These are my week notes, (semi) regular updates on what I'm up to along with the books, films, articles and other cultural flotsam that have caught my attention.

Week note 2020-23

  • Watched Knives Out. Enjoyed it a lot. It’s not perfect or great, but I enjoy the fact that films like that still get made, and it was a hell of a lot better than that Murder on the Orient Express nonsense.
  • The Ooni Oven arrived! A pizza oven that I promised myself I could buy if I made a barbecue table for our back garden. I made the table. I still have all my fingers. The Oven got ordered. Now it’s here. Very exciting. We christen it tonight. Wish me luck.
  • Game night last Thursday. Played bluff card game Spicy and cooperative card game The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine, which is basically whist in space and utterly infuriating and addictive in equal measure. This Thursday it’s back to Wingspan.
  • Love a making of video.
  • Started reading the book Exhalation by Ted Chiang (short stories by the guy who wrote Arrival). Gave up on the Guest List.
  • Started using Bandcamp a bit more and Spotify a bit less (you know, for ethical reasons). So here’s an album I bought this week on Bandcamp. Enjoy 🙂

Week notes 2020-22

  • With two weeks off I have been enjoying reading books and comics and articles, watching TV and films with Nina.
  • Just finished Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby  which was a great, fun read.
  • Now going to listen to Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and It’s All Small Stuff …
  • Also started reading The Guest List by Lucy Foley (another pulpy thriller just to get me reading again), not sure if I’m going to stick with it though.
  • Comics-wise I’ve picked up Lazarus, Once & Future, and Bang!. All very good so far. Also quite enjoying the Comixology app, which I really didn’t like when I last used it a few years ago, but the ‘guided view’ mode has come on leaps and bounds since then, and my Pixelbook is a great size for reading comics.
  • The other morning Nina went to the gym, so I just sat on the sofa and watched Money Movers (a 1970s Australian heist film) via the Criterion Channel. And I LOVED it! Just 90 minutes to myself on the sofa watching people (including Jason Donovan’s dad) get shot in increasingly violent ways. Awesome stuff.
  • Watched Lynn + Lucy yesterday with Nina. A British ‘social realism’ film that was very good, if a little depressing.
  • What can I say about Tenet? After forty minutes of ads and trailers (I ge why they have to do this, but before a two and a half hour film it’s bordering on false imprisonment) it was a bit of a grind for me. While Nina loved it the ridiculously complex premise grated on me, as did the murky dialogue, the poorly drawn female character (there’s only one), the unnecessary Michael Caine, and the honking soundtrack. Robert Pattinson was great though.
  • This lovely article from the New York Times on skating in an empty city. I like how the video and the text move at separate speeds and what that does to you as a reader – allowing you to attach the quotes on the right to he actions on the left. Imagine this with eye witness statements from a riot or something.
  • Loving the Tour de France right now. So fun and gripping and a great distraction from…. you know, life.
  • I bought a camera. To be honest, this was a bit extravagant, but I have been wanting to get a camera that will fit into my jacket pocket for taking photos on the street and on holiday (and also something that has wifi so I can send straight to my computer for editing). It’s a Ricoh GRII, and it’s already been a lot of fun.
  • BTW, most of these notes have come out of Roam Research. Been using it as a Notion/To do list replacement for capturing notes, thoughts etc and like it so far. Will see if I stick with it.
  • A nice mix from Egon for your ears this week.

