The Cut – Issue 12

Here we are again, my lovelies. Three months of linky goodness from Cut Command, beaming out from our transmission tower high on a hill overlooking the biggest town in the UK. We are proud to provide you, therefore, with the finest in Reading material.

Look, come on, four months of lockdown will do a number on anyone’s head. Let’s crack on, shall we? Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.

Continue reading The Cut – Issue 12

The Cut – Issue 10

As a way to do something with our incessant lockdown-centric web browsing, it’s good to see The Cut is still providing positive and continuing creative energy. Issue 10! A whole two and a half months! We could have written a book by now! Oh well. As displacement activity goes, there are worse ways to spend our time. How this all fares when we’re dragged back to the day job is anyone’s guess. Still, here we are.

Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


We begin with another gem from the extensive Brain Pickings archive. As Maria Popova points out, one way for women in the Victorian age to sneak sideways into the realms of science was through art. Beatrix Potter’s observational skills and analytical eye over the details of the Northumbrian landscape led to admiration from many of her peers, regardless of the whole Jemima Puddleduck side-gig. Poet Emily Dickinson also had a keen eye and an urge to catalouge the natural world. Her herbarium is a beautiful and instructional object which, as Maria points out, reflects her sensual art as well. Let’s check it out…

https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/05/23/emily-dickinson-herbarium/?mc_cid=0cfa0370f7&mc_eid=ffbb244260

Fanfic has, to put it mildly, a poor reputation in the literary realm. At best, it’s porn or plagiarism. At worst, illiterate trash.

Well, that’s the story. The truth is wildly different. Fanfic writers are passionate about the characters and worlds they write about, and the communities based around them are massively supportive of the best of the work. When writers take established continuity and go wild with it, the end result can be much more fun than the canon. There is some amazing fanfic out there. Lest we forget, writers like Neil Gaiman, S. E. Hinton and the godsdamn Brontë Sisters have all dabbled in the field (yes, ok, and E.L. James). This Input piece on how fanficcers have rewritten and erased a particularly heinous trope in TV writing is an inspiration all by itself.

https://www.inputmag.com/culture/tv-lesbians-fix-it-fiction-fanfic

Get your notebooks out. We howled over this AskReddit thread on the best literary and TV insults. All your faves will be in here, but we guarantee you’ll find some new shots of absolute gold. You’ll be memeing for days off the back of this one.

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/hofgi1/what_is_your_favourite_insult_from_a_book_or_show

Matthew Holness is one of our great dark iconoclasts. From comedy writer and performer to creator of the truly brilliant Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (launchpad, lest we forget, not just of Holness but Richard Ayoade, Alice Lowe and Mmmmmmatt Berry) to author and director of work that has flirted, then snogged, then gone balls deep into horror. Haunted Generation has a long conversation with Holness, touching on subjects as diverse as Peter Cushing, Kent noir and just how long is appropriate to find a major location before filming.

(Disclosure: our Rob has a credit on Matt’s most recent feature, Possum, and is proud to claim he was the first person to ever see That Bloody Spider Thing on film).

https://hauntedgeneration.co.uk/2020/07/11/matthew-holness-possum-the-snipist-and-garth-marenghi/

As it seems mask wearing is a part of all our futures, we may as well make the most of it. Japanese tech is, as ever, at the forefront of how we relate to people outside our immediate bubbles in the future. Introducing a Bluetooth-connected mask that can display speech-to-text and probably emojis in version 2 of the software release. The possibilities are limitless—well, ok, maybe not but we think there’s a lot of fun to be had here, particularly in communicating one’s disdain at the mal-informed offcuts amongst us that believe the act of wearing a mask is giving them 5G and sending the government DNA samples.

https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-japan-mask-technol/japanese-startup-creates-connected-face-mask-for-coronavirus-new-normal-idUKKBN23X190

We love The Expanse. Seriously. Best SF on the telly box at the moment. Twisty plots, brilliant SFX and characters to stan forever. Although we remain Team Drummer, we completely understand the love for Amos, the Roci’s bulldog. His deadpan delivery and ever-present simmering edge of violence makes him magnetic on screen. If we were writing fanfic, it would be about this guy (or maybe Amos and Drummer hooking up. Damn, that would be hot). The Ringer tells us more…

https://www.theringer.com/tv/2020/1/14/21064995/amos-the-expanse-amazon-prime-season-4

