It hasn’t been a productive week. My little girl, India, has a chest infection and I’ve been lying awake most nights listening to her breathe. Her coughing fits break my heart. She’s four months old. Kids that young should never get sick.


As a result of this vigil waking up early to write has been hard. Unfortunately, writing when I get home after work hasn’t been an option either. The day job’s worries are persistent. They follow me home, intrude on my thoughts. Sometimes necessarily. I directed my first commercial this week. I not only directed – I storyboarded, shot, lit, edited, mixed and did the grading. The sort of stuff a production house does. I am not a production house. I am one man. Luckily, I’m great at faking competency. If you fake it long enough sometimes you end up becoming what you pretend to be. Look at Trump.
Still, I know why a young Stephen King quit his day job teaching and took on a role in a laundry washing sheets. You’ve only got so much juice. A job that doesn’t suck your creativity dry is preferable to one that doesn’t. This week I’ve had nothing left in the tank for the writing.

TV

Girls
Five episodes in and I grow increasingly frustrated that nobody I know is watching this marvellous show. Yes, all the characters are narcissistic and prone to poor decision making but that’s what makes the show so entertaining. The writing is consistently clever and nuanced. As are the performances. Especially, Allison Williams. Her Marnie is one of the most infuriatingly self-obsessed, obnoxious creations I’ve ever had the good fortune to witness. It takes skill to be that unlikeable. Also, Ebon Moss-Bacharach’s Desi makes me smile every time he turns up. Such a glorious mess of a man. I want his ratty jumper.

Love
Season Two dropped on Netflix a week ago and I’ve been working my way through it. Like Girls, Love has something genuinely insightful to say about being a young adult today. There is an excitement to the unpredictability of these shows. They feel raw; intimate. Like the flicks of the 1970’s American film movement – when you had Hal Ashby, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, the Italian and French New Wave breaking the rules of cinema, making art without commercial concessions. These are personal stories being told with wit and style.

The Young Pope
I watched the first episode. It’s okay. Not quite as outrageous as it thinks it is and probably a little more camp than it wishes it was. If I was Catholic I’d probably enjoy it more.

The Bigfoot Files
I want to know if Bigfoot is real. Don’t judge me.

Movies

X-Men Apocalypse
The reviews were pretty scathing across the board for the latest instalment of the X-Men franchise. I don’t really understand why? It’s not that much worse than the previous entry. I feel like the critics sold short some of the staggeringly impressive special fx sequences, specifically the Quicksilver stuff. Still, it never comes close to the heights of First Class.

The Boss
Not a classic, but there is one or two belly laughs to be found. Watching kids beat each other up is always pretty funny.

Going Clear
Scientology is really evil. Like, really evil. I resent this documentary for making me lose all respect for Tom Cruise.

Pete’s Dragon
It’s a tragedy that this lyrical, beautifully directed movie didn’t resonate more widely with audiences. This is a true classic. Watch it with your kids (maybe fast-forward the first five minutes with the car crash and wolves) or watch it by yourself.

Books

The Books of Blood, Clive Barker
After reading The Scarlet Gospels last year, I began to worry that my Clive Barker esteem was ill-earned. That I viewed his talents through the lens of nostalgia. Nope. He’s still great, The Scarlet Gospels notwithstanding. If you haven’t read them before The Books of Blood are exactly what the title suggests and so much more. There is carnage to be found but also poetry, and occasionally something approaching transcendence. Barker’s prose is that good.

The Weird Tales Super Pack #1
I was born six decades too late to catch the initial wave of pulp writers in the twenties. By the time I was old enough to read them, magazines like Weird Tales or Amazing Stories were sadly defunct. Luminaries of the weird movement, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard, are still read today but I’ve always been curious about the other guys working in that genre. Guys like August Derleth and Manly Wade Wellman. Thanks to this e-book I’ve been able to finally read their stuff. Some of it’s good, some of it’s not. There’s a reason H.P. Lovecraft’s stories have survived. He seems to be the most proficient writer of the movement, his imagination the most delightfully twisted. I wish I could track down the original pulp magazines publications. These stories would be best read on yellowed paper and smudged ink.

Music

I’ve been using the Google Play radio feature lately. Picking an artist I like and just letting Google take me on a tour through similar artists. It’s pretty effective. I’ve been alternating between Smashing Pumpkins and Bat for Lashes radio for most of the week. I’ve also dived back into podcasts. Here are some of my current favourites:

How did this get made?
Comedians Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael and Jason Mantzoukas tear apart bad movies. It’s hilarious.

80’s All Over
An exhaustive review by critics Scott Weinberg and Drew McWeeny of every single film released theatrically in the 80’s. So far they’ve completed 1980 and have begun 1981. I’m surprised at how few of the films I’ve actually seen.

WTF with Mark Maron
I’ve seen Mark Maron perform live, watched all three seasons of his tv show, but feel like his best work is on the podcast. Unfiltered and unrehearsed. He’s funny, articulate and sharply intelligent. As are most of his guests.

That’s it for this week. As always let me know your thoughts and opinions (should you have any) about my selects. And if you’d like to sign up for this newsletter, please use the field below.

M.J.