Space Racism

Yes I noticed. Yes it was meant to be a joke.

Was it funny when a human character referred to two unconscious Vulcans as “Spock and Spock” in Star Trek: Lower Decks?

It was as funny as if a white character had called two unconscious Indians “Patel and Patel.”

I wasn’t funny, it was racist. It’s a classic thing racists do to dehumanise people, it’s a micro-aggression they use so if the attacked complains, they can reply with the old, “Hey it’s a joke, can’t you take a joke?”

The fact that The Expanse doesn’t rely on lazy racist tropes, that it actually doubles-down on the importance of challenging racist behaviour even in the middle of a dogfight is a credit to the show and everyone involved.

#BlackLivesMatter #StandUpToRacism

This is the dialogue from the scene:

Holden: They’re moving into a spread formation.

Bull: Spreading out like that is good tactics. At least one of these skinnies is not an idiot.

Holden: Be grateful. It actually works for us right now. And that’s the last time you use that word on this ship.

Bull: Excuse me?

Holden: I know you’re pissed about Fred and psyching yourself up for the fight, but leave that “skinnies” shit out of it.

Bull: Duly noted.

(Source: S5E10)

Tumblr Revolutionaries

The problem with certain lefties is that they spend more time feuding with other left wingers than fighting actual Nazis / Tories / Republicans. They live fantasy lives, chasing an ideological purity which no actual human could ever attain and, being monolithic, is the actual antithesis of Marxism. They are inflexible and intransigent, refusing to work with others unless they pass some litmus test of worthiness that they, and only they, get to decide. 

In fact, here’s a handy book Lenin wrote about it all in 1920: 

And here it is for the great capitalist price of FREE!

And while I’m on a classics spree, let’s not forget my fave socialist quote: 

“The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.”

(Source: Leon Trotsky, The Transitional Program – The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International)

And by that, I’m not saying the future leadership of the revolution is on Tumblr, I’m saying that while the left is squabbling internally, the right is happily organising and staging attempted coups. It would be funny if they weren’t actual fucking Nazis. 

Cyberpunk 2077 – A Review After Playing for 130+ Hours

Well, I finished it. It had a nice, elegiac ending.

It’s such a mixed game. For the graphic designers, I’d easily give them 11/10 as there’s so much work and love gone into every little detail of the game. It’s just sad a lot of it takes time to rez in or disappears in front of you, totally spoiling the immersion

The same with the sound design – there’s some lovely touches but they become lost in NPCs talking over an incoming phone call or eerily silent gunfights / running / vehicles.

This is a game that bothered to mocap a really fat bloke walking but then clunkily replicates that on screen so you have a synchronised team of fat blokes.

So much time and trouble over the minutiae of a game, far, far more than a lot of others but the actual bones (NPC AI, cop AI, rendering) are all broken and jutting out awkwardly, probably in a T-pose.

And if you’re a PS4 player… well, CP2077 is to Horizon Zero Dawn as Paul Blart: Mall Cop is to Serpico. The narrative is never more than kid level, YA would be a stretch as that implies more ambiguity and fewer archetypes/cliches.

tl;dr – damn, you could have been sooooo good, what a fucking missed opportunity…

Mole Cuts A Deal

“Alright, mate, I checked yer binner and there’s three pegs missing, looks like board weevils if yer ask me, get big ideas round here when the pantry hawks aren’t roosting. Soo, I’ve greased yer prenups and also de-lined yer Hardall’s orifice sooo… adding that all up… that’ll be… umm…. sixteen worms and 48 woodlice exactly. Let’s cut the mosat and make it sixteen flat, eh, seeing as yer a regular!”

Dr Monster’s Last Gasp

“But I still don’t understand, Dr Monster? Why would you want to touch this blue poison print, don’t do it! Don’t!”

