Blog posts

  • The Queen of Thorns

    [Spoilers for 'Game of Thrones', season 7, episode 3]

    I've just been catching up with yesterday's broadcast: the only proper reaction to Olenna Tyrell's final conversation with Jaime Lannister was a round of applause for a job well done.

    If you have to go out, make sure you do damage on the way. She did.

  • Babes of Suga

    Over on Popular the time has come for Tom Ewing to give his real take on the Sugababes' Freak Like Me. He rose to the occasion:

    Pop as something worth fighting over, worth making wild gestures for: Seth Bingo wasn't the only one who liked that idea. In real-world enclaves on and off the Internet, young critics were taking up cudgels in the name of pop. Sometimes we were as showy and insufferable as Seth Bingo. Sometimes we shouted louder and harder to try and silence the Indie Daves we still glimpsed in mirrors. Most of the time though we were trying to answer honest questions – what was great about pop, and what did it mean to love it? I'm still trying to answer those questions. Let's take another shot.


    From the vantage point of 2017, let alone 2009, 2002 seems like a champagne glass of bubbles: the madness of the credit boom, the New Labour liberal consensus it paid for, but also the CD era itself, and even the sense of the Internet as something whose creative force was essentially benign. The point of a bubble – in the metaphoric sense – is that it's artificial but that its artifice is hard to detect: it feels natural when you're in one, at least until it's just about to burst. Then burst it does, and you see it was never natural at all. Where does that leave the pop music which emerged from that time? […]

    [Via Blue Lines Revisited]

  • Daft Punk medley

    President Trump's state visit to Paris on Bastille Day was greeted by the military band playing a medley of Daft Punk tracks. Trump adopted exactly the facial expression you'd expect of a 71-year old politician attending a public event and encountering unfamiliar music, whereas President Macron felt free to crack a smile.1 2

    I really hope this doesn't give anyone any bright ideas for whenever Trump's state visit to the UK finally happens. Even if they manage to have the Queen accompanied to the event by one of the younger members of the royal family, so as to spare us the spectacle of Prince Charles looking grumpy if the medley somehow fails to feature anything from the Three Degrees, I'm dreading what sort of musical choices the UK government might make, and what sort of music Tory spin doctors might think it appropriate to include3 that the MayBot might conceivably react positively to.


    1. Whether that was a tactical move for the cameras or a genuine reaction of a 39-year old to hearing a familiar track, it's impossible to say. The impression I have of Macron is that he's been concerned to establish himself as a bit more highbrow than Daft Punk, but what do I know?4

    2. Personally, I was a bit disappointed at the choice of a medley of Daft Punk tracks: for my money the single most awe-inspiring music they've ever done is Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger and I'd have just as soon heard that in full. I don't know if it would be as striking when played by a brass band, but for my money it was the standout track the first time I heard Discovery and it still is to this day.

    3. There again, last time we had a government whose leaders professed to be in tune with popular musical taste, we got New Labour. Perhaps it's best that everyone leave the MayBot to be true to her actual musical tastes, with the most up-to-date musical track on her Desert Island Discs being ABBA's Dancing Queen. That's a perfectly legitimate point at which a notably staid career politician who is now approaching the tail end of her fifties might have disengaged from following popular music.

    4. I suspect that if I spoke French I could find all sorts of French newspaper articles on that topic on the web, but over here in the Anglophone media world the focus seems to have mostly been on how Trump reacted.

  • A Hasselblad!

    A Hasselblad!

    My wife Sara and I used to have this running joke leading up to her birthday each year.  Each year I'd say "Honey!  What would you like for your birthday?" and she would reply "I'd like a Hasselblad".  Usually with a big smile on her face, in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of way. Then I'd say "Ha ha, no, seriously, what would you like?" and we'd both laugh and move on to more serious things. Hasselblad.  The 500c/m.  Man.  That camera.  It's like the Rolls Royce of cameras.  It would send shivers down our spines and we'd get all giggly any time we'd talk about it. […]

    Not having any interest in photography, I wouldn't know a Hasselblad from a Hewlett-Packard, but I appreciated the story of what followed a chance encounter in a camera store: the reverence for a classic design, the personal history of at least one of the participants, the sense of how unlikely it was that the story would end as it did, the link to the Apollo moon landings.

    Definitely worth a read.

    [Via MetaFilter]

  • Late-life planning

    Mary Beard finds herself facing up to one of the early indications that retirement is starting to appear on the horizon, turning her attention to bringing her book collection under control:

    We have just built a new bit of book-shelf extension onto the house […] The fact is that I have two shared offices half full of books, and every floor in the house is piled high. So now is the moment to take action (I am thinking about retirement when those two half-offices no longer exist) and to put the old books on the new shelves. The fact is that we are now coming to see what librarians have been working on, and trying to sort out, for centuries.

    First of all, how do we manage between us (husband and me) to have so many duplicates or triplicates. When I bought (cheaply) a second-hand of the 2003 National Gallery Titian Exhibition a few weeks ago, did I not realise that we had two already (no, because they were in those unsorted piles on the floor)?

    But just as pressing is the size and shape of the books. […]

    Presumably to be followed in a year or so by another post updating us on their efforts to weed out duplicates. (I'm guessing that scanning/digitising chunks of their collection will never seriously be considered.)

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