Hi, I'm Rob, and this is where I log the books, films, articles and other cultural flotsam that has caught my attention.

Consumed the Weeks of 16th, 23rd and 30th of September

Last week I went back to Liverpool with a few friends to mark the 25th (!) anniversary of us all going to university there. Yes, I am officially old now. Which is why this GQ article on ‘being washed’ really struck a chord with me.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if more of us admitted…not defeat, necessarily, but the possibility of defeat? If more of us were washed? And in doing so allowed ourselves to find what pleasure, or peace, might await on the other side?

(I don’t play golf though. I’m not at that point… yet.)

The musician Daniel Johnston died earlier this month. I wasn’t an obsessive fan of his or anything, but I liked his music and really enjoyed the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. This article from Longreads is one of the best I read after he passed away.

I hate giving up on books, but this week I decided to give up on Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory. The set up was really intriguing, but it just didn’t grab me and I had to make myself put it back on the shelf even though I was half way through it. I picked up Lovecraft Country instead, and already I’m a lot happier.

In between the two I demolished the new Stephen King novel, The Institute, in two days flat. I hope he keeps writing books forever.

What I’ve done most of the past few weeks is watch films. I’ve been working my way through quite a few cult classics as well as some new movies. Here’s the list:

Targets (1968)

The Long Goodbye (1973)

F for Fake (1973)

Shirkers (2018)

Hard Eight (1996)

Lowlife (2017)

Hal (2018)

Night of the Demon (1957)

Harold and Maude (1971)

Billy Jack (1971)

Parasite (2019)

Of the classics, I loved Harold and Maude and Night of the Demon. From the new stuff, Parasite was my favourite I think. Shirkers was the pick of the documentaries. I also read a really good article about the Billy Jack phenomenon.

I’ll leave you this week with some Four Tet:

Consumed the week of 9 September, 2019

Above, Sam Gainsborough makes William Blake’s paintings come alive over London buildings to mark the opening of the new Tate exhibition.

Also from Vimeo: this brilliant little documentary on New York Sanitation worker, Nelson Molina who has collected over 45,000 items from the stuff that’s thrown away on his route in East Harlem and catalogued and organised them all on the second floor of the M11 garage.

Last week I was clearing out the hard drives of an old Macbook and found my old iTunes library. So much great stuff, so many memories, so much money and time invested.. and now it’s effectively redundant. A few day later I came across A Decade of Music Is Lost on Your iPod. These Are The Deleted Years. Now Let Us Praise Them on Esquire.

As a forty-something year old man in the UK, I really shouldn’t be as interested in The Story of Caroline Calloway & Her Ghostwriter Natalie, but I really am.

Watched this week: The Honeymoon Killers from 1970 (thanks mainly to Danny Peary’s Cult Movies book which I picked up second hand last week).

Finaly got round to watching John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum which was great fun and help up really well until the last 20 minutes when it lost its way a little.

I alos watched Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood for the second time. This time at the Prince Charles cinema in 35mm. I enjoyed it even more the second time around.

Music-wise this week, how about a huge playlist celebrating the legendary Lovefingers blog?

Consumed the week of 2 September, 2019

This famous photo of two people wrapped up in a duvet in the middle of Woodstock was taken by the amazingly-named Burk Uzzle. Longreads interviewed him about his life, his work and that particular image.

I will read anything about Charles Schulz, so this article that asks Did Schulz Really Write ‘Peanuts’ for Kids? made me very happy.

Talking of dogs (kind of), we are now registered for adoption at Battersea Dogs Home! Watch this space for canine-related updates.

The Crane Wife from the Paris Review, is an essay about love and relationships and wildlife and all sorts of things.

Takashi Murakami is probably one of my favourite living artists. CNN interviewed him about the influences that shaped his artistic identity.

I am one of the last Internet innocents apparently, i.e. I was born in a pre-Internet age. In her Guardian essay Innocence Lost, Leak McLaren (who must be about my age and who also has a great name) asks ‘What did you do before the internet?’.

On Friday night, Nina and I finally got round to watching Wild Rose, directed by Tom Harper and starring the incredible Jessie Buckley. I thought it was brilliant.

I have just started reading Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory.

I’m really enjoying the second season of Lodge 49 right now. Here’s a playlist someone has made of the music from the show.

Consumed the week of 26 August, 2019

I’m still not reading a lot at the moment. Been a few weeks now where I’ve spent more time listening to music and watching films than I have reading articles or books.

I did finish The Lost Man, by Jane Harper who also wrote another Australian outback thriller The Dry (which I read last year).

And I’m about halfway through Robin, the enormous Robin Wiliams biography by Dave Itzkoff (it’s so enormous I can’t carry it around with me, so it’s strictly a bedtime book).

