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Interesting and inspiring from week beginning 22 August, 2016

I’ve been thinking about the homogenisation of the web quite a bit recently. Sparked by the Welcome to Airspace article in the Verge and my own sense of a creeping digital normalisation.

This Vanity Fair article about UK vlogger Louis Cole’s recent trip to North Korea is equal parts fascinating and terrifying, and I think there’s definitely something in there about how the ubiqutous “vacuous new-niceness” of the most influential ‘content creators’ is creating a soft focus editorial lens through which a “blinkered, synthetic optimism,” and “upbeat, brand-friendly message” is communicated no matter what the context.

Another element of it comes through in this Nieman article on Access, Accountability Reporting and Silicon Valley which looks at the modern state of tech coverage in which “some of the world’s most powerful companies end up dictating a startling degree of coverage about them—because reporters often rely solely on information released by those companies, and, with some key exceptions, get few opportunities to question them,” not to mention the fact that some of those powerful companies are themselves “major distributors of journalistic work, meaning newsrooms increasingly rely on tech giants to reach readers, a relationship that’s awkward at best and potentially disastrous at worst.”

In slightly less cynical news: Halt and Catch Fire is back! It’s somehow made it to season 3 and become one of the most interesting TV shows around, thanks mainly to its female leads and their storyline as two young female entrepreneurs trying to make it in sexist 80s Silicon Valley. Also, the soundtrack kicks arse.

Finally this week: a music thing I forgot to include yesterday. Jamie XX has a Spotify playlist of tracks he’s played while DJing in clubs or on the radio. It’s 15 hours long at the time of writing.

A musical interlude

A very quick rundown of some of the music I’ve been enjoying recently…

The Rival Consoles album Night Melody is excellent

And I’ve only recently discovered Vessels, mainly after hearing this insane track on the radio one afternoon (has the great title of ‘Are you Trending?’)

Container produced one of my favourite albums of last year, and his new EP is equally good (although not to everyone’s taste, I find it weirdly soothing).

And I’ve been recommended Pye Corner Audio a few times by friends but never really managed to stay with them (him?), but the new album has got great reviews and is very good headphone/commute music.

The new Doc Club event is on sale now

After the last Doc Club event, I almost stopped.

It didn’t sell out, which is rare for us. It was a bit of a struggle from start to finish. I was just feeling I wasn’t doing the film (or the guest we got along for it) justice. It was making me feel anxious rather than excited.

And then the screening happened, and everyone loved it, and everyone had a great time, and I thought it would be stupid to stop at event number 9. because… round numbers.

So now we’re at event no. 10 and we’re showing a preview of the brilliant Life, Animated, which I saw at Sundance London earlier this year. And we’ve sold a third of the tickets in less than 48 hours. So I’m very happy.

On to bigger and better things!

Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick review (plus James Lavelle interview)

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Cheating a little bit today, but I think it’s allowed.

Last month I wangled my way into a preview of Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick at Somerset House, an exhibition of art inspired by the director, curated by Mo’Wax founder James Lavelle (I used to be a little bit of a Mo’Wax fanboy).

Short review: it was mostly brilliant. Long review… Well I’ve pasted in the longest version of the review below (I covered it for three different publications). This one includes snippets from a phone interview with Lavelle where he talks about Kubrick’s influence on his work as well as his experiences in curating an exhibition of this size.

It’s 1980-something and a boy, mid-way through his teenage years, sits in his living room, transfixed by the psychedelic lightshow taking place on his television screen. The days of 40” HD widescreen are decades away, but it doesn’t matter. Over the last two hours or so a rented VHS copy of Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey has transported this unsuspecting adolescent from leafy Oxford into a world of sentient computers, epic space craft and trippy star children…

Continue reading Daydreaming With Stanley Kubrick review (plus James Lavelle interview)

Get bigger or quit?

Yeah, those Farrelly brothers. Who knew they could be so… deep?

But they have a point.

I’ve spent a lot of today organising the next Documentary Club event. This will be our tenth one. I’ve been doing it for around two years now.

The tenth event will be held in the same venue as the first one. Same number of people. The only thing that’s changed really, is the film.

It will be great, don’t get me wrong. I’m really proud of Doc Club. I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.

But I realised today that I am ‘walking’. I’m not going backwards but I’m not moving forwards either. It’s time to make a decision: get bigger or stop altogether. Stasis is never really an option – it’s too dull.

The next event is a month away. I’m giving myself to then to make a decision and make some plans.

Permission to be substandard

Today I’ve been thinking about how our creative output has been homogenised a little by the dominant social media platforms.

I was looking back at the YouTube clips I was posting around nine or ten years ago, and they were pretty rough and uninteresting, but that was fine – I was experimenting and having fun, and there was little pressure to “be good at social media”.

As time has gone on, we have collectively arrived at this idea of what can be considered worth our time, and this has created social media ‘stars’ and ‘influencers’… and then this gulf to the the rest of us who are muddling around for our own enjoyment and the enjoyment of a handful of friends, gridnign out bite-sized tweets or clips using standardised filters and hashtags.

I guess I worry that that there’s less room for rough and ready experimentation and stupidity, and that people might be scared to create for the sake of creating because it doesn’t measure up to a certain standard.

Maybe I’m just looking through rose-inted (middle-aged) glasses, but ten years ago no standard had been set, so there was no fear of being substandard.

I guess what I’m trying to ask myself is: where do people go today to be unashamedly substandard?

UPDATE: Turns out I’m not the only person thinking this: Jess ‘Bookslut’ Crispin (who I met once in those early blogging days… when all this was trees etc) just wrote something for the Guardian saying a very similar thing; “nothing you did on the internet back then mattered. There was no sort of ‘professionalization’ of the internet. You didn’t write on the internet to get jobs, you did it because you were bored and lonely. You could do something without any plan for what it would turn into in the future. You just did it because it was fun… “

Interesting and inspiring from week beginning 15 August, 2016

Starting this week’s roundup with the genius double whammy of Stewart Lee and Alan Moore talking, ostensibly, about Lee’s collection of newspaper columns, but really talking about breaking conventions and creating outside of parameters.

I’m still a little obsessed with the TV series, Mr Robot, so much so that I’m now playing the game (created by Telltale Games, makers of the excellent Walking Dead game), but also reading articles like this one from Vulture that maligns the prevalence of twisty storytelling in films and TV because “the insistence on building perceptual tricks like these into the narrative diminishes the show’s real and far more substantive virtues.” A good read, even if you don’t 100% agree.

Cuepoint Music is one of my favourite Medium channels (is that what they’re called? Channels?), and they just published this interview with the co-founder of legendary label DFA, Jonathan Galkin, which looks at how DFA began, its best moments and biggest challenges, “and how the label sees its identity 15 years after it was founded in downtown New York City”.

To finish the week off, here’ another video of two, middle-aged white men nerding out with each other: this time it’s Alex ‘Moviedrome’ Cox, and Mark ‘flap hands’ Kermode (worth watching if only for the description of a film as ‘an open wound without a conclusion’).

Memory and momentum

Something about pledging to do something regularly: it’s easy to confuse forgetfulness with failure. 

If I forget to post something here one day is that a failure? No. If I remember , but then choose not to because I don’t feel like it, then yes that’s a failure. But habits take a while to kick in, so you have to cut yourself a little bit of slack and not mix up conviction with memory. 

It’s 1:30 in the morning right now. I need to put an alarm or something on my phone for this stuff.