Electricity & Lust

Mental Illness Happy Hour

Posted in Personal by Sam Unsted on October 11, 2011

I get addicted to podcasts. It’s not a problem because it’s a free addiction, it’s just a fact. Normally, it will take me a couple of times listening to different episodes to get really into a show. After that, I’ll race through the entire back catalogue available on iTunes and gorge until I’ve listened to everything interesting to me.

Recently I have been suffering from writer’s block. If you read this blog, you’ll know this. I just cannot seem to generate ideas on what to write about. Partly, this has been driven by how incredibly busy my job has been in the last few months. I just cannot seem to build up the energy required, mentally or physically, to write anything.

To bring those two paragraphs together, I have become addicted to The Mental Illness Happy Hour, a podcast presented by comedian Paul Gilmartin on which he interviews friends, mostly from the comedy world but beyond also, about their mental illnesses. Most of this encompasses depression but other issues are also explored.

As a long-time devotee of WTF with Marc Maron, on which Maron will open a vein with his comedy industry guests to explore their craft and psyches. If Maron opens a vein in his discussion, Gilmartin slices open his chest and lays his heart down in between the microphones.

The Mental Illness Happy Hour has had the impact of driving me to push harder to kick-start my writing again. The guests on the show are open and honest. As with WTF, having comedians on proves enlightening and emotional as they have an uncanny, and probably completely necessary ability, to access the darkness in their lives and to articulate their psychological problems and demons in an accessible manner.

The show is self-indulgent in places and occasionally struggles to find the balance between serious and funny, but it’s a really worthwhile, powerful project and I will push myself harder to avoid my life passing me by.

I used to run two podcasts and I fully intend to start one of those up again. But there are two hundred other things I’m constantly too tired to achieve and I need to prevent myself from falling into the trap of putting it off so far that the chance is gone.

Gilmartin’s show is brutal at times, but the way his guests are willing to open up to him, and to the audience, is inspiring. Many will argue that they don’t give a shit about the problems of these people. No doubt there is a level of hyper-introspection on the show and, as I said, there is an intense self-indulgence. But through that the show manages to find universal truths about the modern psyche and it’s inspiring me to push myself harder and not let myself drop back into lethargy and passivity.

Reads of the Week

Posted in Reads of the Week by Sam Unsted on August 13, 2011

A quick note. Apologies for the lack of posting still. A couple of things in the works at the moment so time has been difficult to find. I intend to get back onto a pretty good posting schedule again very, very soon.

  • Not really a very long read, but Chuck Klosterman manages to nail so much of why Louie is the best show on TV at the minute in his piece for Grantland. In other news, please ensure you follow Grantland as it’s probably my favourite new site of the year.
  • The original article, from New York Magazine, which coined the Brat Pack moniker for that group of actors in the 1980s. Quite illuminating, especially with the consistent arguing that it would be Sean Penn, never really though of as a Brat Pack member, who would transcend that generation.
  • A four-part study (Part One, Two, Three and Four) of the creation of the Unabomber, specifically as regards the role of Harvard in fostering personality traits which would eventually make him infamous.
  • Cameron Crowe’s 1973 article on The Allman Brothers, surely one of the inspirations that went into Almost Famous.
  • One of my absolute favourite writers, Alex Ross, moves away from his inspired classical music pieces to pen an absorbing essay about Oscar Wilde.
  • But the best of the week is the GQ oral history of the Dana Carvey Show, the swifty-cancelled mid-90s folly which comprised some amazing talent and has worn really well. At the time though, the outre sketches were far from at-home following Home Improvement on the Disney-owned ABC. Just to give a taster, the writing team alone included Dino Stamotopoulos, Robert Smigel and Louis CK, and this doesn’t go into the on-screen talent, which included the likes of Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. Watching it now, from the opening sketch (from CK’s mind) of Bill Clinton breast-feeding puppies, you struggle to believe this show was on primetime network TV. Watch the first episode here and marvel.

Reads of the Week

Posted in Reads of the Week by Sam Unsted on July 23, 2011

Reads of the Week

Posted in Reads of the Week by Sam Unsted on July 2, 2011
  • A long profile of now-former CIA director Leon Panetta, focusing mostly on the difficulties he faced from the lingering impact of Bush administration interrogation techniques. Panetta comes across as a pragmatic and committed character, both of which should come in handy as he takes on his new role as Defence Secretary for Obama. As a companion piece to that, Jane Mayer’s exposé of CIA interrogation techniques give more insight into the problems Panetta faced and the acts that took place under the Bush administration.
  • I’m on a bit of a Woody Allen kick at the moment, though this Peter Biskind profile is perhaps a little too forgiving of Woody given some of the movies he’s made in the past decade. It did, though, raise a point about the sheer number of fantastic movies Woody has made in his career, enough to put him alongside the likes of Scorsese, Kubrick or Fellini in my mind. Just a sampling for the memory of movies I would consider genuinely classic: Annie Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives, Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Misdemeanours, Love and Death, Broadway Danny Rose, Manhattan Murder Mystery. There’s lots of crap too, but that’s a pretty good number of superb films to be going on.
  • George Packer’s outstanding recounting of the crimes and trial for Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon hedge fund, provides a pitch perfect example of the kind of greed and cynical regard for human nature that drives the kind of financial crime we have witnessed in the past few years.

