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 week of 10 June, 2019

Above, a video which should probably be titles ‘Idiot interviewers ask idiot questions to Debbie Harry’. I’d like to think these kind of interrogations are a thing of the past… but I doubt it.

I haven’t read many articles this week, but I have read two books. I finished The Heavens by Sandra Newman (“From their first meeting, Ben knows Kate is unworldly and fanciful, so at first he isn’t that concerned when she tells him about the recurring dream she’s had since childhood. In the dream, she’s transported to the past, where she lives a second life as Emilia, the mistress of a nobleman in Elizabethan England.”). Think I heard it reviewed on the radio (Radio 4’s Front Row probably) and was intrigued enough to put it on my ‘To Read’ list.

I also read The Parakeeting of London, An Adventure in Gonzo Ornithology by Nick Hunt and Tim Mitchell, which is one of the most joyous and interesting and fun (and quick) books I’ve read for a long time. I really liked it.

I finally got round to watching Captain Marvel, which was… ok I guess. So many of these Marvel movies leave me non-plussed. I think you maybe need to see them in a cinema to really appreciate them.

At the other end of the cinematic spectrum I watched A Poem is a Naked Person, Les Blank’s first documentary about musician Leon Russell. It’s rambling and loose and flawed, but also weirdly beautiful.

Music-wise this week it has to be the video for Robyn’s track Ever Again which I must have watched five times in the space of 24 hours, and which has put a huge stupid grin on my face every time. I love this woman.

Consumed the week of 27 May and 3 June, 2019

Missed last week because I was away on holiday (in Turkey – here’s my favourite fact about Turkey) celebrating my birthday. Safely back in SE London now, and this is going to be a quick one because I’m tired and there’s plenty of TV to catch up on.

Above: Something that the YouTube algorithm pushed at me: The complete saga of Harmony Korine on Letterman (and why he got banned for life).

I upped my reading ratio while I was on the sun lounger.

I read Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert Caro (excellent, especially as this is the first thing of his I’ve ever read – I need to catch up), The Never Game by Jeffrey Deaver (obligatory thriller, not great but good enough for a holiday binge), The Professor and the Parson: A Story of Desire, Deceit and Defrocking (as good as the title makes it sound and great if you love these kind of bonkers true life tales… which I do), and I finally got round to Normal People by Sally Rooney (took me a while because I didn’t love Conversations With Friends, but I thought this was phenomenal, really enjoyed it).

On the plane on the way back I watched The Perfection (insane horror thriller on Netflix, you have to go along with it and it goes a little too far off the rails at times, but made for a plane journey).

I also saw Booksmart which is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Funny, touching, smart and great soundtrack. Everyone should see this film.

A quick run through of some articles I’ve read:

Capitalism Camp for Kids from the NY Times, scared the hell out of me.

Neal Stephenson Explains His Vision of the Digital Afterlife is worth a read.

The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones is more interesting than it’s click-baity headline would have you believe.

A good writer is hard to find is a look at the life of John ‘Stoner’ Williams.

And there’s an article in Vice about how great Nigel Slater is!

See you in a week.

Consumed the week of 20 May, 2019

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Late this week, because it was a bank holiday and it was a busy…ish one.

On Friday I went to All Points East over in Victoria Park to see (among others) Chemical Brothers (above), Hot Chip, Peggy Gou, and Maurice Fulton. It was very good, so good that I had to spend most of Saturday getting over it and preparing for the Vitality 10k run which I did on Monday. Very happy to get round in around 56 minutes. Anything under an hour was good as far as I was concerned (especially after Friday).

Earlier in the week I visited the legendary Crystal Palace bookshop Bookseller Crow to see my friend Will Wiles read from and talk about his new novel Plume (here’s a great review from The Quietus) alongside James Smythe and Sam Byers. It was so good to see Will again (Will was a very early and brilliant writer on Londonist) and having just finished Plume the morning I can tell you it’s a fantastic read. N.B. I got Will to sign my copy of the book, but I also got him to sign the dust cover he provided for ‘Night Traffic‘ the book that appears within the book, as the fictional author. That’s as meta as it gets I think.

So what have I consumed this week?

First up: obligatory Game of Thrones thought piece. This from Vulture was my favourite take on why Daenerys’ action in the The Bells was earned (with quite a bit of Lord of the Rings thrown in for good measure).

