The new Brandi Carlile album, In These Silent Days, is very good, and feels as if it might be her best yet, even better than her breakthrough. It’s impossible to categorise other than as “singer/songwriter” and it takes in a lot of styles. Occasionally you can hear (or I should say, even I who know nothing can hear) Joni Mitchell among other influences, but Carlile is her own thing, because only she has that incredible voice. Also out this month, and also worth a listen: Alvarado by The Wild Feathers.
We watched Season 2 of Ted Lasso without the surprise element, but there was still delight. It’s a remarkable thing: an experiment in the effects of kindness and friendship. The only fly in the ointment, a kind of cartoonish villain, whose hair turned from black to almost white in the course of the season. I watched, as usual, through a veil of tears.
Various British TV programmes named after street addresses have been on. The one about the nazis, which was quite good, and the one about the murdered child, which generates more of a sigh. Too often, when women are given prominent roles in British-made series, they are playing the part of a nervous, hysterical, or paranoid wife/mother. One of the refreshing things about Ted Lasso was the feeling that this was not the case. It is possible to create shows in which women are something other than prostitutes or half-crazed, but all too often the default position is that it’s a bunch of men who for some reason are on their own, apart from when they’re being moaned at by their hysterical wives or serviced by a sex worker.
I think, after my second back yard pizza making season with it, that I’ve cracked the use of the One oven by Alfa Forni. It takes between 45 minutes and an hour to get the oven floor to the right temperature. This does not require a whole lot of wood: maybe the equivalent of a single chunky firewood log, cut into smaller pieces. Then you add a small log between each pizza to maintain the temperature. The trick is to be totally relaxed. Cook a pizza, share it with the family, then prep the next one. All of which means there are 10 or 15 minutes between each pizza. I’m not saying you couldn’t go faster; it’s just that there’s usually no need to. When cooking, you have to watch it like a hawk, and definitely don’t do what I did a couple of weeks ago, and wander off and forget there’s a pizza in the oven. Or tonight, when I put a chicken in after the pizzas to roast, and completely forgot about it. Luckily, the natural drop in the oven’s temperature (and the fact that I’d wrapped it in foil after 15 minutes) meant that it wasn’t even slightly ruined.
I bought a new Mac: an M1 Macbook Air, paying extra for a bigger hard drive and more RAM than the standard. My previous machine was bought in early 2014. It’s long in the tooth. Plus, I spilt coffee on the keyboard during lockdown and it has never been the same. It has lost all four of its feet. And one of its speakers is borked. I decided that, given that I might be a mere five years or so from retirement, I ought to get one now so as to get more useful life out of it. The thing about getting a new Mac: Apple make the process of transferring over all your stuff so easy that you end up feeling as if you’re still on the old computer. I had to enter a few passwords (including my Apple ID a few too many times), and there are about five apps I use that have to make use of the Rosetta on-the-fly code translation from Intel to ARM. Otherwise, the transition was painless. Meanwhile, to connect a projector via HDMI or an SD card from my system camera, it’s welcome to dongle town. But does it feel faster? It does. The launching of applications and the rendering of windows is super-quick. I don’t process much video or audio these days, so the best test I could do was to open a Timeline 3D file and get it to render the (very large) timeline, which was full of hi-res images. The comparison is below.