Films I’ve recently seen/am planning to see

I’ve just finished watching the Apu trilogy, an Indian trilogy directed by Satyajit Ray about a boy growing up, going through the stages of life and how he eventually became a writer and wrote his autobiography which the film was based upon. The trilogy consists of ‘Pather Panchali’ (1955), ‘Aparajito’ (1956) and ‘The World of Apu’ (1959). This director has influenced such directors as Akira Kurosawa and Martin Scorsese. Akira Kurosawa once said “To have not seen the films of Ray is to have lived in the world without ever having seen the moon and the sun.”

Other films I’ve seen recently are ‘Head-On’ (2004), a Turkish-German romance directed by Fatih Akin who also directed ‘The Edge of Heaven’ (2007), another apparently great film. I’ve also seen a documentary about the animal abuse of dolphins and whales in Japan called ‘The Cove’ (2009).

This weekend I’m planning on watching ‘La Haine’ (1995), a French film which portrays hoodlums as the protagonist’s against the incompetent police team. Other films to do with the law/prison which make the supposed bad guys the protagonist’s are ‘The 400 Blows’ (1959), ‘Le Trou’ (1960) and ‘Cool Hand Luke’ (1967)

I’m interested in watching the films of Fritz Lang, especially the murder mystery classic ‘M’ (1931). His films have inspired such directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Buñuel and Orson Welles.

The new Terry Gilliam film is out this weekend, ‘The Zero Theorem’ which I’m looking forward to seeing. He directed the classic ‘Brazil’ (1985), and the underappreciated and overlooked ‘Tideland’ (2005).

I’m really excited about the new Darren Aronofsky film ‘Noah’. I’m a fan of his work and can’t wait to see his interpretation of it. Apparently there’s much more to it than shown in the trailer.

A film I missed in the cinema which I’d really like to see is ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’.

Other films that have caught my attention are:

‘Salaam Bombay!’ (1988), a gritty realist drama about the slums of India
‘Osama’ (2003), a film about the Taliban
‘Straw Dogs’ (1971)
‘Come and See’ (1985), an extremely realistic Russian war film
‘Woman of the Dunes’ (1964)
‘Tokyo Story’ (1953)

Self Help, Psychology, Science, Moral Corruption & Human Stupidity

Disclaimer: I did attach several links but the system on WordPress has changed such that the links are no longer written out, therefor preventing me from being able to copy and paste over to goodreads. Perhaps you should do your own research rather than going by just what I’ve written myself.

We’ve briefly touched on charity, but there’s another subject which likewise is about people trying to improve either themselves or the world around them, but without necessarily making any positive difference. It’s self-help books, which I’ve been briefly looking into. Here are some titles; The Art of Saying No, Stop People Pleasing, How To Analyze People, Master Your Emotions, Finish What You Start, How To Stop Overthinking, and so on. Do you really need a book to work all this out, or is it just life experience for you to work through yourself? Not everyone is able to learn all this from life experience though, which is maybe even more important regarding popular science books which are in a sense self-help, such as Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep.

I wonder what you think of psychology books in comparison to self-help books, whether they can be just as bad if not worse. You’ve denounced the work of Sigmund Freud as being redundant and poorly researched, but I have in mind another psychologist, one who’s also a sexologist. That is John Money, who’s fundamentally more damaging than Freud, due to the fact that his wrongful belief that gender identity was to do with upbringing rather than biological sex was forcibly imposed on non-consenting children. I don’t know about the quality of his writings but I suspect you would think they had nothing of value to say and were worth avoiding in principle due to the tragic case of David Reimer, whom he suggested be operated on to become female following a botched surgical operation, leading to gender dysmorphia, depression, and suicide.You can see in Reimer’s face, even though by that time he’d transitioned back to being male, the damage was done. There’s something so off and broken about him, having to live with such inner pain, embarrassment, and sadness at being lied to from birth and being made to believe he was something he wasn’t. It’s the face of somebody who couldn’t bare living with himself; the desperate need to end his life is visible.

Can you believe that John Money, after insisting that he was right all along in his gender experiments, went around informing people, after David had transitioned back into a male, that his experiment with David was a success? What a deceitful scumbag! He was also a predatory pervert; Money would perform tests on the twins in which he had them perform sexual role play with each other, as well as making them take their clothes off to inspect each others genitals, sometimes even photographing them. This was all the while claiming that this was all healthy for gender identity. Money also believed that adults could have healthy sexual relationships with children, along with Alfred Kinsey, who encouraged child molestation in the name of scientific research. But hey, people will do anything in the name of science; separating triplets, nazi medical experiments, Japan’s Unit 731, the “monster study”, the Burke and Hale murders, surgical experiments on slaves, Guatemala syphilis study, the Tuskegee study, and the Stanford Prison Experiment. Another child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, was allegedly abusive as well, using methods of sadistic punishment in order to frighten his students into behaving. I gather from these cases that psychologists who relate to children are particularly harmful, as they are likely to prey on the most vulnerable members of society.

Getting back to the case of David Reimer, it all started off with a botched surgical operation to the penis in order to remove phimosis. The surgeon decided to use the unconventional method of a heated metal probe instead of using a knife, which led to the boys whole penis being burnt off. This kind of careless ineptitude is fundamentally no different from the people who designed and built Grenfell Tower with cladding which led to it being burnt down and dozens of people dying horribly. My father’s an architect, and he oversaw the construction of a stadium, but there was one extra piece he demanded be built in order to make it safe, such that an accident with a cigarette couldn’t burn the whole place down. This cost the builders thousands of pounds and to their fury bankrupted them, but my father insisted on it anyway. That is how seriously he treats safety; an unfortunate choice had to be made, but ultimately for the greater good, for the safety of thousands of people. That’s a grand example of the phrase, ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’.

I did get around to Rick Roderick, but I found it hard initially to get past his thick Texas accent, which I find equivalent to Alan Moore’s thick Northampton accent. Also, the picture quality is so atrocious it’s hard to watch without focusing on other tabs, like a recording of an old VHS tape being played on an ancient television. Regarding Alan Moore, his manor is somewhat similar as well, his eyes haggard but with a humorous twinkle. I still don’t quite get the substance of what he’s saying though; it all seems quite abstract, but he seems like a likeable guy, so I’ll continue watching.

I hope it’s not causing you an issue, not clogging up your email inbox, that I keep adjusting my messages, deleting and resending them. You could wait a month to reply and I would’ve thought of a new way to expand upon what I’ve said every day; of course, that’s meant as a humorous, not a serious remark. It makes me laugh, the idea that you might have a months worth of redundant email messages clogging up your inbox because I couldn’t leave my message alone and had to constantly tweak it. Actually, now it’s so long that I’ve had to split it into two messages such as to not run out of characters.

