Category Archives: Reviews

Hit me with your flashbulb eyes

1. As I’m running out of true crime podcasts to listen to, I’ve subscribed to a couple of public-domain audiobooks. It turns out that when it comes to audiobooks, you get what you pay for. Awkward narration can really ruin a good book. I started listening to a recording of Oliver Twist read by an Irish guy who mystifyingly gave the characters Brummie accents instead of Cockney accents. Like…maybe he didn’t realise? Maybe he thought he was doing a Cockney accent? But a Brummie accent is very specific and hard to do. Inexplicable.

2. Here’s something I’m tired of reading on dating sites: “I’m tall enough for you to wear your heels.” News flash: women are allowed to be taller than men! My choice of footwear is not going to be affected by the worry that I am going to intimidate you or whatever!

Volkswagen even made an advert based on the whole “Uh oh! She’s taller than him! WAH-WAHHH!” bit. Remember this?

Ugh. I’ve developed my own personal version of the Bechdel test where I mentally swap the roles of the men and women in a given scenario. The more ridiculous the result, the bigger the fail.

3. True crime all the time! I’ve been watching a lot of Homicide Hunter. It is brilliant and has all the awkward reenactments you could ever wish for. Every episode starts the same way: first, the body is discovered (“April 4th, 1989. It’s a quiet morning in Colorado Springs, and Bob Jones is walking his dog in a scenic local park. Little does he know he’s about to make a gruesome discovery.” YESSSS). Then, every time, they say something like, “Meanwhile, across town, Lieutenant Joe Kenda is [catching up on paperwork/practicing at the firing range/giving a course on identification/attending an autopsy/at the zoo/having a wank/trying on ladies’ underwear/whatever] when the phone rings.” OK, this is like thirty years ago. There is no way you remember exactly what you were doing when you got called out to every single murder case you ever worked on, and even if you did, we really don’t need this information. Let’s just assume that Lieutenant Joe Kenda was somehow informed about the presence of a dead body and subsequently attended the scene.

4. Dear colleague: here’s the thing. I’m sorry you have allergies all day every single day. That must be no fun for you. But if you’re in an office in close proximity to other human beings, could you maybe leave the room before blowing your nose, rather than messily and wetly snonking into a Kleenex every five minutes while you’re sitting two feet from me? I’m worried my face is going to freeze like this…

…or that I’m going to damage my hearing by constantly turning my headphones wayyyyy up to drown that shit out*. Gross. GROSS.

*Incidentally, should you find yourself in a similar situation, I’ve found that Arcade Fire provides a nice solid wall of sound that covers up background noise very effectively.

Boy, nothing is good enough for me, is it? No wonder I’m single. How about I talk about something I liked for a change?

5. I was in Islington the other day and passed a sign for an estate agents’ called Hotblack Desatio. I assumed that the company was founded by someone who (like all rational human beings) really really loved Hitchhiker’s Guide, but it turns out that the estate agents’ came first and Douglas Adams stole the name (it is an undeniably cool name). I feel like I stumbled across a little piece of history there. This happens to me much more often in England than it ever did in Canada, funnily enough. (I stumbled across Abbey Road when I was living in Kilburn. I’d had no idea I was living like a mile away from it.)

Life was easy when it was boring

1. The stuff I used to do as a kid amazes me now. I climbed things. I jumped off things. I auditioned for things. I signed up for clubs and lessons. I skied and swam and did gymnastics. These days you wouldn’t catch me dead doing anything involving any sort of public performance, and a brisk walk is about as physically active as I get. Where did that fearlessness and enthusiasm go? Woe is me, for I am so crotchety and embittered.

2. FYI, reading Raymond Carver short stories is a terrible idea when you’re undergoing a Series of Romantic Misadventures. Happiness is transient! Connection is illusory! Life is a series of small tragedies! Pass the whisky!

3. I’m watching a show called Mafiosa. It isn’t great, but it’s French, and it’s hard to find stuff to watch in French, so. It’s about a Corsican crime family that is taken over by (gasp!) a woman, and the description of the show on ITV’s website is “Godfather meets Sex and the City“. What? The show is like 100% explosions and guns and vendettas and undercover agents. Literally the only resemblance I can see to Sex and the City is the fact that there is a female central character who sometimes wears high heels. Dear ITV blurb writer: get fucked.

