Ahead on Differential


still from Fire of Love

Here are ten things.

  1. My friends and I made our triumphant return to pub trivia last Sunday. We won two of ours drinks each, placed second (our prize: a like-new copy of Clue Carnival), and concluded the evening at McDonald's getting silly on chicken nuggets and recommending our favourite media featuring drug dealers (The Wire, High Maintenance, Paul Schrader's Light Sleeper).
  2. The championship match of the 1989 Movie Bowl pitted Kiki's Delivery Service against Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in a closely-matched contest. The Ghibli juggernaut triumphed, claiming its third Movie Bowl win for the studio, but one of the vanquished parties was gracious in defeat.
  3. Sight & Sound just published the results of their decennial Greatest Films of All Time poll, and we have a new champion: Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai de Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Funny enough, the only four movies to ever be #1 on this list are all in the top four. Tons of stuff here to shore up your watchlist.
  4. Two great documentaries to recommend: Elvis Mitchell's Is That Black Enough for You?!? (an engrossing, clear-eyed and funny history of Black people in the movies, with a focus on the fecund period between 1968 and 1978) and Sara Dosa's Fire of Love (rock-star volcanologists in love, built mostly from astonishing footage pulled from the subjects' archives).
  5. Another week, another batch of albums I listened to for EOY purposes, and none knocked me on my ass more than the third album by the Beths, Expert in a Dying Field. The title track and “Knees Deep” is as good a one-two opening punch of strong, bittersweet indie pop as I've heard all year. Hot take: Jonathan Pearce is secretly a hot-shit guitar player.
  6. Another high-water mark this week in terms of 2022 albums was Everything Was Beautiful, the latest from space-rock revivalists Spiritualized. “Crazy” is pedal steel-kissed devastation at its finest.
  7. My friend Alex recently DJed an all-vinyl set of yacht rock, City Pop, and assorted smooth music. All five hours of that set are available here for your listening pleasure.
  8. Between Fire of Love and the recent volcanic activity in Hawaii, the word of the week is “vog.”
  9. RIP Christine McVie. Put on “Little Lies” and pour one out.
  10. Another poem from Wikipedia Haiku:
    He is seemingly
    assassinated, but heals
    a short time later


Olivier Gruner is... Nemesis

Here are ten things.

  1. First, a bit of personal housekeeping: after six months of post-infarct heparin injections and a mystery autoimmune infection that's scrambled the nerves of my fingers and toes, I am officially off medicine and in the clear. My medical and emotional annus horibilis has finally let up just in time for the last ~10% of the year.
  2. In case you thought that was the end of medical shenanigans: I noticed a few weeks ago that what once was sharp in my field of vision had started getting fuzzy, so I booked an eye exam. Long story short: I am now a proud card-carrying member of the #GlassesGang. I currently toggle between two pairs: the Mad Men (your classic brow line tortoiseshell deal) and the Elbow Patch Special (a pair with big grey frames that make me look like a uni professor who still rocks out to The Number of the Beast.)
  3. For GQ, in a sequel to one of my favourite magazine profiles, Zach Baron catches up with Brendan Fraser.
  4. For Mubi, Frank Falisi on the man, the myth, the legend, Jon Bois. The latest from the Dorktown crew, The People You're Paying to Be in Shorts, is very good.
  5. Here's a double feature idea for you: Tucker: The Man and His Dream and Speed Racer. These are two idiosyncratic movies about the difficulties and perils of being creative and independently-midned under capitalism's thumb; both have hoppin' jazzy scores (courtesy of Joe Jackson and Michael Giacchino, respectively) and a propendency for collapsing multiple diegetic spaces into one shot (Coppola uses physical sets the unite different locations, the Wachowskis use copious amounts of green screen).
  6. Albert Pyun, the B-movie legend responsible for such highly-stylized sci-fi/post-apocalyptic video store staples as Cyborg and Nemesis, is in ill health. His wife Cynthia Curnan has solicited positive messages and well-wishes in his time of dying. We here at Ahead on Differential salute Mr. Pyun for his decades-long dedication to cheap thrills and cheaper budgets, where a lack of resources never equalled a lack of imagination or fun.
  7. I've been reading Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Manual, which in insightful in a very homey, plainspoken way. This is geared towards beginners, and Kooser does a great job of laying out some fundamentals, but it never hurts to hear things like “let the poem you're writing find its form” and “don't be cute to the detriment of being clear.”
  8. With list season approaching, I listened to a handful of new-to-me 2022 albums; I really liked the new records by Alvvays, Built to Spill, and Danger Mouse & Black Thought.
  9. Steph got a milk frother recently so 'tis the season for eggnog lattes.
  10. From the ever-delightful Wikipedia Haiku:
    Sorry, I don't have
    time at the moment to read
    the whole article


It's Ruby!