Music & Handling Criticism

The modern bands you listen to, I wasn’t familiar with all of them, so I listened to their videos on YouTube, and my opinions differ from yours. I did end up listening to a couple of full albums though on Spotify, the self-titled Them Crooked Vultures album, which is the only one they’ve ever released, and the debut Saul Williams album, Amethyst Rock Star, though I don’t know if that’s the best place to start or if it represents him at the height of his powers. When deciding which album to listen to, it tends to be a choice between their latest offering or their debut, if I’m uncertain what their most renowned work is.

Death Grips and Saul Williams seem to exist in an interesting place on the edge of hip-hop which is more challenging than what the casual fan of the genre is used to. The sound and feel is more scary and confrontational. In terms of fusing hip-hop with rock, I like the music of Akala, especially as he seems versed in culture and history, while seeming quite self-reflective. Benjamin Zephaniah is also worth a listen for music rooted in spoken word poetry.

I find post-rock so lifeless and boring as to be barely listenable, though I did rather like the album Spiderland by Slint, simply because it’s so atmospheric, dark and brooding, like Mezzanine by Massive Attack. I prefer the atmospheric stuff, Sigur Ros to Trail of Dead, but it tends to feel uplifting and inspirational without any life or spirit to make you feel uplifted or inspired; instead it’s a depressing dirge. Coldplay songs such as Yellow and The Scientist are like that, but they’re sometimes capable of a pretty tune, and are somewhat more anthemic in their contemplative and lowkey way, as is the song Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol. Those bands are their own kind of post-rock in a sense, coming in the wake of britpop and particularly Radiohead’s nineties output, though without the experimentation or forward-thinking ambition.

When you mentioned Them Crooked Vultures, I had in my mind another band, Vulture Industries, who are part of the nordic metal scene and combine prog, art rock, and post punk; maybe something you’d be interested in. As for the band you actually mentioned, far from experimental or boundary pushing, they’re about as conventional and mainstream as rock music gets, and dare I say, even banal? Maybe that’s not fair, but they sound indistinguishable from Queens of the Stone Age. What’s the point of a supergroup that doesn’t draw on the unique characteristics of each band member? Though it’s possible that you had the same confusion as me and really meant to say Vulture Industries instead. I’ve enjoyed another band which appeal to the same audience as them, Sigh, who fuse wildly expressive woodwind playing with distorted electric guitar and heavy drums, like the next band I’ll mention have done.

I like The Mars Volta, but there’s so much long-winded self-indulgence; why have a four minute song when you can make it twelve minutes? That is a factor in the song of theirs you mention as well; it’s not quite a coherent song with that experimental outro. A band like System of a Down, who are still eccentric and unique in their approach, and like The Mars Volta often have a melancholy touch to their songwriting, more so in the Hypnotise/Mesmerise pair, I can listen to more due to the concision of their songs and more tightly crafted albums that don’t feel the need to use up the maximum disc capacity. In latter years, TMV leaned toward the more melancholy, song-based side of their work while still retaining their distinct identity. They always had it though, that emotionally driven spirit, with the passionately raw screamed vocals, even before TMV with At The Drive In, Invalid Litter Debt. being a particular favourite of mine. It manages to turn howling rage into something joyous and beautiful, evoking the heightened emotions of adolescence. The vocal style is not dissimilar to that of Will Sheff from Okkervil River, though musically they are folkier.

As for the stuff you don’t like, I have no idea what you’ve been listening to that’s given you that impression; I’ve found the more hardcore stuff considerably more diverse, rewarding, and sophisticated than your experience suggests. Opeth, Enslaved, BTBAM, Jinjer, Dark Tranquility, Celtic Frost, Immortal, and many more; none of them fit your description though. Then there’s folk metal; Mongolian, middle eastern, dark nordic folk, which make frequent use of guttural vocals, even non-metal bands such as Heilung, which is where I got the idea for Dark, Atmospheric Aggression as a mood playlist from.

You like artists to reinvent themselves; what do you think of David Bowie? I would say he’s the definitive pop star who’s continually reinvented themselves. Listening to Soundgarden, I was reminded of David Bowie, with the lyrics ‘black hole sun, won’t you come’ sounding like they could’ve been swapped in for ‘major tom’. King Crimson continually reinvented themselves, but seemed to become more stagnated in the final phase of their studio discography; subsequently, Fripp’s decided to ditch the entire mid-phase of their discography, leaving out anything which was originally sung by Adrien Belew. If you haven’t heard of it, you may be interested in Fripp’s ambient soundscape work Music For Quiet Moments, which he’s been releasing in single segments during the lockdown on a weekly basis; they’re still coming out.

I must add to what you said about them; they were so experienced with live improvisation by the release of SABB that some songs on that album had already been performed live the year prior to that albums release, which you’ll know if you’re familiar with The Night Watch at Amsterdam. Their subsequent album Red, would have a more focused, streamlined, and powerful sound, I think as a result of getting the more improvisatory and experimental albums out of the way first, such that they had mastered the sound they were working their way toward by the time of that albums release, and what a way to go out, arguably the only album in their discography to equal or even surpass their debut. That, their debut, and Discipline, all three albums either the start or end to an era, I think, are the three major albums in their discography, the ones that demonstrated an absolute sure footedness and fully realised vision regarding the respective goals of each period in their artistic journey. Still, THRAK is a fascinating expansion upon their mid-seventies progressive metal phase, resulting on subsequent releases in the prevailing and intensifying of the hard-edged, aggressive sound they pioneered in the mid-seventies. Now that they’ve brought that jazz element of their early incarnations back into the shows, it’s an amazing mixture of styles, as evidenced by the sax solo of Level Five.

How can there be such a thing as a fully realised vision? That’s like declaring something a perfect work of art. No matter how good something is, there’s always something that could be improved, if only somebody had thought of it. How you rate a work of art is only relative to your experience of everything else surrounding it. Saying that, there’s always the possibility of that final brushstroke to a near perfect painting that ruins it, so one shouldn’t obsess too much over the pursuit of perfection. I remember a Kazuo Ishiguro interview where he talked about showing an unfinished manuscript of his to his wife which he thought was really good, only to have it ripped apart with brutal honesty, shattering his confidence in it and putting him off writing for several years. He learnt the hard way never to show anything to anyone until it’s finished.