A couple of announcements from our friends and X&HTeam-mates. First up, our close pal Dom Wade has taken part in an interview on Cambridge Radio’s Behind The Bike Shed show to promote his doco Steel Is Real (But Carbon Is Quicker). A great intro to the film and the British cycling scene he documents so well.

https://cambridge105.co.uk/shows/behind-the-bike-shed/

Our Rob intermittently podcasts as one half of the Of Dice And Robs show on KaijuFM. It’s a show of chance, coincidence and conversation in which he and co-host Rob Maythorne use dice to choose the topics for discussion. It’s loose-limbed, easy-going and a bit nerdy, but the Robs bounce ideas off each other with an amiable charm. Worth a go? We think so.

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/satan/id1456748415?i=1000484191981


This week’s Exit Music… well, there’s new Bob Mould in the world. And he’s pissed off. Which, when it comes to Bob Mould, is good news. The angrier he is, the better the music. Therefore, Forecast Of Rain (along with American Crisis, the first track from the forthcoming album (Blue Hearts, out on September 25th) which led one observer to note ‘I haven’t heard him scream this much since Zen Arcade’) is the glorious racket of a thunderhead looming. Fast and heavy, and ready to flood us all. It’s great to have him back and raging.


And that’s us. Ten weeks and counting. If you’ve been with us since the start, thank you. If you’ve joined us on the road, welcome. We plan to go coast to coast on this, then deploy the amphibious pack and hit the ocean like Roger Moore and his Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me.

The road goes on forever. Strap in. See you in seven.

The Cut – Issue 9

We return—refreshed, rejuvenated, revived. Four nights in a field communing with nature, falling asleep to the sound of sheep (incidentally, why does sheepish describe a hesitant vocal delivery? The fleecy beasts sharing our space were proper vocal). Also, we have had actual haircuts and drunk actual pints of actual beer in actual pubs. Does this mean things are back to normal? Fukc no, don’t be silly. But for once, just for a fleeting moment, we dare to hope for a better world. With that in mind, let’s begin. Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


The Onion has always been an exemplar of how to do online satire. Formally rigorous, delightfully sweary and always full of surprises. Many have copied them. Few have succeeded (I’d tag the UK’s own Daily Mash as a good example of the form). The venture had moved to New York a couple of months before 9/11. Their first issue on new turf would deal directly with one of the most shocking events of modern times. How they dealt with it and came up with a true classic of comedy writing is detailed below. A great piece of oral history .

https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/onion-911-issue-oral-history

Corrie Corfield’s pics of BBC TV Centre before it closed in 2012 are a lovely ramble around a building that for many is deeply symbolic of British broadcasting history. Much of what we as a nation saw and listened to as part of our daily lives was made in this idiosyncratic question-mark shaped building in West London. I defy you not to get chills or at least a warm glow from some of these photos.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/corrie_corfield/albums/72157629853283466/

Gavin Rothery is the special effects wizard who gave Duncan Jones’ Moon much of its old-school visual flair. His first feature as writer/director, Archive, is out today and I urge you to give it a look, particularly if you’re a fan of Alex Garland’s Ex Machina. However, we’re drawn by a piece Gavin wrote back in 2011, in which he posits a theory about Blade Runner we’d genuinely never come across before. A fine example of his lovingly detailed approach to SF. We approve strongly.

http://www.gavinrothery.com/my-blog/2011/10/1/a-matter-of-electric-sheep.html

Our second deep-dive oral history of the week looks at the very long day’s work that resulted in USA For Africa’s We Are The World. An extraordinary roster of talent rolled into an LA recording studio in circumstances never before experienced. Remarkably egos were, as per the iconic sign, largely checked at the door. Hindsight leads us to questions as to how the money was spent, and we can mostly agree the song itself was not the greatest. It’s the making of the record that makes the story interesting.

https://www.esquire.com/entertainment/music/a32868751/we-are-the-world-history-interview/

Our Space Opera Correspondent writes:

