather than bragging about gear made from space-suit technology or whatever. Hikes for all!
My goal for this weekend now that my ankle is better is to do one modest hike. Might post a photo, might fall in a crevasse, we’ll see.
LW: I recently saw the film The Sparks Brothers, about the life and work of Ron and Russell Mael, and it was a lot of fun. I’m not a muso so discovering a band five decades later is very on-brand for me. (Team Ron, obviously).
LC: My podcast recommendation this week is this episode of RTÉ Documentary on One: ‘Miracle in Galway Bay’ produced by Lorna Siggins.
Last year two paddle-boaters were swept out to sea and were missing long enough for everyone to lose all hope, then they were rescued in a stunning confluence of luck, smart thinking and resilience, on their part and on the part of the local fishermen who figured out where they might have ended up based on their own knowledge of current and wind. It’s a great story. Weirdly, it’s made me want to try paddle-boarding.
SDG: I’ve been listening to two things almost exclusively – the music from Bo Burnham’s Inside, and The Hu band, a Mongolian metal/rock band which incorporates beautiful traditional instruments as well as Mongolian throat singing, which I’m finding really comforting right now for some reason. There’s something about that particular pitch which is very calming. (It kind of reminds me of the healing humming from Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.) I just read their Wikipedia page to find out more about them to mention here and I find it really funny that they won the highest state award for Mongolia, the Order of Genghis Khan, for promoting Mongolian culture around the world.
One Last Thing!
Tramp Press Audio has landed!
Get Corpsing read by author Sophie White here.