I seem to read one con/crime/gambling article every week or so. This week it was the fascinating The professor who beat roulette.

Not criminal or con or gambling related, but also very much related to all those worlds is The Invention of the ‘Salvator Mundi’ Or, How to Turn a $1,000 Art-Auction Pickup Into a $450 Million Masterpiece. also from Vulture.

Good writing about music is very hard to find. Good writing about jazz is even scarcer. So this article about John Coltrane from the TLS really impressed me (even more impressive is that fact it’s relatively short and steers away from the more nerdy, technical style of jazz writing).

I can’t let a week go by without pointing to an article about the history of and/or the future of the internet. So here’s The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet over on Medium:

In response to the ads, the tracking, the trolling, the hype, and other predatory behaviors, we’re retreating to our dark forests of the internet, and away from the mainstream.

Finally this week: a Letterboxd review of John Wick 3. I know, I know – but this is very astute criticism about how fantasy worlds eventually descend into bureaucracy.

Music this week. Have a listen to Maurice Fulton’s guest show for Beats in Space:

Consumed the week of 13 May, 2019

I haven’t done an awful lot of reading this week. To be fair, I haven’t done an awful lot of reading this year. Definitely not compared to last year.

I have been listening to a lot more music however. I spent a bit of money getting myself a new turntable, amp and speakers earlier this year and it’s been a massive pleasure playing old records and hearing them in an entirely new way.

This week has all been about Talking Heads, Steely Dan and The Modern Lovers. Plus I’m still obsessed by the new Vampire Weekend album, Father of the Bride, which I picked up on lovely double orange vinyl.

I went to the Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum this week. They have some amazing props and other artefacts there. Kubrick’s notebooks and annotated books are especially fascinating I think (although you’re better off watching Jon Ronson’s documentary Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes if you get off on that type of thing). I couldn’t help feeling though that the whole thing was a little flat and unimaginative. It didn’t feel as trippy, or provocative or as detailed as Kubrick’s films. It felt more like a greatest hits package.

I did watch a couple of films this week. First Robert Redford’s ‘last film’ (even though he pops up in Endgame), The Old Man and the Gun. It’s one of those gently rolling films, best experienced on a Sunday sofa session where you can let Redford’s charisma (and Sissy Spacek’s) just wash over you.

I also finally watched Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which is mind-blowingly good. The creativity, the storytelling, the sheer joy of every frame. It’s something I’d watch again tomorrow and recommend to everyone whether they have kids and/or like ‘superhero films’.

I half read quite a few articles this week. Long, rambling features about Michel Foucault taking acid, or Adam Gopnik’s new book on liberalism… but I lost patience with them and so read an interview with Shinya Hasegawa, the founder of the fashion label Battenwear instead.

I followed that up with this article about the ‘Let People Enjoy Things’ meme, which I was all ready to disagree with but which won me over.

Music highlight of the week is the new one by Fort Romeau:

Consumed the week of 6 May, 2019

Above: an interesting 20 minute documentary about Subvertisers for London, found via the brilliant Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives.

The other video which really stayed with me this week (and may have made me cry a little bit), is How Autism Feels, From the Inside from the NY Times:

A couple of ‘How…’ articles this week. The first is How a poker expert made his fortune — one cent at a time; and the second is How Cults Corrected America (actually a book review from the New Yorker).

Other long-ish reads this week:

The Night John Belushi Died from the Hollywood Reporter is interesting… but actually pretty depressing and downright sad.

While, The Enduring Myth of a Lost Live Iggy and the Stooges Album is veeeerrrrry long (maybe little too long) but ultimately fascinating (as these deep dives into subcultures tend to be… I think).

The most feel good read of the week was definitely And now, a nice story about the kid who yelled “wow!” at the symphony from the AV Club (which I am a huge fan of and don’t link to often enough on this blog considering how much I read it).

The most personal read of the week (both from the author’s perspective and mine, as I know the author a little), was Will Wiles’ Confessions of an Alcoholic from Saturday’s Guardian (cannot wait to read Plume).

The opinion I most agree with this week? Go To The Movies In The Morning.

Federico Borella was named Photographer of the Year this week for his series on climate change in India. Just look at this photo!

Not a whole lot of new music to link to this week, mainly because I’m obsessed with the new Vampire Weekend album. But VW’s Ezra Koenig does have a great radio show that you can listen to even if you don’t subscribe to Beats Radio (which I don’t).