Back to artists who reinvent themselves, The Beatles continually reinvented themselves within a seven year time frame, embracing and influencing hard rock, folk rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, and heavy metal, even going so far afield as to collaborate with Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar. They match what you claim to look for in an artist, since they could go from a pretty ditty about wanting to live under the sea in an octopus’s garden to a brooding and heavy song about sexual lust that steadily intensifies as it reaches the end.

I don’t see how those nineties grunge bands are so interesting; it’s the same as post-rock, just a heavy, driving dirge instead of a sombre, depressing one, thrash metal without the intensity or power, or a memorable tune.

I’ve got a playlist for pretty much every mood; dark, atmospheric aggression, deep, melancholy beauty, seductive, sensual vibes for late nights, calming, consoling beauty, a balanced, neutral state of mind, and expressions of extreme anger. I take a lot of the images from Pinterest, where there’s a lot of interesting stuff, and some bad stuff as well, like kitsch surrealist art; being out there and imaginative doesn’t necessarily mean it has any sense of taste or style.

You say the orchestra is a modern sound, but it goes back centuries. As for what’s older than that, I can only think of cavemen drumming on rocks. I don’t think Holst is the father of film scores any more than Stravinsky or Tchaikovsky is, but just one of several influences. A composer like John Williams is steeped in all these influences, imitating a range of classical composers. I’ve even heard it said that Beethoven was the father of movie soundtracks.

Onto pirate movies, which ones have you seen where the composer had the right approach? I can think of the Assassin’s Creed 4 soundtrack, which uses authentic traditional sounding sea shanties created with the help of classical folk musician Sean Dagher. Sea shanty style music doesn’t have to be done in a traditional style as pirates would’ve done it themselves; it can be done in a hard rock style with catchy tunes, as demonstrated by Alestorm, but that would hardly make for a movie soundtrack, or maybe it would. A contemporary hard rock score to a movie set centuries ago; now that’s a camp idea. Quentin Tarantino did something similar in Django Unchained, where he featured hip-hop on the soundtrack even though the films set during the African slave trade.

Who was it who watered down Zeppelin’s sound? The popular bands people still listen to who were strongly influenced by Zeppelin moved music forward in some sense. Aerosmith imitated Led Zeppelin, but they were also influenced by The Rolling Stones and The New York Dolls, taking on a vibrant sensuality and partying spirit, AC/DC is pretty much the regressive simplicity of punk music without the revolutionary attitude, but then you have bands in Zeppelin’s shadow such as Judas Priest who paved the way for the future of metal, so there really are a lot of different ways of being influenced by a band. Rock music since Zeppelin has come along so much further than fantasy since Tolkien, having morphed into a genre of its own, metal, which hardly has anything to do with Zeppelin anymore. I think it has something to do with the wealth of hard rock bands around that time who all had their own identities, so you didn’t need to be influenced by what they listened to, but instead could synthesise just the bands around at that time into your own style, which is what their imitators, even the best ones, did. There were some bands who went further afield though, like Queen, who were influenced by vaudeville.

In terms of metal and horror, there’s also the imagery aspect, with bands like Slipknot wearing ugly and frightening masks, while Marilyn Manson wears gothic face paint, coming from the tradition of glam metal and shock rock, such as KISS and Alice Cooper. The latter had his own kind of pantomime horror stage shows filled with fake blood and executions. This is camp in its own way, in a different way from the other kind of camp I mentioned. Manson’s vocals even remind me of Right Said Fred vocalist Richard Fairbrass, who sung the famously camp novelty song I’m Too Sexy, sultry but oh so ridiculous; it’s basically musical comedy.

You say there are no worse mediums or genres, but you must think that horror is considerably better suited to film and even comics than it is to prose, since you’ve omitted so much of the genre since Lovecraft. I would’ve thought that exploring each mediums take on a genre opens up a different world of possibilities and demonstrates the different ways of approaching said genre. Film relies on visuals, music, sound design, special effects, performances from actors, while prose relies on internal monologues and description, while comics rely on pencilling artwork, colourisation, and speech bubbles, while video games rely on making the viewer the protagonist, such that you’re responsible for what happens. Could a certain genre be any better or worse depending on which methods are used to explore it and tell a story within it? If you don’t look for the equivalents in each medium of what you enjoy in other mediums, than isn’t that logically inconsistent? Imagine how arbitrary it would be for a lover of great literature to only watch lowbrow popcorn movies; that wouldn’t make any sense. Is it fundamentally no different to omit a particular genre in one medium which you are a frequent consumer of in another medium?

In terms of pairing works of the same genre in different mediums together, I sometimes watch Adam Cesare’s videos, which talk about new horror movie blu-ray releases and than pairs them with a horror book recommendation; not the most analytical or in-depth videos, just a passionate fan of the genre who has good screen presence.

With Netflix drama, I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to binge-watch these shows. An episode a night of a particular series is plenty for me, particularly with the kind of drawn out soap opera melodrama of something like The Haunting of Hill House, which is accomplished but not particularly compelling as a whole. It’s still better than American Horror Story, which me and my housemates stopped watching when it descended from a not particularly interesting drama that happened to be filled with horror tropes into pure grisly exploitation, revelling in the ugliness of human cruelty. I think horror in the form of television works better with comedy than it does with drama, and in shorter episodes, as evidenced by shows like Inside No. 9 and The League of Gentlemen.

In terms of animated fantasy television, I think you meant to say Disenchantment rather than Disenchanted. It’s pretty much Game of Thrones fused with Disney, in Groening’s signature style recognisable from The Simpsons and Futurama. The format, half hour episodes keeps it light on its feet and enjoyable much more so than a fantasy doorstopper, even if the writers weren’t well read beyond mainstream epic fantasy. The others I’ve not seen, but seem fairly targeted toward children or in the style of anime, which there’s nothing wrong with, except for Reboot which demonstrates how horribly CGI ages. The thing is, what kind of person is familiar with all the animated content you mentioned? You don’t have books written on animated television, offering a comprehensive guide that I’m aware of. It’s easier with established companies such as Disney, Warner Brothers, and Studio Ghibli etc, as there’s a kind of umbrella which all the content is filed under, so people can find it easily. Regarding animation companies, some don’t have the cohesive vision that others do. For example, small companies like Laika or Aardman have some kind of overarching vision where all the films fit together under the same umbrella, whereas Warner Brothers, being far more than an animation company, does not, having gritty and violent Batman films come from the same company as Looney Tunes, though both suggest Warner Brothers as the rowdy one, prone to action and violence in stark contrast to the more feminine and prettified Disney. Warner Bros is in fact so versatile and all-encompassing that from film to film the logo keeps changing and being restyled depending on what suits the atmosphere the team are going for. I think Studio Ghibli does a good job of balancing the masculinity and femininity of each respective company, with action-packed adventure stories and violence alongside female coming of age stories.

