w/e 15 October 2017

WordPress, RSS feeds, Accident, Blade Runner 2049, Lingua Franca, Diet Cig, Aldous Harding, Back.

This week I spent more time wrangling WordPress for my mum’s website. I’m not sure what percentage of the struggle is me not knowing WordPress code well enough, and how much is WordPress’s code being odd/old/bad. Possibly all of one and none of the other. I wrote a script to import a folder of photos into WordPress, plus data about each photo stored in a CSV. And then I rewrote the code that renders a photo gallery using the WordPress [gallery] shortcode so that it displays the titles of photos, instead of the captions, and it splits the photos into pages, rather than showing all photos on one page. This involved copying a large function from the WordPress source code and re-writing it, which feels bad and dirty… but also good that it’s possible to do this. I guess.

I also continued on the re-writing of my site, spending a day getting a combined RSS feed working. Given all the interesting and innovative things people are doing with code these days, spending so long in 2017 putting an RSS feed together seems… eccentric?

I finished re-reading Accident (1965) by Nicholas Mosley this week. I fancied something short that I knew I liked. I love a lot of Mosley’s writing although I find it hard to describe exactly why, aside from his good way with similes. Here’s a passage from near the start, when the narrator, a fellow at an Oxford college, has just pulled one of his female students, Anna, from the wreckage of a car as it approached his home:

I moved through the house like someone bankrupt before the bailiffs arrive; through the dining room, kitchen, this is where Anna and Charlie had once sat: he like a satyr taking a bite out of her neck, she a white Rubens with fruit in her hair. To the back yard where Anna might be hiding (I imagined) standing in the dark among the coal and dustbins with the trees and black clouds moving. What we have asked for; choice, freedom. I went back into the house and listened. There was the sound as if of cats in a cavern, with the rocks of walls dripping. I went up the stairs. Here Anna had once appeared with her hair dark and different so I had not recognised her. In those days we had lived so much in our minds, like policemen. I went on the landing to the spare room which had a four-poster bed and grey curtains and a square armchair. Anna was lying on the bed with shoes off and her skirt in the air, no stockings. Fallen in some ballet on a tomb. She had stayed here once before when she had come with William. Had borrowed a black nightdress which I had afterwards kept in a drawer. Her legs went up into the top of her skirt and disappeared there. Thick, rather puffy face. Boyish, like a cherub. Austrians had these faces; their eyes far apart. Her mother had been English. Anna’s mouth was open as if she had been hit. Fair hairs near the edge of it.

Her bag was on the dressing table. Two screwed-up paper handkerchiefs beside it.

I felt tears coming to my eyes. Tried to encourage them. We had lived so much in our minds, dry and waiting.

Terrified. I went down to the hall again, to the telephone. I gave a number and told the exchange to go on ringing. There was the night. Silence. The dead time. Objects coming alive and waiting.

I said “Charlie? Listen—”

We went to see Blade Runner 2049 on Wednesday, having re-watched the original at the weekend. I felt like everything I saw about the movie in the few days after it opened had been amazed, everything since disappointed. I liked it. Definitely not close to perfect but it was good enough that it was more than stunning visuals and (sometimes overbearing) sound with nothing behind it. The thing behind it could have been better in places but it was alright.

I’d seen complaints that the movie depicted women as being little more than pawns and sex objects for men. And yes. I don’t know how one tells the difference between a science-fiction movie that’s misogynistic and a science-fiction movie that’s set in a misogynistic world. I guess that if it’s the latter it should be clearer that’s the case. We don’t see enough of the world as a whole for it to be clear that this is how it works. If that’s the case more obvious signposting would be needed. Yes, the sexualised avatars, the prostitutes, the giant sculptures of women, etc, etc are clues that maybe this world is even more Trumpy than our own. But we see such narrow slices of the world it’s not made explicit that these things reflect the society as a whole. The police lieutenant is female so we guess the society isn’t entirely subjugating women; it’s no The Handmaid’s Tale… so does that mean that this society as a whole, on average, is actually more balanced than what we see, and the film-makers have emphasised the titillating-to-men aspects of it? In which case it’s them, not their imagined world, that’s the problem?

Also this week, music! I still buy music when I hear an album I like enough. This makes no real sense when I can listen to the thing on Spotify but I like the feeling I could stop paying for Spotify and still “own” the music I like most. And this week I bought three albums, more than I usually buy in a month or two.

First, Lingua Franca’s self-titled debut album (on Spotify). The internet’s automated assigners of unique IDs get confused by her fairly common name; this Lingua Franca is a linguist and rapper from Athens, Georgia. I heard, and bought, a demo of Up Close somewhere ages ago and liked it enough to buy the album. Here’s a track on YouTube:

Next, I heard Sixteen by Diet Cig on Rocker’s show on Dandelion Radio and ended up buying Swear I’m Good at This (on Spotify). Here they are on YouTube:

Good fun. Finally, after watching that video I came across Aldous Harding’s NPR performance:

I’d listened to her album, Party (on Spotify), a few times when it came out and it hadn’t quite grabbed me. But seeing her perform made me listen to her differently. Something about the precision and the sense of restraining something powerful. It can only be sung like this. A few of the album tracks are a little too “folky” for me but otherwise, yes.

And, finally finally, Back finished on Channel 4 this week and I’ve enjoyed it. At first it seemed little more than Mark and Jez from Peep Show plonked into a different setting but it became its own thing in the end. It was just a shame that, in trying to keep Robert Webb’s character mysterious, he was left too blank and hard to form any opinion of. Otherwise, good. Rebecca Nicholson’s review in the Guardian was spot on and rightly picked out uncle Geoff and Cass as great supporting characters.

That’s all. Have a good week!

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