The GardenDespatches from The Satyrs’ Forest

Diplodocus is the best dinosaur

Image macro reading "When you grow uup people stop asking you what your favourite dinosaur is. They don't even care"

Well, i care about what my favourite dinosaur is, and it’s Diplodocus, that lumbering old fool. Allow me to be possessed by the spirit of my nine-year-old self for a little bit.

Reason number one why the diplodocus is the best dinosaur is because it is called a diplodocus. This is a very fun name to say and does not strike the same terror into the hearts of men as, say, 🤘🤘🤘 Ty­ran­no­sau­rus Rex!!! 🤘🤘🤘 or 🔥🔥🔥 Ve­lo­ci­rap­tor!!! 🔥🔥🔥. I like to think this is because they are, themselves, gentle creatures, being peaceable herbivores and all that. (My favourite dinosaur could beat up your favourite dinosaur, but chooses not to because it is a conscientious objector. I’m sure this taunt would have gone down great on the playground.)

Diplodocus skeleton captioned "REALLY QUITE LONG"
Original photo by Heather Cowper

Another reason diplodoci are great is how long they are, getting up to thirty metres from tip of the snout to top of the tail. Part of me thinks it would be fun to be that long, but the other part likes being able to turn around corners. There’s other dinosaurs that we think were longer, but most of them don’t have a complete skeleton to back them up, which is a skill issue if i’ve ever heard one. If my species was about to be wiped out i would simply do the smart thing and die in an area that would preserve my fossil better. Suck it, Ma­raa­pu­ni­saurus.

That long neck isn’t just for show, either. This is the kind of thing that causes massive arguments among pa­læ­on­to­log­ists, but a study in the Journal of Vertebrate Pa­læ­on­to­logy (yes i’m backing up my dinosaur preferences with a source) suggests that, because their centre of mass would lie so close to their hip socket, they could assume a bipedal stance without much effort, lifting them high up into the canopy into the land of only the most gourmet leaves. Then, when a foodie diplodocus was done with its land-based course, it could dip its neck into the riverbank and feast on some fine vegan seafood.

One last thing. After Pangæa broke up, the land where the diplodoci reigned shifted and drifted until its reached its present place, in the American southwest. The implication is clear:

A diplodocus sporting a poorly drawn cowboy hat
Original drawing by Dmitry Bogdanov

Diplodoci are cowboys.

One hundred questions

Alright, why not? These questions are adapted from Cidoku and ergo Burypink. I have told the truth everywhere except where i have lied.

1. Time and date you started this?

2024, July the sixteenth. Twenty-two hours, seven minutes, two seconds.

2. ASL?

Early twenties/It’s complicated/It’s complicated.

3. Opinions on musicals?

Never been a theatre person, but Little Shop of Horrors is a favourite film of mine. 🎵 Son, be a dentist! People will pay you to be inhumane… 🎵

4. Favorite snack?

Squashies.

5. Have you ever been in love?

Not yet.

6. Favourite Pokémon?

Eevee — my favourite evolution of which is Sylveon, obviously.

7. Mario Kart main?

Donkey Kong. Monke always wins.

8. Team Fortress 2 main?

Don’t play it.

9. Do you laugh at Youtube Poops?

Well, obviously. That shit’s hilarious.

10. Are you listening to music right now?

Almost always — currently “Starlings”, the opening from Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid. I’ll always have a soft spot for them; they’re my mum’s favourite band, so they’re tied in with a lot of emotional moments growing up.

11. Favourite shape?

A trefoil knot:

A knot with three points

12. Do you believe in astrology?

I find the pop-culture “OMG, that’s such a Gemini thing to do” thing lacking as much in novelty as it is in substance, but i do, at the very least, think there are auspicious and inauspicious days. No further comment, since it’s not a particular focus of mine.

13. Do you believe in the occult?

Are you aware of what website this is? ;-)

14. Opinions on vocaloid?

Not my thing, but i can respect the art of forcing computers to make human noises.

15. Would you ever want to be a rock star?

It seems at once liberating and terrifying — a great big audience for your work and to provoke as you wish, but also…

16. Do you easily get stressed?

Welcome to Fluoxetine: The Blog.

17. What is/was your favorite class in high school?

Further Maths, baby! I’ve gussied this place up but in my heart of hearts i am the biggest stemlord in history. Mathematics, i think, is the highest beauty among the sciences; none of the tangled messes of diagrams of biology or headaches of physics, just three axioms and the truth.

