I can’t drink like I used to. Not that I was ever a big drinker, but there was a time when I could drink five or six beers without being reduced to a gibbering mess. Not anymore. Three’s my limit. Anything more than that and there’s a good chance I’ll be spending an unreasonable amount of time in the bathroom.


Hemingway, I ain’t. I can’t write when I’m drunk and I certainly can’t write when I’m hungover. I can barely manage a coherent tweet.
Which is why I lost two days of writing time this week. There was a work function, there was free booze and not enough food. Shenanigans and a justifiably angry wife entailed. The book continues to progress slowly. I’ve decided to lay off the booze altogether for a while. No cheeky lunchtime beers, no post-work de-stress glasses of wine. Just soda water and lime. We’ll see how that affects the page count.

TV

Billions
I’ve finished season one and won’t be returning for season two. The show is perfectly fine, sometimes great, but the writing doesn’t support the brilliant performances of Paul Giamatti and Damien Lewis. I think ultimately the flaw lies with the premise. There simply isn’t that much drama to mine from a clash between a DA and billionaire hedge fund manager. The stakes are too low.

The Magicians
I resent the notion that The Magicians is Harry Potter for grown-ups. Harry Potter is Harry Potter for grown-ups. The Magicians is its own thing and that thing is a bit more interesting than a sexy aged-up J.K. Rowling riff. My biggest criticism of the show is that everyone is far too attractive. It’s hard enough to buy a world with magic in it, let alone a world where everyone looks like they slipped from the pages of a fashion magazine.

Movies
Dr. Strange
Perfectly fine. Perfectly forgettable. The bland professionalism of these Marvel movies is starting to grate on me. In a way, I wish they were worse. Took more chances, made more mistakes. I wish they surprised me instead of delivering exactly what I expected.

I Am Not a Serial Killer
Shot on grainy film, Serial Killer evokes an autumnal late 70’s/early 80’s aesthetic which is perfectly apt for its Spielbergian-Amblin-era subject matter. The story of a small boy who fears he’s a monster discovering the existence of an actual monster is dreamily paced. – maybe a little too dreamily. Horror fans expecting a thrill ride might be disappointed. There’s a little of a Stranger Things vibe, no doubt bolstered by the retro synth score. There’s a little bit of Dexter too, with its self-aware sociopath protagonist. If Stranger Things meets Dexter sounds like your bag then check out I Am Not a Serial Killer on Netflix.

The Nice Guys
From Lethal Weapon to The Long Kiss Goodnight, Shane Black’s scripts have a voice that’s often louder than the directors who adapt his work. Razor sharp dialogue, plots inspired by the pulpy byzantine weavings of 1930’s detective fiction, characters bruised and ready to bruise others. The flicks he’s directed himself, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys are a little more meandering than the 80’s action classics he’s known for but that’s why I like them. The cinematic landscape needs more beautiful losers like the characters played by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

The Dressmaker
I remember feeling betrayed when I first saw Muriel’s Wedding back in the 90’s. The trailers had promised a broad Australian cartoon scored by Abba and instead I got something unexpectedly emotionally devastating. It was only later, when my sense of indignation had passed, that I realised how good the movie was. The trailers for The Dressmaker similarly promised a light-hearted romp stocked with small-town Australian caricatures. It isn’t that movie. It’s really sad. Maybe a little too sad (Seriously, the death count in The Dressmaker would rival an 80’s slasher). I shouldn’t have been surprised. The Dressmaker is co-written by P.J. Hogan who wrote and directed Muriel’s Wedding. He’s a merciless bastard.

Gaming

Doom
After 10pm on a Fri night, I’m all about the Doom multiplayer. Call me twisted but there’s something enormously enjoyable about blasting your friends to bits in a vibrant hellscape. Simple pleasures and all that.

Tower of Monsters
The conceit that you’re watching a cheap sci-flick from the 50’s replete with blowhard director’s commentary instead of playing a video game works really well. The hammy voice-acting, theremin-heavy score, stop motion monsters, and cgi “cardboard” sets all work together to create a charming aesthetic. I played this with my 3-year-old chortling at the G-rated action beside me. It didn’t feel like time wasted.

Books

Saga
I place Brian K. Vaughan’s Y:The Last Man on Earth in the pantheon of classic comic books alongside Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and Joe Hill’s Lock & Key. If Saga continues to be as imaginative and emotionally resonant as what I’ve read so far than I dare say it will join those other titles. Narrated by a fetus aboard a tree that is also a rocketship, accompanied by her alien parents from opposing war factions and a ghost nanny, Saga is wonderfully weird but also disarmingly simple in its message. Love conquers all. That it posits a scenario where a bodice-ripper can change the universe tickles me to no end.

Music

FKA twigs, LP1
Comfortable melancholy. Like taking a bath during a rainstorm.

Nadia Read, Preservation
Never knew she existed until I listened to Preservation. Glad to know her now. The perfect soundtrack to the first few days of Autumn.

EMA, Past Life Martyed Saints
Synth heavy dark pop.

Laura Marling, Semper Femina
Laura Marling nearly abandoned music altogether to study poetry. That passion for words is evident in her thoughtful, evocative lyrics. A folk gem.

Elvis Presley, Mystery Train
I never took Elvis seriously as a musician. All those sequinned jumpsuits and Las Vegas glitter. Listening to Keith Richard’s autobiography and hearing him reference the King as a formative influence lead me to track down his early stuff. Unsurprisingly, it’s great. In particular, I love the sparsity of this lo-fi gem –

That’s it for this week. Shoot me a comment below if you agree/disagree with what I’ve written or if you want to suggest something you think I’d like. Thanks for reading.

M.J.