I also managed to get to the Prince Charles Cinema (of which I’m now a lifetime member, and if you live in London and you like films then you should consider becoming one too, it’s only £50!) to watch the documentary Memory: The Origins of Alien. Here’s the trailer:

Still on a bit of a cult classic kick, I watched Hard Times directed by William Hill and starring Charles Bronson as a street fighter; and Godard’s Band of Outsiders (aka Bande à part) which I’ve shamefully never watched. Here’s the dance sequence to cheer up your day:

Talking of classic films, this post from the Mubi blog about the evolution of the poster for Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero (and the business of marketing movies) is a brilliant read (that’s the Criterion DVD cover design at the top of this post).

And a relaxing, meditative long read for you: The Glorious, Almost-Disconnected Boredom of My Walk in Japan by Craig Mod, from Wired.

Finally for this week, here’s some of my favourite music from the past few months (some brand new, some newly discovered):

Consumed the weeks of 12 and 19 August, 2019

I’ve watched quite a few old films recently.

Nina was away in New York with work for a week, but before she went we had a cinema date to go and see Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, at the Everyman in Crystal Palace.

Definitely not Tarantino’s best (as I’ve heard a few people say) but I enjoyed it and I suspect it might be one of those ‘better the second time around’ kind of films.

I did then have a few days where I could indulge in some very Taranino/OUATIH-esque films (which Nina wouldn’t want to watch in a million years). So I did.

I gobbled up Bob Le Flambeur, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, Point Blank, Moving Target and If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death.

While none of them blew me away it was a pretty fun experiment.

When Nina got back we sat down to watch The Souvenir, Joanna Hogg’s latest, which was pretty brutal viewing but quite brilliant.

These past couple of weeks I read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do, a book whose title is almost as long as the book itself. It’s very gimicky and one note but probably a valuable reminder.

I also picked up the Nintendo Switch again after quite a while and got stuck into Inside, which I’m loving.

Here’s a song to put on while you’re cruising around the city in your convertible, pickng up hitchhikers:

Consumed the month of July (and a bit of August), 2019

I took a month off updating the blog. I didn’t really mean to, but a trip up to Manchester for a friend’s 40th, plus a trip to Spain to visit my in-laws, meant that I didn’t really have much time to sit down and get this done.

In the past four weeks I’ve seen the plays The End of History with David Morrissey and Lesley Sharp (which made me cry), and Bitter Wheat with John Malkovich (which made me laugh a little, but didn’t really do much else).

I also went along to Despacio, the “bespoke soundsystem [that] envelops the crowd in amazing sound for a vinyl-only experience like no other” created by James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) and David and Stephen Dewaele (Soulwax). Even though James Murphy couldn’t be there that was still an incredible night with an equally incredible glitter ball (see picture above).

I finished reading Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan, and I also read Less by Andrew Sean Greer.

I watched A Bigger Splash, the 1973 documentary/drama about the life of David Hockney (loved it), and also recent romcom Long Shot (just ok).

I also finished watching season 2 of Big Little Lies, and read a lot of articles like this one from the New Yorker abut how it was ‘disappointing and Emmy-baiting’ (it may have been, but I still enjoyed it).

Sahanika Ratnayake’s essay Mindfulness is loaded with (troubling) metaphysical assumptions put into words a lot of the worries and nervousness I have about mindfulness and meditation.

Mike Davidson’s diatribe about the email client Superhuman and how it is Spying on You reminded me how vigilant we have to be these days.

I also read some more lightweight, fun stuff, including…

NME’s interview with Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend (still my favourite album of the year so far).

This video essay from Vox on the birth of house music:

And a whole article about the brilliant When Harry Met Sally…,

Do Something! is a bit of a takedown of Jenny Odell’s book How to do Nothing (which I adored and have recommended to a lot of people). Always good to expose yourself to the other side of the argument, right?

Jason Kottke wrote about serendipity v algorithmy, which led me to an article by Dan Cohen on why Engagement Is the Enemy of Serendipity. I am in total agreement.

I couldn’t go a whole month without reading a long article about a conman of some kind, and How Scorned Women Caught L.A.’s ‘Dine-and-Dash Dater’ is a corker.

And then there’s How Clown Pants Saved My Life.

After a bit of musical goodness to accompany you through the week? Here’s Fingertracks Vol 1 from Lovefingers.

Consumed the week of 8 July, 2019

Loads to get through this week so let’s dive right in…

That video above is from the YouTube channel Veratisium and it goes into brilliant detail about how YouTube works. Fascinating stuff.

Coincidentally, the sam day I watched that, I also listened to the most recent episode of Reply All, which also looks at YouTube’s algorithm and the effect it has on our behaviours.

I haven’t watched any of The Toys That Made Us on Netflix but this short article goes into the weird, accidental history of  He-Man’s Battle Cat and how he is “a metaphor for digital product development”.

Over at Popula they’re talkng about Cory Doctorow’s arguments and worries about digital books and why Paper Books Can’t Be Shut Off from Afar.

Loving the fact that Jarvis Cocker and Jeremy Deller have joined forces for a new National Trust art trail.

