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Fortnightly Culture Thread May 9, 2021

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gregtimo proposed in comments recently this idea:I think you need a weekly culture section !

It’s a great idea but perhaps fortnightly gives us a chance to bring something new? So here it this weekend!

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1. NFB - May 9, 2021

Watched James Cameron’s Avatar all the way through for the first time the other day. Obviously needs the big screen treatment to get the full effect, because I thought it was really poor in terms of plot, Sam Worthington was dreadful in the lead role and the villain was just a boring madman. The world building was great, but hard to ignore the paper-thin allegory on display, with the word “savages” used every five minutes. Genuinely surprised no character just flat out says “You know, the Na’Vi are a lot like Native Americans when you think about it”.

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WorldbyStorm - May 9, 2021

I’ve never seen it, which is odd because it sits right in my wheelhouse, but I just never warmed to the idea. That’s remarkable that it’s so coy about that.

Have you seen Baby Driver? Saw the first ten minutes, not sure whether to continue or not.

Also saw Key Largo with Bogart, Bacall etc. Really great film. Just very simple (though oddly enough a Native American angle on it too).

And, started watching F1 on Netflix which is weirdly addictive.

And reading this below which is China Miévilleto the nth degree but surprisingly good so far…

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wolfhound-century-peter-higgins/1111363953

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Bagatelle's Upturned Trotter - May 9, 2021

Was it the Spacey fella causing you doubts? Cuz that’s understandable you weren’t hooked in the first ten.

‘Eoghan would ya stop the nonsense?’

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

Hahah, re not being hooked in the first ten… no I liked what I saw and it was tough to stop but I had only been channel hopping before heading to bed. Re Spacey, I’ve mixed views on how to detach actor from person they really are but for example I think the Usual Suspects is a great film, certainly in my top 20 and I’ve watched it before and since that stuff came out. It is a bit like Jimmy Stewart who had seemingly some problematic attitudes to race but was still an actor whose work I can enjoy.

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Bagatelle's Undiminished Threnody - May 10, 2021

Those James Franco revelations hit me the same. Didn’t know about Jimmy Stewart and he being one of my faves growing up. Seems, akin to Discworld, that sometimes it’s assholes all the way down.

I too separate the art from the artist. Along with financial remuneration when they turn out to be turds.

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

The Franco stuff was disappointing because one had hoped/expected more and yet there we are. It’s like Joss Whedon. It’s never a surprise when someone is an asshole in a range of ways but it’s disappointing when people who kind of traded on not being assholes are. I’ll still watch Buffy/Angel etc. And enjoy them a lot but the stuff about him even moved beyond his personal life (which to some extent one will give some more latitude to) into his work life. Or another example is the woman in the Mandalorian, though tbh I thought she was despatched with unnecessary speed when perhaps some space could have been made to see precisely what she actually believed.

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Bagatelle's Unwoven Tramps - May 10, 2021

With Franco there’d been some rumours of this in 2017 ish around The Deuce production. So at least not a total shocker this time.

I read that with the final seasons of Buffy, the writing and casting of Nathan Fillion were a direct riposte to Whedon’s behaviour. Especially the final dispatch with the axe. Seems some of the most inspired writing and metaphor were informed by passion. Life catalyzing art.

Gina Carano was great in Haywire and seeing her self-immolate on speech rather than act is dismaying. But *shrug* I don’t support her position so good luck to her. There are far more worthier causes my time, efforts and resources are involved in. The ACLU defending Nazis in Skokie, IL in the 70s is the relevant cautionary lesson. Right Jake? Right Elwood!

Personally, revelations can and do colour future viewings, separating art and artist is one debate, denying them compensation is another. I already own The Usual Suspects, if I didn’t I’d not buy it in the future. But I know I’ll enjoy Swimming with Sharks more 😀

IMDB is a very useful tool to dig into collaborators, because by the time these revelations make it to our ears they’ve been open secrets in the industry for years or decades.

One last consideration that ricochets around my skull during these events, is that almost always abusers were abused. It’s the process that normalizes abnormal behaviour after all. Until we stop the cycle. We haven’t stopped the cycle. And sure what’s the point of this “civilization” stuff if we don’t?

