Hi, I'm Rob, a digital content strategist based in London. This is where I log stuff that interests me and keep track of personal projects.

Consumed week of 8 October, 2018

Above, an image from Maisie Marshall’s photo series on the world of British rodeo.

I don’t track my TV consumption on here (just because there’s quite a bit of it, and I’m not Stephen Soderbergh) but recently I”ve really enjoyed Better Call Saul and Lodge 49. Here’s an article from the Guardian on why Better Call Saul is superior to Breaking Bad (which is correct), and here’s an interview with the makers of Lodge 49 about why its pacing and its storytelling are so unusual and successful.

The New Statesman has a lovely record of a conversation between Clive James, Tom Stoppard and Julian Barnes at the party to celebrate the release of James’ new book.

Again from the Guardian: Oliver Burkeman asks, is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?

Over on Medium, one of my favourite cultural commentators, Douglas Rushkoff, makes the case for Universal Basic Income being a Silicon Valley scam:

Instead of asking the government to make up the difference for unlivable wages, what about making one’s workers the owners of the company? Instead of kicking over additional, say, 10% in tax for a government UBI fund, how about offering a 10% stake in the company to the people who supply the labor?

This Twitter thread by Tim Dunn on the Wapping Hydraulic Pumping Station (which closed in 1977) is a reminder that Twitter can be a delightful and fascinating place to be.

No films watched this week, but I did read the first two Harry Stubbs books by David Hambling (pulpy Lovecrat-adjacent stories set in my part of South East London).

Consumed the Week of 1 October, 2018

Above, Drew Christie‘s short New York Times ‘op-doc’ Allergy To Originality.

Two comic book greats died this past week; one who I was pretty familiar with, the other not so much. The name I wasn’t so familiar with was Norm Breyfogle. I heard about his death through Robin Sloan’s email newsletter Primes (only sent out on dates that are prime numbers). Sloan writes about Breyfogle: “In a Breyfogle comic, characters lived in a world of lines. His line wasn’t a representation of some deeper, higher-resolution reality; it WAS reality, the base level.

Here’s an amazing example.

https://www.robinsloan.com/img/email/breyfogle-cover.png

The other name, which I was much more familiar with (thanks to a an entire childhood reading 200AD), was Carlos Ezquerra. Ezquerra was the co-creator of Judge Dredd, but it was his character Strontium Dog that sealed him a bona fide genius in my mind. His strange but beautiful style bended my pre-teen mind in the best way possible.

Best long read of the week was probably Instagram Poetry Is A Huckster’s Paradise from The Huffington Post. Even if you don’t give two shits about Instagram or poetry, this is a great read.

Also good, but also sad in its way, was The Verge‘s investigation into why Telltale Games shut down.

The Huffington Post also published a piece called No Lie: James Frey Still Sucks this week, and I have to say, after reading his new one Katerina this week, I have to agree. On one level Frey is the Fruit Loops of literature: fast, cheap, sugar-laden and wrong in so many ways that you feel guilty after demolishing it so quickly. But it had its place. But with his new one Frey’s misogyny and narcissism come roaring to the fore (at possibly the worst time, culturally) and it’s difficult to get rid of the taste in your mouth.

Film wise this week I caught up on a couple of pop culture nuggets, First, Ready Player One: not what you want from Spielberg, or form the source material; badly paced, lacking in heart and not nearly as entertaining as it should be (the best but was The Shining sequence).

Second was Ant Man and The Wasp: the best kind of popcorn nonsense, has none of the baggage RP1 has, so you just roll with the nonsense and have a laugh along the way.

Consumed weeks of 10, 17 and 24 September

This oral history of the film Rounders really made me want to go back and rewatch it.

And this fantastic Guardian profile of the brilliant Robyn has made me very excited for her new album.

