Gimme Chocolate — A 1920s Jazz cover of the Babymetal song by Postmodern Jukebox featuring Tara Louise

Postmodern Jukebox is an interesting band. This rotating musical collective was founded by Scott Bradlee in 2011 and specialises in reworking modern songs in vintage styles.

Japanese band, Babymetal has to be seen to be believed. The band describes their style as “kawaii metal” or “cute metal” and combines some pretty decent metal instrumentation with the sort of squeaky-voiced melodies that you would normally associate with Japanese pop music. You can see what I mean here.

When Postmodern Jukebox takes a Babymetal song and reinterprets it as a 1920s jazz number, the results are nothing short of incredible.

Camp

This week has been a bit different as all three boys have been away at camp. They are members of a youth group and the week long (ten days for the oldest) summer camp is how they end the season.

So Eve and I delivered the twins to a field last Sunday (Macsen, being older, was part of the group that cycled there the previous Thursday).

Duvel at the Kamp

This left us wondering what to do with ourselves now that we were suddenly kids-free for a week. On Monday, we stayed in but on Tuesday we went out for sushi.

Leffe at Koji Sushi

We have been here before with the boys and, while they enjoyed the presentation they struggled a bit with the food and we haven’t taken them back. So this week seemed a good time for another visit.

I like sushi and the Koji sushi restaurant does a fantastic meal for two delivered, spectacularly, on a boat.

On Wednesday we went out again, this time to Volt, a restaurant we have been to multiple times.

Tripel Karmeliet at Volt

Volt is a reliably good restaurant and probably the only place locally that has a range of international foods on the menu.

The thing about Belgium is that, while the local food is very good, there isn’t much interest in anything beyond the borders. Which is odd given the extent to which Belgian food is a result of the country being stuck between France and Germany.

And so to Thursday when we decided to try something different and went to Het Atrium.

St. Bernadus at Het Atrium

The outdoor seating here is really nice and, while the menu is largely the usual Belgian fare they did have one addition — the Atrium Burger. I would never have believed that I could rave about a burger, but this was absolutely fantastic. It’s a sizable chunk of meat, along with a generous serving of bacon, an egg, and other stuff and it really was exceptional.

I will definitely go back for this again.

On Friday it rained and we went back to Volt.

Chimay Blauw at Volt

Today is the last day of camp and we are about to go and collect the twins. And then I shall have to make peace with my credit card.

The Jennifer Morgue

While I enjoyed Charles Stross’ first novel from the Laundry Files, The Atrocity Archive, this second outing is significantly more entertaining. This may well say more about me than about Charles Stross.

While the first book, among other things, pastiched Len Deighton, this one picks James Bond as the target for its literary satire and Ian Fleming is a writer with whom I am a lot more familiar. As such, I suspect that, while some of the jokes in the first book passed me by, I caught a lot more of them this time around.

Some agents have all the fun. Others save the world.

Bob Howard is an IT expert and occasional field agent for the Laundry, the branch of Her Majesty’s Secret Service that deals with occult threats.

Dressed (grudgingly) in a tux and sent to the Caribbean, he must infiltrate a millionaire’s yacht in order to prevent him from violating a treaty that will bring down the wrath of an ancient underwater race upon humanity’s head. Partnered with a gorgeous American agent who’s actually a soul-sucking succubus from another dimension, Bob’s mission (should he choose to accept it) is to stop the bad guys, avoid getting the girl, and survive – shaken, perhaps, but not stirred.

Stross is an interesting writer in that he draws from a wide range of disparate influences which he juxtaposes in a manner that is by turns funny, disturbing and often both.

It helps, of course, that the writing and characterisation are so strong with Bob Howard believably and likeably struggling to navigate the bureaucratic insanities with which we are all too familiar. The Jennifer Morgue follows on from The Atrocity Archive and, this time around, everything clicked perfectly into place, making for a story that is both subversively funny and frequently unnerving.

The book also includes a second story, Pimpf, which takes place in the Laundry offices and is about corporate politics, over-enthusiastic interns and online demonic possession.

And everything is wrapped up with an essay on Ian Fleming, James Bond and where the real global villains can be found.

Rutger Hauer

Rutger Hauer died yesterday, aged 75. There are plenty of tributes to the actor popping up all over the internet, all of which are deserved and many of which note the “Tears in Rain” monologue from Blade Runner. It’s a memorable speech, for which Hauer wrote much of the dialogue, and a powerful performance.

For me, however, Rutger Hauer will always be the true face of Guinness.

He will be missed.

Five More Things

I mentioned Whoops Apocalypse, the TV series, some time ago. At the weekend I finally found the time to watch the film. In this version the plot is updated somewhat to reflect the fact that it was made in 1986 — four years after the TV series — but the humour is still as dark and bitingly effective as an increasingly farcical sequence of events drags the world ever closer to nuclear armageddon.

As a satire made and set during the Cold War, the film is very much of its time and you probably need to have lived through the 1980s for some of the jokes to work. It does, however, manage an accidentally contemporary moment when the US president (played by Loretta Swit) incredulously asks: “You’re telling me that the entire population of Great Britain went and elected a deranged psychotic to the highest office of the land? Again?”

