The Cut – Issue 4

It’s Friday, and the world is changing faster than we can keep up. Thank goodness The Cut is here to help you through the confusion, right?

(There is a distinct possibility increased confusion may result from reading this despatch. We refer you to the terms and conditions in the sidebar.)


Let’s begin by addressing the obvious main story of the week. I could fill the whole issue with links and stories relating to the murder of George Floyd and the fury it sparked. The thing is, we here at The Cut are working from a position where lack of knowledge stands in the way of being able to comment constructively. Instead, we intend to quietly learn more, leaving space open for other more appropriate voices to be heard. There are many resources out there if you want to educate yourself. We found this freely-distributed Google Doc to be of use.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1S5uckFHCA_XZkxG0Zg5U4GQGbY_RklZARwu43fqJH0E/preview?pru=AAABcqNT32M*ty1FrOEag4XCdeshq8klsg#

That being said, we feel with our food remit we can at least bring more light onto the ongoing danger to a major BAME community resource in the UK. Nour Cash And Carry has served the people of Brixton for twenty years, occupying a prime spot that allows customers in from both Market Row and Electric Avenue. The market’s landlord, property developer and EDM artist (yes, really) Taylor McWilliams, claims the site is needed for a new electricity sub-station and intends to close it, despite input from the power company that other sites are available. To the community who depend on Nour, this seems like just another example of outside money muscling in where it’s not wanted. More on the story from Brixton Blog—

https://brixtonblog.com/2020/06/nour-pressure-mounts-on-landlord/

We’ll close out this opening section with a nod to artist and thinker Austin Klein, who provides a handy road map for us in the days ahead…

https://austinkleon.com/2020/05/27/work-and-learn-in-evil-days/


Moving on. Art crit site Exmilitary have dropped a set of four free-to-stream films on the theme of the Eastern European Apocalypse. If, like us, you have a penchant for slow, surreal Soviet-bloc SF, you’re in for a treat. The star of the group is obviously Tarkovsky’s Stalker, but we’d also tag Żuławski’s On The Silver Globe. Dense, chewy and very good for you.

http://exmilitai.re/film

This article from Film School Rejects on the colour palette of director Michael Mann is full of fascinating detail on how he achieved his signature look. We have particular interest in the art of colour grading for film and this ticked a lot of our boxes very hard indeed.

https://filmschoolrejects.com/michael-mann-cool-colors/


We like to give you at least one story with the capacity to hinge your jaw wide open. This week, a tale of a commercial transaction gone ‘orribly wrong. Read to the end.

https://news.sky.com/story/pair-hired-for-mans-broom-sexual-fantasy-turn-up-in-bedroom-at-wrong-address-with-machetes-11996365

Small town America seems to be the place where surreal crime and dark secrets are hiding around every corner on Main Street. Seems to us the following list would be of use if you’re ever going to get the chance to do that iconic road trip—just so you know which places are really not safe to pull in for a refreshment break…

https://www.cracked.com/article_25953_5-dark-secrets-americas-small-towns-dont-want-you-to-know.html

We finish this section with a tale of experimentation in the furthest realms of the human experience, a particular kind of toad and an actor with a very niche side-hustle. The headline is a work of journalistic art all by itself.

https://news.avclub.com/spanish-penis-candle-mogul-accused-of-causing-death-by-1843896758


Time to raise the tone. Here’s the literary portion of our program. A genuinely fascinating look at how The Situation is affecting upcoming book releases, from plot ideas to the simple facts of a changed social landscape. Popular thinking currently believes dystopian fiction is on its way out, as we’re living a slow-motion collapse on a daily basis. We at The Cut are reading more SF than ever, reveling in the notion of characters not having to social distance or chatting in a space tavern over a foaming pint of Arcturus ale. Of course, as ever, we’re living in William Gibson’s world.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jun/01/no-pubs-no-kissing-no-flying-how-covid-19-is-forcing-authors-to-change-their-novels

