There’s something about this time of year which makes you want to just—get past it. If the only events to look forward to are Valentine’s Day and an excuse to have pancakes for tea, we could be excused for hibernating until National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day*. But there are quiet pleasures to be had. We planted a load of bulbs in our front border in the autumn, and now they’re poking their questing noses above ground sniffing for fresh air. Days are slowly lengthening, there are buds on the trees. I bought a few packets of seeds at the weekend for early planting. Cucumbers, radishes, might even see about some tomatoes. I can feel the motor of the world starting to run again.
In this chapter, which promises to be much less angry than last week—the crossroads, the dance, and the house which is a computer. Oh, and tea, because there’s always time for tea.
Wherever you are, whenever you are, however you are, welcome to The Swipe.
Featured image is part of the collection of concept art for Disney’s Robin Hood, by Ken Anderson. More here.
* 1st March.
Rob is reading…
I finally caught up with the final part of Wonder Woman: Historia, written by Kelly Sue Deconnick working with an all-star cast of incredible artists. Part mythological retelling, part origin story, the three volumes are intense, angry and clear-eyed about the role of women in fiction and reality. Phil Jimenez, Gene Ha and Nicola Scott take Kelly Sue’s scripts and take them to otherworldly realms of beauty and imagination. If you can, shell out for a physical copy. Just look at this…
Rob is watching…
Catherine Called Birdy, on Amazon Prime. Written and directed by Lena Dunham, it’s the story of 14-year-old Catherine, a medieval princess who faces a terrible fate as her impoverished father tries to marry her off to the highest bidder. As Catherine, also called Birdy, Bella Ramsay brings all the charm, sweetness and hidden fire we’ve seen in The Last Of Us, while Andrew Scott as her lordly dad beautifully portrays a blend of anger, panic and vulnerability—he’s trying to save the family home in the only way he can, while Birdy does everything in her power to scupper his plans. Funny, moving, grubby and surprisingly dark, this is a fun choice for your Saturday movie night that’s smarter than the average.
Rob is listening…
To Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Specifically the 1981 recording by Glenn Gould. Yeah, colour me as surprised as you that classical music has made it onto The Swipe. It popped up as a suggestion via Flow State and I thought, why not, I’m a grown now, give it a go.
You know what? It’s lovely. An exploration of what can be done with a single piece of music and possibly one of the earliest examples of a remix. It’s whimsical, playful, exploratory and utterly joyful. Gould’s interpretation is slower and more thoughtful than the 1958 concert which made his name, but all the richer for it. Listen out and you can hear him humming and crooning along, as lost in the music as I was.
Yes, I know, extremely late to the party, but at least I made it eventually.
Rob is eating…
The Guinness Fondue Burger from Honest, which is even filthier than you think. Do not enter into a relationship with this monster unless you want to feel gleeful shame about your life choices. Limited edition, so if you want to indulge get to Honest (the Reading restaurant is one of my favourite naughty hangouts) sharpish.
I’ve always been drawn to border territories and crossways. I was born in Walthamstow, the liminal zone between London and Essex. I live in Reading, a place where the Thames and Kennet cross. These are locations where I imagine possibilities come to the surface, where choices on direction can be made, a lesser-trodden path trodden. The crossroads are, of course, places of myth and magical occurrence, as Ted Gioia explores in this extract from his latest book.
Empathy in history. It’s a thing. Now, before you start tossing the W-word around like it’s an insult (I identify as a tofu-eatin’ Guardian-readin’ wokerati, so I’ll take your diss and chuck it right back at you covered in sparkles and glitter) consider what empathy actually means. Don’t think that we are more intelligent than our ancestors, just because of the swankier toys. There have always been smart folk around. They just had to do more with less.
Empathy, empathy, they’ve all got it empathy...
The Situation has, according to many in the restaurant business, poisoned the way customers and service staff interact. It’s as if two years off has reset our ability to act with common decency when we go out for dinner. I don’t understand the hostility, but then I have worked (briefly) in food service and I am always on the side of the wait staff and kitchen crew. It’s a tough job, and the least we as customers can do is be pleasant and polite to the good folk making sure we have a good night.
This next one goes out to everyone who has endured a painfully drawn-out game of Monopoly. We should remember it was designed as a game to show the evils of capitalism. The winner is the player who chooses to embrace their inner bastard landlord.
How To Win At Monopoly And Lose All Your Friends
Is the future of computing really AI, or is there a different, more collaborative, less creepy path we can take? When I look at a project like Dynamicland, which brings people and a computing environment together in fresh and startling ways, I feel a bit more hopeful about the way ahead.
Here’s a great piece of illustrative journalism, following a day in the life of New York Metro acrobat Sony Jayy. Molly Crabapple’s pen-and-ink pics really bring this story to life. I’m not a fan of tube buskers, but this feels like a step up.
I’m cutting back on coffee at work. It was becoming clear that the energy benefits in the morning were not worth the afternoon twitches. Tea is the drink of choice now, specifically a nice cup of rooibos. I feel generally more centred and focussed. And my sleep patterns have improved. I still like a flat white or two at the weekend, but for the foreseeable, I agree with the sentiments listed below.
There is a cure for hiccups. It works for almost everyone. Why has this not been shouted from the rooftops? Well, in my case, it’s because I don’t have a long enough ladder, so consider this a clarion call.
Rock history can be found in the humblest of places. In the example below, a Dodge Van used by grunge heroes The Melvins (still recording, rolling their 40th anniversary tour through the UK this June) is dozing in a garage in Olympia, Washington State. The van’s sometimes driver may be of interest, too.
The Last Word goes to Gordon Meakes at The Quietus, who has just got round to watching Blade Runner 2049. His observations on the film and sequel culture in movies as a whole is spot-on when we consider how cinema specifically and art in general is struggling to pull out of a nostalgia-fuelled death-spiral. Or, as Gordon puts it—
We Outro with OK Go, kings of the overly-complex music video. They go full Rube Goldberg (Heath Robinson if you’re nasty) on a show which is a feast for the eyes and ears. As becomes obvious at the end, this one is no one-take wonder.
See you in seven, true believers.