‘A special kind of hearing’

I won’t forget when Peter Pan / came to my house, took my hand / I said I was a boy / I’m glad he didn’t check…

That’s the opening line to The Honesty Room, the 1993 debut album by Dar Williams, which I was recommended by a friend when I was at university. I don’t think my friend was expecting me to like the double-album (her debut packaged with its follow-up, Mortal City) that she had lent me, but three songs into it the songwriting had sufficiently blown me away to make me decide to go to the shop and buy it the next day. Continue reading

It’s Theory Time, girls and boys…

So what do I mean when I say artists who lose their ‘sparkle’ as they get older? Like they’re unicorns or something.

Well, I struggled to find the right word. I originally put ‘why artists often lose it…’ but that can mean so many things. What I mean is that so many artists begin their career with a kind of energy to their work. (And by artists I’m talking musicians, writers, film-makers, comedians, painters… whatever.) And when you compare their later work to their early work, the later stuff feels lacklustre somehow. Like they don’t care as much. It’s something I was always aware of growing up. As a theory it was very much in the air in the 90s — as “beautifully fucking illustrated” by this clip from the film Trainspotting:

And recently, as it has finally dawned on me that despite all the various excuses that I’ve given myself for the last few years I am still in the middle of a writer’s block, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Continue reading

Don’t Forget To Be Awesome

There are internet cults. And there is ‘Nerdfighteria’.

On 1 January 2007 Hank and John Green, two brothers in their late 20s who weren’t particularly close, started a year-long project of posting video messages to each other on YouTube — a project that they called Brotherhood 2.0. During that time they didn’t text, or email, or use any other kind of messaging service: it was their only way of communicating with each other (other than in person). Perhaps more by accident than by design, when the end of the year came around they had 40,000 subscribers. And they announced that, although that project was going to come to an end, they were going to keep posting 4 minute videos for each other. And they have been doing it now for just over a decade. Continue reading

[Long read…]

I haven’t been feeling well recently. An ongoing fatigue illness. Which, as I mentioned last month, has meant I have had to temporarily stop putting new music on this site (because all my music-making has to be focused on making money, which is not what this site is about).

This led me to spend a lot of time researching what the health problem might be: talking with my GP, reading books, reading scientific papers, watching lectures on YouTube. And after a bit of trial and error, I think I’ve located the problem and have felt back to normal for a couple of weeks now. Continue reading

‘Believe it!’ – Lee Miller’s war photography

“What’s a girl supposed to do when a battle lands in her lap?” proclaimed Lee Miller in a radio interview, when asked about travelling through war-torn Europe and eventually taking a bath in Hitler’s bathtub. All the elements of her image are here, and if there was one thing Lee Miller understood it was the power of image. On the surface, this quip reveals her to still be the quintessential 1920s art celebrity and glamour girl, but underneath it there’s a serious question. What should the former darling of the surrealist movement do when faced with something as terrifyingly real as the Second World War? Continue to make art like her friend Picasso? Teach in a school specialising in camouflage, like her Quaker husband? Or pick up a camera, and go to the front line? Continue reading

‘Miyazaki in Wonderland’

Spirited Away, the Japanese animated fantasy directed by Hayao Miyazaki, is one of my favourite films, if not my actual favourite. Certainly top 5. So… I assumed it would be fairly easy to sit down at my computer and pinpoint quite what I love about it. It has proved surprisingly hard to unravel.

A few people have recently mentioned to me in passing that they’ve given Miyazaki films a try, and got frustrated and given up. I think can see why. I consider myself Miyazaki fan, but then I have to remember: I love his style, his attention to detail, I love My Neighbour Totoro, I love Kiki’s Delivery Service, and I’m… interested his other work, but I didn’t go crazy for Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind or even Princess Mononoko. There is a huge amount of inventiveness, originality and beauty in all of them, but I don’t necessarily warm to all of them as stories.

But it feels to me like somehow everything came together for Spirited Away. (And this isn’t a particularly controversial view: last year film critics at the New York Times voted it the second best film of the 21st century so far). It is the story of a young girl in a sulk in the back of a car, moving house to a different part of the country and leaving all her friends behind on the way to their new home…

Actually, here’s a trailer, which sums it up much better:

Continue reading