4. Do you want to keep up with my online dating shenanigans as they happen? Why of course you do. I’ve started a Tumblr where I’ll be posting my own dating disasters and reblogging funny stuff from other people. All Schadenfreude, all the time! Click below or on the shiny new link in the sidebar.

Online Dating Disasters

5. La Femme are the most interesting band I’ve come across all year, and I’m itching to force them on people. Sometimes they’re all frantic electroclash, sometimes they’re sort of coolly retro-futuristic like Stereolab, then there are elements of twangy spooky surfy carnival-psychobilly…and of course they’re French, so add an automatic fifty cool points right there. Go listen to Psycho Tropical Berlin. Go now. I’ll wait. It’s all on YouTube, so you have no excuse. Start with these, though:

6. So. Fucking “Brexit”. (The fact of it having such an annoying name makes it worse.) I’ve never felt relieved before that I have the option of leaving this country. I’m ashamed of the UK right now. They’ve had to send round a mass email at my work because some fuckers have started harassing the Eastern European employees since the referendum results. This is LOATHSOME.

This tweet made me laugh and cry, which is a big ask for 140 characters or fewer:

When you rock and roll with me

1. I don’t remember ever crying over a celebrity death before, but I had a proper ugly-cry about David Bowie. Musically he was my north, my south (Robyn Hitchcock is my east and west – I nearly sent him a message through Twitter this morning to make sure he was safe and well. I couldn’t handle losing them both in close proximity). I’ve been listening to Bowie since primary school. He was the first artist I officially considered myself to be a ‘fan’ of, and the first record I ever bought, age twelve, was Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, which I found in a charity shop for $2. I used to lie on my living room floor with my eyes closed and play it over and over again as loud as I could get away with (sorry, Mom and Dad). I bought all his albums (even Never Let Me Down, which nobody likes but me), and tracked down stuff like Philip Glass’s ‘Low’ Symphony and the soundtracks to Christiane F and The Buddha of Suburbia. I saw him play live back when I lived in Ottawa, and I’m so glad I did. More than any other artist, he’s been the soundtrack to my life. Man. It seems surreal that he was even mortal. Surely DAVID FUCKING BOWIE can’t just DIE, can he?


One of my favourites from the criminally underappreciated Lodger.

2. A Lidl has opened in Huntingdon, right on my route home. This is big news. The second the doors opened the entire population of Huntingdon was in there like a shot, myself included. The prices are worryingly low. Surely in order to produce a 39p tin of soup you must be doing something terrible to the environment or Malaysian child labourers or both. Morals are expensive, though. I will eat my surprisingly tasty 39p soup and try not to think about it.

I’d never shopped at a Lidl before. It’s a strange experience. The store itself is very no-frills. There are no automated checkouts (which means I have to speak to other humans, AAAUUUGHH) – not even an express checkout queue. In some areas, instead of shelves they’ve stacked crates on top of each other, and in addition to selling food, there’s a central aisle which is just a row of big tubs full of the Deal of the Week, which so far has included thermal blankets, bird feeders, storage heaters, air beds, neck massage cushions, karaoke sets, ceiling lights with built-in Bluetooth speakers, and electric planers. I appreciate the Soviet randomness of it all.

3. I enjoyed the BBC’s new production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. It was sort of a gritty reboot, because by law everything has to be a gritty reboot these days (it’s strange to see characters in an Agatha Christie story shagging and swearing), and starred Aidan Turner, who is so ridiculously hot that it hurts to look directly at him. I nearly fainted when this happened:

Aidan Turner

There was no real reason for this, plot-wise. All the other characters were wearing dressing gowns, but he just stood there all HELLO TORSO for like ten minutes, burning holes in my retinas. Clearly the BBC knows which side its bread is buttered.

4. I just finished reading What She Left by TR Robinson. I hated it. The story was fine, but the writing annoyed me so much I started dog-earing the worst bits so I could make fun of them for you. You’re welcome. One of the characters was meant to be a pompous professor, but the prose came off like a first-year creative writing student was trying to make a character sound pompous by having him refer to himself as ‘one’ all the time and swapping ordinary words for longer ones:

It wasn’t exactly ‘research’ I embarked upon, not in the traditional sense. That’s too grandiose a description and alludes to a more methodical approach than I was able – or inclined – to apply. ‘Obsession’ is a word others were quick to use and perhaps there was some verisimilitude in that.