The music videos of Gorillaz are worth mentioning in a discussion about animation, as they tend to mix contrasting animation styles (cell and CGI, even live action) together, a tendency which has gotten worse over time, resulting in their music videos being an ugly mess. There’s absolutely no taste, style, or finesse in the way these opposing styles of animation are incorporated into the same video, the worst thing about this tendency being how unpleasant a visual experience they are to watch, no matter the creativity displayed. The Spongebob Squarepants movies and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? did this, but it wasn’t merely gratuitous but purposeful to the narrative and plot, like when they were captured by the diver and dried out on land, disturbingly, into a live-action sponge and starfish. The Simpsons, in the more recent seasons, and Disney films, have used CGI animation to tasteful effect blending with the hand drawn elements, adding a more contemporary texture to the visual style. For example, just look how cool and modern that jacuzzi water looks, particularly when it glows in the night;

An idea might be to create a new hybrid medium, where you have a painting or illustration that conveys a certain mood and tells part of the story, changing every few seconds, accompanied by music, audio narration and dialogue when necessary.

You say people hardly read old bestsellers anymore, but there must be a lot of old obscure works which nobody reads anymore either. How can you tell it has a narrow, insular point of view which no longer resonates with people? It’s based on speculation, but to what extent would that apply to bestselling writers perhaps not firmly entrenched as classics as such but who have stood the test of time? Look at the predominant bestselling authors of just the seventies who people do still read, and think what your impression of them is; Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King, John le Carré, Douglas Adams, John Irving, Dr. Seuss, and it goes on. As for the nineteenth century bestsellers, there’s quite a good article on books nobody reads anymore; What you examine, the social and political ideologies, the character psychology, the themes and deeper meanings, I think most people absorb on a subconscious level, because ultimately they just want a good story that keeps them turning the pages, and if it’s ephemeral, so be it.

You’re observation about great artists struggling against their time, it’s like with Rosa Parks who became a historical icon taught in schools simply for her refusal to move seats on the bus when a white person asked her to get up; but, of course though, she did far more than that. Who is an example of somebody struggling against their time now do you think? A particular movement comes to mind, but really it’s been going on for thousands of years, just practiced by a small minority of the worlds population. See if you can work out what it is.

People lashing out at you because you criticised a book they liked, it comes from a place of insecurity and denial; but the thing is, why bother reading reviews if you feel like that? You might as well just stay in your own bubble and ignore what anyone else thinks of the things you enjoy, which is probably what most people do, but what a limiting and complacent attitude to have. It’s the same thing with artists and actors who don’t read reviews of their work because they can’t handle the hurt of a negative review, even really good artists and actors. It goes back to what I was saying about conflating negativity with personal baggage, which is really a psychological issue that everyone deals with to some extent. That personal baggage may be anxiety, depression, shame, or self-doubt when those feelings really ought to be replaced by productive critical thinking. I recall an interview with Alan Moore where he said he was like a flower, and that he’d throw a tantrum or go into a deep depression if you ever dared criticise his work. Ideally, you would process negativity in a neutral and detached way, and think about whatever criticisms were levelled at your work from your own perspective and think, do I agree with this or not, and why? Admittedly though, it’s difficult for a lot of people to do, which is why tone and specificity matters. When you criticise, the point is to be constructive and helpfully point out ways the subject of your criticism could be improved, such that they can understand it for themselves in a safe psychological environment such as to not lead to hurt, insecurity, or guilt. If you still refuse to take any criticism on board or even consider it, then surely you’re just in denial, which is ultimately a more profound and insidious way to be hurt than criticism, because it’s being dishonest with yourself by pretending everything’s okay when deep down you don’t really believe it or can’t really justify why.

This denial, I think would extend to problematic aspects of works they liked if they didn’t endorse those aspects; they just don’t want those aspects to take away from what they liked, like someone giving a work 10 out of 10 for its historical significance despite the numerous things they find wrong with it, such as Steve Huey giving full marks to Priest’s British Steel, which seems quite precious an attitude. There was another reviewer who did the same with The Lord of the Rings books, in a review where they said they would’ve given it their highest praise when they were younger, but since having learnt all the things wrong with it, they can no longer do that but still admit their full love for it in spite of those flaws. I suppose that’s something you’ve done yourself with your five star rating of Moby Dick despite numerous criticisms; what’s great about it is so great that the problems with it shouldn’t lessen that greatness. A work of historical significance, no matter how flawed, I think is still of interest and consideration, such as the notoriously racist ku klux klan glorification movie The Birth of a Nation, due to interest in the development of the medium. Are people who think that’s a great film racists? I don’t think so. Are people who hold Roman Polanski in high regard rapists and misogynists? I don’t think so either, because there’s something else of value which cuts through whatever problematic aspects are contained in the work and the creator. A work may even be of interest precisely because of those problematic aspects and a need to confront them and face them head on, as was expressed by Shazia Mirza in a BFI interview with Mark Kermode, in which she said Bitter Moon was her guilty pleasure of choice.

As for the opposite, as long as there are fat, ugly, stupid people around, there are going to be fat, ugly, stupid books written for them to read and connect with, and who am I to begrudge them for that? Everything has its place, an audience it was intended for, and individuals for it to connect with, even bad art. Not everyone has to like good art. It’s the same with couples; a fat, stupid, ugly person won’t be able to find anything better than a fat, stupid, ugly match unless they are lucky, but of course it’s not necessarily that simple. There are plenty of attractive people who are willing to settle for less, and likewise probably people capable of great insight and understanding who just read whatever mainstream pablum they find. If it ‘quiets those suffering the most for the sake of the loud, privileged mob’, then I’d suspect it’s more a problem of obsessing over internet comments rather than getting out there in the real world and having face to face conversations with people. Is it more likely, when discussing literature, criticism, or anything else for that matter, that you’d end up face to face with a hooligan who climbs over the brick wall behind your house to vandalise your back garden in the middle of the night, proceeding to burn down your car and throw rocks through your windows before running away, or a civilised conversationalist who looks to get along with people, or someone somewhere in between? I suspect what you’d end up with is closer to the civilised conversationalist than to the hooligan, but what do you think?

