November sky. Days like this are the real reason we have Christmas.


Well, damn. As the only one in my immediate family never to have had it, I really thought I was going to get away with it.

A lateral flow test for COVID-19,showing  positive result.
Positive

Wednesday Night is Music Night

God, I have missed this so much. Live music FTW.

I get emails from the Joe Strummer Foundation . The most recent one told me that their artist of the month for September was someone called Gemma Rogers. I hadn’t heard of her, but was interested when I read that she’d had an album launch at Paper Dress Vintage. That’s a place just down the road from me on the Narrow Way. It used to just be a second-hand clothes shop, but now it’s more, I guess.

Anyway, the thought that she might be a local piqued my interest, as well as the JSF recommendation, so I gave her a listen, and liked what I heard a lot.

She was booked to play at a place called Folklore, on Hackney Road, so I thought, why not? In support was Gabi Garbutt and the Illuminations , who I saw once a few years back, because Sean Read, whom I know from round these parts, was producing them and playing in the band. Back then. Not anymore. Not tonight, at least.

Going to a gig in a small venue? No big deal, right? Except… this is the first gig I’ve been to since I saw Glen Matlock. At the end of February 2020.

It felt like quite a step.

But after a bite to eat across the road, we made our way in through forbidding, castle-like doors. Inside is a smallish bar area, and a classic pub backroom. The stage made of two layers of forklift pallets topped with hardboard. It was smoky. Visually, it was like being back in the eighties. But of course, it was stage smoke-machine smoke. Exactly why it filled the air before anyone had taken to the stage escapes me.

Unless it was to show the lasers. It looked like this:

A pub back room with a low stage set up for a band. Laser beams criss-cross the smoky atmosphere.
The back room of Folklore Hoxton

Anyway, Veronica Bianqui brought her Hollywood-fuelled LA tones to Hackney Road. Though it turned out she had been on the bus with us down from Clapton.

Veronica Bianqui on stage
Veronica Bianqui on stage

I probably enjoyed Gabi Garbutt’s performance most of the three. Because at times? At times they sounded a bit like late-period Clash.

Gabi Garbutt on stage
Gabi Garbutt on stage

They sounded. Like. The Clash. Combat Rock-era. I think it was mainly the bass player sounding a bit like Paul Simonon. Whatever, I can pay no higher compliment. No higher compliment can be paid.

But Gemma Rogers was also great, with the singalong of ‘Rabbit Hole’ being the highlight. Not often you get the band applauding the audience.

Gemma Rogers on stage
Gemma Rogers on stage

But yes: I had missed it so much more than I realised. Just getting together in room with a hundred or so people, while others make rocking sounds up the front? How could I have forgotten?


Molly's Game, 2017 - ★★★½

Aaron Sorkin not quite at his best. Decent film, based on the memoir of Molly Bloom. Who is nothing to do with Ulysses, but parents who either were huge James Joyce fans, or had no knowledge of him whatsoever. I lean toward the latter.

She nearly becomes an Olympic skier, but is put out of action by injury. She falls into helping to run a poker game for extremely rich people. Takes it over and it becomes even bigger, even richer.

Even more dangerous. The mob gets involved. The FBI get involved.

Great dialogue, as you'd expect, but mostly presented by characters who are seated, rather than walking at high speed. Perhaps playing poker while walking at high speed would have improved the whole thing.

Not bad, though.

See in Letterboxd


13th, 2016 - ★★★½

A documentary about the prison-industrial complex, this is a tough watch. The title comes from the 13th amendment to the US Constitution. While abolishing slavery, that amendment also allowed for slavery to continue — at least for those incarcerated for a crime.

Tough, as I say, but it should be seen.

See in Letterboxd


On this date of many ‘2’s (but just wait till the 22nd), here’s a nice sunset for you.

Sunset over Hackney
Sunset over Hackney

The Beatles: Get Back, 2021 - ★★★★★

I wish I could give this six stars or seven. Hell, why not ten? Actually watching it twice in two months and giving it five stars each time is giving it ten.

It is so, so good, in so many ways.

Apparently Disney are releasing an IMAX version of just the rooftop concert soon. That'll be interesting, if too short. I mean, I'd watch the whole thing in a cinema with a good sound system. And I speak as one who once watched the eight-hour version of Wim Wenders's Until the End of the World at the BFI, so you know I mean it.


'Spider-Man: No Way Home, 2021 - ★★★★'

Pretty good follow-on from the earlier Spider-Man films. My daughter tells me ‘All the fan theories were right.’ I wasn’t aware of them, so I hope that’s not a spoiler for anyone. 

Turned out Doctor Strange (long my favourite Marvel character) wasn’t being quite as idiotic as I’d thought from the trailer, so that was good. Sets things up nicely for his next film.

See in Letterboxd


'The Beatles: Get Back, 2021 - ★★★★★'

I already wrote about watching the first part, but the whole thing is just as fantastic.

The middle episode does feel like it has some 'middle volume of a trilogy' longueurs. It definitely dips a bit. But that reflects the state of the band at the time. They're trying to bounce back from George walking out and returning, they've moved from the Twickenham warehouse to a new studio in their Apple HQ, and they're rethinking the whole project.

They're contemplating what it's all about.

The third part leads up to the famous rooftop live performance, which is glorious, and delightfully presented with split-screen images showing interviews with people in the street below and two bobbies coming in with 'Thirty complaints about noise.'

I wrote before that this is only for the true fan, but I think the third part would work even if you only have a passing interest.

See in Letterboxd


Adventures in Mac Repairs

I have a 15-inch MacBook Pro from 2017. It’s in perfect working order, except the battery was past its best. ‘Service recommended,’ it always said when I checked. But it was fine, I could get a couple of hours out of it, and I rarely use the computer away from somewhere I can plug in. Especially this last couple of years. {.has-dropcap}

But the screen had developed a problem. There were marks on it that I couldn’t remove. They were kind of hard to photograph, but you can see them here:

MacBook screen with delamination marks
MacBook screen with delamination marks

I discovered there was a known defect in models of that era called ‘screen delamination.’ The top layer of the screen’s coating was becoming detached from the underlying one.

People had solutions, which involved careful cleaning with various solvents or mild abrasives: isopropyl alcohol, or, I don’t know, toothpaste, maybe.1

Inevitably, the whole affair has a ‘gate’ name: Staingate. Perhaps less inevitably, but unsurprisingly since it’s a manufacturing defect, Apple have long since acknowledged the problem and offered a free repair programme. As long as your machine was no more than four years old.

I discovered these facts back in the summer. Dug out my receipt. I bought the laptop four years and four days ago. Damn!

At the time I was deep in working towards my dissertation, so I wasn’t going to spend any more time on it. In September, though, I thought it would be worth contacting Apple support and seeing what could be done. I couldn’t get a Genius Bar appointment, but I could take it to an Apple Authorised Service Provider called MR in Shoreditch. They had a look at it and said, yes it’s the delamination thing, you’re outside the free programme, we can fix it: 800 quid. {.has-dropcap}

Too much. But! they also said that it would be worth taking it in to Apple. They might, depending on who you saw, do it for free anyway.

I was slightly sceptical, and we were getting ready for a trip to Scotland at the time, so I left it. Eventually, though, I booked it into the Genius Bar.

You’re outside the programme, they said. But we’ll fix it under consumer law. No charge.

The Sale of Goods Act (or its successors) for the win again: a laptop screen should last longer than four years.

During the tests they run, the guy noticed that the battery was poorly, and offered a replacement. £199 seems steep, so I said no thanks.

Yesterday I got an email to say it was ready to pick up, so I toddled off to Westfield. The staff member who brought it out to me asked me to wait while she checked something. Came back and said, ‘You know how you rejected the battery replacement? Well it seems they did it anyway. We won’t charge you.’ {.has-dropcap}

So that was weird. The work note that came with it said ‘Battery won’t charge at all,’ which was not true when I took it in. But here I am with a good-as-new battery. Well, actually new.

All of this required what they call a ‘Top case replacement.’ ‘Top case with battery,’ in fact, which suggests the battery is in the screen part of the laptop, not the keyboard part, which seems weird.

The big downside – but one that had been prepared for – is that I lost all my stickers. I had heard of this kind of thing happening, so I took photographs.

