I write things and am nominally in charge here. Below are my most recent posts.

The bulk of my work is in a style I have, in an act of mild narcissism, named psychochronography. Psychochronography, an offshoot of the artistic concept of psychogeography. Psychogeography is a practice originally developed by the Situationist International as part of their efforts to forcibly dismantle the established social order. Psychogeography is the study of how physical spaces impact social, cultural, and personal lives. Its central technique is what is called the derivé, or drift, in which one wanders through an urban area according to some idiosyncratic logic that causes one to cut against the usual lines and paths traced.

Psychochronography applies this notion to our internal landscape. Taking seriously Alan Moore's notion of ideaspace, psychochronography suggests that we can wander through history and ideas just as easily as we can physical spaces, and that by observing the course of such a conceptual exploration we can discover new things about our world. Topics I've applied this approach to include Doctor Who, British comic books, and Super Nintendo games.

This Primitive Planet and Its Affairs (The Crusade)

It’s March 27th, 1965. Between now and April 17th, 470 people will die in a dam burst and landslide in Chile, 20 will die when a car bomb is detonated outside the US embassy in Saigon, two will die when the first aircraft lost in air-to-air combat during the Vietnam War are shot down during a strike on the Thanh Hóa Bridge, and somewhere north of 250 people will die in the Midwestern United States in what are called the Palm Sunday Tornadoes, while Richard Hickock and Perry Smith will be executed by hanging for the murders of the Herbert Clutter family, Princess Mary wll die of a heart attack on the grounds of her estate at Harewood House, and the world will edge incrementally closer to the eschaton. Also, The Crusade airs.

Acclaimed Doctor Who critic Philip Sandifer (whatever happened to him?) once attempted to classify the historical stories into two moulds defined by the Season One writers of the genre. Like most of his work, this is insightful but ultimately over-simplified. The more productive approach is to read the historicals as advancing dialectically between John Lucarotti’s harder edged approach to historicals, in which they are a vehicle for ...

Fair Boy Your Eyes (Song For Eric)

Song for Eric (demo, 1990)

Song for Eric (live, 1991)

Song for Eric (1992)

Song for Eric (live, 1994)

Song for Eric (live, 1996)

The b-sides for Little Earthquakes are a mixture of fine songs that it’s difficult to see how missed the album, or that if it is clear, it comes down purely to tonal fit instead of quality—“Upside Down” and “Take to the Sky”—and the usual mix of songs that fall just short of the album tracks that did make it—“Mary” and “Sweet Dreams.” And then there is “Song for Eric,” the only song among the Little Earthquakes sessions to simply be bad. An a capella love song framed entirely in fantasy romance pablum about a “fair maiden” who will “wait all day for my sailor” that unironically includes the phrases “over hill and dale” and “you know me like the nightingale,” it is at best a cut rate version of “Etienne,” and at worst a rehash of the character-based love songs she wrote as a teenager. (It’s worth comparing specifically to “Rubies and Gold,” which is essentially the same song only with a baroquely complex musical arrangement instead of an a capella ...

Orphan 55 Review

An episode with its heart in the right place and its head largely on the moon. In this regard it resembles Himes’ previous effort. The problem is that where “It Takes You Away” moved among a bunch of elements that were batshit weird and largely unlike anything we’d ever seen before, “Orphan 55” moves through a bunch of Doctor Who standards. These are generally among the more interesting Doctor Who standards—a dodgy resort a la The Macra Terror or Delta and the Bannermen, the main reveal from The Mysterious Planet, and a big heavy-handed environmental message like it’s The Green Death. These are all basically good components.

Unfortunately, Himes’s sugar rush sense of momentum keeps any of them from going anywhere. The supporting cast is overstuffed and undercooked, feeling at times like a cut-rate Voyage of the Damned. Interesting ideas flop oddly around the screen, briefly contemplating becoming significant plot threads before declining to. What exactly are the Dregs doing, killing some people and weirdly torturing Benni in a way that doesn’t actually make him stop being a weird comic relief character? What’s the actual substance of the relationship between Kane and Bella? There are stories here, but they’re being ...

He'll Burn Everything; Us Too (The Daleks)

It’s December 21st, 1963. Between now and February 1st, 1964 128 people will die in a cruise ship fire north of Madeira, 25 people will die in riots in the Panama Canal Zone, 100 will die in anti-Muslim riots in Calcutta, three will die when an American fighter jet accidentally strays into East German space and is shot down, while Pamela Johnson will be murdered in Manchester, New Hampshire, T.H. White will die of heart failure, and the world will edge incrementally closer to the eschaton. Also, The Daleks will air on television.

