The GardenA blog by yours truly

Posts in English

60% or so of uploads of 鈥淭ainted Love鈥 on Youtube have the 馃憦锔忦煈忥笍 muffled to a damp squib, and it鈥檚 always a game of Russian roulette trying to listen to it. A very, very mild game of Russian roulette. Belarusian roulette, maybe.

Mx Tynehorne鈥檚 link roundup, volume XXVII

I started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation recently 鈥 starting at season three, of course, as i was repeatedly advised 鈥 and i鈥檓 positively kicking myself for not doing it earlier. This is bloody good television (except Wesley, but i imagine they give up and throw him out the airlock at some point), and only now do i realise how often i have stood on the shoulders of giants without even knowing it鈥

(Data鈥檚 the best character. Obviously. He鈥檚 literally me鈩.)

In praise of mustelids

An old etching of a European otter

Hail, the mustelid! Greatest family of the animal kingdom, nay, the eukaryote demesne. They are nigh universally cute 鈥 a charming sausage shape 鈥 and often small, but unlike their tam猫d brers and sisters in Canid忙 and Felid忙, they have never succumbed to human domestication and demeaning.1

Indeed, they are deceptively mighty for their size; the least weasel, an accurate name if there ever was one, proudly squeaks as the smallest carnivore on land, and with its mighty jaw can take down a rabbit ten times its greater, or even, should you believe the ancient Greeks, a basilisk. (So goes it for the otter, too: a lutra lutra might never look like it has a single thought running through its head, but show it to a streamful of fish, and you will witness a bloodbath that would make Tamerlane blush.)

I might myself take a broader view of the term and insert an O in that mustelid, bringing us up to the dynasty Musteloidea, where not only weasels, martens, and otters roam, but the mischievous American raccoon, the adorable red panda, and the e鈥檈r-defensive skunk. But the title says 鈥渕ustelids鈥, and i am not one to argue with my fifteen-minutes-ago self, so in our little kindred we shall remain.

A last thing to note before we return to pathetic Pr墨m膩t膿s, the greatest thing in all the family, the peak of all the realm of life, the chief reason among chief reasons that mustelids are the best:

They all sound like squeaky toys.

Stuff i watched recently

A still from 鈥淧oor Things鈥
Poor Things (2023)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959). My pick for family movie night. I鈥檝e been accused of being a bit of a 鈥渕iserabilist鈥 (i鈥檓 sorry, but Synecdoche, New York bangs, and i have no regrets on making them watch it), so i thought i鈥檇 kick the year off with something a bit funny, a bit light-hearted, and a bit gay, and cor, was this an absolute classic! A comedy from the fifties about two men cross-dressing to infiltrate a women鈥檚 jazz band should be positively radioactive, but this misses all the potential pipelines of 鈥渨ell, you know, back in the day鈥︹ sewage and instead hits a gold-mine of timeless commentary on gender relations. I鈥檓 on Team Daphne 鈥 he鈥檚 so much more confident in being a woman than Josephine and does not deserve that terrible toad man. (And, having seen both this and Rear Window, i can finally weigh in: Grace Kelly is a thousand times prettier than Marilyn Monroe. Sorry.) An instant 10/10.
  • 鈥淣o枚ne knows who created skull trumpet (until now)鈥. Had to click this as soon as it appeared on my feed. There鈥檚 really something beautiful about the amateurism of the early web, how a woman with no formal training in graphic design or anything of the sort could make all these wonderful, whimsical images, and have one of them persist into the present day. Rest in peace, Cathy Jarboe, you beautiful diamond, you. 6陆/10.
  • The Master (2012). Mama鈥檚 pick for family movie night. Philip Seymour Hoffman is incredible in this as an L. Ron Hubbard鈥搒tyle cult leader, to the extent that you often find yourself agreeing with him 鈥 i totally get why people join these sort of things now. Joaquin Phoenix, on the other hand鈥 man, i hate to say it, but i might be falling off the Phoenix train? He鈥檚 always doing that same snivelling Joker thing, even when it鈥檚 totally inappropriate like in Napoleon, and it鈥檚 getting kind of old. Joaquin Phoenix Play A Character With Social Skills Challenge (Impossible). Paul Thomas Anderson directs the shit out of this. 6/10.
  • The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). Rewatched with mama.1 Loved it even more than the first time, especially Jennifer Jason Leigh鈥檚 character. Just a terribly good-natured film that only sits in obscurity because of its obsequious title. It鈥檚 a shame Tim Robbins disappeared after this 鈥 i looked up his filmography and he seems to have been in bomb after bomb (Green Lantern, Mission to Mars鈥). 9/10.
  • Poor Things (2023, but didn鈥檛 come out until 2024 here). Watched at the Tyneside. I鈥檇 been eagerly awaiting this since i saw the bonkers trailer back in September, and it didn鈥檛 disappoint. There was a moment 15% of the way through where i thought i might walk out, but good lord, did it ever win me back over! Bella Scissorhands goes on a steampunk adventure across Europe filled with childlike whimsy, discovers herself, has lots of sex, and winds up Mark Ruffalo. Everyone is absolutely brilliant in this 鈥 special commendation to Willem Dafoe as a Scottish mad scientist. Already the strong front-runner for my favourite of the year. 9/10.