The stickers on my MacBook
The stickers on my MacBook

The questions now are how and whether to replace them.


  1. Don’t clean your computer screen with toothpaste. ↩︎


This is what Hackney Marshes looks like on a Monday morning in October
This is what Hackney Marshes looks like on a Monday morning in October

#WeStandWithRNLI

My parents taught me to always give to the RNLI when they’re collecting, because of how important and dangerous the sea is. Lifeboat crews deserve all our support.

Some idiots don’t think so. Instead they want our seaborne heroes to let people drown if they don’t have the right papers.

Fuck that shit, and fuck those people.

HOPE Not Hate’s We Stand With RNLI image
HOPE Not Hate’s We Stand With RNLI image

Vax 2

Got my second dose of the vaccine today, just about an hour and a half ago. Down to a local pharmacy, fifteen minutes early for my appointment, and home before my actual appointment time. It was empty! Worryingly so. Why aren’t people queuing up to get their jags?

Me with the pharmacy in the background
Me, after vaccination, with the pharmacy in the background

Can't Get You Out of My Head, 2021

Convention dictates that I should give a star rating to this. I'm not going to, though, because I'm not sure what it was trying to achieve. What I try to do with star ratings is judge how well, in my opinion, the film achieves what it was trying to do. I don't claim I always manage that, but when it's not clear what the film's purpose was, it becomes next to impossible.

Or: you can't reduce something as long and complex, audacious and challenging as this, to a mere zero-to-ten scale.[^fn1]

Across six films, totalling around seven hours, Adam Curtis gives us 'An Emotional History of the Modern World,' as the subtitle calls it. As I mentioned in my last post, Kerry Thornley of Discordian fame is interviewed early in it. That is, an interview with him is used. He's dead, so it's not like he was interviewed for these films. Indeed, as far as I can tell, nothing was shot for these films: the visuals are entirely comprised of library footage.

Curtis narrates over them — sometimes with quite a disconnected effect, where the images have no obvious connection to the story he's telling. Similarly, the use of music can be quite jarring. Sometimes it's completely relevant to the matter at hand, but often there's no obvious connection. And the titular Kylie song is not used at all.

It's not even that obvious why the series is called that, come to think of it. And some of the individual episode titles are even more opaque, notably the last one: 'Are We Pigeon or are We Dancer?' I feel sure it's a quote, and I think it's probably from a song, but I was alert to it turning up, and as far as I could tell, it didn't.

OK, a quick DuckDuck gives mainly hits about the episode, but also some about a track by The Killers called 'Human,' which includes the line 'are we human or are we dancer?' So it's probably alluding to that. Oddly that line is inspired by a Hunter S Thompson quote that I'm not familiar with, 'We're raising a generation of dancers.' Which sounds pretty good to me, even if Hunter meant it critically.

Anyway, what's this absurdly long film _about_?

It's a bleak, depressing, but nonetheless compelling vision of human history, covering conspiracies and conspiracy theories, wars, revolution, surveillance capitalism, and capitalism more broadly, the tension between the collective and the individual, and a whole hell of a lot more.

But Curtis never gives a thesis statement. He never tells us, in the news journalist's way, what he's going to tell us. Or more to the point, what conclusions he's going to draw from what he's going to tell us. And his style is very disjointed: he dots about in time and space, with little more to connect the dots than a 'but': 'But in China…'

In that particular tic, it's not at all unlike the postmodern games of <cite>Illumninatus!</cite>.

He does come to kind of a conclusion at the end of the two-hour-long sixth episode, but it's not a very satisfying or convincing one. Which is fair enough, I suppose. One of the recurring thoughts is the idea that society today is too complex for anyone to understand it fully. The problem with that, that he draws our attention to, is that that understanding has caused many politicians to give up trying to change things for the better, which tends to result in burgeoning corruption.

He does end with a note of possible hope, but I think I might have to watch parts of it again to get all of the nuances.

[^fn1]: Letterboxd supports half stars, so five stars is ten points.


At the Olympic Park Again

Cycled down to the Olympic Park today. Took a few photos.

I’m writing a story at the moment – a novel, part of which will form the dissertation for my MA – which is set during the London Olympics. Nine years ago. Nine years! Anyway, the ArcelorMittal Orbit will probably play a role.