We were talking last week about vertically-scrolling web comics. There are many good ones out there, but we particularly recommend My Giant Nerd Boyfriend. Written and drawn in a pleasingly loose Kate Beaton-esque style by a tiny Malaysian cartoonist who calls herself Fishball, it’s a slice-of-life journal finding humour in the life she shares with The Giant Nerd Boyfriend of the title. It’s funny, touching, occasional moving but eminently scrollable. We think once you start you won’t be able to stop.

https://www.webtoons.com/en/slice-of-life/my-giant-nerd-boyfriend/list?title_no=958


And finally. This fun cartoony overview of the economics and marketing of yer actual high-seas piracy gets the balance of humour to information smack on, and therefore makes you feel like you’re learning while laughing. Do check them both. You’ll feel smarter for it.

https://www.geeksaresexy.net/2020/06/02/how-to-be-a-pirate-quartermaster-and-captain-edition-video/


Oh, finally finally. A new WROB show went up yesterday, in which host Rob talks about his life as an introvert while providing a themed soundtrack. He put a lot of heart in on this one, Readership. Tilt the guy an ear.

https://wrobradio.org/2020/06/04/the-introvert-special/


The Exit Music this week comes courtesy of The Raconteurs. This hour doco of a day spent at the legendary Electric Lady studios has lots of fun moments, as the band work up a cover of Blank Generation before a short gig in the evening. Hosted by that most rock and roll of film directors Jim Jarmusch, it’s a fun insight into the process of covering an iconic record. If you’d rather cut straight to the live stuff, skip to 20 minutes in.


That’s all from us this week. Stay safe, keep your head straight and, to quote Jim J from the music link above, don’t let the fuckers get ya.

The Ovaphobe’s Guide To The Perfect Egg McMuffin

Breakfast—the most difficult meal of the day. If, like me and my foodie hero Nigel Slater, you find the prospect of a drippy fried egg or a moist omelette a source of nausea, then breakfast can be tricky. How do you like your eggs in the morning? As far away as possible, please.

Continue reading The Ovaphobe’s Guide To The Perfect Egg McMuffin

The Cut — Issue 1

I’m in the process of figuring out a few things about this site and what I do with it. There are a lot of clever people out there who see the humble blog making something of a comeback. I guess that’s something of a kickback against social media platforms and their restrictions. On a blog you can say what you want, how you want.

I’ve been going back through the archives of the site (and there are a lot of them—I’ve been on WordPress since 2005, and Blogger for a few years before that). It’s interesting to see how X&HT started as a ‘web log’ in the truest sense of the word. That is, a way of sharing what you’d been up to on the web. To a point, early X&HT looked a lot like my Twitter stream—links, snarks and short-form thoughts.

I think there’s some benefit to that format. Once a week, therefore, I’m going to try and post out some of the things I’ve found of interest in my travels through the aetherscape. I hope you find it of benefit. Call it a kind of cuttings collection.

In fact, let’s just call it The Cut.

Continue reading The Cut — Issue 1

The Lockdown Library

I would love to be able to tell you how the extended time at home has led to an outpouring of creativity, a flood of new writing and art and music from my head meats through my skilful fingers and out, fluttering like glittering butterflies of the imagination, into the world.

Continue reading The Lockdown Library

Lunch During Lockdown (or yes, godsdammit, it’s soup again)

A level of routine is, as any fule kno, essential to getting through the long haul at home without going completely cuckoo-lala crazy. As a gentleman of a furloughed persuasion, I am led in that routine by TLC, who works from home and therefore finds her days filled with meaning and purpose (and endless Teams sessions and slow-loading document uploads and all the other pitfalls and nightmares surrounding the transition to domiciled employment).

Therefore, no lollygagging in bed. As TLC showers, I am making tea. As she breakfasts, I shower. A brace of coffees as she hits the network. Then I leave her to it, and start considering the next big event of the day—lunch.

Continue reading Lunch During Lockdown (or yes, godsdammit, it’s soup again)

Thoughts Following A Thursday Night Screening Of Alien: Covenant

Same deal as earlier this week, as I find myself on a bit of an uptick in trips to the cinema. Unstructured grumbling, spoilers abound. Let’s do this.

