Tag Archives: music

Change, Please

Nerdly shut down last month due to some Google Adsense bobbins that is far too dumb and arbitrary to go into here. Short version is…don’t feature pictures from gory horror movies on your horror/genre blog, I guess?

The first review I wrote for them was a review of Warren Ellis’ novel Gun MachineThe last was a piece on the Criterion edition of It Happened One Night. Technically I started writing for the site in 2009 when it was Blogomatic 3000, but I don’t have access to the archives so you’ll just have to use your imagination until I get my hands on those old (maybe terrible?) pieces.

I’m considering starting a side-blog exclusively for my writing on film. This place has been cluttered with stray notions and cobwebs for a while now, and I might even be able to maintain something with a single focus far better than this brain dump.

[Though, of course, now I’ve mentioned that it may be doomed never to happen.]

A panel from Plutona #5, written by Jeff Lemire & illustrated by Emi Lenox

In the meantime, like any good scavenger I went looking for other places to ply my wares and found Flickering Myth, where I’m doing comic and movie reviews for the foreseeable future.

So far I’ve covered new issues of East of West, Cry Havoc, the brutal finale of Plutona and the promising first installment of conspiracy thriller Throwaways. The pay is peanuts and I know that “hey, free comics and movies isn’t a bad deal” is a chump’s line, but deadlines keep me working and – for now – it’s far better than not writing.

In other news, my dad died two months ago today. I wrote something about that on Medium; grief and learning and realising he was probably not the man he presented to me for 25 years.

I turned 26 two weeks ago. I just connected those dots and realised I’m now in a post-dad era. Numerically speaking, anyway. Well, I had him for a quarter century. My guess is that people who get a hundred years tell you it’s still not enough time.

Speaking of time constraints, I and my friends Dave & Alice went on a [THOUGHT BUBBLES] hiatus almost a year ago. Yesterday our first new episode since September 2015 went live, and it’s a doozy. This one’s a departure in many ways that I’ll go into in a later post, but I’m pretty thrilled with how it turned out (but mostly just that we’re making these things again. I’d recommend short bursts of creation to absolutely everyone) so yeah, go and watch it.

Alice, the musical side of the project, creates beautiful, dreamy synth pop under the name Mayshe-Mayshe. You can listen to one of her tracks above. I’m biased but I think Alice is great; she’s putting out two EPs and going on tour in the next couple of months so you’ll have plenty of chances to judge for yourself.

I’m going to update this blog more frequently. I know I say that every time and then you don’t hear from me for three months but I’m trying out this whole “discipline” thing and I think it might stick.

The current state of British politics

Oh, and my country’s about to collapse under the weight of its own apathy and xenophobia, the economy’s in freefall and the British political arena is looking more and more like Thunderdome every day.

Plus I’m quitting my job and leaving my flat within the span of two days in August so I might have some spare time on my hands. Gulp.

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What’s in a Thought Bubble?

I helped launch an art project on Tuesday. Well, I don’t know if you’d call it art, exactly, but it does have a manifesto; that’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, this venture of dubious worth is called [THOUGHT BUBBLES], and it’s all about impulsive creative expression.  You might want to go check out our first post before reading any further. I promise you it won’t take more than two minutes of your time. Go on. I’ll wait. Welcome back! See? That didn’t take so long. As you can see, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is all about brevity: we’ll be putting out videos of one minute (or shorter) in length once a week for as long as we can keep it up. There are certain other rules that apply – as seen in the aforementioned manifesto – but we can go into those another time, particularly as we’ll start breaking them pretty early on. But who is this “we”, you ask? Am I not the sole architect of the project, filming, composing and creating every atom of beauty that makes up the very being of [THOUGHT BUBBLES]? Of course not; don’t be ridiculous. I make up one third of a creative trio I am perpetually humbled to be a welcome part of. My fellow bubblenauts are none other than musician Alice Rowan and filmmaker Dave Beveridge. They’re both much more than that, obviously, being dear friends of mine, but for the purposes of this introduction that’s your key to understanding the basis of a Bubble’s creation. Here are a couple of brilliant things they made:



I know, right? I’m sure you now want to see and hear a lot more from them. Rest assured – you will. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

  • Dave films something that speaks to him. He shoots a single shot for however long he feels is necessary, then cuts the resulting video to a minute or under.
  • He then shares the video with Alice and myself. Crucially, this is the first time we’ll have ever been aware of this footage or the context in which it was created so that we can proceed unbiased.
  • Alice composes a piece of frustratingly marvellous music, records live as quickly as possible and adds it to the video.
  • Then your humble narrator takes one look at the piece and declares it finished, stating that any contribution he made would only lessen its stupendous value.

…Just kidding.

  • I look at the video and add one final layer of interpretation – a spoken word recording. It could be overwrought narration, a clutch of whispered dialogue or even field recordings of overheard conversations in retirement home cafeterias.
  • All of this is put together, mixed ever so slightly so that one element does not drown out another (any more than intended, at least) and put into a digital box to await its release.

And really, that’s about it. Oh, except that it almost never occurs in that order. Everyone takes turns beginning new bubbles and contributing at different stages to make for ever more interesting interpretations; there’s no single authorial presence pulling the strings, which is exactly how we like it. I have no idea how a bubble I initiated is going to end up, how it’ll be interpreted, if a joke I wrote will be turned into a tragic note or a heartfelt declaration turned into a punchline. That’s really scratching the surface of what happens with the finished products, but I’m sure you get the picture. And this isn’t a project that benefits from over-explanation, anyhow. Which is mainly why I’ve chosen to write this here and not on our shiny new official site – [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is about short, spontaneous creative expression and, above all, not overthinking things. If you’re a long time (or an anytime) reader of this blog, you’ll know how hilarious it is that I’m a part of something like that and how crucial that these two outlets never collide. [Of course, there’s nothing to say I can’t dot a few links here and there.]

I think that’s all I have to say for the moment. Part of the reason I wrote this was to have something to direct people toward when they ask what the project’s about, at least in the early days before the (fingers crossed) vast library of content speaks for itself. The site’s a little austere at the moment, and I get itchy when I think people might be confused about something I’ve done. Another part is that I like to ramble about myself and my talented friends, but you already knew that. Oh, one other thing – we launched the site and the first video on 21st April 2015, which is exactly a year after Dave, Alice and I conceived the project. A lot of things happened in the interim – some good, others not so good – and the effects of those will likely (in some cases, will most definitely) be shown in future bubbles. It’s personal and epic and tiny and heartbreaking and life-affirming and ultra-camp. Mostly, though, [THOUGHT BUBBLES] is indefinable. Stay tuned to find out what the hell that means.

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The Sweet Pain of Power Pop

Sometimes I don’t think I’ll get over my romantic obsession with wry, melodramatic but utterly sincere power pop that threatens to destroy me with THE POWER OF EMOTION whenever I listen to it too much.

But then I discover a band like Trust Fund and realise there’s no need to get over it.

You can listen to their debut album at that link up there. Or here if that’s too far. I’ll let the music speak for itself, as I’m usually really bad at selling bands I like to other people.

That said, I have been seriously toying with the idea of writing an account of my relationship history in parallel with Los Campesinos!’s album releases.

Because that’s the kind of thing I consider fun, obviously.

In other news, I wrote some more reviews for Nerdly. Blackhat and Jack Strong, which it looks like very few people will actually see, were kind of a mixed bag. Similarly with the FrightFest Glasgow screeners I got for [REC]488 and The Atticus Institute, although they were at least consistently entertaining. And one of them has Ethan from Lost in it!

Even if I wasn’t blown away by the fare I saw, the lineup for FFG still got me psyched for the main event in London later this year. I’ve been doing a lot of solo cinemagoing over the past few weeks (yet I’m still way behind on my Letterboxd challenge) so it’ll be nice to attend a huge community film event for a couple of days before returning to the hermitage of the multiplex.

I’ve seen a lot of bad thrillers and horror movies recently, but one of them may actually end up making the list of my favourite films of the year. That film? The Boy Next Door. My review should be out soon, but don’t bother reading it if you have the opportunity to go and see it; just do it. You will not regret a second or penny spent, I assure you. Thank me later.

And thanks for reading. You’re my favourite.

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Kill your plans

Let’s be honest about this: I doubt I’m ever getting back to a regular schedule, and it just makes me look (more) foolish to promise things that I never come through on. The whole point of this site was to get me on a regular writing schedule, and if I’m only going to get to one thing a day it might as well be a creative (or paying) project as opposed to letting you know how bad I am at getting around to such thing. So how about this:

Some days I’ll post one thing.

