Welcome to the 2nd edition (here was the 1st) of this totally re-occurring feature on the blog. The one where I ask an internet acquaintance to give us all some recommendations off the top shelf of 5 important categories: Music. TV/Film. Books. Internet-ing. And the last one: ANYTHING (to make sure all bases are completely covered).
This time around we are joined by Trev Elkin (aka @SixFromSirius) a self described "music dilettante" —yes, don't feel bad, I also had to look up "dilettante"… and it's a good word, I like it, I think I may start using it myself— and occasional but always excellent writer over at Gold Flake Paint. Here is just one example of said excellent writing & music dilettanting. <- Did I use this word correctly? Because a red dotted line showed up under it implying that I had not.
But enough messing about with introductions, let's get to the recommendations…
Strange Darling came out last May, but for some reason I completely missed it at the time. I fell for Folick’s voice immediately - earthy, folky and swinging between silk and stone. Ironically track one has this line "how did I miss this lesson when I was young?" which grabbed my attention on a number of levels, not least the fact that I’d listened to loads of music on Bandcamp that year and it didn’t feature in any of my searches or recommendations.
Folick is from that singer-songwriter school that understands and uses subtle dynamics to seduce, so that repeated listens just keep on building on your relationship with the artist rather than driving you away through boredom. Suzanne Vega, Sharon Van Etten, Heather Nova, Shara Worden have this in spades and I hope you agree that Miya Folick is a fitting addition to that list.
#2 - WHAT IS THE ONE MOVIE OR TV SHOW THAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE NEXT IN EVERYBODY’S NETFLIX QUEUE (OK, DOESN’T HAVE TO BE NETFLIX, WE’RE ALL INTERNET ADULTS HERE AND KNOW HOW TO FIND ANYTHING ONLINE, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER)?
The Battery. Not enough people are talking about this film. Ok, granted, it's now four years old and as an indie it didn't get a general release or distribution, so no surprise there. It was filmed in 15 days, produced for a budget of $6000US and yet looks and feels like anything else you’d gladly pay to go and watch in the theatre. It has no known actors and no CGI. You might have noticed I've not mentioned the genre yet, because if I had started there you would have probably made all sorts of assumptions about it, like I did, before watching. The Battery stars Jeremy Gardner who also wrote, directed and co-produced the film, and Adam Cronheim (co-producer).
The Battery is many things, but principally it is a road trip movie about two baseball players Ben & Mickey (hence the title - a Battery is the pitcher/catcher team) trekking across the back waters of scenic New England.... all in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The film revolves around the manifold love/hate thing going on between the main characters who might actually end up killing each other before the zombies do. It has everything you would ask for in a movie: a great original script, believable characters, beautiful wide angle cinematography and an original (for a zombie flick) plot. And that’s both its strength and its downfall.
The vexed comments on IMDb from people expecting this to be another Night Of The LivIng Dead sum up the ‘problem’ with playing in this genre - mass audiences demand action, gore, and more action and more gore. Having seen and enjoyed The Walking Dead, there are a growing number of people who, so long as it has the skull-smashing, teeth-gnashing basics, expect more from the apocalyptic zombie scenario; the stresses and strains in the relationship between the barely surviving, living characters has become more important than seeing them fighting the undead every five minutes. The Battery delivers on all counts with a depth of character you rarely see in horror.
Without giving too much away, the final sequence involving a Volvo Estate might be familiar to TWD fans, but The Battery did it first. The soundtrack is also awesome, featuring Rock Plaza Central's 'Anthem for the already defeated' as it's central riff. Go see it now on DVD and Bluray, if you can track it down. For now here's the trailer featuring that song and a glimpse into the lives of Ben & Mickey.
#3 - I (AND BY “I” I MEAN “THE PERSON THAT IS READING THIS”) AM GOING TO THE BOOK STORE (OK, PROBABLY AMAZON) TO FIND THE VERY NEXT BOOK THAT I WILL BE PUTTING SOME EXTREMELY VALUABLE ‘ME-TIME' ASIDE FOR. WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU GET, IF YOU WERE ME (AND, I SUPPOSE, YOU HADN’T ALREADY READ WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO SUGGEST)?
Here’ by Richard Macguire, 2014 | Based on his hugely influential comic strip ‘Here’ released in 1989, Macguire explores the connections within a single physical space through time - specifically between 500,957,406,073 BC to the year 2033 AD in 300 full colour pages. It is a work of art, a moving testament to the both positive and destructive influence of human beings and their insignificance in the wider scheme of things as well as the celebration of life, love and death.
It forges a new path in storytelling, particularly in the graphic novel/comic domain which makes the reader question and think for themselves, partly because in among the tableaux there is the reflection on the reader’s life - for example, the caveman trying to survive a catastrophic weather event juxtaposed with a 19th century lady in waiting overhearing a scandalous piece of gossip. It’s when the pages contain these several timelines all at once, interacting with each other that the timelessness of the' story unfolds - a story of space and time that needs no living things within it, or to witness it for it to be significant.