“I’m sorry, dear but we Komodo are the peers of poison, if I ingest this huge blue patch, I may be able to internally synthesize an antidote to the tiny dose which is slowly killing you… I… I cannot lose you, Sophia. I… have… grown accustomed to your radiative warmth…” 

“No, Dr Monster, noooo, we have weeks to search for another cure, don’t touch the patch, please don’t! You cannot die… you cannot!! I… I love you, dear Dr! I love you!”

“I… I love you too, dearest Sophia. You have the finest scientific mind I have ever had the privilege to encounter. I must preserve this for all of us, even if the attempt costs my life.”

WIth that, the good doctor broke free of Sophia’s frantic grip and planted his scaly hand directly on the blue poison patch. As the poison coursed into his system, he groaned in pain, a rictus of agony crossing that kind, leathery face that made Sophia’s heart skip every time she saw it. 

“Oh, Doctor! Nooo!” Sophia clutched the Doctor to her bosom, all thoughts of propriety abandoned as she wished she had not wasted so many years hiding her passions. What had he done… oh, what could have been!

“I can feel your heart beating, Sophia… I am happy if this is the last sound I hear before crossing the Styx… I… I love you… remember that… always…”

Tears coursing down her face, Sophia kissed the Doctor on his snout as his eyes slowly closed…

Albums Of The Year 2020

I mean… it was a year, wasn’t it?

As ever, just to be on this list means you’re a bona-fide winner as I had to leave out at least ten albums I like, including notables like BMTH and Tame Impala. But I wanted to keep the list as short as possible

Here’s a Spotify link to all of the albums in one humongous playlist.

Enjoy!

18. Bury Tomorrow – Cannibal

A very traditionally metalcore album which is not a criticism – plenty here to make you want to punch the floor, essential in 2020, obviously. It feels like Bury Tomorrow are going more accessible without necessarily following trends, props for that. There are some lovely riffs, singy bits and breakdowns on here. 

17. The Soft Pink Truth – Shall We Go On Sinning So That Grace May Increase?

The title breaks down into the song title of each of the nine tracks here (apart from the last!) and from the fluttery wordsearch of Shall to the Kiasmosian fade of May Increase, this is very much a road trip album. To my ears it sounds like Steve Reich decided to make a house album and I like that. Of course it’s minimal house. Also props as I’ve been loving this band for a while now -> https://bzangygroink.co.uk/archives/2003/03/10/soft-pink-truth-sieg-uber-die-sonne-codec/

16. Deerhoof – Future Teenage Cave Artists

Wherein we find the Hoof in a more sombre mood, sounding both old and new as on the extremely panned The Loved One. If you’re a fan of Deerhoof, I doubt this album will put you off. If you’re not, you’ll find it off on its own little journey and that may miff you or you may wish to hop on. Me, I’d still like a Deerhoof number one record and there’s some stuff on here, like the frankly scary Sesame Streetesque Deerchildren that is almost there. 

15. Another Sky – I Slept On The Floor

I like receiving art with no context. I like being ignorant of how it’s made what and why – I want to feel it first. When I first heard Another Sky, it was on Radio One and their song Fell In Love With The City. I loved it and for about five seconds, I thought it was a new Everything Everything track. So, I’m not gonna give you details about this band, though I know them. I’m just going to tell you that if you love epic pop songs that are not easy shapes / have easy themes, you should check this album out. 

14. Khruangbin – Mordechai

By all rights, I should hate Khruangbin. They seem to hit every hipster tickbox. And yet… I love their music. At their best, as in Pelota, they bring me warm, summery Lalo Schifrin shivers. Even at their worst, they make you sit up and cock your head like a puzzled labradoodle. They remind you of the possibilities in music where some other artists show you only the limits. 

13. Jack Garratt – Love, Death & Dancing

This is a collection of Garratt’s 2020 EPs but it’s also an album so fuckit. And it features one of my fave songs of 2020, the beautiful, horrible, sad, ridiculous Better. For that song alone, you should check this album out but I defy you to try not to harmonise along with Mara. And the lyrics of Circles just cut and cut and cut. A confrontational, intensely personal album that, like the best art of 2020, seems to mirror our collective journey into The Wrong Timeline. 

12. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

The only thing I can compare this album to is Roy Orbison and Serge Gainsbourg teaming up to produce a soundtrack for a Reed Morano film about a castaway prince. Yes. There’s a reach here, it’s all pop music but you have instant bangers like Without You next to dreampop whispers like Jason. It’s dazzling, it really is. What a fucking voice. 

11. Field Music – Making A New World

A rambling, Brakhage of an album, all colours and lights and oh my and ‘what was that, in the corner?’ Drifts from Steely Dan to Buggles via Madness and just all kinds of wooly places. It’s ALL poppy. All of it. 

10. Kvelertak – Splid

I fucking love Kverletak. When I first heard 1985, I knew they were a band for me and their follow up to their first album doesn’t disappoint. Stylistically, yeah, it’s hard rock but there are all kinds of shades here, it’s almost like a parallel reality where metal bands went hardcore punk rather than the other way around. Honestly, you’ll think I’m barmy for saying this but I hear as much Husker Du here as Sabbath. Shhh.. this is a punk album… don’t let those smooth guitar solo harmonies fool ya!

9. Aitch – Polaris

If you’ve listened to the charts any time this year, you will have heard Aitch and his flow. It seems he’s collabbed with everyone and it’s easy to see why from the opening bars of Safe To Say. His confidence and sheer ability shine through the eight tracks and, frankly, made me wish he’d bunged a couple more on. On the other hand, every track is SOLID, no hilarious skits, no fat to be trimmed from this lean, mean joint. And it passed the car test: my rear view looks like it’s shivering when this album’s on. 

8. Crack Cloud – Pain Olympics

I can see the Wire and other post-punk comparisons but there’s also something Devo here, something XTC and Kimya Dawson too. That may sound like an ungodly melange but this album is cohesively weird, a neat trick I could never pull off. If you like your pop lumpy and bumpy and actually about something, check out this album. 

7. The Koreatown Oddity – Little Dominique’s Nosebleed

This album is like one of those painting’s where there’s a vista populated by tiny figures and, curious, you approach to try and see the faces. TKO relates tale after tale about where he’s from, who he was, what happened to him and, ultimately, where he thinks we should go. His lyrics are precise and conjure powerful imagery, some of the runs remind me of old Del or Camp Lo whereas the beats have that kind of Digable Planets blissed-out buzz. 

6. Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

If you’re looking for a cookie-cutter dancey/edm-ish album, this isn’t the album for you. Owens between dreamy, ethereal almost-hymns like L.I.N.E  to out and out tech bangers like Night and she is equally comfortable, equally moving. Just lovely.

5. Enter Shikari – Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible

Look, by now you’ve made your mind up about Shikari. You’re either one of their legion of dedicated fans or are snidely dismissive of one of the standout political bands of their generation. But just give this album a go, Shikari are pushing themselves way out of their comfort zones and yeah, a couple of times that doesn’t work for but I am fucking glad they’re still at least trying. They could easily just turn out dancefloor certainties like T.I.N.A. and not bother with the wilder cuts like Elegy but I love that they do. 

4. Beatrice Dillon – Workaround

This is the album that I hope every modular workout I watch at 3am on YouTube is and never delivers. (Is Clouds named for the Mutable Instruments module? I suspect so.) This is flowing, evolving electronic music that isn’t afraid of extremes. Bouncing off her varied collaborators, Dillon never uses eclecticism as a replacement for depth, her timbral juxtapositions are sometimes playful, sometimes startling but always, always meaningful. I wish I could make electronic music this good but, sadly, I’m not talented enough.

3. Lomelda – Hannah

This album just crept up on me and stabbed me in the heart. At points it’s so small and still and quiet and then other songs soar and open up like an old Far or Pedro The Lion track. Always intimate without being cloying or intrusive, it’s a line that Lomelda revels in cartwheeling down, laugh-crying all the time. A cathartic fucking confessional hug of an album. 

