The GardenDespatches from The Satyrs’ Forest

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Mx Tynehorne’s link roundup, volume XXXIII

A website with a tangled web of place names

Mx Tynehorne’s link roundup, volume XXXII

A room decorated with an Egyptian mummy, an abstract painting of a Russian church, and icons of Jesus

Stuff i watched recently, Maypril edition

A montage of the undermentioned films
  • Tombstone (1993). I have this pathological aversion to westerns, so i wasn’t expecting much — but once i turned off the part of me that was waiting for Richard Pryor to show up i realised that this the “’em” in “they just don’t make ’em like they used ta”: just a solid, well-made flick, regardless of my thoughts on the genre! I cried manly man tears at the end. 7/10.

  • The Thirteenth Floor, everyone’s fourth favourite film about a simulated world from 1999. I found it surprisingly interesting whenever it didn’t remind me too much of The Matrix, and a bit pathetic whenever it did. (Don’t try to do action, simulated world movie from 1999. You’ll never measure up.) 6/10.

    As a bonus, since nobody cares about this movie, you can just watch it on Youtube if you want.

  • Little Shop of Horors (1986). My pick for family movie night. Utterly charming from leaf to toe — the best example since Gremlins 2 of a film where you can see the craft that went into making every frame. Incredible effects, wonderful music, magnetic comedic performances from the whole cast… 10/10!

  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), the impromptu double feature to the above. My brain has been completely frazzled by watching this. I went from loving it to hating it to complete bafflement to examining it like a scientist would a new species of frog. This film may very well have invented homosexuality. Defies numerical rating/10.

  • Late Night with the Devil (2023). Always nice to see David Dastmalchian, even if it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before — 6/10.

  • The Fall Guy (2024). Ryan Gosling’s a brilliant comedic actor, but him and some great setpieces struggle to save this film from a shoddy script and baffling editing choices. The jokes aren’t funny, the dialogue scenes linger for far too long, half the stuff from the trailer is gone from the movie… the whole thing desperately needs a trimming down to a tight ninety minutes. 4/10.

  • Eurovision 2024. Bullet-pointed, as per tradition:
    • I went in totally blind this year, having missed the semi-finals while building a new PC. Oops!
    • Sweden appear to have trapped the Backstreet Boys in the Matrix.
    • There is no country named the Netherlands and never has been. Doesn’t exist. Not real. We begin bombing in five minutes.
    • Big fan of Spain’s bizarre campy cougar energy, even if the audience and juries weren’t!
    • Estonia are frankly embarrassing.
    • Completely maxed out my scorecard for Ireland, who have sent in Xanthe-bait of the highest order. Yes… hahaha… yes!!!
    • Greece’s song is the most annoying thing since Crazy Frog and it baffles me how highly it scored.
    • I think the UK is just cursed at this point. We send a legitimate star with the world’s gayest performance (admittedly more in the “getting sucked off in a dingy bathroom” way than the “campy drag queen” way) and not a single point from the audience?
    • God bless Finland. I usually hate it when acts try deliberately to be funny but i died laughing at a pantsless man in a censored Windows 95 T-shirt emerging from an egg while pyrotechnics go off.
    • Switzerland have taken Sam Ryder’s mantle as this year’s designated golden retriever… a great performance from someone who’s clearly happy beyond words to be there. A deserving winner if there ever was one.
    • Croatia’s catchy pirate dance is great but i cannot forgive that abominable stage name. I don’t care how many records you sell; there is no excuse to call yourself Baby Lasagna. Go back to the drawing board. Now.
  • T2 Trainspotting (2017). Mama’s pick for family movie night. I wasn’t so hot on the idea going in… and then it was, to my surprise, pretty great! It uses the idea of the legacy sequel to its advantage — it’s a film about nostalgia, the good and bad of it all. It really does feel like you’re catching up with these characters twenty years later, all wondering where their lives have gone. Some beautiful shots, too — a film from 2017 that bothered hiring a gaffer?? What a concept! 8/10.

