Here we are again, welcome to the contents and product of my mind!
To my surprise, one of the unexpected complications of switching to a fortnightly schedule is remembering what week we're in. Is this a writing week, or a resting week? I'm really busy right now, surely I wrote issue 3 while I was on leave last week? No. No I didn't, I was ill last week. I finally succumbed to the plague, so I didn't have a thousand or so words in me. Which of course means that I have double the amount of work to do this week as well as carving out precious time for writing these Notes.
But, you mustn't misunderstand me, writing these is precious to me, even under the more "relaxed" regime. They say we have in us two tigers, the light and the dark, eternally fighting. The one that wins is the one you feed, the one you nurture; me writing these newsletters is me nurturing a tiger.
But I'm still going to slip being unwell into every single category.
I was afraid I wasn't going to have time to watch Hawkeye, but it turns out I had a surfeit of it, and a deficit of attention, and it turned out that was exactly what was needed. Hawkeye was fine. It was enjoyable. I'd even maybe say that it was the Marvel TV show I enjoyed most since WandaVision. But believe me when I assure you that it's not snobbery when I say that that's not the high praise it sounds like. It was fine, it established a new character well and I look forward to seeing Hailee Steinfeld reprise her role, perhaps in something Young Avengers related. But every awards season, Marvel fans demand more recognition for their favourite franchise – all I want is the material to live up to this. I want the shows to be bold, and surprising. I want more than fine.
A lot of what I tend to explore in my own writing is 'What if this world is not all it appears to be, what is the nature of Truth'. It's a mindset that either leads to an increasingly worrying tendency towards conspiracy theories, or a differently worrying tendency towards postmodernism. Having not quite had the latter beaten out of me in a "post-truth" world, I was looking forward to a fourth Matrix movie, even if it was going to be a mess.
And what a glorious mess this was. Truly glorious. TMR was a love letter to the original intentions of The Matrix movie(s) that actually reignited my interest in a franchise I hadn’t really thought about in nearly two decades. Much like it took me listening to The Suburbs to truly unlock Arcade Fire for me, TMR acts like a prism through which to view what has come before, but stripped of a lot of the unintended baggage.
Some people might not enjoy the deep and endless meta-references and self-referential callbacks that it'd need a second watch to catch all of, and even for me it was a bit much. The introspective first half of the movie seems like this film’s true nature, but is it too on-the-nose, with direct references to sister Lily and to Warner Brothers' intentions for a sequel? Maybe a little, but I did like the references to the meta-narrative around the Matrix franchise as a whole, from the games, the corporate interference, the pseudo-philosophical writings, etc. A counter-attack against what one character summarises to Neo: "They took your story and turned it into something trivial".
Making the cannon fodder to be bots, reprogrammed humans, rather than powerful agents, seems apropos for these times. But it also feels like a terrible view of the world when the people are the enemy. A war of the “free” against the “sheeple” seems destined to be yet another Matrix-born concept that's going to be twisted by so-called "red-pilled" keyboard warriors – everyone wants to see themselves as the only one who can see the truth.
The film is not without its absurdity, none so much as the ranting, raving Merovingian. Furthermore, while one of the best parts of the original movie was its relative simplicity, Resurrections is often dense and overburdened with complexity and terminology. The film in its second half sometimes feels like it's on rails. Neither Neo nor Trinity are taking action, they're not making decisions: They are bound up in destiny and predestination.
But when it comes to theme, can anyone argue with the longing to feel complete? To come together and be One?
As Priscilla Page writes: "Fighting for hope and love is framed as a revolutionary act."
Speaking of Ms Page, her favourite movies of 2021 is a brilliant grab-bag of suggestions and perspectives on last year's cinematic delights and I enjoy her writing.
I've sadly still not listened to Radiohead side-project The Smile, but this article seems to give a good summary. I feel like I need to properly immerse myself, to give the material my full attention.
We've had the Brit Awards and that all seemed fine, and everyone you'd expect to do well did well. Adele pretty much cleaned up after her new album 30 became the biggest-selling album of 2021 in the US and the UK. Eleven years after she released her first mixtape, Little Simz won Best New Act for her fourth album, and I'm always glad to see Wolf Alicedo well.
I didn't watch any of the performances, I was far too busy endlessly re-watching Jauz's remix of Baby Shark smoothly transitioning into... well, you'll see. Play it loud, but if you have a strong aversion to the children's classic, start the video one minute in.
This fortnight's playlist hopefully has a little something for everyone this time around, it's certainly sent me in myriad different musical directions!
What have I been up to in the last two weeks? Well, did I mention I had the 'rona? A little bit?
It was not a fun time, but what surprised me was the fatigue that comes afterwards when the tests show negative and the other symptoms have subsided. I was hoping to report back from Carpark's EP launch party but while I was testing negative by that point, I definitely didn't have the energy for it. Nearly two weeks on, there's still a hard stop to any exertions.
However, if there was a positive to be found, it's that with no dayjob stresses to crowd out other impulses, I was able to pick up writing projects again, even if just to look at them and decide which ideas I'm still in love with. It was a delight to find one that I had previously discarded as being "too meta". I’ve now picked it back up again and doubled down, I should have trusted my instincts in the first place.
Carrying on the theme of my Creative Resurrections I have joined weekly photography challenge group 52 Frames. While I'm enjoying it and learning a lot, I'm not posting the photos from there yet. I feel like I'm re-learning, both techniques and my own eye and aesthetic. The photos I've taken to meet the challenges are not good. But each represents a step forward on a new photographic journey.
Photographer René Robert, famed for photos of flamenco performers like the one above, fell in central Paris last month and was unable to get up. He lay in the bitter cold for nine hours while being ignored by those travelling up and down the road. He died of hypothermia, killed by indifference.
It's not a cheerful story, my apologies. But I wanted to draw attention to his plight, and his work, and to put them both before your eyes.
Long-time subscribers will be familiar with my frequent refrain that I worry about whether I'll have anything to say, and in what timeframe I can get some few words out, pretty much every single time. This time it's especially the case, I'm still not sure how I got here today!
But we've long left the days behind us where I personally knew every subscriber. I have a lot less confidence in how things are going to land with this expanded audience, so the only thing I have to rely on is my voice and an authenticity.
But, if you do have any feedback, thoughts, tip-offs or anything at all, do let me know! Reply to this email and let me know!
But for now, until next time!