The other thing is that a work of art or entertainment may look appealing from the artwork surrounding it rather than reputation from discerning critics. If artists and designers have gone to the trouble of making it look attractive and appealing, than it’s going to make the prospect of reading it seem better than a bland cover design would. Look at this contrast between old and new Stephen King book covers, and you can see that one looks way more interesting than the other, though make sure you scroll down on the amazon page;, One set of covers is bland and perfunctory, while the new replacement set of covers by the same company, Hodder & Stouhgton, is atmospheric and stylish, looking like somewhere between a photograph and a painting. Monochrome images with blood red writing; how perfect is that for a horror novel?

I’ve been watching a YouTube channel called à-bas-le-ciel, which is one guy behind a camera expressing his often critical opinions, trying to shake people out of their complacency. One of his primary concerns is what people spend their time doing, and he denounces living for the sake of personal pleasure and leisure, thinking that it’s a squandering of your human potential. He criticises the act of playing video games as a self-indulgence which is completely opposed to the protagonists represented in the games, who are heroic, motivated, and self-disciplined in their pursuit to make the world or their town or community a better place. He sometimes adds the title to his videos Advice Nobody Wants To Hear, and they tend to have a fairly high percentage of dislikes compared to the average YouTube video I watch.

People, who perhaps have a smaller internal life with less interests than the discerning critic, will get protective of what they like because they don’t want the value to be diminished, but nobody really wants the value of anything to be diminished. I would rather a critical review of something which demonstrated deeper understanding of its subject than a mindlessly gushing review which expressed only enthusiasm. A mindlessly enthusiastic review ironically does more to diminish the value of something than a penetrative critical review that gets to the heart of what works and what doesn’t work about it.

I remember a review of Batman: The Killing Joke where this guy was denouncing the comic book medium as essentially juvenile trash but insisting this work was great, and when somebody argued with him about it by suggesting that comic wasn’t so great when looked at within its medium, the reviewer started hectoring him for being a comic book geek, and the commenter responded with self effacing humour, saying ‘guilty as charged, I’m a huge comic book fan’. This caused the reviewer to become apologetic and explain that he becomes precious about things he likes when he sees it as being one of the only things of redeeming value of its kind. It’s discourse on the internet, which is different from discourse in person face to face. There are going to be far more people who’ve read and formed opinions on a work than you’ll ever be able to converse with, and the most interesting perspectives you may go your whole life not knowing about.

Going to an art exhibit, you may see someone who looks interesting or you may see a beautiful woman, someone you’d like to speak to but never do, as the moment you leave that exhibit you never see them again. Maybe you could be that confident, outgoing person who just goes up and makes conversation with any stranger they like the look of, and it could lead to a lifelong bond, rather than being too shy and wondering what would’ve happened if you had gone up and spoken to them. Conversation with strangers is benefited from having a wide range of interests, meaning there’s more chance of overlap than if you’re just devoted to your tiny field, along with being interested in what the other person has to say. It may be that you make a fool of yourself and it doesn’t work out, but what’s worse, that, or living your life always holding back in fear of being judged?

Thoraya Maronesy is a good example of someone who’s devoted their living to speaking to strangers and letting them open up about their past and their emotions, being honest and personal with her;

Some Thoughts, Imagined As a Letter to a Pen Pal

Hello _____, if you’re willing to have a fresh start symbolised by me having deleted our entire discussion, then this is what I have to say. In your own time (no sarcasm intended).

I was thinking about how your metal cover band only plays songs from classic metal bands, but what about modern metal? What are your views on the modern metal sub-genres, such as black metal, death metal, alt metal, and power metal etc? Regarding the latter, I have a Spotify playlist largely composed of it, called Camp Hard Rock & Heavy Metal. You may be interested if you’re a Spotify user; if not, what’s your method of listening to music?

I think metal that’s camp, that’s cheesy, can be the most fervent and high-spirited in the genre, expressive of dramatic feeling, excitement, and heroism, and that’s what I wanted to demonstrate with my playlist. It may be the closest music comes to the spirit of swashbuckling outside certain classical and film music (which is also worth a discussion). They understand the power of a good melody and harmony, perhaps exemplified by Europe’s The Final Countdown, a song you’re surely familiar with, along with pretty much everyone on the planet not living under a rock. If it’s my most focused playlist, the drawback is that a load of similar sounding songs in a row becomes wearying after a while, particular when they don’t recapture the melodic highs of what came earlier.

Perhaps even better than metal, in terms of being a musical counterpart to swashbuckling fiction, would be strictly orchestral music. Sure, you have the obvious examples, Badelt’s score to Curse of the Black Pearl, Morricone’s score The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, William’s score to Raider’s of the Lost Ark, but considering how the scores exist explicitly to accompany a piece of visual media, perhaps they’re redundant examples. Therefor, better to branch outside of film and television, which gives you Dvořák’s New World Symphony, Mussorgsky’s (albeit rearranged by Korsakov) Night on Bald Mountain a.k.a. Night on the Bare Mountain, for that swashbuckling spirit, and somewhat more ambivalently, Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor. I would also put the scherzo movement of Beethoven’s ninth symphony alongside those examples, though it’s hard to separate its defiantly joyous and rousing spirit, fuelled by a certain degree of anger, from Beethoven’s need to triumph over his deafness. I’ve got a swashbuckling playlist featuring all these examples if you’re interested.

I realise I’ve followed a specific thread of my first paragraph, diverting from my initial question of what you think of modern metal sub-genres. Regarding black metal, death metal, doom metal, djent etc, I would say they are more analogous to horror, with more of a focus on extremity, brutality, and atmosphere. Some people only read or watch horror at the expense of all other genres, and some people only listen to metal at the expense of all other genres, while there are other people with more eclectic tastes who find those genres alienating. Those genres seem to be the transgressive extremes, the most love it or hate it of any genre.

Bands like Meshuggah, not that their imitators are alike, having only incorporated a certain aspect of their influence, can be rather one-dimensional and oppressive in terms of their sound. The whole djent sub-genre does seem to possess a rigidly mechanical sterility though, as criticised by Anthony Fantano on theneedledrop. Saying that, it’s interesting to compare a band like Tesseract, among their numerous heirs, who are so clearly influenced by Meshuggah, but at the same time, so opposed to the monotonous hardcore aggression of their music and vocals, opting instead for a more slick, sensual, melodic sound with clean, often falsetto vocals and atmospheric ambient passages. That’s how artistic inspiration works I guess, you copy the same people you rebel against.

There was a time when swashbuckling and supernatural horror were linked, with writers such as Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber writing both, but has their ever been a work of visual/auditory media which has combined the two? Imagine an adult animated television series with a grounding in classic fantasy and horror. Would our cultural climate allow for such a thing to exist?

