Misc

Writing Wround-up: March/April/May

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but as the impending wedding and honeymoon means all non-speech writing is basically going on hiatus for a few weeks, it seemed like a good time to share some of my favourite pieces from the last few months.

Tim’s Person of the Year 2015

Tim Maytom’s Person of the Year is a venerable institution around these parts, dating all the way back to 2010. Every year since, Tim has come to me, and the following dialogue has ensued: “Alex, can’t I make you my Person of the Year this year? Please?” “No, Tim, that would look too self-congratulatory.” “But you’re my hero, Alex.” “I know, but…” And then Tim has to go and find a different name to add to our own personal Hall of Fame. In previous years, we’ve inaugurated Donald Glover, Amy Poehler, Pete Holmes, Matt Fraction & Kelly Sue DeConnick and most recently Taylor Swift. Most of the time, Tim isn’t wrong. Will this be the year he finally slips up? 

Alex’s Adventures in Internetland, April-June 2015

The past month or two, the blog’s been a little quiet because I’ve been busy writing things for other publications (apparently there are other sites out there on the internet – I know, I know, it came as a surprise to me too).  Anyway, just in case you’re craving a fix of my wordy nonsense, I thought I’d do a quick run-down of the best bits. Which is this. The blog that you’re reading now. No, a bit further down the page… Daredevil’s Corridor Fight: A Breakdown of the Smackdown You’ve watched the Daredevil series on Netflix, right? Then you’ll no doubt have fond memories of the second episode’s corridor fight scene, for my money one of the greatest action sequences in TV history. For ComicsAlliance, I picked apart why the scene is so damn effective, and what it nicks from the comics: The increasingly weary movements of Cox and Chris Brewster, his stunt double, build on the foundations of the character the show has been establishing over the past two hours. Daredevil starts out moving like a superhero, quick and acrobatic, but the fight gets slower and slower as it grinds on. He leans on nearby walls for support, catches his breath while he waits for the next bad guy to rush him. It’s not a fighting style I’ve ever seen in an action movie. Cox fights with the moves of a backstreet brawler or, even more aptly, like he’s in the final round of a boxing match. Read all about it here. Every Superhero Needs Their Theme Music In May, bearded blog-comrade Robin Harman curated Cover Versions, an exhibition of music-themed comics art (which I covered for ComicsAlliance here).  For the Cover Versions blog, I interviewed Kieron Gillen – a man whose works I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks writing about (see below)  – about the playlists he creates to accompany his comics, how they help the writing process, and the true meaning of Justice vs Simian’s We Are Your Friends: “It has this weird element of, ‘you’re never going to escape us’. It actually sounds like a curse. Originally when I conceived Dionysus, the only thing I said was he wasn’t sleeping. The twist that, ‘oh yeah, he’s in a hive mind, he can’t be alone in his head, he’s never going to be alone again’ – the awfulness buried in that Justice record made me realise that about him. It had been on the playlist for a while, so I must have subconsciously known what the song was really saying.” Read the full interview here. Sci-fi & Fantasy Football: The Cookie Cup The last few months, I’ve been part of a weird little game called the Cookie Cup, combining Facebook, spreadsheets and FIFA 2000 to create a fantasy football league which pits teams of fictional characters against one another. I wrote about it for Rock Paper Shotgun, and what it taught me about my relationship with sport: In the back room of a pub in Norwich, a small group of people are excitedly shouting things like: “Buffy Summers! 390 points!” “Virgil!” “The one from Devil May Cry?” “No, from Dante’s Inferno!” “210 points!” This is Draft Day at the Cookie Cup, a fantasy football league with an emphasis on the fantasy. Read the rest here. Why The Wicked + The Divine is Worth Losing Your Head Over Oh look, it’s that Gillen bloke again. His and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine is my favourite comic of the moment – or at least, the one I’m most wrapped up in – so with its lateststory arc just wrapping up, I reviewed the second volume for ComicsAlliance. I can’t take credit for that excellently cruel headline. That was the work of CA editor Andrew Wheeler, so please direct any hate-mail his way. It’s probably not a coincidence that the front cover for the upcoming trade collection of Fandemonium is illustrated with an all-access pass – that’s exactly what we get in these issues, with gods who are much too willing to open up to Laura, often revealing that they used to be fans too. Inanna is a sexy M.F. now, but before ascending to godhood, he was a quiet enthusiast lurking at the back of convention halls. Superstar DJ Dionysus was part of the crowd at an earlier Morrigan gig. We even see resident skeptic Cassandra jump the fence from critic to creator, with her transformation into Urðr. Read! Read! Read! There! Those were the things! Congrats, you found ’em! …A prize, you say? Oh, it’s one of those ‘success is its own reward’ deals I’m afraid. Sozzz.