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

+1 in particular re your last point. THere’s a cycle there and breaking it is absolutely crucial. It’s like the basic truth re primary school kids. By the time they’re about to leave primary school if they’re in some form of trouble it’s already too late. Early engagement and intervention is absolutely necessary.

Swimming with Sharks. A while since I saw that.

But agreed, there’s stuff one doesn’t need to spend hard earned money on. And Gina C is a perfect example of someone who just shot off the deep end.

That’s remarkable re the Nathan Fillion character. That I had not heard. But it makes sense.

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Bagatelle's Unvoted Thane - May 10, 2021

The other important corollary of abuse and abuser is that the vast majority of abused do not become abusers. They become advocates, allies and rescuers.

You are right about early intervention. Which should then make one immediately critical & suspicious of anyone opposing it. Believe people when they tell you who they are the first time. I think Dublin CC made a good faith effort, with a decent amount of resources and success in the new Northside schools of the 70s. But then the cutbacks of the 80s gutted the successes. That’s just my first hand experience integrated with the conversations of the adults. I did like the yellow current buns we got on (Wednesdays?). But the stories I heard from cousins out in Fingal county, were another story. Still some vicious thugs in the primary system.

Is it Michael Palin in GBH making the speech that schools should be palaces?

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

I think it is. I was in NS in Kilbarrack from 1969 to 1977 IIRC and I remember the milk. But despite the use of the strap and some barbaric teachers the system itself was good, even a bit enlightened. And so was the school for the most part.

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Bagatelle's Untanned Tarsal - May 11, 2021

Kilbarrick eh? I was Holy Trinity Schools by Howth Junction, starting in ’76. The H-Blocks as we referred to them. Those were some rough areas from the estates by the tracks of HJ all the way up through Grangemore and into the Donaghies. There was no corporal punishment that I was aware of at that time. The teachers we had were younger and more enlightened.

Definitely a different experience watching the Barrytown trilogy when you know those houses and roads.

Did ye ever make out to the ruined mansion just north of Grangemore estates? The one burned to hide the theft of arms towards the end of the WoI.

One relative was half of Molloy & Sherry trucking, had fuck you millions none of us ever got a whiff of. Other relatives in the deep NS poverty. Another uncle grew up in the same neighbourhood as Bob Geldof (known for shagging the neighbourhood mothers). Dublin is a mighty small town.

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WorldbyStorm - May 11, 2021

That’s amazing, that’s really close. I was in Scoil Lorcain and then Greendale. Where’d you go to secondary?

I know Doghnamede really well, used to go to Books Unlimited in the shopping centre, and later Dunnes was where I’d do the shop in the pre-Aldi days.

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WorldbyStorm - May 11, 2021

BTW, Barrytown, got mixed feelings about the depictions of that.

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Bagatelle's Unpunted Terror - May 11, 2021

Ireland’s tiny. Dublin even more so. Bumping into Irish people in Peru and India, who know people you grew up with in Ireland happens far too often I tell ye!

I loved Books Unlimited, still have my Narnia series I bought with my communion money from there.

We moved out in ’82. The parents saw hordes of kids, no amenities and thought that was a recipe for disaster so we joined our cousins lived in Fingal – the entire extended family lived in Portmarnock, Malahide, Swords, Rush, Skerries and Balbriggan. You would be an age with my cousins in Beaumont, and shit the Stardust too. I remember the next day my parents trying to find out if our older cousins had gone there or not.

Did ye hear about how the principal of Skerries Secondary had to leave because he was caught having sex with a 6th year? This would have been 88 and if I recall correctly, Brother Philbert (de la Salle) was sent over to Kilbarrack direction to an all boys school.

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2. Jim Monaghan - May 9, 2021

Enjoyed this. Turkish. Oppressed woman turns. https://www.netflix.com/title/81195432 Don’t want to say much more, my eldest says I give away plots. “The Gist: Fatma Yılmaz (Burcu Biricik), a seemingly shy woman who cleans people’s homes and offices in Istanbul, is on edge because her husband Zafer ( Ferit Kaya) has gone into hiding after being released from prison. Every time her phone rings, she picks it up thinking it’s him; it may just be him on the other side, but she just hears silence. She goes to a restaurant where some of his associates hang out, but her landlord Ismail (Deniz Hamzaoğlu) warns her off, telling her that everyone knows Zafer and doesn’t want to see him darken their door again.”

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3. NFB - May 9, 2021

Baby Driver I love and would highly recommend, there’s a chase scene late in the film to the song “Hocus Pocus” that’s one of my all-time favorites.

Drive To Survive I do like, it’s able to capture something of what makes F1 so fascinating, but I did find that S3 was doing overtime on manufacturing drama with the way it was edited. The episode on Pierre Gasly was very affecting for me, especially after just reading this piece he wrote in March on the death of Anthone Hubert and the way he was treated by Red Bull: https://www.theplayerstribune.com/posts/pierre-gasly-formula-one-racing

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WorldbyStorm - May 9, 2021

Great that’s good to know re Baby Driver.

Yeah, I can believe it gets more ‘creatively’ edited. There’s a few bits in S1 which seem to hint that that.

Thanks for that link.

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4. Michael Carley - May 9, 2021

Just enjoyed first episode of The Pursuit Of Love on BBC.

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5. alanmyler - May 9, 2021

I see the new season of The Handmaid’s Tthas started on RTE2. I can’t bring myself to watch one episode a week though. That way of consuming TV is dead to me at this stage. Not culture in the strictest sense perhaps but the best thing on TV in the past couple of weeks was the second leg of the Chelsea vs Real semi final if the Champions League, a cracking match and for me the best Chelsea performance I’ve seen in a long time (mostly because I don’t watch the Premiership perhaps). Struggling to find a new series to watch on Netflix or Prime. I did watch Bladerunner 2049 the other evening and really liked it. I’d watched the original a month or more ago after reading the book. As my youngest daughter said the other day it’s the only film/book that she could think of where the film was better than the book, which I’d have to agree with. Speaking of books I’m slowly getting through Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and have a lighter sci-fi novel lined up as a possible interlude to that, The Ministry of The Future, Kim Stanley Robinson, so might start into that this week.

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

I don’t have time to watch more than a couple of episodes of a show a week! 🙂

Btw I loved Bladerunner 2049 too, sure it was ponderous but there was a sense of otherness that was brilliant.

Kim Stanley R – haven’t read that one of his but heard good things about it.

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alanmyler - May 10, 2021

Different modes of consumption WBS. Our covid routine has seen the young one disappear off to her leaba by 8pm at the latest, to squeeze in a read before her 10hr+ sleep in order to be half awake for school the next day, so come 8pm we vegitate on the sofa for a couple of hours before bed ourselves. Bar the very occasional footie match this means we’ve lots of weekly hours to be filled and other than the evening walk for myself every 2nd night or so, that means Netflix and a good series. Bored as we are with this routine it does seem to be the only option given the anti social lockdown restrictions until now, and energy levels after a day’s work. Also tbh it’s sort of nice to sit together under the fleece blanket of an evening, sharing the viewing experience. Mind you we’ll both be glad to start doing more in the evenings once the restrictions allow and the weather is better.

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

Ah, interesting, the creature here has become a bit more ever present. Time was when 9 pm one could say goodnight. Now there’s the appalling situation of someone sitting there in the sitting room doing some social media yoke that I do not understand at 11 pm. That’s put a bit of a dampener on what can be seen.

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LeftAtTheCross - May 10, 2021

Difficult enough alright, one can’t really enforce an early bedtime at that age. I suppose we do have the fortunate position here that the youngster can watch whatever she likes on the PC in the kitchen if she’s staying up late, so we’re still free to watch TV in the sitting room. Spatial privilege. Don’t know if it’d work for you but we found that putting on a show that was in any way a bit embarrassing for the young one to watch together as a family was enough to send her out of the room fairly pronto.

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

Hahaha! Tried that – it didn’t work – eyes turned away for certain part but only for that 😦

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LeftAtTheCross - May 10, 2021

Hey I’m back as me again!!

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6. crocodileshoes - May 10, 2021

Kevin Power’s new novel White City is a funny and well written- sort of Martin Amis meets Ross O’Carroll Kelly – satire about entitlement and the financial crash and more. I found it a more enlightening guide to what the generation below mine have been up to than the much-praised novels of Sally Rooney.

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alanmyler - May 10, 2021

Herself has been making positive noises about that too, it’s her monthly book club read.

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7. Jim Monaghan - May 10, 2021

Forgot to mention https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35jJNyFuYKQ It shows how awful, caste, class, feudal conditions dominate in India.
I remember the dippy hippies of my era singing the praises of this awful society.

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Fergal - May 10, 2021

Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King… just getting into it and starting to gather momentum…
The Chicago Seven… half way though it… not so bad Sacha Cohen’s eight different accents aside!
Watched The Death of Yugoslavia on YouTube a veritable tour de force of a documentary
Leadbelly music
And Lisa Hannigan
Thanks to Croc and Alan for Kevin Power tip
Anybody read Clare Keegan and Louise Kennedy? How good are they? Thanks!

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

The book on the Death of Yugoslavia is on my bookshelf. A great book.

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crocodileshoes - May 10, 2021

‘Foster’ by Keegan is a masterpiece – the kind of short book you finish and then reread to see how she did it. She has a new novel coming out in the autumn. Louise Kennedy’s short stories pack a real punch. I’m reading them a few days apart – they need quite a bit of digestion. You won’t go far wrong with either of these writers.

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Fergal - May 10, 2021

That’s brilliant Croc… both are my ‘to read’list

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terrymdunne - May 11, 2021

White Tiger is a brilliant film. The collection of short stories Between the Assassinations by the same author is good too. I’m afraid the romanticisation of India hasn’t really gone away – though doubtless it was worse in the 1960s – I suppose it does at least indicate a desire to live differently – but the Indian reality is, of course, often pretty grim.

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8. Liberius - May 10, 2021

Film wise watched Rose Island and Black is Beltza on Netflix in the last couple of weeks. Rose Island is a fictionalised comedy-drama telling of the story of the Republic of Rose Island microstate that was set up on a platform off the coast of Rimini in Italy in 1968 before been demolished by the Italian authorities in early 1969; as a comedy-drama it’s got enough whimsy to make it a reasonably entertaining watch, it’s never going to win prizes for originality but it’s good enough that it’s worth the 2 hours if you want an easy-going bit of entertainment.

Black is Beltza is a Spanish animated film about the political journey through the 1960s of a Basque, well, puppeteer is the best way of putting it (though the giant puppets are only featured at the start), starting with racial discrimination in New York and then fanning out to Cuba, Mexico and so on. Politically it’s probably of interest to some here, although I don’t think it works all that well going as it does on a whistle-stop tour of liberation struggles of the era (even De Gaulle make’s it in with his “vive le Québec libre”; not that the Basque character is enamoured with De Gaulle). Interesting but far from perfect.

Music wise on Spotify I’ve been listening to Charlotte de Witte’s new EP Formula which is themed around F1 (fitting with some of the other content of the thread), I know there is a hour-and-half set on de Witte’s Youtube channel filmed at Mugello to go along with the release but I’ve not fitted that in as of yet. Yesterday watched a new contemporary classic piece by Henning Kraggerud performed by him and the Arctic Philharmonic, wasn’t bad,loads of violas which makes a change from the dominance of violins.

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WorldbyStorm - May 10, 2021

Really like the Kraggerud piece. And Black is Beltza looks extremely interesting.

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9. kickbackyak - May 12, 2021

Hello all, long time reader, not quite a first time commenter because I know I left one or two some time back, but it would’ve been quite a while ago. I’ve been a bit all over the place though recently and as a result hadn’t realised the Culture Threads had started until yesterday; very glad to see them take off.

In terms of music and podcasts I pretty much have too much going on to talk about in brief, but one of the main things has been the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die generator I’ve been using for a few months now. Instead of going chronologically (or in reverse like I also tried once) it gives you a random album every weekday. I know enough about music to have at least heard of most of what’s come up so far, but there’ve been some real hidden gems too. Like Jane Weaver’s Modern Kosmology and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury.

https://1001albumsgenerator.com/

I also booked a ticket for a Pillow Queens concert in December near where I live, which I’m very excited about. I love Pillow Queens, and unless something comes up before then this’ll be the first in-person concert I go to since the pandemic started and since I moved back home. Not only that, it’ll be the first concert I go to here, even though I’ve lived here for most of my life. Which is weird to think about. Then again I’ve never been the most outgoing of people, though I’m hoping to get to stretch out my comfort zone from later in the year on.

Over the weekend I finished reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Always Coming Home, which is an odd and fascinating book that I’m definitely going to have to come back to again. It’s essentially a worldbuilding exercise writ large, delving into an imagined future Californian society, and while it doesn’t not have narrative, it’s there not just to reinforce what that society is like to live in, but also what types of narrative that society produces and their relationship with narrative. Le Guin also released a spoken word electronic acoustic album with the book featuring some of its music and poetry, which is also very interesting, and I listened to that the day after. Currently I’m reading Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, about the rise and fall of Theranos, and that’s been fascinating so far. I’m also somewhere in the middle of, ahem, Sex Criminals Volume 1: One Weird Trick by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. It’s nearly a decade old by now, but it’s been a while since I’ve read a comic that’s exploded out of the gates as much as this has.

TV – really only The US Office at the minute. I’m at the start of Season 5, and partly keeping going out of momentum and inertia, but I’m still having a good time.

Film – I watched most of Game Night again because RTE was showing it on Saturday and I remembered having a great time with it when we watched it over Christmas. I also saw John Carpenter’s They Live on Netflix, which is definitely not quite what I figured They Live was going to be. To some extent though it’s really all the better for that. Glad I finally checked it out.

I’ve had a free three month trial of MUBI, and was planning on leaving it at that. Even though they gave me another free month and I decided to take it out of… pity maybe? For some reason though it took me ages to actually check out their front page, and while I’d used it to see a few things I’d heard of from rundowns it turns out their wider library has a lot of really good stuff. So as a result of that I’ve decided to keep my subscription going for the foreseeable future. It costs as much as a cinema ticket a month, and until I finish my Masters later on in the year I get it for even cheaper. On a related note, I’ve started cutting down my Netflix list that I keep in a Google doc. There’s a lot in there I can live without watching, and a lot that’s just there to provide Netflix with content. I won’t miss it when it’s gone.

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10. WorldbyStorm - May 12, 2021

“Like Jane Weaver’s Modern Kosmology and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury.” Fantastic albums, particularly Jane Weaver. Really love that one. Interesting re the gig you’ve got in December.

I haven’t read Always Coming Home, but I have a fair bit of her other work. I think that one scared me by being so detailed. But clearly worth a good look. Cheers fo the other two leads – that one on the start up sounds great.

Never got into either version of the Office, though I do think I preferred what I saw of the US one.

Game Night is great, but I’ve never seen They live which given its politics I should.

And to my shame I’d never heard consciously of MUBI. That looks really great. And pretty inexpensive all things considered.

Ah Netflix, I sigh inwardly every time I see how much stuff is there, but as you say, 90% isn’t great.

BTW good luck with the Masters.

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kickbackyak - May 12, 2021

I know I bought at least one concert ticket last year thinking things would Return to Normal before the scheduled date. Obviously that never ended up happening. Pillow Queens are very much hoping this tour will go ahead, and while we’ve been burned before, I have to assume that by December we’ll be at a point where we can have live concerts again.

They’re definitely two fairly different shows. I’ve seen precisely two episodes of the original Office, and that was several years ago. Or was it three episodes? In any case, it was something where I could appreciate what it was going for, while still coming out of it knowing that it just wasn’t for me. Ricky Gervais’s general… Ricky Gervais ness in recent years has made it easier for me to leave it in the past, which is admittedly unfair to Stephen Merchant. Who I don’t really know a whole lot about what he thinks about things and I’m happy to keep it that way!

I’ve seen They Live has gotten popular enough with right-wingers to the point that Carpenter has had to reject their reading of it. Tbh I’m not entirely sure whether the film does the best job of dismissing that reading and doing his job for him, though I’ve no reason to doubt him on that. It’s not difficult to view it that way if you’re already inclined to view things that way, but the film’s also very clearly about Reaganism. To the point of having a politician on a TV talk about how it’s a new morning in America.

Looking back over the previous Culture Threads I’m sure one or two people mentioned MUBI before me. In any case, I first heard of it several years ago and while it looked really interesting, it also looked overwhelming and the way it cycles films in and out scared me off. Then it basically dropped out of sight until they offered three months free for a limited time. They got to me in the end!

I’ve been obsessing about keeping track of what’s on Netflix for a long time, so as long as it was on my list there was a hope of getting to it eventually. It’s not so much that I’m worried about never getting to the things I really want to see, though it is a bit of that. Ok, a lot of it’s that. At the same time some of it is simply that I’m no longer interested in playing their game. So I’m still going to give some of their originals a shot, but if I don’t recall hearing good things about it from people I trust I’m no longer interested.

Cheers! Been at it nearly three years now. Sometimes I regret it and sometimes I don’t. It’s been fun though, and if I get to use it at some point that’ll be even better. I’ll be glad both to have it in my back pocket, and both to have it over and done with.

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WorldbyStorm - May 13, 2021

I figure three years of that is well worth it. And it places you in a good space for moving on. Of course… you could always think about another four years doing further work in that area 🙂 Though seriously and FWIW, my advice would be take a year out of it, see how it goes, and then if you’re still interested in taking it further go for it. Finance of course is always an issue and work too, and trying to combine them…

Yeah, I was the same re gigs, also it’s a support bands kind of thing. I’m still a bit dubious about gigs before say Oct/Nov, but I figure if things go well then that’s not beyond the bounds of possibility. Though I notice a lot of gigs are now being pushed in to 22 which kind of makes sense.

Gervais is fascinating. I always kind of liked his humour but he kind has an edge that is madly off-putting. Merchant is very different. I kind of think of Gervais as the anti-Stewart Lee, who I really like, not quite sure why, but there’s something about it – not even politically but his whole shtick. Both trade in discomfort to some degree.

I hadn’t realised that re They Live that the alt-right bought into. Makes a sort of sense. But still… Btw speaking of gigs, it was a bit indulgent but got to see Carpenter play some years back. It was really good, though strange to see long clips of various of his films playing in the background through songs.

Checked out MUBI, it’s very tempting. But there’s a bit too much streaming, really what you’re saying about Netflix. Unless stuff comes with a really good word of mouth then tend to ignore it now.

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WorldbyStorm - May 13, 2021

BTW listening to Pillow Queens on bandcamp. They’re pretty great. Holy Show is a fantastic song. And I don’t think I ever imagined a song called Liffey could be that discordant. That’s one to get.

I really worry about bands that released albums this last twelve months, whether the exposure is there for them or will albums have been lost. On the other hand people had loads of time to listen to stuff.

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11. sonofstan - May 13, 2021

On MUBI at the moment, Lizzie Borden’ Born in Flames – brilliant piece of no budget film making, good enough to make you vow to stay away from Hollywood forever. A democratic socialist USA (!) remains patriarchal, the Women’s Army takes it on – inclusing bombing the World Trade Centre, which is probably why it disppeared for a while (the movie, not the WTC).
Full of punky energy, and great music, and with a hold- on- a -second appearance of Irish film maker Pat Murphy as earnest liberal who goes radical. And as it happens, her 1981 Movie, Maeve is coming online again soon.
You can also see where Spike Lee got some of Do The Right Thing from.

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WorldbyStorm - May 13, 2021

That looks amazing that film.

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CL - May 13, 2021
12. sonofstan - May 17, 2021

I came across this in a Guardian article on the dominance of female writers in the field of contemporary literary fiction:

But regardless of class, do men, or at least male readers, actually want a look-in? Whenever I speak to men in their 20s, 30s and 40s, most tell me they couldn’t give a toss about fiction, especially literary fiction.

It rankled a bit, both for the throwaway-ness of it, but also as a male reader of a lot of lit fict – but also not one in my ’20s, 30s, or 40s….
Is it accurate, do people think?

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sonofstan - May 17, 2021

Meant to include the next bit:
“They have video games, YouTube, nonfiction, podcasts, magazines”

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alanmyler - May 17, 2021

Definitely true for me anyhow. I’ve made a conscious effort in the past couple of years to introduce fiction into my reading, alternating between fiction and non-fiction. I’ve found it a bit strange. Some books are really brilliant, page turners, maybe reaching emotional buttons in me that I wouldn’t otherwise get from my reading. And some are disappointingly shallow. Whereas herself only reads fiction more or less. She’s in a book club via a friend, so there’s a book per month and others in between, but the book club serves a social function which fills a need too, which men are perhaps less in need of. Well some anyway.

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13. crocodileshoes - May 17, 2021

Irish Times fiction bestseller list on 25 July, 2020: 10 books out of 10 by women. Sarah Gilmartin’s roundup of the best Irish debut novels of the year in the same paper, December 14th: 12 out of 12 by women.
Like SofS, I’ve been a reader of lit fic and the books pages for decades. I’ve also, in the past, had a job that involved trying to encourage teenage boys to read. So here’s a couple of things I’ve seen happen in the last 20 years or so.
The point about gaming is well made – all the peer pressure among teen age boys – and younger – is to reach for the console, not the book.
Overwhelmingly, YA fiction is written by women, for girls – again, look at the reviews and the sales charts. This is feeding through into ‘adult’ fiction: many of the tropes of YA writing are evident in the 20- and 30- something writers on Gilmartin’s list.
A lot of this is very laudable: it is time the strong central female protagonist was as common as her male equivalent; female sexuality, ambition, agency were as fully explored and celebrated as male. None of that is going to get teenage boys back to the novel, though. As my FIFA – playing nephew put it about his sister’s reading: ‘It’s all about who they fancy and how horrible boys are.’
I recently reread some of the landmark postwar novels by the big alpha male writers of the sixties: Bellow’s ‘Humboldt’s Gift’, Updike’s ‘Rabbit, Run’. They would probably be unpublishable now, such is the frankness of their sexual attitudes, the male gaze unrestricted. I was dazzled by them 40 years ago; now I’m queasy, can’t help thinking what today’s Guardian reviewer would make of them. The reception for the recent Roth biography gives an indication.
Question is: what kind of novel can catch the attention of the young, male reader? If anything, it’s genre stuff- detective thrillers, manga, a bit of science fiction. But first, a few hours of FIFA!

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sonofstan - May 17, 2021

“I recently reread some of the landmark postwar novels by the big alpha male writers of the sixties: Bellow’s ‘Humboldt’s Gift’, Updike’s ‘Rabbit, Run’. They would probably be unpublishable now, such is the frankness of their sexual attitudes, the male gaze unrestricted”

Definitely true.
I still read a lot of fiction when I can, and more and more by women – whether this reflects what’s being published and attracting my attention in bookshops or whether it’s because I find the ‘male gaze’ a bit uncomfortable now, I’m not sure.
I’m sure though a few of us here remember when at least pretending to have read Kafka/ Ballard/ Burroughs/ Kerouac/ whoever was a bit part of teenage/ early twenties cultural competition….

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WorldbyStorm - May 17, 2021

I think it’s important to contextualise Roth etc in their time. I’ve read a lot of Updike, only a bit of Roth, and I can’t say I much liked them, but they did reflect attitudes that were prevalent and in their own way were ground breaking because there was definitely a necessity to look at male experience of that time even accepting that the balancing female experience was much less well explored. So I’d regard them as stops on the way to a better place, far from good, unfinished, in some ways deeply problematic, but they were a step forward in their own odd way and counterintuitively opened up new terrain that a broader range of voices could then take and claim as their own and reshape.

I’m interested in this discussion because I go through phases in respect of literary fiction – and the areas I like, science fiction in particular have quite an overlap with literary fiction too, there’s a ragged fringe between the two increasingly. But I find that because I read a lot of non-fiction there’s a certain ease for want of a better word about reading genre fiction – a sort of reward for work!

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WorldbyStorm - May 17, 2021

Actually Ballard, even Kerouac and Kafka are good examples of what I mean on that fringe – increasable and for the better added to by women’s voices in more recent times (Ballard for example could have some curious notions about women in some of his work). But even from that generation, more or less, Lessing would be an example of the fringe.

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14. Paul Culloty - May 19, 2021

Interesting opinion piece here, claiming that the Hay Festival has become over-commercialised and divorced from its community-driven origins, with few events either in Welsh or by local authors, but merely promoting the emphases of the London printing and media sectors:

https://nation.cymru/culture/poor-taffs-festival-or-is-hay-really-in-wales/

Granted, Writers Week here has occasionally been accused of being middle-class, but most of the organisers remain local, and it continues to focus mainly on emerging Irish writers:

https://writersweek.ie/

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