I feel that the medium of animation is so under-explored as to barely be considered a medium, rather being conflated with children’s entertainment. Japanese animation a.k.a. anime, comes closer to having a distinctly defined identity outside of children’s entertainment than western animation, with the fantasy films of Hayayo Miyazaki, a more nuanced and mature alternative to Disney cartoons, and all the anime television, such as Cowboy Bebop for a great example. The west made something approaching serious adult animation with Batman: The Animated Series, if restricted by the interfering sensors, and somewhat limited and conventional in the stories they were able to tell. Subsequently, comic-book based animation became less atmospheric and more lightweight, if still good, emphasising action and super-heroics over the more gloomy and sombre mood they’d once gone for. The Simpsons, similarly was once revolutionary and important, before it became a betrayal of everything it once stood for, which leaves the problem and confusion of watching it in broadcast syndication. The garbage is mixed in with the gold, switching randomly from season to season such that a viewer can’t properly understand how it developed and changed as the years passed. The television it ushered in, like with comic book based animation, became increasingly cartoonish and ungrounded in the real world concerns and deep human feelings of the early seasons which seemed to be making progress toward a cultural climate of serious adult animation.

In just the first season of The Simpsons, you have Homer struggling to provide financially for his family, living with shame and self-doubt, attempting suicide, Lisa dealing with depression and loneliness, Bart dealing with insecurity, peer pressure, and bullying, and Marge nearly giving into the temptation of seduction away from her spouse. There’s hardly any genuine feeling or depth beyond the seventh season, which marks the point where it started becoming merely a wacky cartoon. The truth is, The Simpsons was never really a lighthearted comedy at its core; it was dark, melancholy, rooted in everyday struggles, cynical about the state of authority, at once sharply satirical yet balanced with moments of sweetness and poignancy. The first Treehouse of Horror was genuinely moody and eerie, emphasising atmosphere over humour, finishing with a pretty much straight adaptation of Poe’s The Raven, while the later Treehouse of Horror episodes subsequently moved further away from atmosphere as to barely even be related to horror, focusing instead on wacky sci-fi and fantasy stories by the time of Treehouse of Horror XII. The dream and hallucination sequences in those early seasons of The Simpsons were frightening, with dramatic changes in lighting and characters becoming distorted, such as Bart coming returning home on thanksgiving after running away, in his mind witnessing his whole family vindictively blaming him for all their problems, or seeing a girl he likes pull his heart out because he won’t be needing it anymore.

Batman: The Animated Series was the first and only DC animated series to be so concerned with atmosphere that it was drawn on black paper to give it a dark visual hue, that it used eerie, shadowy painted title cards at the beginning of each episode. As for characters, an everyday guy crippled with dread at having crossed the Joker, a boy running away from his father in order to be with who he thinks is his idol, villains who ends up crying when they face up to their denial (Baby Doll, Mr. Freeze), a man whose ego is so fragile that he brainwashes the girl whom he feels unreciprocated love for to follow his every command so they can be together (The Mad Hatter), a man with split personality disorder caving into his worst impulses after becoming physically scarred, occasionally stopping to feel an achingly tender wistfulness over his girlfriend. Your dealing here with characters who lash out on the world because they’re vulnerable and have deep-seated human weakness. In terms of dreams, they represent the characters anxieties and sorrows, such as that of Bruce not being able to save Harvey Dent, or when Bruce sees a mirror image of himself laughing before turning into the Joker before they both fall to their deaths. What’s interesting is that it leads into another dream, that of Bruce giving money to the homeless, at first as a kind gesture, but then realising that more and more homeless people are crowding round him like zombies, so he can’t do anything but keep giving and giving, shedding a tear as it’ll never be enough.

Animated television seems like such a perfect medium for fantasy or perhaps better, simply portraying our own world, but without borders between realism and imagination, without the stifling notion that fantasy’s about escaping into another world. I don’t want to escape into another world, I’d just rather not be restricted by the world I currently live in, a feeling Terry Gilliam’s made an entire career out of expressing, the idea that dreams and reality are just two sides of the same coin. I suspect that you feel much the same way, that it’s a driving factor in your philosophy regarding fiction and fantasy, as you seem to condemn the escape into another world that feels familiar and predictable when life itself is already so full of wonders that there’s no need to escape. I think that animation can freely and fluidly encompass influences from any medium, comics, painting, cinema, literature, theatre, and so on. Add to that the concept of the 22 minute episode, a compact, singular narrative arc that ties into a grander narrative arc throughout the series; a perfect format to incorporate influences from comic book writing, sword and sorcery adventures, detective fiction, and short stories. It doesn’t have to be tied down to a particular time period, as life itself contains ancient buildings co-existing with modern buildings, historic landmarks co-existing with scientific advancements, dreams and fantasies co-existing with real life. Think about the heightened stylisation of a film like The Triplets of Belleville Rendezvous, a truly mature animated film. That’s fantasy based in the real world, a dreamlike interpretation of life in France, where everything’s just slightly off-kilter enough to feel odd and fantastical. Maybe there’s no better medium to merge surreal hallucination and dream sequences with grounded realism, to tell stories about realistic characters and situations filtered through a heightened, impressionistic lens. A dreamlike filter may most vividly express those deep feelings and moody atmospheres that I expressed such admiration for earlier.

So what might a daydream/nightmare sequence look like? Picture this; set to a wistful, melancholy, dreamy score, a man walks through a park in broad daylight, past the lake where there’s a couple peddling in a swan boat, past the benches where there sits an elderly couple, past the flowers and the playing children, and into a woodland where the sun sets, casting a glowing orange light onto the trees. The sky darkens to night as he emerges out of the trees over a lake of ice with eerily beautiful dead bodies trapped beneath, the bodies of all the people he’d seen as he walked through the park, and roses fall from the sky as the trees gently sway in the wind. To the side is an old swan boat covered in moss amongst the shadowy trees where the lake sidetracks and narrows into a pitch black tunnel. He proceeds forward and walks over a bridge leading to the moon, looking back to realise he’s in a vast wilderness of craters and lunar soil, except for the remains of a burnt down house near the edge of a cliff looking off into the infinite pitch black cosmos. This is accompanied by eerie ambient sound design like Ligeti in 2001. He walks to the edge, stands there for a moment staring into nothingness, and then jumps off. He emerges in a rose-tinted memory of his childhood home where he witnesses himself as a child playing with matches in front of the fire while his mother obliviously knits on the couch in the living room. He walks upstairs, goes into his old bedroom and switches the light on to see his school photo appear like a smeared painting, and a shadow appears behind him. He looks round and sees a grotesque distortion of his mother as a creepy hag grinning with rotting teeth. The twisted dream logic and fear he feels as a result causes him to become angry, so he grabs the lamp and hits her over the head with it at full force, causing her to drop to the floor. He looks down and sees his mother lying dead on the floor, but as youthful and beautiful woman, before she turns to dust and blows away. All of a sudden there’s a violent knock on the front door from what we see is his drunken father, and our protagonist wakes up from his daydream as a random stranger carelessly knocks him as he walks past on the street right outside the park. He looks round and sees a homeless junkie living under a bridge, looks round some more and sees street dancers setting up, before making his way. Of course, we need a vibrant, happening city life co-existing with a gritty, hard-hitting city life.

This character feels alienated, dislocated, and unable to understand the modern world around him, struggling to connect with his parents, a bitter old man and a frail old woman who no longer live together. He has affairs behind his wife’s back, works for a corporation he doesn’t believe in, and hardly speaks to his children. Yet this is our protagonist, the character we have to identify with whether we like it or not, and we come to realise he’s capable of heroic acts, rigorous logic and problem solving, warning people from bad decisions, and connecting with certain strangers more deeply than his own family. He’s seen death, he’s seen suffering, and he’s capable of stoically dealing with any adversity that comes his way, and doing the right thing that nobody else can. My idea is that we use the serial format in order to get to know everyone as well as our protagonist, including the family, the homeless junkie, the street performers, the work employees, thus painting a picture of the city and its inhabitants bit by bit, and seeing that there’s far more to them then what appears on the surface. We experience wandering around a mapped out city, like in a video game, following a different protagonist within that city each episode; that sort of thing may be easier to pull off in a short story collection.

The idea of an animated television series like this may never come to fruition, but these feelings and ideas I have, they’re seeds of potential, potential which would be a dream to one day realise. What would that take? A disciplined work ethic and strong motivation, working in different media trying to be as creative as possible; a lot of reading, dreaming, sketching, writing, photography, composing, painting, filmmaking, criticism, communication, meeting and getting to know likeminded people, good collaborators, and perhaps you’re still nowhere near where you want to be. Luck and chance plays its part in success; you might have a brilliant writer who dies of an illness before their magnum opus is complete, a brilliant thinker or visionary who’s trapped in third world poverty stricken conditions and will never be given the chance to realise their potential. It’s a cruel, arbitrary world isn’t it? People born into rich, developed countries who have everything they could ever want or need = depressed, unmotivated, lazy, complacent. People born into slave labour or extreme poverty with no chance of ever having a better life = we’ll never know what the world’s being robbed of.

A passionate teacher, I would imagine is driven by a fear of people failing to realise their potential in an area they may not realise is their strong suit. It’s idealism and self-deception right? Believing you’re making a positive difference when you’re actually contributing nothing of value to the world? Dispassionate students being forced to learn about things they don’t care about, walking around from classroom to classroom, taking in bits of information, carrying out various tasks, forgetting about it, going home and playing computer games or whatever distracts them from life, because they’ve no sense of ambition or motivation instilled into them. Why bother being vegan when the the rate of meat consumption around the world is only rising? It’s futile, meaningless self-deception again right? Either you care about making the world a better place, and you keep believing in your values despite their futile practicality, or you give up caring and turn to trivial amusements in order to distract yourself, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, video games, social media etc. You can either be a hopeless idealist or a complacent cynic, according to my admittedly simplified, not fully sincere logic, but logic that’s worth putting out there in order to probe stimulating conversation.

If you are neither of those two, then maybe the best you can be is a cynical idealist, the person who understand all the shortcomings and impracticalities of their position but believe in doing the best they can, even if it’s ultimately futile. The best teachers, I think would work in colleges and universities, which allow greater freedom than the more closely regulated stated administered education of primary and secondary schools. Only then would a teacher really be able to form a friendship with a student, and be able to convey their passion for what they teach on a more deeply connective level. Instead of donating to charity, somebody doing everything in their power to help would become a humanitarian aid worker, actually meeting the people they’re helping in person, though I’ve been watching videos on that and it’s not necessarily ethical, resulting in White Saviour Complex which was parodied in an episode of BoJack Horseman. A great activist may in fact be an attractivist, somebody who does everything they can to make their own stance as appealing as possible for others, rather than engaging in the depressing realities of what they’re trying to dissuade people from participating in.

Let’s say you’re in a bookstore and you see a book that you’ve never read, but have a negative perception of, while the majority of the target audience it was written for seem to love it. You can look at it in three ways; look at it with disdain and disinterest, look at it with appreciation for the value it has to its readers even if you would personally choose not to read it, or look at it with no judgement beyond what you see on the surface, the cover design, colour schemes, and blurb. Which one do you choose, and what does it say about you as a person? Is it right to be tactful and respectful no matter what, as to not undermine the value that other people experience, or should you be upfront and honest when you see a problem with what somebody devotes their leisure time to? Do you go about being right by instilling shame in people who are wrong, or do you allow people to get away with ignorance and complacency for the sake of living in harmony? I can only be certain that effective communication from both sides is what matters above who’s right or wrong.

You can only be right to the extent that you can effectively communicate your thoughts, feelings, and ideas to others such that they can understand your own position and reflect more deeply on their own position. Criticism isn’t about trying to push people down, belittle, or disrespect in any way, but about trying to understand something for what it is. Good or bad is almost incidental, not something to be conflated with your own personal baggage. It’s the depth and clarity of thought with which you’re able to experience and process and reflect on it that counts. If you can think clearly and feel deeply, only then could there be meaning and purpose behind what you have to say. A good critic, like a good teacher or a good parent, is as patient and relaxed as they are strict and demanding, fostering independent thought and understanding rather than instilling guilt because it came from a higher authority. Caring about what’s best for people and approaching it in the right way is a balance between knowing what to tolerate, what to denounce, and what to encourage.

What happens when logic and reasoning isn’t enough? You need inner contentment, a feeling within you that emanates from you and affects others in a way that no amount of astute reasoning could. A warm smile, deep eyes that stare into your soul, a tone of voice that puts people at ease, a grace and understanding that cuts through right and wrong, that brings out the best in people because they feel comfortable around you.

As for how I’m getting on during the corona virus lockdown, financially it’s on the bright side, with no grocery shopping restrictions or postal delivery restrictions. We can eat as heartily as ever, since there’s no rationing, and we’re still able to have weekly takeaways from our local Indian restaurant of choice. I’ve been eating porridge for breakfast, green lentils, sweet potato and lettuce in a pitta bread or with couscous for lunch, and we’ve been taking turns to cook in the evening. It’s kind of bizarre that all the supermarkets are open, including shops like Poundland and even Kingdom of Sweets ridiculously enough, while all the other shops are shut due to covid regulations. What a joke. Meanwhile, in the news people are having their houses raided and being beaten up by the police just for breaking lockdown restrictions, like they’re living in some kind of fascist dystopia. It reminds me of what Samuel L. Jackson said in Death to 2020, that he prefers the corona virus to the police because at least it doesn’t go around pretending it’s trying to help people.

In terms of meeting people, I have a house next door, where my grandma lives, an Italian named Salvo lives, and a bearded guy named Gareth who owns a dog named Roxy lives. We also had an African man named Idrissa who came to the house temporarily and we did some drumming sessions together. The two previous people who lived there, once we’d got it done up, have left to everyone’s relief it seems, since they were deeply flawed, manipulative people who didn’t take their responsibilities seriously. One of them was actually a friend of mine once, only displaying the jovial, outgoing side of his personality, frequently going to the local arthouse cinema to watch films with me followed by cake and hot chocolate. He would also give me books and DVD’s to keep that he’d bought from charity shops. Since he was pressured to leave the house due to his petty, irresponsible behaviour, it’s likely that he’ll never want to have any contact with me again and certainly not with my parents.

On the bright side, the guy who’s replaced him seems much more decent, and due to Salvo and Gloria, an Italian who’s become family to us after initially only planning to stay temporarily, we’ve now started Italian film night in the house next door, where we all meet up and eat once a week. The small Italian DVD/Blu-Ray collection I had now reside there; we also watch the films we can on YouTube, on the television of course, followed by watching trailers for films we fancy watching. It may be that at some point we branch out into other languages.

Focusing on a single language and country is an effective way to carefully curate and explore films since the options are so narrowed down. It leads you to think about the various movements and genre specialties of that country, such as neo-realism following the second world war, showing what life was like for the poor on the streets of Italy, such as in the collaborative works of De Sica and Zavattini, and Rossellini’s wartime trilogy. The Italians would later create their own genre of pulp fiction, giallo, merging horror, mystery, and crime, inspired by the yellow pulp paperbacks produced in Italy, most famously pioneered by Dario Argento. The Italians in fact have quite a history of horror in general, with cult schlock master Lucio Fulci, and the director who inspired the band Black Sabbath, Mario Bava.

On YouTube, I’ve been watching various videos, including music videos, essay videos, review videos, recipe videos, and video game walkthrough’s, which are far more cost-effective and time-efficient than buying consoles and playing them yourself. I find I can happily watch them with the sound on mute while listening to something else, but that’s robbing the game unfairly of the full experience created by its developers. Watching these videos is a good answer to the dilemma of not wanting to exclude or dismiss video games as worthy of attention but at the same time not spend loads of time and money on something that’s distracting me from other more important facets of life. I used to play video games, but I know longer own a console except for a pair of Nintendo DS’s which me and my brother play Super Mario Bros on when he comes over to visit. These kinds of games, cartoon games explicitly targeted at kids, Crash Bandicoot and Spyro being other examples that come to mind, are graphically more appealing in a sense, more pretty to look at, than adult games with more realistic graphics; of course, there’s no such thing as realistic graphics, just a bad CGI simulation of what realism looks like, at least when regarding character design. The world-building also comes off as a bit more whimsical, childlike, and colourful in kids games.

While on Youtube, I developed a passing curiosity in extreme stunts and endurance art. One channel was TGFbro, in which Jay Swingler nearly died after cementing his head in a microwave. So idiotic, the waste of resources as well. Of more legitimate interest in David Blaine, the most famous performer of endurance feats. The video I Spent 7 Days Underwater pretty much tells his whole story in under five minutes; then there’s the documentary Ascension for a more in-depth look at what he does. I like how he doesn’t come across as unhinged at all in person, but laidback and zen, which is good for somebody who endures high levels of pain and discomfort. Buddhist monks can set themselves on fire and remain in a state of peaceful equanimity whilst burning to death, and in a way that kind of deep inner contentment is what human beings need rather than short term pleasures to distract them from emotional pain; that is, to be able to be fine during the worst and not have your state of being inextricably tied to material and cultural pleasures. Think about tribal civilisations who are completely cut off from society, yet who may feel a rich and content experience of life.

The man who takes the deep breath to slow their heart rate down, does it without apprehension and completely rests into it, knowing they have nothing to lose but only a sense of deeper contentment and peace to gain. It’s like that test where one person stands in front of their partner and falls back on them in the trust that their partner will catch them and keep them from hitting the floor. Deep breathing is a technique used by people who undergo endurance of extreme conditions, such as the aforementioned David Blaine and iceman Wim Hof, who also advocates the health benefits of freezing cold showers. When you think about people who are settled and relaxed in a deep inner sense, it’s these people who are prepared to embrace extremity rather than people who live a lifestyle devoted to their own comfort. In a way, this connects with what I was saying earlier about people in poverty-stricken conditions who have to make the best of what they’ve got, forcing them to be more appreciative of whatever small pleasures and value they can find in life.

My brother was able to come over to Cardiff from Berlin to visit over Christmas, and he also made it back alright. We practiced the Sleigh Ride piano duet, originally composed by Leroy Anderson, with him playing the low end and me playing the high end. Since he’s keen for me to learn to sight-read, he sorted me out with some sheet music of Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan which I was keen to learn. I’ve never learnt any jazz music before, though I have learnt Visions by Stevie Wonder, which is full of harmonically dense, jazzy chords. I tried learning some stuff on Chordify, but the algorithm is just so bad, frequently getting the chords incorrect, so it’s not always reliable, and I’ve been learning some stuff by ear, though melodies are always easier than chords.

With my own music, I’ve been playing around quite a bit with the filters and reverb effects to give my music a spacey, atmospheric sound, and I’ve been mixing ambient, contemporary classical, and EDM. I’ve also focused on creating an off-kilter feel in some of my recent music, with drumming/rhythm based layers just slightly out of time with one another, excessive use of speeding up and slowing down tempo in order to create a disorienting atmosphere, and spacey, ethereal passages contrasted with hectically busy passages. All of it’s to cover up the robotic stiffness of not actually playing any of it into a keyboard, and I think the experiments worked out interestingly, the most recent pieces with the non-standard cover image. I’ll leave a link to my own music if you’re interested.