Alex-Spencer.co.uk is 300!

Just noticed that my published posts counter has ticked past 300. Six years after I started the blog, and almost exactly five years after I bought the Alex-Spencer.co.uk URL, it seemed like a good time to quickly celebrate the accumulated weeks of my life I’ve poured into it, and give a quick primer to everything half-decent I’ve written here. Diving back through the site’s archives, there are plenty of posts I daren’t even open. Some because I know they contain badly thought-out arguments that would make 2014 Me wince. Some, even more terrifyingly, that I remember being really pleased with and don’t want to be proven wrong. The earliest post I’m happy to point you towards is ‘The Scariest Game I Have Ever Played‘, from March ’09 (nearly a full year after I started the site). It’s me trying on New Games Journalism for size, with a tale from my time playing Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, and tapping a theme that’s key to pretty much every successful article on videogames that I’ve written since: death. Other commonly recurring motifs:  Cartoonish PC roguelike Spelunky. The piece I’m fondest of is the Oral History, which I think is about the neatest bit of how-this-works exposition I’ve ever written. Los Campesinos!, probably my single favourite band over the period this blog has existed. The best thing I’ve written about them, or at least the most involved, wasn’t actually for here. It was the closing post on the side-Tumblr I maintained during my six months of post-uni unemployment. It’s an almost listen-by-listen untangling of my feelings towards their fourth album, Hello Sadness. If that doesn’t sound awful to you, it’s probably worth checking out. The output of animation studio Pixar, which made a remarkable five appearances on my Top 50 Favourite Films list. Up is a perfect film, by my reckoning, and was the backbone for the first piece of freelance work I ever did, a piece on Disney, death and videogames for The Escapist. Spotify, which has fascinated me since I first used it as a Kate Bush listening machine back in ’09 and now dominates the way I listen to music. Long-running high-concept features. Whether it’s 30 Days of Music (which kicked off my years-long bromance with longtime blogging comrade and now 9-to-5 colleague Tim Maytom), the aforementioned Favourite Films on Friday (which, for all its flaws, was partly responsible for getting me the 9-to-5 job that allowed me to employ Tim), Project 52 (the biggest collaborative project I’ve ever attempted, with Tim, Bret Canny and Michael Eckett joining me in an effort to review every single first issue in DC’s New 52 relaunch), I’ve always been a sucker for a snappy premise that hands me a structure and a deadline. Let’s wrap up with a few assorted pieces I’m really proud of and that I think make a nice primer to my writing.  A surprisingly classy listicle on croquet, the only sport I’ve ever really fallen in love with. A comparison of Dishonored‘s Dunwall and IRL’s London.  A huge three-part essay on control in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, which made me realise just how much I love it. A comparison of Kitty Pryde’s Okay Cupid and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, which Reece ‘Shimmer-Man’ Lipman recently said convinced him that he was wrong about Call Me Maybe and probably turned his life around or something. My best-of-2011 raves about The Weeknd’s House of Balloons and the first volume of Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery. A piece on Indelicates track Flesh, from the time I was working out what kind of feminist I was. An ode to controller settings, written as part of a Valentine’s Day series of articles on Halo Reach, probably the single best installment in my beloved shooter franchise. And finally, ‘Keeping the Peace in Los Santos’, a feature about trying to play as a pacifist in GTA V that started life as a rejected pitch I once wrote after two bottles of wine. There’s a really nice symmetry between it and the Viva Piñata post we began with. It’s my game writing at its most anecdotal, leaning heavy on the fiction writing style I don’t exercise much anymore – and, obviously, it’s about death. Thank you for reading. See you in another 300 posts’ time.