18. What pokemon type would you be? Dual types are allowed, LOL

Water/Fairy.

19. Rei or Asuka?

Who are you and how did you get into my house?

20. Favorite HTML tag?

<details>.

21. Are you religious?

Pagan, albeit not very good at it.

22. Opinions on nightcore?

I instinctively want to be dismissive, but i’m not going to pretend that i don’t regularly load up songs into Audacity and slow them down for the vibe…

23. Did you go through any major phase? (emo, goth, weeaboo, &c.)

Not really — i had a very cheugy adolescence.

24. Are you good at drawing?

No, but i like to think i’m better than i was a month ago.

25. Do you crack your joints?

No.

26. Do you read visual novels?

No.

27. Can you sew?

No, but now you mention it, that is something to add to the “maybe some time” pile…

28. Can you cook?

I make a mean honey and pork stir fry.

29. Most expensive thing you’ve bought?

My new computer tots up to just over a thousand pounds in total and it’s been worth every penny.

30. Opinions on cosplay?

Seems fun, although not my thing.

31. What's your most hated band/musician?

I don’t have it in me to ha…… Maroon 5.

32. Are you a dramatic person?

Cripes, who has the energy for that?

33. What emoticon do you use most?

A winky ;-) face in ascii, a thinky 🤔️ face in emoji.

34. Can a miracle certainly occur?

I don’t understand the question.

35. Would you let a vampire suck your blood?

Nah. The vampire life sounds like it sucks. Now, would i let a werewolf bite me, on the other hand…

36. Do you have a celebrity crush?

Dev Patel, full name Sexiest Man Alive Dev Patel, is the sexiest man alive (Dev Patel).

37. Do you like snow?

Yes, rare as it comes these days… every year winter turns more and more into all the drawbacks without the benefits.

38. Were you really into Greek mythology as a kid?

You get three guesses.

39. What are some things you could competently deliver a speech on?

Esperanto. My mildly schizophrenic interpretation of Synecdoche, New York. The finer places on the internet.

40. Are you good at spelling?

I like to think so! English orthography is one of the tongue’s great beauties; every word hides its origins within itself.

41. which touhou wud u fuk?

It’s time to log off.

42. Do you think there's going to be a robot takeover?

Nah. The singularity is overhyped, in my view — just because robots think faster than us doesn’t mean they’re smarter.

43. Has science gone too far??!?!??!?!

Not far enough. Nowhere near far enough.

44. Would you be an angel or devil?

Devil, because then you get cute little hooves and horns. (I am eternally about two bad bonks on the head from unironically calling myself satyrkin.)

45. Sine, cosine, or tangent?

Tangent.

46. Do you like licorice?

It freaks my English friends out, but absolutely!

47. What’s thing you cant stand that everyone else loves?

Star Wars, also known as The Adventures of Luke Cardboardeater and His Annoying Friends, is complete and utter tripe and i will never understand the obsession. Every character is either boring or awful, every film is just ninety minutes of Harrison Ford running around rickety sets, the score is caterwauling overemotive tripe, and the whole franchise is so utterly uninterested in the star part of the name that it makes me wonder why they even bothered setting it in space.

48. What books did you like as a kid?

A deep cut here, but there’s this series of Dutch kids’ books called Dolfje Weerwolfje about a little kid who gets turned into a werewolf, and i suspect it may have turned me into a furry.

49. Can you play any instruments?

Alas, not yet.

50. What song would you want to play at your wedding?

“One Day Like This”, by Elbow, although that choice may just be because it’s playing right now as i write.

51. Do you believe in reincarnation?

It’s the only option that makes sense. An eternity in heaven is stupefying, and blinking out of existence terrifying; the only thing i can be certain of in life is that there is something experiencing the state of being me, and that something will keep experiencing being me after i’m gone — probably being shunted into the body of the next birth in the queue.

52. Finish the sentence: I’m just a guy who ______

poasts on the internet

53. Have you been to another continent?

No, but it’s arguable! I went to the Anatolian side of Turkey, which most would think of Asia, but i personally include most of the country (as well as the Caucasus) in Europe.

54. What’s your worst habit?

Well i’m not going to tell you, am i‽

55. Favourite vegetable?

Carrots.

56. What’s something stupid that scared the shit outta you as a kid?

When i was five i accidentally locked myself in the toilet at the Holle Bolle Boom. This is Deep Xanthe Lore.

