BrewDogging #88: Gatwick Airport

How does that work when you're airside, exactly?First Basingstoke, then Exeter, now this: it’s beginning to feel like all of the new BrewDog bars we’re visiting this year are in shopping centres.

I mean, have you seen the duty-free in Gatwick North Terminal lately? I swear it gets bigger and longer every time we fly from there. A good five minutes of walking past shelves full of booze, and not a single decent beer in sight. Still, at least that changes once you get into the departure area... eventually.

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Simian Substitute Site for April 2024: Makake


Books: Back in the day I used to enjoy the Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley podcast Rule Of Three, in which they talked to guests about their favourite funny things and why they were funny. Morris’ new book, Be Funny Or Die: How Comedy Works And Why It Matters, scratches a similar itch – and doubly so if you listen to him reading the audiobook version. It’s a comprehensive study of the science, psychology and ethics of humour, and is smart enough to know how dangerous a task that is. In an early highlight, Morris takes Ken Dodd’s famous line about the futility of analysing comedy – the one about how Freud never had to play Glasgow Empire on a Friday night – and analyses how Dodd himself tweaked its wording over a couple of decades to suit his audience. I’m only a short way into the book so far, but enjoying it a lot.

Music: Max Richter’s managed to get a lot of mileage out of his eight hour composition Sleep. We’ve had an edited version that fits on a single CD, numerous remixes (both dancey and ambient), and an arrangement for solo piano. In March we also got 90 Minutes Of Sleep, the premiere of an audio-visual presentation designed for IMAX cinemas. The audio part is a 90 minute edit of the piece, lovingly remixed for a 12.2 IMAX sound system - the subtle subsonic pulse running throughout several sections is something I'd never really noticed before. As for the visuals, it's topped and tailed with fairly straightforward performance footage. But the bulk of the film is a lovely piece of large-scale animation, a series of night sky views that subtly change with the ebbs and flows of the music, making it a completely immersive experience. Curiously, the animator is only named in a throwaway credit right at the end, and I've not been able to find out their name from anywhere else, which is massively frustrating. Hopefully it'll get more screenings where credit will be given where it's due.

Telly: Continuing our project of investigating Taskmasters Of Many Lands, here’s one you can all play at home if you live in the UK. Channel 4’s streaming service, as well as the OG British version, can also give you access to Taskmaster New Zealand and Taskmaster Sweden – or Bäst i Test, to give the latter its proper title. And for someone who's comparing one version of the show with another, the Swedes appear to have gone completely off track. On the surface, there's the novelty value of our first female Taskmaster, Babben Larsson, assisted by David Sundin. But there's a completely different set! There are only four regular contestants, with a series of rotating guests in the fifth slot! The team tasks only use two teams of two! The prize task prizes are presented on video like it's Sale Of The Frickin' Century or something! It's not even apparent until the final episode of the series that there's going to be a big prize for the overall winner! Nevertheless, the basic structure is stlll there, and there's a fun mix of classic tasks and brand new ones. Series 1 is only four episodes long if you just want to dip your toe in - based on that, I'm happy to give series 2 a go.

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BrewDogging #87: Exeter

It took me ages to frame this to get the rugby on one side and the terrible neon sign on the other, so the least that you can do is click on the photo to see it big.Earlier this month, The BBG and I went into the West Country on Secret Business, and we can't tell you anything about it.

We want to, really. And if you know either or both of us personally, you're probably sick to death by now of the way we've been banging on about it for the last three months or so. But for reasons of privacy, we can't say anything about it here. Whose privacy? Well, that would be telling. Sorry. Frustratingly, it's one of the best days out we've had in years, and for a change I can't recycle it as content.

But I can say that it was relatively close to Exeter, which meant we could make a detour on the way home for something I could recycle as content.

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Simian Substitute Site for March 2024: Monkey Man


Books: What with taking breaks over the Christmas holiday and so on, it's taken us the best part of two months to get through the audiobook of Wilding. So how about something a bit fluffier to follow up, I said? Maybe a stand-up comedian's autobiography? It turns out I'm a bad judge of fluffiness. Strong Female Character - which we're listening to on our Spotify account because the audiobook is hellaciously expensive - is Fern Brady's retelling of her life, from her unhappy childhood through her unhappy time at university to the point where she found out it was autism that was making her unhappy. It's an extraordinary first-person account of what autism is like, viewed from a detached perspective that she obviously didn't have at the time she was growing up - a constant feeling that everyone else is working from a rule book that you don't have access to. If you're expecting lots of big laughs, you're going to be disappointed: there's plenty of humour in the book, but it's there primarily to stop her story becoming relentlessly depressing. The audiobook gains quite a bit, I suspect, from Brady's own narration: if nothing else, it's the best way to experience her impersonation of a boyfriend who liked singing along to the film Koyaanisqatsi. But maybe something a bit fluffier next time?