Mx Tynehorne鈥檚 link roundup, volume XXVI

A collage of two film stills 鈥 in one, an astronaut exits a capsule illuminated by Neptune鈥檚 deep blue; in the other, a rover rides around the vivid crimson hills of Mars
If Neptune isn鈥檛 really that blue, can we at least put it in the club with Mars, where we just pretend it鈥檚 that bright because it looks cooler in movies? (Top: Ad Astra; bottom: The Martian)

The 2023 Satyrs鈥 Forest Horny Awards鈩

I would like to kick off the second annual Satyrs鈥 Forest Horny Awards鈩 with an epigraph from myself, at the end of 2021, predicting what lay ahead. I wrote, and i quote:

Avatar 2 will bomb and possibly kill James Cameron鈥檚 career. Really: who on earth is actually excited by the idea of an Avatar sequel? Someone? Anyone?

Hahahaha oops!!!

The Laurel Wreath Award for Annual Achievement in Film

And the award goes to鈥 Avatar 2: The Way of Water!
It came out in December and i watched it in January of 2023 鈥 i鈥檓 counting it.

Look. Look. I鈥檓 not happy about this either. But he got me. That fucking James Cameron boomed me. I鈥檝e never even seen the first one!

Everything about Avatar: The Way of Water puts our decade-long glut of superhero movies to shame. The visuals, thirteen years in the making, are indistinguishable from reality. (You will believe the sexy blue cat people are real, and you will rewatch it three times in Imax and still never figure out how they composited the scrawny human kid in.) Every tiny anthropological detail envelops you in the world of Pandora, meticulously constructed by the new god-king of worldbuilding. But most of all, it鈥檚 sincere. There are no tiresome quips of 鈥漺ell, that just happened鈥. The characters never make fun of how silly this all is. It just lets itself be itself.

Some might shunt the film鈥檚 story and characters to the back seat, and in many ways, that鈥檚 fair: nobody goes to see an Avatar movie to find out if Jake and Neytiri get a divorce. But that鈥檚 just the James Cameron style, man! He paints with a broad brush, and because of that, his stories connect with everyone from Chicago to Chittagong. No枚ne ever complained about Titanic just being Romeo and Juliet on a boat, after all.

So, much as it might bug the poser in me to heap praise upon the fourth-biggest film in history, congratulations to the best film of the year: the one with the smurfs.

The Zoetrope Award for Classic Cinema

And the award goes to鈥 Synecdoche, New York!

I have too many thoughts about Synecdoche, New York and i鈥檝e never been able to organise them all into anything coherent, so i鈥檝e set a timer for fifteen minutes and i鈥檒l just stop when i stop. This is going to be a mess.

So, first of all, this film is only two hours long. I say 鈥only鈥 because it feels like four when you鈥檙e watching it. This takes place over, god, what, thirty or forty years? And you feel time slipping away just as Caden does.

Oh, uh, Caden Cotard is our main character, a hypochondriac playwright with ambitions of dizzying scale, played masterfully by the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman. I鈥檓 not sure he鈥檚 meant to be a real person; rather, just as his fictional play (the size of the actual city of New York) balloons to its own world with its own Caden and its own play, he is just the creation of the unseen Ellen1, one world up, somewhere in between him and Charlie Kaufman.

There鈥檚 a moment halfway through that might be the best single second in a movie ever. Caden goes to Berlin to find his long-lost daughter Olive working as a prostitute 鈥 and as he enters the brothel, the door creaks behind him鈥 sounding just like a baby鈥檚 cry.

I put off watching this movie forever because i knew it was bloody depressing, and indeed, i spent the last half barely containing a film of salt water behind my eyes. Two main candidates for best scene (spoilers!) 鈥 Sammy (the stalker who Caden hires to play himself)鈥檚 heart breaking, and the very end, where everything fades to grey.

Jon Brion鈥檚 score is incredible, by the way.

That shot, when Caden finds out his dad died, and Sammy鈥檚 shadow looms behind the curtains like the Grim Reaper? Brilliant.

The one piece of the puzzle i still can鈥檛 figure out is what鈥檚 up with Maria. She鈥檚 this corrupting influence on everyone Caden loves, but bears the name of the Virgin Mary 鈥 which makes it difficult to slot her in, as i tried, as the Devil to Ellen鈥檚 God. Hm.

