February 1945: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

This is like… neo-realism… before neo-realism. So is it realism?

Oh, this is Elia Kazan’s first movie. He’d go on to define the 50s with A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront and East of Eden.

This movie looks wonderful. It’s so sharp: The light and the shadows. New and fresh and a new thing.

And the performances are as meticulous and detailed as the images are. It’s remarkable.

Unsurprisingly, it was only nominated for a couple of Oscars (and won a supporting actor one).

This makes me want to watch all Elia Kazan movies. I’ve only seen the most famous ones… unfortunately there’s no bluray collection of his movies. The blu ray of this movie was only released in Spain?


Anyway, every single frame of this movie is a delight to watch… I don’t even know whether it made much sense, but it’s just kinda beautiful.

The last half hour tips over into bad melodrama, though.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Elia Kazan. 1945.

Popular movies in February 1945 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
5625 8.1 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
289 8.0 Docks of New York
2182 7.6 The Enchanted Cottage
3308 7.5 The House of Fear
1676 7.4 Hangover Square
1029 7.1 Here Come the Co-eds
355 6.7 Waterloo Road
455 5.2 Fog Island

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

January 1945: Objective Burma

On a War Movie scale of 1 to 10 this is 25: It’s all soldier, all the time.

The director has the best profile picture ever on IMDB:

And the movie is just about what you’d expect from seeing that picture: It’s brash, manly and filled with robust humour.

And as you’d expect, it’s not actually funny.

The depiction of the minutiae of soldiering seems very modern. Many of the scenes in this film could have be edited into movies from the 70s and nobody would have noticed (except for the hairdos and the the film stock).

Oh! I was totally confused. I was trying to spot Errol Flynn here and the only one who looked Flynnish seemed too young. But Flynn was only 36 when this movie was made: I was confusing Flynn with Douglas Fairbanks. D’oh.

Here’s a plot summary: Some soldiers are dropped into Burma and then they wander around for an excruciating 140 minutes of screen time. There’s nothing wrong with any specific scene, and it’s… admirable?… in its focus on the guys in the jungle…

But it’s hard not to start dusting the bookcase while watching this. Or, if you have a cat, vacuuming the cat.

If this had been half the length, it still would have been challenging to keep concentrated.

Perhaps it should have been six times as long? Then it’d have been a 70s art movie. It could have been a double drive-in feature along with Out 1: Noli me tangere.

Still! I kinda like it.

Objective Burma. Raoul Walsh. 1945.

Popular movies in January 1945 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
3610 7.4 Objective, Burma!
470 7.0 Roughly Speaking
895 6.9 The Jade Mask
973 6.8 A Song to Remember
742 6.6 The Great Flamarion
326 6.5 Madonna of the Seven Moons
586 6.4 Tonight and Every Night
246 6.3 I Love a Mystery

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

December 1944: Together Again

Oh, this is from the Icons of Screwball Comedy DVD “box”, which I can’t seem to find at the moment… I’m substituting the other box for the dice throw picture.


This is a supremely amiable movie. The actors are charming; the storyline is cute; the lines are witty.

It’s entertaining and amusing, but you know how this is going to end up: The mayor is going to resign her job, meaning that the village is going to be left in the unsuitable hands of that newspaper asshole.

So it’s kinda not very satisfying, although it’s a funny little movie.

Together Again. Charles Vidor. 1944.

Hey! I’m at the half-way point in this 40s blog series? Look at the stack of DVDs:

I think I must be. 1940-1945… That’s like… five years…

Popular movies in December 1944 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
9190 7.6 Murder, My Sweet
1811 7.5 The Keys of the Kingdom
1006 7.5 The Suspect
276 7.4 The Fighting Lady
1533 7.3 I’ll Be Seeing You
5174 7.3 National Velvet
1388 7.3 Hollywood Canteen
208 7.2 Sunday Dinner for a Soldier
417 6.9 Together Again
378 6.7 Music for Millions

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

CCCB: Oliver Twist

It’s Thursday, so it must be time to bake something and read a book I’ve avoided reading for a couple of decades.

I’ve done cake and cookies, so why not bread? Nutty bread. Looks like the flour:nut ratio is 25:10, and I have no idea whether that’s like totally nuts.

I have baked a couple of loaves of bread before, but they’ve never been like actually any good.

So much ingredient.

I got to use the fud professor attachment to the kitchen machine. I may not have picked the right blade, though, because the nuts came out very unevenly chopped. On the other hand, the recipe said to do that to give some textural variety, so… Probably a bit on the coarse side, though?

