Media Diet for June
Inspired by Joanne McNeil’s excellent newsletter I’m going to try and do regular Media Diet posts because I seem to be consuming a lot of prepackaged media at the moment and it’s probably a good idea to account for it. For this entry it’s mostly recommendations. For future ones I may keep a strict record.
Fiona has been going to bed earlier for reasons that make sense to her and so as someone who’s given up on early-to-rise I’ve got free reign over the Netflix/Torrent machine. Here’s some notes.
One of those films that feels like it’s weaponised for “people like me”, in that the main character seems to be an amalgam of most of my female friends and a few male ones. This might be because Greta Gerwig is simple delightful and I’d love for her to be my friend. It’s also fits in the “Ethan Hawke is basically the same character in everything” universe, somewhere between Before Sunset and Before Midnight, and is a nice adition to his deconstruction of the hearthrob male character as a selfish dick. But ultimately it’s worth watching for Julianne Moore barnstorming performance which I won’t spoil here. Basically it’s perfect.
Surprisingly not shit. I was expecting it to be mediocre at best but really enjoyed bits. The sweaty military guy was annoying and the set-ups for disaster were obvious, but the interplay between the leads was fun and nuanced, which is what makes a film like this. Chris Pratt I obviously know and he basically plays his standard character with more frowning and less jokes, but Bryce Dallas Howard was new to me. I’ll keep an eye out for her.
The third season landed and maintains the same level of quality as before. I’ll watch anything with Tina Fey involved but notable about this series is how it’s a light hearted comedy about seriously broken people with Kimmy in the eye of the storm. Every so often she’ll break the fixed grin and a horrifying thunderbolt of PTSD bursts through the screen. There’s a fun game of decoding daft shows and films to reveal the dark underbelly, and lots of TV media massively exaggerates for effect (see My Little Pony for example) but it’s interesting to see a show be so explicit. This also happens in the (equally good for different reasons) Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Neil Gaiman’s work is like a teenager trying too hard to be a clever adult, and that’s fine. I’d not read the novel (my Gaiman years ended around halfway through the Sandman run) but this feels like very familiar ground. What makes it worthwhile is Ian McShane, of course, and introduced in the episode I just watched, Crispin Glover, chewing up the scenery with abandon. But otherwise it’s fairly forgettable wallpaper TV.
Books are mostly related to Instructions for Humans but a couple could be of interest to a wider audience.
Back in the day (circa 2006-2010) I was one of those blogging / social media evangelist types because, through my early adoption (I started blogging in 2000) I saw great potential in these new twists on communication technology. The downward spiral of the last decade and counting has been traumatic to watch and this novel filters that trauma into a concentrated fury, fired by a man driven mad by squandered dreams and base exploitation. If you work with the internet and feel a little dirty sometimes you need to read this. (Very cheap on Kindle at time of writing.)
This is new in hardback so you may want to wait for the cheaper edition, but it’s essential for anyone working with modern consumer technology in a critical or ethical way. Adam Greenfield takes all the main areas (smartphones, networked (IoT) devices, Bitcoin, machine learning, etc) and lays out in calm, neutral and engaging terms, exactly what’s going on. His description of the how and why of the Amazon Dash Button is sublime. I’m only two chapters in and it’s probably the most important book I’m going to read this year. All those hunches and niggles you’ve had about the politics and economics of tech made coherent.
I’m totally not paying any attention to music at the moment but this month I did find out that John Grant and Grandaddy both had new-ish albums out so I got them. Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is very John Grant and therefore great. Last Place is very Grandaddy and therefore also great.