Best long read of the week: Design The Gorgeous Typeface That Drove Men Mad and Sparked a 100-Year Mystery

Haven’t posted for a few weeks because I was on holiday in Lisbon for a week (oh those kiosks and their tiny beers). But I did have tiem to do some more reading….

I finished The Military Philosophers (A Dance to the Music of Time, #9) (my least favourite of the series so far).

And I also  succumbed to the hype and read Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (a solid three stars, but I had a few reservations).

Consumed week of 27 August and 3 September

Above, Jon Bunning’s short documentary, The Tables, which takes a look at “the powerful connection between a pair of outdoor ping pong tables in the heart of New York City and the unlikely group of people they’ve brought together, from homeless people to investment bankers to gangbangers.”

From Bloomberg comes the article, Ten Things I Never Knew About Las Vegas Until I Ran a High-Roller Suite , documenting the behaviour of sin city’s high rollers and VVIPS, and featuring a “misbehaving sugar glider (aka a flying squirrel) with severe separation anxiety,” and, “nocturnal snakes that required dozens of blackout shades might be the highest-maintenance.”

The Guardian reviewed Christopher Howse’s book, Soho in the Eighties, which I might have to put on the list. I didn’t get to London until the late 90s, but you could still see the patina of glamour and filth the 80s had left behind thank to its inhabitants’ “existential commitment to the ruination of chronic drinking,” while now of course, “… Shiny developments on Archer Street and around the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road seem to me to be silvery spikes hammered into Soho’s vampiric heart.”

The NY Times published an article by Joyce Maynard this week, with the title Was She J.D. Salinger’s Predator or His Prey?. A question which shouldn’t really have to be asked.

“My crime — which earned me the dubious distinction of being, in the opinion of one prominent critic, the author of possibly “the worst book ever written” — lay in my decision, after 25 years of silence, to write a memoir in which I told the story of my relationship with a powerful older man.”

Also in the NY Times this week, someone I used to know from the London tech scene, the brilliant LJ Rich, featured in the article You Know What London Looks Like. But Have You Really Heard It? in which LJ dons a pair of high heels and tours London with the musician Dessa for an auditory tour of the capital.

In a tour-guide voice, LJ announced, “The acoustically interesting spaces of London!” Despite the jokey tone, she made an interesting point: It’s remarkable how few sonic experiences we seek while traveling. We lean into our adventures with wide eyes and open mouths, hunting for photographic vistas and authentic local meals. It’s a rare story that leads with another sense.

Below, Roger Deakins’ handwritten list of 10 greatest films ever made .

And, talking of films, I watched Ocean’s Eight this week and came away disappointed. Seemed to lack some of the storytelling zip and style of the original (but not 12, definitely not 12). Although Cate Blanchett just dominated very scene she was in.

Consumed the week of 13 and 20 August, 2018

Consolidating two weeks into one post here because I was on holiday in Greece this past week (Santorini is beautiful by the way). A whole week of doing nothing but sitting in the sunshine, reading, eating, drinking and talking to my wife. It was fantastic.

Here’s what I read while I was gone:

I finished David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries (the video above comes from Byrne’s YouTube channel and is one of the most uplifting things you’ll watch all week, I promise).

I read the eighth volume of A Dance to the Music of Time (The Soldier’s Art), so I’m still on track to read all 12 by the end of the year.

I read the epic Gnomon by Nick Harkaway, which I received as a Christmas present but have been waiting for the right time to read an 800 page hardback uninterrupted. I really liked it (Pynchon meets Eco meets Auster meets Danielewski… on acid etc)

I finished the classic Lost Horizon by James Hilton in a single day (it’s pretty short). A recommendation from the great Backlisted podcast. Now I have to go watch the 1937 Frank Capra movie.

And I started Swan Song by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (a fictionalised version of the later years of Truman Capote’s life).

As for films, before I left to go on holiday I was lucky enough to see Mark Cousins’ new one The Eyes of Orson Welles at the BFI, with a Q&A with the director. I really enjoyed it, and the whole thing renewed my love for Mark Cousins’ worth ethic, his enthusiasm, and his idiosyncratic view of the world.

