Cartoon Gravity 13

Bowie's words of wisdom, the new Sweet Billy Pilgrim Album,

Cartoon Gravity 13

Starting off with some words of wisdom...

As a screenwriter, 75% of my work is for other people. And so I think I'm fairly well-placed to confirm that Bowie is dead on in that clip. Even when you generate your own work, it usually doesn't stay yours for very long; the moment money changes hands (as it must, because rent needs to be paid), the people writing the cheques need to impose their vision on the work, they have to make it fit into whatever pre-made box they have assigned for it.

The irony, in my case, is that most of the time I am hired because someone read something that I wrote in my own time, without adult supervision. They liked what they read, they found it interesting and original (or just off the beaten track enough to suggest originality), and so they want me to write something just like that for them. Except that they want an outline and a treatment and endless discussions. And when I point out that the script they liked was not created under those conditions, they smile sadly and inform me, in so many words, that they trust their process more than my instinct and they're now paying the bills so let's do it their way.

I don't know the ins and outs of how David Bowie dealt with his record companies, but he clearly had an awful lot of freedom to make music the way he wanted to. I get that level of freedom in audio work, but not in television or film.

This business of artistic freedom is very much the subject of the film "George Michael Freedom Uncut", a fantastic documentary that George Michael was still working on when he died. It has been finished and released now, and is a really engaging story of his rise to fame, his struggles with mental health, and his landmark lawsuit against Sony, who were insisting that he work under a kind of corporate slavery and, essentially, do as he's told.

All of which is by way of introducing the new album by Sweet Billy Pilgrim; Somapolis. Being married to half of the band, I have had pretty good access to the creative process involved in the making of this album, and therefore cause to be jealous of it. Somapolis is a mad idea; a concept album about an imaginary city, borrowing influences from music, history, literature and folklore and blending everything together to create an album that sounds like it has been rescued from some off-kilter 1980s parallel universe.

Somapolis was allowed to be what it is because the band found some investors who were big enough fans of their previous work that they had the rare faith to write the cheques and then take a step back. There's no record company oversight, no marketing people, no corporate involvement. It's just people making the music they wanted to make. That has resulted in the band's best album to date and a listening experience that represents an undiluted singularity of vision that is all too rare.

You can listen to the album here: Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Somapolis

Fans of my audio work might be interested to know that the sound design elements that link the songs on the album together were created by David Thomas, who masterminds the recording and sound design on The Lovecraft Investigations and Aldrich Kemp etc.

Fans of audio drama more generally, might also be interested to learn that there are some audio drama pieces being released soon to complement the album; Barnaby Kay (Matthew Heawood in the Lovecraft Investigations) has directed these, so I'm expecting them to be great.

Alongside the George Michael documentary, I have also watched The Shallows this week (yes, the shark movie with Blake Lively), which I really enjoyed. That led me onto the much-maligned The Rhythm Section, which also stars Blake Lively, playing English this time, and very convincingly. It's kind of a spy movie and kind of a revenge movie and, while there's nothing particularly original about it, it works pretty well. The car chase is the standout sequence, and the big reason to watch the movie.

I also saw David O. Russell's Amsterdam, which I flat-out loved. I shouldn't think it will be to everyone's taste, but if you can imagine someone put a Wes Anderson movie in a blender with Inherent Vice and you think you might like the result of that, check it out.

The bin-fire that is Twitter continues to burn brightly. Now, Elon has announced that he is lifting suspensions en masses, so if you were worried that Twitter didn't have enough abusive Nazi morons, fret no more.

Mastodon is the alternative I've been discussing on here for a while. It's very good and a much nicer experience than Twitter. But for the past few days, I have been hanging out on Post. Post is in beta, so there is a waiting list, but I'd advise anyone interested to sign up now, if only to secure your username into the future. Post is shonky and unreliable, because it's an early-Beta, but it shows an awful lot of promise. It looks great, is easy to use, and has some nice tricks up its sleeve to deter people from abusing the platform. I suspect this, rather than Mastodon, could be the true successor to Twitter.

And now to the links:

David Bowie on Creativity and His Advice to Artists – The Marginalian

Art Without Intent Celebrates the Aesthetics and Mysterious Histories of Found Objects — Colossal

Take a first look inside Rome’s Palazzo Raggi residences - The Spaces

‘When you hear the four-minute warning’ … Whatever happened to Britain’s nuclear bunkers? | Nuclear weapons | The Guardian

Don’t Treat Your Life as a Project - Nautilus

Marilyn Monroe’s former Los Angeles home is for sale

And that's your lot. I have to run off and finish the last script for the new Aldrich Kemp series, which we record in a few weeks time. That should be in your ears early in 2023.

Have a good week.

Fuck it. Send.