57. What’s one of your guilty pleasures?

Middling immature pop punk. Every part of me knows it’s not good, but come on…

58. Would you rather be a ghost or a vampire?

A vampire, since in that case i can at least interact with the world twelve hours a day instead of zero.

59. What do you fear most?

Dementia. Generally, my policy is that i would like to live as long as possible, but if i ever succumb to that, my family has my full permission to shoot me there and then. I refuse to go through it, losing my sense of self bit by agonising, confusing, terrifying bit.

60. Do you sleep with any plushies?

I don’t sleep with them, but i do keep two plush otters as companions.

61. What hobby do you just not understand?

There’s a subreddit for enthusiasts of electric torches and i just… guys… it’s a torch. They’re all torches. They all do the exact same thing. What are we doing here?

62. Do you like the taste of alcohol?

It’s an acquired taste1, but i find the fruitier, the better. I love a good liqueur or framboise.

63. Are you a hopeless romantic?

In the artistic sense, at least, i think romanticism was where the fine arts peaked. We had finally shed the awkward masses of flesh of the baroque times, but not yet gone down the slippery slope of abstraction that the modern era would lead us to.

64. Which deadly sin best fits you?

Gluttony.

65. Which of your physical features do you like the most?

I have lovely long blonde hair that refracts into golds and browns in the sunlight.

66. Are your ears pierced?

Not yet.

67. Have you ever been in a physical fight?

Thankfully not!

68. Where do you buy your clothes?

Are you an ad tracking script or something?

69. Where would you live if you could live anywhere?

Hold on, let me get the quote out…

A large, secluded home, out in the countryside, but not so far out that it becomes a pain to visit the big city. Probably England, rather than the Netherlands, if only for the sheer diversity of scenery.

70. Do you believe in magic? Or is it all a trick?

Magick is real, and without the somewhat provocative terminology for what is, ultimately, prayer with attitude, i think this statement would be uncontroversial among most religious people.

71. Have you read Umineko When They Cry? You should!

No, and you can’t make me, because you’re a line of text in a blog post.

72. What is the worst chore to do?

It’s nowhere near the hardest or even most inconvenient, but there’s something distinctly humiliating about the ritual of walking your dishes down to their automatic dish-washing throne. We’ve automated the washing part away, but here i still am, taking time out of my life to stick a dirty plate in between other dirty plates, trying not to get any residue on me.

73. What did your parents almost name you?

I’ve thankfully been told alternate choices for both sexes, so this isn’t going to get me to reveal what’s in my pants — i could have ended up a Fred or an Amélie.

74. What would you want your name to be if you were not your current gender?

Xanthe Tynehorne, seeing as it’s not my real name.2

75. What were your first words?

“Lion”. Or “jaja”, i guess. It all evens out.

76. What do you want your last words to be?

Ideally i wouldn’t have any, but if i am going to die, then i can hardly go out on anything other than “Do not go gentle into that good night”.

77. When did you first regularly start going online?

I literally don’t remember! The internet has ruined my soul.

78. What year do you miss the most?

2012 was the peak of human civilisation. Maybe it’s just because i was a dumb kid, but man — they had smartphones, but they hadn’t yet completely taken over; social media still seemed like a fun place to be rather than an endless bath of vitriol, and, of course, “Call Me Maybe” came out.

79. Are you psychic?

I predict the answer is “no”.

80. Would you fuck a clone of yourself? You’re not allowed to kill yourself.

Yes, obviously! I’m bisexual, so it’s not like i have any reason not to. I am a bit worried about what happens to the clone afterwards, though… do they just go off into the woods, never to be seen again?

81. What do you use to listen to music?

Back when i used Windows i was a big fan of MusicBee… now, much as it pains me to say, i stick to streaming and sometimes BBC Sounds. I’ve had a hand-coded music player on the back-burner for a while now, but there’s so many fiddly ruddy edge cases to deal with, and nothing ever imports formatted as nicely as i want it to!

82. Whats the biggest city you’ve been to?

London.

83. Favourite animal?

Otters!!!!!!

Three otters resting on a log

84. What web browser do you use?

Firefox — i’ve found it Just Works™.

85. Are you allergic to kitty cats???????????

No. My family used to foster them, actually!

86. Do you like energy drinks?

No.

87. Would you ever spend money on TF2 unusuals/CS:GO skins/gacha pulls/&c.

No, because i may be a shmuck, but i’m not a complete shmuck.

88. When do you usually go to bed?

Too late for comfort.

