Internet: Well, let's be honest, everything we're doing at the moment comes under the category of Internet one way or another, doesn't it? And it's been interesting to see how people and organisations have coped with the requirement to move all their activities online. Take, for example, the Japan Foundation, the body set up to promote Japanese culture around the world. They're mentioned on this site annually because of their Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, and also got a namecheck earlier in the year for a combined movie and lecture event. But now their lecture series has moved onto Zoom, with two fine examples this month. Ninja: Their Philosophies And Duties saw Professor Yuji Yamada entertainingly demolish most of the myths we've picked up from tatty martial arts movies, most notably that ninjas spent most of their time dressed like ninjas. (They're primarily spies: having a recognisable uniform is a bad idea.) Meanwhile, How Do They Read? Voices And Practices of Japanese Language Translators was a panel discussion about the art of translation. Polly Barton (who was at that live event we attended a few months ago) talked about the space between English and Japanese as a physical thing she felt she navigated as she worked, while Ginny Tapley Takemori went into the nitty gritty of how some of the subtleties of the Japanese language (like gendered first person pronouns) can be a nightmare to reproduce in English. I can't help you with the first talk, sadly, but if you think literary translators are more interesting than ninjas, you can watch How Do They Read? on YouTube.
Music: We haven't seen any live music since the New Routes showcase night in Cambridge back in March. Correction: we haven't been in the same room as any live music since then, but we've seen plenty of it, thanks to a wide array of streaming events. Some of them have been charity events to raise money for struggling venues: for example, the Green Note in Camden has run a terrific series of live shows every Wednesday and Friday on their YouTube channel, each featuring a trio of acts performing in a round robin format. There have also been various one-off shows for a similar cause, like Ed Harcourt's fundraiser for Bush Hall. Some acts, however, are just trying to raise money for themselves: from the self-explanatory Andrew O'Neill Sings! broadcast from the comedian's living room at 11am UK time for his Australian fans, to the mighty Soil & "Pimp" Sessions streaming a full-on Death Jazz gig from the empty Blue Note club in Tokyo. Nevertheless, for all of this live wonderfulness, I have to admit that we've spent an awful lot of Saturday nights watching - and dancing to - United We Stream, a series of webcast DJ sets raising money for all the people who lost their livelihood when Manchester's nightlife was shut down. They're currently on hiatus after raising close on half a million quid, but their last two Saturday night shows were a fine finale, featuring firstly Mr Scruff live from the Cloudwater brewery (3 hours 38 minutes into here) and then a full-on DJ battle between the mayors of Manchester and Liverpool. Meanwhile, in recorded music news, the best album to come out of the pandemic so far was recorded in a car last Sunday night.
Telly: Huffity puffity Ringstone Round, if you lose your hat it will never be found... We've all seen enough archive TV by now to realise that revisiting shows you remember fondly from childhood is usually a bad idea. But when Talking Pictures TV announced that they'd be repeating the 1979 series of Quatermass, I couldn't keep myself away. I remembered it being a thing we talked about at school the morning after it was on, but very few of the details, apart from that song and that ending. A good couple of decades after his original adventures on the BBC, Professor Bernard Quatermass is now an old man searching London for his lost granddaughter. England has gone completely dystopian hellscape at this point, enlivened by gangs of hippy punks known as the Planet People who gather at stone circles in the belief that aliens will beam them up to a better world. The truth is actually a little more complex than that, but only a little. Forty-one years after transmission, it's surprising to realise that ITV pulled off their own version of Mad Max a) on an ITV budget and b) a year before the release of Mad Max. John Mills is magnificent throughout, balancing quiet intensity with alarming moments of vulnerability. But it's hard these days to miss writer Nigel Kneale's subtext that Everything Is Terrible And It's All Young People's Fault, with the satirical angle getting a bit heavy-handed at times. Still, Kneale's grumpiness also manifests itself in his delight at killing off his characters in a series of increasingly apocalyptic cliffhangers, so on balance it all works out. Talking Pictures are sadly too old-fashioned a TV station to believe in anything as useful as an online catchup service, which makes it convenient (though unfortunate for the rights holders) that someone appears to have persuaded the Internet Archive that the series is in the public domain.
In the meantime, your Simian Substitute Site for July 2020 is the SCP Wiki entry for SCP-983. Strap in: this is going to get peculiar.
SCP stands for Secure, Contain, Protect. The SCP Foundation is an organisation dedicated, according to its mission statement, to identifying objects which "pose a significant threat to global security by threatening either physical or psychological harm," and doing everything possible to reduce the harm they cause. To that end, they're building an enormous database of such objects, classifying them and identifying how they can be secured, contained and you get the idea.
Object SCP-983 is described in the database as follows: "a vintage mechanical monkey with a faded date located on the bottom of the left foot, placing its manufacture at some point in the 1940s by an unknown person or company. The monkey is dressed in the remains of what used to be a popular vest design for circus ringmasters. In the monkey’s left hand, there is a lightly tarnished brass bell. In the right hand, the monkey holds a small brass striking rod... Once SCP-983 physically comes into contact with an individual on their birthday, it will spring to life and do a single back flip before raising its bell and singing a simple song. 'A RING DING DING DING IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!'"
Obviously, this is terrifying, so the rest of the article documents various experimental activations of the monkey and what was observed in each instance. And by the end of the page, you might think that would be that. Except that The SCP Foundation has a lot of fans on the internet. A lot of fans. The sort of fans who produce artwork. And videos. And songs. And much, much more. How far down this rabbit hole you go is up to you from this point onwards, as I'm going to run away from it quite fast.
Coincidentally, birthdays will be on this site's mind at some point during the month to come. But also, now we've cleared down the backlog of Tales Of The Before Times, it's time we got some virus-appropriate contemporary content on here. A couple of online film festivals, perhaps? One of them I mentioned here this time last month, and I'm currently finishing off writing it up. The other one is ongoing, and I'll get around to that once it's done. (And no, it's not Edinburgh. Some grudges are too much fun to give up, even after 13 years.)
Comments in the box below, as ever. And keep looking after yourselves.