  • 127 Hours (2010), continuing the Danny Boyle theme. Probably the best film a film about a guy whose hand is stuck next to a rock could ever be, it convinced me of the occasional merit of a good biopic over a documentary — this would not and could not work if you only had access to the original crummy camera footage and talking-head interviews. Also perhaps the only movie in history to contain an inflatable Scooby-Doo jumpscare. I was going to give it an 8, but then they played Sigur Rós in the triumphant ending scene, so sod it, it’s a 9/10.

  • Chris Chibnall is dead and Doctor Who is alive! I thought Ncuti Gatwa was playing the role too young at first, but the season proper has me totally convinced. His Doctor, the first Doctor to Fuck™, has this infectious energy and zest for life that’s totally new to the character, and a great rapoport with his companion — even when the new series is bad, it’s unhinged in a fun way, rather than the forgettable doldrums of the Chibnall era.

Mx Tynehorne’s link roundup, volume XXXI

A despatch from Consett

Hello. I’ve been to Consett. I thought you might like to hear about it. (Gosh, i’ve missed writing that.)

It’s been a miserable year so far weather-wise, so wind-swept, cold-nipped, and rain-soaked that it took until April for me to look outside and go, ah, not a bad day, let’s go for a jaunt.

A map showing the planned route

The plan was simple: get a bus into Consett and head straight for the nearest hill. A short and sweet saunter through woods and farmland; short compared to some of my previous odysseys from Newcastle to the Wansbeck, sweet compared to the scenery in the more populous parts of the palatinate. (It was not to be.)

A storefront for "Teatan Lounge and Lunch" and "Oasis Tanning Salon"
I’m at the bubble tea / I’m at the tanning salon / I’m at the combination bubble tea and tanning salon

We start in the centre of town, a humble lower-middle-class affair whose high street would strike southerners as horrifyingly dilapidated and northerners as above average — nice enough, at least, for the area’s local MP to choose it as his base of operations. Around the corner from the cinema1, the pedestrianised and sensibly named Middle Street plays host to (in decreasing order of classiness) a provider of musical instruments, an independent sweet shop–gift shop–pet shop, a building society, a Greggs, a Superdrug, an animal rescue shelter, a frozen food emporium, a Turkish barber, Ladbrokes, a vape shop, another vape shop which also sells computer parts and repairs your phone (my lawyers say i can’t call it a mob front), and Barry’s Bargain Superstore.

A streetscape A nice old church with a red sign out front

This dumps us onto a crossing onto Parliament Street, where the Ga­li­le­an­ically inclined can attend the charming parish church (with “messy church” every month for the tots). I follow it down its procession of historic terraces, in a rather literal sense: Briton Terrace, Saxon Terrace, Norman Terrace, and then to spite me they finish it off with the pattern-breaking Tudor Terrace. I suppose it could have been a later addition, going with Stuart Court across the road, as well as Georgia and Edwardia Courts, two small cul-de-sacs i only noticed on Google Earth after the fact… but that sequence gets thrown off yet again by the road whence those two branch off, Romany Drive, which unless they meant to write “Roman” but hired a dyslexic cartographer has sod all to do with the other streets.

A street sign proclaiming this lane to be known as Briton Terrace

A path bearing at its mouth a welcoming sign (all caps, “no part of this land is dedicated to the public, any use of this land is entirely at the user’s own risk, et cetera, et cetera”) marks a liberating end to our onomastic confusion, funneling us down a sloping green crescent of parkland into a reclaimed steelworks. (It’s always a reclaimed steelworks.)

A quintessential English landscape stretching across one’s entire field of view
A steep path downhill
Cue the music.

Finally, we reach the end of the funnel, where the light pours from the sky, the buildings abruptly stop, and any wayward ramblers are left with only a gorgeous view of Durham’s rolling hills stretching out before them. This exact moment, this exact view — this is why i get out. To sit on the edge of a hill, the dull traces of modernity firmly behind you, and see the country not devoid of man’s presence, but shaped by it, over hundreds and thousands of years, from hunting-grounds to cleared forest to farmland to steelworks to grass for grass’s sake, a place where, like the terraces of Parliament Street, you can hear England’s history sing in your veins.

Anyway then there’s a really steep path downhill where i almost slipped and fell like Super Mario going down a slide.

