The Cut ✂️ Issue 14

Here we are and here we are and here we go. As we write this the sun is blaring down like the solar equivalent of an elephant strangling a tuba. As you read this, the heavens have cracked asunder and the great deluge is upon us. What a difference a few days can make. Anyhow, in spite of whatever apocalyptic scenario is currently bellowing into your face, we trust you can find a way through. Also, hey, nearly the weekend, right? So let’s do the thing where we raise up the (sodden or sun-scorched) banner and you raise your faces to the sky and roar…

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


A by-product of the clusterfukc of this year’s Hugo ceremony in which some of the old guard did not, shall we say, cover themselves in glory, has been the interrogation of what it takes to be a science-fiction fan. More specifically, what books you need to have read to pass by the gatekeepers—the so-called canon. Typically, this list is full of books that are easily 40-50 years old with an authorial profile that skews massively towards white, male, middle-class writers. This, as John Scalzi points out, does not cater to the tastes and experiences of many committed and enthusiastic fans of the genre. With his typical wit and self-deprecation, (he is, after all, of the demographic he rails against) enjoy the ride as Scalzi sets a fuse to the canon…

https://whatever.scalzi.com/2020/08/07/oh-christ-not-the-science-fiction-canon-again/

The detective steps into her bullpen. Her team are gathered. It’s time to connect the random patterns that link a set of heinous and imaginatively staged murders. In a prominent place stands the board on which victims, their relationships and the suspects to their murders are posted. It could be a simple whiteboard, or a whizzy graphic interface that the detective can prod and swipe at à la Tom Cruise in Minority Report. The serial killer could have their own version, a mess of photos and post-its and coloured string. It’s a vital part of the story. It’s known in the trade as The Crazy Wall. Esquire has more on this essential prop…

https://www.esquire.com/uk/culture/film/news/a7703/detective-show-crazy-walls/


We make no apologies for the following promotional message. Clay’s Hyderabadi is a true gem of the burgeoning food scene in our home town, Reading. This small restaurant produces food punching well above its weight class in flavour. Nandana and Sharat, the couple behind Clay’s, have struggled through The Situation, being unable to reopen due to limited space. This has not stopped them from dispensing hundreds of meals for charity and developing a range of their favourites in cook-chill packaging. The big news is now their amazing curries, biryanis and sundries are available nationwide. We urge you to give them a try if you want to try genuinely great home-cooked Hyderabadi cuisine at home. Check the review from The Plate Licked Clean then order up!

https://www.theplatelickedclean.co.uk/clays-hyderabadi-kitchen-reading-national-delivery-service

In a different spin on food and drink service during The Situation, Insider looks at the phenomenon of wine windows, a Tuscan plague-era architectural rarity enabling gelaterias to serve coffee and frozen treats in a safely distanced way. We’re reminded of The Greyfriar in Chawton, a sixeenth century pub we visited recently whose staff found a serving hatch that had been out of action for centuries. It’s now back in service and helping the staff get the beers to thirsty punters in a very Covid-friendly manner!

https://www.insider.com/photos-wine-windows-florence-italy-covid-friendly-gelato-coffee-2020-8

https://www.greyfriar-chawton.co.uk

We love this Eater piece on how comics and graphic techniques can be used to make cookbooks a much less intimidating prospect to use. We’re not surprised, though. The comics form works brilliantly as an educational resource in whatever discipline you put it through. Let’s be frank—if you’ve read a safety card on an aircraft, you’ve read a comic. We would especially flag Wendy McNaughton, who’s lovely pen-and-ink line illustrations make Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat such a treat to read and cook from.

https://www.eater.com/cookbooks/2016/11/16/13645020/cookbook-comic-book

ANOTHER Judge Dredd post? Well, it looks like the disease ridden hellscape of The Situation and the political fustercluck therein was foretold in a worryingly on-the-nose fashion by the British SF comic. This Wired piece is well worth a read, and we can very strongly recommend America, a powerful story that lays bare the lies and terrible choices behind authoritarian rule.

