We’ve had better weeks. Reading, our home town, was subject to an event now described as terrorist action. Three people died as a result. We are horrified, but not terrorised. We stand with all our friends and neighbours in this oddball place we call home, and look forward to seeing everyone in Forbury Gardens very, very soon.
I wrote in more detail about the whole thing earlier in the week–https://excusesandhalftruths.com/2020/06/23/the-lion/
We love you, Dingtown.
With that in mind, I’m intent on sharing the late Dame Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again. No, not that one. The version we all know and played on a loop over VE Day is a re-recording made with a full orchestra and chorus in 1953. The original 1939 track is a much more spare, almost melancholy take on the song, featuring simply Vera and musical pioneer Arthur Young on the Novochord–an early form of synthesiser. So a prototype of the model Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke would take up as Yazoo. Anyway. This has an eerie charm. Kinda suits our mood. Keep smilin’ through.
Let’s stick with music, as we’re already half in that mode. Yacht Rock has been around since the late seventies, but only really found a true identity in the last few years. As our pals at Mental Floss discovered, it only really developed as a musical genre following a documentary figuring out the style and how it differs from the broader church of soft rock. If you’re nerdy about your music, you’re in for a treat. See you at the marina!
In our final music link, we bid a fond farewell to a noisy band who made a very quiet exit–Boston’s own Mission Of Burma. Massively influential on the grunge scene, they couldn’t turn reputation into renumeration, and simply decided after not playing for years to call it and go. They came, they went, they made a glorious racket along the way. Moby did a version of their anthemic ‘That’s When I Reach For My Revolver’. We choose not to hold that against them.
Meanwhile, over in Culture Corner, we bear worrying news from the comics world. Many museums and galleries are suffering through 2020, with no revenue to speak of. The Cartoon Museum, which moved to new premises last year on the crest of a wave of increased footfall and critical acclaim, is feeling The Situation very keenly indeed. They are now desperate for funds to make it through the year. It would be a damn shame for the Cartoon Museum to shutter. As one of the few sites giving proper cultural scrutiny and celebration to The Ninth Art, it should be protected. Down The Tubes has more…
This Vice piece on The Open Book Project, dating back to September last year, popped up on r/books on Reddit and was just as quickly pulled for reasons the mods didn’t make clear. It’s an interesting idea, taking as its core principle the notion that Amazon, Kobo et al can pull the books you bought from your device at any time. Effectively, we lease rather than buy them. A very good point. There is a counter argument of open-source readers being an easy vector to use and enjoy pirated content, which is again kinda fair. All of which doesn’t help the fact, at the time of writing, that the Open Book Project remains a proof of concept rather than an actual object you can sit with and read. Which really is a shame.
There are people out there gleefully feeding great libraries of content into the hungry minds of nascent AIs to see what they come up with. Those of us with an SFnal imagination view this in the same way as feeding alligators human blood to see if they like the taste, but hey, that’s just us. We recommend looking at Janelle Shane’s work on the area via her AI Wierdness blog and newsletter, which is equal parts hilarious and un-nerving.
Stranger is yet to come. The character who presents him/her/it/ytself as Shardcore also has form in this area. Yts latest prank is to feed a GPT2 instance with the collected works of Charles M. Shultz. The results are incomprehensible, but strangely familiar. Welcome to the uncanny valley, in other words. Shardcore’s accompanying piece is hugely insightful on why this sort of work is important, and what it means in the face of fake news, deepfakes and indeed for the history and future of appropriation and attribution in art. Remix culture just got a little more complicated.
Just the one film link this week, but it’s a goody. Writer and critic Sheila O’Malley takes a deep dive into the role costume plays in film narrative. In particular the films of Walter Hill with, we’re delighted to note, special focus on his masterwork, Streets Of Fire. (for more on why we love this film so much, may we point you at the Streets Of Fire episode of our old podcast The A To Z Of SFF?) As ever with us, it’s a geeky swerve but well worth your time.
Because we are nothing but consummate professionals, we now do a side step into the kitchen via the announcement of some food theatre. Restaurants have always had an element of the theatrical to them–the aniticipation, the reveal, the hit to the wallet–and dinner shows are very definitely a thing (there’s one just down the road from CutHQ, The Mill At Sonning). Now, one of our all-time favourite food writers, Nigel Slater has announced a new online version of his autobiographical play Toast, to be performed in July by the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. Each ticket will come with a programme, recipe card and, delightfully, two Walnut Whips! This looks like a fun excuse for a night in… not that we need one right now, right?
We also stan hard for Gabrielle Hamilton, chef-proprietor of New York restaurant and memory palace Prune. She’s writing some beautiful pieces for the NY Times while she can’t open to customers. This, on the enduring power of the humble chip, is moving and funny and speaks equally of family and the ever-present worry that comes along with being a parent. There’s also a recipe for the best-looking fries I’ve ever seen. Hard work, but totally worth it.
And finally, a little housekeeping. If, like us, you’re a fan of email newsletters, we’re now happy to give you the option to sign up and have your weekly fix hit your inbox on a Friday morning.
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Our Exit Music this week is dedicated to all the good people of our home town. Rob was talking prog on his Twitter feed last week (which you can also check via the sidebar–man, we know how to spoil you lot) which brings us naturally to our personal favourite, Yes. Recorded in 1973 at the height of their batwing-sleeved, wizard-cloaked magnificence, we consider I’ve Seen All Good People to be a prime expression of joy and togetherness.
See you in seven.