I also watched The Commuter, but the real mystery at the heart of that movie is what the hell is going on with the colour of Liam Neeson’s hair.

To finish off this week, the strange, violent and pretty great video for Jack White’s Corporation.

Consumed the week of 6 August

Above, Joe Manganiello and Stephen Colbert discuss ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ for nine minutes on late night TV. Now, that’s television!

My favourite long read of the week by quite a margin: Every Mission is a Suicide Mission, the story of a pro-level Galaga tournament. Very welcome echoes of King of Kong.

Coming in second, is Tokyo’s Long Lines Lead to Magic (and Life-Changing Ramen), a story about queueing and patience and reward in Japan.

And then there’s the incredibly sad story of American couple Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, who went on a cycle trip around the world only to be mown down by ISIS militants on a road in in southwestern Tajikistan.

I watched a bunch of films this week, mainly because Nina is abroad with work and I’m bored. By far the most exciting was the chance to see the new Mission Impossible film in the cinema. I grinned the whole way through it.

I also watched Like Father and I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore on Netflix. Both just okay.

Started reading listening to: The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, by Stephen Grosz.

 

Consumed the week of 30 July

I completed the National Three Peaks Challenge this weekend. That’s the highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales, in 24 hours! I am a broken man, but very happy to have done it (that’s my shot from the top of Snowden, above).

As for the usual stuff, let’s get the obvious long read out of the way first: if you haven’t read that article about the ex-cop who rigged the McDonalds Monopoly game then you really need to (especially before the film comes out).

This short article by Jason Fried (of Basecamp) on mistakes and Navajo rugs is not nearly as new-age and annoying as I just made it sound.

From the NY Times comes a fascinating look at how Google Maps is influencing the way we name our neighbourhoods.

And, again from the NY Times, is this beautiful lament for the Impolite Pleasure of People-Watching accompanied by some great street photography.

This article by a GQ journalist who asked 40 of his friends to rate him, Uber-style, is entertaining, but there’s a horrifying sense of inevitability to it as well.

And finally, This is a very strange but compelling article about a Texas waterpark and it’s 168 feet high (higher than Niagra Falls) slide that decapitated an 11 year old boy.

Started reading: A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings by Helen Jukes.

Consumed the week of 16 and 23 July, 2018

Missed a week last week, because I was busy being Best Man at my younger brother’s wedding. A brilliant day out in the sunny Windsor countryside. So, a double helping this week:

Above is a really well put-together video essay on the work of Quentin Tarantino using only clips form existing interviews and other footage.

The best longreads of this week are both from the NY Times: this fascinating profile of Gwyneth Paltrow and her $25m ‘wellness’ empire, Goop; and this true crime tale of a man who may have been wrongfully imprisoned for the past 30 years on the basis of faulty ‘blood spatter’ science (file under ‘if you liked The Staircase…’).

I haven’t watched many films so far this year, been too busy training for the Three Peaks challenge (which is next weekend!) and reading books. But this weekend my wife and I settled down for a cosy Friday evening on the sofa with hyper-violent rape revenge flick Revenge. It’s a great film, but don’t just take my word for it, here’s Film Schools Rejects’ comprehensive review.

The best thing to hit TV this week was undoubtedly the Stephen King-inspired, Bad Robot produced Castle Rock.

In ‘writing-about-the-internet’ news this week: this Twitter thread from Alex Singh makes a really interesting comparison between the development of the web and the development of agriculture:

Corporate Feudalism has emerged to create centralized, “safe” spaces for the peasantry to work & play. Attention is farmed and sold in exchange for convenience, protection, mediated self-expression & an indifferent audience. You can do anything if it’s within their borders.

And I also enjoyed Matt Webb’s Pre-History of Weeknotes, for obvious reasons.

