Moddi Unsongs, Kodi, and Catherine Rayner

Moddi Unsongs

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Moddi, or Pål Moddi Knutsen, is a Norwegian folk musician whose latest project is an album of previously-banned covers, Unsongs.

Admittedly, few of them are familiar to me, but I recognise Kate Bush’s Army Dreamersbanned from BBC radio during the first Gulf War – and Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer.

Moddi’s voice is endearingly awkward, reminding me of Björk or, especially during Open LetterDolores O’Riordan. I really like June Fourth 1989: From the Shattered Pieces of a Stone it Begins, Army Dreamers, and The Shaman and the Thief.

Kodi

I recently upgraded my home internet connection – previously I was only able to receive a paltry 1MB download speed – and the first thing I did was buy a device on which I could install Kodi.

Kodi® (formerly known as XBMC™) is an award-winning free and open source (GPL) software media center for playing videos, music, pictures, games, and more. https://kodi.tv/about/

I’tim-and-eric-mind-blownm really not sure how it’s legal – it’s something to do with the fact that nothing is ever downloaded to your device – but it allows you to stream essentially any TV show or Movie at any time. Mind blown.

So far, I’ve watched a bunch of shows and Movies: Harley and the Davidsons (made-for-TV bobbins), Hail, Caesar! (very good), and Westworld (OMG!! AMAZING!!!11); and I’m planning to get rid of my Sky TV dish.

Catherine Rayner

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My 3yo daughter has a copy of The Bear Who Shared. I can’t say I’m a fan of the story, but the illustrations are beautiful. It’s both written and illustrated by Rayner and I’ve since found out that she has won awards for her artwork.

She has quite a few kids books out, and if they’re anything like the one I’ve read, I’d recommend taking a look at the art, rather than the story.

Dots & Co, Dara O’Briain’s Go 8-Bit, and 10 American Presidents

Here’s another attempt at pulling together a few things I’ve been enjoying recently.

Dots & Co – the sequel to Dots, and Two Dots – is a third instalment of the incredibly addictive mobile game. A glorified version of Connect Four, it’s beautiful, beautifully simple, and I’m already several hours deep into it.

On a similar theme, Dara O’Briain’s Go 8-Bit is a new show produced for UK TV Channel Dave.

Starting life as a rather more raucous-looking Edinburgh Fringe Festival show, regular gamers Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon are joined by reliable hosts Ellie Gibson and O’Briain. Throughout, audiences can watch minor celebrities play classic games such as Sensible Soccer, Street Fighter II Turbo, and Chuckie Egg.

A bit like GamesMaster for those of us who have still not grown up.

I’d initially leaped upon 10 American Presidents, thinking it was another Dan Carlin podcast (If you’re a history fan, go listen to Hardcore History) but he’s actually only the first of many guest hosts, each of whom tell us the story of their favourite US President.

Carlin does Nixon in episode 1, and tells a gripping story, as always. Mike Duncan is someone who is new to me, though, and his episode on George Washington is really interesting, especially for someone who is still reading Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography.

Saga, Sturgill Simpson, and drawing

Saga

It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a comic or a graphic novel as much as I’ve loved Brian K Vaughan’s Saga.

Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series [depicting] a husband and wife, Alana and Marko, from long-warring extraterrestrial races, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their daughter, Hazel, who is born in the beginning of the series and who occasionally narrates the series as an unseen adult.

It’s like Star Wars written for grown-ups; it’s graphic, funny, and sometimes both; and it has great characters, such as The Will, The Stalk, The Brand and Lying Cat.

But the thing I like about it most is Fiona Staples’ artwork. It’s so good, and I’m definitely going to look at some of her other work.

Saga Volume 6 is out now.

Saga

Sturgill Simpson

I’m off to see Sturgill Simpson in Glasgow tomorrow night (review to come, perhaps). I’ve been enjoying his work since he released Meta Modern Sounds in Country Music and his more recent album, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, is just as good.

To get you in the mood, here’s a clip of him on Letterman from a couple of years back, doing one of his more straight country tunes.

Drawing

I’ve stumbled back into picking up a pencil and paper again recently – not that I’m any great artist, but I do like to try my hand at some illustrating every now and then.

This time, I’ve been asked if I’d like to contribute a pin-up for a friend’s forthcoming comic. Fraser Campbell’s Alex Automatic will be out later in the year, and hopefully I’ll have something in it. Here’s a sneak preview of what that might look like.

