Simian Substitute Site for December 2022: Exotic Monkey Christmas Tree Decoration

Exotic Monkey Christmas Tree DecorationMONTH END PROCESSING FOR NOVEMBER 2022

Books: Probably the biggest artistic thing I did this month was serve my first ever term of jury service. Not because of any drama in the courtroom itself – although there was definitely some of that – but because jury service involves a lot of sitting around waiting for things to happen, and the official advice you’re given is to bring a good book with you. I ended up getting through two and a half books in the various bits of downtime spread across the fortnight, so for once this section is a review of some ebooks rather than audiobooks. How To Be Perfect, a guide to moral philosophy by Michael Schur, takes all of the research he did into the subject for The Good Place and converts it into an enjoyable history of the approaches we’ve taken as a species to differentiate right from wrong. (It seemed appropriate at the time.) Meantime is Frankie Boyle’s attempt at jumping on the Famous People Writing Crime Novels bandwagon, but fails in two key aspects: all the characters speak in his voice, and they’re all prone to long rants about the state of things that have Author’s Message stamped all over them. Still, you’re at least guaranteed the odd bracing line, like his description of nepotism as ‘incest for cowards'. Currently I’m halfway through Alan Moore’s short story collection Illuminations, and absolutely bloody loving it: if anything, it reminds me of a more literary version of the short Future Shocks tales Moore used to tell in 2000AD, because of their devotion to messing with time and your narrative expectations. And you can tell Moore is designed for writing short stories, because his last lines are always fucking perfect.

Internet: Even if you’re not seeing any of the newly enabled Nazis being pumped directly into your timeline, there’s no denying that Twitter has become a lot less fun than it used to be. So what do you do? The general consensus appears to be, you go to Mastadon. There are plenty of blogposts out there to walk you through the process, but here’s a short personal summary (partly assisted by this one). The first complication is that you can't just join Mastodon, you have to join one of its instances: part of what sets it apart from Apartheid Clyde's domain is that it's decentralised and not just managed from a single location. The trick is to avoid the large ones - obvious instances like mastodon.social have become massively overloaded over the last couple of weeks and grind like a bastard - but watch out for small ones with limited support and a high risk of future collapse. For better or worse, I've thrown in my lot with newish Mancunian instance mcr.wtf, which has a good name and appears to be run by nice people who like beer. Then you need to work out which program you use to access Mastodon, bearing in mind that their own client is by all accounts bobbins. Like many Android users, I've gone with Tusky, and it seems to work just fine. Finally, once you're in there you'll need to recreate your list of people you follow from scratch, and I think this is the biggest aspect of migrating from Twitter - everyone's conscious of what mistakes they made when they built their Twitter following list, and is keen not to make them again. With all that in mind, you'll find me there at https://mcr.wtf/@SpankTM - it'd be lovely to see you there, so I could post stuff that's a little more ambitious than this.

Telly: Because I'm posting this late while still a bit drunk (my first Christmas party of 2022 happened today), by now you've just missed the grand finale of season 14 of Taskmaster. Hopefully this means that the verbal NDA I agreed to several months ago no longer applies, and so I can talk about how The BBG and I went to the taping of an episode of this series last April. Getting tickets isn’t particularly hard – visit SRO Audiences, go to the Taskmaster page, sign up and wait for them to announce a new series. Obviously demand is quite high, so you’ll need to leap into action as soon as they’re announced. A block of ten shows gets recorded over five consecutive weekdays, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, and generally the afternoon ones are easier to get into. Of course, this is assuming you can travel to the taping site at Pinewood Studios, which is impossible to get to by public transport and takes a ten minute taxi ride from Slough station. To make things even more complicated, they ask you to arrive early because they overallocate the (free) tickets, so even if you've got one in hand they can't guarantee you'll get in. We turned up an hour and a half before the scheduled time, which may have been overkill, but we weren't the first there. Once you're inside, it takes about three hours to record a forty minute episode, even though a good half of it is pre-taped tasks: there's a very baggy feel to the banter in the studio, and it's fascinating to observe how that gets hacked down for TV broadcast. The episode we saw being filmed was S14E03, and the spectacular reveal that takes place just before the first ad break was even more fun experienced live as it was on telly. But if you're curious about what you missed by not being there, this package of outtakes may help (from about 16 minutes in, and yes, that improv section was as excruciating in person as it is on YouTube).

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London Film Festival 1989-2022: An Index

Because Films Inspire... some sort of hideous trainspotter impulse, apparentlyI started going to the London Film Festival in 1989, and I've been there every year since. Thanks to a combination of Spank Gold articles (after-the-fact writeups of the 1989-1997 festivals), reposts (pieces written for the old site between 1998 and 2005) and live blogging (since 2006), I've got a record of every single film I've seen at those Festivals.

Trying to pick your way through all of those is obviously going to be hellish, hence the index below. Similar to the equivalent index I've assembled for the Edinburgh Festival, each year links to the relevant piece on that particular LFF, including a roughly chronological list of what I saw (plus, of course, any additional films reviewed by Spank's Pals). As a bonus, you get a thumbnail-sized history of programme cover designs.