  1. Rumour control: here are the facts. I have been a big fan of the Alien franchise since the late seventies. Slightly too young to watch Ridley Scott’s iconic movie on the big screen, I nevertheless soaked up the production designs of Ron Cobb, Chris Foss and HR Giger, and still own battered copies of The Book Of Alien and Walt Simonson’s astonishing graphic novel adaptation. I saw Aliens in its first week of release at the Odeon Marble Arch back when that was one big screen showing films in 70mm. I’ve been around these movies, this universe, for quite a while. I have skin in the game.
  2. Prometheus, Scott’s attempt to fill in the backstory of the mythos, satisfied no-one. It didn’t help that he was trying to make an Alien film without, yannow, Aliens. Bloated, pretentious, self-indulgent and bewildering, it left me angry and more upset than I’d like to admit. I’ve laughed long and hard at the Star Wars man-babies complaining about how George Lucas consistently trampled over their treasured childhood memories. Now, here comes Ridley, stomping his expensively-shod size tens all over a world I love dearly. Gotta admit, there were man-baby tears from me after Prometheus.
  3. Which brings us to his attempt to re-bootstrap the legacy, taking on board the wails of us man-babies and making something more tailored to our tastes. Alien: Covenant is supposed to be the story the fans want to see. And, well, honestly? He’s gone too far the other way. Covenant is fan-service.
  4. Consider: he re-uses the classic ‘fade-in typography’ of the first movie. Jerry Goldsmith’s classic theme is larded all over the place. We see elements of Ron Cobb’s innovative Semiotic Standard designs in alert screens. There’s even a big, loving close-up of the dipping bird toy briefly glimpsed on the bridge of the Nostromo. ‘Here,’ says Ridley. ‘This is what you want, right? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?’
  5. And actually, I was for the most part. There’s plenty of money up on screen, and John Logan’s script is pretty solid. I have issues with the attempt to make every female lead in an Alien movie into Aliens-era Ripley (sorry, I simply don’t buy the notion of gentle Katherine Waterston with a gun). Similarly, the inference that Billy Crudup’s captain is weak and ineffectual because of his faith is problematic, and the source of way too many weak religious puns.
  6. Of course, even through the Alien fan-service, Covenant is a movie that wants to deal with Big Themes. Creation. Life. Meeting your maker. It’s become increasingly clear that Scott’s heart is not in making more Alien films. He wants to make a statement, an epic SF take on Milton’s Paradise Lost (which was of course a working title for this movie). Unfortunately, the only way Fox will give him the dough to make it is if he throws a few chest-bursters into the mix.
  7. Which is a shame, because the Alien stuff is the least interesting thing about Covenant. The film really comes to life when the Luciferesque figure of David finally appears, messianic in long hair and robe. He’s literally playing God (or at the very least Dr. Moreau), and not that bothered about creating in his own image. His playful taunting of the Covenant’s resident synthetic Walter are real highlights (and the seductive scene where Michael Fassbender teaches Michael Fassbender how to play the flute is a technical triumph–’I’ll do the fingering’ indeed). These gave me a sense of the film that Scott actually wants to make–a darkly gothic take on creation mythology. Not an easy sell, though.
  8. Largely, then, Alien: Covenant is a mishmash, a slumgullion, a cut-and-shut that, while it has a lot to recommend (it’s a huge improvement on Prometheus) is still frankly a bit of a mess. It’s a big statement on epic themes that has a skewed monster movie wrapped around it. I’m still chewing over whether I actually enjoyed it or not. I think I did. Even though I know when I’m being pandered to.
  9. That being said, I do want to know what David gets up to next. Scott finally has an anti-hero as delightfully amoral as Hannibal Lector. I still dig his take on everyone’s favourite cannibal, and David is cut from the same cloth. The ending of Covenant finally sets up a dark new path for the franchise–one that, despite all my man-baby tears, I’d be happy to tread.