Category Archives: General

WANTED: Freelance SEO Editors

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Editorial background with experience in a digital publishing environment

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Some lingering thoughts about Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’

It’s been over a month now since I watched Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ and, I must admit, it’s made quite the impact. Like most people in the UK (and perhaps over a certain age) I randomly clicked on a thumbnail in Netflix without knowing exactly what I was going to get. 

This is what it felt like when I realised what it was I was getting.

So, yes, it’s provoked some pretty deep existential thoughts that haven’t been entirely resolved by watching Harry Kane smashing a penalty on repeat. Perhaps, what I’ve found most disturbing is how well Burnham predicts his film is going to be processed by the internet once it’s been released – like the endless commentaries on YouTube that don’t seem to add anything other than pleasing our algorithmic overlords. Well, at least ‘Inside’ has more Lols…

A very purple screenshot of Burnham commentating on himself commentating.

The other thing I am finding hard to process is the fact that one of his tracks in the film is shaping up to be an absolute SUMMER BANGER. I mean, look folks – it’s even been included on the New York Times’ ‘At Home and Away Summer Playlist.’ 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥  I honestly can’t really think of a track less summer ‘feel-good’ than a person sharing their experience of panic attacks over a sick beat. Not that I’m knocking the tune, or Bo here.

So those are the things I’m currently thinking about at the moment. And then I’m also thinking about all those exceptionally clever parts of the film, LIKE MOST OF IT. Like when Bo apologises for ‘not being able to play the guitar very well, or sing’ – and then goes on to both play and sing very well. Because you’re then left thinking ‘did he just say that off the cuff or did he rehearse that?’ And then you start to realise you are watching an onion of many, many layers.

Lastly, I can”t finish without saying just how great the songs in this film are. Like really good and ‘my gosh that must have taken a fair bit of time to get that right.’ As someone who’s written many ‘this is so bad I can’t upload it’ songs, I just need to doff my pitiful music-making cap here. Especially, when you get words like:

“The livе-action Lion King, the Pepsi Halftime Show
Twenty-thousand years of this, seven more to go
Carpool Karaoke, Steve Aoki, Logan Paul
A gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall.”

So, I’ll end there with just the recommendation that if you haven’t watched it yet, watch it – even if it’s just for the BANGERS.

Hello Nietzsche, My old Friend.

Now and again, when I have a free lunchtime, I usually find myself wandering into the same local bookshop to peruse the latest sci-fi/fantasy reads. I’d like to say this daily quest involves navigating poorly-lit stairwells and fathomless basement catacombs – but it’s all rather mundane really with everything stacked neatly into their various expanding sub-sections and plenty of lighting, air conditioning and coffee. It seems that ‘speculative fiction’ (a term I hate) has been a real hit during Covid. 

However, there’s one category that hasn’t faired so well and that’s the much overlooked and unloved PHILOSOPHY section. Over the years, I’ve seen this particular area of the bookshop slowly dwindle in size until it was eventually moved to spot you’d really only find if you were lost. Even an attempt to rebrand it as ’SMART THINKING’ hasn’t seemed to work – and so these vertically-aligned relics of the past remain untouched, gathering dust until the nearest flickering basement light bulb eventually splutters out.

So imagine my surprise when, one day, I noticed a new* book on the shelf adorned with the words ’Nietzsche and Hiking.’ It seemed like a curious mix of topics so I immediately bought it and was immediately hooked. Neither completely all about philosophy, and not quite all about outdoor orienteering, it’s really a rather honest account by an author who was so inspired by Nietzsche, he very nearly imploded. 

And it’s not hard to see why.

Way back when I was a student studying English Lit, we were given a brief introduction to what was called the ‘Premiere League of Philosophy’. We were told two things: firstly, that we were ’ships in the night’ and would probably never return to this subject again because this topic was, of course, naturally reserved for full-time philosophy students – and the second was to read two texts and comment on one of them. The first was Plato’s account of the beginning of the Universe which was absolutely crackers (honestly, you should give it a whirl) – and the second was ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’. Thinking back, I wish that second text had come with some kind of health warning because I only gave it a cursory read and I was smitten: it didn’t seem to contain any of those long drawn-out logical arguments the other books seemed to bang on about PLUS it was always being referenced by my favourite artists. What wasn’t to love?

What swiftly followed was a real desire to read everything Mr. ‘Dynamite’ had written, without much context and with certainly very little understanding. I soon became an aphorism-reciting cliche and definitely not the kind of person you’d want to meet at parties and casually ask ‘So, how’s life?” It all reached a very predictable conclusion like a scene from ‘Withnail and I’ which I’ll simply leave here with the truism that there’s nothing like having to pay your first month’s rent to make you reconsider your life choices.

Anyway, I wanted to celebrate John Kaag’s book because I don’t think too many people have written such an honest account of how a philosopher can have such a dramatic affect on the psyche of a reader. We’ve certainly seen that scenario played out in various plays, books and film scripts – but not quite in real-life, and probably not with academic professors. The only book that has a similar approach in it’s sensitivity in this area is Yalom’s ‘When Nietzsche Wept’ although that work is entirely fictional which makes Kaag’s confessional all the more thought-provoking. And even if the biographical element doesn’t appeal to you, Kaag makes light work of explaining some of the more complex ideas and characters in this period of Continental Philosophy.  It’s the kind of introduction I wish I’d read back when Guinness was only a pound a pint at the student bar – although, perhaps, that’s also another reminder that there’s sometimes more to life than spending your day thinking about things.

The allure of Nietzsche is that once you start listening to his arguments, the questions never quite go away. We should thank Kaag for giving us a personal insight into where those questions might take you – even if that’s to places many of us would fear to tread.

John Kaag – Hiking With Nietzsche.

*New-ish. It was published in 2019.