When I previously wrote that I was going to aim for a monthly schedule for the newsletter, truth be told I didn’t really mean it. I expected to aim for two weeks, maybe slip by a week, and then crow my victory from the rooftops. But then a month passed, and I found myself sitting in a pub playing Christmas songs, trying to find the focus to last-minute this baby. That was two weeks ago.
For months now, I’ve been averaging around five hours sleep a night, and for a little while it’s been less than that. When you get to that level of sleep deprivation, everything gets harder. Your body wavers between extreme exhaustion and a second wind it doesn’t deserve and can’t sustain. Your eyes twitch and randomly defocus. Your mind is barely your own, and everything distorts, your sense of time dilates and contracts. You swing from utter staring-at-the-wall passivity to fevered activity, your moods swing from down to up and back again, round the twist and largely have little relation to the so-called real world. Your patience is at an all-time low.
Everything gets harder.
So, you try to prioritise, you try to focus on what’s important. You try to minimise stresses and distractions and maximise rest time. Which is a great idea, unless your day job is making unreasonable demands of your time and attention. And apparently they believe they are entitled to both, just because they pay me money for them? Madness!
I once dreamt that this now (roughly) monthly gonzo screed, together whether an assortment of other creative endeavours, would replace that insanity for a better one. But instead, I sit here hammering out these words, for the shear love it. And for you.
The dream stays alive, the tiniest glimmer in the darkest of nights. Maybe this festive break I’ll find the bandwidth to breath a little life into the embers.
On My Screen
Andor – Spoilers – You should watch it
I’ll be honest, in recent years I’ve fallen a bit out of love with the Star Wars franchise. Between toxic fans, Galactic Empire apologists, retreads, fan service and cash grabs, there’s never been more Star Wars available, and not enough to be excited by. Even when it was good, it just hasn’t been… great. Because of this it took me a little time to get around to watching Andor. I’m grateful that I remedied this quickly, and that I started watching the show before it finished its initial run.
When so much of Star Wars centred around characters we knew well, family sagas and the Jedi, here was something new. Something that didn’t just tell us that the Galactic Empire was bad because it was run by an Evil Space Wizard. Something that didn’t just tell us that the Rebels were the good guys because they opposed the Evil Space Wizard. Here was something street level, raw, gritty and real. Something that spoke about sacrifice, hard choices, oppression for control, the banality of evil decisions, and the rocky road to rebellion or ruin. There were times that I forgot I was watching a Star Wars show, only for the setting to come roaring back, and gloriously so.
From Nemik‘s manifesto to Luthen‘s starship escape to Maarva‘s ‘Fight the Empire!’ speech, this was a show of grand moments and great players, and our titular protagonist just trying to do the best he could. No monologue for him, no explosive moment or grand gesture for Cassian. Just a dogged determination – the inextinguishable spark that inadvertently kindled the fires of resistance.
I didn’t really need the post-credits scene, I’m over them in general, but I see why people enjoyed the closing of the loop. Personally I think that if the link needed to be made, it could have been done in-narrative.
Season two is already underway, production began last month, and Dan Gilroy and Beau Willimon would be returning to write some of the new episodes along with Tom Bissell.
She’s creepy and she’s kooky, mysterious and spooky, but Wednesday‘s show sounded a little bit silly. What dragged me in, reluctantly, was seeing episode four’s dance scene reconfigured to a fit to a sped up version of Lady Gaga‘s Bloody Mary that I was seeing everywhere. That, combined with being too tired to watch anything that required much of me. What I nearly missed out on was a delight of a teen detective comedy, like a goth Veronica Mars. Gwendolyn Christiewas excellent, but Jenna Ortega truly carried the show. It’s hard to see where a second season could go, now that the outcast-among-outcasts narrative will be blunted somewhat. But they’re going to need a new principle, and there’s some great scope there.
Wednesday largely fits in the part of the TV landscape that Sabrina occupied, and Buffy before her. And she deserves her place in the pantheon.
Is anyone else thinking crossover? Or just me?
It’s not really surprising that the makers of Dark are once again making their audience work a little harder in their next show, 1899. This multi-lingual mystery mixture of Lost aboard the Marie Celeste, is incredibly intriguing, centred around its rich characters. I’d recommend though that you don’t go for the dubbed version, part of the show’s DNA is the difficulty the multinational ensemble have in communicating with each other. Something entirely lost if you hear them telling each other in English that they don’t speak someone’s language. I’m only a few episodes in so far, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.
Congratulations to my friend Simon Uttley, who is teaming up with Neil Marshall, famed for Dog Soldiers and The Descent, to showrun the new supernatural action series Nightshade.
“Set in a bustling 18th century English port city visited by a diverse manner of international traders, rogues, and vagabonds. We meet our heroine – the half English and half Indian outcast Lizzie Monroe who transforms herself into a defiant masked outlaw avenger – Nightshade – to rescue her brother James from the treacherous underworld realm of The Veil, where werewolves, demons, warlocks, and evil creatures beyond our imagination reside, after he is slain by a monstrous satanic cult run by powerfully sinister men in politics, religion, and industry. During their treacherous journey back to one another, the Monroes will discover that the supernatural forces arrayed against them represent merely the vanguard of a far greater threat and that they are caught in the opening salvos of a war between humanity and the forces of darkness.”
- The Sandman has been renewed for a second season. I’m a bit concerned about how long it took to confirm, but at least it’s happening!
- Rejoice! The third and final season of Ted Lasso has finished shooting, possibly due to be released in May to hit the deadline for the Emmy’s.
- Mixed feelings for Yellowjackets fans! The show will be back for season 2 on the 24th March, but only available via Paramount+, either a separate subscription or an add-on to Amazon Prime Video.
In My Ears
It feels a little cheap to only go with the usual length playlist after 6+ weeks since the last one, especially in such a thin section. But I’m going to do it anyway:
I’d have liked to talk about Spotify Wrapped (embarrassing), my year’s best live performance (Foals at Brixton), favourite tracks (NewDad‘s Say It and Miss You (sped up nightcore remix) by Oliver Tree ), favourite album (We from Arcade Fire) or favourite new discoveries (Dylan and Baby Queen). But there’s just no time.
How about this though: How about a Spotify playlist of every song featured this year? Hopefully that will assuage your sense of loss.
We’ve come to an end. Of this edition that is. And this year. What a year it’s been, and if this was any kind of serious publication I’d fill it will it with retrospectives and lists and other stuff things. But instead what I’d like to do is look forward to the next year. It’s a year of promise, a year of realignment, a year when I’m going to see Dylan in concert.
I managed 17 newsletters this year and 20 playlists, it’ll certainly be less than that next year. But I will try to keep to a monthly schedule.
I’ll try really hard.
Until then though, have the very best festive period, I hope you get a break. I hope you can fill your tanks. I hope the flames of the solstice burn away your doubts and fears.
Until next year!