Week notes 2020-21

  • Have you watched this amazing, 15 minute documentary on YouTube yet? It’s great stuff (and, as with any great documentary, this is not about finding aliens).
  • And talking of short documentaries: I finally managed to work out how to hack my way around the fact we in the UK aren’t to allowed to subscribe to the Criterion Channel. One of the first things I watched was Louis Malle’s 1960 short Vive La Tour (the Tour de France starts next Saturday!). But you don’t have to subscribe to Criterion to watch it. It’s on Youtube (worth it for the bit where the riders raid a roadside cafe for beer and wine!)
  • I’m off work for two whole weeks, and I’ve already started catching up on my bookmarked articles. First up was Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone talking about Almost Famous’ twentieth anniversary (I saw it in the cinema, I’m that old.). Love that film.
  • I also read The Cut’s article about YouTubers Myka and James Stauffer who gave up their adopted son. An already sad story that just becomes tragic when you add the language of influencer mechanics to the whole thing.
  • The Smithsonian Magazine’s The Inside Story of the 25-Year, $8 Million Heist From the Carnegie Library is fascinating but also incredibly sad in its own way. All those books lost or destroyed in such a banal and pedestrian way.
  • For this week’s musical treat, have some instrumental Japanese hip hop:
  • P.S. I may miss next week as we’re off into the countryside with Buster for a few days, but I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.

Week notes 2020-20

  • Didn’t post last week because we were in the middle of nowhere in Suffolk, getting a bit of much-needed time away, out of the house. There was a hot tub, pizza, barbecue, fish and chips on the beach, and chasing rabbits in fields at sunset (Buster, not me). It was great.
  • This week we watched An American Pickle (just ok, doesn’t quite land the funny bits or the emotional bits), and Be Water, the ESPN 30 For 30 doc about Bruce Lee (nothing really new but nicely done as most of these 30 For 30s are).
  • Been watching a quite a bit of sport recently, which is not really like me. I didn’t watch any sports regularly until I was in my 30s really, when I got into road cycling through the Tour de France. More recently I’ve started watching baseball (particularly the Phillies). I think both sports offer that mix of individual and team effort that appeals to me somehow. Of course, the sports dearth recently has made me appreciate the whole thing a lot more. This week I’ve been enjoying the Critérium du Dauphiné highlights on ITV4.
  • Here’s some Yacht Rock to see out your weekend with:

Week notes 2020-19

Of course self-control is important, but research on self-regulation should pay just as much attention to hedonism, or short-term pleasure.” That’s because Bernecker’s new research shows that people’s capacity to experience pleasure or enjoyment contributes at least as much to a happy and satisfied life as successful self-control.
  • Above, a piece of advice that we should all try and bear in mind, I think.
  • I forgot to mention the other week that we watched Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield. A really good Sunday afternoon film that’s packed with brilliant performances (Tilda Swinton should be in every film).
  • Do you have Talking Pictures TV saved as one the favourite channels on your telly box? If not, then you should. So many gems. Last night, 70s Robert Mitchum gangster classic The Friends of Eddy Coyle came on and kept me glued for two hours. Great stuff.
  • On Saturday I cycled out to my old friend (and one-time Londonist contributor) Ken’s house and then on to Box Hill. It was so nice to get out of London, be up above the countryside for a bit and just sit in the sun sipping a coffee, with strangers around you all doing the same thing.
  • I totally forgot how far away Box Hill is though! Today is the day after and I can barely walk.
  • This week I christened my new barbecue table set up with Kenji’s Carne Asada steak tacos. It was pretty damn good. P.S. If you don’t subscribe to Kenji’s YouTube channel you should take a look, I’m addicted.
  • Music this week: have something delightfully soulful and summery:

Week notes 2020-18

  • Thursday night was Wingspan night! And, boy, that was fun. We played it twice through and both times it took a bit longer than it should have. The first time because the rules take some getting used to; the second time… well, we were drunk. I can’t wait to play it again, just to start getting to the real nitty gritty strategy of it all.
  • Utopia was a Channel 4 TV series from seven (!) years ago, written by the brilliant Dennis Kelly. I was lucky enough to have worked on the accompanying ‘digital experience’, which meant I got to visit the set and learn a lot about TV production (I still have a souvenir Utopia comic book prop on my bookshelf upstairs). Well now Utopia is a US series starring John Cusack and coming to Amazon soon. Very weird. Here’s the trailer:
  • We watched The Way Back the other night, because schlubby, depressed Affleck is the best type of Affleck.
  • Losing Religion and Finding Ecstasy in Houston is a longish article I’ve had on my ‘to read’ list since it appeared in the New Yorker about a year ago. You should read it if only for sentences like this:

“We swallowed pills that had been crushed into Kleenex, and then we slipped into a sweaty black box of a music venue down the street, and I felt weightless, like I’d come back around to a truth that I had first been taught in church: that anything could happen, and a sort of grace that was both within you and outside you would pull you through.”