89. How often do you wash your hair?

Once a day, in the shower.

90. Would you download a car?

Me? Download a car? I would never… [looks nervously at my computer’s three-hundred-gigabyte film folder]

91. What was your favorite show as a kid?

I cannot stress enough how much Phineas and Ferb was the absolute shit.

92. What’s the silliest hat you own?

I… my word, i don’t know.

93. What album/song do you listen to when you’re feeling angsty?

“Me”, by The 1975. “Oh, i was thinking ’bout killing myself; don’t you mind…”

94. Do you make OCs?

Do fursonæ count?

95. What’s the goofiest thing you do when completely alone?

Make random mouth noises to myself.

96. Do you like fireworks?

When i was six i slept through the new years’ fireworks and got so sad/angry i demanded my mama and papa call everyone in Hoorn and make them do it again.

97. Favourite painter?

Maxfield Parrish has such a command of light and colour. I’m always blown away when i see his work.

98. Favourite numbers?

One-hundred-and-thirty-seven. I think one, three, and seven are all particularly special — one is, well, one; three has been associated with so much for so long that it’s a waste to sum it up, and seven is particularly interesting to me because six is the highest number of things we can instinctively see without counting. It’s the first number we have to properly think about to understand — the first number that leaps out of the domain of nature and into that of humans! So the fact that, when you put them next to each other, they wind up the inexplicable reciprocal of a fundamental physical constant is incredible.

99. What genre of vidya gaems are you really good at? (FPS, fightan, danmaku, racing, whatever)

I don’t know if i can give an answer, because if there’s a pattern in my favourite games, it’s that they’re ones where you don’t have to be good at them. I just love a good wide open sandbox to muck about in.

100. time and date you finished this?

2024, July the sixteenth. Twenty-three hours, fifteen minutes, fifty seconds.

Stuff i watched recently, Junely edition

A montage of the undermentioned films

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Hyped up to me as one of the best horror films in history, i’m convinced it’s actually an incredible comedy. There is so much Gremlins energy oozing out of this whole film; every scene, you can just imagine George Romero sitting back and going “…can i, like, put that in a movie?” and then putting that in a movie. A zombie gets pied in the face. 8/10.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road is not the greatest film ever made, but it feels like the greatest film ever made while you’re watching it. I’ve never seen a film edited like this: a two-hour-long sugar rush where every shot is overcranked till it breaks and nothing ever stops moving. 9/10, with one point added solely because of the guy in the post-apocalyptic convoy whose job it is to play the guitar.

La La Land (2016)

It’s fine. Ryan Gosling’s great as always, but something about this failed to grab me in the way it clearly has so many other people. 5/10.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Stepdad’s pick, in honour of Donald Sutherland’s death. Great stuff, with a fascinating eerie soundscape, creepily good practical effects, and, hang on, is that Jeff Goldblum? 7/10.

Doctor Who: “The Legend of Ruby Sunday”/“Empire of Death” (2024)

Well, that sure was a Russell T. Davies Doctor Who finale, wasn’t it? Part one’s always great, and then, as always, he can’t write an ending for the life of him.

Now the season’s over, it’s clear that it needed more room to breathe. Eight episodes of forty minutes just isn’t enough for a show to do both monster-of-the-week and a longer arc; with two episodes taken up by the finale, two Doctor-lite episodes, and one where she’s unconscious for half of it, we’ve barely gotten to know the relationship between Ruby and the Doctor, which is a shame, because what we do get is brilliant! They play off each other so well, and i wish we could have seen more of them together.

The Bikeriders (2024)

Seen on a whim. A nice little drama about a motorbike club, starring Elvis and Jodie Comer, who’s doing a… fascinating… Midwestern-type accent. 6/10.

Roadgames (1980)

“It’s like Rear Window, but on a lorry.” This scrappy Australian flick delivers just what it says on the tin, with an early turn by Jamie Lee Curtis as a hitchhiker who gets picked up in the second half. 6/10.

🎵️ Brat (2024)

I’m out of touch with music these days, but listening to Charli XCX’s pulse-pounding new hyperpop record, i can’t help but think this is what pop music must sound like in the next universe over. I was sleep-deprived after staying up for election night and that definitely helped the vibe… 8/10.

Ushaw Hall

An ostentatiously-decorated main chapel, with intricate carved wooden benches and walls, painted ceilings, and stained glass windows

Ushaw Hall’s website plays coy about itself. You can learn that guide dogs are welcome, they’ll be exhibiting interactive “Humanimal” sculptures next month, and that they're very proud of the pun “Ushaw in”, but curiously little about what the place actually is (or was). I went anyway.