Consumed the week of 29 April, 2019

I watched Avengers: Endgame this week. I enjoyed it a lot. Not ‘five stars’ as a few critics have said, but definitely four.

There were more than a few think pieces around this week, as that Game of Thrones episode aired in the same week. This was the best of them I think, but even this one is a little meandering and toothless. Honestly, I think it’s going to take while for us to work out where all this is heading.

A better read are ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Has Taken Over the World. Let’s Talk About Fan Service and Marvel’s Legacy and ‘Avengers: Endgame’: The Screenwriters Answer Every Question You Might Have, both from the NY Times.

One of my favourite reads of the week was also from the NY Times (don’t worry I give the money via a digital subscription). One Island, 32 Miles, a Million Emotions is a short essay about a 12-hour walking tour around the edge of Manhattan. It’s great.

I also enjoyed (if that’s the word) To Grieve Is to Carry Another Time by Matthew Salesses at Longreads. Hard going, but very worth it.

Also from Longreads is None of the President’s Men about pop culture’s portrayal of journalism (clue: the real thing is nowhere near as romantic as the 70s heyday).

A bit more relaxed is The Irish Pub Is Dead, Long Live the Irish Pub which is an essay about gentrification in NYC. I realise now that I’m a bit obsessed with gentrification.

And as a big Eno fan, I gobbled up The Essential Guide to Roxy Music, From the Songs to the Eno-Ferry Feud by Vulture.

Talking of subscriptions… about a year ago The Times Literary Supplement began arriving through our letterbox. It was addressed to my wife and had out correct address…except the address also contained ‘Barnsley’ (the town closest to where I grew up). To this day we have no idea why it started arriving, but it suddenly stopped a few weeks ago, so I just spent my own money resubscribing as I’d enjoyed reading it so much. If that’s some kind of strategy by the publishers…well, it works.

I also just took out a subscription to The Idler. Who says the hardcopy press is dead?!

Books this week: I ripped through Austn Kleon’s Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad which was a good follow up to How To Do Nothing.

As for music this week, here’s my 50+ track ‘summer playlist’ for this year:

Consumed the week of April 22, 2019

I finished Jenny Odell’s brilliant book, How To Do Nothing, this week. It’s phenomenal. I absolutely loved it, it’s message is simple and powerful and I have no doubt it will be one of my favourite books of the year.

And then I sat down to write this blog post and my first thought was “I haven’t read enough articles this week, maybe I should pack some in now before I write the blog post.”

That kind of thought lies at the very heart of what I think Odell is writing about. The productivity trap that myself, and so many others have been slowly tangling ourselves up in for so many years.

It’s scary to see it in myself but I’m glad I can see it.

Related: this week, one of the articles I did read was The Metrics of Backpacks from Art Practical. It’s not about backpacks…

What dismays me about technology is this: not the machine itself but the way its architecture echoes outward, imposing a grid of quantification on everything it touches. The sadness of numbers interferes with our thoughts, begs us to apply logic to warm, messy things. What becomes of the ambiguity of feeling? That which can’t be immediately identified is derided, denied, and eventually erased.

It’s a great article, which is also about being a woman in a male-dominated industry. It also made me take an uncomfortable look at myself.

Instead of reading things on the internet this week, I read a little bit of Austin Kleon’s new one, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad.

My favourite thing on the internet this week was a Tumblr dedicated to the Google Maps camera taking selfies.

And this article from Jason Kottke on cultural cartography and it’s distillation and industrialisation has stuck with me.

It was the Crystal Palace Open House this week, and our friends hosted the brilliant Jo Self and her work (read her Wikipedia entry – she has lead some life!). We also got to meet Ananya Rao-Middleton who took up water colour as therapy for Post-Concussion Syndrome and now produces these beautiful (dinosaur-featuring) works, some of which we were lucky to able to buy.

Apart from that it’s been about lunch with friends, watching Line of Duty, Killing Eve and Game of Thrones and re-watching Mission Impossible: Fallout (this time wih Nina).

I’m seeing Endgame on Tuesday (no spoilers!).

Consumed the week of 15 April, 2019

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Slightly late update this week because of the bank holiday. We had a slightly extended break, as we went to Seville over Easter. When we booked it we didn’t realise that ‘holy week’ in Seville is kind of a big deal, but really glad we were there to witness the Penitents parading through the streets, even if those costumes are a little unsettling at times.