#4 - WHAT IS THE ONE WEBSITE (OR JUST ANY OLD INTERNET THING: APP, GIF, SERVICE, WHATEVER) THAT YOU WOULD GET REALLY DOWN IN THE DUMPS ABOUT IF IT WERE TO SUDDENLY GO AWAY?
Probably could do without it but since I’ve started using it, I’m wondering if I could go back. IFTTT - connects up your apps, sites and (if you have them) the internet of things around your home - automated lighting, heating, plant watering, vacuum cleaner drone robot etc. I have a link to Evernote (another handy ideas workflow app for writing & snipping stuff from the internet or photos when I’m out and about) from Twitter that collects particular tags, I collect up all my last.fm scrobbles (which are collecting tracks online and from Spotify & Bandcamp) into an excel file so I can see exactly what I’ve listened to and when.
All this is made possible by "If This Then That”. IFTTT works by setting up recipes with various different ingredients from your apps & social media accounts so that they work together. There’s thousands of recipes and an ever increasing number of supported apps and sites.
#5 - AND FINALLY… PLEASE GIVE ONE COMPLETELY UNAIDED RECOMMENDATION THAT YOU THINK EVERYONE SHOULD START DOING / USING / WATCHING / EATING / THINKING / QUITING / ETC-ING TO MAKE THEIR LIVES A LITTLE BIT MORE BETTER AND/OR BEARABLE.
Learn a language. Seriously, your brain will thank you for it. It can also be fun and you’ll open up a whole new world of arts, media and culture that makes the world a far more interesting place. For the last 5 years I’ve had a go at learning a new language each year - Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish (that was interesting) and this year Swedish. Ok so I’ve stuck to the Nordics, but as they are (with the unique exception of Finnish) Germanic languages they shared a distant connection to each other and with old English, so that they felt familiar.
The CDs and language apps are ok to learn with, but can be tedious on their own - to really crank up your leaning power use a gaming platform app like Memrise, on which you can find hundreds of languages at a range of paces and styles. The basic premise is that you get rewarded for learning new words and phrases and then getting these words right when tested, earning points. This is a really sneaky way of keeping your mind focused and opens up learning states that you would normally use for solving jewel puzzles and crushing candy.
When you’re feeling confident in that language, why not go visit the country and discover how much you can remember and also how everyone else is in the world is better at speaking English than you are able to converse in their native tongue. It’s really rewarding nevertheless, and can really improve your creativity.
OK folks, there you have it. 5 things that Trev Elkin thinks you should consider incorporating into your life. Since asking these questions was as much for my benefit as yours, here are my initial thoughts on his recommendations…
- Just like Trev, I had also completely missed this Miya Folick album. And that is a shame, because it is lovely and right up my street. I have gone to Bandcamp and fixed that. You should too. While you are there, you'll probably notice one thing about this release that Trev forgot to mention… it's available on panty. That's right, panty.
- I have not seen The Battery, but given the fact that the main reason I like The Walking Dead is because of how it spends so much time on non-Zombie scenes (i.e. “story” and “plot”)… I'm pretty sure this is one I'd enjoy. And the trailer has only further convinced me. Will definitely seek this out (wish it was on Netflix for easier seeking, but oh well, as I will later say in number 4, I am a man of the internet age after all).
- One of the trickiest things about currently being in Denmark is finding good things to read in the language I know how to read in (although, as I say in number 5, I am working on Danish). The book stores that I have been in so far have a very (VERY) small section for English titles. And apparently Amazon isn't a thing in Denmark?! What kind of evil, world-conquering empire are you running Bezos? I will definitely add this to my 'dot ca' shopping cart for when I return to Canada (but will also check the local library here in Svendborg, as I do remember them having a pretty big graphic novel section).
- I have not used IFTTT, but being a man of the internet age, it has been on my radar for awhile. The thing that most recently put it back on the outskirts of my horizons —well, I guess Trev mentioning it above would be the most recent, but the time before that— was seeing people use IFTTT for posting their Instagram pictures on Twitter (because, for some annoying & probably Facebook-related reason, when you share an Instagram link on Twitter it does not show the picture). Now that I have started using Instagram and have been experiencing this short coming with my own stuff, I have been thinking real hard about trying IFTTT out… and Trev's recommendation may be the last push that was needed to get me to sign-up for another service. I'm just worried of getting losing time in their massive recipe section searching for things that might save me some time.
- I totally agree with Trev's final recommendation and I am currently trying to learn a new language myself (and even using Memrise, which I would also recommend for taking on this task). After spending the last 2 months ramming my head full of Danish vocabulary, I really do wish I hadn't waited this long in my life before challenging my ignorant english brain with a little linguistic variety. Having spent the previous 4 years living in England working at a Backpackers Hostel, a little bit of Spanish or French or anything other than Just English would definitely have been a nice touch (not too mention whenever I visited Spain or France or anywhere Not England).
Well, those are my thoughts on Trev's recommendations, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments section below. Or on Twitter, Or facebook. Or don't. Your call. But at the very least, you should go follow Trev on Twitter (kun reelle tilhængere!) because doing so will improve your time on there.
And finally, how about we all agree to meet back here in 2 weeks time for some more things of high recommend from someone else. Perhaps a Dane. OK? ok.