Simian Substitute Site for June 2023: The Infinite Monkey Theorem
MONTH END PROCESSING FOR MAY 2023
Books: How would you like Werner Herzog to read a bedtime story to you? And it's a story you're probably already familiar with - that of Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who was discovered on an island in the Philippines in the mid-1970s, still fighting World War 2 and unaware that it had finished three decades ago. You'd imagine somebody could make a film about that, and somebody did - coincidentally, it's available to watch for free on the Channel 4 site until June 23rd or thereabouts. But rather than filming it, Herzog has made it the basis of his first novel. The Twilight World does a pretty good job of getting inside the head of Onoda, and imagining the mental leaps he had to make to convince himself that the war was still on. Episodically constructed from lots of short chapters, it feels ideal as a bedtime audiobook. The problem, surprisingly, is Herzog's own reading. The weary monotone we've come to love in short bursts of documentary voiceovers, interviews and unexpected acting jobs doesn't really work at this extended length - Herzog is determined not to do any voices, so character dialogue and description all merge confusingly into one. Even his idiosyncratic pronunciations lose their appeal after a while: each chapter is titled by its location, and the whole point of the book is that Onoda is in the same location for thirty years, so eventually you get tired of hearing Herzog saying 'Lubaaaaaang'. I didn't think I'd be saying this when I bought the audiobook, but it might be better with someone other than the author reading it.
Music: Ten more turnips from the tip, as Ian Dury said once. Links to videos for those of you who don't do Spotify, as usual.
- I'm a little disappointed that I missed ABC's big gigs last year, marking the 40th anniversary of the release of The Lexicon Of Love. The just-released live record of their homecoming Sheffield date shows that you shouldn't forget they were more than just a one-album band.
- I first stumbled across Superfly in 2008, hearing bits of her debut album in a Tokyo record shop and liking what I heard. I haven't really been paying attention for the last 15 years, but she's still got an ear for a classic pop pastiche almost as good as Martin Fry's.
- It's been a rough couple of years for Ruth Theodore, but after some health issues it looks like she's making a slow comeback. Nothing too strenuous so far: a greatest hits album with a couple of lovely new songs on it, this being one of them.
- Apparently the Japan Foundation brought Otoboke Beaver over to the UK a month or two ago, and I found out far too late that they're a band who make records that sound like this.
- Max Richter's Sleep reworked by Alva Noto to remove all that troubling aggression from the music? It's not a record I thought I needed, but I'm becoming rather fond of it.
- My tai chi teacher cheekily used the old Sparks song Balls to accompany one of our classes, and commented "you couldn't get a band like that these days, could you?" I had to point out that we didn't need to, because we still have Sparks.
- I'm still down a bit of a Pete & Bas rabbithole at the moment. This track's inspired a hundred or so reaction videos, which is odd because the official clip's a reaction video in its own right, with producer Fumez wigging out over what these ancient geezers are doing to his beats.
- I was looking at the current state of Italian pop music for reasons, and discovered that there's a band called Pinguini Tattici Nucleari, who've literally named themselves after the BrewDog beer Tactical Nuclear Penguin. So why not have them play at an AGM sometime?
- There's lots of fun for music fans in Guardians Of The Galaxy Volume 3. For me, it's hard to top the line "Adrian Belew, both solo and his work with King Crimson." But EHAMIC's violent abuse of The Minute Waltz as an example of what music would sound like on an alternative Earth comes pretty close.
- One of my favourite pieces by Philip Glass is the final aria from his opera Satyagraha: this arrangement for three pianos by Arturo Stalteri brings out the countermelodies in a way the orchestral version simply can't manage.
Telly: On the day this post is going up, they're going to announce the cast of the next series of Taskmaster. The BBG and I went to a taping a month ago so we know who it's going to be, but we're not telling. But it's going to be a good five months until series 16 is aired: what do we do in the meantime? Thankfully, we've just discovered this wiki on Reddit which gives us the opportunity to explore Taskmasters Of Foreign Lands (with subtitles, too). First stop, Norway, where Kongen Befaler has been running for seven series now. The literal translation of the title is The King Commands, and the king in this case is Atle Antonsen (who it turns out I saw at LFF back in 2011), assisted by Olli Wermskog doing all the traditional admin. Series 1 is an interesting case, because three of the five comics in competition are people I know: the Ylvis brothers Bård and Vegard Ylvisåker, and their regular sidekick Calle Hellevang-Larsen. (Maria Stavang and Siri Kristiansen are the other two contestants.) It's a slow starter - in episode 1, it seemed as if every tiny nuance of the show needed to be spelled out for the audience - but by episode 2, competitiveness has kicked in, and some wildly imaginative responses to the tasks make it good fun to watch. As with the Australian version, the weak links are the presenters. Wermskog is too normal to be a Taskmaster assistant, missing the weird edge of the likes of Alex Horne and Paul Williams. (Back home, they've just announced a kids' version of the show with Mike Wozniak as assistant, which is perfect casting.) As for Antonsen, he's a little too traditional a grumpy comic for the leading role, and it turns out that grumpiness has worked against him - he was shitcanned from series 7 for being a bit of a racist. Curiously, though, his replacement as Taskmaster was Bård Ylvisåker, so I'll have to see how that works.
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