Links of the Week

Posted in Links of the Week by Sam Unsted on June 26, 2011
  • This is from a few weeks back, but to coincide with the second series of Louie, here is a profile of Louis CK from NY Mag. His show seems like its the culmination of the journey he has been on as a comedian in the past few years. The profile details the ins and outs of the ‘Louis CK deal’ he has with FX, by which he has complete, unfettered control over the show and gets no studio notes. On occasion, this means the show goes to places that may not be considered funny by some, but it really is a spectacularly brilliant, insightful, profound and, a substantial portion of the time, ballbustingly funny.
  • If you aren’t already visiting Listverse every day, start now. The following three lists are only a smattering of the brilliant work these guys produce every day, simultaneously fascinating and dryly funny. So, the three for this week, to whet your appetite, are: ‘Top 10 Movies Featuring Prostitution‘, ‘Another 10 Interesting Stories Behind Classical Compositions‘ and ‘Top 10 People Shrouded in Controversy‘.
  • Cool Tools has a list of the best magazine articles ever. This maybe should go in the reads of the week post, but it’s here, so live with it.
  • The trailer for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method looks great. I’m normally repelled by Keira Knightley, but the twin powers of Fassbender and Mortensen have been interested enough already, but here, Knightley looks like the role might end up working for her.

Working Music: Bon Iver

Posted in Working Music by Sam Unsted on June 20, 2011

New album out today and definitely going into the collection as soon as the pay packet arrives. This cover, widely circulated from Fallon a week or two back, of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’, peppered with a taste of Donnie Hathaway’s ‘Song for You’. Ridiculously beautiful.

The Shadow Line

Posted in Reviews by Sam Unsted on June 19, 2011

**If you haven’t seen The Shadow Line, and its currently available to watch on iPlayer in full, then don’t read as some major plot spoilers will be brought to light and anyone planning to watch the series who has yet to do so will sour on me and all bloggers discussing the show with the fury of a thousand suns. You have been warned. Also, if you’ve not watched, I haven’t spent much time explaining what happens, who it happens to and why it happens, so I reckon you’ll be super-lost and really not enjoy the experience both of reading this nor of watching the series after reading this.**

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Links of the Week

Posted in Links of the Week by Sam Unsted on June 19, 2011
  • This AV Club article questioning whether cable TV is still delivering higher quality product than network TV in the US is one I disagree with nearly whole-heartedly, but it does at least make some interesting points about the slight increase in the number of really good network shows at the moment (The Good Wife, Community, Parks and Recreation). The point it appears to side-step though is that there are so, so, sooooo many terrible shows on network TV and the overall hit-rate (in quality terms at least) for the cable shows is way better. Also, the central argument surrounding the quality of network comedy is way off. There are a pile of really good comedies on network TV right now, but the absolute best at the minute, FX’s Louie, is a cable show. Anyway, enough debating. Read for yourself and comment away.
  • Staff at The New York Times Magazine have contributed their own selection of their favourite non-fiction books after The Guardian did the same last week. Probably a little too much to read now but I’m trucking on regardless.
  • I just finished Michael Lewis’ The Big Short and I’m planning on indulging in his Moneyball pretty soon. The trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of the latter book, about the sabermetric approach to creating a successful baseball team used by the Oakland As. The film looks decent enough, with a strong cast and a great director behind it, though the screenplay has had runs over from Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, which is never a great sign. I’m interested though.
  • The Atlantic has a copy of the handwritten draft of the song ‘Dance Music’ by The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle. He then goes on to discuss his songwriting process, which proves particularly interesting given that song comes from their absolute best record, The Sunset Tree.
  • The longlist for the Polaris Music Prize in Canada has also been released. I’m pulling for Tim Hecker and his stunning Ravedeath, 1972, the best album of an already stellar career.

Trailer: Daylight

Posted in Movies by Sam Unsted on June 18, 2011

The art of making a compelling trailer for a film is not one lost or forgotten, just often neglected. The vast majority of trailers you see follow a very similar pattern of establishing the basic narrative of a film, providing some action set pieces and then informing you of when this film is coming out. Any artistic integrity involved in the creation of a trailer is very rare, meaning that when really good trailers come along, there is a sense of excitement that surrounds them and gives a positive buzz to the film they are advertising. That pattern, of providing credible buzz to a film through making an interesting and non-conventional trailer, doesn’t appear to grasp hold of the marketing bods in major studios for the most part, but it does make the satisfying ones really satisfying.

There have been some genuine corkers in the last couple of years. Going back a bit further, Little Children is constantly praised for the quality of its trailer, which plays like a short film on its own. In the last couple of years, A Serious Man caught my attention superbly and Fincher has had double success with the first trailer for The Social Network and the first trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Terence Malick’s Tree of Life garnered the kind of praise you might expect for a movie already working with great visual raw material.

Daylight, a no-budget thriller that appears to have been doing the festival rounds for some time, has a stunning, intriguing trailer. All that is provided to you in terms of information on the film is that you will see violence and you will see some interesting relationships develop between the key characters of the piece. But there is no dialogue, only the occasional sound, and nothing of the story is ruined or hinted at. You’ll go into a film like this fresh and confident that there is good material in the film but none of it has been spoiled with the kind of lowest-common-denominator explosions and quips that the summer movie season often flings at you.

Anyway, enjoy. The film could end up being very boring, but trailers like this at least provide something of substance to enjoy and intrigue.

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