Here are ten things.

  1. A belated note: January 8th was my cat Ruby's fourth adoptiversary. That picture up there is the first picture I took of her when we got home. As we say around these parts, what a baby!
  2. I got my booster shot on Thursday, which knocked me on my ass for about 36 hours. Worth every ache.
  3. Getting lost in the archives of San Jose-based film critic Fernando F. Croce, whose 300ish-word capsules read like poetry (in part because they allude to poems, and novels, and other movies, natch). To wit, on one of the great films, RoboCop:
    His Calvary is a limb-pulverizing fusillade, with frenetic views of his torso in flayed close-up giving way to a reverse tracking shot of memories vanishing into the ether.
  4. Cult MTL film critic/local legend Justine Smith prefaced her year-end top ten with a smart, sobering state of the profession. “The best critics don't speak for a generation; they speak for themselves.”
  5. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that I've been into sentence diagramming as of late for... reasons. I finally found a readily-available vulgarized resource that can help me out when I'm in a pinch: A Sentence Diagramming Primer: The Reed & Kellogg System Step-By-Step by Dr. Judith Coats.
  6. RIP Ronnie Spector. If I had to draft a list of perfect songs, “Be My Baby” would be one of the first ones I jot down, due in no small part to Spector's voice; sometimes it doesn't have to be more complicated than “For every kiss you give me, I'll give you three.” Brian Wilson knew what was up, so did Martin Scorsese.
  7. RIP Bob Saget. Sure, there was Full House and America's Funniest Home Videos and the ecstatically filthy stand-up comedy; to me, he's the guy who directed one of the most sublimely idiotic and totally hilarious scenes in any 90s comedy.
  8. One of my odder ongoing pet projects is what I'm tentatively calling “chillhop auteurism;” the plan is to listen to lo-fi hip hop, a ubiquitous genre of music that is meant to be experienced passively, as I would any other album, i.e. in an “active” way. Who are the artists with interesting influences, points of view, and bodies of work? Who is out here shaking up the formulas? I recognize some of these artists by name, but what makes their music theirs? This week's case studies: beat tape 12 by Dutch producer Eevee, Pool Days by Norwegian producer HM Surf, and the best of this bunch, Like the Sky, or Something Else by American producer Sleepy Fish.
  9. At time of writing, I am on pace to watch 494 movies this year, which is a pace I will absolutely not maintain. Some recent favourites: the operatic and stylish Casino (look at all the shout outs Marty is getting), the time-dilated WWII moodtape Dunkirk, and the beautiful rip-roaring animated sci-fi pulp actioner Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie.
  10. A bit of found poetry, courtesy of this video by Toronto-based YouTuber and comedian Kurtis Conner:
    First thing you do when you wake up? Pour a bottle of red wine on your sheets. And then, I don't care how fucking thirsty you are, you go downstairs and you have a sleeve of saltines all to yourself. And then you do some beta breathing. It's kind of like alpha breathing, but instead, on every exhale, you go “ooh, I'm a little cuck!” Next, instead of meditating, you're going to play the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song at full blast and you're going to sit there and think about every single mistake you've ever made in your life. And then you go upstairs, get in the shower, and you make it as hot as you can. Make it so hot that it sets your journal on fire. And while that wet, wet journal is up in flames, you make a “to feel” list and you leave it blank. Today, you feel nothing. Then you go back downstairs, pull out your blender, pour a can of Mountain Dew in there along with a fistful of cosmic brownies and you just guzzle that down until you can't feel your legs anymore, okay? And that's fine, you don't need them for what you're about to do. You're going to park your ass down to play Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 until you pass out due to exhaustion or a heart attack from the smoothie. Good morning! [x]


Shout out to the Criterion Collection for these sick banners.