A couple of long reads about health and illness etc this week.

First was The Reappearing Act from Longreads, which is mainly about knife throwing.

Also, I have had Drew Magary’s essay about his “freakish brain hemorrhage” on my to-read list for nearly three months now. The reason it took so long to read it was my wife suffered a traumatic brain injury a couple of years ago (she is fully recovered now, thanks for asking) and I wasn’t sure I was up to reading about it. But I was, and I’m glad I did.

Complete change of course now: an article about Tom Stoppard’s work on the script of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and what that can teach storywriters.

Last article this week is this Frank Chimero interview about “causing ‘good trouble’ and re-imagining the status quo to combat achievement culture”.

Music-wise this week, I’m enjoying the new one from Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Mattiel:

Consumed the week of 1 July, 2019

Very short update this week, mainly because for half of the week I was residing in the ‘shepherd’s hut’ pictured above, in the middle of the Surrey Hills. I rode the 30 or so miles to get there on my bike, and spent my time walking around the area, eating bread and cheese and drinking the local beer. I had a great time!

While I was there I started in on Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, William Finnegan’s surfing memoir. I have surfed precisely once in my life, enough to know that I wasn’t a natural at the sport… let’s leave it at that. But I am bloody good at reading about it and this is a very easy but vivid and sometimes beautiful read so far.

My favourite thing I watched this week was Kate Isobel Scott’s minute-long animation about what you might miss if you stare at your phone on the tube.

But I also watched Gloria Bell, in which Julianne Moore dances, smokes weed, and shoots people with a paintgun.

I only managed one long read this week, and that was this article from the Baffler about the fluctuations in the art market and specifically about why abstract expressionism is falling out of fashion right now.

Musical treat this week is some ambient loveliness from Tom Adams.

Consumed the week of 24 June, 2019

Above, the trailer for Jay Myself, a documentary about the photographer Jay Maisel and specifically his move out of his 35,000 square-foot, 100-year-old landmark building in Manhattan. I will eat this up with a giant spoon.

My recommended long read this week is the same long read everyone else has been linking to this week: The Time I Went On A Lesbian Cruise And It Blew Up My Entire Life, from Buzzfeed.

I also read this Vox article about who’s profiting from moon landing conspiracies. It’s little lightweight and lazy (spoiler 1: it’s Google, Amazon and Fox who are profiting… because they profit from… everything) but there’s an interesting idea somewhere in there.

Much more entertaining was the article about the ‘lost reunion’ between John Lennon and Paul McCartney from Longreads. I knew some bits of this from other places (mainly documentaries and articles about Harry Nilsson), but didn’t know the full story. Here’s the recording itself if you’re interested (spoiler 2: the recording is not as interesting as the story).

The Big Mood Machine from The Baffler is all about how Spotify is essentially monetising your moods. It creeps a little towards ‘tin foil hat’ territory at times (I don’t think there’s anything inherently ‘bad’ about Spotify calling itself a “positive enhancer” for example, show me the company who wants to brand themselves as a “negative enhancer”), but the central argument that it’s our emotions that are now the most important ‘data’ for advertisers is compelling and, yes, worrying.

Coincidentally, this popped up in my RSS feed today.

Cinematic consumption this week was limited to The Standoff at Sparrow Creek which is flawed but very enjoyable and well put together (like, Swiss-watch-put-together).

Musically-speaking this week it was all about Glastonbury, so here’s a version of This Life by Vampire Weekend from their Spotify (yep, them again) sessions:

Consumed the week of 17 June, 2019

I read two books this week, thank mainly to one of those books being very short. As well as being very short, The Parakeeting of London is very entertaining and fun. In it gonzo ornithologists Nick Hunt and Tim Mitchell “track the progress of the parakeets from park to cemetery to riverbank, meeting Londoners from all walks of life who share their thoughts, opinions and theories on these incongruous avian invaders.” Highly recommended.

The other book I ripped through this week was Bluff a card sharp/magician thriller that is very well put together and dying to be made into a film. I would definitely read more Michael Kardos based on this one.

Talking of poker, I came across a reference to this article from 2016 about ‘high end poker cheating devices’ i.e. doctored phones that can ‘read’ the side of face down marked cards and tell the user which hand is winning almost in real time. I imagine they’re even more sophisticated in 2019.

I didn’t watch any films this week, but I did add a few to my ‘to watch’ thanks to A.V. Club‘s best films of 2019 so far list. Although they do have Under The Silver Lake on there. That’s just wrong.

I mentioned my love of Robyn last week, so this article form NPR’s American Anthem’s series, praising the brilliance of her Dancing On My Own was very well timed.

Another week, another true crime long read. This time its’ a Postmodern Murder Mystery about a detective who suspects of an author of committing a murder similar to the one he describes in his novel.

The other long read of the week was Prospect magazine on the problem with authenticity.

Music for the week is the new single from the great !!!.