Meta Letta

I think this is the latest I’ve ever sent this out. Time, it turns out, is not a flat circle; it’s an entropic fractal.

But, I had such grand plans for this, the 26th edition of Notes from the Engine Room. Grand. Grandiose even.

So, as I began to feel time and sanity slip away from me , I was thrilled to find that while this may be the 26th edition, 26 weeks is not the same as six months after all. Hurrah!

Celebrations have been reserved for the next edition, and I have some ideas. Grand ideas. Grandiose even.

Hopefully not by repeating myself, of which I’m clearly quite fond. But when I do it’s almost always intentional. 

There will be more details in the Denouement, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wade through the rest of the detritus first.

In My Ears

You know what makes me sad? When bands remove their early work from streaming services, as I alluded to last week. So I’ve been going on a bit of quest to track down those missing gems. Teenagers in Tokyo‘s EP arrived last week, Klaxons‘ Xan Valleys arrived today, I found my copy of Public Service Broadcasting‘s EP One, and I managed to track down Bleech‘s first album. Things I still haven’t managed to find, and for which some form of bounty would be appropriate:

  • Lana del Rey‘s demo that was pulled by her record company when she signed. It’s the one that has Kinda Outta Luck (AKA Born Bad Baby) on it. As I recall all the tracks were in lower case, in an e e cummings meets teenagersintokyo way.
  • The version of Sneaker Pimps‘ first album Becoming X that was distributed to reviewers ahead of the album release, which has sentimental significance, and what I consider a superior, less polished, mix of Spin Spin Sugar.

It’s a well-established (yet untested) fact that I cannot be bribed, but did you know I can be influenced? This doesn’t mean that anyone has swung me on the most recent Abba tracks, or successfully convinced me on the efficacy of either homoeopathy or trickle down economics. But it does mean that this week’s playlist features a really good cover song that I hadn’t previously heard. Jack White‘s cover of U2‘s Love Is Blindness is truly great and originally featured on the tribute album AHK-toong BAY-bi Covered. Personally though, I’d like to think that the reader who suggested it first heard it on the Great Gatsby soundtrack, as who among us could resist the allure of Baz Luhrmann?

Some of the songs on the playlist are less niche than usual, some of the bands actually have listeners that count in the millions instead of the hundreds. But I couldn’t resist adding some popular new releases this week. But, to balance it out, there are two tracks sourced from TikTok; the brilliant Mother Mother and the inimitable (and foreshadowed) Penelope Scott

And, to offer a smidgeon of insight why I feature both Ms Scott, and the aforementioned social media platform, I offer you this excellent read

On My Screen

What is Britishness? That’s pretty vague. What is Britishness in TV? That’s still pretty vague. But could you identify it if you saw it? More specifically, could you find a way to phrase a legal obligation on TV channels to include Britishness in their content?

Media Minister John Whittingdale told a Royal Television Society conference that ministers are planning to insist that UK’s public service broadcasters will have a legal requirement to produce “distinctively British” programmes.

We’ll skip over the fact that once the sale of Channel 4 goes ahead, these rules would only apply to the BBC. We’ll skip over the fact that the BBC makes content for a global audience, and at a profit. (Killing Evewas a BBC America show before it came to the UK) So, in general, we’ll skip over the fact that this seems less like a way to resurrect some version of “Cool Britannia” and more of a way of binding the BBC’s hands. We shan’t dwell on any of that. 

Much mockery has been made of the minister’s examples of Only Fools and Horses and Carry On movies, but to be fair that’s cherry-picking. The problem isn’t the specific examples, it’s the attempt in its entirety. There’s just no way to phrase the pursuit of televisual Britishness in anything but the vaguest terms. Would I May Destroy You qualify? SkinsThe League of Gentlemen? Would shows that make some people feel uncomfortable be put under a spotlight, to determine whether they are sufficiently “British”?  A Britishness as determined by ministers, as influenced by hostile tabloids.


You don’t think…

You don’t think that maybe this is in fact a thinly veiled attempt to bind the BBC’s hands do you? 

So, Luther‘s back. It will be a movie, and shooting starts in November. Idris is returning in the titular role, Neil Cross is once more writing it all, and no word on Alice Morgan

And I’m definitely not wistfully dreaming of my planned spin-off entitled Who I Killed On My Summer Vacation, entirely based around Alice Morgan’s globe-trotting path to widowhood between seasons three and four. 

On My Mind

Some things that I love: High drama. Fashion. Charitable events that benefit the arts.

So when I say that I like the Met Gala, I want you to see that for the understatement that it is.

It’s easy to love it in good years; who could forget Zendaya‘s parrot dress from 2017? Zendaya’s astonishing Joan of Arc-style armoured dress from 2018? Zendaya’s magical dress in 2019? Sadly, not everyone could make the Zendaya Gala this year. Apparently some people were busy shooting season two of Euphoria

Overall, the dresses of the 2021 Met Gala were less interesting in my opinion, more drama than fashion. But one thing you can’t easily ignore: Oscar de la Renta wanted Billy Eilish to wear one of their dresses, but she would only concede to it if they ceased all use of fur, now and in future. And that’s how you use celebrity for good.


I know this edition of the newsletter has reached you late, so I’m not unaware of the irony of what I’m about to say: The next issue will be late.

Wait! Hear me out!

The next issue, the 27th, will come to you on the 27th; and that will be the six month anniversary of the newsletter. 

Which buys me 11 days to come up with something… grand. Grandiose even!

So, until then…