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 notes 2020-29

  • I have climbed out of my reading slump. This week I finished A Fan’s Notes by Fred Exley, described in this Guardian article as “a staggering book, a beautiful book, and one deserving of a much wider readership.” I couldn’t agree more. I loved it and I am very grateful to my friend, Mark for recommending it to me.
  • I also ripped through Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam. I can’t remmeber where I heard about this one (maybe this NY Times list?) but I fell into it from page four or five and then just devoured it in a few days. Really really good.
  • Films this week: I watched The Booksellers, a documentary about what you think it’s going to be about, and which is just ok. This Letterboxd review sums it up nicely:

A few moments of goodness every now and again. The talking heads were really interesting but I can’t help but feel that the subject matter doesn’t really need a full length documentary. I reckon if it were about bookstores and booksellers in general, as opposed to focusing on antiquarian booksellers and books, then it could’ve been really amazing. Another thing, it never said who each person being interviewed was, it’s like yes the director knows who these people are but the viewer doesn’t, there should’ve been names letting the viewer know who the talking heads are.

Charming enough but not meaty enough and towards the end it got kinda boring. Needed more structure to it.

  • And I also watched Sofia Coppola’s On The Rocks, which is as fluffy and airy as candyfloss but (also like candyfloss) is enjoyable for a brief time. Just don’t expect it to linger in your memory. If you want to see Bill Murray doing his thing, then this is that film. (It did just make me want to go and watch Lost in Translation again though).
  • I started this week with a case of the insomnia blues (a few nights in a row of waking up in the very early hours and not being able to get back off turned me into a total wreck). But I’ve finished the week off feeling nicely knackered after a 10k run this morning (during which I got well and truly rained on), with a sleeping Buster at my feet, and the promise of an end-of-the-week Martini that I’m going to make as soon as I press publish on this. Things could be a lot worse.
  • For your ears this week, may I present this glorious re-edit of a Steve Miller Band classic:

Week notes 2020-28

Social media is what the internet was made for, whether we intended it that way or not. I sometimes describe the internet as “an unconsciously generated tool for unconscious generation”, by which I mean that we didn’t really know what we were building when we created it, there was no central plan or guiding intent, and there’s still no consensus on what it’s actually ‘for’ – nor could there be. Yet it seems to have this extraordinary ability to enact and amplify our deepest, often latent desires – the things we most long for, even if we’re not consciously aware of that longing.

What I’m talking about here is protocols.

The internet-era folks really got this right. Email system speaks to email system. The code that implements a web server has changed a hundred times, and can come from a thousand companies, and it still works.

But the web-era folks, my generation, really dropped the ball.

I can’t export my photos from iCloud to Google. I can’t message from Discord to WhatsApp. My phone can’t even give me a consolidated “recent calls” list across the half dozen video calling systems I regularly use.

  • Music this week: The Hood Internet have reached 1992 with their incredible sampling project. The last minute or so of this one is fantastic:

Week notes 2020-27

  • Above: Song 2, but every “woohoo” is done by Mario. You’re welcome.
  • Highlight of this week was definitely a trip to the new Noble Rot in Soho with Nina. Melty cheese, potatoes, pigeon, goulash, some amazing wine… I have missed restaurants and I have missed Soho (but most of all, I have missed melty cheese).
  • Today I went for a 15k run (mainly so I can eat more cheese). That’s a lot for me. Tomorrow might be tricky.
  • There’s a new trailer for The Stand! My optimism for Autumn/Winter TV and films has gone back up a bit.
  • See also: Promising Young Woman, which looks like the kind of movie Joker wishes it had been (i.e. a good one).
  • Talking of shit superhero films… As usual, this Alan Moore interview is required reading. Moore has a TV series coming out and Tom Burke is in it! High high hopes.
  • Ton Burke is also playing Orson bloody Welles in the new David Fincher film. The guy is on a roll:
  • I am slowly trying to ween myself off Spotify and to start using Bandcamp more. This article about the two platforms has not dissuaded me from my mission.
  • I started A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley. I can’t remember where the hell I got the recommendation from, but so far I’m loving it.
  • On a slightly different literature tack: I read the origin story of Jack Reacher (I have a soft spot for Reacher).
  • This photo essay made me want to ride around Alaska on my bike.
  • Music this week courtesy of Flying Mojito Brothers: “One whole hour of slow-ass, languid 1970s edits produced for a return gig at Pikes Ibiza”:

