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Randall Monroe, author of xkcd, What If? and Thing Explainer, came to Oxford last weekend to talk about his books, and the logistics of devoting a sizeable portion of your living space to creating a ball pit.

I videoed a little bit of it.

And probably shouldn’t have, because the video is shit.  But there we go.  For some reason I thought I could use some basic audio effects like speech enhancement in YouTube.  But if you can, I don’t know how to do it.

Anyway, the talk was brilliant, and Mr Monroe seems like a genuinely lovely guy.  And the video was only really for me to show off that I was there. Continue reading

The first recommendation of the month is the Gjermund Larsen Trio from Norway teaming up with his Swedish neighbours Nordic for this rather wonderful… well, kind of polska, I suppose.

A friend, Charlotte Robinson, recommended it to Hannah, who recommended it to me, and I’ve been listening to it on loop since then.

Current Favourite Aspect:

How comically nordic they all look – particularly the guy on the harmonium (piano-type thing), who I’m sure was in A-Ha.  My brother and sister-in-law live in Sweden, and every once in a while I’ll get a YouTube link to a Swedish comedy show, and the first time I was watching this I was sort of expecting to see the camera pan to one of them with a viking helmet and big blonde pigtails.

Also the tune.

[Link to Eulogize This website to follow…]

Meat Is Murder: Love and Family Values in the Texas Chain Saw Massacre

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Firstly, it is a technically perfect horror film (bar one exception, which I’ll come to in a moment). But more than that, it actually has a story. Like the film Jaws, you could just about take the monsters out of it and still have a fascinating tale about how humans treat each other. (And also how they treat animals — but again, more on that in a bit.)

Before I start eulogizing why it’s a technically perfect horror film, I want to deal with that exception I mentioned, because it’s a big exception.

Of all of the slasher-style horror films I’m aware of, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is perhaps the least misogynistic. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it sort of is. I want to get this out of the way at the beginning, because the way that women are treated in this film and others like it is something I could write a separate article on – and plenty of people much better informed on the subject already have. If you’re interested and would like to know more, reading either THIS or THIS about ‘monster misogyny’ in horror films might be a good start. Long story short: in this film the men are all killed quickly and we watch the women suffer (and suffer, and suffer).

This film also has a paraplegic character in a wheelchair, and a murderer who appears to be suffering from learning difficulties. I personally don’t have a problem with either – in fact I think all of the characters in this film are rounded, believable and even sympathetic to a certain extent – but I’d be interested to hear from anyone better informed about these issues than me.

But that said, disclaimers aside, if you judge a film by how much of an emotional reaction it induces (and I do), this one is, in every sense, a monster.

Its story might feel overfamiliar now, but that’s because the makers of Halloween, Friday The 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Blair Witch Project and countless other horror films were both terrified and inspired by images of an enormous man wearing a mask made of human skin and wielding a chainsaw. This was the film that got there first. It became something of a text book.

And this is how it starts:

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Picture by Mim Saxl

I'm a musician based in Oxford, UK. I play guitar and sing. I've been writing and recording songs since 1988 and adapting English traditional music since 2006. I perform solo and with James Bell & The Half Moon All Stars.

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