Here are ten things.

  1. For the last five weeks, I've had lots of fun on laserdisc.party running the Movie Bowl, a week-long single-elimination poll tournament where 16 movies, selected CFP-style with a deliberately obtuse mix of “box office performance, awards performance, critical reception, long-term popularity, and a vague secret sauce [we're] calling 'canonization',” vie for the title of best movie of that year. We just wrapped up the event for 1999, which The Matrix won quite handily from the 6-seed, defeating the 16-seed Cinderella The Mummy by a score of 83-42. The Matrix joins previous winners Fargo, Jaws, The Princess Bride, Spirited Away, and The Shining.
  2. I got the daily Wordle puzzle in two guesses, two days in a row.
  3. Cam Macaulay, a student at Syracuse University, released the first act of The Chronicles of Syracuse Men's Lacrosse. This series is obviously indebted in spirit and style to the work of the great Jon Bois (especially The History of the Seattle Mariners), and it sometimes feels like regional Boispolitation, but Macauley's own passion, voice, and choices make this an engrossing piece of work in its own right; there's a bigger focus here on institutional forces and, uh, straight-up historical dominance than in the Bois projects. I can't wait for Act II to drop, and from the looks of it, so does Jon.
  4. On her 40th birthday, New Yorker writer Helen Rosner tweeted out a thread of great advice. A relevant entry for yours truly:
    “You can just write things. An article. A poem. A book. You don't have to wait for someone else to say you should. You can just do it. This is still unbelievable to me.”
  5. I watched the Robert Greene wrestling doc Fake It So Real. It follows a troupe of down-on-their-luck wrestlers in North Carolina during the lead up to a big show. Heartbreaking and invigorating.
  6. I had myself an Alfred Hitchcock triple feature of The 39 Steps (good), The Lady Vanishes (great), and Rope (HOLY SHIT!). Hitch sure knew his way around a thriller.
  7. RIP Sidney Poitier and Peter Bogdanovich. In the Heat of the Night and Paper Moon would be my suggested double feature here.
  8. I got a big box of belated Christmas gifts from my family, including a pair of Doc Martens from my eldest sister. I heard third-hand that people in their 30s dress like the cool teen they wanted to be, and between these boots, the long hair, and the new tattoos, I think that would explain a thing or two.
  9. Speaking of Christmas gifts, I used the Mystic Mondays tarot deck Steph gifted me to draw myself a spread for the new year, courtesy of Yoshi Yoshitani. It's a lot of info to parse, but I'm not super duper thrilled about that Tower card for December.
  10. A poem, from the ever-delightful Wikipedia Haiku:
    Politeness, among
    just a few other things, seems
    to go a long way


Here are ten things.

  1. It was Halloween! Because I am an incorrigible dork, I went as Luke Wilson as Richie Tenenbaum. My pal Emily went as Owen Wilson as Eli Cash. It was uncanny. Bonus: true to her handle, Steph went as the softest bunny.
  2. A bunch of us had a quiet night in of costumes, snacks, and the new Jackbox Party Pack. The standout game for me was Job Job, where players use words in each other's answers to prompts to answer completely different questions. A little Survive the Internet, a little Quiplash.
  3. The new big update for Animal Crossing: New Horizons dropped a day early, sending all the Nookheads I know into a tizzy.
  4. Blaseball is back, baby! This new run of seasons, called Short Circuits, is taking place in a different part of the Blaseball metaverse, so the continuing adventures of Jaylen Hotdogfingers will have to wait. But for now, my beloved Seattle Garages are the best team in the Solid League and have an eight-game lead on their nearest division rival. Damn, now I know this is an alternate universe!
  5. Pen nerd shit: I've been having a fun time writing with these Pilot Razor Points. I'm just a sucker for an ultra-fine felt tip pen.
  6. Indianapolis Colts 45, New York Jets 30. I love gridiron football games that have Arenaball scores, but that's not why I'm including this game as one of the ten things. I'm including it here because 45-30 is scorigami, baby! I still love you, Carson Wentz.
  7. Speaking of football: we turn to the college ranks for the silliest news story of the week, in which the Texas Longhorns special teams coach's exotic dancer girlfriend's emotional support monkey fucking bit a kid on Halloween. Yes, you read that correctly. Alex McDaniel at USA Today has a good write-up of the story so far, and the legends at Shutdown Fullcast dedicated an entire episode to it.
  8. Speaking of podcasts (damn, look at this fool go, two segues in a row): We'll Take This One, a podcast about advice columns that is hosted by some online buddies of mine, has shaken off the cobwebs and dropped a new episode. A passing reference is made to the great Wayne White, which made me remember how dope the documentary Beauty Is Embarrassing is (that's a Short Good Secret Hall of Famer right there).
  9. The new War on Drugs record I Don't Live Here Anymore fucking goes. It is precisely my shit.
  10. A poem, via Matthew Ogle's essential newsletter Pome:

I believe in steep drop-offs, the thunderstorm across the lake in 1949, cold winds, empty swimming pools, the overgrown path to the creek, raw garlic, used tires, taverns, saloons, bars, gallons of red wine, abandoned farmhouses, stunted lilac groves, gravel roads that end, brush piles, thickets, girls who haven’t quite gone totally wild, river eddies, leaky wooden boats, the smell of used engine oil, turbulent rivers, lakes without cottages lost in the woods, the primrose growing out of a cow skull, the thousands of birds I’ve talked to all of my life, the dogs that talked back, the Chihuahuan ravens that follow me on long walks. The rattler escaping the cold hose, the fluttering unknown gods that I nearly see from the left corner of my blind eye, struggling to stay alive in a world that grinds them underfoot. —Jim Harrison, “I Believe”

#lists #tenthings

Here are ten things.

  1. I've been loving the Blank Check miniseries on the films of the great John Carpenter. Their last episode at time of writing was on the Chevy Chase vehicle Memoirs of an Invisible Man. This movie is by most accounts Carpenter's first out-and-out dud, snapping an impressive 11-movie winning streak that lasted from 1974 to 1988. Who else had comparable runs? QT? Miyazaki? Malick? Kurosawa?

  2. This leads to my hot take of the week: if you don't have a run of ten good movies (not even masterpieces, just good movies), you're disqualified from the GOAT conversation. Sorry, Steven Spielberg!

  3. I went on a writing retreat out east with nine other writers and it was fun as hell. Aside from getting some actual work done, the experience reminded me of all the positive parts of dorm life (communal meals, drifting in and out of several coversations, spontaneous group activities). My freind Laura went HAM and made the lot of us a four-course meal on the Saturday. I ate panna cotta for the first time. It was rad.

  4. The collected life wisdom of podcaster extraordinaire Merlin Mann.

  5. The Argo, the oldest independent English-language bookstore in Montréal (and the first place I ever read poetry IRL), has settled into a new home.

  6. The new Elvis Costello & the Imposters single “Magnificent Hurt” fucking whips.

  7. What are the records in your Autumn Album Canon? This thread has some dope answers, but my fall listening habits consist of alternating between Neil Young's Harvest and the Clientele's Strange Geometry.

  8. Goth Derek paid me a visit: I got a wild hair up my ass and painted my nails for the first time in over 15 years. My girlfriend Steph said it best: “It's good to be adorned.” For those playing the home game, this is what I ended up using.

  9. RIP Alan Hawkshaw, an English musician and legendary figure in the world of library music. The great Jon Bois eulogized him in a tweet, and there are tons of sick tunes to check out in the replies.

In an effort to get people to look into each other’s eyes more, and also to appease the mutes, the government has decided to allot each person exactly one hundred and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear without saying hello. In the restaurant I point at chicken noodle soup. I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover, proudly say I only used fifty-nine today. I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond, I know she’s used up all her words, so I slowly whisper I love you thirty-two and a third times. After that, we just sit on the line and listen to each other breathe.
—Jeffrey McDaniel, “The Quiet World”

#lists #tenthings

art by Jason Rainville

Here are ten things.

