Saturday, December 31, 2016

Favourite new films of 2016

1. Green Room
2. American Honey
3. 10 Cloverfield Lane
4. The Hateful 8
5. Anomalisa
6. Weiner
7. Spotlight
8. City of Gold
9. Embrace of the Serpent
10. Rams

Favourite non-2016 films I saw for the first time in 2016

1. All Is Lost (2013)
2. Wake In Fright (1971)
3. Margaret (2011)
4. Antichrist (2009)
5. Brief Encounter (1945)
6. They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
7. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
8. House of Tolerance (2011)
9. To Be Or Not To Be (1942)
10. Fail-Safe (1964)
11. The Lost Weekend (1945)
12. The Human Condition (1959-61)
13. Hud (1963)
14. Short Term 12 (2013)
15. Paris Is Burning (1990)
16. Possession (1981)
17. Red Road (2006)
18. The Getaway (1972)
19. Taking Off (1971)
20. Deliverance (1972)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Disfigured by smallpox, Cherokee men resort to suicide:

"A great many killed themselves; for being naturally proud, they are always peeping into their looking glasses, and are never genteelly drest, according to their mode, without carrying one hung over their shoulders: by which means, seeing themselves disfigured, with hope of regaining their former beauty, some shot themselves, others cut their throats, some stabbed themselves with knives, and others with sharp-point canes; many threw themselves with sullen madness into the fire, and there slowly expired, as if they had been utterly divested of the native power of feeling pain."

from The History of the American Indians (1775) by James Adair

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Ned's Holiday Gift Guide for Writers (And Non-Writers With Certain Writer-Like Tendencies) 2016

Foald laptop stand
This raises your laptop to eye level, so you don't have to hunch over it all day. And it's made of a lightweight cardboard which folds up flat for portability. (You will need a separate keyboard and mouse, though.) As a further point of interest, it was designed by the avant-garde Icelandic fashion designer Sruli Recht, famous for his thorned shark-skin gloves that you can put on but you can't take off.

IISE slimpack
But how to lug your laptop around? I bring one of these Korean-made bags with me to the library or occasionally to meetings. IISE are having a 50% off sale at the moment, and the design and construction and materials are tough to beat at that price. (Although perhaps the very idea of spending £150+ on a leather accessory will find a more sympathetic audience among women than among men.) I should note that mine is in black, which is out of stock right now, so I'm afraid you can't look exactly like me, your idol. (I also love the larger côte&ciel Isar I've been travelling with since 2009.)

I wrote about this in more detail here, but, in short, I lock my phone in here when I'm working and I can't get to it until the timer runs out. if you work from home in any capacity you are lying to yourself if you think you couldn't benefit from one of these. This is one of the most crucial objects I've ever owned.

Travelcard charger
This is a cheap reserve battery for your phone that fits in your wallet and doesn't need any extra cables. I suppose it doesn't have any special pertinence for writers, except in that I've found it useful on book tours and at literary festivals, when you generally don't have a chance to hang around near an electrical socket. And you can imagine what a nightmare it is for me when my phone dies, given my famously exuberant 24/7 social media presence.

Master & Dynamic MH40 headphones
I realise that to a lot of people it might sound crazy to spend £369 on a pair of headphones, but to me it's no crazier than spending that much on a stereo or a TV or a smartphone – I listen to music while I'm working, which means I have headphones on several hours a day, and they're more important to me than any of those other things. I'm not by any stretch an audiophile, but the first time you try listening to the music you love through a really good pair of headphones, you will be astonished. Plus, they're so comfortable and robust that I would happily commit to wearing them for years at a time like orthodontic headgear.

Cinema Paradiso subscription
Remember how, before Netflix, there was Lovefilm, which would send you DVDs in the post? And absolutely nobody does that any more? Well, I still do that! But nowadays the best service is Cinema Paradiso. They have a catalogue of 90,000 films and TV series, a huge proportion of which you will never find on a streaming service. This year, my life has been enriched by watching Margaret, They Shoot Horses Don't They, The Human Condition, The Getaway, Taking Off etc., none of which are available online (at least in the UK). If the only films you watch at home are films whose copyright holders happen to have negotiated a rights deal with some technology company, you are missing out on the best of cinema.

Rick Owens shearling T-shirt
I've anxiously tried to justify the prices of some of the other items here because I don't want this to be my "out-of-touch Theresa May in £995 leather trousers" moment, but I think we can all agree that in this case £4,180 is a small price to pay for style. And it's still available in S (my size). If you care for me at all you will buy me this.

Death & Co cocktail book
Out of all the cocktail books I've ever used, this is the best by a mile. It's marvellously information-dense (unlike certain other books I could name which are more like scrolling through an Instagram feed punctuated by the occasional recipe). Perhaps you'll learn to make, for instance, the Drunken Dodo, one of my favourites: 2 ounces dark rum, ¾ ounce sweet vermouth, ¼ ounce allspice dram, 2 dash Angostura bitters (those ingredients might sound complicated but they're all available online and it's the most grown-up-tasting cocktail I've ever made, in the sense that the first sip is a bit thorny but after that it makes you feel like the worldly and sophisticated person you've always wanted to be.)

Calle 23 Blanco
Talking of ingredients, this is the bottle of booze I would get for someone if I had no idea what kind of booze they liked. When I tell people I love sipping fine tequilas at home, I know it makes me sound pretentious – but this is under thirty quid and it is genuinely delicious, like apple juice. It's also good in a margarita (I encourage you to use this recipe, with no orange liqueur – personally I don't even bother with salt). I realise at this point we've wandered quite a long way away from anything with direct relevance to the craft of fiction but, between you and me, even writers like a drink once in a while.

One of my books
No, I'm not going to demean us all by putting a cover image of one of my books here. But they are available.