Alex Automatic

Pocket Operator, Europe, and #52whiteboards

For a recent birthday, I was gifted a Pocket Operator PO-12, and I’ve been annoying the family with it ever since. It’s essentially a pocket sized drum machine and, although its limited feature set would suggest that it won’t be at the centre of any EDM albums anytime soon, it’s a simple, and very effective way of creating some cool drum patterns.

There are a number of models, each of which has their own particular speciality, and can be synced together to enable the creation of multi-levelled tunes.

Great fun.

Speaking of fun, Euro 2016 has been underway for just over a week now, and I’ve enjoyed watching football again – after a break of a couple of years.

Unfortunately, however, it has been marred by a number of incidents involving fans from a number of different countries. From the (allegedly) Putin-approved skirmishes between Russian and English fans, to their Stadium battle, and then Croatia’s ludicrous in-fighting.

It’s all been rather unpleasant and a reminder that Europe is not really a fun place to be of late:

It’s in this context that the UK heads to the polls on Thursday to decide if it wants to continue being part of the European Union. Friday is sure to be an interesting day!

#52whiteboards is a colleague’s ongoing project to complete – you guessed it – 52 whiteboard drawings over the course of a year. John Lloyd is the supremely talented artist and I love seeing what he does each week.

First we feast

Wait, has it been six months since I was last here? Damn.

Oh well. Onward and upward.

On the recommendation of Mike and Adam and their Safe as Milk podcast (check it out, if you haven’t already), I took some time to watch Sean EvansHot Ones. I can take or leave Riff-Raff’s episode, to be quite honest with you, but Key & Peele’s is fun, and if you don’t enjoy Michael Rapaport swearing his way through 10 increasingly painful hot wings then you’re no friend of mine.

The Siege of Krishnapur

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I finally finished JG Farrell‘s The Siege of Krishnapur. It’s the sixth Man Booker Prize Winner, Farrell’s second, and it’s taken me an age to complete.

The second of Farrell’s Empire Trilogy tells the fictional tale of a 4-month long siege, with the Indian-born members of the British army rebelling against their colonial overlords. The story focusses on the plight of a number of expat residents, gradually being forced to live under increasingly squalid conditions.

Having  read both this and his earlier novel, Troubles, it’s clear that Farrell was an exceptional writing talent. Krishnapur is a piece of work that, in the end, I enjoyed very much.

That said, it took me a while to get into, largely because I felt quite unsympathetic towards most of the protagonists. Gradually, though, characters like the Collector, the Magistrate, Fleury and the Dunstaples seemed to become parodies of the stiff-upper-lip Brit that no-one likes, to the extent that this harrowing tale was engaging and, at times, very funny indeed.

From the outset, Farrell shows most of his characters at their pompous worst, as they look down upon woman, Indians and anyone deemed not to be part of their “superior culture”.

Harry listened to her in frank disbelief. Girls had a habit, he knew, of distressing themselves over things which did not exist. It was something to do with their wombs, so a fellow-officer had once told him. No doubt Louise was suffering from this womb-anxiety, then.

But as the book progresses, a transformation occurs and they each become more likeable, and more human. Those that survive find that their health deteriorates quite dramatically, but they become hardened battlers, relying upon each other and finding a role to play in their survival.

The Residency that is their shelter during this period reflects their physical and mental well-being, and towards the end, these previously wealthy, upper-class characters are losing teeth, eating horse or dog meat, drastically losing weight, and generally falling apart.

Her cotton dress was rent almost from the armpit to the hem and as she leaned forward to bring a saucer of water to the lips of a wounded man, the Collector glimpsed three polished ribs and the shrunken globe of her breast.

It took me a while to get going with this, and I almost want to pick it up again and re-read at least the first half. I don’t think it’s as good as Troubles, but it’s a superb read, and I’m already looking forward to Farrell’s third Booker Prize entry, the closing book of the Empire trilogy, The Singapore Grip.

It seems that some kind of radio play exists of this. If anyone finds it, let me know.

Man Booker Prize Top 5

  1. Troubles
  2. The Elected Member
  3. The Siege of Krishnapur
  4. Something to Answer For
  5. G

David Squires on … England v France

Today’s Guardian has a great cartoon by David Squire, focusing on tonight’s football match between England and France.

A cartoon showing the ethnic history of the French football team
England v France

Squires’ piece is in stark contrast to that of the Daily Mail cartoonist, Mac. The comparison he draws (literally) between refugees and rats is akin to Third Reich propaganda.

A cartoon by Mac of the Daily Mail, comparing refugees to rats
Europe’s open borders