Not just biff bang pow…

https://wired.trib.al/zr42lMH

While we’re on the prescient tip, this 2013 piece on John Le Carre is a neatly drawn portrait of a man who has not just defined our view of espionage but how the spooks view themselves and take care of business. His influence runs deep, and his insight is disturbingly on the nose.

https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/21/magazine/john-le-carre-has-not-mellowed-with-age.html

Cat photos. Very much a product of the InstaFace generation, right? Well, turns out we have been celebrating our feline chums photographically for almost as long as we have had the ability to do so. 120 years, to be more precise!

https://mymodernmet.com/cyanotype-time-capsule-cat-photos/

We would be failing in our duty as cataloguers of the interverse were we not to highlight the finest piece of writing published anywhere this week. Comedian and paragon of progressive masculinity Rob Delaney details the events surrounding his vasectomy. That’s all the background you need. Read on and enjoy.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/aug/12/could-i-feel-what-they-were-doing-yes-rob-delaney-on-the-pain-and-pleasure-of-his-vasectomy


And finally, your Exit Music. Way, way back in the before times of 2004 (the year when the staff of The Cut relocated to our current eyrie, fact fans) musical artists of a liberal persuasion banded together to get their fans out and rock the vote. The resulting tour led to some amazing musical moments. Far Out magazine highlights two of our heroes, Michael Stipe and Bruce Springsteen, collaborating on a kickass version of ‘Because The Night’, a song written by Bruce and made famous by Patti Smith, one of Michael’s major influences. We love this.

https://faroutmagazine.co.uk/r-e-m-michael-stipe-bruce-springsteen-to-sing-because-the-night-and-man-on-the-moon/

See you in seven.

The Cut – Issue 13

Thirteen weeks of this foolishness! The smart move would be to bail while there’s a scrap of dignity left to wrap around our scrawny thews. But no, that is not how we operate, as well you know. Therefore, o our Readership, the luck is all good for you. Enjoy this week’s slumgullion of linky loveliness.

Come on, we’re all friends now. Say it with me.

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


Continue reading The Cut – Issue 13

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 11

Well, slap our withers and call us rosy, there goes another week! Time she doth fly, up into the rafters like a deranged pigeon to root around in the loft and make an ungodly mess. Much, indeed, like this ish of The Cut, which it has, we’ll be honest, been a bit of a scramble to pull together for deadline what with work and lives and whatever this fresh hell that is supposed to be normal is doing to us. WE HOPE YOU’RE GRATEFUL. Anyhoo. Let’s have a look at what the time-pigeon has dislodged, shall we? Now is the time. Here is the place. This is The Cut.


Let us consider Judge Dredd. It’s long been recognised that Mega-City One’s most ferocious lawman serves as parody and satire in equal measure to the thrills, chases and gunfights which may have drawn us in as excitable, sci-fi obsessed nine-year-olds. We offer for your approval two articles looking into this side of the man in the hat and his screwy world, both of which offer some fascinating insight. Also, who knew there was a new animated Dredd web-series out there? You do now!

https://filmschoolrejects.com/judge-dredd-vs-dredd-on-the-satire-scale-d823322cbf7f/

https://neotextcorp.com/culture/the-devil-you-know/

Keeping it comics, we wanted to highlight a delightful set of short films that came out a few years back, giving us the closest look yet at what a Calvin And Hobbes live-action production might look like. As creator Bill Watterson has no interest in merchandising or expanding the reach of the strip beyond what already exists (and who can blame him, as how do you improve upon perfection?) it’s nice to see this glimpse at another viewpoint on the boy and his tiger. These are really, really good.

https://news.avclub.com/hobbes-me-brings-a-beloved-comic-strip-to-stylish-lif-1798246596

