Tom Ewing

3
Jan 18

Good Comics I Read In 2017

The Brown Wedge5 comments • 343 views

seven sacksI’m not doing a comics poll this year – the slack is being admirably taken up with Pete’s new TV poll – but I still read a LOT of comics last year. Here, in no special order, were some of the best ones, new to me if not always to the world.

HOW TO BE HAPPY (by Eleanor Davis; Fantagraphics)

I loved this, a collection of beautifully composed stories and vignettes in a variety of styles, from gorgeous colour-saturated paintings to quick, fluid multi-page sketch stories that reminded me of Jules Feiffer (who’s also a reference point for Davis’ sharp observations of human neuroses). Some of the stories are glimpses into imagined worlds – like a near-future family reunion – others, like the eerie, funny, “Seven Sacks” – draw on folklore tropes. Davis’ skill at capturing the movement of bodies makes the simplest of ideas sing on the page.

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2
Jan 18

Provenance And Use AKA A Vague Critical Resolution

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Culture circulates online within algorithm-driven networks: Google, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, etc. These are also automatic measurement systems. Two particularly valuable things they measure are attribution – the path you took to reach something – and conversion (in its crudest form, did you buy it? but we can also throw in engagement, sharing, and other such soft interactions).

I’m using “valuable” here in the sense of “this is data marketers want”, which is why I’m also using the hard, gross language of attribution and conversion. Emotionally there’s a temptation to try and disengage from this, treating cultural objects (especially art, music, etc) as separate from the networks which reveal and sustain, but also exploit and reduce them.

I feel strongly that I don’t want to do this. If that data is powerful, I want to reclaim and name it for myself. I’m not talking about having more power over the algorithms that affect us and more visibility of their outcomes. That kind of thing is vital political work but as a writer about culture I also feel I should be keeping sight of the human and personal dimension of attribution and conversion – or, to use better words, provenance and use.

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20
Dec 17

TFTACOXS – December 18: When Is A Christmas Sandwich Not A Christmas Sandwich?

WOBS SANGER ADVENT CALENDARPost a comment • 70 views

tesco pulled beef For this entry we are approaching the fuzzy boundary of the Christmas sanger, where taxonomy begins to break down. I’m not talking about Christmas wraps, burritos, salads, pies or even pizzas, which have all been declared legitimate. I’m talking about the Tesco Finest Pulled Beef and Aged Red Leicester sandwich (with – this is crucial – BBQ sauce). Is this a nice sandwich? Certainly it is – red leicester (aged or youthful) is a rare and undervalued sandwich cheese; the pulled beef is reasonably flavoursome and juicy and the BBQ sauce appropriate. It wouldn’t become a regular choice but I was happy to try it.

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18
Dec 17

TFTACOXS – December 16th: The Laziest Sandwiches In Britain

WOBS SANGER ADVENT CALENDARPost a comment • 125 views

caffe nero Yes, I’m aware of the ironing of posting a complaint about laziness two days late – away with such carping – this post is one of stern rebuke to the chain that has made least effort in their Christmas sandwich range. I am talking about CAFFE NERO.

I have spent a lot of time in Caffe Nero this year. Too much time. It is the only chain coffee place in my South-of-Croydon backwater, and it’s also the coffee shop at the base of my work building. In fact I’m writing this very entry in Caffe Nero, and abusing its hospitality mightily by doing so. I go there to write stuff for work when the office environment is too distracting, and that puts me in a good position to expose the half-arsedness of the Nero Christmas experience.

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12
Dec 17

TFTACOXS* – December 11: Pret Ham Hock, Stuffing And Apple

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ham hock *The Freaky Trigger Advent Calendar Of Xmas Sandwiches OF COURSE

Pret’s Christmas sandwich line may be the one to beat, but it is not without flaws. One particular recurrent problem gives anger to the Sandwich Gods: Pret continually use very crumbly ingredients. Crumbliness is a Bad Thing in sandwich terms particularly if – as is surely the case with Pret! – a sizeable chunk of your customers will be eating them at their desks. Keyboards and jumpers beware – there is no controlling the crispy onions in the Christmas Feast.

