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 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.

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.

Consumed the week of 18 June, 2018

Above, an interview with a blind skateboarder. Guaranteed to amaze, and make you feel bad for ever complaining about anything.

Long reads this week:

This (very) long read about The Death of New York City is brilliant from start to finish and is well worth about 30 minutes your time. Having just come back from NYC it resonated with me, and (once again) you could replace the words ‘New York’ with ‘London’ and most of the thing would make complete sense. Deeply sad and worrying.

From the sublime, to the ridiculous figure that is Johnny Depp. This scorching and unflinching interview with the actor from Rolling Stone about his money (or lack of it), family, legal troubles and what seems to be the sputtering death of his career is car crash journalism at its best (and I say that as someone who rates Ed Wood as one of his favourite films of all time).

This article from The Atlantic about the intention economy and television formats is very good. Got me thinking about which shows are ‘sofa’ and which are ‘phone’.

As always, Craig Mod’s latest instalment regarding Japan and identity is a great read. It also pointed me to this short documentary which is heartbreaking and beautiful:

Who knew that an ‘investment service’ could create such a fascinating interview with Brian ‘Paper Boi’ Tyree Henry (it’s all about money, obviously)?

And, The Affair came back for a new season this past week. If you’re a fan then this interview with it’s showrunner should interest you.

Watched this week: Game Night (I know, but it has Sharon Horgan in it!). And the fab, six minute short film Cake, starring the awesome Maxine Peake.

Consumed the week of 11 June (and the week before that), 2018

MyNameIsLucyBarton_june18.jpg

Had a couple of weeks off updating this blog. It was my birthday, so we took a trip to New York (Manhattan and upstate, up the Hudson river).

In that time I read Some Hope and Mother’s Milk, the third and fourth Patrick Melrose novels (and watched the first three episodes of the TV adaptation, which are really good), Stephen King’s new one The Outsider, and The Bumblebee Flies Anyway: Gardening and Surviving Against the Odds by Kate Bradbury, which actually made me cry! It’s fantastic.

As for films, I watched two great documentaries: The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography, and Faces Places; plus Split (why did I not watch this sooner?), and the pretty abysmal Nobody Walks.

And, this weekend, we went to see Laura Linney in My Name is Lucy Barton at The Bridge Theatre (that’s her in the photo above). It’s a 90 minute, uniterrupted monologue and she’s outstanding in it.

Long reads consisted of this New York Magazine article about the rise and… plateauing(?) of Vice and this fantastic article about a guy in his 20s in Australia who realised he could withdraw as much money from his bank account as he wanted, with no penalties.

I usually go to Resident Advisor for record reviews, but their recent article about Tokyo’s audiophile venues is fascinating and not nearly as nerdy as it could have been.

Two articles in praise of things… First up: In praise of an afternoon at the movies (I can relate to this a lot, solo outings to the cinema in the daytime is basically my equivalent of a spa day). And, second: in praise of extreme moderation (the title is ironic, its actually a call for the pursuit of balance).

And finally, the AV Club has a short video essay on the sweeping scene from the latest series of Twin Peaks (if you’ve seen it you’ll know immediately which scene I’m talking about).

Consumed the week of 21 May, 2018

Above, the genius that is Stephen King (and yeah, ‘genius’ is the right word, if you disagree then we can’t be friends) talking to Stephen Colbert about Trump and his new book (which I have lined up, right after the May installment of A Dance to the Music of Time). The The Dead Zone reference is spot on, and so is the James Paterson dig.

And, if that’s not enough King for you, how about this from… The Poetry Foundation (you didn’t see that coming did you?) about the great man’s verse.

The history of 21st century authenticity is the history of hipsters and their disappearance….by 2012 it was finally possible to call just about everyone a hipster. The development of the authenticity aesthetic made it possible for the mainstream to participate in the most outwardly visible ritual of hipster behavior: authentic consumption.

Those quotes come from Toby Shorin’s essay on the death of authenticity, probably the trickiest but most valuable thing I’ve read all week.

This short essay on the dialogue in 2001: A Space Odyssey is very good (I saw it just last week, but I can still hardly believe “There are no words spoken for the first 25 minutes of the film nor the last 23.”)

My subscription to the NY Times keeps paying dividends. This week alone I’ve loved: an essay about why drinking at lunchtime is a good thing (which it is), the relationship between US Presidents and mystery writers, this brilliant essay on austerity’s effect on Britian (sad that I have to go to a US newspaper to get a clear-eyed appraisal of the country I live in), and this interview with the stars and writers of the ace Killing Eve.

And finally, I subscribed to ultrabrilliant’s “Little things I ❤ about… “ YouTube series based on this first video on Whiplash.

Consumed the week of 14 May, 2018

Above, a beautiful short film featuring Milton ‘I ♥ NY’ Glaser talking about that city now and then (so much of this could easily be applied to London).

The best thing I’ve read this week I think: The Cosmonaut’s Glove by Matte Locke, an article about class, fathers, sons, work and space. It’s great.

A couple of more laments about the state of the modern internet: Ged Carroll (a fellow Yahoo alumni) wrote This wasn’t the internet we envisaged (also on Medium). Dan Nosowitz wrote I Don’t Know How to Waste Time on the Internet Anymore for NY Magazine, and Jason Kottke wrote about how Nosowitz’s article struck a chord with him.

“…wasting time is now more work. You can certainly do it — the web is as full of nonsense as it ever was — but you have to look a little bit harder. You have to learn some new things. You have to find your own corners charting unmonetizable enthusiasms. It’s not just going to happen to you. You have to dig your own rabbit holes.”

Grub Street is a food magazine I only started reading recently, but like it quite a lot already. Their profile of Flynn McGarry (‘the Justin Bieber of Food’) is great.

My subscription to the NY Times also keeps paying dividends. This editorial on the prosecution of Kevin Cooper (a young black man) for a multiple murder in 1983 (when all the evidence pointed to three white men committing the crime), is fantastically written and presented.

As I’m currently training to take on the Three Peaks challenge later this year, Meditation & Blisters from Craig Mod rang a few bells, while The Wisdom of Running a 2,189-Mile Marathon in The Atlantic just made me feel like a wuss.

So… back to food 🙂 Who knew there was a website called New Food Economy? I certainly didn’t until I got pointed to this in-depth article about A.I. and a new era of hyper-personalized food.

Watched this week: Totally engrossed in Killing Eve on BBC America (great, snackable fun and compelling drama – trailer below). And I indulged in a weekday afternoon viewing of the ‘unrestored’ 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey which was predictably mind-blowing.

Read this week: Finally finished The Angel of Darkness (the second Dr. Laszlo Kreizler book). Enjoyable, but seriously flawed in terms of its pacing, it’s representation of marginalised characters, and the ‘clangy’ dialogue.