It all started the morning after a bout of insomnia, when I was trying to get stuff done but was too tired to reasonably function. I wanted something on in the background, but nothing that would confuse or irritate me. (I have reached that age where 70% of all media irritates me.)

And I found this on Netflix, and it was perfect.

Or, at least… it was when I watched it with the sound turned off. I’ve learnt my lesson with Luc Besson over the years. His sci-fi films look amazing, but they are very, very silly.  Continue reading

I initially picked the 10 Years of Akala album. Because the man is, in my opinion, the most interesting thing happening in UK culture right now. (He’s been ‘happening’ for a while obviously, hence the album title, but as ever I’m late to the party.) But I started listening to his music at around the same time as I started reading his new book Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, which looks set to make him a mainstream intellectual nationally, and maybe internationally. And it’s the book rather than the album that’s really hooked me — I chewed through it in big gulps in no time at all.

The book is part life story, part political essay and part pan-African history, and for anyone interested in British, particularly English, culture… you really need to know this stuff. Continue reading

The first of this month’s recommendations is the wonderful The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, a graphic novel about how Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage collaborated to conceive of the world’s first true computer. Their real lives ended somewhat tragically, but the author Sydney Padua takes us to a parallel universe where they actually build the machine, and use it. To fight crime. Continue reading

This film came along with a bunch of other amazing films, like Lady Bird and Black Panther (which I would also recommend but I think so many other people have done that better than I could).

It’s an expertly crafted story of unreliable narrators and shifting audience sympathy. And one of those true stories that’s so crazy that you couldn’t make it up.

Particularly the car crash in slow motion that is the ‘Incident’ she became infamous for, and how her career unravelled afterwards.


Current Favourite Thing:
What Margot Robbie does with her face in this film. She already has a great face for sheer joyful malice (e.g. Harley Quinn), but so much of the acting in this film is done with facial expression rather than dialogue, and there’s all kinds of rage and frustration and pain busting out of her Tonya Harding.


 

I can’t remember when I first heard of Black & Water by Kris Drever. Probably about 10 years ago, and probably while he was still touring it on the folk scene.

It’s an album that I feel I often forget how good it is. (I.e. very very good.) It has some original songs on it, but much of it is trad. But he pulls off this delicate balance of reworking the trad with a very contemporary sound. He changes a fair bit of the harmony, whilst still keeping the trad elements intact. In other words, I think he prioritises sounding good over being ‘authentically’ trad. Which definitely works for me. There are bands that perform early music like The City Waites, who focus on creating a sense of what the songs and tunes would actually have sounded like, and that is also great. Black Water feels more to me like a Scottish or Orcadian version of American Country music. It’s modern and traditional at the same time, and very much routed in a sense of place.

And he is not only a truly stunning guitar player but has one of the best male voices in folk music.


Current Favourite Thing:
His reworking of Green Grows The Laurel, which is utterly different from the version that was well-known, but yet feels fresher and more focused. It sounds less like a Ye Olde Ballade and more like a person telling you about their life.