A graffiti-covered pipe crossing a ditch inside a steel frame

Traipsing down steps i’m not 100% sure were public and over a road made of more pothole than asphalt i wind up following a burn to the River Derwent. This is where our route’s industrial past makes itself seen. Every few yards a worn sign pops up warning of a “drainage ditch”, or a graffiti-blanketed pipe crosses the rain-cleaved dene; at the very end, a picnic table by a former pump house grants me some respite.

I take stock of myself. My phone’s battery, always surprising me with innovative ways to run out, is in danger of crossing the ten-percent mark. It’s the first nice day of the year, but that also means i’m out of shape and out of practice: i won’t be able to make it all the way.

Equally, i’d be a fool to clamber back up all that. I keep walking. The rushing burn has become a tranquil river, its waters still enough to see your reflection. I think to myself that if you’re going to name a pencil company after a river, this one’s not a bad choice.2

Civilisation creeps back in with the tell-tale sounds of power tools. This is Al­lens­ford Holiday Park, a modest gathering of caravans proudly advertising itself as “near the outstanding Northumberland National Park”. (It isn’t.) When i get there it’s thronged by teen schoolboys freshly out, chattering about video games and lining up for ice cream. (Something, something, nature is healing.) Checking Google Maps with what power i have left reveals my worst fear: there’s nowhere to go but up.

The distance is short, but the slope is grueling. I convince my legs to heave themselves up along the side of pave­ment­less roads, ducking into fallow fields and passing places wherever i can find them. It gets worse the further i get. By the first field, i’m a little out of it. By the Catholic boarding school, i’m utterly exhausted. When i climb what i think is the final hill, only for perspective to cruelly show yet more around the corner, i wonder if this is what hell is like. But i make it — sweating and breathless, hydrating myself sip by sip, i make it to the bus stop, and wait. The driver, when he comes, must think i’m a zombie, but i’m glad to be on my way home. Note to self: don’t take that big a break again.

Mx Tynehorne’s link roundup, volume λʹ

Stuff i watched recently, i forgor edition

A montage of the undermentioned works
  • Aniara (2018). I actually watched this one back in February, but forgot to mention it at the time — a Swedish hard(ish) sci-fi tragedy, where a colony ship on its way to Mars gets knocked off course with no fuel left to turn back. This is unrelentingly bleak, sometimes to the point where my brain would shut off and stopped caring, but there’s a lot to like.

    I love the idea of the Mima as a character/narrative device/whatever: a living AI that uses people’s memories to bring them back visions of Earth as it was, then gets depressed because too many people are using it and flooding it with memories of the apocalypse. Giving the holodeck a soul? Genius.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t so much end as it just fizzles out — i guess you could make a case that that’s on purpose, since that’s how these situations go in the real world, but i found the whole dénouement deeply unsatisfying excepting the veeeery final shots (if you know, you know). 6/10.

  • Anatomy of a Fall (2023). Caught this one at the Tyneside, where it happened to be the next film on at the time i got in. This spoke to me not just because of the powerhouse performances from Sandra Hüller, a dog named Messi (how did they get him to do that?), and the fifteen-year-old(!!!) Milo Machado-Graner, who i wish nothing but the best in his future, but because it matches up with events in my life to a frankly concerning autobiographical extent. This would never, ever be in my wheelhouse were it not for random chance, but i teared up thrice over. 10/10, and i’m annoyed i couldn’t make it my best of last year.

    Ten seconds after watching… Wait, people online think she killed the husband? Are they fucking stupid? What? It’s obviously an accident. Did we watch the same film? Did the cut they saw not have all those carefully-inserted moments where people almost fall off of ledges or get hit by cars to hammer home that accidents can, in fact, just happen? What?? I — am i just projecting my own experiences here and not wanting to believe that my mum would kill someone? And then if they don’t think she killed the husband, they’re like, oh, well the husband deserved it, he was so awful in that argument, and like, no!!! The mum in the film near enough turns to the camera and says “the worst moments in someone’s life are unfairly cherry-picked as evidence for a trail and do not represent them as a whole”; again, did we watch the same bloody film? Are people stupid? Am i stupid? Is Justine Triet stupid? Am i dying?