  • For your listening pleasure this week, here’s Luke ‘The Rapture’ Jenner’s beautiful new solo album:

Week notes 2020-17

  • Turns out I’ve been averaging one of these posts every two weeks. I’m not sure why I get so frantic about not posting here regularly. or why I get so concerned about posting the ‘right’ things. Surely I get to say what’s ‘right’ and what’s not. You’d think so wouldn’t you?
  • Since we last ‘spoke’ I have read My Absolute Darling (beautiful, but brutal) and The Biggest Bluff How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win (not nearly as self-helpy as it sounds and very very good indeed, especially if, like me, you enjoy a good poker book).
  • I just bought Thousand Year Old Vampire a ‘solo roleplaying game’ which looks terrific. I have ten-sided die for what must be the first time in 30 years. I am very excited.
  • Also, some friends bought me Wingspan for my birthday. This Thursday is Wingspan night. I cannot wait.
  • This weekend I got a bit inspired by this YouTube video and built a DIY Weber grill cart from scratch! Took me five hours, but I did it and now I’m extremely smug about the whole thing. I just need to sand and stain it now and it will be ready for some BBQ action.
  • Watched some very good films recently, both new stuff (Athlete A on Netflix is horrific but vital viewing, while Palm Springs is nicely done, light, fluffy romantic comedy); and some classics (Hal Ashby’s Being There is no Harold and Maude but it’s still pretty great; and Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz is pretty intense and a lot but it’s something you have to see it… especially the erotic musical theatre scene).

Week notes 2020-16

  • Above, David Lynch takes a break from reporting on the weather to explain his Incredible Checking Stick. And he’s right, wood is such a blessing for humanity. The last line of this video will keep me smiling for weeks.
  • I don’t post a lot of work-related ‘strategy’ stuff here in my Week Notes, but this article from Ben Thompson’s Stratechery blog goes way beyond advertising and marketing to talk about the press, media distribution, “the nichification of everything” and why “the New York Times is finding it difficult to sustain an opinion section purporting to represent all sides of an issue” (i.e. the Black Lives Matter protests).

The web is still a very young medium, and it has been influenced more than anything else by print media design. There is so much more that can be done with text on a screen than is being done today. Citations, drawing, chat, speech-to-text. There are opportunities everywhere, and the bar is low! If we are serious about unlocking the value of knowledge we should consider how to improve every part of the knowledge production stack, and that includes reading. As Laurel Schwulst says: “Imaginative functionality is important, even if it’s only a trace of what was, as it’s still a sketch for a more ideal world.”

  • I generated that nice looking quote with the Quotebacks Chrome extension by Toby Critchlow and Tom Shorin. It’s very neat and quick and very very handy.
  • Days of Bagnold Summer is a gentle, funny, and really touching film, whch I really enjoyed. It’s also under 90 minutes long!
  • Every year I compile four hour-ish Spotify playlist of my favourite songs I’ve discovered this year (usually a mix of brand new stuff and older things I’ve only recently heard for the first time). Here’s 2020’s edition. Enjoy.

Week notes 2020-15

  • It’s been a while since updated my WeekNotes. A whole month in fact. I think that’s because I was focused on getting my lockdown head straight and then just fell out the habit a little bit.
  • I think I went through a small dip in lockdown mood, with a few work things getting me down more than they should have done, and that had a knock on effect on other things. But I figured it out and now feel much more on an even keel.
  • I’ve also been reading a lot less and watching far fewer films the past few months. You’d think I’d be gorging on anything remotely distracting, but my brain can’t seem to hold on to anything that requires sustained concentration. I kind of imagine all my synapses reforming themselves into new structures to deal with the ‘new normal’ and having to reject anything that needs focus as being too big a drain on their energy.
  • That hasn’t stopped us mainlining The Last Dance (The Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary on Netflix). Forget Tiger King, this is the binge TV your lockdown needs. It’s great. Incredible footage from the 90s, awesome soundtrack, a fascinating story and cast of characters. Even if you never watched basketball game in your life you will eat this up with a spoon.
  • One of my favourite pieces of lockdown reading so far has come from the brilliant Jenny Odell: On Taking the Time You Need to Notice, Think, and Grow.
  • I’ve also been really enjoying Matt Webb’s blog and his writing on a post-pandemic work e.g. There is no After:

“…our shift into a new way of feeling about the world has now happened. We won’t and can’t return to our old habit of knowing-but-not-acting.”