‘Verisimilitude’ means ‘the quality of seeming real’. It is a not a synonym for ‘truth’. Just say ‘truth’. And then this, from another character:

Dr Edwards, my tutor, … reckons I’ve got – and I quote – an extremely mature appreciation of Austen’s work. ‘You’re a sensitive reader, Alice,’ he told me. ‘You’ve also self-evidently got a soft spot for doomed heroines.’

First of all, something that is ‘self-evident’ can be understood to be true without explanation or proof. You mean ‘evidently’ or ‘obviously’. Also, there are no ‘doomed heroines’ in Jane Austen’s novels. Every single one of her protagonists ends up happily married (what else could a woman possibly want??).

Richmond uses the word ‘scuttled’ about six times, and ‘transmogrified’ twice within three pages (again, you mean ‘transformed’. Or better yet, try ‘changed’).

This is all stuff the editor should have caught, but it gets on my nerves, especially since the book was plastered in rave reviews. Book reviewers get paid to notice these things! Why won’t anyone pay me to notice these things? I’m a natural born nitpicker.

Someone shot nostalgia in the back

1. Having been extremely frugal, hard-working and well-behaved over the last six months or so, I’ve given myself a break recently, as my freelancing work has slowed down for the summer (I mostly proofread academic work). This has translated to going to the pub again, and last weekend I even drank two days in a row. This nearly killed me, but over the course of the second evening I somehow managed to attract a very nice-looking and elaborately tattooed 24-year-old. Even after seeing me in the cold, sober light of day, he keeps wanting to hang out and stuff. I feel a bit paedo-y (when I was graduating high school he was FIVE YEARS OLD), but hell, I ain’t gonna say no. STILL GOT IT.

2. It’s likely that when I look back at this time period, a distinct musical sound will emerge in retrospect. Right now though, it sounds to me like a lot of music is just copying or combining older genres, and man oh man, there sure is a lot of apologism for this fact going on in music reviews. This review starts with three full paragraphs of acrobatic rationalisation before basically saying, “Here is yet another album that will make you ask yourself what year it is already.”

3. I have been as excited as a little girl at Christmas about the new series of True Detective, and based on the first two episodes I am tentatively on board. Even Vince Vaughan is managing to not be overly fratty or annoying. Of course I know it can never be as good as the first series, because nothing will ever be as good as the first series. I want to have every single one of Rust Cohle’s lines tattooed on my body. I’m still not sure whether Cohle was meant to be read as a profoundly tragic character dealing with loss through nihilistic over-analysis. My reaction to the character was more like, “This is the sanest person in the world.”

4. I met some Americans recently who are proper Southerners and one of them admitted to having once blasted a washing machine with a sawed-off shotgun. When he told me this I clapped my hands in glee like a circus seal. I mean, guns are bad, m’kay? But still…that’s goddamn awesome. It’s like what a cartoon American would do!

In related events, it turns out the pub landlady has an air pistol, which she uses to get pigeons off the roof. She let me and buddy J have a go in the pub garden last night and we shot at an empty cider bottle and I hit it first go and it was BRILLIANT.

Next thing you know I will be shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die.

Why must you record my phone calls

1. I have to read this poem five times a day at a minimum. Among numerous other issues, it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of an omnipotent deity. God comes across less like the motivating force behind all reality and more like a horticulturally-obsessed psychopomp. I always want to send it back with ‘THEOLOGICALLY INCONSISTENT’ written across the page in red pen.

2. I think I need to go on a date or something because the other night I had a bit of a naughty dream about Peter Capaldi and now I’m traumatised. I wish I could say he swore at me continuously, Malcolm Tucker style, but apparently my subconscious wasn’t creative enough to make that happen.

3. I’m currently obsessed with Engrenages (Spiral). I watched a bit of season 1 some years back when they first started showing it in the UK, but stopped after a couple of episodes. I remember thinking that it seemed a bit silly and melodramatic. Looking back, though, I suspect that I got that impression because they used to do this super-fast DUN-DUN-DUNNNNN! camera zoom at important moments, like a Mexican soap opera. Anyway, this nonsense stops after season 1, and the show is actually fairly gritty and realistic and I love it so much.

Laure in particular is great. She spends all her time on the verge of a mental breakdown, screaming at her subordinates and singlehandedly disproving all the stereotypes about French women being stylish. She looks like she’s wandered off the set of The Walking Dead. She’s my hero.

My favourite thing about the show, though, is the fact that everyone is a complete asshole, both personally and professionally. To demonstrate this, I give you…Engrenages Bingo! Print off a bingo card and play along!

Engrenages Bingo

4. I met someone recently who I now have to deal with on a regular basis and I’ve taken an instant, irrational dislike to them. It would be impolitic* to say more, but I’m surprised how quickly my playground instinct has kicked in. I want to push this person off the swings. Into a mud puddle. And then take their lunch money. I’m working hard to be extra nice but I’m worried that my inner Mean Girl is showing through.

*Someone used this word in the BBC’s excellent Wolf Hall and now it’s my word of the month.

Guaranteed personality

1. I turned on Radio France Info the other day and they were playing nothing but music. I said “Oh, they must be on strike,” as a joke, but then it turned out RADIO FRANCE TOTALLY WAS ON STRIKE. Thanks for continuing to be exactly what everyone thinks you are, France!

2. I have purchased some shares*. I am a SHAREHOLDER. A holder of shares. I’ve started wearing those stripy shirts with contrasting collar and cuffs and occasionally I yell “SELL! SELL!” into my mobile. No one is on the line but I imagine it’s good to practice these things.

First of all, buying shares is totally not as easy as I had somehow vaguely imagined it would be. I’d though I would just go the the stocks-and-shares equivalent of Amazon (FTSE.com?), add a few shares to the ol’ shopping cart, punch in my card details, and voila! Wolf of Wall Street! As it turns out, it’s more complicated than that. You have to set up a holding bank account in which to do your trading and stuff. Anyway, after an hour or so of some pretty embarrassing Googling (“how to buy shares”), I had an account all set up and had managed to become a bone fide investor.

When I was researching which shares I wanted to buy, I focused on fairly stable, long-term safe bets – nothing that was going to make me a millionaire overnight, but nothing that seemed likely to tank dramatically. I settled on a few options that I’d seen recommended a few times, one of which was…HSBC! Greeeeeaaaaat. This was about a week before the big tax-evasion scandal broke. Although logically it seems like making as much money as possible for your clients would be good from a shareholder perspective (I mean, right?), somehow I don’t think consumer confidence in HSBC has skyrocketed. I haven’t checked but I’m guessing I took a bit of a hit there.

I also invested a bit of money in a mutual fund, so hopefully whoever’s managing that is better at this whole thing than I am.

*For clarity: I’m still poor as hell.

3. Here’s another example of a totally insufferable music review. (As a side note, I love how Pitchfork’s album ratings are so surgically precise they need to use decimals. THESE PEOPLE ARE PROFESSIONALS.) I actually completely agree with everything matey is saying, particularly in the last three paragraphs: I’ve felt for a long time like the only real innovation going on in music these days is in the electronic genres. I love a lot of new rock/pop music, but most of it feels like an endless process of disassembling what’s gone before and reassembling it in slightly different configurations.

This album, though. It excites me. It sounds like what would happen if aliens somehow absorbed the recent history of human music and decided to generate their own, which sounds like an insult but isn’t. It’s weird and wonderful, and hopefully it freaks the hell out of my neighbours when I play this as loud as my speakers will go:

And yet:

It revels in digital gloss and grit, in bent tones, in smeared and frozen reverb tails. Extreme compression, schizoid pith: rap vocals broken down to monosyllables, a single “Huh” as metonym for everything that’s happened between the Sugarhill Gang and now. History reduced to a USB stick.

STOP. STOP MAKING WORDS.

Love in the middle of a firefight

1. I downloaded Churches, Schools and Guns by Lucy. Resident Advisor found the first section of the album too bleak, but I dig it. It’s like the soundtrack to a Cormac McCarthy style post-apocalyptic future where it’s dark all the time and nothing grows anymore and bad things are happening. Like, people are being eaten somehow. WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE.

Incidentally, Resident Advisor’s review is an object lesson in how hard it is to write music reviews without sounding like a prat. Don’t say that a song has “a Brazilian shimmy in its hips”. Just don’t. It is slightly cringe-inducing and forces the reader to imagine a song with hips.

Unintended anthropomorphisation aside, the review is right as hell about this song. It is properly epic. (In the film I am imagining, this song is playing during the bit where the characters find a stash of preserved food and ammo and set off to somewhere that is rumoured to be safe. It probably will not turn out to be safe but they are trying to be optimistic because without hope they have nothing.)

2. The other weekend I rewatched all the Matrix films. Why oh why did I do this?? (Buddy J wanted to, actually. It was not my idea.) Obviously the first one is still great, but the second two, my God. I thought “Maybe they aren’t as bad as I remember,” but they ARE. What is even happening in either of them? It is all Serious Face talking talking talking, none of which makes any sort of sense, and then fighting, because FIGHTING, and a whole host of characters with unclear motivations, like Train Guy and the Merovingian, who is played by a French actor and yet somehow has the fakest-sounding French accent since Pepe Le Pew. There’s no mistaking the fact that the dude is French though. Seriously, could this guy look more French? Not if he was made of Camembert!

3. I was sent the following message recently through my internet dating site, presented here exactly as received:

can v meet up have some spliff somw good sex are u up x

A thousand times yes, good sir! It’s like being wooed by Cyrano de Bergerac!

They don’t like it when I decide to mic it

1. There is a restaurant on Huntingdon High Street called Noodles ‘n’ Juice. I find this funny. Why those two things in particular? There is also a tanning salon upstairs – it’s a separate business, but I appreciate knowing that I could get a plate of chow mein, a pineapple smoothie and a spray tan all in one building, if I so wished. I am unlikely to so wish, but I am glad to know that the option exists. God bless capitalism!

When I googled ‘Huntingdon Noodles ‘n’ Juice’, one of the first results was a local news article from last year about a police raid on the restaurant, looking for drugs apparently. Not only does the place sell an oddly random combination of foodstuffs, but it is a front for the local criminal element! PLEASING. Very soon I shall have to go in and order some noodles ‘n’ juice ‘n’ meth. And get a spray tan.

2. Thanks to my friend who recommended Bob Hund. They are surfy and fun, like the Pixies’ perky Scandinavian cousins, with a bit of electronic weirdness thrown in. I’m thinking of taking some Swedish night classes so I can sing along.

I like to listen to this song very loud on my headphones and make believe I am a super-cool secret agent:

…And this song just makes me happy:

Apparently these guys are a household name in Sweden. They’d probably be more internationally famous if they sang in English but good for them for sticking to their gjuns.

And thanks to Peter Serafinowicz (shut up, he could be reading this, YOU DON’T KNOW), who tweeted a song by The Very Things the other day. You can’t help but like a band with song titles like “The Bushes Scream While My Daddy Prunes”…

…and “Mummy, You’re A Wreck!”

By the way, have you seen Serafinowicz singing Morrissey’s autobiography yet? I LOVE THIS MAN.

3. Happy belated birthday to Canada and America! In honour of both national days, here is Bruce McCullough of The Kids In The Hall waxing eloquent about America:

4. Oh hey, I’m single again. Wah-wahhhh! I’d forgotten how very very bad I am at relationships. (You mean we have to hang out and do things together EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND? But I need AT LEAST twenty hours a week for my vigorous regimen of sprawling on the sofa in tracksuit bottoms watching Supernatural!)

It takes a locksmith baby to push you off

1. I don’t usually comment on celebrity deaths because who cares what I think? (About anything, really? Hey, where are you going?) But it is just SO LAME that Rik Mayall is gone.

2. The other day buddy J was in Tesco, and he saw a dude in a wheelchair drop a pot of yogurt. Naturally, trying to be helpful, he picked it up and gave it back to the guy. Unfortunately, the pot had sprung a leak and spilled yogurt on the poor wheelchair dude’s lap. According to J, “All I could think to do was say, ‘Pay it forward!’ and walk away.” I probably shouldn’t find this as funny as I do.