It鈥檚 funny how Caden never really gets any sicker, but the world around him does. (There鈥檚 some gender identity stuff in there too, but honestly it all seems like the type of thing that could be attributed to other stuff to me. I don鈥檛 think Caden鈥檚 literally trans, he just happens to be the self-insert of a woman.)

That鈥檚 my fifteen minutes up. Synecdoche, New York! Greatest movie ever made.

The Pebbledash Dildo Award for Cinematic Disappointment

And the award goes to鈥 The Congress!
Again, not a 2023 film, but i actually quite liked every 2023 film i watched, and i was annoyed enough by this one to put it on here instead.

It all started so innocently. It was a family movie night, and me and my mam were in the mood for something uplifting. I鈥檇 asked on Reddit for movies with the same manic exuberance as The Fifth Element or Elvis, where some strange new colourful thing is thrown at the screen a mile a minute and the viewer is ripped along for the ride.

Mad Max: Fury Road? Seen it. Mandy? Not in the mood for horror. But The Congress? Now that sounded interesting. The reviews were coy, but all praised the psychedelic, mind-bending world crafted by director Ari Folman.

Count us in, i suppose. And so began my journey into hell.

To get the 鈥渃oveted鈥 Pebbledash Dildo, you don鈥檛 just have to be bad. It is, after all, an award for disappointment. You must have a kernel of a great idea within you, one that is so simple to make something good out of, and fuck it all up anyway. That kernel can be found in a single brilliant scene, a diamond within this pile of filmic zirconia.

A live-action Robin Wright stands in the centre of a sphere of cameras blaring at her

The premise of The Congress is more relevant now than ever, in this age of digital doubles, deepfakes, and AI actors. Robin Wright plays herself, who reluctantly decides to scan herself into digital form, so the studio can use her likeness forevermore without her having to break a sweat. As she stands among the blaring lights of the scanner, her agent recounts to her the story of how they first met, bringing tears to her eyes. It鈥檚 a genuinely touching moment, and a springboard off of which so many ideas could dive, a trunk from which so many stories might branch.

Then it all goes to pot, and thirty years later, everyone is permanently on drugs, and so the film switches to oh god what the fuck is that get it off get it off get it off my fucking screen

So Robin Wright, now in a world of terrifying Newgrounds Betty Boop clones, attends the titular congress, where the CEO of the subtly named Miramount does a Hitler rally for his new drug. Then she meets generic Prince Charming man, the very person who scanned her in to the system 鈥 an interesting idea that they do absolutely nothing with 鈥 and they have ugly cartoon sex, she gets locked in a freezer for 300 years, and she goes in a balloon to find her terminally ill son鈥 or鈥 something?

I have never seen a film fumble the ball this badly, and be such an assault on the senses to boot. You won, Ari. Enjoy the money; i hope it makes you happy. Dear lord, what a sad little life, Ari. You鈥檝e ruined my night completely.

Miscellaneous awards

  • The Golden Lyre Award for Excellence in New Music: Edinburgh-based Young Fathers鈥 euphoric senior album Heavy Heavy stole the show this year.
  • The Broken Link Award for Best Use of Hypertext: The best 鈥渕iscellaneous thing鈥 i saw online was Atlas Altera, an absolutely ludicrous worldbuilding project dedicated to the surgical maximalisation of global diversity.
  • The Fred Figglehorn Memorial Award for Online Video: Spanning the end of 2022 to the start of 2023, Geowizard鈥檚 鈥淗ow not to travel America鈥 series brightened up my day every time a new one appeared on my feed. People are just nice!
  • The Hubert J. Farnsworth Award for Good News, Everyone!: This one may be a wee bit controversial, but i have to go with the rollout of a new generation of obesity drugs (most famously semaglutide) 鈥 which not only finally work to combat obesity, but seem to dull all sorts of other harmful impulses too. One step closer to true freedom of form?

The pauper鈥檚 jQuery

Black and white film still of a man in thought surrounded by grimy computer wiring
Pic loosely-related, from Darren Aronofsky鈥檚 JS makes me want to drill my brain out sometimes, too.

Javascript has come a long way since the days of marquee tags and spacer gifs. You can do a lot with the API they give you to mess around with your web page鈥檚 content 鈥 but alas, so many of the functions have such verbose names!

To solve this, while not having to deal with the heaving weight of jQuery鈥檚 ten billion lines of IE6 compatibility, i made my own little alternative, and carry it everywhere with me:

const $ = sel => document.querySelector(sel);
const $$ = sel => document.querySelectorAll(sel);

Element.prototype.$ = Element.prototype.querySelector;
Element.prototype.$$ = Element.prototype.querySelectorAll;

EventTarget.prototype.on = EventTarget.prototype.addEventListener;

const documentReady = fn => document.on("DOMContentLoaded", fn);

What it does, in a nutshell: Use $ to select something matching a CSS selector, and $$ to select an array of everything it matches. (This is already available in your browser鈥檚 dev tools!) You can also use it on an element to restrict your search to its children 鈥 say, $(".post").$$("aside"), or some other such fanciful chaining.

