What a ride
Three years ago it was surprising — embarrassing? transgressive? — when Robert Kelly’s children walked in during a BBC interview, but we’re all Robert Kelly now. Everyone’s been stuck indoors for weeks and it’s become impossible to maintain a façade of sophistication. All the webcams and microphones are shitty, all the lighting is unflattering, all the faces are shiny, all the rooms are cluttered; there’s no point trying to pretend otherwise. Chaos reigns.
It’s comforting that everyone’s humanity is being revealed in this way. In the Before Times I wouldn’t have dreamed of joining a video call from bed, but now, why not? Everyone else on the call desperately needs a haircut or a shave or both and one of them is holding a baby doing a poo.
We’re all normal after all. If we’re lucky, this sustained exposure to unfiltered normality might force us to accept that our friends and coworkers and celebrities have full human selves beyond the carefully curated slice we normally see. If it’s possible to be a weathercaster and a drummer then what else don’t I know?
To make good on last week’s threat, here are some pictures of the bread I baked:
This is the best loaf I’ve made so far. As I said, I don’t know why it went better this time, but after such a frustrating start it’s encouraging that I’m finally making some progress.
We watched The Invisible Man and, surprisingly, it was very good. Elisabeth Moss is an excellent actor and I always enjoy watching her. I was impressed by how well the film integrates and centres the theme of an abusive relationship, and also how effectively it makes use of its small budget. A lot of the most gripping scenes are just a camera pointing menacingly at empty space, but the script and performances and sound design really sell it, and the small number of visual effects sequences are extremely well executed. I think Leigh Whannell might be good! Which sort of makes me want to rewatch Saw.
I’m happy that Sony has made Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection available for free on PS4. Uncharted 2 & 3 are very good games that are definitely worth playing, and this will likely prompt me to replay them since I won’t have to dig out the disc. Journey is overrated but also worth playing at this price point.
Out of nowhere I’ve started to feel a little bit uncomfortable with Animal Crossing. Veganism aside I don’t live an ethical life by any meaningful standard, but there’s still something distasteful about the core loop of plundering other islands in a consequence-free environment. It would’ve been a fun contemporary twist if the game had contained some basic ecological mechanics (overfishing?) rather than focusing so hard on limitless consumption of infinitely renewable natural resources. But then it would be zero fun and everyone would be angry and that’s why I don’t design games.
As previously discussed, we’ve been watching Devs, which finished this week. Overall it was worth seeing and I thought the ending was fine. It was certainly visually beautiful and interesting enough to hold my attention all the way through.
But it’s frustrating because there’s so much about it that I don’t like. It doesn’t really work as sci-fi because it’s so fundamentally uninterested in its core premise that it never properly engages with it, or believes in it, or adequately explores its consequences. I can’t say more about this because I don’t want to spoil any of the plot, but it’s a really big problem. I think a lot of the disappointment comes from the initial setup being so promising and then not getting a serious follow-through.
It’s extremely sentimental in a way that undermines its emotional impact. The inventive sounds and visuals are often good — the simple image of a tree lit by a halo is really striking, for example — but sometimes tip over into being pretentious when they don’t have anything meaningful to communicate.
I found it really hard to ignore how bad the performances are. The two most important actors are bafflingly expressionless and don’t seem willing to portray a recognisable human emotion. It’s like Alex Garland has forced them to perform each scene a thousand times until they’re exhausted and bored and emotionally drained, then assembled each episode exclusively from those thousandth takes. This flatlining vibe is a little bit justified by the premise but, well, not really — nowhere near enough to make it okay. It’s hard to watch a show where you don’t feel an emotional connection with anyone.
But hey, not every TV show has to be mindblowing, and not every sci-fi story needs to be a Ted Chiang sci-fi story. I’m glad they made it and I’m glad I watched it. It’s still more interesting than almost anything else on TV at the moment. I don’t have much else on.
The first three months of 2020 have taken us from Terminal Slam to Detroit People Mover. What a ride.