There are a few pots of seedlings on a warm, sunny windowsill at Cut Command. Tomatoes and a couple of kinds of chilies. Normally, the gardeneers in the office would simply buy plants to pot out in our little patch of ground out past the back door. This year they decided to try and grow from seed. The progress has been slow, a little worrying when we come in to find the plants have gone floppy for no good reason. But it’s such a nice feeling to see that dot of green on the surface of a pot appear, reach out and stretch into a new life, a new kind of potential.
That’s a metaphor for something, probably.
This week, how you can’t walk away from a memory on the internet (even when it didn’t happen), the trouble with vinyl and a real blast from the past.
See now this right here now, this is The Cut.
Jeff Vandermeer is a writer who has never been afraid to embrace the weird. His work moves from tangled gothic thought experiments into considerations of a natural world turned strange and vengeful thanks to our misconservatorship. His latest novel, Hummingbird Salamander, is a bit of both wrapped in a globe-spanning conspiracy-tinged thriller. He’s doing the interview rounds to promote the book. Jeff is a fascinating character and this chat with the Guardian is well worth a look.
How much can you pack into a sentence? Well, quite a bit if, like Ken Fuson, you really want to give your reader a snapshot of a particular moment in Iowa in March. This is part poetry, part journalism and entirely lovely.
Pockets are important. You can put stuff in them, or even just your hands if they’re cold. It seems odd to us how women’s clothing has pocket details without the actual functionality (there’s a theory pinning it down to a fear of what women were actually putting in their pockets in times of unrest—weapons, seditious broadsheets—that led to a shift in fashion led by a nervous ruling class). Anyway, our bemusement is shared by young Camryn Gardner, who decided to do something about it…
(The last two links come courtesy of Ann Friedman’s very excellent newsletter, which we urge you all to read and possibly, as we do, pay for).
This made us chuckle. There’s been much hoohaa and folderol in the UK media this week about Aldi’s copy of the iconic Colin the Caterpillar cake, which brought on legal action from M&S. As most British supermarkets stock some version of the delicious grub-shaped treat, it seems a bit disingenuous to drag Aldi up to the bench. It’s true they have built a business from clever copies of big-name brands, but there are classier ways to address the ‘homage’. Take indie beer masters BrewDog, who took a smart and humorous approach to an Aldi clone—one which could lead to both beers sitting on the same shelf…
Ah, whisky. We love us a wee dram here at The Cut. Like all good journalists we have a small bottle tucked into a drawer of our desk, ready to go when we need a little liquid inspiration. Part of the attraction is the aging process—the way time and the wood the grain alcohol sits in imparts flavour and richness. It adds to the mythos and, of course, the cost. What if there was a way to cut that time down from years to months or even days? What impact would this acceleration have on the industry? There’s bound to be a lot of pushback from distillers whose business models are based on the old ways but we have to admit it’s a product we’d be willing to try. You know, for science.
This week’s long read discusses a very twenty-first century problem. It’s always un-nerving when you do an internet search for a product or service, only for it to start popping up on your social media ad streams. Imagine then how it must feel when, years after, you’re still getting recommendations based on those searches which were for an event that never happened…
We’re solidly into awards season now. The Oscars are coming up this weekend, celebrating cinema’s strangest year. To what extent has lockdown affected the choices of award nominee, bearing in mind that the movie experience in 2020 was one taken at home using streaming services? Smaller, quieter and more racially-aware films are the big hitters for Oscar this year, as we have been more able and willing to take a punt on movies outside our normal range. If we’re paying for Netflix anyway, we may as well make the most of it. The question is whether this change is one likely to stick as we start returning to cinemas.
When Neil Gaiman exhorts you on Twitter to read an article, you would be foolish not to at least click the link. We will do no more than pass that recommendation on, adding only how much we enjoyed it. You know how we roll, Readership. Enjoy this exploration of two writers we guarantee you won’t know and will want to read by the time you finish the piece.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing pottery, using bright and colourful materials to embrace rather than disguise the flaws in the object. French artist Ememem does something similar, fixing damaged and potholed pavements with mosaic. He calls the process flacking. It’s a charming twist on street art, elegant, witty and far cleverer than the one-note bombast of Banksy. We’d love to see something like this on British streets.
The huge boost in sales of vinyl (what the crusties on the Music Desk used to call records) has taken many by surprise. It’s become a boom industry as collectors snap up limited editions in wild colours. The problem—demand is massively outstripping supply. There simply aren’t enough places making the platters anymore…
And finally. One of the great losses to Covid in 2020 was Adam Schlesinger, lead songwriter for the brilliant Fountains Of Wayne. He specialised in a grounded but wise kind of power pop, finding the skewed beauty in the everyday. Unfairly marginalised as a one-hit wonder as their track Stacy’s Mom blew up in 2003, the Waynes have a lot to offer. They also have a lot of celebrity fans, who are coming together for a benefit gig on May 5th. Courtney Love, Peter Buck and Sean Lennon are just a few of the names celebrating Adam’s life and music. This will be one to watch, we guarantee.
In ordinary times, we’d put one of Adam’s songs on the jukebox as our Exit Music. But this week also saw the passing of musical behemoth Jim Steinman. The man behind Meatloaf, the genius for whom too much was never enough. He fused rock and roll and opera into a seething stew of teenage drama, sodden with lust and life. Famously, he turned down a chance to collaborate with Andrew Lloyd Webber in order to finish a Bonnie Tyler album. He deserves our respect for that if nothing else.
With such a legacy to pick from, you’d think we’d struggle to settle on one song to sum up Jim’s music. Pah. It’s like you don’t know us at all. We’ll take any excuse to play our favourite song from the greatest film soundtrack ever written. Rather than the slightly cheesy video, we’re playing out with the final scene of wild urban western fantasy Streets Of Fire. Redline the volume, Readership.
Let the revels begin.
See you next Saturday.