You know what the worst sound is that a computer can make when you try to turn it on?
Absolutely nothing. Thundering silence.
That’s what happened last week: I tried to turn on my computer and absolutely nothing happened. Can you imagine my absolute horror?
Now, obviously this is a household with another four laptops littered around the place, so it’s not like I wouldn’t be able to find something to work on. But this desktop computer that’s been with me for six years, that has been on for about 18 hours a day for the last 18 months of lockdowns, is my base of operations. It’s my HQ, my home within my home, my digital lair.
As it turned out, the stupid thing magically fixed itself as soon as I showed it to the repair guy, which was both infuriating and a massive relief. I’m in no position to replace the computer, a repair would still have been pricey, and I don’t really like the idea of sitting hunched over a laptop for a year. But still, the embarrassment was real when this young man, who looked about twelve years old, tried switching it on and it just worked.
I mean, it’s probably an omen of things to come, a sign that this tireless workhorse is on its last legs, and due a visit to the knacker’s yard; but I’ve bought a little time. A small reprieve, while I figure out how long I’m actually going to need to spend in my home office in future.
In My Ears
There’s no overstating how important Sleigh Bells were to me last decade; their first two albums Treats and Reign of Terror were a central part of my listening in the early 2010s. Their subsequent releases haven’t quite blown me away, they never managed to quite find that magical balance of noise and pop that I enjoyed so much. But when a performer becomes part of your DNA you’ll always have time for even their lesser work.
Sleigh Bells are returning this year with a new album called Texis and it’s out September 10th. Their new single Locust Laced is out now, and obviously features in this week’s playlist. I just wish it was more of a Riot Rhythm.
Also included in this week’s playlist is a cover that will likely split people, but that I like because of its alternative take. They say sacred cows make the tastiest burgers, but there’s just something about the phrase “haunting cover of Nirvana‘s Smells Like Teen Spirit, as featured on Black Widow” that’s just going to irritate people. I’m okay with it.
In fact, I have a strong temptation to make next week covers week. You have been warned.
On My Screen
Speaking of which…
Black Widow Revisited
Increasingly I’m hearing that while, on the whole, people enjoyed Black Widow, it’s widely regarded as “insufficiently Marvel”. That it lacks the high drama and spectacle fans have come to enjoy. Like I specifically said last week, “not everything is for everybody” and “the outings I particularly enjoy are rarely found near the top of ranked lists of fan favourites”.
But it does worry me. It worries me that every time Marvel tries anything slightly different in tone, whether a Bourne-esque spy thriller or those first episodes of Wandavision, it’ll be knocked down by a not-insignificant proportion of MCU fans. Money talks, and it’ll put braver storytelling in movies whose styles and themes are considered non-mainstream at risk. Soon, all we’ll have is content from the Disney Studios and …
A24 is a movie and TV production company with a pretty amazing track record considering it’s not even ten years old. Over movies like Under The Skin, Locke, Ex Machina, Amy, The Witch, Green Room, Moonlight, Lady Bird and Midsommar, A24 have garnered a staggering 25 Academy Award nominations. Word on the (film festival) street is already very positive for this year’s heavily delayed The Green Knight, and their most successful TV show Euphoria received four Emmy’s.
It’s therefore no surprise that as the streaming wars heat up, there’d be interest to snap up the little studio that could. What surprised some people though was the asking price; and that Apple seems quite willing to pay the $3 billion. In comparison, Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company is reputedly for sale at $1 billion.
But it should be no surprise: Not only does A24 have an enviable back catalogue, and a proven taste that speaks well of their future endeavours, this combination of factors has garnered them a place in that all-important zeitgeist.
Among Gen Z “A24” is being used as an adjective, because they’re used to interesting mid-budget movies only coming from a single studio. And worryingly, increasingly, “A24” these days just means “not Marvel” as the number of mid-budget movies dwindles. It’s a sad state of affairs. But absolutely fantastic news for the owners of A24, who’ll hopefully take their money and go and do something interesting with it.
But in the meantime, the trend will continue for streaming giants to snap up studios so they can lock the TV shows and movies into their walled gardens. And who knows what this means for theatrical output. Will The Green Knight be the last A24 cinema release? Will we have to subscribe to Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Disney+ and Netflix, at around £30-£40 a month? Or will we return to the dark days of piracy so we don’t miss everything we want to see?
I needed something new to watch, so since I loved Joe Wright‘s 2011 movie Hanna, I thought I’d give Amazon’s TV adaptation a go. The original had Saoirse Ronan in the titular role, Eric Bana as her father, Cate Blanchett as their adversary, a Chemical Brothers soundtrack, and gritty fairytale imagery that lifted it above other spy thrillers.
The new version has none of those things, and if it wasn’t for the talented Rhianne Baretto in those first two episodes, the TV adaption would border on soporific. Only Hanna‘s coming-of-age story, and Baretto’s chemistry with lead actress Esme Creed-Miles, has any life to it; the rest is drab, grey and bloodless. Occasionally they try to wake the viewer up with a fight scene where the limited choreography has to be edited around. I’m afraid I ended up giving up on it.
Any suggestions on what to attempt next?
In The World
I was pleased this week to have an opportunity to see the Sneakers Unboxed exhibition at the Design Museum. I’m not a huge trainer aficionado, but I loved the cultural touchpoints, the calceologicalgravitation towards certain styles and brands, from Run DMC‘s Adidas to grime’s 110’s. The exhibition runs until 24th October and is well worth a visit.
I love investigations into the algorithms that social media companies use. The Social Dilemma was quite the insight, and was worth keeping in mind when watching the WSJ‘s investigation into TikTok’s algorithm.
They programmed bots with crude personality types and interests, and one of them was created to have a tendency towards depression and poor mental health.
After 224 videos into the bot’s overall journey, or about 36 minutes of total watch time, TikTok’s understanding of kentucky_96 takes shape. Videos about depression and mental health struggles outnumber those about relationships and breakups. From here on, kentucky_96’s feed is a deluge of depressive content. 93% of videos shown to the account are about sadness or depression.
In My Face
I’m a big fan of Hawksmoor‘s version of the turbo shandy, the Shaky Pete, but it’s not always something I have the ingredients in for. So here’s what I use:
- 150ml Ginger Beer (not ginger ale)
- 150ml Crisp Lager like Lost Lager, Camden Hells or Asahi
- 50ml gin
Stir together with crushed ice for a refreshing summer drink. Use those proportions to make a jug for your summer BBQ.
This hasn’t been the mammoth newsletter that last week’s was, but then I’m not sure that was sustainable. It made me seriously consider moving this newsletter to fortnightly; a sensible option, but one that made me sad.
So with that, this is me signing off for another week. The podcast will likely be recorded later on tonight, or tomorrow morning.
I hope this newsletter found you well.
I hope it keeps you well.
Stay safe, stay happy.