To spoil the fun, it’s an old Roman Catholic seminary that was turned into a museum when people stopped being religious enough to care. The entrance makes that well clear; walking up from the car park, the curious visitor is flanked by an ostentatious neo-Gothic chapel on their left and modernist student housing on their right. (The latter remains unmuseumified, too boring to make much out of.)

A dimly-lit photo of church corridors with vaulted arches, the plain white walls lined with pictures on one side and dresses on the other. A brass statue of a saint sits in a niche off to the right, and the floor is decorated with a checkerboard of worn white and red tiles.

Right from reception there’s an interesting historical tidbit with a bust of Abraham Lincoln himself, who a helpful volunteer told me once attended Ushaw before he decided a more secular political career was right for him. (It was that or boxing, i suppose.) Upstairs is the Presidents’ Hall, whither the stairway looked off-limits enough not to chance it — so never mind that, and let’s instead turn right.1 This takes us down a series of winding hallways with wibbly tiled floor — as of now, an exhibition has lined them with wedding dresses old and new, including replicas of those worn by the royal family, creepy mannequin heads and all.2 More importantly and more permanently, these are the chapels of Ushaw Hall.

A smaller chapel, every inch decorated with tiny details
I neglected to take pictures in this part, so this one’s © Ushaw themselves.

They are beautiful, and have seen better days. The paint peels from a dimly-lit mural in a nook i presume is for choirists. In others, light dances in vibrant oranges and blues through expository stained glass. The brightest of them all, seen here to the right, invites its visitors to pray for Ukraine in a solemn reminder of the times.

These smaller shrines have an intimacy to them that reflects the house’s hush-hush history. First exiled from England, the Catholics settled in the small town of Douai, in the north of France — only to be forced out again by the secular fervour of the French Revolution. Even then, they struggled to find welcome in a staunchly Protestant Georgian England, until a sympathetic aristocrat sold them land in Durham’s secluded hills. The hall itself was built with the façade of an unseeming terrace, only showing its religious nature to those within.

An elaborate tabernacle

Onwards, then, into the star of the show — the main chapel. Pews upon pews span the long gap between the entrance and the colossal tabernacle, behind which the walls are adorned with what first looks like simple ornament but reveals itself to be tightly-packed black-lettered Latin. You can tell it’s Catholic by the eagle in the middle, the Vatican having never quite given up its attachment to its Roman roots.


…Upstairs is the Presidents’ Hall, whither the stairway looked off-limits enough not to chance it — so never mind that, and let’s instead turn left. Winding at right angles around the central court we first arrive at the library, or what little you can access of it. Management and the university are promising big things… eventually… once they restore everything… and catalogue it… and… oh, sod this, let’s go to the café.

[One hot chocolate later…]

A wee bookshop with dark wooden shelves and religious posters
This is a wholly unrelated bookstore found elsewhere on church grounds. Behind the camera is a fireplace. Yes, i am kicking myself for not photographing that instead.

As we were. Further along we find find the mess hall, where aspiring clergy once ate in silence, with only the wet sopping of a hundred English breakfasts reverberating back and forth across the walls. These days it’s used for noisier conferences and school trips, fitted with identikit metal and plastic tables and seats which don’t do much to complement the nineteenth-century décor.

Some time later, past the temporary exhibition of inkjet printouts of old maps3, our trip comes full circle. As i walk home through the well-kempt garden and around the reedy old pond, i might not have been convinced by the seminary’s faith, but i have been convinced of their taste in interior decoration.

Information for visitors

  • Admission: £10 per adult, £6 per child, free for under-fives
  • Address: Ushaw Historic House, Chapels & Gardens; Ushaw Moor; Durham DH7 9RH
  • Accessibility: An accessible entrance is available, and the gardens have paths suitable for wheelchairs.
  • Arriving there: Accessible by car along the A167, and the 52 bus also intermittently stops.

The fall of Ithaca

A short website status update, since my ongoing writer’s block on a relatively simple interesting-place-visit post wasn’t enough for the universe: Ithaca12, the beat-up old laptop on which this fine website is hosted, is poorly, and has a noticeable bulge coming up around the battery. Everything is backed up and i’m looking into a new, dedicated server machine, but if the site goes down all of a sudden, you’ll know why.

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.