.on, meanwhile, lets you listen out for events like so: $("#my-button").on("click", () => { /* Your function here鈥 */ })

Finally, documentReady is just a nicer name for the frankly obtuse 鈥淒OMContentLoaded鈥.

Enjoy. Or don鈥檛, i suppose. Hopefully it makes your hypertext tinkering just a little nicer. :-)

Lords of Misrule 2023: The rest

I must apologise most profusely for not putting the other submissions for Lords of Misrule on the blog in a timely fashion. They were quite long, and i tended to procrastinate for quite a while on their inclusion, and so i ended up not bothering for fear of cluttering up the timeline with endless scrolling past other people鈥檚 creations 鈥 not a particularly dignified viewing environment for them.

But here they are in all their glory, on the main site:

Lords of Misrule 2023: Pedestrian Diversions

I艒 Saturnalia! Today鈥檚 post comes from an anonymous reader in Santiago 鈥 to comment, please visit its page on the main site.


as a kid coming down the portway into the harbourside through here was always so epic: going past the rugby club, along the seamills bridge, down the hill, past the willow whale, seeing climbers on the gorge, the tunnels randomly sticking out the cliff looking like something out of minecraft, then coming around the bend and seeing the absolutely massive iconic bridge so high up. diving into the short tunnel type thing and then being greeted with an truly odd mix of architecture being the announcement of entering the city so dramatically. first ashton gate sticks out slightly, and then driving past the first row of house (the last one before the turn has a waving flag of the spanish republican international brigades 鈥 always fun for us, i am from spain but grew up in the middle of farmyland severn vale 鈥 we always came down via the m5 and even there i remember the giraffe cranes at avonmouth and the hovis silos), then being greeted with these brutalist tendales towards the airport, but we would always come off and into the redeveloped harbourside of its modern style and parked in the (very expensive im told) millenium square car park. the short drive through hotwells road was always very strange to me because its old georgian and victorian housing sandwiched between two far more modern areas. the nautical theme with the absolutely massive victorian ss great britain is also great, it used to have even more colourful flags !

the trip back was still good but never as cool as that experience, just a bunch of huge weed-themed graffiti on the quarryfaces across the river. will probably look much cooler if the train ever comes back that side.

The Satyrs鈥 Forest鈥檚 2023 word of the year

It鈥檚 that time of year again for the dictionaries of the world to come remind people that they still exist, and that there is absolutely, definitely a reason for anyone to ever pay for them instead of going on Wiktionary for free1, by proclaiming a singular lemma to be Word Of The Year鈩.

They鈥檙e not usually very good at it. Irritatingly often they plump for words that were around for hundreds of years before that year, slang terms that won鈥檛 be around in five years, let alone fifty, or terms with dubious status as words at all. That is why last year, as chief etymologist and steward of this noble wood, i picked my own 鈥 鈥渟pecial military operation鈥. In hindsight, i might have chosen something less dour, but that鈥檚 the way the biscuit breaks.

So then, how can you capture the essence of the year that was 2023 in a single word? It has been a year of political stagnation, social carrying-on-per-usual, but of technological upheaval. Merriam-Webster thought authentic summed it up best, as a counter to industry plants and GPT malaise鈥 but i鈥檓 sorry, that鈥檚 bollocks and they know it. Not a word from 2023, been around for decades, go straight to gaol, do not pass go.

Oxford, on the other hand, had a rather different, more vernacular choice 鈥 one i am inclined to agree with. The word of the year for 2023 is:

rizz

noun. (colloquial) Effortless charisma, the sort that lets you win friends, influence people, and get the girls.

I鈥檒l admit, it鈥檚 not quite a 2023 word. It first gained steam in late 2022, and was popularised by the streamer Kai Cenat all the way back in 2021 鈥 but to hell with it! The first mention in my group chat is January of this year, and it has taken the youth by storm in such a way that it seems destined to stick around, even if only to call back to the twenties the way radical might the nineties or groovy the sixties.

It too captures Merriam-Webster鈥檚 reaction to the plastic sheen of modern technology. Your friends might have rizz. The people you follow online might have rizz. But ChatGPT? I鈥檓 sorry, Dave, but as a large language model, it is not possible for me to have rizz.

Merry rizzmas, everyone, and a happy new year 鈥 let鈥檚 hope 2024鈥檚 word is as undour as this one!

Mx Tynehorne鈥檚 link roundup, volume XXV