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My Pop Year: AUSTRA – “We Were Alive”

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Austra’s Future Politics was one of the first 2017 albums I heard, somewhere in the weeks of dread, defiance and hand-wringing around the Trump inauguration. It’s coloured how I hear it ever since. The title announces it as a ‘political’ album, the sleeve signals that the contents are likely to be cryptic. Austra’s Katy Stelmaris embraces our time of heightened nerves, this mode of being – which many lived in well before Trump – where ‘politics’ can exhaustingly infect every gesture. But she also rejects it, insists on ambiguity and a realm of private meaning.

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11
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 10: The Snow Globe

FT + WOBS SANGER ADVENT CALENDAR3 comments • 121 views

snow globe The centrepiece of Sainsbury’s Christmas range this year is “The Snow Globe”. This boldly rejects all traditional packaging and is sold in a sealed plastic dome, which fanciness probably adds 50p to the cost of the not-all-that-large sandwich. Unless Sainsbury’s are taking a Blue Monday 12″ style profit hit, which I very much doubt.

What is it? “Christmas dinner in a brioche bun” or in plainer terms a turkey and bacon roll. The brioche bun has tiny stars on, nicely captured in this image I nicked off Twitter, and is very pleasant and fluffy, but (surely to nobody’s surprise) the whole thing suffers from over-ambition and ultimately disappoints.

The problem is the bold decision to have both a layer of cranberry and a layer of “sprout slaw”. High marks on paper for seeing the christmas dinner concept through and including sprouts, but in practice both layers are a bit too gloopy. Which combined with the softness of the bread gives the Snow Globe a slightly sloppy and pre-chewed feel. A bit less of the cranberry, and (sad to say) a more robust bread, and the bitterness of the slaw would have balanced the sweetness very nicely. As it is, the Snow Globe is… no great shakes.

7
Dec 17

My Pop Year: SERGE BEYNAUD – “Akrakabo”

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Serge Beynaud’s Accelerate LP is a danceable feast, showing how Cote D’Ivoire’s coupe-decale is one of those musics which can absorb almost anything, from pop-reggae to trap-style vocal exclamation. It’s potentially exhausting to take on in full, but the quality is consistent – put it on shuffle for a few tracks and ride Beynaud’s ebullience until you start to tire, then repeat next time you’re in the mood.

Lead single and first track “Akrakabo” is always a good place to start. Here the music that’s pulled into the whirl is some sweet West African guitar pop, which breaks through like a grin after two pummeling, bouncing minutes of rhythm. It’s a wonderful moment. If the pace of the rest feels crazed, check the video to see Beynaud and his formation dancers handle it with aplomb (plus the fakest sheikh this side of News International.)

6
Dec 17

My Pop Year: JANA RUSH – “??? ??”

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The titles of Jana Rush’s tracks on her Pariah LP have an enjoyable bluntness. “Beat Maze.” “Chill Mode”. “Frenetic Snare.” She’s been DJing and making records for over 20 years, since she was 15. This is her debut full-length. So I suspect there’s a healthy unwillingness to piss about, or to dress up her music with unnecessary atmospherics. As another of the tracks puts it, “No Fuks Given”. It is what it is.

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5
Dec 17

THE FREAKY TRIGGER ADVENT CALENDAR OF XMAS SANDWICHES – December 4: Tesco Finest Turkey Feast

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turkeyfeast For all that it’s still the most popular supermarket in Britain, Tesco seems a bit nonplussed at Christmas time. Its adverts have long been upstaged by the posh end of the market – and this year it got the unwelcome attention of racist idiots too – and nobody makes much fuss about its sandwiches compared to the PR juggernauts of Pret or even Greggs. The store does its bit over Christmas, sells everything you’d expect, and I suspect makes most of its money by being open later than anyone else on the 24th – by which time its sandwiches are the last thing on anyone’s mind.

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