That seemed like a nice gentle week, though sadly devoid of sun and the opportunity to work outside. I’m getting this post written early (I mean, on time) since I got way behind last week, and this week’s has things to do in it! Tonight me and my We Are What We Overcome compadres are recording again, via Zoom and Facebook Live – join us here at 7.30pm for some thoughts about self care, which is very important at the mo. Which reminds me, I really must post about the last couple of episodes we’ve released… And on Wednesday I’ll be recording with David Escobedo for a short podcast about Happiness. I’ll be talking about how much I love John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids.
Here’s a gif of Pixie playing with her beloved feather-mouse.
Reading: Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
A book that has been on my radar for some time, but only made proper sonar noises when it arrived at my house. This is a delight to read, combining the lingering dread of Lovecraftian horror with the ever-present horror of American racism. Set in ’50s Chicago, Lovecraft Country weaves together a series of short, deeply Lovecraftian stories revolving around one black family, the eldritch events that they’re constantly dragged into, and its close ties to their daily experience of racism. I found it a hell of a read – it’s ever kind of cosmic horror you want, but with the racism coming from the setting, not the author. Clever, funny, chilling and very thought-provoking.
Watching: Derry Girls season one
Fucking hell, this is hilarious. Made before Sex Education and a bunch of other sassy shows about teenagers, it has all the painfully sharp script and on-point performances I’m now kinda demanding from anything I watch. This is the ’90s in Derry, and it’s flawless. Funny, vicious dialogue, astonishing gurning and sulk-faces from the leads with generally ridiculous goings-on, against the backdrop of IRA bombings and British soldiers on the streets. A genuine delight and I’m deeply looking forward to season two arriving on Netflix. The trailer below totally misses all the savage sweary put-downs, scowling teenage angst, utter cunt of a granddad and more.
Gathering: Knock-off LEGO Baby Yodas
I… can’t… help… myself… I’m genuinely fascinated by these. It’s a great example of what happens when merchandisers get into an IP too late. In this case, Disney so totally locked down The Mandalorian to prevent spoilers getting out (and successfully!), that even LEGO have no baby Yoda (yeah, yeah, “the child”, whatever) figures coming out till September, and then only in a set that costs £120. Bootleggers have filled in the gap, and I’m casually/obsessively picking them all up.
The first one was a basic repaint plus ears of the existing LEGO baby minifigure (centre front), pretty cute with a cheap paint job. But he also came with the Mandalorian himself. Next came the moulded head on the same body, with a cloak in addition to the fabric tunic. A definite step up in tooling and quality. At the same time we had hideous things like the chap on the far-right (possibly politically, who knows), which is a crudely repainted knock-off Yoda head mould) with a surprisingly detailed body and mini-legs paint job. Way too big, since obviously he’s the same size as Yoda himself. Next up, we finally get a space pram (which we have all been crying out for, for months now). This features a totally different figure build, with detachable poseable arms (and hands), with a collar and a great little face if rather angry. The pram itself is slightly flimsy, though you can open and close it, with studs inside for standing baby Yoda up, and an antistud beneath for putting on a base. Lastly, the fucking monster at the back. I couldn’t resist picking that up, even if he does seem better suited to the Mos Eisley Cantina, or LEGO Trolls. Immovable arms, gargantuanism and a brown mug are his primary attributes…
There are yet more being released, notably variations on the space pram. I’ll keep y’all updated…
Doing: MissImp’s Weekly Virtual Drop-In with Marilyn Bird
Last week it was time for my other half, Marilyn, to give us some insight into the kind of character work she enjoys, focusing on voice and techniques for acquiring the vocal noises of others, and the fun characters that emerge from it. Fun!
Watching: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season two
I have so much love for this show it’s absurd. Once more, so much happens! At the end of season one, newly revealed Hydra agent/bastard Grant Ward dumped my beloved FitzSimmons into the ocean in a box, season two begins with Fitz recovering from oxygen deprivation affecting his memory and coordination, not unlike a stroke. It’s surprisingly heartbreaking – or it would be if I weren’t so deeply invested in the guy! His partner, Simmons, is away on a mission infiltrating Hydra, and in her absence poor Fitz is getting worse, hallucinating her presence and withdrawing from the team. Reader, my heart aches for them. Don’t worry though, he gets better, though not in a single episode. They make good use of the 22 episodes to bring in a host of new characters, adding the remarkably badass Bobbi, Lance, and Mack to Coulson’s team. The season kicks off with an Agent Carter crossover, revealing Nazi/Hydra artifacts seized after WWII which will give us the main storyline of the Inhumans for this stretch. Mixed in are a second SHIELD’s (headed up by Edward James Olmos) attempted coup of Coulson’s directorship, Ward’s weird relationship with Agent 33 (bearing a scarred version of Mae’s face), a lovely Lady Sif episode, Kyle MacLachlan in splendid crazy-man mode as Skye’s father, Agent Coulson compulsively carving alien symbols as a result of his TAHITI treatment, and so much more. From a big plot point of view, we get the release of Terrigen – the stuff that flips the genetic switch for humans with alien genes to become Inhumans, and the powers that come with it. Skye is one of those affected and becomes properly badass, able to manipulate the vibration of all matter. Fucking cool. She finally meets her mum and dad too, which is quite lovely, even if they are insane in different ways… It’s all a big shake up for SHIELD and the world! A crushing ending though, for everyone who knows this show is only about FitzSimmons, as Simmons is sucked into anoter world… I’m so glad I was able to immediately start on season 3…
Reading: B.P.R.D. Plague of Frogs vol. 1
I’m a devoted Hellboy fan, and I admire both the spare art aesthetic of the comics and the unusual storytelling which leans heavily on folklore (and the Cthulhu mythos) with a similarly sparse style. I particularly enjoy the many static panels slowly zooming in or out on the subject, and the frequent lack of dialogue. The Bureau for Paranormal Research & Development is a wonderful invention, having much in common with the Laundry (in Charles Stross’ Laundry Files series), and any other government department/CSI type investigators. That they’re dealing with paranormal and metaphysical threats is really fun. This massive omnibus takes off without Hellboy (I believe the whole 8 volume series continues like that), showing just how good Abe Sapien, Liz, Roger, Johann Strauss and others are without him. The main story is arc is the titular plague of frogs, but there are many sidelines into Sapiens’ back story and other small tales that fit in thematically. I especially enjoy reading comics this way, it feels more like I’m reading something with the density and depth of a novel, and at 408 pages, it certainly feels like one too. A great story, and is only the beginning of a storyline that will shake the world itself.
Reading: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
In preparation for going on David Escobedo’s Improv Boost “Happiness” series this Wednesday, I figured it would be a good idea to re-read it, since The Day of the Triffids is my chosen subject. Good job I did! I’d forgotten lots of it, and invented other content based on the slew of inferior TV versions that exist. Unfortunately I’ve also just realised I’ve made the ghastly mistake of reading the abridged American version, which probably explains why it was even quicker a read than I expected! Dammit. It’s a lovely little post-apocalyptic tale in which the world is suddenly blinded, with a handful of exceptions, and is then hunted to near-extinction by carnivorous walking plants, the triffids themselves. I’ve loved it since I read the book when I was quite young, followed by collecting (I think) everything he ever wrote under his many pseudonyms. It’s a fairly simple story of a fellow waking up in hospital, discovering that everyone else is blind, and his travels through a number of emerging communities struggling to survive in the total collapse of civilisation. It was probably the first post-apocalyptic book I read, and it’s remained with me ever since. The story is filled with sections that seem to so well describe stages of anxiety, isolation and moral confusion which are terribly applicable to today’s pandemic. An absolute classic that’s inspired so many subsequent stories, notably all zombie movies and especially 28 Days Later. I may now binge on Wyndham’s other great novels.
Watching: The Politician season one
Taking all the tension and horror of House of Cards and sticking it in a US high school presidential race produces an impressively tense and chilling satire! This is really well done. From the hyper-ambitious sociopathic rich kids and their scheming, murderous antics, to the utterly disinterested voters, this is another perfectly assembled show. Watch it!