Today’s weather report
Today’s weather report

Good morning (just).


These days I double-mask
These days I double-mask -- as well as using tape

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, 2019 - ★★★★½

Brilliant. Not enough full song footage used.


Stop Your Glasses Steaming Up by Sticking the Top of Your Mask to Your Face Using Micropore Tape

The problem

If, like all sensible people, you wear a mask over your mouth and nose when you go out these days; and if, like me and millions of others, you wear glasses; then you will have experienced your breath causing your glasses to steam up.

The cause is a fundamental flaw in mask design: the mask fabric makes a straight line from our cheeks to the bridge of our noses, leaving a gap between face and mask seam. Most of our out-breaths are directed that way, just by taking the path of least resistance.

Some masks have a wire insert that lets you mould the top section around your nose. I find that improves things, but is still imperfect. There are always gaps.

The Bigger Problem

This means that the masks are not as effective as they should be for their primary purpose. All that warm, damp air that’s condensing on our glasses is also the air that might be carrying virus particles.

So while this solution helps with the steamed-up glasses problem, it also helps to make masks more effective, by ensuring that more of our potentially-poisonous breath goes through the fabric.

The Solution

It’s quite simple: apply a strip of micropore tape to the section of the mask that goes over the bridge of your nose, and seal it down well.

A COVID-19-type facemask lying on a surface alongside a roll of micropore tape.
Mask and Micropore

Micropore tape is normally used for fixing dressings on wounds, so it’s designed to stick to skin and come off with minimal fuss (though see below).

The roll we had when I thought of this is quite wide, so I’ve been folding a piece over and attaching it to the inside of the mask (at @FranChats’s suggestion).

A COVID-19-type facemask with a piece of micropore tape attached.
Mask With Micropore

As you can see, it’s not attached very tidily, but we’re not in this for the aesthetics.

A balding man (the author) wearing a COVID-19-type facemask and glasses.
Martin With Mask With Micropore

And it’s not actually visible when the mask is on.

The New Problems: Removal, and Sensitivity

Taking the taped mask off is the worst part, in my experience. I’ve been doing it quickly: take off my glasses (otherwise they might go flying across the room); unhook the ear loops and take a firm grip of them; close my eyes; then tug sharply forward.1

It can make your eyes water, but honestly, for clear vision outside on these cold days, it’s worth it.

Removing it slowly might be better for some people. And the whole thing will not be for some. If you have very sensitive skin, or get a reaction to the adhesive, then this won’t be for you. But if you can take it, I highly recommend it.

Lastly, my pictures show a reusable mask, but it works for disposables too.


  1. Though see my later post. I think I’ll be doing it slowly from now on. ↩︎


A Christmas cake (rich fruit cake) sitting on a cooling rack.
Christmas cake cooling on a rack

When Election Night Went On For Days

For the first time in my life (apart from occasional odd minutes in hotels on business trips) I’m watching CNN. It’s 5am on the US east coast, 3am on the west; yet every few seconds, it seems like, we get this:

A placeholder card on CNN Go, saying that a commercial break is in progress and that the broadcast will resume momentarily.
An ad break on CNN International

Sometimes, too, there’s an actual advert, but luckily I’ve been able to scrub through them.

The actual coverage is good, though. They’re providing good information, lots of details. They’re also calling out Trump’s lies, as is the proper thing to do.

Of course, since most of the time there’s nothing much happening, they’re having a hard time of it.

We remain gripped.


A blue sky with mottled, fluffy, white clouds. The type sometimes called a mackerel sky.
The sky over Hackney, this morning

Lava lamp, processed with Prisma
Lava lamp, processed with Prisma

Covid Track

This is one of our local parks. Look at that desire-line track, fading into the distance (click or tap on the picture to see it bigger).

A footpath worn in grass across a park.
A path made by many people, avoiding each other

The paved footpath is off to the right. That track – a simple, direct route, that avoids the footpath – wasn’t there a year ago. The novel coronavirus changes the landscape.


Last night’s pizza: the wee tables in the box were triangular! I’ve never seen the like.

Takeaway pizza with triangular support 'tables'
Takeaway pizza with triangular support 'tables'