Making the bread dough is a breeze with a kitchen machine with some oomph, so I don’t have to actually use any muscles. Except when cleaning up, as I seem to have smeared the machine with honey.


Wow, that’s some active yeast… it… like… quadrupled in size.

I’ve never handled dough that’s this sticky before. It’s absolutely impossible to do anything bready with, so I just kinda scooped the d’oh into the forms and hoped for the best…

And, yes, it’s a arisen again! Raise the bread!

Cool, baby.

Oo. I thought this was going to be very dense because of all the nuts, but it’s kinda fluffy.

Mmmm… butter on the bread while it’s still hot…

And some brown goats cheese.

And how does it pair with the book? Excellent! The nutty buttery goatey chocolatey (OK, I made hot chocolate to drink with this) goes great with Dickens’ witty and exciting book about that hapless waif.

I have to say (well I don’t I just told a lie ha!) that I’d rate this bread a “well, that’s quite OK then”. It’s the first thing I’ve baked in this blog series that’s like successful.

Am I getting better at this or is this just a fluke!? Tune in next week for

oh I have to talk about the book, too.

For this week’s eeney meeney miney mo of books that’s been sitting in my bookcase, unread, since the late 80s/early 90s, I choose… well, you’ve read the title of this blog post, so it’s probably no surprise. It’s Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

And the reason that I have it but didn’t read it is because I WON”T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME. I read tons of books, but whenever I have to read something, it’s just torture to motivate myself to read it. It’s insane and counter-productive and weird, but there it is. I remember once in like fifth grade we were assigned a book to read over the holidays and write about and we could pick pretty much anything we wanted. I picked a book I’ve already read, and the teacher asked why, and I said “well, then I don’t have to read it”.

Instead I read dozens of other books.

What can I say? I’m counter-productively lazy.

This book is an artefact of me taking English at the university, and I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. And looking at that first page, it does look a bit eh.

Whaaa? I’ve never seen an upside-down y typo before.

Anyway! As you all know, it’s a very funny, very angry book. Dickens is relentlessly witty, and is scornfully sarcastic about all persons in charge. And it’s an exciting, classic adventure story, to boot. I’ve seen several movie/tv versions of it, so I know just about what’s going to happen, but there’s so much pleasure to be had from Dickens’ writing. It just flows so well: It’s entertaining and smart.

It’s such an effortless read that I started wondering whether this edition had been updated to modern English or something, but no: I found somebody that had helpfully shot a picture of a 1837 page, and it’s pretty much identical, except for some slight changes in punctuation, as far as I can tell.

Oh! An ear! So I didn’t bail at the first page, but made my way to chapter 13 before I stopped reading back in… 1991? Something like that?

I have no recollection of having read bits of it before, so apparently reading a novel as a required assignment was so traumatic that I’ve suppressed the memory.

It’s a delight to read now that it’s unrequired reading.

But while it’s fun, in the final third I got to the “I want to read this book forever” slash “bored now” point. Dickens is padding out the storyline quite a bit with atmospheric bits (like the above). While it’s fun in isolation, the loss of tension in the third part is palpable.

So Dickens is nice, but what about the edition?

The reproduction of the artwork is shockingly bad.

But worse are the footnotes. Here’s a footnote after “crowd at the execution”, and I innocently flipped to that to see what the editor had to say, and…

Boom! Spoiled the next-to-last chapter of the book. Nice work, asshole. So I had to stop reading the footnotes and never found out what a “paviour” was.

The Best Albums of 2018

“Best album” has been decided by Emacs which keeps track of what albums I’ve listened to most, so this is a totally objective list that objectively literally lists the best music this year.

Except for the bits where I just edited by hand, because I’ve been listening more to old music than new music this year. There hasn’t been a single new “wow, this is the best album ever” in 2018, I think, but just a huge quantity of really kinda good stuff. I think 2018 has been a stronger year than what we’ve seen recently. Music goes in waves…

Anyway, here’s the best song of the year, which is John Brown by Marc Ribot (feat. Fay Victor):

And here’s the list:

Marc Ribot

Songs of Resistance 1942-2018

Tracey Thorn



This Behavior

John T. Gast

BTEC Version #2

B. Fleischmann

Stop Making Fans

The Breeders

All Nerve

Lost Girls


Laura Jean


Peter Zummo

Frame Loop



Actress x London Contemporary Orchestra


Oneohtrix Point Never

Age Of


Be the Cowboy

Yves Tumor

Serpent Music

Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois

Venetian Snares x Daniel Lanois

And here’s the best new old music I’ve bought this year, and it’s really this stuff I’ve been listening to. The Bookends album by Simon & Garfunkel is just so weird, and nobody mentions how weird it is. The Wild if the Wind album by Nina Simone is absolutely fantastic, from start to finish, and is so much better than any of those “greatest hits” things I’ve been listening to all these years. And Bobbie Gentry! Oh man. Geez. And that Westbrook Blake album… Wow…

Old music roolz this year.

Simon & Garfunkel


Nina Simone

Wild is the Wind

Bobbie Gentry

Ode to Billie Joe

Joe Jackson Band


The B-52’s

Wild Planet

David Allred


The Westbrook Blake

Bright as Fire

David Allred


Simon & Garfunkel

Sounds of Silence

The Beatles




Grace Jones

Warm Leatherette

Richard and Linda Thompson

Hokey Pokey

John Martyn

Inside Out

New Musik


4AD 1983

Here’s 4AD 1983 on Spotity.

1983 is the watershed year for 4AD, when they transition fully from a post-punk label into something much stranger and something that people will still obsess about decades later.

Most important commercially (and musically, for that matter) are the Cocteau Twins releases. The Peppermint Pig single was a major step away from their Garlands sound, and with the Head Over Heels album and the Sunburst and Snowblind EP later that year, everybody started paying attention. Like seriously.

Perhaps symbolically, 4AD releases two five song compilation EPs, saying a final goodbye to Bauhaus and The Birthday Party (and everybody involved with those bands), as well as a five song compilation EP from Modern English, who would leave them the next year.

And look at those covers. Vaughan Oliver/23 Envelope is getting in full swing with those gorgeous typographical covers to the Xmal Deutschland releases, and those vague Cocteau Twins covers, and, erm, the “horses fucking” Colourbox EP, which is, of course, everybody’s favourite.

Most puzzling release of the year: The second version of Breakdown/Tarantula. I wonder what the story behind that was… were Colourbox just really dissatisfied with the first version which was released half a year earlier?

[Edit: I’ve been notified that the first four tracks (by The Birthday Party) aren’t available in some regions. Rights issues? (Some of the tracks on the full version are licensed from Mute Records.) Blocked because of the Swastikas on the cover artwork? I don’t know.]


The Birthday Party — The Bad Seed

Sonnys Burning, Wild World, Fears Of The Gun, Deep In The Woods

Xmal Deutschland — Fetisch

Qual, Geheimnis, Young Man, In Der Nacht, Orient, Hand In Hand, Kaempfen, Danthem, Boomerang, Stummes Kind

Cocteau Twins — Peppermint Pig

Peppermint Pig, Laughlines, Hazel

Colourbox — Breakdown

Breakdown, Tarantula

Xmal Deutschland — Qual

Qual, Zeit, Sehnsucht

Modern English — Gathering Dust

Smiles And Laughter, Mesh & Lace, Gathering Dust, Swans On Glass, Home

The Birthday Party — The Friend Catcher

The Friend Catcher, Release The Bats, Blast Off, Mr. Clarinet, Happy Birthday

The Wolfgang Press — The Burden Of Mules

Lisa (The Passion), Prostitute I, The Burden Of Mules, Compleate And Utter, Prostitute II, Slow As A Child, Journalists, Give It Back, On The Hill

Modern English — Someone’s Calling

Someone’s Calling, Life In The Gladhouse

This Mortal Coil — Sixteen Days – Gathering Dust

Sixteen Days – Gathering Dust, Song to the Siren, Sixteen Days Reprise

Xmal Deutschland — Incubus Succubus II

Incubus Succubus II, Vito

Bauhaus — 4.A.D

Dark Enties, Untitled, Terror Couple Kill Colonel, Scopes, Rosegarden Funeral of Sores

Cocteau Twins — Head over Heels

When Mama Was Moth, Five Ten Fiftyfold, Sugar Hiccup, In Our Angelhood, Glass Candle Grenades, In The Gold Dust Rush, The Tinderbox (Of A Heart), Multifoiled, My Love Parmour, Musette And Drums

Cocteau Twins — Sunburst And Snowblind

Sugar Hiccup, Flagstones, Hitherto, Because Of The Whirl-Jack

Colourbox — Colourbox

Shotgun, Keep On Pushing, Nation, Justice

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.