You may be unfamiliar with Arnold Lobel’s Frog And Toad books. They are a heady mix of the aesthetics of The Wind In The Willows, the mood and atmosphere of The Moomins and the melancholy romanticism of E. M. Forster. Slate takes a good hard look at the stories and Lobel’s life to reveal stories that are very much more than the sum of their parts.

https://slate.com/culture/2020/07/frog-and-toad-anniversary-arnold-lobel.html

We stay in a literary frame of mind by sharing this excellent Open Culture list of free short stories. It’s a really good primer for the precision and detail needed to pull off a great piece of short fiction, featuring some of the best writers around. Whatever your tastes, you will find something to love here. And should you feel the urge to have a dabble yourself, we offer some tips from Mister Sandman himself, Neil Gaiman, who provided some powerful knowledge-bombs in his recent Masterclass series. Solid gold awaits the brave traveller.

http://www.openculture.com/2020/07/29-free-short-stories-from-some-of-todays-most-acclaimed-writers.html

https://writingcooperative.com/neil-gaimans-top-13-writing-tips-d78848fd85f0

It has often been thought that the deranged visions of Heironymous Bosch were brought on by the artist eating bread made with wheat tainted with a hallucinogenic fungus. But there is another contender for his singular vision of hell. Darnel is a grain that looks almost exactly like wheat and grows alongside it. In large doses, it’s fatal. In small amounts it messes with human vision and speech, acting as an intoxicant. Darnel is mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and it seems the effects were recorded in documents from the Ancient Greeks. The symbiotic relationship between the grain and our bread- and beer-making urges has existed for a very long time.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/wheats-evil-twin-has-been-intoxicating-humans-for-centuries

If you want a drink in New York, you have to have something to eat as well. That rule, imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, has made the life of the poor schlubs running bars in The Big Apple that bit harder. To get round the new rules, dollar menu items are appearing that owe more than a nod to the infamous pre-Prohibition bar-snack , the Raines Sandwich. Vice has more to digest on this…

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/dyz44j/bars-are-serving-ridiculous-dollar1-menu-items-to-stay-open-during-covid-restrictions

Our long read this week is from writer Jonathon Maselik, and digs deeply into the drinking culture of Northern Pennsylvania. Bar culture across the pond has always felt odd and a little uncomfortable to us. The tipping etiquette and expectations is a potential minefield. We found this piece moving and worried that in some places it struck a little too closely to home, despite the cultural differences…

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/drinking-alone

Talking about writing that speaks very clearly to us, this short missive from artist and zinester Austin Kleon says a lot about introversion and the quest for healing silence. It’s difficult to filter out the noise, even in lockdown. But for those of us who crave the quiet life, it’s desperately important to find that still point in the day.

https://austinkleon.com/2019/02/02/on-solitude-and-being-who-you-are/


And finally. We were saddened to hear of the passing this week of Tim Smith. His band, Cardiacs, were a singular mix of psychedelia, punk and prog who committed completely to his vision on how they presented themselves. As worker drones of the Alphabet Business Concern, Cardiacs had a dress code and musical direction that were strictly adhered to. Think a skewed English version of early Arcade Fire with more pancake makeup and gurning. That’s not right, but it’ll at least set you on the road. Tim was hit with a rare neurological illness that blighted the last ten years of his life—a tragic loss to English music. Who knows what twisted magnificence he could have wrought if he’d been at full strength in these strange times?

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/22/cardiacs-tim-smith-a-one-man-subculture-who-inspired-total-devotion

Our Exit Music, therefore, is in tribute to Tim and Cardiacs. Their anthem and a great starting point for anyone who wants to know more. Is This The Life? Well, there’s a question.

See you in seven.

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 7

We’ve had better weeks. Reading, our home town, was subject to an event now described as terrorist action. Three people died as a result. We are horrified, but not terrorised. We stand with all our friends and neighbours in this oddball place we call home, and look forward to seeing everyone in Forbury Gardens very, very soon.

Continue reading The Cut – Issue 7