Others I’ll post five.

And some (most, in all likelihood) there’ll be naught but tumbleweed knocking around this ill-tended saloon of bloggery to remind you that, yes, there are an infinite number of things that are more interesting to look at on the internet.

But, y’know. I’ll try.

[Also, because I don’t like leaving you lot empty-handed, you should listen to this:

I was recently reminded of the existence of this sublime remix of an already-great song by a band from my hometown, and rightfully decided it was criminally unheard by the vast majority of people. So enjoy.]

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Sweet, Sweet Music

“Back in the golden age of records, artists used to keep their recorded music in a glass conserve jar before it was transferred to vinyl and distributed to stores. Unfortunately, this method of preservation was prone to thievery and rival bands would perpetrate music heists in order to reduce competition or plagiarise songs, resulting in fierce ownership feuds and the now-popular phrase ‘this is my jam’ when a personal favourite is played.”

– Reginald Chuff, Muzic: An Anti-History For The Postmodern Ponce

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On somehow accidentally falling asleep in your own bed

So it turns out I passed out in my bed last night while attempting to write. This was around 11pm, which may well be the first time I’ve gone to bed before midnight in the longest time. It’s largely because I’ve been getting up at semi-normal human hours for a change so I can make at least a pass at interacting with the  rest of humanity on a normal basis. You’d think I’d adjust my work schedule to fit with this…but no. I get some real (ie paid) work done most mornings and fall into a bumbling around town/reading comics/making incredibly well-seasoned meals until late night and then remember that I’m trying to trick everyone into thinking I’m serious about writing. But by this point my eyes have fallen out of my head and the siren call of sitting with a laptop in a pillow fortress becomes too strong.

And so here we are.

For lack of anything actually interesting to tell you, listen to this:

My good pal and architern (architect + intern, but so much more) Tom Wright posted this a few minutes ago on the social mediazzz and it’s just ambient and unfamiliar enough that I can write to it without falling out of my psyhic space and into another. Which is nice. Tom occasionally blogs about things that I don’t really understand and does quirky design shenanigans so that must make him supersmart right? Right.

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And Then You Spend An Hour On The Phone To Someone You Haven’t Seen In Half A Year

Just finished talking to a good friend of mine who I used to make some music with, which was rather pleasant. I’ll be visiting her and some other folks in the big smoke in a couple of weeks so that’ll all be very exciting for those of you who live vicariously through my incoherent ramblings.

Poor sods.

Anyway! This young lady now goes solo (musically, single guys) under the name Letters From Olivia, which is suspiciously convenient being that her first name’s Olivia. I’ll have to look into that.

And so should you! Click that there link and you’ll be transported to a world (or facebook page, whatever) of downbeat autoharp and lovely vocals.

But only if you like good things.

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In Defence Of The Reboot – Issue #1

With the announcement that Joss Whedon has signed on to write and direct Avengers 2, in addition to developing a TV series set in the Marvel movieverse (c/o Bleeding Cool), now seems as god a time as any to discuss something that I’ve wanted to address for a while; what I feel is the undue vitriol directed at the concept of expanding on a winning formula, to wit: sequels, reboots and the dreaded remake.

It’s something I’m not entirely unsympathetic to: people getting all het up about a film or show or comic or song they love being manhandled by Hollywood or anyone else is something I can easily relate to. But that’s just an emotional reaction, and when the rest of my brain catches up I start wondering how the adapters/rebooters are going to approach the project, rather than how they’re going to fuck it up.

This is something that happens a lot more in movies than most other media, as I’m sure most are aware – Hollywood has been remaking flicks, adding on sequels and talking about reboots more in the past decade and more people have been bitching about it than ever before – and the sheer quantity of adaptations, recycled ideas and franchise jump-starts are enough to make you wonder if studio execs are even aware of such things as ‘original ideas’ anymore.

But it’s not isolated, not by a long shot. In Everything Is A Remix, Kirby Ferguson discusses ideas, copyright and originality in media and invention, and rightly asserts that every new thing is built with old parts. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Superhero comics have been riffing on their own history for decades, bands influence other bands, classic songs have been endlessly covered and TV shows have rolled out season after season when they can, many of them spinning out of films themselves and occasionally (and rarely successfully) spawning their own spinoffs.