I don’t do too much crowdfunding these days, mainly because I’ve been been left waiting for ‘rewards’ that never arrive far too often. But I do really like Unbound, the ‘Kickstarter for books’, and I just backed Dice Men: Games Workshop 1975 to 1985.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu1aCyrBQXU&w=560&h=315]

Consumed the week of 9 July

Above, the brilliant video for Max Richter’s rereleased On The Nature Of Daylight starring Elisabeth Moss, who can do more with her eyes the most people can do with their entire body.

Most potentially controversial long read of the week: In Defence of Men from the Spiked ‘sex special’ (tears shreds from Robert Web’s recent memoir, How Not To Be A Boy).

I haven’t seen the film yet, but this interview with the screenwriter of Ready Player One from Den of Geek has some interesting things to say about ‘toxic fan culture’.

Talking of films, this article on Longreads by Sara Benincasa is a great collection of her favourite movie reviews of films she’s never seen.

Favourite long read of the week is this from the Hollywood Reporter on the Con Queen of Hollywood, a “crazy evil genius” who is impersonating some of the most powerful women in entertainment.

Been on a bit of a podcast tear recently. New addictions include, The Losers’ Club, A Stephen King Podcast, which attacks each of King’s novelist in sequence; Gizmodo’s The Gateway about new age spiritual guru and social media star Teal Swan; and DJ Shadow’s Find, Share, Rewind show.

Read this week: the brilliant, evocative and slightly terrifying graphic novel Sabrina (here’s an interview with it’s creator Nick Drnaso).

Consumed the week of 25 June and 2 July

Yep, I missed a week last week, mainly because I was too busy walking around the South Downs Way, training for next month’s Three Peak’s challenge. So there’s a lot to get through…

It’s June, which means I finished the sixth instalment of A Dance to the Music of Time and I also polished off the Patrick Melrose series of books with no. 5, At Last. I also finished off the television series (screenshot above), which was very well done, and read this typically epic New Yorker profile of St Aubyn.

As for films, I watched the very funny Ideal Home (I’m not watching a lot of heavy/serious films right now, not sure why – maybe because I’m reading a lot).

I read this NY Times Magazine interview with Jonathan Franzen, even though I’m not a huge fan of the guy, the interviewer seemed to get that a lot of people have gone off Franzen in recent years and was trying to find out why.

The deluge of ‘remember blogs?’ articles keeps on coming. Jason Kottke highlighted three good ones: How the Blog Broke the Web by Amy Hoy, Dave Winer’s What Became of the Blogosphere?, and finally Navneet Alang looks at what might come next in Ding Dong, The Feed Is Dead Alang is interested in how the disappearing story is coming to displace the chronological archive.

On a similar note, Vanity Fair interviewed Tim Berners-Lee about his fears for his invention and how he’s fighting to save the Internet. It’s an article that includes some terrifying sentences:

“Both Google and Amazon have filed patent applications for devices designed to listen for mood shifts and emotions in the human voice.”

“In India, a group of activists successfully blocked Facebook from implementing a new service that would have effectively controlled access to the Web for huge swaths of the country’s population”

“The power of the Web wasn’t taken or stolen. We, collectively, by the billions, gave it away with every signed user agreement and intimate moment shared with technology.”

This interview with Ann Tyler from the NY Times is rather beautiful and made me realise I’ve never read any Ann Tyler (another one to add to the list).

“I don’t think living is easy, even for those of us who aren’t scrounging. It’s hard to get through every day and say there’s a good reason to get up tomorrow. It just amazes me that people do it, and so cheerfully.”

Talking of lists… the maths in this article are a little upsetting: “You simply have no chance of seeing even most of what exists. Statistically speaking, you will die having missed almost everything.” Don’t worry though, it ends on a poetic and positive note.

Finally, someone pointed me in the direction of 100 Useful Things, and now a really want a Leica M6 camera.