Also the food is amazing. Highlights were the ravioli at Condendê in the old market, and (never thought I’d type this) the ‘KFC’ battered cauliflower at Bar Antojo.

I had to leave Neitzsche at home over Easter (too big for a carry on bag), but that meant I was able to get stuck into Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing, which is absolutely brilliant (I have about 50 pages left to go). Here’s a Longreads article about the book if you need convincing.

My favourite video of the week? Definitely this one:

My favourite news story of the week? Definitely this one.

I have been reading Jeffery Zeldman since I really started ‘reading’ the internet, so his recent essay Nothing Fails Like Success really rang true with me:

It’s too late for current internet businesses (victims of their own success) that are mortgaged to the hilt in investor gelt. But could the next generation of internet startups learn from older, stable companies like Basecamp, and design products that pay for themselves via customer income—products that profit slowly and sustainably, allowing them to scale up in a similarly slow, sustainable fashion?

As a result I’ve started dabbling with micro.blog. So far I’m very impressed with it.

I’ve got tickets for the Stanley Kubrick exhibition which opens in London soon. This It’s Nice That article on Kubrick and his obsessiveness is a good read.

For music this week, this accompanied my siestas while in Spain:

Consumed the week of April 8, 2019

This week has mostly been about this weekend, and three very different events.

The first was a trip to Alexandra Palace on Friday night to see the amazing Robyn. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while and Robyn didn’t disappoint. In fact she exceeded expectations. Here’s a clip from Twitter of me, plus 9,999 other people, singing along to Dancing On My Own:

Then on Saturday it was a change of gear. The Thin Veil of London walking tour takes a psychogeographic tour around Holborn and Bloomsbury, loosely based on the work of the author Arthur Machen. I won’t spoil it in case you go yourself (which you absolutely should), but will say that it’s brilliantly put together by Robert Kingham, the pubs along the way are second to none, and you will come away entertained, spooked and a little changed (in a good way). I liked it so much I bought the book.

And, of course, the last thing was the US Masters. One of my favourite weekends of the year, and one of my few sporting obsessions (along with the Tour de France). And what a Masters! Love or hate Tiger you can’t deny that’s a hell of a story.

All that, plus a midweek trip up to Manchester with work, hasn’t left me a lot of time to read stuff other than my Nietzsche biography. But I did read this from the NY Times on the The Moral Peril of Meritocracy, and this article on the importance of Maslow’s pyramid of needs… and this one on why Maslow’s pyramid is actually based on an elitist misreading of the his work.

Who knew needs were so controversial!

Music this week. Has to be this.

See you next week.

Consumed the weeks of 18 March and 25 April

Been stuck in a slight rut recently, that’s why no week notes last week.

I finished the book I was reading: The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge and even though I quite enjoyed the first 100 pages, it was a slog to get to the finish and there’s nothing like a dispiriting read to make you think twice about picking up another book.

I pushed through though and read some quick nonfiction: The Worst Is Yet To Come – A Post-Capitalist Survival Guide, by Peter Fleming which was snappy and acerbic and fun.

So sticking with non-fiction for the time being, and just started on I Am Dynamite!, Sue Prideaux’s biography of Nietzsche.

Similarly, films have taken a bit of a back seat recently, but I am halfway through watching Unsane (Stephen Soderbergh, with Claire Foy) which is great, but is creeping the hell out of me.

I did just watch this 20 minute documentary short about dishwashers though. It’s lovely.

Also, this short film following skaters around an abandoned wool factory is hypnotic. I could honestly watch it on a loop for hours.

Hey, do you fancy yet another article about the old days of the internet and how it’s go shit since then and why can’t we just go back to the good old days when all this was all fields? Course you do! Actually this article on Flickr versus Instagram is a well-balanced and nicely though through.

I did do some things these past couple of weeks. I went visit the tiny but great Staging Magic exhibition at Senate House Library (worth it just go to inside a library, they are instantly calming places). And I visited Mark Wallinger’s World Turned Upside Down sculpture in the grounds of the LSE.

It was also my wedding anniversary (13 years!) and we saw Sharon van Etten in concert at the Roundhouse.

Here’s a nice, chilled album to ease you through the week.