  • Obviously Matt wrote that before the death of George Floyd, but it’s interesting to read that post in the midst of the incredible protests that have resulted and to wonder how much the mental shift that Coronavirus forced upon us contributed to what happened next.
  • Something else read a few weeks ago was this post from Doug Belshaw entitled The best place to be is somewhere else?:

“The same goes with social media, of course, except that it’s even more insidious, as an ‘action’ can just be liking or retweeting. It leads to slacktivism instead of making actual, meaningful change in the world.”

“As the web used to be, today podcasting is an open market, with advertising, podcasting, and distribution mostly separated from one another. Distribution happens through an open standard called RSS, and there’s very little behavioral ad targeting. I’m asked on fun weird podcasts all the time; podcasting feels like the web prior to the roll-up of power by Google and Facebook, with a lot of new voices, some very successful and most marginal, but quite authentic.”

Week notes 2020-14

  • Above, my favourite lockdown tweet so far. Hell, it might even my favourite tweet ever!
  • It’s been a couple of weeks since I last posted an update here. Not sure why that is really. I think it might have something to do with the nice weather, and the garden… and maybe also something to do with Animal Crossing (it’s taken a few goes but I’m gradually more and more hooked… and in debt).
  • Really enjoyed watching Grayson Perry’s Art Club on Channel 4 last night. Who knew that you could give someone funny, talented and interesting a camera and let him film himself creating things and talking to his (adorable, and equally talented wife) and other people about art, that it would produce amazing television. We’re going to have to rethink the whole commissioning process after this.
  • A friend sent me this Twitter thread about the history of the legendary Bradley’s Spanish Bar on Hanway Street. A great dive bar that has an incedible story. Go have a read and then donate if you can to keep the place open (£25k raised so far!).
  • Lockdown cooking tip: Over in the New Yorker Bill Buford (ex Granta editor) talks about Mastering the Art of Making a French Omelette.
  • And talking of food: the essay My Restaurant Was My Life for 20 Years. Does the World Need It Anymore? from the NY Times was probably the best thing I read this week, especially this bit:

“And God, the brunch, the brunch. The phone hauled out for every single pancake and every single Bloody Mary to be photographed and Instagrammed. That guy who strolls in and won’t remove his sunglasses as he holds up two fingers at my hostess without saying a word: He wants a table for two. The purebred lap dogs now passed off as service animals to calm the anxieties that might arise from eating eggs Benedict on a Sunday afternoon. I want the girl who called the first day of our mandated shut down to call back, in however many months when restaurants are allowed to reopen, so I can tell her with delight and sincerity: No. We are not open for brunch. There is no more brunch.”

  • Elsewhere Larry David, is Master of His Quarantine (again from the NY Times). Warning: Contains controversial Woody Allen opinion.
  • Going back to art: David Shrigley shares his latest commission (for a champagne house inredibly!) and artistic motto: “If you put the hours in then the work makes itself”
  • One of my favourite artists, Geoff McFetridge created this lovely visual essay for the NY Times, called The Pandemic Has Turned Los Angeles Into a Walking City.
  • And Jamie Harmon’s “Quarantine Portrait” series is a fantastic example of creating something beautiful out of a shitty situation.
  • We just finished the latest series of Beter Call Saul and just wanted to share this article which appreciated Rhea Sheehorn’s performance as Kim Wexler. Best character on TV by a long shot in my opinion.
  • And to end this week: Here’s my personal Spotify playlist of my favourite tracks (new and old) from the past few months: