Stuff I liked in August

Warcry

Games Workshop’s new skirmish game is a genuine treat. Fast, characterful, dynamic and small. It’s the game equivalent of my favourite books and films. I love playing it, and I’m sure I’ll sink more time into it than any of their other games over the next few months.

Nat’s paragraph about the LoVE burger

“It’s absolutely mind-blowing. It has the perfect balance of creamy, crunchy, acidic, sweet, and fatty, and I just can’t get enough of it. It’s astonishing that fast food invented ways to democratise such a sophisticated flavour profile.”

SPOILERS: it’s not actually as good as Nat’s paragraph about it

Midsummer nights dream at The Bridge

Neither Ann or I actually like Shakespeare very much, but one of my Warhammer pals was in the cast and it seemed like a neat idea. It was actually terrific. Funny, light, energetic. I felt like I ‘got’ more of the stuff between the lovers than in any other time I’ve seen it or read it. Very pleased to have gone (and to have got promenade tickets too).

Atlanta: Robbin’ season

I’ve deleted a lot of telly and films off of my list this month, because Robbin’ season was so good it kind of reset my bar.

The first series of Atlanta was great, but plays the setup (‘up and coming rapper just getting by’) in a fairly trad way. It sets Robbin’ season up beautifully though. The second series unpacks authenticity, masculinity, mental health and realness in a fragmented, choppy way. The patchwork of stories flipped from chilling to hilarious to devastating. I loved it, and I can’t wait to binge it all again sometime.

Antibiotics

I’ve been ill most of the month. The first half was an ear infection that was nearly healed before I made it all much much worse with a cotton bud. After 33 years, I accept that cotton buds are bad. Medicine is amazing though.

Reading old favourites

I re-read Pattern Recognition and Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry this month. Really enjoyed them. Didn’t feel particularly knotted about them, the way going back to old favourites sometimes can. Malry in particular I’m happy to have gone back to: it’s such a concise, angry little book.

HMHB album titles

  • Back in the DHSS
  • Back Again in the DHSS
  • McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt
  • This Leaden Pall
  • Some Call It Godcore
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Road
  • Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral
  • Trouble over Bridgewater
  • Cammell Laird Social Club
  • Achtung Bono
  • CSI: Ambleside
  • 90 Brisodal (Crimond)
  • Urge for Offal
  • No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut

(I’ve not listened to much by them, but I like “She’s In Broadstairs“)

Amrutha lounge

Ace vegan restaurant in Earlsfield. Highly recommended.

Colleagues

This was a good month at Juno. Got some tricksy stuff shipped and started laying the groundwork for features that move the whole thing forwards. Feels like the start of a step-change, and that’s bloody lovely.

Stuff I liked in July

A late edition, because I went on holiday.

Taskmaster Series 8 finale

Series 7 was the best series, but I still enjoyed 8. The finale left Ann giggling for about half an hour. Thumbs up.

Mind over Mortal Realms

I took part in a day of Age of Sigmar gaming in aid of MIND, the mental health charity. It was absolutely fantastic – a great gang, really open to telling some stories with tiny models and dice.

Warhammer’s been a pretty great hobby outlet for me the last few years, alleviating anxiety and opening up a space for thinking and doing that’s not tied to work or production or progress. Felt nice to use the hobby to raise a money for other people who need different kinds of support.

Stranger Things 3

I skipped the second series after an episode because I got bored, but I enjoyed season 3. Too many characters, too many stories, but some extremely stupid fun all the same.

Queer Eye’s ‘Disabled, but Not Really’ episode

Ann: “Antoni teaches him how to make a chicken salad and Bobbi LITERALLY MOVES A WALL so the guy can use his bathroom properly for the first time in seven years.”

Cheathco’s shallots

Exquisite. Sweet and delicious roasted with a bit of salt and oil.

Sassetta

A holiday of reading, swimming in a lake, staying up and watching the stars, eating great food, and watching swallows zipping about. Glorious.

Stuff I liked in June

Nadja in What we do in the Shadows

Matt’s blog post ‘Meat and gratitude’

I love the coinage ‘grativore‘. I’ve been off meat for nearly two years (related content on this in a few paragraphs) but I could stand to be more grateful for the fish and animal-derived products I do consume.

Antoni Porowski being interviewed by Miz Cracker

The journey’s the thing on this. JOY.

Sule Skerry

New album from Erland Cooper, came out at the close of our Scotland adventure in May. Been a repeat play throughout June though, ideal music to paint and type to.

Chernobyl

It’s one of the most highly rated TV shows of all-time, and there’s not much I can add to that. That they saved as much as they did for the final episode was a neat bit of writing. It makes a murder-mystery of a disaster. That’s the angle I imagine compelling stories about the climate crisis are going to take.

The Luminaries

I read this shortly after it came out, and I remember thinking of it as a bit 7/10. It grew in my estimation though, and when I saw the paperback cheap at Old Street I scooped it up. It was so sumptuous, a pleasure to luxuriate in that little pocket of New Zealand again. I’ll go back to it again in a few years, I’m sure.

The Planets

I haven’t made it through a single episode without falling fully asleep. That’s a good thing: I often sleep quite badly.

Painting gains

Two models I painted this month I’m super-proud of.

The first is conversion for my FEC army. I managed some really fine blending, and the model as a whole has picked up some lovely compliments from hobbyist folks.

The second is the first Space Marine I’ve painted since I was a teenager. I really enjoyed the fine highlights on the panels, and I’m looking to do more of that with my next army (probably Stormcast – I’m not a 40k player).

Bats in the park

Obviously they’re amazing, but every time I see one I pretend to be Lazlo from What we do in the shadows and shout “Bat!”.

Deb on ‘not colonising the future’

“…it dawned on me that what I was seeing was a rebellion of the natives against the colonizers – the inhabitants of the future marshaling resistance to the colonizing present and to the extraction of the resources that they will need to thrive.”

the end of history

New play at the Jerwood. I enjoyed it, but I don’t see much theatre, so by and large anything I go to see would make it on the list. Well acted, sporting a couple of moments where the energy turned on a dime – those took my breath away. Predictable plotting meant I could enjoy the performances.

Atlanta

BBC just put season one up on iPlayer, and I binged the whole thing while Ann was out last night. Felt very sharp, and I felt stupid for not watching it sooner. Also, short episodes! Wonderful.

Month of challenges

This month I’ve been trying to do five things each day:

  1. Eating vegan food
  2. Not drinking
  3. Walking 10,000+ steps
  4. Not eating cake in the day
  5. Working out a little (7 minutes from an app)

It’s felt very good. I’ve enjoyed cooking recipes I wouldn’t usually pick up, and I’ve felt better for being more active. The last few days I’ve been wondering what of it has felt good enough I want to make a habit.

The exercise is probably a keeper, although there’s no way it’ll be every day. Maybe Monday to Thursday. And no cake in the day (generally being conscious about how much I eat and at what time) has been mega positive. Not drinking – meh. I don’t drink enough for that to feel like a problem, but not drinking ‘on a school night’ is probably smart.

I’m not ready to be vegan. Which is to say, I don’t want to give up butter, eggs and cheese. I might get there eventually, but not now. I was actually fine for not having fish, and I don’t think I’ll be cooking fish at home for a long, long while. I’ve missed eating it out though.

The real killer – and I’m surprised by this – has been the steps. Reaching that on average workdays has meant being out for around an hour in the evenings. I want to do other things with that time. I want to cook, I want to paint tiny models. I want to read, or flop down. I want to stop and watch birds. I don’t like the momentum of it, especially during a time of day I should be slowing down.

Interested to see what of it I carry into next month. Anyway, here’s a pic of the chart to wrap-up.

The missing square: half a vegan rock cake I baked. No regrets.

Stuff I liked in May

May

May is the best month. Like Alice says “The weather is picking up, there are two bank holidays, your garden plants are looking good.” Also, Ann and I’s birthdays are both in May AND it’s the month we met, so there’s plenty of opportunity to justify having a lovely time.

The best news? Only 11 more months until next May! Less than a year. Brilliant!

*cast(s)

Warhammer Community publish two podcasts: Voxcast and Stormcast. The current runs are an oral history of Warhammer product development, blending new studio setups with historic ‘What was Blood Bowl v1 like to work on?’ chat. It’s been really insightful. Big fan.

Wales: Land of the Wild

Before Ann and I went on an adventure to Scotland we started watching the BBC natural history unit’s series about Wales. It was beautiful. Absolutely got us in a place where we wanted to explore more of the UK.

Ruby Tandoh’s article about Nigel Slater

“Nigel Slater doesn’t have the answers to the big questions. He doesn’t even have the answers to the medium-sized questions… But sometimes the small things are the ones that keep us going.”

Plants at home

Matt’s blog post about the New Forest

“all over this infinity of greens and browns and whites, a full half of my gaze, the bottom half is green, and the top half blue–the sky–and to notice that the world, the regular old world, is painted in primary colours, I lose my breath again”

Scotland adventure

Right, look, the thing is I had the very best of times in Scotland a couple of weeks back and frankly everything else in this post is filler.

Ann and I drove around the top of the country. The circuit is tricksy, astonishing driving, on roads that tumbled out of car ads. The drive from Ullapool to Torridon in particular was jaw-dropping. The weather was glorious – 6 of the 8 days were blazing sunshine. AND we timed it just before the midgies really came up (we started to see them on the penultimate night).

Wildlife highlight 1: having an eagle soar a few metres above the car. as we crested a hill in a loch/valley. As a stag surveyed us from a hilltop. While ‘The Cause of Labor is the Hope of The World’ rose to a crescendo. Exquisitely timed.

Wildlife highlight 2: Watching razorbills nesting (who captivated me more than puffins… probably because we went puffin watching before the majority of the colony arrived).

Food highlight 1: the cafe at Whalligoe Steps. So much better than it had any reason to be.

Food highlight 2: birthday dinner tasting menu at the Torridon. LUXE.

‘Being in the sea’ highlight 1: We swam three times, in lochs and bays. 45mins in the water at Oldshoremore was delightful.

‘Being in the sea’ highlight 2: Kayaking with a Scottish Captain Marvel. I had to go in a double with Ann because I was too tall for the singles. We made an excellent team!

I would go again in an instant.

Lizzo at Kentish Town Forum

She was great.

Pose

Mixed reviews this, but it came good in the back half of the season. Stand outs for me were Indya Moore and Billy Porter, who did so much heavy lifting, and landed some heartbreaking moments.

Like Fleabag, it’s another show that moved weirdly in time. Episodes seemed to skip days and months, while playing seconds out over minutes. I think that compression (‘just the main emotional beats please, no filler’) is a kind of storytelling I’m used to in films, but not in TV drama.

Don’t fear the griever

Andreea Tecusan and Helene Falstad are a couple of the students I kept in touch with from AHO. I’ve just read their diploma project, and I thought it was great. Speculative fictions about policies and technology to support people who are grieving, with some of the social backlash played out through Instagram stories. It felt thoughtful and open. Lovely stuff.

Stuff I liked in April

Lux Prima

Karen O & Dangermouse make something a bit trippy and chanteuse-y. A tip from Rachel at Juno.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

This passed me by first time round, but I watched it over a couple of nights in Oslo at the top of the month. It felt so dry and moody. I’d love to find more anthologies like it.

Buying a home

I love our house. It’s more than double the size of our old flat and we’ve got two toilets. It’s fabulous and I’m proud how homey we’ve made it already. I’m typing this at the kitchen table. Love it.

Fleabag

I loved each episode but thought the arc of the second series was a bit uneven. I reckon that’s on me: I’m now so used to the box-set slow pace of US TV dramas that I felt there were two or three whole seasons of Fleabag missing. Still, absolutely vicious stuff. Loved it.

Robyn at Ally Pally

Honey left me cold, but it works terrifically live. Also, great to be at the reunion of everyone who moved to London between 9/11 and the financial crash.

Peregrine near the office

At the end of a day I was heading from the office to the station and saw a few sparrows chasing something larger and sportier off from a rooftop.

The next day I took a punt on wandering at the foot of the church near Juno, and saw *something* preening feathers up at the top of the steeple. I waited fifteen minutes of so, eventually seeing it kicking off and jetting into the housing estate. In silhouette, all bullet and attitude, a peregrine. Beautiful.

Dawn chorus walk in Sydenham Hill Wood

Homecoming (the Beyonce one)

Obviously brilliant. Got the marching band version of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble’ in my head for a full week.

Lauren Laverne’s bank holiday Monday show

Lovely Mark works on the show, and every time I tune in I imagine he’s structured the playlist specifically to get me to dance in my kitchen. Reader: he succeeded.

Russell’s post about DJing

“The art elite of Oregon were peering at tiny scribbles and sculptural interventions and I was playing Transglobal Underground and Afro Celt Sound System.”

Making a delicious trays of canelés

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

This remains one of the worst television shows I’ve ever seen and I will watch every last episode.

Britney

Fringe comedy at the Soho Theatre about Charly Clive’s brain tumour and the efforts of her friend Ellen Robertson to be there for her. Excited to see them do other stuff down the line.

Avengers: Endgame

I had low hopes for this. By this point, twenty-odd films in, there are so many characters and plot beats I don’t *really* care about, that the thought of three hours in that world was a bit daunting. It could certainly never be as good as Thor: Ragnarok.

It managed to be cathartic, entertaining, flawed and delightful. I even cried a couple of times. It managed all that while feeling like the most comic-book movie of the whole franchise… maybe even *because* of that. Very impressive. I don’t expect I’ll ever watch it again.

Stuff I liked in March

Bad Moon Cafe

Well, Bad Moon was a bit of revelation. Gaming tables are top-notch, the vibe was pretty open and friendly, food and drinks were good. Looking forward to popping in and out of the place for more sessions as the year rolls on!

Being referenced by a candidate in a job interview

We’re hiring more folks at Juno, and I had the weirdest moment in one of the sessions where a candidate talked about some things I’d written at IF as an influence on her work. She had no idea who I was or that I’d written them – I was just introduced as ‘Matt’ on a Hangout call – so it felt natural and therefore EXTREMELY WEIRD. But in a good way.

The Tiffany Aching series

I’ve been re-reading the Discworld series, picking up the newish hardback editions and ploughing through them as I go. It’s been a background effort for a couple of years now (and I won’t have finished until the last two in that edition are released in Autumn). But I feel comfortable calling it: the characters that have come out best have been the Witches.

The stories are tight, the characters are distinct and the setting feels like the best blend of high-fantasy, parody and low-drama. He gets that mix wrong so often through the series, that the fact he nails it just about every time with this cast feels very special. The Tiffany Aching books (a young adult take on the witches cast) are probably his best sequence. The middle three in particular – A Hatful of Sky, Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight – balance coming-of-age stories and adventure so well. The Shepherd’s Crown (the final Tiffany Aching novel, and the Discworld novel) stacks the landing somewhat. It needed another draft, maybe two, but Pratchett’s hourglass ran out. All that said, if there were any batch of Discworld books I’d recommend to a newcomer, it’d be these five.

I had no time for these when I first read his work. I figured it was ‘Kids stuff’. But all of Pratchett’s work is kids stuff. None of the stories are especially adult, and the world is at its most accessible when you’re in an unguarded mood and you go with it.

Russian Doll

Loved it. Plugged all the pieces together really nicely, and the final episode was outstanding.

Derry Girls

Series one was wonderful. Series two I’m less hot on, but it’s still great.

Trapped

So. I’m pretty sure Icelandic drama Trapped is rubbish. The plots are contrived, the translated dialogue feels full of brute-force, ‘tell, don’t show’ moments, and there’s no way any of the people in it should still be employed – given the catalogue of errors that accumulate each season.

But because I don’t understand Icelandic, I don’t have any opportunity to focus on the things that undermine English-speaking police procedurals. I also can’t guess whodunnit in the same way you can on British dramas (“Oh, I bet he cost a lot of money… he’ll probably turn out to be the killer”). So, yeah.

Queer Eye

Love it. Cried about a dozen times across this series. Such a good selection of people. Also, still revelling in my season 2 turnaround on Bobby, who is far and away The Best One.

(Quite a TV heavy month, I realise now. Not surprising, given that we’re building up to moving home next month.)

This exquisite, dumb Made In Chelsea ad

So stupid. So wonderful. So stupid.

A guy who works at Levi’s Regent Street

Good customer service stories are exactly as boring as bad customer service stories, but they’re so much nicer to live through. Basically, one of the staff did their job and helped me and my lanky/going to seed self out. Didn’t have quite the right stuff in stock – and knew that going in – but he still put the effort in to get me confident in sizing and fit.

Ant Man and The Wasp

I’ve now seen all the MCU movies, and I think this, the first Guardians movie and Thor: Ragnarok are probably the best ones. They have actual jokes, no-one’s mooching about being emo, and the stakes feel proportionate to the story.

I’m looking forward to Avengers: Endgame, but I already know it’ll be too long, there won’t be enough jokes, and a huge chunk of dramatic tension will be undercut by the need for sequels to exist. Just like the comics.

Pure

Pure felt so distinct and so well-put-together. I don’t think any plot in the show surprised me (I don’t think they were supposed to) but the cast and the script made everything feel so well connected and so live. Such a joy.

Oslo

I’m here again, teaching at AHO next week. I really really love this city, and the folks in it.

Stuff I liked in February

Deadwood

I never saw Deadwood first time around. I’d always wanted to though, and in the run-up to Christmas bought the box-set for a few quid in a secondhand shop. I loved it. Bitter, portentous, vile. Atmospheric. I got thoroughly into the town and wish-wish-wish it had played out to the Deadwood fire (a moment telegraphed from damn near the start).

I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of the movie.

“Bucket of shrugs”

I’ve been casting around for a phrase for something for a while, and “Bucket of shrugs” finally blurted from my mouth. It’s a way I’ve started referring to particular ‘checking and approval’ activities: you get a bunch of documents or facts, and make a vague judgement about whether things are ‘okay’ against some very vague criteria.

It’s a very, very common thing in legal services. It’s opaque, frustrating, and inherently hostile to clients. Making sure we never build a ‘bucket of shrugs’ into our processes at Juno is totally vital to building accessible, scalable legal services.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I finished this book off around about the same time Phil wrote this blog post about ‘Olive Kitteridge’ and it rang similar bells. I found myself twisting in frustration at Eleanor’s behaviour throughout (it’s the point of the book, really). Enjoyed it though.

Grief is the thing with feathers

A recommendation from Gemma. I loved it. Gnarly and fractured. I burned through this in my commute and and from work… arguably too quickly. I’ll definitely return to it down the line. Connected a couple of loose ideas too, which’d be nice to do something with… possibly another writing project for Richard.

The February 8th entries on kottke.org

Physics and hip-hop. Four entirely unrelated links that opened up an internet for me: Buy the Cheap Thing First, Skipping Stones: “Every Throw Is a Complete New Puzzle”, Remembering J Dilla On His 45th Birthday and Me Cookie Monster. Ask Me Anything. A good day in links.

Bob Mortimer on Desert Island Discs

After a Guardian article in praise of fluffy, consequence-free interviews I got listening to Lauren Laverne’s run on the programme. Bob Mortimer came off as a lovely, relatable introvert. A chill time.

Josie Long on the Off Menu podcast

I’m enjoying Off Menu. Desert Island Discs for food. Especially enjoyed the Josie Long episode because Felix got a shout out. He is a wonderful man, who makes wonderful drinks.

Battletome: Flesh-eater Courts

My favourite Warhammer faction got a new rulebook! Insane ghouls who toil under the delusion that they’re actually noble knights… I find The Court of The Carrion King deeply relatable.

H is for hawk: a new chapter

Natural World documentary following Helen Macdonald as she rears a goshawk for the first time since raising Mabel – the bird she trained through H is for Hawk. I have a lot of time for that book, and absolutely intend to revisit it down the line. This was a nice top-up.

Flat Pack Pop

Music doc about the music of Denniz Pop and Cheiron Studios. It was rough around the edges, and lacked a few key interviewees, but I loved this for being one of the first docs I’ve seen that took the pop music of my youth seriously. I feel old enough to deserve that now.

Trixie Mattel: Skinny Legend

Dumb fun. Now mega-excited to see Katya.