The main concern seems to be that the new product is unnecessary; that novel didn’t need making into a movie, and certainly not three movies! And while I suppose I can think of many remakes that have confounded me when faced with surmising the reason for their existence, necessity has never really been a big concern of mine in terms of entertainment and art. I’m quite certain that we don’t need eight Batman movies, but I reckon I’d get a lot of argument from Christopher Nolan fans if I said we should just cap it at five.

A lot of these movies might be shit; no doubt a lot of them will be. But I’m an optimistic audience – I want the things I watch to be good. I want things to entertain me and involve me emotionally, to make me laugh and care about the people I’m watching, the story I’m being told, and if something’s doing that successfully then it really doesn’t matter that I’ve heard this story before. A great deal of enjoying stories is in the telling, and while I’d generally prefer to see an original tale that can transport me to a new world or set of characters, I’d also rather watch an old story told well than a new story told badly.

I’m going to get onto other media in future posts, as I think there are different and interesting conversations to be had compared to just film. But, seeing as they appear to elicit the strongest reactions, let’s take a couple of examples:

1. Total Recall

Yeah, this one’s kinda hard to defend. A remake of a stupendously pulpy Schwarzenegger sci-fi from 1990 directed by none other than Starship Troopers and Robocop‘s Paul Verhoeven, it’s difficult to imagine this movie doing anything better than its progenitor, especially in the mind-boggling absence of Mars from the new version. I haven’t seen it yet, but my hopes aren’t high. I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I suspect that this is a case where the tantalising lure of nostalgic box-office receipts were the main motivation for the film’s existence.

HOWEVER, even the original isn’t original; it was based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, and while the remake seems to be taking its cues more from the first movie than its literary source, an argument could easily be made that they both took from the same well and are on equal standing.

Not that I think anyone’s going to make that argument, obv.

2. The Thing

Yeah, John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror is a remake, and past being the best remake ever, it’s well-regarded as being one of the best genre films around too. I bloody love this movie, and I couldn’t care less that it’s a remake of Howard Hawks’s The Thing From Another World…which is actually itself an adaptation of the short story “Who Goes There?” but neither have that much resemblance to it, and if there’s a better example of a movie overcoming its legacy, I don’t know it.

3. Martin Scorsese

Did you know that Scorsese has made both a sequel and a remake? Of course you did, because you’re knowledgable and clever and have really quite lustrous hair. Yep, the king of catholic overtones has lowered himself to the creative cesspool of unoriginality, first with The Color Of Money, a 1986 follow-up to 1961’s The Hustler, both starring Paul Newman as a young pool hall stud in the original and a washed-up manager in the sequel, and secondly with The Departed, a remake of Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs relocated to Boston.

(Oh, and don’t get me started on all the books he’s adapted.)

The Color Of Money stands perfectly well as both a sequel and on its own. I rather like it, and I haven’t seen The Hustler. It’s an excellent example of the kind of long-form story that can be told in film, with Newman’s character experiencing jealousy of a young Tom Cruise’s cockiness that he had twenty-five years ago. I’m a sucker for this kind of ‘natural’ sequel, a perfect case for me being Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise & Before Sunset, both filmed and set eight years apart, with the romantic lead characters having not seen each other for the entire time between. The sequel is the better for it, the dialogue enriched by the context of what came before and is happening again. Rumour has it that there’s a third film in the works, which I personally can’t wait for…though my recent appreciation of threequels should probably give me pause for thought.

Essentially what I’m getting at here is that to make a film work, you need to have a good idea and strong execution (i.e. story, characters, theme, cinematography, music, performance etc.), and it doesn’t matter a whole lot about whether or not that idea’s been used before. If a film is beautiful or moving or compelling, it’s because the people who made it really cared about making you feel that way.

There are plenty of ‘new’ movies without soul, and plenty of remakes with it.

Next time (I’m debating whether or not to make this a twice- or simply weekly thing) I’ll be talking comics, the bastard child of cave paintings and novels, and how they’re possibly the most derivative medium of all – but why that can be a great thing.

Anything to add? Go ahead and leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter.

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