A week of freedom, and to our eyes little seems to have changed. Most people are still wearing masks and socially distancing. We went to one of our favourite pubs in Reading (The Fox And Hounds in Caversham, try the loaded fries) which was table service only and all the more pleasant for it. It feels like we’ve heard the official advice, saw it for bullshit and decided to stay safe. Well, for the most part anyway. It could all shift again by this time next week.
But hey, at least we have links for you. Comics chat, saving chocolate and a disagreement about vinyl.
Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.
(featured image from our pal and X&HTeam-mate Dominic Wade).
Part—well, a lot of what we do here at The Cut is concerned with a sort of discovery. Done right, we want each week’s ep to be more than a random collation of links. There’s a process running under the hood where you, lovely Readership, get to see our thoughts ticking over. We want you to follow where we have been a-wandering, to find joy or inspiration in the same moments as us. It doesn’t work all the time. Never mind. There’s always next week. Robin at Snarkmarket puts it another way…
Plant a seed, a seed will grow. What if you don’t know what the seed is? What if the seed arrives at your house unexpectedly, without you asking? This story on the mysterious appearance of thousands of packets of Chinese seeds through the letterboxes of British and American households is a fascinating conspiracy theory with a conclusion the more savvy amongst you may be able to spot.
We are proud of our adopted home town. Reading council’s application for city status saddens us slightly—why be just another city when we’re already the biggest town in the country? There’s a lot to love about this place—the food culture, the parks and greenery, the history ranging from Henry II to Oscar Wilde. We’re also proud of our brilliant university. Especially when we found out it’s a big part of the effort to protect one of our most vital natural resources.
Beach Of Dreams is the record of Kevin Rushby’s walk down the east coast of England. It’s travel journalism on a grand scale, with elements of psychogeography and the giddy glee of discovery bubbling through every post. Well worth a deep dive or just a skim. We are particularly enjoying his route down the Essex coast, a particularly mysterious and unexplored territory.
This Dangerous Minds piece on the rediscovery of how good vinyl can sound gave us pause. We have a record collection here at Cut Central, fuelled mostly by old records from our youth and the occasional second hand find. It’s decidedly cheap and cheerful. We worry that the approach and conclusion reached here—that you can only truly hear a record as it’s supposed to sound if you splash out a ton of dough on gear and wildly expensive repressings—strikes us as the worst kind of elitism. For most people this solution is simply out of reach. Sneering at folk for listening to music digitally seems snobby at best. Anyway, have a read and see what you think.
Similarly we started this piece on a new doco on the late lamented Anthony Bourdain with enthusiasm and ended it feeling a little deflated. Bourdain was a complicated man who probably would have hated the new film about him. Especially as the director has used AI techniques much like the one we highlighted last week to fake Anthony narrating. A bit icky, frankly. If nothing else, make sure you follow the link to Bourdain’s first published piece to give you a truer sense of the flavour of the man.
The furore over Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson making it to the vestibule of space (one writer claimed smartly this week it was like you standing by the sliding doors of your local Tesco and claiming you’d been shopping) has one positive outcome. The Blue Origin flight gave Lady Astronaut Wally Funk the chance to finally see the curve of the earth, a moment she had been working towards for all of her long life. That, at least, makes Bezos a tiny bit less of a cartoon supervillian.
OK, we’re going full-on Ninth Art for the next couple of links. Thanks for your patience. First up, the always-great NeoTextCorp hosts Sergio Lopez’s remarkable long read on pastiche comics—funny books which work both as parody and commentary on classic Ninth Art tropes. There’s a lot to unpack here, and we appreciate this may not be for everyone, but there are lots of pretty pics to look at.
History is never as simple as the narratives which are sanitized and packaged for public consumption, and the comic book industry was no different. Beneath the veneer of affability at Marvel Comics, to use one example, lay the stark reality of work-for-hire, which left many creators feeling exploited by management — and Stan Lee in particular.
Which brings us on to a Hollywood Reporter bit which has had the comics socials buzzing this week. Most of the blockbuster comic-book movies from Marvel and DC are based on the work of men and women who are not adequately compensated for their creations. It’s a sad fact of the industry—one which we need to keep exposing to make sure brilliant creators get more than a mention at the back end of a long slow credit crawl.
And finally, let’s lighten the mood and have a little dance, eh? Don’t just stand there, let’s get to it. Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.
The joy of discovery is, as we mentioned at the top, a big part of the Cut’s ethos. The delight of a fun piece of writing showing up in a newsletter or Twitter thread. And of course, when the exact right song pings up on the big random playlist we run as the soundtrack to our work (couldn’t do that with vinyl, sadly). The opening kick of Don’t Carry It All by The Decemberists was met with a cackle of recognition and realisation by the heads at The Music Desk. In a time of worry and uncertainty, here’s a song to remind us it’s ok to be unsure, to not let our burdens bring us down.
See you next Saturday, neighbours.