  • Reservoir Dogs (1992). Mama’s pick for family movie night. Every time i watch a Tarantino film i really get the sense that he’s jacking off to how clever he is writing the script and this is that tendency at its worst. I get why it caught on, i really do, but this is absolutely insufferable from start to finish any time someone who’s not a cop is on screen. I do not care about your thoughts on Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”, Quentin! 3¾/10.

  • Monkey Man (2024). I have been hyped as shit for this ever since the first trailer came out. You can tell this is Sexiest Man Alive Dev Patel’s first time in the director’s chair (looooots of shaky-cam close-ups), but it’s damn stylish, and he shows a lot of promise. I can also see why Netflix did not want to touch this with a barge pole given that the plot is essentially “Dev Patel kills the BJP”. (It has some, ah, terroristic overtones that would be a little concerning if it were even 10% less shlocky.)

    That aside, i really enjoyed the film, and thought it got better as it went along — early on, i wasn’t super clear on the character motivations at play, but then the most me-bait thing since The Northman happens: Mr Patel’s character has a near-death-experience flashback and wakes up having been rescued by a hijra priest at a secret temple to Ardha­nari­shvara, a half-male, half-female incarnation of Shiva. Into! my! fucking! veins! 6½/10.

  • De dolende god (2018), as seen previously on The Garden. This is pretty much designed to appeal to me specifically, and yeah, it’s really good. It’s sweet, heartfelt, absolutely gorgeous, and of course, extremely European. It’s the odd one out in this list, being a comic book rather than a film — a medium i don’t have much experience with, so it’s hard to give it a numerical rating in the absence of comparisons… but let’s say 8/10.

Ranking the sciences by how evil they are

11. Biologists

I actually think in their heart of hearts all biologists want to be mad scientists. The problem is that they’re really bad at it. You try attaching a chimp’s head to a man — that’s, what, half a casualty? That’s nothing! Even if you put the tinfoil hat on and say, ah, but lab leaks and viruses and whatnot — if we’re going to rank the sciences on their ability to do a pandemic, covid isn’t a particularly good showing when all most people under 90 remember of it is being really bored, sticking uncomfortable Q-tips up their nose, and baking sourdough bread.

They’re in dead last because of all the sciences in this list, biology has the largest negative kill count, having saved billions of lives and thus making themselves known as utterly incompetent at being evil.

10. Astronomers

Like biologists, every astronomer dreams of waking up to an imminent asteroid impact. (This isn’t a particularly secret ambition, either.) They’ve read and written all the sci-fi lit there is, and theoretically have a pretty good grasp on how to destroy the world.

Un­for­tu­nately when a mad astronomer says the world will end it carries the same tenor and believability of that snotty-nosed kid on the playground saying his uncle works for Nintendo. A gamma-ray burst will end all life on Earth? When’s that, sweetie? Oh? Two trillion years from now? That’s nice, dear. Ooooh, an asteroid that has a 0.001% chance of passing by the moon? Terrifying.

9. Computer scientists

If they really wanted to, the computer scientists definitely could kill everyone and break all electronics forever. Un­for­tu­nately they’d be out of a job if they did that, so i don’t think we have much to worry about.

8. Sociologists

The good news for sociologists is that they are, genuinely, completely fucking insane. The bad news is that they don’t even know how to write a paper with replicable results, let alone take over the world. If they ever figure out how to distinguish a fake article about toxic masculinity in dog parks from a real article about toxic masculinity in dog parks they might move up a bit in the ranks.

7. Linguists

This is actually a statistical error caused by Spiders Noam and should be ignored.

6. Psychologists

Psychologists have really fallen off since the initial publication of the Haber–Haber Scale of Scientific Evil back in 1932. They used to rip monkeys from their families and put them in cages, get people to administer lethal electric shocks, put people in prison for the lulz — now, alas, they seem content to let their perfectly developed evil skillset go to waste and futz around figuring out how to make people subscribe to emails instead. Sad!

5. Chemists

Chemists are great at doing evil. They can make poisons, kill people with radiation, pretend “α-(5,6-Di­methyl­benzi­mida­zo­lyl)co­ba­mid­cyan­ide” is a totally normal thing to say — the list goes on! The main thing bringing them down is that they don’t seem at all interested in doing evil. They know the nega-utils from working at big pharmaceutical companies are going to the economists here, right?

4. Physicists

Ah, physics, the “fuck around and find out” of the sciences, whose practitioners never met a death, destroyer of worlds they didn’t like. Ever since the atom bomb they’ve been a consistent presence in the upper tier, and it’s not hard to see why. Even when they’re not literally killing millions, they’re sticking heads in particle accelerators, developing new and innovative ways to undo the fundamental forces of the universe, and causing chaos among the general population by convincing them their collider would destroy the universe. Their fourth place position says more about the quality of those who ranked ahead of them than any faults of physics specifically.

3. Mathematicians

Mathematicians are barely holding on to their humanity. They haven’t seen the sunlight in days. They think quantum physics is just too soft and people-y. In this lies their danger: the possibility that they might snap.

Take Grigori Perelman, a mild example. He was a prodigy, proving conjectures that had stood unproven for hundreds of years — and then, at the apex of his career, the million-dollar prize… he just stopped. He just left the field, became a hermit, and was never seen again. Mr Perelman’s story is the best-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario? Well — the real reason mathematics is so high is that they have the dubious distinction of being the only field on this list to have spawned an actual terrorist. If it were up to me, i’d keep the mathematicians under 24/7 CCTV surveillance.

2. Economists

Self-explanatory.

1. Geologists

Geologists? What? Surely they’d be at the bottom: all they do is study rocks!

That was my thinking too. But then i thought about it. And thought about it. And uncovered the dark secret of geology. No, they can’t make earthquakes happen on demand, or turn themselves into lava. That’s theory. But what of applied geology?

Applied geology has other names. Chief among them: mining, fracking, and drilling. The geologist plan is a slow burn. They dig, and dig, and dig, guzzling up all the coal and oil they can muster, spewing their flames into the atmosphere. And by the time anyone noticed… it wasn’t their problem anymore. Oh, they say, that’s not us, that’s Nasa, that’s the biologists, that’s the economists, it could never be us humble innocent rock nerds. But they know. They know, deep down, that when the last forest burns itself up, when the last city falls into the sea — the geologists will look over the rubble, and the geologists will be king.

Mx Tynehorne’s link roundup, volume XXIX

The greatest impulse purchase in history

Step 1: Go on Wikipedia, as one does.

Step 2: Notice the following item in the “did you know” section.

Did you know… that Fabrizio Dori wants his comic book «Il dio vagabondo» to bring attention to an ancient Greek view of death?

Step 3: (See Figure 1.)

A biology textbook diagram labelled "Monkey *sees* action"/"Neuron activation"
Figure 1

Step 4: Activate dedicated hyperlink-clicking neuron that has evolved after years of online brain poisoning.

Step 5: Oh my god the main character is a satyr who lives in a tent in the suburbs.

Step 6: Oh my god it’s beautifully illustrated. (See Figure 2.)

A comic illustrated in a colourful style reminiscent of Ancient Greek pottery
Figure 2

Step 7: Begin seriously weighing up the possibility of The Greatest Impulse Purchase In History.

Step 8: Ctrl-F “English”. No results.

Step 9: Wallow in non-Italian-speaking misery.

Step 10: Ctrl-F “Dutch” as a last-ditch effort. You have been meaning to brush up on it…

Step 11: Oh my god they did a Dutch translation before an English one.

Step 12: Google “amazon” even though you know the URL.

Step 13: Click onto Amazon and look up the Dutch name of the comic.

Step 14: Find out there is one (1) copy left in stock.

Step 15: Look at the price.

Step 16:

Step 17: Pretend you didn’t.

Step 18: Buy anyway.

Step 19: Notice that they’ve finally gotten rid of that 2003-ass UI in the purchase phase.

Step 20: You have now completed The Greatest Impulse Purchase In History. It will be there in a week.

Stuff i watched recently, Marchuary edition

Letterboxd screenshot of a list of “movies about spice worlds”, with the two adaptations of “Dune” and “Spice World”
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation, season three. How did i let myself not get around to this earlier‽ This is soft sci-fi running at peak performance — a crew of hyper-competent and endearing1 people on a starship, sometimes just going on wacky space adventures, other times using science fiction as a lens through which to view our own world. 10/10. My three favourite episodes so far:
    1. “Tin Man”. Our character actor of the week, Harry Groener, plays a member of a mildly telepathic species who has a small problem: he has Space Autism, thus can’t turn said telepathy off. Man, does this episode get it. Every little thing about him is painfully relatable, the ending reduced me to tears, and i would like seven seasons of a buddy cop spinoff show starring him and Data right now, please and thank you.
    2. “The Survivors”. The third episode in the season, this is the one that made me sit up and go: God damn, that’s good television. Our character of the week, John Anderson, is the man of the house for an elderly couple who are the only ones left after the decimation of their planet. I can’t reveal anything more than that, but he sells it like noöne else could.
    3. “Deja Q”. This one’s just funny.
  • The Revenant (2015). Stepdad’s pick for family movie night. When the credits rolled, i thought it one of the best films i’d ever seen… but a few weeks on, i’m not so sure. The cinematography is epic, and Tom Hardy’s brilliant, no doubt, but i really feel more could have been mined from the premise. Leonardo DiCaprio’s half-Pawnee son in particular is the heart of the film, and the key role through which to interpret the conflict between the three warring groups, but he gets unceremoniously killed off halfway through, for no other reason than to bolster Mr Hardy’s villain cred and, i am left to infer, because the writers had no idea what to do with his character for the rest of the story. Mr DiCaprio himself goes completely overboard and could really take Lawrence Olivier’s advice to heart: “My dear boy, have you tried just acting?” 6½/10.
  • True Stories (1986). My pick for family movie night. This sweet and mild-mannered musical comedy is David Byrne’s only director credit, and that’s a damned shame. Most places call it a satire, and i can’t help but think they’re projecting. This is a genuine ode to small-town American life, whatever its pros and whatever its cons, and next time i’m sick, i know exactly what i’ll be putting on. 8/10.2
  • The Wicker Man (1973). Figured i’d watch a whimsical musical from the seventies in preparation for the next one on the list. Great vibes, great music, great ending, great showing from the legendary Christopher Lee3, but good heavens, is our main character ever an unsympathetic, bigoted prick. He’s stumbled on a conspiracy to murder, and he just won’t let go of the fact that he saw some NEKKID WIMMEN prancing around a henge! 7/10.
  • Wonka (2024). Mama’s pick for family movie night. This is a bad idea for a movie and they should not have made it. That’s fine, though: lots of good films make poor ideas on paper. This isn’t one of them. Timothée Chalamet is terrible! You never once buy him as anything other than Timothée Chalamet in a hat. He’s far too much of a goody two-shoes — not a droplet of the sinister nature of Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp’s4 Wonkæ is anywhere to be found. 3/10.
  • An American Werewolf in London (1981). Stepdad’s pick for family movie night. A bit of a throwaway, but there’s some good stuff in here, especially the titular American Werewolf (Who Went Hiking In The North But For Some Reason Is Taken To A Hospital) In London’s zombified friend. 6/10.
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020). Shades of Tenet and Asteroid City here: it’s not Charlie Kaufman at his best, but it is Charlie Kaufman at his most, and he may have finally metatexted too close to the sun. Some really interesting stuff spread out over a turgidly paced first and second acts and a completely nonsensical third. I presume Jesse Plemons’s directions were just “pretend to be Philip Seymour Hoffman”. 5/10.
  • Dune Reloaded / Dune 2: Dune Harder / D2NE (2024). Seen in Imax. A titanic achievement that improves upon the often unfeeling first in every way. I take back everything i said about Wonka — Mr Chalamet is magnetic in a way that cements him as the zoomer generation’s first true movie star. Every gushing ten-star review you’ve heard is true. See it now on the biggest screen you can, with bass that shakes the leather in your seat, because you’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t. 9/10, with that final point conditional on the inevitable third part hitting the mark.

Mx Tynehorne’s link roundup, volume XXVIII