This will be updated each year after the LFF, so most of the time this page should be resident at the top of the LFF folder on the site. Have yourselves a good old browse through, and try not to think too hard about how much the tickets for all this lot have cost me over the last couple of decades.

[updated 17/11/2022 to include 2022 reviews]

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Spank's LFF Diary: The Wrap Party 2022

You know, people say that the Southbank Centre doesn't work as a red carpet venue, but then you see pictures like this...As ever, let’s start our roundup of the 2022 London Film Festival - yes, I know, one whole month after the event, I've been busy - with a look at how what we saw this year breaks down under the Clare Stewart Classification System:

Galas: 4
Special Presentations: 0
Official Competition: 2
First Feature Competition: 0
Documentary Competition: 0
Love: 2
Debate: 3
Laugh: 2
Dare: 2
Thrill: 3
Cult: 3
Journey: 3
Create: 4
Experimenta: 1
Shorts: 14
Expanded: 5
Family: 0
Treasures: 2
Events: 1
Free: 1

Quite a decent balance, all things considered. In terms of the high-end stuff, we managed to see four Galas at their overflow screenings, thus avoiding having to pay Gala-level prices. The two entries from the Official Competition that we saw were both excellent, although we managed to miss out on the actual winner. The lack of entries we caught from the Documentary Competition initially surprised me, until I realised the other way of looking at that is to assume the wrong documentaries were put on the shortlist, because there were some magnificent ones this year.

So, now we've established my disagreements with the LFF jury, what were my own personal favourites? Well, I won’t say just yet, and instead I’ll give the floor to The Belated Birthday Girl to say what she liked, or didn’t.

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Simian Substitute Site for November 2022: Timkey The Monkey And His Magic Flute

Timkey The Monkey And His Magic FluteMONTH END PROCESSING FOR OCTOBER 2022

Books: I think that The Belated Birthday Girl has changed the way I think about the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and I kinda like it. In the past, I'd go specifically to see authors: these days, we tend to book for talks on subjects that attract our interest. Maybe it's a general move from fiction to non-fiction that's triggered this? Anyway, one of the highlights of the festival this year was a talk by two paleontologists, and one of their books is currently our audiobook at bedtime. Otherlands by Thomas Halliday is a speculative history of our planet told in a beautiful way: each chapter is a detailed pen portrait of what Earth would look and feel like at various points over the last 500 million years or so. Halliday's masterstroke is to tell the story backwards - chapter 1 is 50,000 years ago, chapter 2 is 2 million years, and so on - which stops human development becoming the main focus of the narrative: by the start of chapter 3 we're out of the picture as a species, so we can concentrate on all the other fascinating stuff going on. As an audiobook (read by Adetomiwa Edun), it's more of a meditative experience than a compendium of hard science fact, but Halliday's rich imagery gives you plenty of lovely ideas to stuff into your head before bedtime.

Food & Drink: As Twitter enters what everyone assumes is going to be its death spiral, let’s take a moment or two to think about another social media platform that really should be considered dead by now. Moblog was incredibly fashionable when I joined back in 2004: a website where you could share pictures you’d taken on your phone, with text attached? Who else is doing that? Eventually, the answer to that question became ‘loads of people, especially Twitter and Twitpic’, and Moblog dwindled into irrelevance. But when Twitpic crashed and burned several years ago because of an earlier bout of Twitter’s arseholism, and I needed a mobile miniblogging platform that I could easily post to while drunk, Moblog started looking enticing all over again. So since 2014 I’ve been using it specifically for posting live reports on the beers in BrewDog’s annual Collabfest. It’s quite possible that nobody else is using Moblog these days - when you look through the last thirty days of posts, it's hard to find anything that hasn't been posted by some sort of bot - so I'm nervous that one of these days I'll go there and find it gone, and have to move over to bleedin' Instagram or some such nonsense. Until then, here's my on-the-spot report from Collabfest 2022, pages 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 and a coda to finish off.

Music: Two songs into ABBA Voyage, and Bjorn is running towards the front of the stage and clapping in time. Inevitably, all of us start clapping along with him. It’s about four seconds before I say “wait a minute, why am I clapping along with you? You’re not here, you’re a computer generated hologram being projected onto the stage. Actually, you’re not even that, you’re just a high resolution animation on a massive telly. Come to think of it, why am I even talking to you?” The most astonishing thing about ABBA's much hyped virtual show is that you don't spend every minute of it thinking something like this. A huge amount of technical effort has been put into combining real and virtual elements in such a way that the boundary between the two is invisible. The physical lights in the arena have been synced up to match the lighting of the fake ABBA members 'on stage': the live ten-piece backing band keeps precisely in time with the pre-recorded vocals, in a rare example of arse-backwards karaoke: there are video interludes covering the pauses for costume changes that aren't actually happening. Everything is done with the aim of convincing you that you're at a real gig, and they've nailed it (apart from the lack of queues for the bars and cloakroom being totally unrealistic). If this was an event put together to showcase a bunch of average songs, it would be pretty special already. Except it's showcasing a bunch of ABBA songs, which lift the whole thing to stratospheric levels. No, we don't get a hairy Viking on drums like I was hoping for, but it's still one hell of a night out.

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