Music: After complaining last month about the lack of new music to start off 2024, I'm happy to report that things got better in February. YouTube links below, Spotify playlist below that.

  1. Six years after we first encountered him on his home turf of Estonia, we finally got to see Noep live for a second time when he came to London for a one-off show. He’s a lot dancier these days, as this new single shows. Fun video, too.
  2. Ed Harcourt will always be greeted warmly around these parts, as regular readers will know.
  3. As will Ruth Theodore, who appears to be over her health scare from a couple of years ago and settling in nicely on Ani DiFranco's record label Righteous Babe.
  4. For some reason, I've never been that impressed by Super Furry Animals, but the solo work of their singer Gruff Rhys has always worked better for me.
  5. Conversely, I'm not entirely sure about The Smile, to be honest: the few things I’ve liked of theirs have been the ones that are basically Radiohead songs, like this version of Pyramid Song with a couple of the notes swapped around.
  6. Yes, of course the new Pet Shop Boys single is here.
  7. I lost track of Little Simz around the end of 2022, when she released an album in the last week of the year after I'd already made my choices for the Pick Of The Year CD. Yes, I'm afraid that my listening habits are that rigidly arranged around the calendar. Release something in February like she's done here, and you have my full attention.
  8. Still not quite worked out yet what Yard Act are up to in their current incarnation. The album's out today, so maybe I'll find out.
  9. Good to see Joe Gideon out and about again: the last time I saw him was in January 2020 at the launch gig for his Armagideon album, shortly after which the entire world was shut down. I’m sure it wasn’t his fault.
  10. The original version of the Ash album Race The Night had its most rifftastic track and that track’s instrumental coda separated by five other songs. It seems a bit cheeky that for the extended version of the album, they’ve just glued those two parts together and treated it as a bonus track. Rocks like a bastard, though.

Theatre: I saw Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker in Plaza Suite in the West End recently, and as a serious theatregoer I made sure to tut loudly when both stars got a round of applause for merely walking onto the stage. They may well do that sort of nonsense on Broadway, but we don't do it here, I thought. And then literally two nights later, I saw a new play that had been deliberately constructed so that all seven of its principal characters each got their own big entrance with blatant cues for applause. That play was Drop The Dead Donkey: The Reawakening!, bringing the cast of the TV show back together again after a quarter of a century, so I guess we'll let them off this time. Original writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin are also on board, and they've brought the Globelink News crew up to date in an efficient manner, as they each discover that they've been hired to work on a new startup news service that's a little too careless with its use of algorithmically generated content. All the regular cast settle into their roles like they've never been away, and the result is so much more than a simple cash-in on a known telly show - it's a raucously funny night out in its own right. It's touring the UK for several months now, having started back in February at London's Richmond Theatre, and heading back there at the end of the tour in June.

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Unforgettable: #JFTFP24

Of course, if a Japanese person was reading this poster, they'd think the season was called Te Tl Reb Noga Uf.It's that time of year again: the time when I start a review of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme with a snarky dig at whatever ridiculously generic theme they've chosen for this one. The 2024 collection of Japanese films being sent around the UK during February and March has the full title of Unforgettable: Memories, Times and Reflections in Japanese Cinema, and...

...dammit, that actually works this time. I've only seen eight of the twenty-four films doing the rounds this year, but themes of nostalgia and memory are to the forefront, accompanied by time jumps both forward and backward, plus a circular one for good measure. It's nice that, for once, they haven't chosen a framework so broad that you could fit any film into it. (Having said that, the first film we saw after this week-long binge was All Of Us Strangers, which would fit this season's brief perfectly, and has the bonus of being a loose adaptation of a Japanese novel that was already filmed back in 1988 [possible spoilers for both films in that last link].)

The season's been running in various locations since February 2nd, and tours the country until March 31st. Here are some dispatches from its week-long residency at London's ICA.

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