3. Oh hey, so here’s a thing: before I moved into my new flat, I do wish I’d noticed the giant ‘For Sale’ sign on the side of the building. Because as it turns out, the building is for sale! It’s not inconceivable that the new owners will happily carry on with everything as it is, but I’ve twice had flats sold out from under me and been evicted both times, so I’m not overly confident. Have I angered a gypsy or something? Am I cursed to roam the earth for all eternity? My credit cards aren’t going to take much more of this.

4. Here are some songs by Timber Timbre, slightly awkwardly named but awesome Canadian country/pop/folk/kinda rockabilly, maybe?/whatever/why doesn’t anyone just pick a single genre anymore, kids these days I swear, band:

Love. Hot Dreams is a very cool album and you should check it out.

5. On Friday I am going to see the Vikings exhibition at the British Museum and I am ridiculously, ridiculously excited. RIDICULOUSLY. (Dudes there will be a REAL-LIFE VIKING WARSHIP, OMFG.) Then I am going to catch up with a few old friends in Kilburn, and I am excited about that too.

You start a conversation you can’t even finish

1. I’ve settled into the new place to the point where I’m about 90% unpacked and can’t be arsed about the rest. CLOSE ENOUGH. I’m loving the wood floors and the lack of any evidence of mould and the enormous closets and the relative silence. (Next-door’s deafening presumably-grandchild, or the Antichrist as I’ve nicknamed him, only seems to visit every couple of weeks, so fingers crossed I won’t find it necessary to murder him.) The letting agents agreed that the electricity fees seemed a bit steep and gave me a number to ring to sort it out, but the rates seem to have gone back to normal, and the last twenty-five quid I put on the meter has lasted ages, so hopefully that’s resolved itself with no effort on my part. All good news.

The flat is directly above a Polish grocery, which is also good news because I enjoy pickled foodstuffs. I picked up a jar of pickled oyster mushrooms on Sunday and they are WELL tasty.

2. Oh man, the FUNNIEST THING: the other day J and I were at the cashpoint next to the pub (yeah, the cashpoint is directly outside the front door of the pub. That’s pretty evil), and three boys aged about 12-14 came up and started talking to us. One of them said, “Hey, is it illegal for someone to take your picture?” We asked why this person had been taking his picture and he said, “It’s this shop owner. I go in there and harass him every day.”

“I’m pretty sure he’s more legally in the right than you are, then,” I said. “It’s not quite like he’s come up to you on the playground and asked you to take your top off, is it?”

Then they started asking for money. The ringleader kid gave a pretty incredible sob story: “My mum’s a prostitute. She’s got five kids and we all live in a two-bedroom flat.”

Still we refused! Because we are heartless, and probably he was lying. After a bit more haranguing and refusing, one of the kids, who I swear couldn’t be older than 12, looked me right in the eye and said, AND I QUOTE:

“I’ll fuck you for a pound.”

Although that is undeniably good value for money, I declined. Welcome to Huntingdon! It’s like some sort of porny Oliver Twist around here.

3. This week’s ‘can’t live without’ musical discovery is Jackson and his Computerband. I’m listening to him daily on my headphones at work at volumes that I’m pretty certain are annoying to nearby colleagues but I cannot help it. I discovered Jackson through this list of intelligent dance music artists on Wikipedia, which I’ve been Spotifying my way through. It was love at first listen with Jackson – I immediately went out and got both his albums, Smash and Glow. Glow in particular is all over the place musically, which some folks loved and some folks didn’t. I think it’s ruddy marvellous.

It also doesn’t hurt that Jackson looks like this:

JHCB.jpg

I’d hit that for a pound.

(Incidentally, speaking of electronica, this description of vaporwave music makes me wonder what the hell is even going on with the world. Derrida would have a fucking field day.)

4. I highly recommend watching Fargo, if you’re not already. It is pitch-perfect black comedy and Billy Bob Thornton is so so so incredibly entertaining as the cheerfully sociopath hit man. Martin Freeman is great too – you can almost smell the flop sweat coming off him, and he actually doesn’t seem to be mangling the accent too badly, or at least not worse than anyone else on the set.