I grew up reading stories of our neighboring planets, imagining the wonders we would find there. Huge canal structures on Mars. Rainforests on Venus. The writing of authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury coloured my dreams in swathes of red and green. Sadly, we now know better. Mars is a desert, Venus scoured by boiling storms of methane. But there is still a school of thought that, given the money and will, we could make Venus habitable. Check out this joyful article from Nautilus, and dream with me a little.

http://nautil.us/issue/43/heroes/the-romantic-venus-we-never-knew

Let us consider the megastructure. For most of us, the primary example of the form is The Death Star. But SF is ripe with giant artificial constructs, bigger than planets, frequently built by unseen and long-vanished alien civilisations for reasons unknown. Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels are stuffed with the things. The trouble with megastructures is the way they tend to swamp the narrative with their vast unknowability. From Larry Niven’s Ringworld to Adrian Tchaikovsky’s recent novella Walking To Aldebaran, the setting has a way of swamping the story. Nevertheless, I loves me a megastructure. Tor’s overview gives us a few notes on the form.

https://www.tor.com/2020/07/03/a-brief-history-of-the-megastructure-in-science-fiction/

Who doesn’t like a big bang? We certainly do. Daily Grindhouse details some of the best explosions in movies. Plenty of great moments in here. We’d also tag the demolition of The Kremlin in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Actually, the fish tank pop in the first M:I film is top notch. Oh, and the Nostromo cooking off at the end of Alien. What are your faves, Readership?

http://dailygrindhouse.com/thewire/the-big-question-whats-your-favorite-explosion-in-a-movie/

We have been following and enjoying the work of Dan Harmon since his time as show-runner of Community (if you have not seen it, we recommend you redress that hole in your cultural knowledge base as soon as possible. Trust us, worth your time. Currently on Netflix. Harmon developed a concept he called The Story Circle as a way to easily hothouse script ideas. It’s a fiendishly clever way to navigate around the structural needs of a script which also addresses the essentially looping manner of sitcoms—ending up back where you started Having Learnt Something. The Story Circle has become so integral a part of Harmon’s hit animation Rick And Morty that it was featured as a plot device in a season three episode. Harmon explains more…

And finally. Two brilliantly crafted profiles from Vulture on a pair of our strongest, bravest and most talented British Black artists—Michaela Coel and Thandie Newton. Both have fought long and hard to get not just heard, but respected with regards to their particular talents. Both have faced obstacles which would have broken lesser mortals. Neither have allowed these obstacles to stop them. We at The Cut love them both, and we hope you do too.

https://www.vulture.com/article/thandie-newton-in-conversation.html

https://www.vulture.com/article/michaela-coel-i-may-destroy-you.html


Our Exit Music comes from the challenging and idiosyncratic John Martyn. He was a man who carried many demons with him and was not afraid to let them out to play, as a recent biography unflinchingly details. However, he was also an extraordinary musical innovator. We offer for your approval a live version of ‘Outside In’ from 1978, which highlights his use of effects, creating sounds and textures that remain influential to this day. Many artists, from The Edge to Ed Sheeran, owe a debt to John Martyn.


And that’s us. A slightly less structured, more ad-hoc slumgullion of linkery this go-round. We still have the song of the sheep ringing in our ears, and have we mentioned how great our hair looks now? Anyhoo. Stay lovely, Readership. See you in seven.

The Cut – Issue 6

Another week down. The shops reopened, but frankly we’re happy behind the walls of our compound, letting all the goodies we need come to us. Queueing, we have decided, is not our bag. We may never shop in the old-fashioned way again. Anyway. Let’s do this. Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.

Continue reading The Cut – Issue 6

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

Sparks

The tap on the door is a regular occurance now. It always brings a little something that lightens the day. A veg box delivery from Vegivores or Geo Cafe. Beer from Loddon, cheese and beer from The Grumpy Goat. Maybe something for TLC’s craft room (she’s playing around with the Cricut she had for her birthday and coming up with wonderful results).

Yesterday, a delivery of herb plants put a smile on my face. Barbeque rosemary, French tarragon, parsley, oregano, sorrel. Planting them in the herb tower I bought last year will be a gentle treat for the weekend. Little sparks of flavour for the summer round the corner.