2. Igorrr – Spirituality And Distortion

Easily my favourite metal album of the year and also my favourite folk and electronic album. Regular readers will know that I love everything that Gautier Serre is involved in because of his absolute refusal to stay genre-bound. He’s been doing this orgiastic bricolage for years and, let’s be fucking honest about it, where Igorrr leads, Poppy and Bring Me and more traditional musicians will eventually follow. If they dare.

It’s a piece of piss to be avant garde, to be the critics’ darling by making unlistenable dross. To be this bold, this experimental and still deliver certified bangers like Very Noise, Camel Dancefloor and Himalaya Massive Ritual… it is genius. 

1. Lauv – ~how i’m feeling~

This album brought me to tears repeatedly this year. Because, you know, I feel stuff? Like, I don’t check if I should feel it, I just feel it. Whether it’s a line that reminds me about my dead father or another that reminds me it’s seventeen days since I’ve seen another human being in this fuck of a year. Lauv has this way of pushing my buttons that other big, shiny chart pop doesn’t.

When I hear Feelings, I find myself in it, the confusion, the longing, the eternal ambiguity of love. It’s in there, the frustration but also the understanding that we can’t help the pain. God, if I’d written this song, I would die happy. It’s a perfect, three-chord-trick pop song.

This is a long album but it’s full of pop gems; Drugs & The Internet, Fuck I’m Lonely, Feelings, I’m So Tired, Tattoos Together and the horribly prophetic For Now and Modern Loneliness.

You really could not get a more 2020 album.

Studio Dreams

I just fell asleep and had the weirdest micro-dream…

I was watching the Presonus Dude do some mixing thing on YouTube when I fell asleep and my brain kept listening and built a whole dream around it.

DREAM: I’m in a version of my studio but it’s huge. This dude who looks vaguely Jake Busey in a threatening manner is stalking around my studio, moving keyboards around roughly and pulling out cables that are audio live. This causes realistic clicks and bangs and very unrealistic actual small explosions and arcing cascades of sparks.

All the time, he’s giving a running commentary on how to record / mix vocals and keeps singing at me, “Look how farrrrr we’veeee commmmeeee!” and then tweaks another bit of my gear and sings it again. It’s like he’s tuning the studio for his own personal use!

I’m following him around, trying to grab things off him and then I stop him and start shouting that I DON’T NEED VOCAL PRODUCTION LESSONS and I know how to setup a mic, whereupon he just starts running round faster and HE’S CHANGING THE EQ CURVE ON MY BLOODY GENELECS by flicking the DIP switches.

I grab his hands and I’m shouting in his face, all the time he’s looking at me, singing, “LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME!!!” and then I wake up.

I was sooo angry he was messing up my studio and simultaneously insulting my vocal production skills.

Still angry now. Wanna stab a motherfucker.

Another Outsider

However, Dorothy endured heartbreak at Aberystwyth as well as acclaim. Sheela Bonarjee still has the battered black exercise book in which her aunt collated her verse. Alongside one of the poems, Dorothy jotted down a note: “Written at the age of 22 when a Welsh student after 3 years of secret engagement dropped me because his parents said ‘She is very beautiful and intelligent but she is Indian.'”

(Source: BBC News)

I’ve never heard the story of Dorothy Bonarjee before. As I read the story, parts of it seemed so familiar to me, even though she was born in 1894, seventy-two years before I was.

I feel I know her struggle, being caught between two cultures and never truly feeling a sense of belonging anywhere. I’ve certainly been in the position where girlfriends have kept me secret because of my Indianness. Reading her note, above… the dispassionate detail alongside the words of her poem is so heartbreaking.

And yet, she found her own way and made her own place. Like all of us diasporans do, she made a space for herself where none was given.

We have to fashion new cultures, make new homes.

The old ones neither want nor fit us.