Meta Letta

A decent novel tends to be around 80k words long. NaNoWriMo asks a mere 50k words of you, and anything over 40k words is considered novel-length, albeit a short one. A novella is deemed to be a work of prose between 10 and 40 thousand words.

Why do I mention this? Because yesterday I learnt that in the process of writing these newsletters, a whim that I half-expected to flake out of after a few weeks, I have written 27 thousand words so far. By that measure, by November I’ll have hit that 40 thousand word novel length, and that blows my mind.

Now, some might say that I could have invested that time and effort into actually writing a novel. And they’re sort of right. Even if we take away the time required for research, outlining, and general navel-gazing it’s clearly not time that’s a factor. Time can be made.

But it’s not just about having, or making, time. It’s about focus. Drive. Determination. And not having a burnt out husk of a brain awash in a briny creative wasteland. Writing these missives isn’t about creativity, for me, it’s about craft. If you try to be creative without mastering the craft, you get works with great potential, unfulfilled. If you apply the craft of, in this case, writing without the burden of creativity? 

You get 27 thousand words of Notes From The Engine Room.

In My Ears

Not necessarily a fan of my noughties pop workout playlist from last week? I get that, you want something new. Or at least newish. And the previous one was cover songs, so I’ve been depriving you for quite a while now. Fear not, your drought is at an end, and there’s a new playlistfor your listening ears!

Some of you are new to these newsletters and the associated playlists (thanks to all of you who’ve been forwarding them on, your word-of-mouth has hugely trumped my ability to advertise and I’m truly grateful). So, for those of you catching up, and interested in where we’ve been, musically speaking, I have created you an index of playlists

When it comes to assessing that state of the music market, the most important element is data. Huge amounts of data as to what’s selling and streaming where and by whom, and analysing it is a full-time occupation, and full of interesting nuggets. This was this week’s:

“At some point we gotta figure out the connection between the top 10 streamed songs every year and their top city being Glendive, MT which has a population of 5k people.” 

There are no major data centres or streaming companies based there, and Glendive is the smallest of the 210 designated markets for broadcast television in the United States. So, someone, somewhere, is potentially running a little off-the-books data farm?

On My Screen

So, I’ve watched the first two episode’s of Disney/Marvel’s What If…?and… it’s fine. I am once more cursed by the phantom of elevated expectations. What I was hoping for was clever alternatives, things we might see reflected elsewhere in Marvel’s Multiverse, smart suppositions and alternative takes. A universe where the alternative origin stories could lead to future re-castings and bold re-interpretations.

Having T’Challa as Star-Lord is obviously never going to happen outside of this one-off; while the episode is intended as a tribute to Chadwick Boseman, it’s obviously a dead-end. Alternatively, exploring the repercussions of  Killmonger or Shuri as Black Panther is something that could have gone somewhere. Having the Ravagers take Quill straight to his father would have changed the world dramatically.

Instead, What If… merely offers an aside, more of a Wouldn’t it be funny if…?, before shrugging its shoulders and moving on.

(By the way, if opinions were a democracy, I’d be voted out of office. The Chadwick Boseman episode especially is adored almost everywhere else. As ever, YMMV.)

You know the issue with ‘cult classic’ movies? They’re certainly not without merit or charm, but neither are they without their flaws. I have no issue with flaws, for me the sign of any good movie is whether I’m drawn in and held there; no more, no less. Bronson and The Crow are not perfect by any stretch but my love for them is pure, and I have an inexplicable love for Guy Ritchie‘s King Arthur. But when the flaws pull me out of the movie, when I’m no longer enjoying the ride, when I’m watching the whole thing with one cocked eyebrow, then I have a problem. 

Which is to say that while I know that The Way Of The Gun is a beloved cult classic for some, and not without merit or charm, it was not an enjoyable watch for me. Chris McQuarrie had made his name as the writer of The Usual Suspects, but even he admits that his directorial debut was a flawed thing. 

“It was a learning experience and a means to an end… […] I would never shoot a movie like that again. […] So, on the one hand, I’m very proud of it. On the other hand, I’m very grateful for everything that I learned from it.”

The movie will stay with me for some time; not for its excellence, but as something to analyse. Something to tease and poke and prod, to determine how those flaws could have been avoided or circumvented. McQuarrie clearly learnt something, he went on to write Edge of Tomorrow, and wrote and directed the last two Mission Impossible movies. 

You know how I mentioned last week that I love female assassin movies? Well, it seems that the movie gods have blessed me twice this autumn. First Netflix’s Kate, and after that Gunpowder Milkshake. The trailer looks incredibly silly, and I’m absolutely here for it. 

The eighth and final season of Brooklyn 99 has begun to air on NBC. I’m all for popular TV addressing real world concerns, but I just can’t get my head around the following quote:

“The five episodes available to press [to date] fall short of completely condemning the American police state.”

I mean, I love the show and its progressive slant, but that’s a bit of a steep hill to climb, isn’t it?

In My Face

No recipe or review of my own this week, but I can’t not show you Jay Rayner‘s review of the The Polo Lounge at the Dorchester Hotel. I don’t take pleasure at bringing down an establishment, but I do love a truly scathing review like this one.

Post-pandemic culinary London has become a bit of a minefield, with some establishments attempting to fleece customers based on barely-earnt reputations. And it has to stop.


I’m going to have to draw this newsletter to a close for this week, I’ve rambled on enough. It’s not that I have nothing else that I’m working on, but more that if I were to dump every thought and idea into this edition, I’d miss my deadline. 

I have a writing weekend coming up this weekend, actually some creative writing for a change. And you know what that means? Yep. Procrastination. So I’ll inevitably get a lot of next week’s rambling’s down in the next few days.

So, until next Thursday! Have a good weekend! Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.