It may surprise you to know that I don’t enjoy self-promotion.
Wait, that’s not right: I don’t enjoy creating advertorial style updates, whether in-person, email or social media, to explicitly drive attention to something I have done or made. Like this very thing you’re reading right now.
I have two modes when it comes to things like this:
I wish I could be more nuanced about it.
I wish it didn’t work. There are substantially more of you now than there were 23 weeks ago when I said I might occasionally wang one of these out whenever I felt like it. And every little push sends more people to hit that subscribe button, or to follow the Rolling Playlist that features the week’s new tracks and favourites from weeks gone by.
So, since 23 weeks of archive is a lot to wade through, I’ve started putting together an index of past topics. It’s slow going, but it does satisfy the part of me that always wanted to be a librarian or archivist.
And for the part of me that always wanted to be a self-aggrandising columnist, we have this newsletter.
At time of writing, Friday the 20th of August at 7am, Foo Fighters tickets are about to go on sale in two hours time. I’m still undecided as to whether to get them, I’m trying to save money and I’ve see the Foos a few times, but that’s not the issue. The issue is that when I originally googled for tour tickets, the first site that popped up was Viagogo. Tickets for this tour, that aren’t yet on sale, are up on the ticket “re-selling” website, for £145. That’s crazy. And it should be illegal.
Ban. This. Filth.
(A full week after the writing the above, I chose not to get tickets. There are so many bands to get tickets for, and I have four gigs in November alone!)
There are myriad reasons why a performer’s music might not be available on Spotify, from questions of control to profitability. The circumstances around the absence of most of Aaliyah‘s music from streaming is absolutely beyond murky. You can read the full story elsewhere. But needless to say, fans are loathe to stream an album called Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number which would end up putting money in R. Kelly‘s pocket.
However, this drought is over, and label Blackground have started by making her second album available digitally, with the third and most lauded self-titled album to come in September. Assuming her estate doesn’t sue for nebulous royalty payments, so we’ll see.
While the album isn’t available yet, I was able to add Try Again, as featured in the wonderful movie Romeo Must Die, to this week’s playlist.
While I was tentatively interested in Netflix‘s post-apocalyptic fable Sweet Tooth, I was hesitant. The trailer just seemed a little too saccharine sweet for me, and time is short. What convinced me was when my barber told me he had watched it and how much it annoyed it. He wasn’t annoyed at how much he disliked it; quite the opposite. He was annoyed because he was certain it wasn’t his kind of show, but no matter how much he tried to hate it, it pulled him in nonetheless.
That’s enough of a recommendation for me: Anything that can convince someone to overcome their biases and enjoy something not normally in their wheelhouse has to be worth a watch.
And it was. This sweet show, based on the beloved comic series by Jeff Lemire, is just the right combination of hopeful and dramatic. One could almost imagine this as a love-letter to the family adventure movies that Spielberg might have introduced people to in the 80s, albeit through a more modern, nuanced lens.
It’s hard not to draw parallels between 2021 real world medical politics, and the apocalypse that prefaced Sweet Tooth. It did lead one commenter to decry the referencing of real-world problems, asking “When can fantasy simply be fantasy again?”
I love that, and love that the sentiment keeps coming up. “Why can’t science fiction be free from politics?” is a frequent wail, as is its ever-hilarious cousin: “When did Rage Against The Machine become political?!”. This is exactly what the genre is for, and I love that it can be combined with a youthful spirit of hope.
However, after Sweet Tooth I did need something a little sharper. Something a little grimier. Something a little more sordid. Brand New Cherry Flavour, also on Netflix, provides that in spades. I’m halfway through this bloody, witchy fable about being a fresh female filmmaker in Hollywood in the 90s and enjoying it immensely. It’s beautifully shot and lit, and I’m loving the shades of Luca Guadagnino‘s 2018 remake of Suspiria.
To comics now, and Image are releasing a new hardboiled crime story in November. Bestselling, multiple Eisner Award winning writer Chip Zdarsky (Daredevil) is in cahoots with artist Jacob Phillips (That Texas Blood) for the new, ongoing crime comic titled, Newburn. Crime comics for me used to begin and end with the work of Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, in works such as Fatale, Gotham Central or Black Magick, so a new entry into this arena is very much welcome.
Also in comics, I did read Injection by Warren Ellis this last week. Which is fine if you like Warren Ellis’ work, as it has largely the same transhumanist bones as Planetary or Global Frequency. Ellis has his themes and he hits them repeatedly.
I’d be remiss not to add that Ellis hasn’t worked in a while, principally due to the allegations of sexual coercion and manipulation levelled at him. The allegations against him from upwards of 60 women were widely corroborated, and it’s hard to see how he can come back from this professionally.
I was in a quandary as to whether to mention him at all. It’s a constant dilemma for me, and one I’ve bored people with repeatedly: Do creators that we find personally abhorrent deserve the oxygen of publicity, never mind your hard-earned money?
Does Warren Ellis?
What about the aforementioned R. Kelly?
Where is the line drawn? Where is it drawn for Kevin Spacey? Lostprophets? Gary Glitter?
Is the line a financial one, where an effort is made to keep our money from their pockets? That’s where I try to go. But that line is in a different place, for different situations, for different people. And over different timeframes.
This is not about “cancel culture”, which is absolutely not a thing in the way it’s been portrayed by bad faith actors. It’s a constantly evolving discussion about my personal comfort levels.
And let’s face it, for Kelly to produce an album for his (allegedly) under-age wife called Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number is pretty gross.
Last week I said I’d probably write out of this edition at the weekend, using it as a procrastination tool as I tried to squeeze a short film script out of my wrung-out brain. This very much didn’t happen, and I am once again close to my self-imposed deadline.
So far, so standard, right?
But there’s at least once difference. Writing the screenplay has reminded me of my love for it, my love for creative writing. Not as a replacement for the kind of writing I do here, but as an addition.
You know, in my copious spare time…
Until next week! Look after yourselves, look after each other.