Favourite Films on Friday – The Full List

You, dear readers, met me at a very strange time in my life. I’m heading into 2012 as a more-or-less grownup, with a proper journalism job, a home, and a joint bank-account; but 2011 has been a rather messy year. The one constant has been waking up every Friday and panicking about having not written the week’s entry yet. I’m going to miss it, but given the number of nights I’ve stayed up until the very death in front of a keyboard, I suspect Imogen “Flatmate” Dale won’t. But to see the year out, here is every single one of my favourite films – click the title or image to (hopefully) go straight to the relevant entry. Go chronologically, or just pick the ones you like, whatever. I mean, it’s your life. #50 – The Wrestler #49 – Airplane! #48 – Where the Wild Things Are #47 – The Thing #46 – Zodiac #45 – Anchorman #44 – 24 Hour Party People #43 – Wristcutters: A Love Story #42 – Memento #41 – Spirited Away #40 – The Iron Giant #39 – Kiss Kiss Bang Bang #38 – Leon #37 – Juno #36 – Battle Royale #35 – Austin Powers – International Man of Mystery #34 – Brazil #33 – Army of Darkness #32 – Wall.E #31 – From Dusk Till Dawn #30 – Star Wars – Return of the Jedi #29 – Brick #28 – Ratatouille #27 – Terminator 2 – Judgment Day #26 – The Graduate #25 – Kill Bill #24 – American Psycho #23 – Serenity #22 – Blue Velvet #21 – Raiders of the Lost Ark #20 – Reservoir Dogs #19 – Let The Right One In #18 – Evil Dead II #17 – Aliens #16 – Apocalypse Now #15 – Monsters Inc #14 – Shaun of the Dead #13 – Jackie Brown #12 – Hot Fuzz #11 – Pulp Fiction #10 – The Big Lebowski #09 – Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back #08 – Die Hard #07 – The Incredibles #06 – Donnie Darko #05 – The Matrix #04 – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off #03 – Up #02 – Fight Club #01 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

TIM: Best Album Haikus

[You have selected: Tim Maytom] The Best Albums of 2010, in the Form of Haiku SLEIGH BELLS – TREATSBlow out your speakersSpeak in tongues and playground chantsGod’s own beat moves feet JANELLE MONAE – THE ARCHANDROIDFuture saviour bringsSwirl of sounds and mighty voiceStands astride genres LOS CAMPESINOS! – ROMANCE IS BORINGStrings, horns, distortionRegret is our seaside townNew lows our new heights TRENT REZNOR & ATTICUS ROSS – THE SOCIAL NETWORK SOUNDTRACKWintry obsessionQuiet hum of minds at workFear burns slow and long GIRL TALK – ALL DAYMash-up makes meaningTen thousand parties find voiceGet your damn hands up About the author: Tim Maytom is a twisted genius of the typethis website can only respect and celebrate.Society at large, meanwhile, shuns his darkbriliance. And so Tim pulls down his mask,applies his goggles, and is forced into hidingalong with his genetically-engineered pet catand loyal workforce of faceless clones.Regardless, he keeps up regular broadcastfrom his volcano lair at trivia-lad.tumblr.com

I used to come here to have a good time/But I could feel like this at home

A quick gig review for my Uni paper: “Long Blondes, Birmingham Academy 2, 15/04/08 Couples. For or against?That’s what it comes down to: Long Blondes songs have always flirted with infidelity; the band used to be two couples (and one spare) and now they’re not. The new album is called “Couples”, if you want it any more blatant.The gig? A crowd of couples/singletons that’s actually audibly tense and, okay, I only noticed because at every other gig I’ve been on the ‘against’ side but… Oh, the band? A new more-Blondie-than-Pulp direction. All the songs are sharp, individualistic. Even better, the old songs sound fresh and energised. But that sexual tension, in the spoken word bit between Dorian and Kate, and the way she’d prowl the stage… that’s gone. Out with the couples.” (That’s the current version, anyway. It’s supposed to be 20 words shorter. But fuck ’em.)

Spider-Man

Here I give the first example of my work, in which mild-mannered reporter Alex Spencer reviews the recent ASM arc.A little taster: “First thing’s first. I’m not going to even try commenting on, or understanding, the Brand New Day fiasco. I’m not going to argue its merits, or add to that huge pile of words pointing out its stupidity. I’m not.” To find out what I do discuss, read on.

…FIRST!

So this is it. Day Zero.Welcome, friends, you’re going to be part of an Internet Revolution* Those of you who know me as Daffs, good.Those of you more familiar with the ‘real’ me, a word to the wise: ‘Daffs’ is more than an internet handle. It’s a whole other personality. The Slim to my Marshall, Edward Hyde to my Henry Jekyll. The Goddamn Batman to my Bruce Wayne.In the future (and, oh yes, we’re going to be very concerned with the future here), when people examine the legend of Daffs, they will try to decide: which was the true face? -Thankyou, I hope all is clear. x (*to any studios looking to offer me a lucrative rights deal: it could be televised)