Creative Sensemaker: What to read, watch and listen to this weekend
A rundown of the books, films, music and more by Tortoise Media, the slow news agency
By Matt d’Ancona
Welcome to the latest Creative Sensemaker from Tortoise Media.
The Simpsons has always enjoyed a close connection with the phenomenon of celebrity – satirising the famous, or inviting them to play themselves.
You might think, then, that Morrissey, now 61, would be rather honoured to be lampooned in the show as ‘Quilloughby’ – a melancholy 1980s singer with a quiff, vegan principles and an Oscar Wilde poster who then, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, degenerates into a carnivorous, overweight, anti-immigrant parody of pop middle age.
But no. In a letter on his website posted on Monday, the former Smiths singer wrote that ‘[t]he hatred shown towards me from the creators of The Simpsons is obviously a taunting lawsuit, but one that requires more funding than I could possibly muster in order to make a challenge.’
He went on to lament the cruelty with which artists are ‘especially despised if your music affects people in a strong and beautiful way… I’ve had enough horror thrown at me that would kill off a herd of bison.’
Dear, oh dear. What happened to the Mancunian man of words, razor-sharp ripostes and diamond-hard humour who made The Smiths, for a time, the best band in the world?
By coincidence, another public figure and controversialist has also been coping with being depicted in illustrated form. Jordan Peterson, the world-famous clinical psychologist and hero to legions of confused young men, now finds himself the inspiration of a new version of Captain America’s nemesis, the Red Skull. In Captain America #28, the Marvel super-villain now has ‘10 Rules for Life’ (only two shy of Peterson’s 12) and trawls the internet for recruits to avoid ‘The Feminist Trap’.
‘What has happened to the men of the world is truly one of the great tragedies of our time,’ rants the Skull online, offering them ‘the sword of manhood’.
You get the picture. And so did Peterson, who’s been a pretty good sport about the whole business. He’s responded by rushing out some merchandise on the back of the parody, with the proceeds going to charity.
‘It’s so surreal and absurd,’ he says. ‘It’s so comical... I’m playing with it.’ And don’t forget: this is the same supposedly dour intellectual who recorded his own version of Monty Python’s ‘Bruce’s Philosophers Song’ on TikTok.
Who knew? Jordan Peterson is funnier than Morrissey
Sounds like the title of a Smiths song, actually.
Do book your place at Tortoise’s next Creative Sensemaker Live on Friday 30 April at 1pm BST, at which they’ll be looking back at the 93rd Oscars® ceremony – the fashion triumphs and disasters, the unexpected winners, and the shock losers.
Here are this week’s recommendations.
Black Bear (VOD, 23 April)
In Lawrence Michael Levine’s excellent, unsettling film, Aubrey Plaza (of Parks And Recreation fame) plays Allison, a film-maker who retreats to an Airbnb cabin in the woods, and soon becomes embroiled in a tense emotional triangle with Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and his pregnant girlfriend, Blair (Sarah Gadon). I am loath to give away too much about what happens, except that ‘meta’ doesn’t cover it. A must-watch.
Different League: The Derry City Story (iPlayer)
Recommended by Tortoise reporter, Xavier Greenwood
If the tumultuous past few days in football have taught us anything, it’s what the sport should and shouldn’t be about. This documentary tells the stirring tale of four former players who, in the middle of the Troubles, brought a football club back from the dead. In a world of violence, Derry City provided something else: hope, glory, and a lot of grown men’s tears. A reminder that football is much more than just a game.
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History Of African America 1619-2019 by Ibram X Kendi and Keisha N Blain
A truly remarkable scholarly and cultural achievement, this volume assembles contributions by 90 writers, each covering five years since 1619 – the year of the arrival in Virginia of the White Lion, carrying 30 enslaved Angolans. Audacious and compelling, it draws the reader into a polyphony of voices determined that a history of struggle, survival and achievement should not be eclipsed by nativist narratives, old and new.
Last Chance Texaco: Chronicles Of An American Troubadour by Rickie Lee Jones
Recommended by Tortoise member, Ciro Romano
In this exquisitely written and vivid memoir, Jones – part of a long line of singular ‘outsider’ artists – devotes the majority of the text to her fractured and traumatic childhood; her reckless and risk-taking pre-fame years, and her initial commercial breakthrough: running away from home; jail; heroin addiction; her intense relationship with Tom Waits, and her brief stardom in the early 1980s. It’s not a book for anyone who wants to learn about how the records were made, record sales or chart positions. Much more intriguingly, it traces the strange and wild journey that led to the creation of her sublime songbook and mercurial spirit.
Flat White Moon by Field Music (23 April)
Catchy, smart, and rich in eclectic influence, the Brewis brothers’ music has come a long way in the 17 years since their formation in Sunderland – but it retains a sense of political commitment, mapped onto a determination that music should still be fun.
Flu Game by AJ Tracey
With the ‘flu’ in question being the famous illness through which Michael Jordan played in Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz, (driving Chicago on to win 90-88), AJ Tracey takes his inspiration from Jordan to deliver a second album of confidence, energy and undisguised enthusiasm to get back to touring.
That’s all for now – take care of yourselves, and each other.
Editor and Partner