  1. Like most of the internet, I've been transfixed by the ongoing “Bad Art Friend” saga. Two new wrinkles: a list of corrections Dawn Dorland sent to Gawker regarding their blog posts on this whole kerfuffle and a New Yorker review of the Sonya Larson short story at the heart of the matter.
  2. Even though I consistently go 1-2 and get my ass stomped, Jank City, my Magic playgroup's flagship draft event, is always a blast when it happens. My pal Neil won the day with a dudes-heavy Gruul deck powered by the Mythic Conspiracy card Hymn of the Wilds. We have now banned this card from future play.
  3. I'm always tickled by the stuff Wikipedia Haiku pulls out. A sample:
    It was said the lights
    were clearer on the eve of
    a lunar New Year
  4. What horror movie character are you? My answer: “the guy who gets fucked up by an animal-shaped demon because he wanted to pet it”
  5. Speaking of horror, I watched Gremlins 2: The New Batch for the first time as part of my ongoing spooky season viewing project, and as it turns out, it's a masterpiece. For one brief shining moment, Joe Dante was the American Jacques Tati.
  6. Further viewing: I also watched Alien 3 and thought it was... fine. Admirably downbeat and textured in the way those early Fincher movies are, and not a whole lot else for me to hang my hat on. I talked to my friend Isabelle about it (she's a massive Alien 3 booster), and it was kind of an insight into disagreements about art. Often, it's not so much about misreading or not getting it or whatever, it's differing aesthetic reactions to something both people correctly identified.
  7. Whoever designed the packaging for the Criterion edition of The Celebration deserves a promotion and a raise.
  8. The new black midi record Cavalcade fucking whips ass. Plays like every version of King Crimson at once.
  9. The newest episode of Shutdown Fullcast is a doozy: “What's the dumbest fight you've ever witnessed?”
  10. I'm going to take a page from Laura Olin's playbook and end with a poem I stumbled onto.
    Now we gather worshipful.
    The gears in his legs shine down.
    He lifts his head.
    Here he comes!
    We’re erecting a maypole with green ribbons.
    His legs are four probes.
    And his back is a ship and his eyes are holes in the curtain.
    We’re eating cookies in the shape of him.
    The icing is gold and silver.
    He’s’ shedding gears, here he comes tripping!
    He is casting off the elastic bindings.
    Now we’re hanging giant flags.
    The wind-up key sticks in his side like a blade.
    The wind rocks him on his wheels.
    Here he comes, crawling!
    The bright obvious shines in his body.
    Here comes the electric, the burning mystery!
    —Sarah Manguso, “The Deer Comes Down the Mountain”

#lists #tenthings

Bo Burnham via Netflix

Here are ten things.

  1. Like most of the world, I watched Bo Burnham's latest special Inside on Netflix. It appears to be pretty divisive in my circles, but I quite enjoyed it as a collection of skits and songs about the performances we all put on, for everyone and no one, on the Internet.

  2. Blaseball is back from an extended Siesta and my beloved Seattle Garages are as dogshit as ever. We're in a strong position to win the Underbracket, but I have mixed feeling about that.

  3. Auckland-via-Detroit filmmaker/festival programmer Doug Dillaman challenged people to program a film festival to “replace” the postponed New Zealand International Film Festival using a specific set of rules. Here's my crack at it.

  4. Reporter Lee Sanderlin finished dead last in his fantasy football league, and as punishment, had to eat his way out of a 24-hour stay at Waffle House. This is his saga.

  5. Quinton Reviews goes waaaaay long on two artifacts of millennial junk culture, Fred and iCarly. The only conclusion I can draw after watching 8.5 hours of this is that this is media criticism as a form of self-flagellation. #FREDPILLED

  6. On the most recent episode of The Big Picture, co-host Sean Fennessey spoke with filmmaker Alex Ross Perry about home video distribution, how canons get built, and movies that fall into the cracks of history.

  7. I filled a big gap in my personal filmography by finally sitting down and watching Singin' in the Rain. I was winded just watching this movie. Here's Donald O'Connor doing “Make 'em Laugh,” and keep in mind, this dude smoked four packs a day and was hospitalized after this because he simply went in too hard.

  8. I revistied Brian Eno's Another Green World, which is a great piece of work. I love it when Robert Fripp's distinctive guitar shows up anywhere.

  9. A compendium of design objects used in Star Trek and who made them, via Jason Kottke, because everything online worth seeing passes through Kottke.

  10. I wrote a poem about bathroom smells, but not the ones you're thinking of. It's called “Sense of Smell, Sense of Time.”

#lists #tenthings