I have to keep thinking in terms of week versus weekend. Tracking the days, building new routines now I’m furloughed. TLC is working from home, so I’m led by her example. I make tea while she showers, maybe sneaking an extra ten minutes under the covers whle she dresses. An Aeropress coffee each before she hits the desk. Man, I’d forgotten about the simple joys of grinding beans, stirring and watching mindfully as the crema blooms in the brewing chamber. The rush of the good stuff into a favourite mug, hot and rich and fragrant. Another little spark to start the motor of the day.

I’m trying to watch less TV right now. It’s hard enough to steer clear of bad news. The Situation (as TLC and I have taken to stentorially pronounce it) gets into everything as it is. I make one exception–my 10am date with Matt Tebbutt and Jack Monroe for Daily Kitchen Live. As cooking shows go, this is a delight. Even seperated by video link, Jack and Matt have a bright and easy chemistry and are clearly learning loads from each other. It’s educational, entertaining, speaking to the everyday lives of the nation at the moment more truly and precisely than any other show on the air. And you get to learn about the joys of bottled lemon juice or how to make quick and easy pizza. A spark of foodie pleasure. I’m making this tonight.

With time on my hands, there’s room to get back to the projects that went on the shelf earlier in the year. The writing that faded away after Nanowrimo. The half-done short stories. And ever more, my happy place, WROB. It’s an indulgence, sure, and I’m very aware that I am a middle-aged male with time on his hands honking on about his Spotify recommendations. No-one needs to hear that, and frankly I’m not that bothered if they do or not. It feels good and right to me. It’s a spark that shines more brightly with every moment I put into it.

There’s a new edition up where I share the spotlight with my mysterious pal DJ Unknown on the angular joys of Aphex Twin, if you’re interested.

As far as music goes, I’ve been powered by Spotify for as long as I can remember now. Paired with a trio (that’s not mathematically or grammatically possible but I think we’re all beyond that now) of Sonos speakers, we have tunes on tap all through the house. Playlisting is easy and keeps songs rolling all through the day. I do, however, find myself relying on old favourites more often–musical comfort blankets, if you will. Bruce Springsteen, for example, is a constant cue-up these days. We even streamed his 2009 Hyde Park gig through Youtube last week. Three and a bit hours of sheer entertainment.

A new/old find is an album of covers by another old favourite, Matthew Sweet, whose power-pop stylings have long resonated in this household, and his wife.

Yeah, okay, CLANG. Sounds reductive if not downright sexist of me, but I’m holding back for dramatic effect. Come on, give me this one.

The spawny so-and-so is married to Susanna Hoffs. Yes, The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs. Yes, the Susanna Hoffs who did that side-eye in the video for walk Like An Egyptian and wore that mini-dress in the Eternal Flame video and rocks a black Rickenbacker like no-one else and hey well LOOK–

Proper badass. Power-pop royalty in her own right is what I’m saying, which makes the Sweet/Hoffs pairing all the more special.

Aaanyway, Susanna and Matthew have released a long series of cover versions, and the best of them are complied onto Under The Covers, a cracking set of tunery. Their harmonies are gorgeous throughout. There’s nothing particularly challenging here, but it’s a spark for the soul as far as I’m concerned.

While I’m on Recommendation Road, it would be remiss of me not to mention the podcast run by an X&HTeam-mate and fellow Trekkie, Keith Eyles. Let’s See What’s Out There follows the recently-finished Star Trek: Picard, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. You may too, if you’re that way inclined.

Keith and co-host Pete are knowledgable and enthusiastic without indulging in the aggressive geekery that can leak into these sort of exercises. It’s going to some interesting places now season 1 is complete. There is a danger that I may crop up on an episode at some point. Fair warning will be given so you can retreat to a safe distance. Check out an ep featuring another Team-mate, Graham Williams, below. You may find it sparks an interest.

It’s the end of my first week in furlough. There is dark talk of decorating and shelf-building in my near future. For now, I’m enjoying this quiet time, feeling my mind slowly returning to a place where the sparks can fly freely. I hope you’re all finding bright points in the day too, however and wherever you can.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have important things to do. Take it away, boys…