The Daleks sits suspended between two eschatons, the seemingly defeated threat of fascism on one side, the thus-far averted threat of nuclear annihilation on the other. In one sense these are distinct threats, although 1960s Britain remained broadly aware that fascism was not eliminated forever and that it required a perpetual vigilance lest it arise in a period where it could find itself in control of a nuclear arsenal. But the Daleks are both too much and too little to quite fit into the straightforward “what if Hitler had the bomb” framework. It is a truism that pop culture nazis are curiously devoid of substance—an empty ...

The Dream King (Tear in Your Hand)

Tear in Your Hand (1992)
Tear in Your Hand (live, 1992)
Tear in Your Hand (live, 1998)
Tear in Your Hand (TV performance, 2002)
Tear in Your Hand (official bootleg, 2005)
Tear in Your Hand (official bootleg, 2007, Tori set)
Tear in Your Hand (live, 2014)

 

Preludes and Nocturnes

We all know where this is going, but let’s start with the actual song: a comparatively uptempo breakup song. The temptation to make another Y Kant Tori Read comparison is obvious from the description, which makes the song all the more surprising given how radically far from that it actually ends up. There are obvious reasons for this. For one, “Tear In Your Hand” is, like most of Little Earthquakes, built around Amos’s piano, which offers a jaunty descending riff doubled by Amos’s initial “yai la la lai lai lai lai” vocal line. This is not a song of swaggeringly wounded pride or of pained yearning, but something altogether more trickster-like. Amos is teasing in her vocal, maintaining a sense of humor throughout, as with “I don’t believe you’re leaving cause / me and Charles Manson like the same ice cream / I think it’s that girl.” Amos is clearly hurt ...

Spyfall Part Two Review

And lo, the “It has been __ episodes since we transmitted a complete piece of shit” board in Chibnall’s office ticks upwards to 3 without unduly threatening to actually be good. Spyfall is much like “End of Days” and “Exit Wounds” in this regard—not so much competent as non-incompetent, television stitched together by someone who has seen enough of it to know where all the pieces are supposed to go, but who has at best a hazy understanding of why they go where they do or what their purpose is. 

As with a lot of things that work this way—I made the same comparison last episode, but J.J. Abrams really is an obvious example—this results in a story that is mostly about whatever previous text the writer pinned up on their bulletin board as the model they’re going to emulate. Just like last week pinched set pieces from The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky and Army of Ghosts, this week we do Last of the Time Lords/The Sound of Drums and The Big Bang. Which, hey, nice to actually see Moffat get pilfered instead of undone. But on a broader scale, Chibnall’s main idea here seems to ...

Spyfall Part One Review

It is fair to ask what, at this point, we want from Chibnall-era Doctor Who. Obviously I want $800 a week to watch it in the first place, but since you’ve all decided to give me that, I suppose here we are. (Thanks, by the way. You’re all ridiculously generous, and I’d have felt terribly sad not reviewing this.) But more seriously, we should discuss what a successful Chibnall episode would be. After all, if we draw the line at “be at least as good as Dracula” then we’re just going to be depressed for nine and a half weeks. We’re going to need some sort of notion of what a good Chibnall story might be in the same way that one needs a notion of a good Eric Saward story or a good Bob Baker and David Martin story. 

Spyfall, after all, gets a lot of things not wrong. For instance, it has a coherent point and a sense of itself as being about something. There’s not a lot of follow-through on it—no real substance to its sense of “vastly powerful tech companies are dangerous and scary” or engagement with the materiality of these things—but it has ...

Kings Never Afraid to Burn (Little Earthquakes)

Little Earthquakes (1992)

Little Earthquakes (live, 1992)

Little Earthquakes (live, 1997)

Little Earthquakes (live, 1998)

Little Earthquakes (live, 2003)

Little Earthquakes (live, 2007, official bootleg, Clyde set)

Little Earthquakes (live, 2014)

There are two approaches to choosing a title track for an album. One is to pick something that seems a thesis statement for the album, capturing its major musical and lyrical themes while not risking confusion by wanting to be a single. The other is  to pick something with a cool title. It is this latter approach that explains why an album dominated by fairly simply arranged piano ballads featuring confessional lyrics flecked with spots of idiosyncrasy is named after an austerely ominous song whose lyrics are basically wall to wall crypticness. 

Much of Little Earthquakes feels as though it appeared sui generis from nowhere save for the interior of Tori mos’s head. There are a few exceptions—the ruins and traces of Y Kant Tori Read and of the 80s at large lurk throughout the album. But for the most part, Amos feels profoundly singular. On top of that, Amos is historically extremely reticent to talk about her musical influences—one is left to infer them from what ...

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