Monday, October 11, 2021
Thursday, October 07, 2021
For our wedding anniversary, Cathy bought me a new release from The Tragically Hip. It’s a six track CD mastered from sessions during the recording of Road Apples in 1991. The tapes were only rediscovered within the last couple of years, as this long form review and interview chronicles.
I realise this release probably isn’t of interest to most people, but I never I thought I would hear new songs from my favourite band ever again!
Even though The Hip are my favourite band, I wasn’t expecting much from the CD. These are songs that didn’t make it onto the album, gleaned from thirty year-old recordings. ‘Lost songs’ are generally lost for a reason. However, I was pleasantly surprised at their quality. They’ve been touched up a bit by the band while working on the project. The key component from those original sessions would be the irreplaceable voice of the late Gord Downie, the lead singer who sadly passed away four years ago. Fortunately, Gord's voice was captured well on the tapes.
Musically, the songs definitely belong to the early part of the Hip’s career. They fill a gap in the timeline between the bluesy tracks on Up to Here and the more expansive songs on Road Apples. I would be interested to hear songs from the recording sessions for Fully Completely, the next album in the Hip’s discography, when their music went heavier on the basslines. Road Apples was a transitional album itself, but the band’s sound moved on considerably in the short space of time between the release of Road Apples and the recording and release of Fully Completely.
Who knows, maybe another box of tapes will turn up?
As a fan and completist, I was always going to want this album. I’m just really glad that it was better than my limited expectations.
Wednesday, October 06, 2021
This post contains mild spoilers
In Free Guy (newly released on Disney Plus), comedy genius heartthrob Ryan Reynolds plays Guy, resident of ‘Free City’, whose happy life is interrupted repeatedly by people punching him in the face, robbing the bank where he works, flying attack helicopters through the streets and so on. Guy just thinks this is normal and cheerily carries on with his life – saying hello to his goldfish when he wakes up every day, ordering his regular coffee with cream and two sugars, meeting his best friend who works as the security guard at the bank, and just shrugging off the mayhem around him.
Eventually Guy works out that he is actually a ‘NPC’ (non-playable character) in a video game. His life, which feels real to him, is entirely generated within the servers of a computer game company. This becomes more awkward when he falls in love with a player’s character who knows he is a NPC but also seems to be falling in love back with him. Guy has been programmed to love the character or has he? Falling in “love”, it transpires, breaks his programmed algorithms and sets him off on new courses of exploration and discovery.
That in itself is a lovely concept and one that could provide a useful metaphor for platform speakers the world over.
On the face of it Free Guy is a bit of a mash up of a few other film concepts. Cathy kept saying how much it reminded her of The Truman Show. The idea that computer game characters might have their own lives within the game was also explored in Wreck It Ralph. As someone with a lay interest in artificial intelligence, the concept of an AI algorithm reaching self-aware consciousness is fascinating to me.
But the bit that really moved me was about two thirds the way through the movie, when Guy is talking to his buddy, the security guard literally called Buddy, played incredibly well by Lil Rel Howery. Through wearing game player spectacles, Guy has the capacity to see the world as gamers see it – picking up medpacks, ammo, and so on. Buddy doesn’t want to see the world as Guy sees it and refuses to put the spectacles on, but they remain friends.
When Guy is told that the world is about to end – because the villainous software developer who created ‘Free City’ wants to capitalise on its success by replacing it with ‘Free City 2’ – he asks Buddy why Buddy doesn’t want to know the truth about their world. Buddy’s reply perfectly encapsulated the power of living in the moment. He says something like ‘Maybe all this is just a game. But right now, I’m sitting here with my best friend who needs me. And is there anything more real than that?’
That really jolted me as a moment of truth in an otherwise fairly silly film. We have those moments when, yes, everything seems crazy and our worlds are rocked. But we still can connect. We can still hold those moments as real – the feelings we feel right then are actually the important things.
I really loved that brief scene. It elevated Free Guy from a decent way to pass the time to actually a movie with something to say.
We have the moment and in that moment, that can be enough. Because it is real.
Tuesday, October 05, 2021
Well that month seemed to pass really quickly. Maybe it was because I got to get out and about a bit with work, including a trip to Carmarthen despite the fuel panic at the end of the month.
From a footballing point of view, it was a much quieter month for me. Just four games, the biggest being a trip to Sheffield to see Shrewsbury play at Hillsborough against Sheffield Wednesday.
Shrewsbury managed to earn a very credible point, helped by Wednesday missing a penalty and a host of other chances.
It was a couple of days after my nephew Zac's 8th birthday and he came with me and my brother on the trip. His verdict on the day out was "We went to the pub for lunch and now Maccy's for tea. This is the best day of my life!"
"And the football," I said.
"Oh, yeah..." was the reply. Ah well. I understand. Having chips for two meals in a day is pretty special.
In other sports news, the San Diego Padres fell completely out of contention for any honours as their form went into a death spiral. Lots of things have gone wrong this year but their chief problem has been hubris. I have consoled myself with my baseball card collecting project - two big parcels of cards arrived this month and took my collection to over 1,000 cards featuring Tony Gwynn.
And of course there was a welcome return to playing Blood Bowl!
At the end of the month, Cathy and I had our 23rd wedding anniversary. It feels strange to think that we have now been married for more than half our lives (we were both 22 when we got married!), AND that we are only a couple of years off our Silver Wedding Anniversary. That just doesn't feel right. Silver Weddings are what old people have!
One of the presents Cathy got me will be the subject of its own blog post soon!