Remaining with the ongoing disaster that is British politics, N Piers Ludlow asks whether the UK ever understood how the EU works. Given that the UK has been a member of the bloc for over 40 years, the conclusion is damning, to say the least.

On a more positive note, Jo Swinson was elected leader of the Liberal Democrats this week and Timothy Garton Ash is optimistic about her chances of leading a fightback for liberal Britain. We live in hope.

Returning to the subject of films, for a moment, Marvel has revealed their Phase 4 MCU lineup and Den of Geek has the details. Ignoring the Disney+ releases — I absolutely am not going to get tied into signing up to endless streaming services — the upcoming Black Widow film is long overdue and I am really looking forward to seeing how they handle Thor: Love And Thunder. Also: Blade is coming back!

And finally, Ian Stewart’s article on social physics reminded me of a book I read some time ago, namely Critical Mass by Philip Ball. The takeaway from both is that you may be an individual but, in aggregate, we are a lot more predictable than we realise.

Dead tree blogging

Often when I sit down to write a blog post, I will immediately start distracting myself. Something needs to be looked up or some fact needs to be checked and suddenly I have vanished down an internet-shaped rabbit hole. The post remains unwritten and now I have to do something else.

So as an experiment in distraction-free blogging, this post, like the last one, was drafted using a pen and paper while sitting on the train.

It’s an interesting process and I do find that the draft post comes a lot faster and a lot more easily when I have nothing to do but write. Of course, drafting on paper means that I can’t easily shift text around, but this is probably a good thing (for me, at least) as it means that tidying up and formatting the post is something that has to wait until after the initial draft is written.

I don’t know that I will always use this approach, and I can see some cases where it won’t work, but as a means of unblocking words, it is proving quite effective so far.

Son of Rambow

For a film released in 2007, it has taken me a while to find the time to watch this film. As a result, I am simultaneously glad to have finally seen it and kicking myself for not having done so sooner.

Set in the 1980s, Son of Rambow is a joyfully nostalgic exploration of friendship, family and the positive influence that even Sylvester Stallone’s films can exert.

The film centres on two boys: Will Proudfoot (Bill Milner) and Lee Carter (Will Poulter). Will, who lost his father to an accident, is being brought up as a member of the Plymouth Bretheren, a cult that keeps its members away from films, music, books and pretty much everything else. Lee’s parents are also out of the picture — living elsewhere — and he is being cared for — in the loosest sense of the word — by his elder brother. Largely left to his own devices, Lee is well on the way to delinquency.

When the two boys encounter each other, Lee ropes Will into helping him make a film. He has a camera and a lot of ambition but things really take off when Will sees a VHS of Rambo. His hitherto repressed creativity is unleashed and the two boys embark on making a film: Son of Rambow.

The relationship between the two boys, initially, is very one-sided with Lee taking advantage of Will’s naivety. This, however, develops into a genuine friendship between the boys which is all the more striking as the boys appear unaware of just how close they are becoming, or why. Each boy is an outcast and needing an outlet and it is this shared isolation and need that brings them together in a manner that is touching and genuinely believable.

Things go awry when the outrageously cool Didier, played by Jules Sitruk, and his hangers-on find out about the film and want to be involved.

To call Didier outrageously cool is, I admit, a tad misleading. The other phrase that came to mind — parody of cool — is equally misleading because Didier is neither cool nor a parody. He is, instead, a twelve-year-old’s idea of what a cool teenager would look like (given the 1980s setting of the film). As such, he serves to underline the fact that this film is made wholly and unironically from the point of view of a twelve year old.

Son of Rambow is a genuinely feel-good film about boys, brotherhood and friendship and about the endless opportunity for adventure and the highs and lows that come from being twelve.

I really enjoyed this film and suspect that I will enjoy it even more when I watch it again.

Five Things

This is a bit of an experiment and, as such, I am not making any promises about whether it becomes a regular (or even an irregular) feature on this blog. The motivation comes from the fact that, as I trawl various corners of the internet, I often encounter articles that are interesting but about which I have little or nothing to add.

I don’t want to descend into writing endless posts that say no more than Look At This, so I plan on pulling them together so that I can say Look At These. We shall see how, or if, this works.

First up is the short story that started me thinking about this type of post. Compost Traumatic Stress by Brian Koukol explores a once-sterile alien world seeded by the blood and guts of battle and follows the traumatized veteran tasked with keeping this alien fauna under control. It’s an effective and often moving exploration of the aftermath of war and well worth a read.

Taking a quick look at the ongoing disaster that is British politics these days, Jonathan Calder is exasperated with Heidi Allen and Nick Cohen is horrified at the way in which party politics have been allowed to undermine representative democracy. Personally, I think Parliament should insist on a vote of confidence for whoever the Tories select as the next Prim Minister. Regardless of how a party picks their leader, if that leader can’t demonstrate that they have the confidence of Parliament then they shouldn’t be able to form a government.

If Asian cinema has ever appealed to you (and it should) Paul Bramhall has a fascinating article on The General’s Son trilogy and the birth of the modern Korean gangster movie. I really need to carve out some time in my week to start making a dent in my DVD pile.

And finally, Susan Biali Haas suggests that working with your hands does wonders for your brain, which is all the excuse I need to spend more time pulling up nettles.