Week notes 2020-26

  • Above, the trailer for Alex Gibney’s new documentary ‘Totally Under Control’. That man’s output is insane.
  • Talking of documentaries… Field Notes is “a new online journal for original writing about nonfiction cinema in all its forms”. This article about how an inaccurate and incomplete Wikipedia entry inspired a documentary about “an infamous British police investigation into same-sex male sadomasochism” is brilliant.
  • This week’s new boardgame discovery: Terraforming Mars. As usual with these things it looks fiendishly complicated until you start playing and then you fall under it’s spell very quickly. I really liked it… maybe even more than Wingpsan (controversial).
  • Haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to dip into my relatively new Criterion Channel subscription, but this week I did get chance to watch Orson Welles being interviewed on the Dick Cavett show, which forms part of the extras on their edition of The Magnificent Ambersons (that’s a just a clip of the interview I found on YouTube, the Criterion version is a good half an hour long).
  • The Guardian report on the David Lynch YouTube phenomenon that is his big jar of random numbers: David Lynch has your number. But does it add up?
  • I can’t remember where I came across The Eleven Laws of Showrunning by Javier Grillo-Marxuach but I finally got round to reading it and it’s a great primer on leadership and creativity even if you don’t run a TV series.
  • Finally got my hands on a vinyl copy of Cat Stephen’s Mona Bone Jakon this week. Have a listen and then go watch Harold & Maude.

Week notes 2020-25

  • Watched The Train (1964), directed by John Frankenheimer. Recommended by The Pure Cinema Podcast (where I get a lot of my recommendations these day) as part of their Cult 1960s episode. Loved the film, Burt Lancaster is a terrible Frenchman but an amazing screen presence, and the way the big set pieces are filmed is just mind blowing.
  • Very much looking forward to David Byrne’s American Utopia coming to TV screens next month.
  • Started dipping into Peter Bradshaw’s new book ‘The Films That Made Me…‘.
  • Enjoyed this video on How to Steal Like Wes Anderson:
  • Read this article about a (possible) huge poker cheat.
  • Have some tunes courtesy of my new favourite YouTube DJ, Sarah Evans:

Week notes 2020-24

  • Running is getting easier. Did 9k around Crystal Palace this morning with a friends and it felt relatively ‘easy’. Good job too as I’ve been using the new Ooni pizza oven quite a lot!
  • The Ooni has been a lot of fun. About to use it for the third time tonight. I’m still experimenting with getting the right temperature etc, but it’s pretty easy to unpack, set up and get going and the results are delicious.
  • Played board games again on Thursday night. Played Planet Nine (Space Whist) again (more successfully this time) and also Wingspan again, which is getting more fun the more we play it and we have to think less about the rules and more about the strategy.
  • Watched Des – the Dennis Nielsen series starring David Tennant. Not always a fan of his, but he was creepily brilliant in this and I knew very little of the story as I was only a toddler when it was all happening.
  • Also watched the 1969 film Machine Gun McCain, which was on the brilliant Talking Pictures TV last week. It’s an ok film, but the fascination comes from watching John Cassavetes and Peter Falk in their first project together. Also there’s Britt Eckland and a Morricone score and a Vegas casino heist scene Great stuff. There’s a nice article about the film over on Criterion if you’re interested.
  • Oliver Burkeman wrote his last column for the Guardian this week. Some good nuggets in there. For example:

More often than not, by doing your thing – as opposed to what you think you ought to be doing – you kindle a fire that helps keep the rest of us warm.

  • For music this week, how about some spiritual jazz?

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: