Hey, so February was a bit of a bust on the ol’ blog front, wasn’t it?
It’s funny, but for all my talk about obtaining a better work-life balance and falling back in love with my writing I forgot the very important role that (self-imposed, sure) pressure plays in my work ethic.
Sometimes, I think my absolute least favourite thing to do in the world is to sit down to write. The trouble is, my absolute most favourite feeling is the one that comes with having written something, and you can’t have one without the other.
I approached part-time working with the idea of working the same number of hours, but having evenings and weekends to myself again. What’s actually happened is that I’ve talked myself out of sitting down and doing this, in favour of re-watching The X-Files from the very beginning.
Seriously. That’s pretty much all I’m doing these days.
You and me both, Big Man.
I mean, sure, it’s not as simple as that. My health hasn’t been great this year, despite all my big proclamations to the contrary: I’m currently on my third big cold of the year, and I lost much of February to a good solid go-round with my old pal depression. The weather has been crap, and somehow working from home becomes more difficult when you know that you are stuck there.
But there’s another huge part of it, and it’s that I’m the laziest high achiever you know. Give me an excuse not to get up in the morning, and I will almost certainly run with it.
I didn’t really mean to confess this here. This is my space, after all, and there’s nothing worse than blog posts apologising for not writing blog posts. I can’t promise that things are going to change any time soon, although I do need to put a creative routine in place for the sake of my own mental health and feelings of personal fulfilment. I had a whole other introduction to this post in mind, but it turns out that the Oscars were actually at the start of March this year (seriously, where does the time go?) and also I’m not as clever as I think I am.
Besides, there’s one big upside for you of me doing practically nothing in February and it’s that I have loads of new book and movie recommendations for you. Enjoy!
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017): I get a lot of stick for being a pessimist, but here’s the thing: I went into the Jumanji sequel with low expectations (despite presence of Karen Gillan) and ended up having the best time. As my first 4DX cinema experience too it was perfect: like the best fairground ride of all time only with hot Scottish redheads and cleverly subverted tropes. Highly recommended. ****
The Shape of Water (2017): The further in time I get from having seen this year’s Best Picture winner, the more annoyed by it I get. Sure, it was beautifully directed; and yes, Sally Hawkins was incredible as the mute orderly at a secret government facility who falls in love with a captured amphibious creature. But nothing about this touched me to the extent that Hawkins’ character was able to schedule time to touch herself before work every day. Would have been three stars, but loses a star in the usual fashion (a scene almost as unnecessary as all the scheduled wanking). **
Isle of Dogs (2018): The European premiere of Wes Anderson’s second stop-motion animated feature was the 2018 Glasgow Film Festival opening gala film, and just about worth F5ing a good solid 45 minutes in order to get tickets for. Beautifully rendered, blackly comic and starring just about everybody you’ve ever heard of as the voice of a discarded dog in a fictional dystopian Japanese city. ****
The Party’s Just Beginning (2018): Karen Gillan’s feature length directorial debut (also on the Glasgow Film Festival programme, and featuring whisky shots and a Q&A with some of the cast and crew) is unflinching, funny, brutal and honest as it considers the toll suicide leaves on those left behind. It’s also very, very recognisable. A difficult watch, leavened slightly by the black humour of its writer/director/star and also by a bearded Lee Pace, which might just be my favourite of all the Lee Paces. ****
Thor: Ragnorok (2017): Guys, was Thor always the funn(i)est Avenger, or did my dislike of zen samurai mystical woo-woo shit predispose me to miss it? Whatever: this was big silly fun of the sort I wish I had seen in the cinema, or at least on a slightly bigger telly, even if I had zero clue what was going on for most of it and its off-world distraction scene would have made The Force Awakens blush. ***
The Good Place, season 2 (Netflix): Has there ever been a show that manages to shift the stakes quite as often as The Good Place and yet still keeps you caring? Is it the writing? The fantastic cast? Just… the huge heart that the show has; a heart so big that it actually does remind me a little of Parks and Recreation? This second season of Kristen Bell & co.’s afterlife adventures might just have been better than the first, and now that I have exhausted my Netflix queue I am bereft. *****
Fargo, season 3 (Netflix): Sure, the bit where the character played by Ewan McGregor disguises himself as his brother, also played by Ewan McGregor, might have gotten a bit confusing but I think the third season of Noah Hawley’s Fargo was my favourite to date. Slow-burn storytelling, with some delightful little character study tangents that ultimately led nowhere, but all pointing to an overarching question: is there such a thing as objective truth? Also, I’d watch the shit out of a spinoff featuring the crime-fightin’ adventures of Minnesota smalltown cop tag-team Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon) and Winnie Lopez (Olivia Sandoval). ****
The X-Files, season 1 (Amazon Prime): Turns out that, with the exception of that first episode plot twist, season 11 of my ride-or-die show has actually been fantastic, full of the Mulder/Scully moments that are the reason I still care about some sci-fi thing a full two thirds of my life later. If the stories seem a bit naff – well, that was kind of often the case, as my Great Re-Watch has reminded me. Sorry Stringer that your Amazon recommendations are now destroyed forever but I cba digging out my DVDs. ****
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (Netflix): The world’s most famous talk show host meets streaming TV in a series of long-form interviews with… basically his pick of guests. The opening episode, with President Barack Obama, was bound to make headlines, but it was his interview with George Clooney – including a trip to see the actor’s wonderful parents – that sold me. This one jumps to the top of the Netflix queue every time a new episode is released. ****
Ruby Tandoh – Eat Up: Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want (2018): In perhaps the first great book of 2018, onetime Great British Bake-Off contestant Ruby Tandoh explores the passion, politics, pleasure and production of food with warmth, smarts and an ice cream scoop or two of good old-fashioned feminist rage – plus a recipe or two. If you’ve read, and loved, Tandoh’s writing on diet culture, mental health and pop culture for the likes of The Guardian (as I do), you’ll absolutely love this book. ****
Susan Calman – Cheer Up, Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate (2016): Behold: a decidedly undepressing book about depression from Scottish comedian, crime fiction fan and Strictly Come Dancing star Susan Calman. Part-memoir, part – well, you wouldn’t call it a self-help book, exactly, but there’s some wonderful stuff in here that brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes, particularly towards the end – Calman’s first book will make you desperate to be her pal, and hopefully help you to understand the depressive in your life a bit better too. Particularly if that depressive is you. ****
Lauren Nickodemus and Ellen Desmond (eds) – The Bible: An Anthology of Personal Essays About Bisexuality (2017): A crowdfunded collection of essays about what it means to be bisexual from new Scottish indie publisher Monstrous Regiment – and, full disclosure, one of them is mine. Through essays that explore history, fandom, identity, relationships and mental health, 20-odd writers share what arguably the most misunderstood letter in the LGBTQ* spectrum means to them in ways both hilarious and heartbreaking. I’m very proud to have been a part of this project. *****
NOTE: I’ll be reading from my essay, which is called Decline To Answer and is about “invisible” bisexuality once you’ve picked your person, among other things, at our book launch in Edinburgh on Thursday. There’s a few things in there I’ve only ever said out loud to one other person, so I’m ever-so-slightly terrified.
This month, I mostly got excited about new Skating Polly (new album The Make It All Show is out on 11th May and I am PSYCHED because I LOVE THEM); and chat about periods on This American Life. Standard.
Watching and reading all of the above, mostly, but I did get to see VisitScotland’s “ambassadog”, George, at the Glasgow Film Festival opening gala.
- Why we forget most of the books we read (The Atlantic)
- Lana Del Rey interviewed by Courtney Love, Stevie Nicks, Kim Kardashian and more for the first issue of L’Officiel magazine
- How my “dead body” ended up on millions of cigarette packets across Europe (The Guardian)
- Franz Nicolay on how touring musicians are raising families on the road (Slate)
- How Caroline O’Donoghue became a Valentine’s Day convert (The Pool)
- How to use less plastic in your home – the bit about teabags was an eye-opener (The Pool)
- A written word tour of the Museum of Broken Relationships – still the place I want to visit most in all the world (VQR)
- We’ve been having the same debate over teen activism since the civil rights era, so how about taking the Parkland school shooting activists seriously? (Slate)
- perfecting the art of the Instagram “catlay”;
- raspberry and coconut cheesecake – topped with a Tunnocks Snowball! – from The Black Poppy cafe, Rutherglen (they stock an Irn Bru variety too);
- moving to an office that has home made pizza Fridays;
- shaking hands with Stephen Moffat (of Doctor Who/Sherlock fame) while he pretended to care about my life for like a good two and a half minutes;
- Sundays in Lent. Or, more accurately, that Sundays are not part of Lent: would I have been able to give up sugar for six weeks without a regular “cheat” day?
- Dole fruit bowls – same;
- Fenty Beauty Match Stix – and getting my “Fenty Face” done at the Harvey Nichols, Edinburgh counter.